WTF is up with this cover? First of all, it’s obvious they are trying to make us believe that Liz is somehow getting married to the thirteen-year-old kid beside her (who, guessing from all that bling on his chest, is also the world’s youngest war hero) and is like, super happy about it. Jessica, yeah, ok. I could really see that. But Liz, not so much. And what the hell is up with the serious lack of background here? It’s like the artist was told to do something “palace-y” but then just sort of clocked out after drawing the arched doorway and column.
There are no words to describe how pissed off I was to find that, regardless of what the whole cover implies, this is not a book about how Ned and Alice inadvertently sell Elizabeth into a life of slavery in a small European principality. The tagline is equally offensive: “Did Elizabeth break her promise to her new friend?” What, did she promise to marry him for a green card or something? Explain, damn you, explain! And that title… Ugh, right after this recap, I think I’m just going to gouge my effing eyes out.
Anyway, let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
Elizabeth and Jessica are hanging out at home and talking about how they’re about to pee their pants with glee because a foreign exchange student from the tiny European country of Santa Dora is coming to town. They don’t make it clear where in Europe Santa Dora is, but I assume it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Genovia and Florin. Everyone at school is having a big damn conniption fit about the new guy, Arthur Castle, who will be attending school at Sweet Valley Middle School for the next two weeks.
Yeah, that’s right. Two weeks. Because that makes so much sense and is so obviously NOT a plot device to get rid of the character for the rest of the series!
Liz is commandeering a special Santa Dora-themed issue of the Sweet Valley Sixers while Jess and the Unicorns are planning a big party in Arthur’s honor. It’s just the thing to make any new person feel totally comfortable–lots and lots of unnecessary and unwanted attention! On the morning that Arthur arrives, the Unicorns get out of their chairs and do this special welcome cheer that, um, isn’t very special…
And suddenly, all the Unicorns in the class were out of their seats and running up to the front of the room, where they lined up in a row. While everybody else looked on in surprise, they broke into an ear-splitting cheer, waving their arms and stamping their feet vigorously. “W-E-L-C-O-M-E spells WELCOME,” they chanted. “WELCOME, ARTHUR!”
Um, yeah, ok, whatever, Unicorns. I guess it’s almost as good as that Gwen Stefani song where she keeps talking about B-A-N-A-N-A-S. It may even be where she got her inspiration, so I suppose you must be doing something right. BTW, this video isn’t really safe for work, so if you’re there right now and want to play it, I’d recommend putting on some headphones or something.
There’s also a little bit of talk about Arthur’s distinctive ethnic looks and how handsome and exotic he is. Feast your imaginations on this chunk of sexiness:
Elizabeth looked. “It must be him,” she said. A boy she’d never seen before was standing at the front of the classroom talking to Mr. Davis. He had dark curly hair, large dark eyes, and olive skin…
Amy frowned and twisted a wisp of her hair around her finger. “Funny–he doesn’t look like an exchange student…”
Tell me, Amy, what does an exchange student typically look like, since you get so many of them in Sweet Valley?
Where they expecting someone more like this?
This really takes Sweet Valley to all new heights of WASP-iness. If you can look foreign and exotic just by having dark hair, dark eyes, and a decent tan, then you must need snow goggles when you walk around town because that place must be blindingly white.
Oh yeah, and then Liz and Arthur make friends by bonding over thermometers. I’m not even being sarcastic here. It has something to do with Fahrenheit versus Celsius and how Arthur can’t read our thermometers and needs help, which makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with Santa Doran schools.
You would think that the whole “ethnic” thing, coupled with the thermometer fiasco, would be enough to let the audience know that Arthur is a foreigner, but nope. We have to keep hearing over and over about how amazed he is at all the American shit that surrounds him. He’s even amazed by a freaking Frisbee, which makes me start to wonder whether or not Arthur is foreign, or just kind of slow. Either way, his American immersion includes taking a trip to the mall with Liz and buying a bunch of stuff that is supposed to be typically American, such as:
…a football, a baseball bat, a stuffed Texas longhorn steer, a pair of Indian moccasins, a jack-knife, a Johnny Buck album, a Confederate Army cap…
WTF? Apparently Sweet Valley is right next door to Kentucky or something. It seems like this ghostwriter has a real hard-on for the Confederacy, because later one of the kids actually gives Arthur a Confederate flag (!!!!) as a going-away present to remember his trip to America. What the hell, people?! I know Sweet Valley is uber-white, but I could seriously have lived without this Confederate shit, ok?
