If you’ve never read a Merivale Mall book I can sum up the experience with this concept- It’s like biting into a marshmallow fluff sandwich , it’s light and airy and sweet , very sweet. And if it’s what you’re craving – it sure hits the spot.
Book #1 Two for One is like all series introductory books – There is a sort-of set up and howdy-do feel as the characters introduce themselves to the reader ,before leading them by the hand through the locale to familiarize them with the formula. No shocks or jolts. It’s all fun. Welcome to Merivale , which could’ve been located in Sweet Valley , it bares such a striking resemblance to it’s forerunner.
Sweet Valley ( if you’re a fan ) started the trend of the ‘forced-friendship-by-contingency’ – if it wasn’t for the womb we shared Jessica , Elizabeth could mutter , you’d be history. Camp Sunnyside fell into this pattern via Camp bunkmates , as did Girls of Canby Hall – roommates , as did Stepsisters ( guess why ) and Three of a kind – adoption. Merivale Mall’s odd ‘friendship’ was between two polar opposite cousins – Danielle and Lori who represent the contrasting apotheosis of the 80’s – the consumer grasshopper and the worker-bee. Lori Randall is an Elizabeth-type , sweet , concerned , kind. Danielle is the Jessica-type trendy , aggressive , selfish. In between them was the ‘prize’ the star quarterback -Nick Hobart – a definite Todd-type ( clueless but kind. ) The series starts with Lori’s rescue from almost being knocked into the mall’s fountain, by Bong! Nick Hobart – ( Bells we are told are soon ringing in her head that this is the boy that ‘every girl in Merivale was dying a thousand deaths to meet.’)
Before Lori can linger over her luck , she’s soon lamenting weeks ( sentences ) later that Nick still hasn’t asked her out. Pudgy Patsy – an Enid-type – loyal kind and overlooked , and Ann Larson ( any combination of Penny-Olivia-Maria ) classy , sporty , loyal and overlooked are all sympathetic ears. Both of them are co-worker-bees and best buds of Lori- Patsy has the misfortune of having the all too-tempting job at the Cookie Connection while Ann predictably reflecting her interests, works at the Body Shoppe as a 16 year old aerobics instructor. Least we think Lori is merely reflected in her position ,as a mere employee at Tio Tacos, wearing a horrible neon apron, it allows her to set up her interest in fashion by acknowledging the horribleness of the apron. ( See in truth Lori and Danielle are twins – shopaholic twins ) After getting a buzz of the worker-bees the scene shifts to the consumers twirling before the mirrors of Merivale mall ( humbleness vs arrogance ) – Danielle Sharp ( as in sharp-dresser ) has just informed her cousin of her interest in Nick Hobart – SVH’s Double Love triangle – Jess , Liz , Todd is shaping up nicely for MM’s Two for one plot – Lori, Danielle , Nick. Armed with credit cards and an urge to splurge ( on suede ,the late 80’s most extravagant fabric ), Danielle cuts a swathe through boutiques called Snazzz and Facades plotting ways to make Nick hers – with a low-cut blouse.
Her cohorts are Heather and Teresa – Lila-Amy-Courtney types who are only to ready to help her achieve victory. Danielle you see has the advantage – Nick goes to her private school. Not Lori’s public high school. To up the antagonistic ante between the cousins , Danielle’s dad – a pro-worker-bee has offered to double Lori’s earnings to help her save for college , as a dig to his shopaholic daughter. This series , if you view it, is a wonderfully , weird morph of SVH – a Twilight Zone where all characters are thinly disguised – Like Danielle is Jessica if she got her wish to be Lila – rich , popular while still seeming human , ( Danielle is never quite a Lila – more a sometimes kind, Jessica. ) and still linked to her twin via family – cousins, Lori is Liz with a bit of a backbone ( her twinship to Danielle is in their shared love of fashion ), writing has been replaced by sketchpad. Nick is Todd who in the same year ,1989 – SVH book #59 returned to Sweet Valley, wealthy and enrolled in a fancy Private school ( not to mentioned is chased by a near redhead – Courtney Kane.) Nick is just as dim as Todd is about girls fighting over him , though he does know which one he wants Lori, and deliberately pursues her, much to the frustration of Danielle.
