December 15, 2015
SVT Super Chiller #3, The Carnival Ghost: Best Friends Forever (Literally)
Summary: It’s the day after Christmas, and the Wakefields are having lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Jess is annoyed that her fortune cookie calls her vain. Heh. Smart cookie. Heh again. Elizabeth’s warns her to avoid high places if she doesn’t want to fall. Jessica notes that that’s not exactly a deep thought.
Apparently a carnival comes to Sweet Valley every year, and on the way home, the Wakefields pass the fairgrounds where it’s being set up. The twins decide to hang out and watch everything get set up. Some other SVMS students have the same idea, including Amy, Lila, and Ellen. I’m surprised Lila’s that interested in something a lot of 12-year-olds would consider juvenile. Maybe things in Sweet Valley are particularly boring right now, so everyone’s extra excited about the carnival.
On opening day, the twins head to the carnival bright and early. They head to the haunted house, which gives visitors a choice of paths to take. The girls split up, with Jessica taking the vampire path and Liz taking the ghost path. As Liz walks through, she sees a girl of about ten years old with dark hair and an old-fashioned dress. She follows the girl, who disappears. As Elizabeth leaves the haunted house, walking through an open grave, she sees the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892 carved on it.
Liz spots the girl in the crowd and goes after her while Jessica visits a fortuneteller, Mademoiselle Z. Mlle. Z says something good will happen to Jess, which is all she needs to hear. When the twins reunite, Elizabeth gushes about the girl, Claire. Her father owns the carnival, which travels, so Claire moves around a lot and doesn’t have friends. Elizabeth to the rescue!
At home, Ned and Alice tell the kids they’re all getting raises in their allowances. Jess is thrilled that her fortune came true. She goes back to the carnival and hangs out with some of the Unicorns, urging them to go see Mlle. Z. Lila doesn’t believe in fortunetellers, so she’s all snotty about it. Mlle. Z. warns that something bad will happen to her. I feel like Mlle. Z. could branch out a little in her predictions. Maybe be a little more specific. In this case, though, it doesn’t matter – a horse gets spooked, which in turn spooks Lila, who falls in a mud puddle and ruins the Johnny Buck shirt she just won.
The next day, Elizabeth heads back to the carnival without even waiting for Jess. She’s excited to spend more time with her new BFF. Amy comes by, having planned to meet Elizabeth so they could go together. Jess tells her that Liz has someone better to hang out with now. Ouch. At the carnival, Elizabeth hangs out with Claire some more, noticing that she keeps wearing the same dress. Claire says it’s her second-favorite – her favorite got ripped.
Mlle. Z. sees the two girls together and glares at Claire. Claire tells Liz that the carnival workers don’t like her; they think she’s a spy for her father. Mlle. Z. tells Claire to leave Elizabeth alone, but Claire says everything’s fine. Not long after, Jessica goes to see Mlle. Z. for another fortune. Mlle. Z. says she knows what Jessica’s friend is up to, and Jess needs to stay away from the carnival if she wants to stay alive. Jess thinks she’s talking about Lila, but she’s not clear on what Mlle. Z. means. Still, she’s spooked enough to run away.
Jessica realizes she left her bike at the carnival, so she goes back to retrieve it. She runs into Patrick Morris, who tells her he was riding the Ferris wheel when he saw a ghost floating next to him, inviting him to come play with her. Jessica’s justifiably spooked again. She’s ready to call it a day on the carnival, and since Lila’s already done with it, they decide to host their own for New Year’s Eve. Later, Jessica sees a man in the yard, seemingly watching her through the window.
Around this point, Elizabeth starts to become completely obsessed with Claire. She’s always thinking about her and wanting to be with her at the carnival. The two have grown so close that Claire seems to be able to read Elizabeth’s mind. She plays a trick on Liz, turning her lemonade black, and Liz asks if she can write about her tricks for the Sixers. Claire just wants to hang out.
She takes Elizabeth to see the funhouse from behind the scenes, and then Liz wants to see the horses. The one she pets is clearly not a fan of Claire’s. Then the girls go to a shooting booth, where Elizabeth is suddenly a great shot. The man running the booth doesn’t seem to register that anyone is there with Liz. Elizabeth remembers that Alice asked her to invite Claire to dinner, but suddenly she forgets all about it. In the middle of the night, Jessica hears Elizabeth moaning during a nightmare. She’s dreaming about walking through the grave at the haunted house and seeing her initials in place of C.C.’s.
