Beverly Hills 90210: ‘Tis The Season (#5) By Mel Gliden

Determined to keep up the holiday spirit, the Walsh family breaks out all the traditions and magic of the season touches everyone…

I’ve already outed myself as teenage “90210” fan (at least in comparison to some of the other series being pushed on my demographic at the time); I even read a few of the tie-in novels published during the first few seasons, although not this specific one.

Background: Beverly Hills, 90210, as any late-phase gen-Xer can tell you, originally dealt with the culture shock experienced by the Walsh family of Minneapolis when their father’s company moves them to sunny L.A., and the fast new classmates befriended by teenage Walsh twins Brandon and Brenda.

For the first season, the show was a social-message thing, dealing with DRUGS and SEX and SHOPLIFTING and CHEATING ON TESTS. Narrowly escaping cancelation at the end of the 1990-91 season, additional episodes were aired over the summer and it found its audience.

It also got progressively weirder, eventually sidelining the Walsh family entirely and having the high school (and eventually college-) students getting involved in ever more bizarre soap opera theatrics. Gangsters blow up dads who return from the dead!

The Plot: The book is based on two season 2 episodes, so things are only just starting to get weird.

But first, Christmas Beverly Hills Style, as Brenda observes the decorations going up at West Beverly High:

…They were also putting up blue and white Hanukkah decorations: squarish tops and candelabra.

SO MANY LAYERS HERE! Does novelizationist Gilden not know what dreidels and menorahs are called? Is he assuming that the readership for this book is so goyish that they don’t know and so it’s safer to just call them “those square top-things”? Is it actually deeper and Gilden is giving characterization of Brenda as being so goyish that she doesn’t know????

I’m putting the blame on Gilden and Gilden’s editors, because frankly I love Brenda too much. (Aside: remember how they had “I Hate Brenda” clubs in the early 90s? That were heavily promoted by Sassy magazine? Well now I can be smug about how wrong they were because it turns out that Brenda was right about everything and is also a badass.)

So, the first half of the plot has to do with the school dance because there is always a school dance. There is dance-related drama. Donna is going to the dance with freshman David Silver, which her friends won’t stop giving her shit about:

Kelly laughed and said, “You can wear a big sign that says ‘I came with David Silver but we’re not really a couple.”

“That’s mean,” Donna said.

“But fairly humorous,” Brenda said.

Which is mean, but I have the power of seeing 10 seasons into the future to know that David Silver ends up basically being the worst, so point Brenda, who also notes “his constant presence was getting tiresome.”

Kelly also has Dance Drama, because she’s accepted a date with the new kid in school, a former child star named Chuck Wilson, who is also the sworn enemy of her ex, (Mr. Sharknado himself) Steve Sanders. Chuck starred with Steve’s adopted mother on a Brady Bunch-type series, and now she needs Steve to be nice to him, so he’ll agree to do a reunion movie.

Are you getting all that? Because it is A LOT. Let’s get inside Steve Sanders’s mind:

[Chuckie] only wanted one thing. Well, two things, and neither of them honorable. One of them was Kelly’s fair white bod. The other was to torture Steve.

Maybe the best thing to do was stand back and allow Chuckie to do his dirty work. Then he could ride in like a white knight and save her.

Yeah. Steve liked that, and embroidered it in his mind. He began to hum the James Bond theme under his breath. The white knight angle was very appealing.

So, gross.

Aside:

Awful things were dammed up inside Steve. Brandon was sure of it.

So that’s the Steve plot, which climaxes with Steve taking a Greyhound bus (LOLOLOLOL) to New Mexico to find out who his real mother is.

The second plot has to do with Brenda and Brandon’s dad getting waaaayy too competitive about decorating the house for Christmas.

What are the twins up to? Well, Brenda is working in a Rodeo Drive boutique and her manager keeps stealing all her commissions (sadly this plot doesn’t end as it did on the TV show, when Brenda’s mom comes in dressed like Norma Desmond and wastes the manager’s time, teaching a her valuable lesson).

Brandon, forever an annoying meddler, takes a Christmas present to the local Psych ward for his ex-girlfriend Emily who he broke up with after she drugged him (U4EA!!!!!)  and then tried to burn down the homecoming float when it was parked in his driveway (like I said, things were just starting to get weird). Brandon gives her his HOCKEY JERSEY, so she can smell him while she’s in the mental hospital, even though they are TOTALLY BROKEN UP.

