May. 2nd, 2017

the_oracle: the cover image from Double Love, classic SVH (Default)
Trouble At Home
May 1990


Is the Wakefield family coming apart?
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Family problems...


   There's trouble in the usually happy Wakefield household, and Jessica, Elizabeth, and their brother, Steven, are caught in the middle.
  Mrs. Wakefield is so busy at work that she's hardly ever home. When she is home, all she and Mr. Wakefield seem to do is fight. Tensions increase when Mr. Wakefield decides to run for mayor of Sweet Valley and Mrs. Wakefield doesn't like the people backing him. They have a huge argument that just might end their marriage. Elizabeth, Jessica, and Steven can't do anything to help. Could this be the end of the perfect Wakefield family?


  Huh. That is not really what happens in this book at all. Spoilers for the next book(s), book blurb people! Onward.

   I... Uh... look. If you could see my notebook where I scribble (and lord, do I mean scribble) my notes for these books, you would see "WTF!!" repeated over and over, usually with an explanation as to why I'm WTF-ing that time. Not always. I threw this book down numerous times because while I am good at suspension of disbelief, there are lines, people. LINES. And this book sets those lines ablaze at every turn.
  Also, nothing is resolved by the end of the book. Nothing.

  Sigh. Let us begin.

   Trouble At Home is probably SVH's attempt to show that no family is perfect and that even the families we think are perfect still have their own struggles. In the Wakefield's case, it's that Ned and Alice have been body snatched by their teen counterparts and no one noticed or something because I don't even know how to begin to explain the levels of WTF going on here.
  But I guess I'll try. Alice Wakefield's design firm is in the running to design the new wing of the mall. Jessica's super excited because surely they'll name it the Alice Wakefield wing and she'll get discounts at all the new stores and totally, that will happen, Jessica. I live in a place with like, one and a half malls and for the longest time one of them was known as the mall to get shot at so we pretended it didn't exist so while I did my time as a mallrat, it was at a very, very simple/basic mall that stunts my ability to fathom malls having wings, really. Soooooo... I dunno. It's a big deal because over the course of the book, Alice is put in charge of the design team and if things are a success, she'll be the star of the show. If things fail, she's going to lose her head at work.
  I can never keep up with how Alice's design firm works. Sometimes I think she's a minion (though usually I think that's more in the Kids/Twins books) and sometimes I think it's her show, dammit (usually SVH). Anyway, Alice is very upfront about how this is a Big Deal for her career and that it's going to mean she's not going to be home as much. I feel like this should be mentioned considering how big a part it'll play in the WTF later.

   Ned Wakefield is thrilled that his friend Peter Santelli is running for mayor. Hell, the whole Wakefield clan is thrilled and all five of them turn out to support him at the start of the book at a fund raiser. The next morning, the paper's headlines scream Mayor Candidate Accepts Bribes! and shit goes sideways.
  Peter begs Ned to take the case despite the fact that Ned hasn't tried a criminal case in 15 years, a fact that I am sure will be retconned before long and is probably a retcon anyway. Ned initially tries to find a way to get Peter to find legal counsel more up to the task (y'know, a lawyer who specializes in this) but the kids are so excited for Ned and Alice is so against it (because, like you already said, Ned, it's not your area!) that he decides he's going to do it, gosh dangit!
  And this is where the book hits all the WTF buttons at the same time and my brain exploded just trying to keep up with them all.
  Ned officially takes the case Wednesday night, in that he goes over to the Santelli home to discuss taking the case. Thursday morning, he's all kinds of excited by the thought of being able to do something good (clear Peter's name). Thursday night he's ready to do the walk of doom and gloom.
  Alice is less than pleased when Ned has to back out of going boating with the senior partner at her design firm but Alice? Honey? I'm pretty sure your boss understands that hey, if your husband is going to be defending the mayoral candidate in a trial that starts the next day (WTF!), he's kinda gonna miss the boating thing. Seriously, later all of Ned's law buddies will trip all over themselves to congratulate Alice on heading the design team for the fucking mall, but Alice doesn't think her husband trying to save an honest man's reputation would be something worth backing? (We're ignoring the whole not his area of law angle at this point because if Ned managed to pull this trick off, it would be big news and that news would be good for Alice's firm way more than her designing the new wing of the mall would be for Ned's business but we're expected to just not think of this.)
  But also bullshit about that trial starting less than a week after the alleged bribes were found. Seriously. Bull. Shit. No way, no how.
  So Ned's working on Peter's case and Alice is working on trying to win the mall project and by Friday, Peter's case has been thrown out due to insufficient evidence (seriously, wtf did anyone expect to happen when they had less than a week to build a case against him) and Alice is now heading the mall project. Ned is less than jazzed for her, guys. Less than jazzed.

