Will Peter Choose Amy…or Johanna?
The truth was, she was in love with Peter. She had been for ages. Seeing him with his arm around another girl was just about more that she could stand!
Dropping out of school is nothing to take lightly. Going back again isn't either, at least not for Johanna Porter, who quit school last fall (in Sweet Valley analysis, this theoretical "past era" is called "the land before time") and is really embarrassed and sensitive about the whole issue, understandably. After finding her deceased mother's diary, she decides that Mom really wanted her to finish school (surprise!) and decides to return.
In my experience, 16-year-olds get Cs and Ds, and any A student (Elizabeth Wakefield, let's say) is viewed as mildly detestable. Not so in Sweet Valley! Johanna has a reputation as a bad student, which haunts her in the way that my good grades haunted me in elementary school. Both her sister (Julie Porter) and her father are not only intelligent, but are also very talented musicians. The fact the Johanna has no musical aptitude makes her feel excluded in the family (her mother's death had only calcified the rift) and adds to Johanna's feelings of worthlessness and stupidity. Somebody get this girl a therapist, stat! And some Xanax, please.
There is one certain someone who makes Johanna feel less miserable. His name is Peter DeHaven, and he's a super genius. He and Johanna had always been friends, but for Johanna the relationship was more like a crush. Peter seems really pleased to see Johanna back in school, and offers to help her out in science classes. The only problem? Johanna doesn't need help in science, she's really good at that.
Oh, and Peter's dating AMY SUTTON!!!!!
Everyone (including Peter, it seems) knows that Amy and Peter are a weird match. So when Amy goes out of town, lovestruck Johanna doesn’t think it’s strange that Peter asks her on what amounts to a date. She’s on Cloud 9 when he kisses her at the end of the evening. I kind of feel for Johanna – after all, she and Peter have known each other forever, they get along really well, and she (unlike Amy) actually cares what he has to say. Amy must be as good as dumped.
Johanna’s sister Julie, however, isn’t quite so calm about the date or the kiss (or Peter himself, whom she thinks is pretty self-centered and boastful). When she warns Johanna that things might not be exactly as they seem, Johanna freaks out, storms away, and loses my sympathy somewhat. I get that she feels like she can’t do anything right for her family, but get a grip, kid!
Unfortunately for Johanna, Julie is sort of right. Peter shows up at this big party Amy’s throwing for [whatever the hell it’s about this time...Harvest Fest? Surf Racing Festival? Founders’ Day Ball?] and has clearly not ended things with Amy. When Johanna sees Peter with Amy in the hallway, he acts like he doesn’t really know Johanna. Brokenhearted, and despite her budding science and math abilities (she was the only one who aced the big test!) and her (Elizabeth-fueled) improvement in reading comprehension, Johanna decides that she was wrong to try and go back to school. She drops out again.
Okay, that was the short version. The long version is decidedly more gossipy. Ready? Johanna confided in Elizabeth about her relationship with Peter. Because she is pathologically over-trusting of her twin, Liz tells Jessica about the romance, swearing her to secrecy. Yeah effing right! Seconds later, Jessica tells Amy about Peter’s infidelity (she implies it in a way that makes her feel like she’s not lying, because she has no moral compass). Remember, Jessica wants Amy to dump Peter because (see “B Story”) Jessica thinks long-term relationships are bo-oring! Amy then confronts Peter, who in turn leaves poor Johanna the following locker note:
Odd choice of words, really. It sounds like he does know what to do, and that’s to stay with his bitchy girlfriend – who doesn’t let him talk about science – because he’s too lazy to break up with her and he is more interested in dating a popular idiot than forging a real relationship with someone who actually cares about him.
Maybe that’s my personal relationship history talking. Next subject, anyone?
Eventually, Peter sort of apologizes, but in a half-assed, dismissive way that doesn’t really make Johanna feel better. Then she overhears some girls in the locker room talking cattily about how stupid she is. She decides that she’ll always be an outsider at Sweet Valley High. Which catches us up to “Groan.”
Would you believe the book ends there? No, you wouldn’t believe it for a second. This is Sweet Valley, not a tragic opera (the opera version of Last Chance ends with a three-way murder/suicide. FACT!). Peter, after being scolded by the wise-when-convenient Elizabeth Wakefield, hunts Johanna down to try and talk some sense into her.
But then, dear readers, something amazing happens. A Sweet Valley miracle! Instead of being swayed by Peter, Johanna tells him off!
“If you think I’m staying away from school because of you, you’re wrong…You made it perfectly clear almost from the start that I shouldn’t do things for you or because of you. Don’t worry. You don’t have to feel guilty about my decision, if that’s why you’re here.” [p. 122]
Zing! Of course, this bold speech doesn’t change the fact that Johanna’s still not back at school, and that’s not very Pascalian, now is it? So Johanna heads home, where her dad is waiting for her. He’s heard about her success in math and science, and about her recidivism, and he apologizes for being distant. He then gives her the magical advice she’s needed all along: “…you’ve got to start doing things for yourself. That’s what your mother always wanted for you. She knew Julie had her music, and what she hoped was that you’d find something of your own to work for.”
Ta da! Of course, Johanna realizes, her own passions and success are what should drive her. Now to find Peter and kiss and make everything exactly perfect!…but wait! ANOTHER Sweet Valley miracle? Johanna tells Peter that she’s not interested in dating him. She wants to focus on her studies, and she’s tired of being a sounding board that’s never listened to. And sure, those are my words, not hers, but the sentiment is the same.
On the scale of Sweet Valley bad boyfriends, Peter’s still a notch above Aaron Dallas (crazy) and George Warren (cheater), and WAY ahead of that Jack fellow (tried to kill Jessica with a butcher knife). But this story isn’t about whether Peter is good or bad, it’s about Johanna. And she figured out that she can stand on her own and live for herself, all at only 17. So good job, Sweet Valley. Way to bring one home for the ladies.