January 26, 2016
SVT #46, Mademoiselle Jessica: Pardon My French
Summary: We all know Lila Fowler can be a snobby little braggart, but she’s been worse than usual recently. She got to spend the weekend in Hawaii, and she won’t shut up about it. (A weekend? That seems like a waste.) She also has skybox tickets to see Dynamo, a band everyone loves. Jessica’s fed up with Lila’s boasting, but she doesn’t have anything she can brag about to one-up her.
While reading Teenager Magazine, Jessica learns about a contest for “French-oriented” families. Entrants write about their families for a chance to win a week in France. Jessica starts writing about her family, though she includes more fiction than fact. For instance, the Wakefields like to speak French at home. Alice is a ballet dancer who cooks gourmet French meals. Ned is a painter and restores furniture in his spare time. Steven plays trombone in a jazz ensemble. (In actuality, Steven has begun taking trombone lessons but is awful.) Elizabeth’s so awesome that she doesn’t need any embellishment.
Jessica can’t read the fine print on the entry form – it’s too small – but even she knows the family isn’t really eligible for the contest. She decides filling out the form is just for fun, and she won’t send it in. But Alice sees the form and asks Elizabeth to mail it, thinking Jessica was going to but forgot. When Jess learns that Liz sent in the entry, she decides her odds of winning are slim anyway, so it’s not a big deal.
Of course, Jessica becomes a finalist in the contest, and a woman from the magazine, Ms. Harris, sets up a meeting with the Wakefields. For once in her life, Jessica tells the truth, confessing to her family that she accidentally entered the competition. She figures they can just play the parts she wrote for them and try to fool Ms. Harris. Plus, they still have a shot at the trip to France. No harm, no foul.
Ned is reluctant, but Alice gets excited about the possibility of going to France, so she tells Jessica they’re in. As soon as Jess leaves the room, Alice tells the rest of the family that she wants to teach Jessica a lesson about exaggeration. They’ll play along but really ham it up at dinner with Ms. Harris. Then I guess Jessica will never tell a lie again. Brilliant plan!
Through the book, Brooke is being courted by the Unicorns, and she’s too nice to tell them she’s not interested in joining. They want to give her an induction task, and Jessica decides to have her pose as a French maid during the big dinner with Ms. Harris. Brooke agrees to participate because she knows Jess needs help (and also because Liz tells her what’s really going on and she thinks it’ll be fun).
With Brooke’s knowledge of France, from spending time there with her mother, the Wakefields are on their way to seeming like they know what they’re doing. Brooke gives them clothes to wear, pretending they’re the hottest fashions in Paris. She makes Jessica wear magenta, orange, and green together. Jessica’s so excited about the dinner that she cleans the whole house.
Now for the sabotage. Alice gets Steven to undo all of Jessica’s tidying so Ms. Harris walks into a pigsty. Dinner is nouilles au fromage, which is just French for macaroni and cheese. Steven is a bratty teen all through the meal, then plays his trombone horribly upstairs. Ned shows off his latest painting, which is just a bunch of paint splotches. Dessert is supposed to be a flambé, but Alice just sets jelly donuts on fire. Brooke, using the name Brookette, helps serve, then gets to enjoy the festivities. Lucky girl.
Jessica finally calls a halt to everything when Alice announces she’s going to perform a dance for Ms. Harris. She comes clean about everything and learns that her family turned things around on her to teach her a lesson. Fortunately, Ms. Harris was warned ahead of time, so she doesn’t think the family’s insane. She lectures Jessica on reading the fine print before entering a contest; if she had, she would have realized that she needed to be enrolled in a French class to enter. This makes Alice wonder if Jess needs glasses, since she says the print was too small.
So Jessica doesn’t win the trip to France (she gets the consolation prize, French-language tapes – ha!), but she does get the last laugh. Lila and Ellen were supposed to show up during dinner to make sure Brooke was completing her task, but they never made it, so no one knows about Jessica’s embarrassment. Alice has been working on a project for the lead singer of Dynamo, and she’s given front-row seats to a concert. She gets Courteney Coxed and brought on stage (as if). Lila’s skybox seats suck, so Jessica finally has something better than her best friend.
Thoughts: I’m going to need an explanation of what a “French-oriented family” is. “Oriented” is so vague.
Lila’s getting a sauna. What does a 12-year-old need with a sauna?
We know that Alice and the twins do the bulk of the cooking in the Wakefield house, and Ned says in this book that he and Steven will do the after-dinner clean-up “for a change.” So Ned and Steve don’t cook or do dishes? This is the ’90s, not the ’50s, right?