   At some point, Henry Patman comes a knockin' and tells Ned that he'd be an excellent mayor since Peter has dropped out of the race. Ned's not so sure since it would be an awfully big undertaking for his family and also, it's a lot of responsibility... so he asks for time to consider it and to talk to Alice about it.
  Jessica overhears this, btw, and is sure Daddy is about to become president. Oi. This is, naturally, going to bite everyone on the ass. But Liz makes her promise not to say anything because Ned should talk to Alice about it first and hey, maybe nothing will come of it.
  Ned then spends the next for-freaking-ever not talking to Alice about it. Part of this is because I swear to Christ, Alice never fucking calls home when she's going to be late for dinner and that shit is annoying to the point that I'm breaking my "keep profanity to a minimum" rule. You have a fucking car phone by the end of the book, call home and leave a message on the machine or something, goddammit! It's not that hard to be polite and considerate of others, especially when you've failed to do so numerous times in the recent past and it ALWAYS gets thrown in your face. Just pick up the phone, dammit. Not once is it mentioned that she's tried to call and that Jessica's hogging it due to the B plot (C plot?) and in fact she's forever apologizing after she rolls up late for not even thinking to call. NYARGH.
  Still. Ned should've said something before their big Tahoe weekend because he had plenty of time to do so. He just didn't. I feel like at the very least this should be something to have come up before bed. "Alice, you'll never believe who stopped by..." Sigh.

   Anyway, the Wakefields apparently go up to Lake Tahoe every year as a weekend getaway. There are no phones in the cabin and they basically spend three days just hanging out and being goobers together. The rule is no work, so we all know where this is going.
  Liz has spent the whole book worrying about her family falling apart. When she speaks to her mother's assistant, she tries to get Julia to convince Alice to take the weekend off because if she doesn't, bad things will happen. Julia isn't willing to do so until she has a way to reach Alice if an emergency comes up, so Liz reluctantly gives the main Inn's number to Julia and in return Julia and the rest of the firm make sure that Alice gets her weekend getaway.
  While at the cabin, Jessica lets the mayor thing drop and Alice thinks it's laughable so naturally Ned's like "fuck that, I'd make a fantastic mayor" but the two sort of meet in the middle. Ned points out that this would be a serious time commitment and he didn't want to be away from his family so much.
  Alas, the warm fuzzy moments of the weekend give way to the Inn's owner's son showing up saying that Alice has an emergency call and Ned's pissed that Alice gave out the number. Alice insists she didn't, but still goes to call work back. Liz admits to her mother later that she's the one to have given out the number but... doesn't tell her father? I don't get why she didn't tell both of them, honestly. Alice says it's okay, that Ned is just itching for a fight and Liz asks why and this part made me sad... Alice admits she doesn't know why.
  I waffle on how this book does my head in at different times. Alice chooses to hide her achievements and how work is going from Ned after he 'loses' the case because ... she doesn't want to rub her success in his face? I dunno. But that already happened when she burst home late the day it happened and shared the good news. The cat has escaped the bag and set it on fire, Alice. Maybe, especially when you recognize that it's not working, you should break the cycle of not telling your husband what's going on in your life. I think I get what they were going for but at the same time... no?
  And Ned, be happy for your wife, dammit. Just because you're starting a midlife crisis doesn't mean you can't be happy that Alice is doing good things.

