March 4, 2014
SVT #3, The Haunted House: Lila Was Regina George Before Regina George Existed
Summary: Every small town has a big, creepy house that’s either rumored to be haunted or inhabited by scary people. Sweet Valley’s big, creepy house is the Mercandy mansion. The woman who lives there is known as old lady Mercandy; everyone thinks she’s a witch and keeps her husband in the attic. Since Halloween is approaching the kids of Sweet Valley are even more spooked than usual by the mansion.
One day the twins see a girl about their age arriving at the house. Then a little while later, a girl named Nora Mercandy turns up at their school. She explains that “old lady Mercandy” is her grandmother, and she’s living with her grandparents now because her mother recently died. Her father died when she was a baby. Just keep that in mind. This girl is an honest-to-God orphan.
Anyway, everyone at Sweet Valley Middle School is freaked out by Nora because she lives with creepy people. Elizabeth is pretty much the only nice one, as usual, and agrees to show her around. Of course, Nora’s a perfectly nice girl, but the other middle schoolers brand her a witch. Elizabeth and Amy are the only people who treat her normally. Elizabeth even offers to loan her clothes for gym class, since the Mercandys are pretty poor and Nora can’t afford them.
The next day, though, Elizabeth has to stay home from school sick. She asks Jessica (who was out sick the day before) to take the clothes to Nora, but Jessica forgets. Since the other Unicorns are basically spearheading Operation: Make Nora Feel Totally Unwelcome, Jess just ignores the girl.
In gym, Lila and Nora are matched up to play tennis. Lila wants to place a bet, since she thinks she’s better at tennis than Nora is, so she puts up an expensive pen. Nora wins and Lila hands over the pen. But later, Lila lies to their teacher that Nora stole the pen, getting her in trouble with the principal. Lila also swaps out a math quiz for Nora’s so she’ll get a good grade and Nora won’t.
Once Elizabeth is back in school, she tells Nora that the other kids are being jerks because they’re afraid of her grandparents. Nora thinks that if the kids meet her grandmother, they’ll calm down. Elizabeth asks Jessica to spread the word that Nora’s throwing a little get-together, and the popular kids decide they might as well give it a shot. But Nora’s grandfather scares them all away when he comes outside walking stiffly and saying, “Nor…Nor…Nor…”
Now the popular kids want revenge on Nora – they think she planned the whole thing and was trying to scare them. They start in with some mind games, making Nora think they want to befriend her and that she’s invited to Lila’s Halloween party. But it’s just a way to get her out of her house so some guys can TP it. When Nora finds out, she runs home and Elizabeth follows her. Jessica panics because her sister’s going into a possibly haunted house, so she goes as well.
Everyone ends up entering the house, and they see a bunch of posters on the attic walls of a magician named Marvelous Marvin. He’s Nora’s grandfather, and he was once majorly talented. Nora explains that he had a stroke a few years ago, which explains his strange walking and inability to say her name. Nora’s grandmother is super-nice to all the bratty kids who came into her house uninvited and offers to put on a little magic show. Nora does some tricks and wins everyone over.
Thoughts: This book mostly makes me glad that I never have to be a middle-school girl again. They are vicious.
Isn’t Elizabeth a little old to dress as a clown for Halloween?
In the end, no one apologizes to Nora for the way they treated her. Of course. Jerks.
Also, Ned and Alice don’t seem to care if their kids help spread rumors about innocent old people. Of course, again.