May 27, 2014
SVT #9, Against the Rules: But the Rules Are Stupid!
Summary: Elizabeth has befriended classmate Sophia Rizzo, and Jessica isn’t happy about it. Sophia’s family is poor, and her brother is a juvenile delinquent (do people still use that phrase?). But Liz knows better than to judge someone on her class or her family’s troubles, and she admires Sophia’s writing talent. She’s pretty much the only person who doesn’t treat Sophia like dirt.
Elizabeth and Sophia are both invited to help write a school play, since they’re the two best English students in the sixth grade. They start hanging out at Sophia’s house, which, while small and not well-kept, is very welcoming, because Sophia’s mom is so nice. Liz admits to being worried about encountering Sophia’s brother, Tony, who has a bad reputation for fighting and stealing. She’s surprised when Sophia gushes over him – he’s always been like a father to her, and when they were younger, they would play together all the time. She would even get him to act out the fairy-tale plays she wrote.
Jessica’s furious that Sophia gets to help write the school play. She wants to be the star, of course, and refuses to act in anything Sophia’s connected to. Ned and Alice tell her to be nice, because Sophia is a lovely girl and shouldn’t be judged based on her social status or her clothing choices. Ha ha, no, they don’t! They’re horrible parents! Steven backs Jess up, since he and Tony are at the same school and Steven thinks he knows how horrible the guy is.
Elizabeth invites Sophia over to the Wakefields’, which horrifies Jessica, especially since Lila’s coming over at the same time. Jess pretends that Sophia’s there to take some of the twins’ old clothes. Jessica is the worst, but we knew that. Elizabeth’s friends start spending time with Sophia, and they really like her as well, because Liz chooses to surround herself with respectable people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a club named after a mythical animal that no middle-schooler would actually admit to liking.
Sophia usually has no one to eat lunch with, so Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke (oh, hey, Brooke!) invite her to join them. They decide to make it a special occasion, planning a potluck picnic outside. They even write out an invitation for Sophia, letting her know how much they like her and want to be friends with her. Poor Sophia has never had friends, and she’s touched by their kindness.
The play committee discusses possibilities, and everyone agrees that they need to put on something that middle-schoolers can relate to. Since Sophia is such a great writer, Elizabeth suggests that she handle the story. The other students are so impressed with her talent that they immediately agree. Sophia is suddenly liked, and she has friends, so of course things are only going to go well from now on! Yeah, not so much. Tony gives Steven a black eye at school, though Steven claims that he was trying to get his friends to leave Tony alone.
Liz learns that Sophia has never had a birthday party (no friends + poor = the saddest birthdays ever, I imagine), and since her birthday’s coming up, Elizabeth decides to throw her a party. Unfortunately, Alice and Ned choose that evening to start parenting – just not in a good way. They decree that Elizabeth is no longer allowed to socialize with Sophia outside of school, and she’s especially not allowed to go to the Rizzos’ house anymore. After all, since Tony’s such a bad kid, Sophia is clearly also a bad influence. Parents of the year, those Wakefields.
Throughout this story, the Wakefields have been talking about the twins being invited to spend the weekend in L.A. with some friends of Ned’s. Originally they thought both girls were invited, but the friends are either jerks or don’t know that twins means two people, because they only have room for one girl. Jessica desperately wants to go, since they’ll be seeing her favorite musical. Elizabeth is willing to let her go – the trip is the weekend of the play, and later, the weekend she’s going to host Sophia’s party.
But the Wakefields think that Liz gives in to Jessica too much, and that the decision of who goes should be fair. They have the girls draw straws, and Elizabeth gets the trip. She’s not even that excited about it, but her parents insist that she go. Fair, schmair – if one of my kids really wanted to do something the other didn’t seem to care about, I’d send the one who was actually interested. Plus, sending Jessica would involve a lot less whining.
Anyway, Steven suggests that the twins pull a switch. Ned and Alice will be away all day, so Ned’s friends won’t know they’re picking up the wrong girl. This way Elizabeth still gets to throw Sophia’s party, and Jessica shuts up. Well, about that, at least. She’s still upset about Sophia writing the play, and she warns Elizabeth that the Unicorns are going to arrange a boycott so no one auditions.
At school, Lila humiliates Sophia by melodramatically reading part of her play. Elizabeth decides that she’d rather comfort Sophia than obey her parents, so she goes to the Rizzos’ after school. She continues to work on the play with Sophia, not telling Ned and Alice where she’s spending her time. Though the Unicorns’ boycott is mostly successful, there are still some people at the auditions, and the other roles are filled by people from the writing committee. Liz thinks this works out well anyway, since the same people tend to get cast in every show, and now other people have a chance to perform. Since Bruce is in the play, the Unicorns decide to attend, though Elizabeth has to threaten to tell Ned and Alice about the switch in order to get Jessica to come.
The play goes off without a hitch, and everyone’s so great that there’s thunderous applause, bouquets of flowers, money being thrown, etc. Though Ned and Alice realize that Sophia isn’t a monster after all, Elizabeth is still afraid to tell them about throwing her a party. She puts that all together while her parents are out of town and Jessica’s off in L.A. The party is very well attended; people were so impressed with Sophia’s writing that they like her now. There are even Unicorns there, and everyone seems to genuinely want to hang out with Sophia.
Unfortunately, Ned and Alice accidentally crash the party. They come back to town to get Jessica (because they think Elizabeth is in L.A.) and take her to a different party, and instead stumble across the good twin acting like the bad twin. Fortunately, instead of ruining things, they make Sophia think that they were in on the whole thing. Ned even brings Sophia’s mom to the party. Alice offers her a job, and Ned puts Tony in contact with a counselor. See, the Wakefields aren’t so bad after all! It only took common sense and a disobedient 12-year-old to make them see the light.
Thoughts: The Patmans have a canning factory?
“My life is in shambles, my dreams are shattered, and now you’re going to bring that ragtag misfit into our living room!” Jessica is more melodramatic than any soap character I’ve ever come across. Also, “ragtag misfit”?
Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke inviting Sophia to have a picnic with them is so sweet. I mean, these are middle-school girls. Middle-school girls are hardly ever sweet. They went above and beyond.
Sophia tells Elizabeth about something her family calls the Rizzo raffle. The Rizzos put their spare change in a jar, and every week they use it to do something fun. That’s a cool idea for a family that can’t spend a lot of money on one thing, or that wants to let their kids take turns picking out family activities.