“Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win?”
Have you heard of Bruce Patman? Well, not only is he one of the richest sons of Sweet Valley, he’s gotten cozy with nearly every desirable young lady at SVHS. NEARLY every one, but not Jessica. A gross oversight on his part, to be sure – and you can also be sure that Jess is PISSED about it. How dare he omit her from his sexual tour of Sweet Valley (well, NEARLY sexual – she’s not that kind of girl)! Rest assured, all that is taken care of in Playing With Fire, and Jessica is the one doing the playing. Um, Bruce is the fire
Now. there’s nothing like third person to really expose what’s going on in a character’s head. The beauty of a story written in third person is that the reader can see or know things the characters are completely oblivious to, and the whole saga becomes more dynamic.
Why should it be any different in Sweet Valley? Mega-hunk Bruce Patman’s mind might already seem like an open book, but Playing With Fire gives us a few fleeting glimpses of what’s going on in there. What precious gems do we uncover? “Sure that he knew exactly what she really wanted, he began to caress and stroke her back gently,” and “Bruce pulled back abruptly, willing to play the hero only to a certain point.” Ohhh, so you mean Bruce is Sweet Valley High’s official stereotypical jerky heartthrob? Freaking great, book. Never, NEVER could I have figured that out without the aid of that marvelous tool, third person.
This is not the information I wanted from our peek into Bruce’s thoughts! What I want to know is this: if Bruce is SVHS’s jerky heartthrob, why doesn’t he play football? Not only is Bruce a TENNIS star (still not as good as Jess, but she lets him win, the sweetie pie), but he is apparently uninterested in cheerleaders! So much so, in fact, that he encourages Jess to skip her practices and games to watch him play tennis. I also want to know why, WHY this man has urged Jessica to ditch her slutty minidresses for “preppy” old lady suits. Paging Dr. Freud, Brucie misses his mother! But these aspects of Bruce’s personality are ignored, and we are left pondering the possibilities.
Oh well, it’s not the first time third person has let me down. Maybe there will be a book about it down the line. On the lighter side of this story (no pun intended), Jess gets a pudgy admirer/sidekick who wants to be like her and will do her every bidding. Robin, whose weight is disparaged with so little tact it puts Shallow Hal to shame, “might not be bad-looking” if she lost a few. And in grand Sweet Valley fashion, this little lady ushers us swiftly into our next book, Power Play. You know I’ll see you there.
Editor's note: Looking for the 2018 podcast episode for Playing with Fire? Enter the time warp now!