Jessica and Lila get together to talk about Lila’s party. Jess is going to be a fortuneteller, and the girls decide to come up with all their fortunes ahead of time so Jess can pull them from a bowl and pretend she’s thinking of them on the fly. Steven’s there and makes fun of them. The party has pretty much all the elements of the real carnival, including a haunted house and a Ferris wheel. Elizabeth is still obsessed with Claire and can barely focus on the party. She’s also suddenly not a good shot.
Jess does her fortunetelling thing, and everyone seems pleased. When Elizabeth takes a turn, Jess tells her that she’s going to learn the value of her true friends. Lila’s last to go, knowing that the only fortune left is one that says she’ll be a supermodel. But there’s a different one in the bowl: “Soon you will go completely bald.” Lila hilariously spends the rest of the book obsessed with her hair.
The carnival is closed the next day, so Elizabeth is miserable. She thinks Claire will be coming over for dinner. Amy stops by to talk about the haunted house; she did some research and found the guy who built it. Elizabeth doesn’t want to talk to her, so Amy turns to Jess. The girls go visit the man, who’s surprised to hear that Claire told Elizabeth that her father owns the carnival. As far as he knows, the carnival is owned by a corporation headed by a man with no children. He adds that when he build the tombstone in the haunted house, it was blank. The initials and date mysteriously appeared one day.
Jessica shares this news with Elizabeth, who accuses Jessica of making things up because she’s jealous of Claire. Speaking of Claire, she never shows up for dinner, of course. Ned and Alice tell Elizabeth not to hang out with her anymore. Things get heated, and for probably the only time in her life, Liz gets grounded. But her obsession is so strong that the next day, she sneaks out to the carnival. Jessica follows her and brings her home.
The next day, Elizabeth pretends she was sick the day before, to explain her strange behavior. She convinces Ned and Alice to let her go to the carnival to say goodbye to Claire, since she’s leaving soon. (Also, Claire didn’t come to dinner because she was sick, too.) Jess briefly distracts her with a recon mission in Steven’s room; she needs a handwriting sample to prove that he wrote the fortune Lila got at the party. (He did.)
Elizabeth heads out, staying at the carnival a lot longer than she said she would. A worried Jess is about to go look for her when a man calls to warn her that “the girl is in great danger.” Jessica goes to the haunted house to find Liz, but instead runs into Mlle. Z.’s assistant. He takes her to Mlle. Z., who reveals that she’s had her assistant (who’s also her fiancé) follow Jessica to keep her away from the carnival.
Story time! Mlle. Z. tells Jessica that the carnival was once owned by a man who was mad that he couldn’t be an acrobat anymore. He took out his anger on his wife and daughter. After his wife died, he became very strict with his daughter, forbidding her from riding any of the rides. This made her bitter as well. On her tenth birthday, she asked to ride the Ferris wheel. When her father said no, she snuck in to ride it alone. Her dress got caught when she tried to jump out, and she was dragged up to the top before the dress ripped and she fell to her death. Creepy!
Jessica puts everything together: The girl was Claire, and Elizabeth has been hanging out with a ghost. Mlle. Z. is confused – she thought Jessica was Elizabeth. When she was a child, Claire appeared to her, but Mlle. Z. let her know that she wasn’t interested in Claire’s idea of friendship (which apparently involves killing someone so they can be friends forever). Mlle. Z. has her fiancé release the horses so they’ll freak out when they get close to Claire (since animals sense and are scared of ghosts).
Meanwhile, Claire’s ready to make Elizabeth her forever friend. The girls go to the Ferris wheel, which Claire starts up just as Jessica and Mlle. Z. arrive. Jess gets in with Elizabeth, who’s so entranced by Claire that she’s practically catatonic, and tries to break Claire’s hold on her. Liz almost steps out of the Ferris wheel to join Claire, but Jessica manages to keep her twin inside the Ferris wheel. The two of them fight over Liz until Jessica gets hurt and Elizabeth realizes what’s going on. She knows she can’t be friends with someone who would hurt her sister, so she’s not going to join Claire in the afterlife. Claire screams until she disappears. Cool!
Liz goes back to normal, and I’m sure everyone’s happy that she’s no longer talking about Claire all the time. Also, Jessica and Lila play a trick on Steven, making him think that Lila really did go bald. Weak, girls.
Thoughts: For most of the book there’s no mention of Claire possibly being a ghost, so the title kind of ruins the “twist.”
Lila finds merry-go-rounds babyish, but the general idea of a carnival is fine to her. Okay….
You’d think that after the events of this book, the twins wouldn’t be so interested in a carnival in Return of the Evil Twin. (Oh, and that was on New Year’s Eve, too. What a weird theme to continue through the series.)