August 11, 2015

SVT #36, Mary is Missing: Gone Girl

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:15 pm by Jenn

What are they even looking at?

What are they even looking at?

Summary: Mary is, indeed, missing. She hasn’t been in school, she’s missed Unicorn meetings and get-togethers, and the Unicorns can’t get in touch with her to find out how much money they have in their treasury. When Jessica calls Mary’s mother, Mrs. Wallace just says she’s not available. Since Mary’s been having a lot of issues with her mom, the twins wonder if she ran away from home.

Amy’s next to get involved, going to Mary’s house to retrieve something. Lila and Ellen tell her what Jessica learned from Mrs. Wallace. Steven relays a phone message to the twins, telling them some girl called a few days ago, talking about money. They wonder if Mary took the Unicorn treasury and split town with it. (The treasury supposedly has around $50 in it, which wouldn’t get her far, but to a 12-year-old, that’s a pretty good amount of money.)

Jessica’s able to get Mrs. Wallace to let her into Mary’s room, where she snoops to find clues. I guess she thinks Mary left a note behind saying, “Yes, I took the money and jetted. I’m going to buy ten pairs of purple jellies!” Jessica sees that there are clothes everywhere, even though Mary is usually very neat. It looks like she was packing to leave quickly. But her favorite teddy bear, Max, is still there – Jess doesn’t think Mary would have left without him.

The strange disappearance of a friend doesn’t stop Jessica and Elizabeth from spending some time shopping. While at the mall, they find a newspaper with words cut out of it. Elizabeth Sherlocks the paper until she realizes that the missing words spell “YOUR DAUGHTER IS SAFE WILL BE IN TOUCH SOON DON’T CALL POLICE.” I guess whoever made the cuts didn’t take any punctuation. The girls think the cutter is a kidnapper and used the paper to write a ransom note. Specifically, the think the cutter kidnapped Mary.

The twins bring Amy in to brainstorm possibilities of what happened to Mary. Amy reports that she saw Mrs. Wallace withdrawing money at the bank. Well, that’s damning evidence if I ever heard it. Amy thinks Mary was taken by Annie DeSalvo, the same woman who took her from her mother when she was little, screwing up her entire life.

The girls call the police, speaking with the officer who helped them get back the scrapbook in Jessica on Stage, which is some nice continuity. The officer calls Mrs. Wallace, then reports back to the girls that she said everything’s fine, so they don’t need to worry. Yeah, like the girls buy that. They think Mrs. Wallace lied to the police because, after all, the kidnapper told her not to get them involved. Clearly, Annie kidnapped Mary again, and the girls will have to rescue her.

Elizabeth and Amy want to wait a little while before they make any more moves, so Jessica pulls in Lila and Ellen to team up with her. The three of them hang out outside Mary’s house, trying to listen to Mrs. Wallace’s phone conversations through the window. They hear her telling someone that she’s bringing them “small stuff” that isn’t “marked.” She doesn’t have all of it but is working on getting it together. Sounds like a money drop!

Then the girls see Mrs. Wallace leaving the house with a suitcase, some of Mary’s clothes, and Max. The girls figure that Mrs. Wallace put the money in the suitcase and is delivering some of Mary’s things to her so she can have them while she waits for her mother to get the rest of the money. They try to follow Mrs. Wallace, but they lose her.

Elizabeth and Amy go to the library, where Liz hears someone tearing paper. She loses track of the woman who did the tearing, but finds the newspaper she left behind – it’s an L.A. paper from a week ago. Matching up what was torn out with the full version on microfilm, Elizabeth and Amy see that the woman took an article about the kidnapping of a girl about their age. They figure that the woman is the kidnapper, though they don’t bother coming up with a reason the woman would want the article.

Putting together everything that’s happened, Elizabeth wonders if Mary called the twins not to talk about the Unicorn treasury but to mention the ransom money. She reasons that Mary was unable to get in touch with her mother, so her second best option was calling 12-year-old girls who would be no help. Sure, why not?