When Lori and Nick finally do get together he takes her to Danielle’s spur of the moment after- game party ( planned specifically and unbeknownst for him – recall Lila’s advantage of calling a party on at a moments notice? ) Where Lori is ignored , snubbed and finally humiliated after Danielle’s friend dumps a plate of barbeque all over Lori’s brand new outfit. Knit pink slacks! To ensure the book is not so cut and dried as a romantic triangle there are also some side-stories , one involving Patsy ( think SVH’s Robin or better yet SVT’s Lois ) whose made to think she’s been asked out on a date by an arrogant boy ( think SVH’s Bruce ) as a trick. Because Patsy doesn’t have time to run circles and burn fat she takes a quicker route – she sabotages the girls shampoo ( while they’re in the Body Shoppe ) with green hair dye. This smacks a bit of SVT’s shaving cream on Lila’s sundae routine specifically because only Lila was targeted – Jessica got off scot-free as does Danielle.
The other side story involves the threat that Tio Tacos might be kaput if their tacos don’t stop tasting like wet cardboard. SVH’s Double Love side stories involved the threat that the Wakefield happy-home life was threatened by the possibly that dear old dad, Mr. Wakefield, was having an affair along with Steven’s secret romance with Tricia, one of the low-class Martin’s is exposed, – How is this to compare with tasteless tacos and set-up dates? Welll… losing ones job could compare to the radical shake up of the Wakefield household -if dear old dad was having an affair ( in a fluff sandwich )- could Sweet Valley be called sweet? and where would Lori be but outside of the Merivale mall looking in and as for Pasty she’s a Lois-Robin type and can only get her revenge while the plot is still hot – just like Steve who can’t leave a secret hanging. Want more allusions to other SVH books? Try Starting Over #33- Where Jessica finds Prince Albert – a golden retriever and seems more human – just like Danielle who finds a stray and becomes more Jessica. But the introduction of Don James her sexy , tough-but-nice guy- from- the- wrong- side-of- the- tracks love interest is more the stuff of movies, James Dean – Don James. A swaggering sweetheart – he’s a NICE Rick Andover.
As for Lori’s bumpy romance it grinds to a halt when, after waiting for shy-guy Nick to ask her to the Harvest Ball ( SVH’s was the Phi Epsilon-Pi Beta Alpha Dance ) a snafu causes him to ask Danielle – ( In SVH Todd asked the ‘noble’ Jess whom he thought was covering for ‘skanky’ Liz’s wild night with Rick Andover.) The snafu was a kooky event involving a series of notes lost and discovered and altered by Ann and Heather. Ann sends the first note , via a distracted seven year old boy weaving through the mall , trying to inform Lori that Nick is going to ask her to the dance. But Heather intercepts and alters it. The note is saved in time by Heather but after a few go more attempts Danielle gets into the mix and decides to send the note to Nick now altered to read – that Lori would never go out with him. This time the recipient actually gets the message. ( shades of SVH?- nope, no Svh in this idea, it’s pure Secret Admirer -a stink-bomb of a movie starring C.Thomas Howell – the idea of a love letter falling into many, many wrong hands WAS funny however.) This was Nick’s excuse for not taking Lori and asking Danielle. Considering Lori’s past actions this is a bit easier to take than Todd’s goofy move.
Too polite, when he is told by Patsy and Ann that it was a misunderstanding, to cancel the date with Danielle he takes her to the dance. I hate the notion of a character who decides it’s rude to cancel a date with a girl he ONLY asked to the dance out of a knee-jerk reaction to supposed rejection. It’s impolite to appear ‘rude’ but not to appear deceptive? Anyhoo, Nick takes her dutifully to the dance while Lori worker-bee must stay behind at the now successful Tio Tacos. Dressed in a sexy/horrible Carmen Miranda outfit to advertise their new menu the reader tingles with the anticipation of the scene coming. Danielle steers Nick to Tio Tacos – she has a craving for nachos ( he is a seemingly unaware twit not to notice that this is a rub-it-in-coz’s face maneuver.) and takes her. Though Lori is horrified – Nick thinks the outfit is pretty hot.