Ugh. Moving on… There’s some more crap about how funny those darn foreigners are, not knowing what milk shakes or surfing are and other stuff like that. This really strikes me as strange since Santa Dora is supposed to be a coastal nation. And I’m sure that they also have milk, chocolate, and blenders, so at some point you would think some Santa Doran super-genius would put those three things together. So yeah, ghostwriter, you’re really freaking me out. The fact that he spends the first half of the book speaking like Tonto from the Lone Ranger is really irksome, too.
So now that we’ve established that Arthur and Liz are friends, it’s time to drop a bombshell–NOT. I think we need to have some communication between the ghostwriter and the people who do the cover art and decide the titles, because it’s pretty obvious from the start that this guy is a prince. Why else would the white-dress-clad Elizabeth supposedly be becoming a freaking princess?
Arthur gave her a long look. “My name,” he said in a low voice, “is Arthur Castillo. I am the son of King Armand and Queen Stephanie of Santa Dora.”
“Prince Arthur?” Elizabeth squeaked.
That line is wrong on SO MANY LEVELS.
I’m too classy to point out that “Prince Arthur” is way too close for comfort to “Prince Albert,” which is slang for a penis piercing. And that Elizabeth just “squeaked” with surprise. I know a lesser blogger would do so just to get a cheap laugh and possibly embarrass you if you are reading this at work, but around here, I like to keep the standards up, ok?
But then (oh noes!) the following day at school, Arthur confuses Jess for Liz and now someone else knows his secret!
Don’t tell me you didn’t see that one coming, either. I swear, I know the twin thing is cool, but it’s the most common form of deus ex machina in these books. I know we’re not exactly talking about serious literature, but they could take a little bit of effort here. I’m just saying.
Unsurprisingly, Jessica spreads the news because she thinks it’s just so awesome that a real prince would be here in Sweet Valley. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that happen like sixteen more times later in the Sweet Valley High series? I think it’s something like that.
Prince Arthur is all annoyed because his wonderful chance to learn all about America (especially about Confederate flags) is totally ruined because now everyone is calling him Your Majesty and being super-respectful. He tells Liz that his only care is to be a “normal” boy and that it really hurt him when he realized that “Liz” spilled his secret to everyone.
He sighed in resignation. “Don’t try to convince me you didn’t tell, Elizabeth. You’re the only one who could have.”
“Oh, Arthur,” Elizabeth cried, almost in tears, “how can I convince you that I didn’t have anything to do with it?”
“You can’t,” Arthur said flatly. “It’s happened this way before. I think I’ve founda friend I can trust, and then I discover that the person isn’t really a friend at all.” His voice sounded sd and heavy. “Bit it’s worse this time, Elizabeth. I trusted you, and you’ve ruined the only chance I ever had to be just a normal boy.”
Lines like that sort of make me want to ask His Highness whether he is a prince or an animated puppet child who was enchanted by a blue fairy, but whatevs. I can appreciate his desire to just be treated like everyone else and not have everyone around him falling all over themselves to serve him. Don’t get me wrong, that would be cool for at least a few days and/or whenever I was moving into a new apartment or something, but other than that, it might suck.
Oh, and on laundry day. It would be cool during laundry day.
But hey, Prince Arthur, when the hell did your English get so good? Did they flip a switch inside you and unlock the native-level fluency? I’m not really sure how this works, but if this is possible, could someone please flip my “Spanish Fluency” switch? Because I’m tired of studying verb charts.
