December 13, 2016
SVT Magna Edition #2, A Christmas Without Elizabeth: When You Wish Upon an Angel With the Munchies
Summary: It wouldn’t be a special occasion in Sweet Valley without a party (really, it wouldn’t be a Tuesday in Sweet Valley without a party), and for some reason, Jessica’s in charge of this one. Apparently she was chosen at random to pick the middle school’s holiday party theme and organize everything. That seems like a dangerous thing to leave up to chance. Liz is in charge of the money for the party, which is a much better choice, especially since the class has raised $386 to pay for everything.
Liz doesn’t have much Christmas spirit right now, though – she’s been volunteering at a homeless shelter a lot, which has hurt her schoolwork a little. Instead of studying, she goes back to the shelter with some Christmas decorations. She’s befriended two sisters, Al and Suzannah Glass, who are staying at the shelter with their mom while their father looks for work in the vague region called “up north.” The Glass family’s situation makes Liz realize that her problems aren’t so big. She may have gotten a B- and a pimple, but at least she has a roof over her head.
While Jessica works on petty issues like picking a theme for the party, Elizabeth and Amy volunteer at the shelter. Suzannah tells them that her father is going to send money so the family can get an apartment in Sweet Valley. They’ve already picked one out, and Al’s excited because there’s a swingset on the property. Suzannah’s just looking forward to having a quiet place to read, since there are too many people and too much noise at the shelter. But the money doesn’t come through, and the landlord can’t keep holding the apartment for the family, so they’ll have to stay at the shelter through Christmas.
Somehow, the Glasses only need $375, and Elizabeth has $386, which gives her an idea. Mr. Glass is supposed to come to Sweet Valley on Tuesday with the money the family needs (no, I don’t know where this money is coming from. Maybe his last paycheck from a job he recently lost?). She can loan the Glasses the $386, plus some money she’ll add from her own savings, so they can get the apartment they want. Then Mr. Glass will repay her on Tuesday, and she’ll have the money for the party later in the week. This won’t give the party committee much time to buy what they need, but Liz will just delay them when they come asking for the money.
Liz knows this isn’t a great idea, since people would be mad about her giving away their money if they found out. But she desperately wants the Glasses to have a home for Christmas, and since she has the ability to help, she really wants to do it. Mrs. Glass refuses at first, but she eventually gives in, promising Elizabeth that she’ll get her money back on Tuesday. What could possibly go wrong?
Lots, of course. First, the Unicorns want the party money so they can start spending it. Elizabeth delays them, then tells them she had Ned put it in the bank so it wouldn’t get lost or stolen. She encourages Jessica to take her time deciding on a theme. Then the Glasses’ new landlord pressures them for the rest of their rent money, worrying that he made a mistake by letting them move in without all of it. This is while they’re decorating a tree Elizabeth got them (for free, because some nice Christmas tree salesman in Sweet Valley has a lot more holiday spirit than some people).
Because Elizabeth has been so distracted with schoolwork and volunteering and giving away her classmates’ money without telling them, her relationship (or whatever you want to call it) with Todd suffers. She forgets to meet him at the mall, and he no longer wants to go to the Christmas party with her. Since when does middle school-era Todd have such a hard time accepting an apology?
The Sixers also suffers from Elizabeth’s lack of attention. Caroline writes an article about Lila’s new bedroom redecoration, and Elizabeth doesn’t catch a couple of typos – specifically “broom” instead of “room” and “wich” instead of “rich.” Lila thinks the paper is trying to paint her as a witch, and she threatens to sue. She also has the Unicorns throw away every issue they can find.
Jess asks Elizabeth for the party money, so Liz says she won’t be able to get it until tomorrow (Tuesday), since it’s in the bank and the bank will be closed by the time school lets out. Jess still hasn’t picked a theme, so I’m not sure what she plans to buy anyway. After school, Elizabeth goes to the Glasses’, since they’re throwing a little party for Mr. Glass’s return home. Except he never makes it. There’s snow in this mythical “up north” region, and Mrs. Glass figures that her husband can’t make the drive. They don’t have a phone, so they’re not able to find out for sure.
