October 7, 2014

SVT #18, Center of Attention: The C Word

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:16 pm by Jenn

I just don't think Steven would put up with this

I just don’t think Steven would put up with this

Summary: Alice has been sick for a few days, and though she keeps insisting it’s not that serious, the twins are worried. Jessica tries to put it out of her mind so she can focus on auditions for the middle school’s production of Carnival. She’s desperate to play the lead, Lily, and needs to work on her singing so she can beat Dana Larson for the part. Kerry Glenn briefly makes Jessica panic by telling her that when her mother got sick with the same symptoms Alice has, she turned out to be pregnant. I’m surprised Jess doesn’t want a little brother or sister to boss around and dress up like a doll. But anyway, Alice isn’t pregnant, just sick.

In fact, Alice is so sick that she stays home instead of accompanying Ned on a business trip. She even has blood tests done. When she gets a call from her doctor, Jessica listens in and hears that there’s something abnormal in the results. Jessica quickly tells Elizabeth and Steven, and they all ask their mother what’s going on. Alice admits that she needs to have a lump on her neck biopsied – it might just be a swollen lymph node, but it could be something else.

Jessica takes charge of the family, assigning chores to her brother and sister, and appointing herself Alice’s caregiver. I’m not surprised that Elizabeth just goes along to avoid an argument, but I am surprised that Steven doesn’t protest. Jessica gets all the credit for being such a big help. But it might not matter anyway: Alice’s test results are inconclusive, and she could have anything from a virus to the dreaded C word.

Of course, Jessica immediately jumps to the worst-case scenario and starts panicking that her mother’s going to die of cancer. She can’t focus on anything else, even her potential starring role in Carnival. This means that when Caroline Pearce calls to talk to Elizabeth, Jessica makes the rookie mistake of mentioning that Alice is desperately sick. To no one’s surprise, the news spreads around school, and suddenly everyone is feeling sorry for the Wakefield twins, with their possibly dying mother.

Elizabeth isn’t happy about this turn of events, but Jessica loves that everyone’s so interested in her. Yes, it only took a potentially fatal illness for Jess to gain the popularity she so desperately craves. What does that tell you about our resident evil twin? Jessica considers giving up being in Carnival, in case it takes her away from the last precious moments her mother has on Earth, but Alice loves the musical and encourages Jessica to try out. Jess figures that playing the lead could give her mother her last earthly happiness. Then she steals money from the family’s emergency stash so she can order a pizza.

Jessica “bravely” forges ahead with her audition plans, telling the Unicorns that she will proudly martyr herself to star in a musical. The words “my mother’s dying wish is to see me on stage” are implied. After a day of crying and worrying about Alice’s test results, the twins get the news that she just has a virus. Too bad – dying would have been the most interesting thing Alice could do in this series.

Jess heads to the auditions, where Dana tells her that she’s going to drop out so Jessica can be the star. I guess Dana was a shoo-in and no one else was going to audition for the lead. The role is automatically Jessica’s, and she decides not to say anything about Alice’s health, so people will continue to give her things she hasn’t earned. Jessica would rather star in a musical than celebrate her mother’s good health with her friends. I don’t think that’s news.

Ned comes home from his trip, and the family spends the weekend together, swimming in their pool. Dana, Brooke, and the barely mentioned Sandra Ferris drop by the house to spend time with Jessica, who tries to shoo them away so they don’t find out that Alice is not only dying but is actually goofing off with the rest of the family. Just as Jessica’s conscience is about to get the better of her, Elizabeth shows up and pretty much blows her story. Jess pretends she was just about to give her friends the good news that Alice will be okay. She also decides to give up the role of Lily to Dana.

Elizabeth and Steven punish Jessica for her behavior by making her do their chores. Jessica also gets in trouble for stealing money to buy pizza (though she tells Ned she was going to buy Alice flowers – yes, she covers for a lie with another lie). Dana gets the role of Lily, but Jessica gets another role in the musical, plus the sweater she’s been wanting the whole book. Consequences for bad actions? Jessica doesn’t know what you mean by that.

Thoughts: Yeah, you probably shouldn’t tell people (especially kids) you might have cancer when you don’t know for sure. Nothing good can come of that.

“Winston was a tall, quiet boy.” I believe that’s the first and last time Winston’s ever been described as quiet.

So there’s no possibility that someone other than Jessica or Dana could get the lead? Like, say, an eighth-grader? Does Dana still have to audition? If I were one of the other girls who wanted to be in the show, I’d be ticked.

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