   Sigh. Anyway, Sunday Alice gets another call from work and this time she says she has to leave early because Sal, that jackass, got the brilliant idea to do all the work on the computer and the computer glitched and this is 1990, so she's hosed. But Alice, you're so hosed that honestly, you could stay at the cabin the extra three or so hours and it wouldn't make any damn difference. If this had been the call from the day before, I'd argue it was an emergency and worth the call and she should go. But it's only a few hours and they could have waited to tell her and she could wait to go in to fix things. Seriously, wtf.

  Ned's pissed when Alice doesn't see it this way and tells her that if she leaves, she's not just leaving the family weekend, she's leaving her family.
  And she does.

  Damn, Alice.

  Btw, Ned, I'm pretty sure that part of your running appeal for mayor was your home life so this? This is a stupid fucking idea.

   Jessica's subplot (Liz's was basically keeping the house from falling apart while everyone else did their own thing and she probably kept them all from starving to death) is that she sees a teen party line shown on TV. Despite Liz pointing out how expensive they are and how skeevy it all is, Jessica calls and immediately finds a guy named Charlie. She spends the rest of the book falling for him because he sounds so sexy when he's giving her compliment after compliment. Charlie, however, keeps putting her off and Jessica can't understand why. She worries he thinks she won't be as awesome as she is, but Jess? It's far more likely that he's the one with the secret but what do I know, right? In any case, this is also not resolved by the time Alice ditches her family at Lake Tahoe.

  Ultimately I'm left wondering whether Prince Albert scammed every member of the family out of food every day by giving them big sad puppy eyes and that everyone assumed no one else was taking care of the dog... or did he really have to rely on Liz to have time in her schedule to do all the things?


Trivia Time:

  • When Liz gets home at 5pm Monday, she notes that it's not unusual for Jessica to still be at cheer practice.

  • Jess, btw, got home early so this point is kind of moot.

  • There are four messages on the answering machine and three of them are boys calling for Jessica. One is from Ben and one is from David and Jessica thinks, "I wonder what he wants?" before slipping the message Liz scribbled down into her pocket. We never find out who the third message is from.

  • The fourth message on the machine is from Alice an hour earlier who is running late and wants the family to pick her up on the way to the fund raiser. I'm left with so many questions, like where is her car?

  • The fund raiser is for Peter Santelli and it's a dinner and reception being held in the garden of a civic center downtown.

  • When Jess got home early, she immediately took Prince Albert for a walk outside and then proceeds to make a huge deal of it when she runs into Liz.

  • Jessica is convinced that Maria's dad (Peter) will become mayor and then take the cheerleaders to Washington DC to meet the President. Liz and I are less sure that this is how politics work.

  • Liz claims that Maria is more her friend than Jessica's outside of cheerleading. My initial thought was "really?" but the book then goes out of its way to make sure that I believe that Jessica, Lila, and Amy are awful people so...

  • There's a new guy at Ned's law office named Griffin Pierce. He's described as "really aggressive, money hungry young lawyer" who will take on any case if it's glamorous enough or going to bring in a ton of money. Also, when the twins meet him, he's "thirty going on fifty" and is wearing gray from head to toe. He's an insensitive ass and comments about it being a surprise that Ned would show up at a get together after he lost Peter's case.

  • Jessica suggests that her father ditch law and become an actor to avoid Griffin.

  • Jessica also thinks the new mall wing should be called the Alice Wakefield Wing.

  • Ned is initially very supportive of Alice's firm being in the running for the mall project.

  • The morning after Peter's fund raiser, the paper runs this headline: Mayor Candidate Charged With Accepting Bribes! and nary a peep is written about how odds are good that Jessica and Liz would know the writer or at least the editor of the paper. Wasted throwback potential.

  • Jessica kind of wants Peter to be crooked so he can be like a movie she saw recently.

