May 19, 2015
SVT #31, Jessica’s Bad Idea: Sandy, Can’t You See I’m in Misery?
Summary: It’s Kerry Glenn’s birthday, y’all! …You know, Kerry Glenn! She takes ballet with the twins and pops up every once in a while when they need a random character around. Okay, that’s not important. What’s important is that Sandra Ferris will be coming to Kerry’s party, and no one likes Sandra Ferris. She’s tall. She’s clumsy. She’s shy. She’s awkward. She probably talks to animals and collects soda cans. Kerry says she’s only invited to the party because their mothers are friends. Apparently Elizabeth was friends with Sandra when they were younger, but Sandra went to another school for a while and they lost touch. Liz is the only one who thinks people should be nicer.
Everyone going to the party decides to give Kerry gifts that have to do with ballet (Jessica’s idea). Jess is supposed to let everyone in on the plan, including Sandra. Of course, she doesn’t talk to Sandra. A lot of the girls going to the party find out the plan from each other, because they’re friends and talk, but Sandra’s out of the loop. She gets Kerry gloves. Do people in Sweet Valley even need gloves? Does the temperature ever drop below 60 degrees there? Sandra’s pretty miserable at the party, so Elizabeth chats with her, then invites her to hang out the next day.
What do you do when your twin sister’s hanging out with a loser (and you’re Jessica Wakefield)? You give the loser a makeover, of course! In the grand tradition of Cher and Dionne, the twins give Sandra a new hairstyle, do her makeup, and loan her some not-dreadful clothes. Suddenly, she’s pretty. So pretty that guys like Steven, Aaron Dallas, and even Tom McKay take notice.
When you become hot overnight, your whole life changes, as Sandra learns at school. All the popular kids want to hang out with her, including the Unicorns. In fact, a rumor starts (thanks, Caroline!) that Janet wants Sandra to become a Unicorn. Jessica hates that no one gives her any credit for turning Sandra into an unobjectionable person, and it makes her even madder that Sandra doesn’t praise her for her help. Also, Jessica, who’s suddenly an aspiring fashion designer, tried to sew lace cuffs on her sweater but didn’t stitch them properly, so they fall off.
The Sweet Valley Days festival, the town’s celebration of its founding, is approaching, and the mayor will be speaking at a special assembly at the school. A student will be selected by the social studies teachers to give his introduction. Plus, the kids get to elect a representative from each grade to ride a float in a parade. These kids will be dubbed Citizens of the Year. I love how the teachers pretend this won’t just be a big popularity contest.
Despite her shiny new exterior, Sandra still has self-esteem issues, and she worries that everyone is only being nice to her because she’s pretty. She decides to throw her hat in the ring as a candidate to introduce the mayor. If she wins, that means she’s awesome, not just pretty. Except the teachers are choosing that person, so it doesn’t really mean that. But anyway, she gets Elizabeth to nominate her, even though Liz had already agreed to nominate Jessica. Jessica pouts, but I don’t get why she didn’t just ask someone else to nominate her. Also, amazingly, Elizabeth isn’t nomination, or just given the honor outright for being such a wonderful person.
Once Sandra wins the honor, she rides the high to the competition for Citizen of the Year. Jessica had planned to win both honors, so she’s royally ticked. She and Sandra enter a heated battle to become the biggest teacher’s pet. They should have done that before; this is the competition where the students get to vote. The girls both randomly focus on a literacy program, which need more funds from the students. Why do they think middle-schoolers will be able to fund that? When I was in middle school, I only ever had, like, five dollars, and you better believe I was going to spend that on mini-donuts.
Jessica decides that if she can help raise money for a bookmobile, she’ll be a lock for Citizen of the Year. Because if there’s anything middle-schoolers admire in their classmates, it’s their love of fundraising. A talk with Steve gives Jess the idea to create commemorative booklets for Sweet Valley Days, like the seniors at SVH did for prom. When Jess tells Elizabeth the idea at school, Sandra overhears her talking about selling ads, remembers her older sister telling her about the prom books, and comes up with the same idea Jessica already had. She tells her teacher about it and gets all the credit without even realizing she kind of stole it.
Now Jessica and Elizabeth are both mad at Sandra, thinking she really did steal the idea and is using it to get ahead of Jess in the race for Citizen of the Year. Everything Jessica wanted for herself falls to Sandra, who wins Citizen of the Year and is praised for the booklet idea. But Sandra can’t be happy because the twins are mad at her, and friendship with them is the most important thing in the world.
Sandra goes to see the girls but talks to Steven instead and realizes that he gave Jessica the same booklet idea that Sandra got. She figures that she was inspired by Jess, so it’s reasonable that Jess would think she stole the idea. The girls all finally talk, and everything gets worked out. Then Sandra decides that Jessica should ride on the float instead of her, so she pretends to be sick the day of the parade. Sandra, you need to learn right now not to enable the girl. It’ll just make her worse. Jess does let Sandra take credit for the booklet, since she worked so hard on it, so I guess that’s nice. She just wanted to ride on the float anyway, so what does she care?
Remember how I said Jessica’s suddenly into fashion design? She wants to make a pioneer dress for Sweet Valley Days. Alice is very encouraging and agrees to help but warns that it will take a ton of work. Amazingly, Jessica actually does that work instead of, say, manipulating Elizabeth into doing it for her, or giving up two minutes in. The dress doesn’t turn out great, and she doesn’t finish the hem before the parade, so she has to go around with it taped up all day. When she gets home, she realizes it’s kind of a mess, but she’d rather trash it than fix it. That sounds like Jess all right. She’ll just have to find something else to become instead of a designer.
Thoughts: The first thing Sandra wears to school post-makeover: “A faded denim blouse and a pair of tan stonewashed jeans.” That’s bad even for the late ’80s.
For some reason, the image of Jessica’s lace cuff falling off into her macaroni and cheese has stuck with me all these years.
Amy nominates Ken for Citizen of the Year, rather than Elizabeth, so there’s the main difference between her and Enid.
Sweet Valley’s mayor’s name is Herbert Lodge, which makes me think of Herbert Love, Terry Crews’ character in the fourth season of Arrested Development. He should definitely not be mayor of anything. And from there I think of Herbert Cain, who Herbert Love was based on. And then from there I think of pizza. That was fun!