So, anyway, Arthur is having a really shitty time now and Liz feels like crap for something that really isn’t even her fault. Jessica is kind of feeling bad about the whole thing, but mostly because Arthur is so “glum and mopey” that he’s just not any fun to be around. It’s no big surprise that it just doesn’t occur to Jess to think that Arthur might want to be (gulp!) ordinary like all the other kids at Sweet Valley Middle School.
Yeah, because they’re so ordinary. They never have periods, acne, diarrhea explosions, or bad body odor. Very, very ordinary.
The Unicorns have turned their Santa Doran themed party into an even bigger affair than usual, hiring a caterer and a band and stuff. Prince Arthur has to go because it would be un-diplomatic or whatever no to. He asks Jessica to go with him, though Jessica figures it’s probably only because she looks so much like Liz. She doesn’t care, though, because she now she can say that she’s going out with a prince! Woot!
Liz, of course, is a complete spoil-sport and stays home during the party to work on this cheesy ass American scrapbook for Arthur to take back home to Santa Dora. I can’t remember whether or not there’s a big two-page spread about how the South should have won the Civil War… Oh well. I guess it’s kind of implied, right?
During the party, when Jess and the prince are dancing, Jessica starts to feel kind of bad about telling everybody his secret. He explains how he just wants people to treat him like everybody else because he’s tired of not getting to know anybody. Jessica has an extremely rare moment of empathy and comes clean about the whole thing, clearing Liz’s name.
“So it wasn’t Elizabeth’s fault after all,” Arthur breathed, sounding enormously relieved. A happy look came into his dark eyes.
“She would have ket your secret forever,” Jessica assured him proudly…
“She really was a friend,” Arthur said, half to himself. “the kind of friend I always wanted!” He smiled buoyantly at Jessica. “Thanks, Jessica, for telling the truth.” He looked around. “Where’s Elizabeth? I have to talk to her.”
Only Jessica could get away with ruining someone’s vacation and then having them thank her. You’re awesome, Jessica. You should be running the Unicorns, because you’re clearly the most manipulative and/or lucky girl in the Universe.
Arthur rushes over to the Wakefield house, makes up with Elizabeth, and invites her to go with some boring state function at the embassy with a bunch of dignitaries and shit. Since when does a formal ball sound like fun to a thirteen year old girl? Then again, they still have “tennis dates” in Sweet Valley, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers.
The next day at school, everyone is suddenly treating Prince Arthur like a piece of crap. People are pushing and shoving him in the hallways and one kid even called him an idiot for being in the way. He’s really excited about this, for some reason. I don’t think it’s that unusual–isn’t that how they treat the “ethnics” in Sweet Valley when they aren’t royalty?
Arthur wonders why everyone has stopped calling him “Your Majesty” and stuff, and there’s a simple reason for that:
“Well, you said you wanted to be treated like an ordinary kid,” Jessica said. She gave him a smug look as a couple of kids pushed past the table, jostling Arthur. “So I spread the word. Do you like it?”
You would think that Arthur could have just taken matters into his own hands and asked everyone to treat him normally, but I suppose that wouldn’t have worked. You may be prince in that jack-hole country of yours, Art, but around here, the Wakefields reigh supreme. Don’t worry, though. They are mostly benevolent rulers.
Arthur is so pleased with Jessica that he invites her to the boring state affair, too, and she happily accepts. This means that Prince Arthur is taking two attractive blonde twins to a party at the embassy, which makes him way more pimped-out than Prince Harry or Prince William, if we’re keeping track of this kind of thing.
Like every Sweet Valley Twins book, it ends with a contrived cliffhanger to try and entice you to buy the next book. This one involves Jessica and her bitchy friends making fun of a new girl for being an “ugly duckling” (basically she’s shy and has frizzy hair) and Liz feeling oh, so very bad for her. I imagine the cover for this next book looking something like:
But I’d have to check my collection to see for sure.
Anyway, I guess the moral of this story is: be nice to foreigners. They talk funny and go ape-shit over milk shakes, but they might be royalty. Even if their country is clearly crap, that still counts for something, I guess.