THE PARTY LINE VS THE SLEEPOVER FRIENDS – ALLIE’S WILD SURPRISE OR WILD RIPOFF


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O.K. after rereading the Party Line’s launch pad – book #1 –
Allie’s wild Surprise I was riff with deja vu. Like duh, I’ve read it
before, so what. No, it seemed eerily incomplete – and I
released I was jamming up scenes from another series book,
Sleepover Friends #7 Stephanie Strikes Back, which after
careful comparison I discovered both books have oodles
of disturbing similarities.

First off both series have similar tones already
based in their characters ( but lets not be naive this
can happen a lot in series fiction – a group with a
thread-head material girl , a tomboy , a shy A+ student
I mean these aren’t original inventions they’re cliches ) ,
even the numbers are even – four girls all central characters ,
all best friends. The Party Line – Allie , Becky , Rosie and Julie.
The Sleepover Friends – Lauren , Kate , Patti and Stephanie.
Both sets have artistic fashionistas – Rosie and Stephanie ,
Both have athletes who love to eat – Julie and Lauren , both
sets have quiet , stammering , straight A students – Allie and
Patti , and both have the brusk and bossy types Becky and
Kate – in fact one could, with a bit of imagination, see
these girls as one and the same group shown at different
ages – The Party Line exploring grade seven and the
characters 12 going on 13 , while the Sleepover Friends
are stuck in fifth grade with the girls 10 going on 11. As
an example of how their age effects both characters and
events check out the two similar characters Rosie and
Stephanie while on their trip to the mall. Rosie leads
the group to a Clinique counter for sophisticated
make-overs that she applies herself with an expert
hand while Stephanie who is too young wanders off
herself and purchases for her make-up lust two
tubes of Swingers sun-block and paints her face like
Adam Ant.

Want some more eerie coincidences –
here goes – Both stammering , straight A students Allie and
Patti both have younger brothers with weird names – Allie’s
is Jonathan ( not weird ) but he’s called Mouse , Patti’s
brother is called Horace. Both of the boys have a party
coming up. Both parties are sabotaged when the entertainment
calls up last minute and cancels – Each book features a
clown as entertainer in The Party Line he remains nameless
in Sleepover Friends they are called Ollie and Mollie. But
both clowns are down with the flu!

Sleepover Friends gets more milage with this
idea than the Party Line – after the clown calls in sick
and drops off some party supplies the Night Before – the
girls kick into high gear to help out. In a hilarious attempt to
continue the sleep over as planned while baking the cake, they
wind up watching the home shopping channel, while Lauren
is stuck converting the ingredients to suit a bigger pan – and
with all the numbers swirling around – Lauren makes a
mistake that creates a jumbo sized crack, zig zagging
through the cake. Of course it’s the late 80’s, dinosaurs are
on every kids brain, and the girls transform the disastrous
cake into a masterpiece of prehistoric landscape capable of
impressing every six year old – even if it is a tad dry.

The Party Line instead has the clown canceling
the very day of the party – does anyone actually do that?
Not even giving the parents a one nights notice and they
too have problems with their cake – it’s mocha flavored and
the kids won’t eat it.

As for the actual saving of the party Sleepover
Friends manages to take a fluid idea and incorporate it
throughout the story – Stephanie’s lone shopping spree –
claiming she knows nothing about shopping for little kids
and her purchase of her nose zinc is actually the party
saver. While they are trying on the sun block – stuffy
Kate declines so she can razz you make a great bunch of
clowns -gives them eureka! Their big plan. Fill in clowns
for Patti’s brother’s party. Lauren is transformed into Barkly
a kind of clownish dog with pigtails and fur gloves , while
Patti is glitzed up with glitter and deelyboppers and dubbed
Sparkly some kind of space-pixie.

The Party Line isn’t quite as fluid – while Sleepover
Friends tell jokes , do tumbles and try not to do battle with a
mouthy guest , the Party Line jerkily moves from a
disorganized scramble of how to entertain the kids –
Clowns of course – with their mother hurriedly using make up
to transform them ( notice how both books use something
other than greasepaint! ) – then Rosie the resident artist
impresses the kids with her drawings! ( this technique is
ironically used by Stephanie – in Sleepover Friends in later
books only she turns the guests into cute animal caricatures )

