Confessions Of A Bookaholic – Guilty Pleasures Edition #36 – Sweet Valley High #44 – Pretenses

This book is the very definition of a misunderstanding, and how one tiny misunderstanding can quickly spiral out of control…



Sweet Valley Scale: 3.5 out of 5 Twins

Cara Walker feels that her boyfriend, Steven Wakefield, hasn’t been paying enough attention to her. Cara’s best friend and Steven’s sister, Jessica Wakefield, suggests that Cara add some mystery to the relationship. But when Cara takes Jessica’s advice, it backfires. Suddenly he is acting aloof and withdrawn, and more distant than ever. Cara is sure he is hiding something. Steven used to confide in Cara, but now it seems he is turning to his sister Elizabeth’s friend Abbie Richardson. Will Cara discover Steven’s secret before she is replaced by someone else?

This book is all kinds of ‘special’. Cara Walker seems worried that her boyfriend Steven hasn’t been as attentive and affectionate lately, so she decides to liven up their relationship by adding a little mystery to it (more on that later). But the problem is it seems that she adds the mystery before she actually notices a problem. Steven has been home in Sweet Valley because he is miserable with allergies and has to go to see several doctors in order to get several different tests including X-rays – for allergies! Maybe this is a generational thing, but are you kidding me? If allergies are an issue you go to an allergist and they shoot you up with all kinds of things to figure out what you’re allergic to. It takes like an hour, maybe. It is not several tests over several days and does not include X-rays. Sigh. The verdict by the way is that Steven is allergic to pollen and grass (among a few other common allergies).

The other big thing going on in this book is the story of Abbie Richardson. Abbie was besties with Jessica in the ninth grade and pretty popular, but then she dropped off the map because she started dating a boy named Doug who went to another high school. Fast forward two years: they broke up and Abbie is invisible because for the past two years she has been all about Doug’s friends, Doug’s hangouts, Doug’s school. I kind of need to gag. The ghostwriter totally laid this story on thick. It was as if Abbie was a woman whose self-esteem was broken down by her husband and she left him after twenty years, but has to completely start over because all of their friends are his friends post-divorce. Except that this was a two-year high school relationship – good grief!

Anyway… Steven is at home feeling miserable and trying to stay caught up with school and Cara decides now is the time to become insecure about her relationship. (See, timing is always to blame!) She begins to leave Steven anonymous love letters that are unsigned, expecting Steven to know they are from her and mention them, except he doesn’t. Cara has a belated birthday bash at some fancy club and she sees Steven reading her love letter and teases him about it, but he gets secretive and defensive, which makes Cara suddenly get very suspicious. She starts getting clingy, which makes Steven get more defensive, which in turn makes Cara more possessive. And that is their big problem (facepalm).

Meanwhile Abbie is going out of her way to be nice to everyone. This is terrific, except that by nice I mean she does everything for everyone from cleaning up after her peers in art class to making dinner for Jessica or sewing her clothes. She is obviously campaigning for “Doormat of the Year” and her only real contender, Elizabeth Wakefield, even has a serious talk with her about not being taken advantage of and that she felt Abbie was asking for it and should learn to say no. Wow – and that is coming from a fellow doormat! But Abbie is certain that this is the only way to get friends – to be as giving and helpful as possible and never ask for anything in return – ever.

Cara Walker mentioned her party to Abbie, so she is sure that she is invited. But when Cara discovers she can only have a certain number of people there, she avoids Abbie because she is afraid of hurting Abbie’s feelings. So instead Abbie waits an entire week, anxiously awaiting her invitation only to figure out the day of that she has obviously been excluded, but without the perfectly understandable explanation. She had already bought Cara a gift, a pretty ring from the mall, which she gives to Cara anyway the following Monday.

Among all of the things Abbie is doing, she has become Steven’s confidant when it comes to his problems with Cara. Abbie tells Steven to let Cara know what is wrong, but Steven is sure that he can’t. The reason he is upset is that he received this mysterious letter on the same stationary his former (and dead) girlfriend Tricia Martin used to write him letters. It is like seeing a ghost. But ‘Tricia’ is one of the topics that Steven believes is off limits between him and Cara and is sure if he tells her, she’ll only get upset.

Sweet Valley High’s student newspaper is running a contest for a new humor feature that will be in every issue going forward in hopes of improving their readership. Abbie helps her main competition, Amy Sutton, with her mock ‘Miss Manners’ column and does her own cartoon strip about an average 16-year-old girl and her problems. When the two girls are finalists Abbie continues to help Amy, and the reader is led to believe she is actually doing the heavy lifting. But no worries because Abbie still blows Amy Sutton’s entry out of the water – that a girl! 😉

Elizabeth and Jessica find out about Steven’s letters and also figure out that is why he is acting so strange so they decide to figure out who is sending them. Jessica thinks Abbie is because no one could possibly be nice for the sake of being nice – there is always an ulterior motive. They track down the stationary and find out a brunette girl their age purchased it, so Jessica is even more convinced that Abbie is the culprit since she is a brunette (but so is Cara). The next afternoon, Abbie and Steven are talking and he leaves for a moment, when Jessica comes in the room. She sees the letter and Abbie tries to hide it because she knows how Steven feels about them. This letter possession has Jessica convinced and is the last straw.

Jessica waits for Elizabeth to get home and tells her that she has proof that Abbie has been writing the letters and talks Elizabeth into confronting Abbie in front of Steven. They do and are absolutely wretched about it. Steven acts horrified and instead of just asking what this proof is (since he gave Abbie the letter, he would have figured out it was a misunderstanding pretty quickly) he turns on her too. Abbie looks faint and then something comes over her a.k.a. she finds some self-esteem. She tells them calmly that she can’t believe they would accuse her of trying to sabotage Steven’s relationship with Cara, and reminds Steven that from the beginning she has encouraged him to be honest with Cara. She says that all she ever wanted was for them to like her, because she likes them, but she refuses to be accused of things she did not do. And then she leaves. This is finally an Abbie Richardson that I can get behind.

Cara comes over to confront Steven after Lila tells her that it was Abbie trying to steal her man all along. In this confrontation it finally comes out that Cara is the person who has been sending Steven letters because of Jessica’s advice on adding some mystery to their relationship. Cara and Steven go for a walk and work everything out. When they get back they, along with Elizabeth and Jessica, call Abbie and ask to come over. When they get to Abbie’s they apologize and beg for her forgiveness explaining everything. Like a fool (or just the good person she is), she accepts their apology and everything is wonderful. The Wakefields, Cara and Abbie go to a Lakers basketball game the following night.

I read this book quickly, though that may have been in anticipation to get through it. The amount of stupid astounded me, even for a Sweet Valley High book. I am tired of seeing wonderful female characters having zero self-esteem and trying to find their self-worth in the validation of others. It’s a boy’s turn to be this pathetic I think!

Strong self-assured ladies please stand up. No more female self-esteem issues in Sweet Valley until they throw a guy in the hot seat first. Who is with me?


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