  • In case you wondered, Jessica's best friends are listed as Lila and Amy with Cara only being mentioned as Steven's girlfriend.

  • Lila comments that there's no point in inviting Maria to dinner now since there's no way her father will be mayor now.

  • Amy and Jessica were extra nice to Maria at practice but there's no reason to keep that up either. I can't tell whether I'm supposed to laugh at how awful these three are or just note that they are, indeed, awful.

  • Lila's father bought her a video camera for her half birthday and Jessica seethes that it's bad enough that Lila has a car phone. Whoa, remember those?

  • Oh, 900 numbers and teens. What could go wrong?

  • Someone mysteriously deposited ten thousand dollars into Peter Santelli's bank account but despite the fact that this book takes place over at least a two week span, we end the book still not knowing who did it. This is just one of the many WTF notations.

  • Ned claims he hasn't taken a criminal case in 15 years.

  • When Jessica calls her teen party line, she meets Charlie, Sara, Micheal, Michelle, Nicola, and Bea. We later learn that Sara's got a thing for Charlie and Micheal takes turns flirting with Bea and Nicola.

  • Charlie is from Riverdale, a town near Sweet Valley. So many towns we've never heard of that only pop up when the plot calls for them. Also, I have so many Archie crossover things here that I'm gonna hush.

  • Liz's locket from Todd (the one he gave her when he moved away) makes a reappearance. ♥

  • Peter calls Ned Wednesday night and begs him to be his lawyer. Ned initially says no and then agrees and apparently goes over Wednesday night. Thursday morning, Ned is gung ho about the case but after spending one day, he's already beaten come Thursday night. Friday he's bitching because Alice will be working even longer hours at work after being appointed head of the project. Time has no meaning anymore.

  • Dough Phelps is the senior partner at Alice's design firm and the Wakefields are supposed to go boating with him Sunday and it's very important that the whole family go.

  • Ned promised the weekend to Peter Santelli since the trial starts Monday.

  • Ned also points out that the family doesn't have to cancel the boating trip, just Ned. Don't make me agree with you, Ned... but yeah, Doug should understand, Alice.

  • Jessica has a phone date with Charlie at 8:15... that she keeps by calling the party line. I never did get how that was supposed to work but my brother was the one who racked up our bill calling a 900 number repeatedly (wrestling, calm down).

  • Jess is flattered that Charlie likes her without ever having seen her, and she's pretty sure that most guys are 99% attracted to her looks whereas Charlie has no idea how fantastic she is.

  • Liz pays for the family's groceries by using their charge at the store.

  • Also, there are a lot of dates to the grocery store for Liz and Todd in this book and I have to admit they're pretty cute.

  • Ingenue magazine says playing the field is so passe.

  • Earl Wasserman is a new guy on the party line and asks if it really costs $1 a minute.

  • The judge suspects Peter's case due to insufficient evidence. This means that while he's not been found guilty, his name has also not been cleared. Peter drops out of the race shortly thereafter.

  • When the dinner Liz makes starts to fall apart as the family waits for Alice, Ned flips out and demands they just deal with frozen dinners. You know what Liz made? Spaghetti, salad, and bread. You know the only part of this equation currently borked? The noodles. It's even mentioned that the sauce is still just fine. Liz even comments that they just need to make more noodles... if they have any. Liz, my love, when you're trying to restock the pantry at home and make a meal such as this, you always buy extra noodles. Always. What if people wanted seconds? What if you dropped the first box on the floor? Seriously, it's not like she was budgeting.

  • Also: once more Alice does not bother to call her damn family when she's going to be late for dinner. It's like she called once, off screen before the book started, and that was supposed to hold her the rest of forever. Not how it works.

  • Jessica invites Charlie to a concert in Big Mesa where "some group from the East Coast" will be playing.

  • Charlie would love to but his brother is coming home from Stamford that weekend.

  • Charlie is a Jr., something Jessica finds out when she calls his house and gets Charlie's father (Charlie Sr.) first.

