It’s Sam’s turn in the Great Switcheroo to share the 1991 Christopher Pike book Bury Me Deep. Jean is your average horned-up teenage girl who was written by an author who’s definitely human and totally understands how human girls work. Jean is excited for a trip to Hawaii with her friends, but finds herself delayed a few days for reasons too stupid to be real. Finally on the plane to Hawaii, the boy, Mike, in the seat next to Jean dies violently, leaving Jean shaken. But there’s no time for trauma when there are cute boys giving scuba diving lessons at the hotel, so Jean puts aside her experience and tires to enjoy the time with her friend Mandy and also Michelle, the random girl who just invited herself along on the vacation and now spends all her time locked in their shared hotel suite bedroom having sex with Dave, the older of the two diving instructors. Jean starts having spooky dreams about Mike, and is drawn to a particular underwater cave off the Island of Lanai. When Jean recklessly dives to the cave alone she finds a human skull and promptly freaks out. Neither of the cute instructors, Dave or Johnny, believe she saw the skull, and upon investigation Dave can’t find it in the cave. Is jean falling apart from her traumatic experience? Are Dave and Johnny more than simply cute dive instructors, and what happened to their missing partner Ringo (yes, Ringo)? What does any of this have to do with Mike? Will Mandy ever be treated with respect in this book? Help Sam solve this mystery (spoiler, it’s not that mysterious) in the conclusion of our first Great Switcheroo!
This week Danielle brings a little Halloween in July with the 2014 film Vampire Academy. Rose Hathaway is a teenage Dhampir (mostly human vampire) and is guardian-in-training for her best friend Princess Vasilisa (Lissa) Dragomir, a Moroi (pacifist full vampire). They have run away from their titular school after a deadly car accident left Lissa without her family. They are soon tracked down and returned to school, because they’re teenagers, where they arrive in the middle of a Strigoi (evil, non-pacifist vampire) attack at the school gates. At this point, Sam has reached his limit of nonsense fantasy words and exposition, but the movie, and Danielle, aren’t even close to done. Back at school there’s some sinister force harassing Lissa who uses her magic powers (of course she has magic powers) to manipulate everyone into liking her and becoming like, so totally popular you guys. There are some dreamy, broody vampire (and half-vampire) boys, of course, but none of that really seems to matter. In fact, none of the plot of this book really seems to matter as it serves more as a vehicle for vampire world exposition. And boy, does Sam have questions about that vampire world, questions for which Danielle has too few answers. Lissa’s life is eventually endangered in a predictable twist, there’s some almost sex that is surprisingly responsible in terms of power structures, and something called Psi Hounds make an appearance, which are basically just regular dogs with glowing eyes that are psychic in ways that are subtle and irrelevant. So listen and enjoy as both Sam and Danielle examine the finer points of vampire caste systems and reproductive habits. We could seriously use a biologist, and maybe a sociologist, to help figure this one out.
This week Sam brings Danielle back to the heady days of 2003 with the movie Agent Cody Banks. Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is your average 15-year-old boy, except he was scooped up, in what has the be the most slipshod CIA training program ever, to become a youth agent. Why was Cody chosen for this prestigious role? We don’t know, and neither does the CIA. Nonetheless, when the evil organization E.R.I.S. is planning on using the nanobots invented by Dr. Albert Connors for…something evil probably, the CIA taps Cody to foil their evil plan. Using all the suave and subtlety of a teenage boy, Cody is to befriend Dr. Connor’s daughter Natalie (Hilary Duff) to secure an invention to her upcoming Las Vegas themed birthday party and attempt to…talk to Dr. Connors? Honestly, all the plans in this movie are as straightforward as an Escher drawing and not nearly as well composed. Now Cody must overcome his greatest weakness, talking to girls, and become the top agent the CIA has been training him to be for all of the past two summers so he can save the world (or something).
Correction: Hilary Duff did not appear in the sequel Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. We regret the error and apologize to Ms. Duff and her family for any pain this characterization may have caused. Our bad.
Danielle digs deep into the 90s’ well with the Christopher Pike novel The Eternal Enemy. Rela is just a normal girl who loves boys, cookies, and VCRs. Her life goes off the rails when the VCR she just bought turns out to be recording TV shows from the future! This doesn’t really matter as Rela is more interested in the cute boy, Chris, at her school. However, Rela does record a future news broadcast where she’s murdered by a weird stalker, but she decides her best course of action is to go about her daily life, as one would. Sam is already confused about what’s going on, and that’s before the stalker turns about to be Rela’s grandfather from the future trying to preserve the robot takeover of Earth. There’s a lot moral waffling about what has a soul and if humans should be replaced by cyborg hybrids, but Sam is firmly on the robots’ side in all this despite the best arguments to the contrary. If you think the philosophizing is confusing, wait until all the weird time travel paradoxes rear their ugly heads. So enjoy Blockbuster, VCRs, and startlingly fast adoptions in this 90s fueled sci-fi drama!