Emily wouldn’t be in a place like that forever, and when she was released, a date was definitely not out of the question.

Ugh, they should have had “I Hate Brandon” clubs because he is the WORST.

Notably not The Worst is Dylan, he of the exploded, then unexploded, father. He barely figures into the plot, as he is visiting said father in prison for some financial thing (“his father was in prison, his mother was a nutroll who lived in Hawaii”) (this would be before he got exploded, obvs).

There is also a wino wandering around Beverly Hills in a Santa suit, whom Brenda feels extremely protective of. When he gets hassled by the cops Brenda springs into action:

At the corner of Rodeo and Brighton Way, Brenda saw a couple of policemen urging a scrawny Santa Claus into a police car.

For a moment, Brenda was astonished by this vision… she became angry. What right did these policemen have to hassle any Santa, let alone her own personal Santa Bum?

Brenda is literally the only decent person on this show.

She invites him home for Christmas dinner where everyone (including a reunited Steve and Mrs. Sanders) (birth mom was dead) gather for Christmas dinner, and where Brenda is still the only decent human being.

Mrs. Walsh almost calls the cops on Santa Bum when her engagement ring goes missing, but oops, her husband took it to have it reset as a surprise. Brandon almost accidently sees them boning over it:

Brandon was not accustomed to thinking of his parents as romantic people, and the situation was getting a little steamy in any event. Embarrassed, Brandon hightailed it downstairs. These people needed their privacy.

Brandon gets the Tiny Tim line (although he also muses “no wonder the best Christmases were described as Dickensian” which IS TOTALLY NOT HOW THAT WORD IS USED.)

And that’s it. It is pretty much the same as the two episodes of the TV series that it is based on, although it does have that weird thing where it seems pitched to a much younger audience that the TV show.

It is also weirdly obsessed with the female characters bodies and eating habits, which was actually the one thing I remember from reading these books as a pre-teen:

Back in Minnesota, Brenda could pig out all winter, camouflage her bloated body with bulky sweaters, and then in the spring begin her slimming. But summer, when she burst from her wool and polyester cocoon, she looked moderately terrific.

“Peach pie, Andrea?” Brandon asked. She ate pie only when she was depressed. Dessert played hob with her diet. She was always on a diet.

(Aside: “Played hob”? Are we suddenly in Ye Merrye Olde England????)

In closing, Brenda is a badass:

“I don’t make the rules. There’s no need to make a scene.”

“Yes, there is,” Brenda said

Sign It Was Written in 1992 Department:

“I’ll make this real clear to you, Steve,” Brandon said, “I don’t have a date and I don’t dance. I don’t waltz, rumba, foxtrot, cha cha, lambada or boogie.”

SMALL FAVORS we are spared Brandon’s Lambada, although not David’s whatever-this-is:

***
Blog Notes: Thus concludes 2020, we shall return with new content in late January.

Thank you, happy holidays and happy new year to all of my readers, especially those of you burning it up helping each other out on the Name That Book page!

During the break I will do my best to ensure Name That Book is up-to-date, and answering my backlog of comments and emails. Thank you again for your patience!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Vintage YA Fiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Beverly Hills 90210: ‘Tis The Season (#5) By Mel Gliden

  1. Jen says:

    I needed a smile today and this was a great Christmas present! Fellow gen-Xer here, and it’s funny to me how I can remember so many of the 90210 episodes in great detail–maybe because I watched them during a particularly happy time in my life? I was never on the I-Hate-Branda bandwagon, but I definitely was not a Kelly fan.

    Thank you so much for your great posts that helped make 2020 a bit more bearable. All the best to you, and I hope you have a healthy and happy 2021!

  2. ninyabruja says:

    every one of the novelizations had Enyart….including the Parisian cafe where Brenda and Donna were served brains ( which don’t taste bad irl).

    • mondomolly says:

      Oh man, that was the same plot where Brenda convinced Dean Caine that she was French by speaking with a Pepe LePew accent and changing her name to “Bremda du Bois”, wasn’t it? 🤣

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s