Tricia Martin, Steven Wakefield’s first and only love is dead of leukaemia. Steve’s devastated, Elizabeth and their parents are sad, and even Jess manages to squeeze out a tear. On her deathbed, she makes Steven promise to look after her sister Betsy. Seems fine, right? There’s just one problem: Betsy’s the wildest girl in town.
People who know Sweet Valley are probably already beginning to cringe at this point. After all, the books aren’t usually very sensitive when it comes to girls who drink, do drugs or mess around with boys. Surprisingly, Promises manages to depict Betsy as a three dimensional character, complete with very solid (and pretty tragic) reasons for why she does the things she chooses to do. She’s had a drunkard for a father ever since her mother died of cancer and there’s a great exchange with Jason Stone towards the end of the book that shows just how many times men have lied to take advantage of her.
While Betsy drinks, does drugs, and sleeps around, she’s also a highly talented artist. And, after missing Tricia’s final hours while out on a bender, she’s ready to turn over a new leaf.
The trouble is, Jessica’s having none of that. Her parents have taken Betsy into their home, and now Jess is dealing with the extreme embarrassment of having the girl with the worst reputation in town living in the Wakefields’ study. Worse still, Betsy’s hanging all over Steven and everyone’s beginning to talk. Jess decides that the easiest way to get rid of Betsy is to prove that she’s still taking drugs. The trouble is, it’s not that easy, because Betsy’s staying sober.
Meanwhile, Steve and his friend Jason have decided that they know better than Betsy (ah, the men in these books) and have submitted her art to a prestigious college scholarship. But before they can tell Betsy the exciting news that she’s won, Jess tells her that Steven’s only been paying attention to her because Tricia made him promise to do so.
Tricia leaves and tries to go right back to her old ways. Will Steven and niceguy Jason save her before she does anything really stupid?
It’s Sweet Valley. Of course they will.
This actually has surprising depth for the Sweet Valley series and consequently it’s one of my most liked books. Betsy is an interesting and likeable character and her journey feels unusually realistic.
Moral of the Story? People really can change.