This week Danielle has the thrilling conclusion of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish. Adam finally learns a bit about the experimental work of Dr. O’Keefe, and Sam is aghast at the reckless disregard for safety and scientific rigor. Adam seems less bothered by this and is ready to commit to O’Keefe and his work, but O’Keefe, inexplicably, insists that Adam go on dinner date with Kali at her father’s hotel first. Before leaving for the date, Poly has a premonition and insists Adam take a switchblade syringe filled with shark tranquilizer and conceal it in his swimming trunks for when he and Kali inevitably go swimming. It’s difficult to convey how truly crazy this is, and it’s even crazier that they are indeed attacked by sharks but are saved by the kinda psychic dolphin. After that incident, O’Keefe gives Adam the assignment to slip some secret papers about his work to his friends in the embassy right under Typhon Cutter’s nose. It’s a plan that is far too unnecessarily convoluted to get into here, but there are complications, backstabbing, mortal peril, and some truly hilarious attempts at cloak-and-dagger shenanigans. Also, just when this book should be over, there are more shark attacks. Seriously, for a book titled The Arm of the Starfish, there are way more sharks than you’d think, and and way fewer starfish.
This week Danielle breaks out the Madeleine L’Engle classic The Arm of the Starfish. Adam is your typical-sixteen-year old biology prodigy on his way to Lisbon to work with superstar biologist Dr. O’Keefe. While being held up at the airport because of fog, Adam is approached by the attractive Kali who warns him not to trust the O’Keefes. Adam is perplexed by this encounter, but shrugs it off as he jets off across the Atlantic, before making an unexpected stop in Madrid due to yet more fog. While there, a friend of the O’Keefes, a priest named Canon Tallis, is escorting Poly, the twelve-year-old daughter of the O’Keefes, back from a vacation in the U.S. Tallis asks Adam, the teenage boy he just met, to take over the escort duty of this young girl while he does some business in Madrid. This is the first of many bafflingly terrible decisions every character seems to make. On the flight from Madrid to Lisbon Poly is immediately, and expertly, kidnapped. Fortunately, Dr. O’Keefe is nonplussed by the loss of his daughter when Adam arrives. Later, while recuperating in a hotel Adam is magically found by Kali, who just happens to be in the neighborhood and who insists on taking him to meet her mega-rich-totally-not-evil businessman father Typhon Cutter. Typhon has just so happened to have found Poly and is returning her to the O’Keefes on the condition Adam reports to him on the super secret, world changing work Dr. O’Keefe is doing. Sam is annoyed that Typhon gives up a perfectly good kidnapped hostage to instead rely on a stranger of a teenager to get his information for him. Adam, meanwhile, must wrestle with the most difficult question of who to trust: The world famous scientist he’s going to work for, or the kidnapping businessman who wants him to spy on the O’Keefes. Also, there aren’t really any starfish in this part, but there is a kinda psychic dolphin, so that has to count for something.
In this week’s Book Reshorts, Danielle puts Sam’s memory skills to the test! This time she challenges Sam to recall everything he can about Sweet Valley High and Margo’s murder spree from all those months ago. However, he struggles to remember the names of everyone, or that there is, in fact, more than one cute but otherwise nondescript boy in the book. See how well he does, and if you can do better, in Partial Recall!
Danielle concludes Francine Pascal’s saga of the evil twin with her second Sweet Valley High book: Return of the Evil Twin. One year after the traumatic encounter with their inexplicable doppelgänger, the Wakefield twins prepare to celebrate the new year, still lacking the therapy they so desperately need. However, they are soon beset by the long-lost identical twin sister to the murderous Margo who, against all reason, has decided to try and supplant Jessica as a new Wakefield twin; which is essentially the same scheme her sister failed at a year prior. Will the Wakefield sisters survive this latest crazed lookalike trying to replace them? Will their parents ever help them get much-needed therapy? Most importantly, how many separate identical sets of identical twins are there in this world? The answer to that last question, at least, is clear: More than would seem plausible.
This week Danielle introduces the Sweet Valley High universe to Sam with the Francine Pascal novel The Evil Twin. Meet Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, identical twins who are somehow enmeshed in an endless series of ludicrously dramatic events. When the story arc starts with the death of Jessica’s boyfriend in a drunk driving accident with Elizabeth due to Jessica spiking her own sister’s drink as they were competing for prom queen, the introduction of a serial killer doppelgänger seems almost quaint. The unhinged Margo is determined to murder Elizabeth and replace her as the new Elizabeth (manslaughter charges notwithstanding). Will Margo’s dastardly (and ridiculous) plot succeed, or will the twins escape unharmed, except for the bucket-loads of unaddressed trauma? It’s hard to believe there are 181 of these books.