Danielle deciding to teach Nick whose the real hot one drives him up to a look out spot ( the Overlook – in SVH it’s Miller’s Point ) allowing him to make his move. But Nick turns-Todd , polite – too polite. Though Jess in Double Love stays pretty lady-like , Danielle in all her Lila –privilege glory literally shoves Nick right out of the car ( in a twist on the put-out-or-get-out motto! ) Leaving him in the dust, Danielle vows – ‘Nobody treated Danielle Sharp that way and got away with it! Nobody!’ echoing Jess’s sentiment when Todd gives her an almost brotherly kiss goodnight. ‘Todd Wilkins, I swear I’ll get even with you if it’s the last thing I ever do!’ The book ends in a sweet embrace at Tio Tacos – Nick in his rumpled tux , Lori in her sexy Carmen Miranda get-up amid the gaudy plastic orange tables while the new cook gawks at them exclaiming “Caramba!” ( shades of well…Bart Simpson. )
My fave lines include -‘“This is no joke, bison brain. We didn’t do this on purpose!”’ -Teresa shrieking to her boyfriend who is teasing her and Heather about their rapidly turning-green hair.
‘It was Tuesday and Teresa hadn’t shut up since Friday night.’ Danielle on how annoying Teresa was carrying on about the prank on Patsy.
For Sweet Valley High’s Double Love –
‘“Pardon me Heaven – which way to Mars”’ – Rick’s corny come on to Jess.
‘“This family has got to be the biggest bummer in five-hundred and thirty seven cities” Jessica exploded’ – when Jess can’t seem to handle the mounting problems around her.
I decided the only pics to go with Merivale Mall would be some mall pics. I mean there are oodles of Merivale mall books in which to explore Danielle’s love of suede. A new fantastic suede ensemble guest stars in each and every book – they’re the real romantic figures. But for now here are some snappy mall pics taken from an old 80’s marketing book – I think. I took the pictures ages ago. Enjoy!
Which way to the mall? Past the rows of 80’s fast food signs Mr. Submarine , Country Style donuts and Bargain Harolds!
Lori you thought your neon apron was gross check out this floppy mint beret. Actually with my curls it’s kinda cute. I’m taking the scanning really slow, I don’t trust this new fangled machine it could zap me.
The Cookie connection had nothing on Treats! Yum they had the most yummiest moist cookies!
Here’s a store Danielle might’ve liked – Town and Country how posh!
Remember when Dad’s wore suits! and you had to beg for cookies?
Remember when moms looked like moms and you rode in the shopping cart sideways!
Never been to an A & W but I love the neon!
I miss lemony bright Hawaiian print lawn furniture and fringed umbrellas – they were the best!
Folded aluminum and basket weave lawn chairs! Remember how they’d fold up clam-like while you were still in them – hysterical!
Groovy window displays – mannequins cease to be human anymore – they’re all shape – no hair! No personality!
I love you’re puffy coat where did you get it? Thank you! Merivale Mall.
I want the cereal with the free sticky hand!
80’s dairy product logos – groovy Beatrice check mark – the milk and ice cream I remember buying!
80’s gap shopping bag – so cool swirls and cards on a peg board rack – Notice how Garfield cards take center stage!
Misty colors for the local make-up counter. I feel like I’ve stepped into an early Adrian Lyne film – Foxes.
When Coke was Coke – not Coca Cola Classic , and Pepsi was Pepsi.
When even a hardware store could look cool – swan planters eleven o clock!
Octagonal cylinder shoe displays!
Get them while their hot – neon hot t-shirts!