Series: Sweet Valley High #3
Published by Bantam Books on 1983
Genres: General, Social Themes, Young Adult
Watch out, Sweet Valley High! Once again, Jessica Wakefield has gotten her way. Fresh from her greatest social triumph, Jessica proceeds to sink her hooks into rich, handsome Bruce Patman, the most eligible, sought-after guy at SVH.
Or has Bruce gotten his hooks into Jessica? Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, notices a big change in her sister. Suddenly Jessica’s following Bruce everywhere and dropping everything just to spend time with him.
Elizabeth doesn’t trust Bruce one bit – he’s arrogant, demanding, and way too fast. Jessica can usually hold her own with any guy, but this time Elizabeth’s afraid her sister may be going too far…
Oh, Jessica…I so want to feel sorry for you but…I can’t! I feel like the writing in Playing with Fire greatly improved from the first two books. But, I’m still so angry that Jessica is such a jerk. And when Jessica kinda-sorta becomes the victim, I want to feel sorry for her but she’s a victim of her own circumstances!
I have to keep in mind that these books are written in the ’80s and fat-shaming sadly still occurs. But, what bothers me is that even the “good” guys that we want to feel bad for are guilty of fat-shaming. I mean, geez! Jessica treats Winston like a doormat. So, you would think that he would be more understanding of others. Yet, when goody-two-shoes-Elizabeth decides to fix him up with a sweet girl like Robin, he makes the comment, “But Robin …well, she’s OK. We really don’t have much in common, though. I get nervous around people who eat all the time.”
Okay, back to feeling sorry for Jessica. I really wanted to feel sorry for her. No one deserves to be in an abusive relationship and let’s just face it, Bruce is a patronizing creep. But when Jessica’s doing things like ditching her date to go somewhere with Bruce and calling her “friend” Robin a tubby and musing that Robin would be kind of pretty if she lost weight, I really just want to slug Jessica.
Overall, I think these books explore themes still relevant to today’s youth. Kids still bully others. People are still body-shamed. But, I think that there has been an overall shift in how authors approach these matters. Typically you will see an effort from the author to show how wrong these things are. This is the one fundamental flaw with the SVH series so far. I hope to see some improvements as the series continues.
What I rate this book now: 3 stars
What I would have rated this book in 1995: 4. The insinuation that Bruce and Jessica were doing a little something more than making out would have bothered me. I was a goody-goody when I was 13. I would have loved Jessica’s revenge on Bruce though.