September 16, 2014
SVU Thriller, The Roommate: Have You Seen “Single White Female”? Now You Don’t Have To
Summary: We haven’t gotten a lot of Isabella-centric storylines, which is probably why I went into this book feeling like there isn’t a whole lot to her. She’s a little like Lila, in that her parents seem to be rich and she likes fashion, but she’s much more down to earth. In this book, though, she proves to be pretty smart, and shows that following your gut is usually the best move, especially when there’s someone unstable involved.
Anyway, Isabella has a fabulous birthday with all her friends, then wraps up the night with some alone time with Danny. He gives her a ring, so of course she thinks he’s proposing, but he just wants to let her know how special she is by giving her a family heirloom. He pretty much says that he loves her but isn’t sure he wants to marry her. Yet he’ll give her something special that’s been in his family for generations? How is it that he loves her enough to do that but not to marry her? Whatever, this is just setting things up for Isabella and Danny to be on the outs a little.
Isabella and Jessica go get free haircuts from salon students, and Isabella’s is kind of a disaster. (Jess, for once, is smart enough to trust her instincts, and she decides not to let the untrained style disaster assigned to them touch her precious hair.) To add insult to injury, Isabella then bangs up her car and can’t afford the repairs. She also can’t ask her parents for money, and she’s too busy with extracurriculars to get a job. I would suggest that she drop one or more of those extracurriculars so she has time for a job, but that’s crazy talk. Instead, Isabella decides to look for a roommate for her two-bedroom apartment. No, I don’t know why her parents agreed to pay rent on a two-bedroom when she’s the only one living there. The Riccis don’t seem that bright.
As if we’re in some bad movie, we’re treated to a montage of horrible roommate candidates before we come to Lisa Fontaine. She’s shy, she’s a bad dresser, and she’s awkward, but she doesn’t seem like an awful person to live with, and she can pay her share of the rent, so Isabella will take her. Also, she claims to have transferred from NYU, and people from New York are, of course, awesome, so how can Isabella turn her away?
Lisa tries desperately to befriend Isabella, who warms up to her as soon as she proves useful around the apartment. One shopping trip later and the girls are BFFs (and sometimes pretending to be sisters, which is kind of weird for people past the age of eight). The only thing Isabella finds strange about her new roommate is that she doesn’t like people touching her stuff, but Isabella can kind of understand that. Danny tries to smooth things over with Isabella by giving her a kitten, and Lisa names it Rosie. Lisa gets a little too rough with Rosie, who doesn’t appreciate it. This is when I started to get nervous and make threats against the ghostwriter.
Isabella thinks Lisa is the perfect roommate, but it’s not long before things start to go downhill. Lisa deletes a message Danny leaves for Isabella on their answering machine, so she can have lunch with Isabella. She tells Isabella that Danny never called. They start talking about their families, and Lisa mentions that she had a twin sister who died at birth. She also says that her parents were very protective of her, which is why she’s never been on a date or done a lot of the things most college students do.
Jessica meets Lisa and thinks she’s awesome. Jess has recently been in a good mood since she started dating a guy named Josh. (Ben doesn’t exist in this universe.) She hasn’t introduced him to many people yet, just Elizabeth and Tom, because she thinks he’s so awesome that all the other girls at SVU will want to steal him. Normally I’d think that Jessica was delusional, but the guy is pretty great.
Jessica introduces Josh to Isabella, but it’s not really an introduction – they know each other from high school. In fact, they dated in high school. (I don’t know what the odds are of a girl randomly meeting and falling for her friend’s ex without knowing it, but they have to be astronomical.) Jessica quickly becomes jealous of their closeness, but Isabella promises that she and Josh are ancient history.
Lisa, though, decides to mess with Jessica’s head, and later with Danny’s. When he calls looking for Isabella, Lisa tells him that she’s hanging out with an old boyfriend. Then when Isabella gets home, Lisa tells her that Danny was mad when he called, so Isabella should ignore him for a while to teach him a lesson. When Danny finally calls back and asks Isabella to meet him, she goes looking for a sweater she loaned Lisa and finds a bunch of what she thinks are her clothes in Lisa’s closet. They’re actually Lisa’s own clothes that are exactly like Isabella’s. Creepy…
Isabella tries to tell Danny about Lisa’s weird behavior, but he’s so jealous of Josh that he doesn’t listen. Danny’s boyfriendliness in this book is really lacking. Later, Isabella spots someone with her exact haircut and realizes it’s Lisa. She rushes over to Jessica and Elizabeth’s room to talk to Jess…who’s out with a new friend. Elizabeth thinks her name is Lisa. So we have clothes- and hair-copying, and friend-stealing. Isabella is right to be freaked out.
Jessica and Lisa are suddenly BFFs the way Lisa and Isabella were BFFs, and Jessica wants Lisa to join Theta. She invites her to a frat party, asking her to remind Isabella about it. Of course, Lisa doesn’t, so she goes out to have fun with Isabella’s friends, after spending some time chatting up Danny and making him think she’s both awesome and normal. At the party, she tells Jessica that Josh probably hasn’t shown up because he’s with Isabella.
Now Isabella’s on the outs with Theta, and Lisa’s…um…on the ins? I guess. Jessica nominates her as a new member, ignoring Isabella when she protests. Jess is a worse friend in this book than Danny is a boyfriend. Speaking of Danny, he gets a late-night visit from someone he thinks is Isabella, but who’s actually Lisa. He actually puts the brakes on before they can have sex, and asks her to have breakfast with him the next day. Lisa shows up at breakfast instead, of course, telling herself that Danny knew she was the one in his room and is just pretending it was Isabella.
