February 23, 2016
SVT #48, Mandy Miller Fights Back: You Can Be Our Friend Now! Assuming You Don’t Die!
Summary: Mandy Miller was briefly introduced in the previous book as a Unicorn hanger-on who desperately wants to be liked. The Unicorns take advantage of her kindness and eagerness by letting her run errands for them. This just makes her think they’ll eventually invite her to join the Unicorns. Little does she know that that’s the last thing Queen Janet Howell would consider. She dresses funny (girl likes the thrift stores) and she’s too goofy for the elite princesses of the club.
The Unicorns are appalled when Mandy wears an all-purple outfit to school one day, complete with purple sneakers. Dude, where can I get a pair of those? Since Jessica’s the one Mandy seems to like the most, Janet orders her to tell Mandy that she will never, ever, ever be a Unicorn. Like, ever. Unlike Lila or Ellen, who would be thrilled to have the chance to shut down a lesser girl, Jessica doesn’t relish the task. She relishes it even less when she learns that Mandy agreed to be her partner for a class project, since no one else wanted to work with Jess, what with her reputation for not taking the class seriously.
The class is studying the 1920s, and Mandy suggests that she and Jess do a project about Vaudeville. Mandy’s grandparents were both performers and left the family a bunch of old costumes. The girls decide to put on their own Vaudeville act, which will be submitted to some state-wide contest run by a museum in Hollywood. (This is supposed to be some super-important project, but the history teacher, Mrs. Arnette, has only heard about it recently, and the students don’t have much time to do their projects. This contest doesn’t sound very fair to Sweet Valley.)
Spending time with Mandy helps Jessica understand her better. For instance, she wears clothes from thrift stores because…well, she’s kind of poor. But she doesn’t want to try to look like the Unicorns anyway; she’d rather keep her own style, even if it means she looks a little weird. Jessica reluctantly tells Mandy that the Unicorns don’t want her, which makes Mandy realize that they were just using her to do stuff for them. But she still seems to want to be friends with Jess.
The girls perfect their Vaudeville act and pick out costumes. As they’re playing tug-of-war over a feather boa, Mandy falls and gets a little banged up. She notices that she has a lump under her arm but doesn’t think it’s anything serious. However, she soon develops what she thinks is the flu and has to miss some school (though she and Jessica are able to perform their act in class). Jessica’s worried and even skips hanging out with the Unicorns to check on her new friend. Though Mandy downplays the seriousness of her illness, she’s not well enough to make a video submission of the Vaudeville act, so Elizabeth fills in.
Mrs. Miller calls Jessica a few days later and asks her to come to the house as soon as she can. Jessica’s supposed to have dinner at Lila’s, but she can tell that something serious is going on. Alice and Elizabeth go with her to the Millers’ house, where Mandy informs Jessica that she has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The lump is a cancerous lymph node and will have to be surgically removed. The good news is that there’s a chance that the cancer hasn’t spread and Mandy will make a full recovery.
Jessica is deeply affected by the news, which is pretty amazing for a girl who often doesn’t care about anyone outside her immediate family (if that). Even though people keep assuring her that Mandy’s illness has been caught early and that her chances are good, Jess is terrified that Mandy will die. And even if she doesn’t, she could have to go through chemo and radiation, and there’s a chance she’ll lose her beloved long hair.
As soon as the Unicorns hear about Mandy’s cancer, they send her flowers. Jessica’s surprised at this move, partly because they don’t like Mandy, and partly because they don’t ask Jessica to chip in or sign the card. After Mandy has surgery and learns that the cancer hasn’t spread (but she’ll need radiation and chemo anyway), Jessica gives her the good news that their project won first place in the competition. (Amy and Elizabeth won second place. No one cares.) Part of their prize is getting to perform the act at the Hollywood museum. Mandy can’t do it, so Elizabeth will fill in again.
The Unicorns start visiting Mandy, which bugs Jessica when she comes over. They’ve made no secret of their disinterest in Mandy, but now all of a sudden they want to hang out with her? Jess questions their motives, and they admit that they didn’t invite her to go in on the flowers because they thought things were chilly between Jess and Mandy. After all, Jess was the one who told Mandy she couldn’t be a Unicorn. They didn’t realize that the girls have become friends through their project.
Mandy is a good little trooper, handling chemo like a champ. She actually thanks Jessica for fighting over the boa with her; if she hadn’t fallen, she wouldn’t have noticed the lump under her arm and gotten it checked out. When Mandy’s hair starts falling out, she tries on some hats. It’s helpful that she has a quirky style already because none of them is really fashionable. Mandy’s mom buys her a wig, but since the family doesn’t have much money, it’s not a very good one. Jess is horrified that Mandy will have to look like Little Orphan Annie for months while her hair grows back.
Never fear, the Unicorns are here! Janet calls a meeting to announce that she thinks Mandy is Unicorn material after all. (Ellen is appalled. Shut up, Ellen.) The girls vote and agree to extend her membership. Jessica tells them that Mandy could really use a wig, and she thinks they should postpone their upcoming party and use the money to get a wig. The other girls agree. (Well, Ellen’s still being stubborn, but everyone just ignores her.)
The Unicorns pick out a nice wig and present it to Mandy along with the invitation to join the club. Mandy loves the wig but isn’t sure about joining. The girls explain that they didn’t think she was Unicorn material, but now that they’ve gotten to know her better, they’ve come to really like her. Plus, Janet wants to make the club more diverse, and what better place to start than a quirky girl who wears a wig? I mean, you’re not going to find much more diversity than that in Sweet Valley. Mandy accepts the invitation, and the Unicorns have their newest member (who, frankly, is too good for them).
Thoughts: Jessica always says the Unicorns are awesome, but she doesn’t get why Mandy wants to join. Shouldn’t she think that every girl in school wants to be in the coolest club around?
You can tell this book is old because Jessica and Mandy’s prize includes a computer for the school. Just one. For all those students.
Amy and Elizabeth win a dictionary. Wow, a whole dictionary?? Amazing!