  • Ned belongs to Psi Epsilon, a legal fraternity I'm 99% sure we've never heard of before now.

  • Alice is super jazzed that the Psi Epsilon annual dinner will have a state supreme court justice and a leading criminal lawyer from San Francisco attending. They didn't go last year because they were out of town but Alice loves these kinds of things. The dinner will be held at Tosca's, a new Italian restaurant in Sweet Valley.

  • This is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which the fact that Ned is super down about the law at the moment and seeing people who are either doing far better than he is or just annoying money grubbing lawyer cliches is not going to help. But what do I know, I'm just the reader and Liz is agreeing.

  • Jessica wears a fuschia mini dress and matching tights to the Psi Epsilon dinner.

  • Alice got a car phone but tells Jessica not to touch because it's really expensive.

  • Alice also winds up in the paper when her firm wins the mall bid.

  • Sy Underwood, "a small beaming man" who met Ned at the last Psi Epsilon bash, is thrilled over Alice's good fortune and confesses to wanting to be an architect when he was an undergrad.

  • Sy is the first of many people who congratulate Alice on her achievements while pointedly ignoring Ned's recent set back.

  • After his run in with Griffin, Ned leaves but Alice makes the kids stay another half an hour before packing it in.

  • Henry Patman and James Knapp, a political analyst who was assisting Peter's campaign, stop by to convince Ned to run for mayor.

  • The Wakefields go to Lake Tahoe every year. They rent a "charming redwood cabin with three bedrooms, a small kitchen, and a tiny living room with a fireplace" and no phone and BBQ most of their meals. Various other traditions include putting on their PJs, having hot chocolate and playing charades, hiking, and going to the Inn for dinner Saturday night.

  • Alice's assistant is Julia.

  • Almost any time Alice is mentioned having to do something with someone at the office, it's Sal. And Sal is always having an emergency. Fire Sal, Alice. Sal is also the one who got the bright idea to use the 'interactive software' to design part of the wing and of course the computer went down.



Quotes:

Elizabeth gave her twin a wry smile. Trust Jessica to take the one household chore she'd done all month and make it seem like the labors of Hercules! - Don't mind me, I'll be over here snickering, p3

"Jessica, from your voice... your name... you are poetry," Charlie said.
This was too much. Here was this guy saying these incredible things to her-right in front of the others on the line!- and he hadn't even seen her yet. Jessica had always been convinced that her looks were about ninety-nine percent of the reason guys asked her out. But Charlie couldn't see her. So why did he like her and not the others? - Aww. I will forever be a sucker for the "pretty girl is found awesome by someone who can't see her beauty and it throws her" trope. p39

"I've decided- just from your voice- that you're blond. Am I right?"
Jessica giggled. "You're right," she confessed.
"I could tell," Charlie said triumphantly. "You have the blondest voice I've ever heard."
Jessica felt shivers of delight go through her. Imagine how thrilled Charlie was going to be when he found out just how blond she really was! - I... uh... phrasing? This is so weird. I'm at turns amused and befuddled, really. p 47

This was Jessica's favorite kind of conversation. She loved hearing a list of all her positive characteristics. - Oh, Jessica. p86

"You're a perfect candidate, Ned. You're young, strong, smart-with a wonderful background in law. You've got a beautiful family. You're honest. You're ethical. You're exactly what this community needs, and who this community will vote for." - James Knapp is good at fluffing egos, eh? p 99

The Wakefields' courtship was like something out of a fairy tale. They met, they fell in love, they got married, and they really did live happily ever after.
Until now. - Liz, don't make me sad. p121


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   My mental notes on this from however long it's been since I read this were basically: Mr. Wakefield goes to Washington, Ned and Alice set their marriage ablaze, Jessica doesn't care. Re-reading it didn't really change those thoughts, alas. It wasn't boring like I feared it would be, but it was painful because this book really should have had half these things peppered in previous books and then dealt with the trial vs. the mall time suck instead of trying to get us to believe all of this took place in under a month.

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