August 25, 2015
SVT #37, The War Between the Twins: Actually, It’s About Ethics in Journalism
Summary: At the end of the last book, Jessica was eager to write an article about the Unicorns for the Sixers. Elizabeth decides to humor her and publish it on the front page. The Unicorns are thrilled they’re going to get some publicity, as if everyone in the school doesn’t already know about them. But at the last minute, the Sixers has to include breaking news about a coach’s injury, and Jessica’s article has to be bumped. Elizabeth isn’t able to tell her ahead of time.
The Unicorns are furious with this development, accusing Elizabeth of deliberately messing with them. Then, like a typical child, Jessica announces that the Unicorns will just start their own paper. I mean, how hard can it be? Janet immediately takes control, though she at least tries to form a democracy before becoming the dictator we know she truly is. (In this case, though, it’s a good idea. Someone needs to make decisions.)
The girls write mostly inane articles, including one about an upcoming school dance they’re in charge of organizing. Lila’s supposed to book a band, since she thinks her uncle can use his connections in the music industry to get one. She writes in the article that a special mystery act will perform. The paper is supposed to come out on Tuesday, a day ahead of the Sixers, and will be eight pages, printed in purple paper.
Almost none of that happens. Ellen writes a horrible article about her new purple sweater. Tamara writes two paragraphs on the Unicorns’ history, when she was supposed to write two pages. Mary has to type everything up. No one other than Jessica is interested in actually getting the paper to press. There are only three pages of “news,” so Jessica adds in Unicorn meeting minutes (who’s taking minutes anyway?), claiming that people are always asking what happens at their meetings.
The girls can’t use the ditto machine at school to print the paper on Tuesday. (Were people still using ditto machines in 1990?) This means they don’t get their paper out before the Sixers. Not that it matters, since the paper Lila bought is too dark for black print. Even if they could read it, no one wants a copy. The Sixers figure they’re safe from any kind of meaningful competition. The Unicorns are reading to fold, but Jess isn’t going to let Elizabeth win. Janet lets her take charge, and the girls work toward a second edition.
Jessica announces that the paper will now be four pages, printed on white paper, and called The Middle School News so as not to alienate non-Unicorns. They’ll also include news about more than just themselves. Lila thinks they should print an interview with Donny Diamond, a rock star who’s the girls’ latest obsession. They don’t actually need to talk to him – they can just publish the answers he would give if they were to actually interview him. If anyone asks, they’ll say that Lila’s uncle introduced them to Donny.
This edition of the paper is a success, even though it now costs 15 cents. Everyone’s excited about the Donny “interview” and starts writing in with questions for him. The Unicorns answer them as only preteens can. (Example: Jealousy is good because it means your boyfriend cares.) One letter asks for photo proof that the Unicorns actually met Donny, since the writer doesn’t think they did. Jessica manages to alter a photo they took with Janet’s brother to make it look like they hung out with Donny. The Unicorns think the letter came from the Sixers, who have started to realize that The Middle School News might be a threat.
Lila’s slowly growing more anxious about the school dance, since she hasn’t heard back from her uncle. She admits to Jessica that she hasn’t been able to line up a special guest. She tries to pawn off the problem to Jess, who’s already swamped trying to turn out the paper. Then things get more complicated with gym teacher Ms. Langberg starts asking questions about the Unicorns’ dealings with Donny. Jess keeps up the charade pretty well, but she knows Ms. Langberg’s suspicions aren’t going to just go away.
In the next round of questions for Donny, the girls get an accusation that their picture with him was faked. The writer asks how long they can keep up their ploy before everything comes out. Jessica is sure that Elizabeth is behind the anonymous letters, but Liz is clueless. She has, however, heard rumors that Donny will be performing at the dance. Thanks to Caroline Pearce (of course), the rumors make it to the high school. Everyone is excited for the dance, thinking they’re going to get a private concert from a huge star.
Ms. Langberg tells Jessica and Lila that even she’s heard the rumors. The girls tell her they’re not true, then come clean about all the things they made up for the paper. Ms. Langberg orders them to make a public apology at the dance. She’ll provide a group for the music – her accordionist cousin, Donald Kaminsky, and his Polka Dots. So not only do the Unicorns have to reveal that they fooled everyone, but they have to listen to polka music.
There’s a huge crowd at the dance, all chanting Donny’s name. Jessica and Lila announce that the interviews in the paper were all fake. Everyone’s mad, accusing the girls of lying to get a big crowd at the dance (though, in their defense, the Unicorns never confirmed that Donny would be there). Donald Kaminsky and the Polka Dots come on stage to face a very angry audience. But it’s all okay – Donald is really Donny Diamond in disguise.
Everyone thinks the Unicorns planned this all along, and that their “confession” was just a joke. Ms. Langberg explains that Donny sent them the anonymous letters to shame them for making money using his name. Jessica and Lila nicely decide to donate the money they made (a whole $45, which isn’t much until you remember that they only charged 15 cents a copy). The Unicorns get their picture taken with Donny for real. Not much of a punishment for lying and fraud, is it?
We end the book with Bruce being a jerk to Lois Waller because she’s heavy. Elizabeth and Amy are there when he challenges Lois to a bike race. But her pedals fall off because Bruce messed with her bike to humiliate her in front of a group of people. Sounds about right. This will lead into the next book.
Thoughts: Lila Fowler has a bedtime? I don’t think so. I also don’t believe she ever walks to school.
“As second-in-command, it was her duty to be loyal.” Jessica’s going to make an A+ trophy wife someday.
“Jessica had suffered enough. Maybe she had even learned a lesson, for once!” Elizabeth, why are you so dumb?