At school, a teacher overhears the Unicorns talking about Mary. She tells them that Mary’s in Mexico for a few days; the school okayed the trip because Mary’s social studies class is studying Mexico. The Unicorns think she’s lying. Later, Amy and Elizabeth are at the grocery store when they see the woman from the library. They follow her to a house, deciding that this is Annie and this is where she’s keeping Mary.

Elizabeth and Amy regroup with Jessica, Lila, and Ellen, and they all go to the house together. They spot a basement window they could get through to enter the house and rescue Mary. You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t they call the police?” Congratulations – you are smarter than a Wakefield. The girls can see a light in an upstairs window, and it looks like there’s someone in the house along with the woman. The girls decide to come back the next day.

They head over after dinner the next night, with only two hours before the twins have to be home. Jessica and Lila are late showing up because Lila was on the phone, flirting with Bruce. Then her shoe broke and she made Jessica go back to the house with her. As the kidnapper leaves, Amy and Ellen trade barbs; Ellen and Lila don’t like that Amy’s involved, and vice versa. Amy keeps taunting that Ellen’s too chicken to participate in the rescue mission. Eventually Ellen disappears, and the girls realize she’s heading into the house on her own.

Amy follows Ellen into the house, but it’s dark, so they can’t find each other. Then the kidnapper returns unexpectedly, so Amy has to hide. When Lila and Jessica arrive, Lila finally decides that it’s time to get the police involved. This is easily the most reasonable Lila has ever been. Amy makes it upstairs, looking for Mary. She finds Ellen just as the kidnapper comes upstairs. Amy’s able to hide in a closet, but Ellen is, of course, Ellen, and just stands there like a deer in the headlights.

When the kidnapper spots her, Ellen tries to make a break for the window. Um…good plan? You’re on the second floor, Einstein. The kidnapper tries to grab her, they wrestle a bit, and Ellen accidentally breaks a lamp, the room’s only light source. Amy just hears her screaming. The other girls hear her from outside and rush into the house. When they get upstairs, Ellen’s fine, and Amy is casually sitting on top of the unconscious kidnapper, who Amy knocked out with a chair leg. Between this and calling Ellen a chicken, Amy is easily the MVP of this book.

The girls remember the reason for the rescue mission and go back to rescuing Mary. But she’s not Mary – she’s Becky, a girl from L.A. And the kidnapper isn’t Annie. So the girls stumbled across a kidnapping after following clues they thought pointed to a different kidnapping. Only in Sweet Valley, right?

The police arrive, along with reporters, and the girls are declared heroes. Ellen suddenly loves Amy, who saved her from the kidnapper. Sadly, I don’t think this lasts beyond the book, but it’s pretty funny to see Ellen wanting to invite Amy to Unicorn stuff, when absolutely no one else, including Amy, would be on board with that.

Then the mystery of the book is solved very anticlimactically. Mary was in Mexico, just as the teacher said; she went on a trip with her former foster parents. She had to get ready quickly, which is why her room was a mess. She called Jessica to tell her about the treasury money, but Steven is a dolt and didn’t understand her. Mrs. Wallace was taking some of Mary’s old clothes to a church bazaar, and she took Max to get cleaned. And I guess she was at the bank to…I don’t know…get ice cream? Pet puppies? Certainly not withdraw a normal amount of money for normal purposes.

There’s also some stuff in the book about how the Unicorns are mad that the Sixers (the sixth-graders’ newspaper) doesn’t mention them more often. Elizabeth and Amy are like, “Do something interesting and then we’ll talk.” Liz finally tells Jessica that she can write an article, but she’ll have to figure out how to fit in stuff about every Unicorn who’s thrown a fit about the lack of publicity. This is all a buildup to the next book.

Thoughts: Everything in this book could have been avoided if Mrs. Wallace had just told Jessica what was going on. Thanks a lot, Mary’s mom!

This book is so ridiculous that it almost comes back around to reasonable. I wonder how the girls’ parents reacted when they found out what their kids had been up to.

Elizabeth: “Things like this just don’t happen in real life!” Jessica: “Yes, they do!” Further proof that Jessica doesn’t operate within the bounds of reality.

12-year-old Lila knows the word “reconnaissance.” Mm-hm, sure.

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