The books even have similar shopping sprees
for the girls – while the Sleepover Friends ( minus Kate
for a change ) scope out a department store – ( Romanos) ,
turn down dinosaur themed presents for Horace before finally
zeroing in on a more plot pleasing present an ant farm – the
Party Line does nearly the same thing – while the girls are
older – and this is 1990 – there is a required trying on of
hats scene , they too wander a department store
( Winters )but resort to the typical dinosaur present
( ever notice that as soon as a present gets typical you
lose interest in the character – I mean a plastic dinosaur
hardly says anything about Mouse but that he’s typical –
the ant farm for Horace however reinforces that the boy
is totally into bugs and science. ) Both characters have
problems with the presents – just after Stephanie tells them
to play it cool, as they saunter into Pizza Palace to
ogle the boys , Patti trips and wacks the ant farm
against the wall. The Party Line goes the typical route
and has the girls momentarily misplace the present ( while
oglling some boys! Sheesh ) and then find it –
at the boys job so that he thinks they did it on purpose.
Both events are tinged with embarrassment.

As for the creation of the business – once
again each story echos with a similar accident when
a mother of one of the party guests is so impressed
she calls to ask the girls to repeat the performance for
her child’s upcoming birthday party!

Now if that wasn’t enough of a coincidence
the books also have a non-business storyline running
through them – a desperate need for money that
provokes both businesses. Sleepover Friends is more
interesting – the girls feel excluded from a new video
club the school has started when some snobby sixth
graders take charge and Stephanie in her typical
go-for-it manor orders a video camera from the shopping
club. Hardly believable but it’s so gung ho you just love it.
They may not have to grovel to make a film but now they
need to shell out 30 bucks a month. The Party Line takes
the typical, for the age group, route of cliche plot
maneuvers – the girls need the cash to get to a
rock concert for Allie’s idol Vermillion one of those faux
stars the authors cook up mainly for the books implausible
finale.

As the girls agree to the party – this also give
the girls their theme for their first video – Clowning Around.
See how the story just flows from one interconnecting
thing to another.

The Party Line doesn’t so much flow as halts
and jerks , one of the bigger missteps is several
unbelievable things – first of all I have to admit I doubted
that Stephanie could’ve bought the video camera herself
( though her character gives off the splurging efficiency
of someone who could get it done, so she’s forgiven. )
however the Party Line sets up some implausibilities and
leaves strings hanging that I didn’t like – though Allie is
all buzzed for the rock concert she’s hardly of driving age
and wether or not this would accommodate any parental
schedule or wether she could go alone or with a friend
isn’t even mentioned. Then for the girls first party, a
week away, they decide to make it a costume party –
I don’t know what parent would want to whip up a
costume for their four year old with only a weeks
notice but they run into no jams. Then when
they go to purchase the tickets and it’s all sold out –
you just know that Allie ( because of her hard work )
will not only magically get tickets , she’ll get good seats ,
even a backstage pass with the star and a chance to
chat with her idol.

At least the Sleepover Friends who will have
their moment in the spotlight – their documentary short –
Clowning Around is the highlight of the video club. Not
only are they praised by a famous visiting documentary
director but they manage to show up the sixer’s and in
later books redeem their spot in the club. All of this was
both by effort and hard work. The Party Line leaves it to
sheer luck , predictable luck at that – Vermillion is eating
at her friends restaurant , the mother introduces her to
the artist who promptly offers the tickets , the backstage
pass, the words of advice. Bleech , I couldn’t buy it –
don’t get me wrong I love the Party Line – # 4 Rosie’s
Popularity Plan – it’s one of my favorite make-over themed
series books but this ending seemed trite , like the author
had turned fairy godmother and waved a magic wand over
the proceedings. It would’ve been better had the girls only
managed a glimpse of the star perhaps if Becky’s mother’s
restaurant The Moondance was catering an after party
or something – that Allie just didn’t get everything. I like
happy endings in all but not over the top ones. It always
bugged the heck out of me when Elizabeth ( from svh
or svt ) won another contest or mastered another skill
and then had to prove how humble she was by
sharing it with Jess. Just once I would’ve like them
to announce a winner that had the kids of Sweet
Valley going – “Who’s that?” Anyhoo – that’s the layout
– and the verdict is in – The Party Line definitely borrows
( inadvertently ) from Sleepover Friends. But I did love
the lunch scene in Allie’s big Surprise – faced with no money
for lunch her friends make trips up to the food court and
return with an assortment of goodies – each breaking
off a piece for Allie and pouring some of their soda into
an extra cup. All different flavors Allie says making it
fruity-cola-licious. A great scene hi-lighting the kindof
friends that will share their junk food with you!

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