January 27, 2015
SVT Super Edition #2, Holiday Mischief: Singer, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Summary: The big news at Sweet Valley Middle School is that the chorus has been invited to Washington, D.C. for a competition. I immediately call B.S. on the idea of an assembly being called to announce this news, because at my school, we chorus nerds never got any recognition until after the fact, and that was only in 30-second announcements over the PA. Anyway, because SVMS’s chorus is smaller than those of a lot of the schools competing, they’re looking for some additional singers. The twins decide to audition, because they apparently have phenomenal singing voices (of course – they’re good at everything).
Also auditioning is a girl named Anna Barrett, who we’ve never heard of before and I’m 99 percent sure we never will again. She can’t sing, but she’s desperate to go to D.C. See, Anna was adopted, and she recently found out that she has a biological sister named Leslie, who her parents never told her about. At least, she thinks Leslie is her sister. Why else would her parents get a letter from another family about a kid just a bit older than Anna? (There’s a lot of jumping to conclusions in this book. Just go with it.) Leslie was adopted by the American ambassador to Australia, and since Anna’s parents won’t let her meet her possible sister, Anna thinks going to D.C. with the chorus is her only chance for them to meet.
Because the auditions are conducted in groups, Anna is able to make the chorus by pretending to sing. Sorry, actual talented person who lost her spot to this tone-deaf girl who just wants a free trip to D.C.! The twins also make the chorus, of course, as does Ellen, but who cares about Ellen? Oh, and Bruce and Dana Larson are in, too, but don’t really do anything in this book. Anyway, they all go to D.C., and the ghostwriter shows off her ability to name landmarks by having everyone ooh and ahh over places like DuPont Circle. Everyone’s excited to see snow, which is actually cute, because most Southern Californians don’t get many opportunities to make snowmen.
There has to be a chilly middle-school-girl villain in these books, and this time it’s a girl named Sherrie, from Grant Middle School, SVMS’s main competition. She quickly figures out that Anna can’t sing and has been faking illness to get out of having to sing solos. The twins and Ellen have been covering for Anna, with Jessica even going so far as to create a wardrobe-related emergency to get Anna out of rehearsal. For some reason, Jessica has a pen that squirts disappearing ink. I’m guessing she stole it from Steven.
The Grant kids and the SVMS kids have a sledding race, and of course the Grant kids are better because they’re from Ohio and are used to snow. Sherrie makes Jessica sled into a tree, so I guess she’s one of those girls who bullies other people until they commit suicide. I don’t get what Sherrie’s damage is. Wouldn’t she want her competitors to have a bad singer among them? That would hurt their chances of winning the competition.
Anna’s determined to get to the Australian embassy to meet Leslie, so of course Jessica comes up with a wacky scheme. Anna will fake being sick, and Jessica will take her to their hotel room. Then they’ll sneak out together and crash a big party being thrown at the embassy. Never mind the fact that security around embassies is probably pretty tight, and two unaccompanied 12-year-olds might raise some eyebrows. I guess Jessica’s smart enough to figure out that pre-9/11 security at the Australian embassy wouldn’t be a big challenge
Jessica’s been planning a prank on Sherrie, and it manages to help out Anna. Jess plants fake bugs in the box of lozenges Sherrie always carries around, and when Sherrie sees them and freaks out, she creates enough of a diversion that Jessica and Anna are able to sneak out of the hotel. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to them, Sherrie spots them leaving the hotel in fancy clothes and tells one of their chaperones that they left to meet boys.
At the embassy, Jessica and Anna pretend they’re with a couple going to the party. I guess security there really isn’t tight, if they don’t have a problem with a childless couple suddenly appearing with kids. The girls don’t see any signs of a teenage girl living at the embassy; the only kids around are a teenage boy and some kids who are too young to be Leslie. As they’re looking through bedrooms (seriously, security, do your job), they spot a man looking through drawers and stealing some papers.
The teenage boy the girls saw earlier shows them a passageway they can use to get away from the man before he sees them. They’re not fast enough, though, and the kids have to hide in the attic. The boy tells Jessica and Anna that the guy is definitely a spy (how does he know?), and they have to keep him from leaving the embassy. The boy announces that he’ll tell his father to seal the exits. Anna and Jessica are shocked to learn that the boy’s father is Mr. Linwood, the ambassador…and Leslie’s father.
The exits are sealed and the kids and Mr. Linwood go searching for the spy. Jessica figures out that he’s disguised himself as a chef so he can hide in plain sight. He was too dumb to take off the big diamond pinky ring Jessica spotted on his finger earlier. I do love that Jessica solved a mystery because of jewelry. The spy tries to escape by throwing a turkey at Jessica, which means he’s both a traitor to the country and he ruined dinner, so I hope his punishment is harsh. Also, he stashed the stolen papers in his socks. I hope that when he goes to prison, the other inmates laugh at him for being taken down by a 12-year-old. (This is Sweet Valley – it’s not like he’s going to be executed.)
So now Anna and Jessica have the chance to talk to the teenage boy about his identity. Apparently it never crossed their minds that Leslie might be a boy, not a girl, but that’s what’s going on – the boy is Leslie, and he’s Anna’s brother. Then the chaperones from the chorus show up, having made Elizabeth tell them where Jessica and Anna were going. The girls don’t get in trouble, even though they snuck off alone in a city they’re unfamiliar with, and Anna lied to get a trip to D.C. In Sweet Valley, there are no consequences unless you’re a villain.
Anna’s parents come to D.C. the next day, and the story comes out about why Anna and Leslie never knew about each other. Before Mr. Linwood was an ambassador, he had some super-top-secret government job that could have put people in danger. The Barretts weren’t allowed to tell Anna that she had a brother because…um…the U.S.’s enemies might have…uh…done something. This is one of the flimsiest plot devices I’ve ever come across, even for this series. Anyway, now that Mr. Linwood is an ambassador, everyone’s safe, though that doesn’t explain why someone was trying to steal secrets from Australia.
With all that behind them, the girls (minus Anna) can focus on the competition. SVMS wins it, and Jessica ties with Sherrie in some sort of dueling-voices competition. The Californians wrap up their trip with a new brother for Anna and a new crush for Jessica, though I doubt she’ll ever see Leslie again, considering he lives on the other side of the country and she doesn’t stay friends with Anna. But the twins helped take down a spy and a diva, so this was a successful trip.
Thoughts: Jessica’s sometimes-good-sometimes-bad singing voice is currently set to good.
Jessica calls D.C. “glamorous.” HA HA HA HA HA HA. I know I always feel glamorous when I’m pressed up against complete strangers on the Metro, or when I’m stuck in rush-hour traffic (“rush hour” here being the 13 hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.), or when a homeless person asks me for money.
No way does Bruce get his clothes at the mall.
Sherrie: “Anyone messy enough to get ink all over her sweater has to be a lousy singer.” …What? That’s insane troll logic.
Seriously, what kind of secrets would a spy be looking for in Australia’s embassy? They’re not exactly major players in the world of espionage.
As a singer who used to compete for a spot in a district choir and had to deal with snotty diva sopranos, I appreciate Jessica taking down Sherrie.
For the record, this book has nothing to do with Christmas, so there was no point in calling it Holiday Mischief.