Jessica’s supposed to go to Malibu with Josh for the weekend, but he has to cancel. Instead of picking up a phone or going to her room to tell her in person, he gives Lisa a note to deliver to Jessica. Then she sends Josh off in Isabella’s direction. So just as Jessica’s learning that her weekend plans are being called off, she sees her boyfriend with his ex. Now Jess is furious with both Josh and Isabella.
Lisa tells Danny that Isabella’s cheating on him with Josh, then makes sure that Isabella sees her with Danny and thinks they’re getting closer. Isabella’s had enough and decides to kick Lisa out of the apartment. While she’s packing Lisa’s things, she snoops a little, finding answering-machine tapes Lisa’s stolen, plus pictures from a farm and letters addressed to someone named Helen Mueller. There’s also an article about a girl named Rosie Mueller being found dead in a well after playing in the woods with her twin sister Helen. Of course, Helen is Lisa.
Meanwhile, Jessica’s still on her quest to get Lisa into Theta, but now she also wants Isabella out. The one person she thinks can help her is her old nemesis Alison. Alison has her own nominee for the only empty spot in the sorority, so Jessica convinces her to help her get Isabella ousted so both Lisa and Alison’s girl can join. Alison will bad-mouth Isabella to the other sisters, pointing out that she’s stopped caring about her appearance, so she’s not a good representative of them anymore. Jessica doesn’t have to lift a finger.
Lisa comes home while Isabella’s about to pack her stuff, so Isabella jets to the registrar’s office to get some contact info. There isn’t any – no one named Lisa Fontaine or Helen Mueller is registered at SVU. Back at the apartment, Lisa realizes that Isabella was looking through her things. She starts going dark, remembering how, when she and her sister were young, Rosie got all the praise and Helen got…locked in the cellar as punishment. Okay, now I just feel sorry for her. It’s not her fault she’s crazy! She had horrible parents! We also get a flashback to Rosie falling down a well and Helen leaving her there to scare her and make her experience what it’s like being locked in a cellar.
When Isabella gets home, she finds the kitten dead. Curse you, ghostwriter! That was so unnecessary! Isabella tries to find another place to spend the night, but all her friends hate her, so she sleeps in the student union. Poor Izzy. As soon as she sees Lisa leave the apartment in the morning, Isabella runs in to grab some of her things, but she’s not fast enough. Lisa ties her up and heads out to meet Danny.
Jessica FINALLY talks to Josh about how she thinks he’s cheating on her with Isabella, and he tells her she’s wrong. He’s rescheduled their Malibu trip, has only been spending time with Isabella to comfort her, and no longer has the feelings for Isabella that he does for Jessica. Jess is smart enough to realize that this means something else has been going on with Isabella, and she might be right about Lisa being a nutjob.
Jessica goes to the apartment, where Isabella has smartly turned up the TV so someone will come over and tell her to turn it down. While Jess frees her, Danny starts figuring out that Lisa has some issues. She tells him that Isabella attacked her, and mentions that she, not Isabella, was the one in Danny’s room the other night. As Danny runs off to find his girlfriend, Lisa goes home and finds Jessica in the apartment. She ties Jess up and makes Isabella write a fake suicide note.
While Lisa’s distracted by Jessica, Isabella manages to escape the apartment. Unfortunately, her streak of smart moves suddenly comes to an end when she decides to use the elevator (which we’ve been told is broken many times throughout the book, and which has supposedly just been fixed). She begins a slooooooow descent to the basement. Meanwhile, Danny happens to run into Lisa’s aunt in the lobby; she’s looking for her niece, Helen, who recently escaped from a psychiatric facility. Danny doesn’t care.
Lisa follows Isabella to the basement, now in full-blown psychosis, thinking that Isabella is her dead sister. Danny finds Jessica in the apartment and frees her, then heads down to the basement, where Lisa knocks him out. Isabella and Lisa end up in the elevator, with Lisa trying to choke Isabella. She thinks she hears Rosie calling to her from the bottom of the elevator shaft, and she wants to go down and rescue her, since she feels guilty for letting her die. Isabella can’t stop her, and Lisa falls to her death. (Or what I assume is her death. We all know Sweet Valley’s history with evil twins not really being dead.)
Happy ending! Danny’s not hurt too badly. Isabella and Jessica are friends again. Danny proposes for real, but Isabella thinks they should wait before they make that kind of commitment. I assume her money problems also get sorted out, or she at least comes up with a more reasonable way to pay for her expenses besides letting someone move in without a background check or references.
Thoughts: Here’s the plot of Single White Female, in case you’re unfamiliar with it. If you took a drink for every similarity between that movie and this book, you’d be drunk halfway through.
Why does Isabella live in an apartment in the first place? Why doesn’t she live at the Theta house?
Danny, I like you, but giving a girl a diamond ring and not thinking she’ll interpret it as a marriage proposal? Is dumb.
“Do you honestly think I’d date a crimninal?” Actually, Jessica, I’m surprised you haven’t already.
The Zeta frat has a Mexican-themed party with a banner that says “Zetas Go South of the Border!” Oh…oh, dear.
Tom’s going to a journalism conference for a few days and doesn’t plan to take any clothes with him. Tom, you’re gross.