The landlord comes by, and since Mr. Glass hasn’t arrived with the money (and the landlord is grinchier than the actual Grinch himself), he doesn’t want the family to stay in the apartment. It’s almost Christmas Eve, but the landlord doesn’t care – he’s kicking them out by 10 the next morning. Despite Liz’s best efforts, the family will be spending the holidays in a shelter.
Elizabeth considers telling her parents what happened and asking them to loan the Glasses the money they need. But she realizes that would mean coming clean about giving them money, which could get Mrs. Glass in trouble, somehow. I guess because Mrs. Glass accepted money that came from kids who didn’t know it was going to her? But she didn’t know that, so I don’t know how she could get in trouble. Liz’s logic is weird. Anyway, the Wakefields spent a lot of money on Christmas presents this year, and Elizabeth decides not to bother them for more.
Mr. Glass still hasn’t arrived in Sweet Valley by the next morning, so the Glasses sadly move out of their new home. I hope the landlord gets visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Most people get a few days’ leeway to pay their rent, you Grinch. Then the Unicorns demand their money, and Liz has to tell them she doesn’t have it. She lies that she lost it and will try to make it back. Everyone’s understandably furious.
Elizabeth goes to the mall, for some reason, crying about how she’s screwed up everyone’s Christmas. She wishes she’d never been born – everyone would be better off without her. Suddenly an angel mannequin comes to life (just go with it) and comes over to her. She’s Laura, Elizabeth’s guardian angel, and she’s here to show Liz what everyone’s life would be like without her.
It takes Liz, like, 100 pages to realize that Laura’s for real, and Liz no longer exists. They’re able to observe people but they can’t interact with them. (For some reason, Laura can eat, and if she does something to affect their surroundings, people will notice, but the logistics of this are never explained. Also, Laura’s super-hungry, but I’m sure it’s not because she’s from the ’60s and spent most of her time then indulging in a certain plant.)
Laura and Liz’s first stop is, for some reason, Sophia Rizzo’s house. Since Elizabeth wasn’t around to become her friend, Sophia is still a loner. Tony’s in reform school, and Mrs. Rizzo never met and married Mr. Thomas. This is partly because Sarah’s dead. The night she fell down the stairs, Elizabeth wasn’t around to find her and get her to the hospital. She died, Mr. Thomas became a hermit, and everyone is sad. Also dead: Denny, since Liz didn’t save him from drowning.
Next Laura takes Elizabeth to the Christmas party Jessica was supposed to organize. The first indication that things are different is that Brooke has no friends. The Unicorns aren’t the Unicorns – they’re the Sharks, wannabe tough girls. Mary still lives with her foster parents because Liz didn’t get her and her mother back together (though I assume Mary’s mother would have tracked her down eventually without Elizabeth’s help, but whatever). Patrick ran away. Amy and Maria are basically the same, which is kind of funny. Todd’s just kind of there.
So where’s Jessica? At home, apparently, and not a part of the Sharks. They decide they want to make her do something that will let her join them as an associate Shark. It’s not clear what “associate” means; all we know is that Ellen is one, and she’s dumber than ever. As Liz and Laura follow the Sharks to the Wakefields’, they pass a bar, and Liz sees her father drinking inside. He’s depressed and no longer married to Alice. The Wakefields’ house is rundown, and everyone who lives there is miserable.
Laura explains to Elizabeth that Ned and Alice divorced after the rumor spread that Alice was having an affair. In other words, Elizabeth was the only reason the two of them stayed together. Okay, not really, but that’s how it sounds. They have no money, thanks to a costly custody battle for Jessica and Steven. Steven is a thug who could go to juvenile detention if he gets in any more trouble. Alice is as ineffectual a parent as ever.
But it’s Jessica who’s changed the most. She no longer cares about her appearance, she doesn’t have any friends, and she’s clearly just not happy with her life at all. She perks up when the Sharks come over, saying they want her to go caroling with them. Alternative Universe Jessica is pretty naïve. The Sharks convince her that they want to be friends with her, give her a makeover, and tell her they’re going to let her perform an initiation ritual to be allowed to hang out with them: She has to climb to the roof of City Hall and steal a star decoration. She doesn’t get a ladder, which means she’ll have to climb a nearby tree.
Jessica’s so desperate for friends that she does it, even though it’s dangerous. Elizabeth freaks out the whole time, realizing that without her around to keep Jess in line, her twin is doomed. Somewhere in here, Laura tells Liz her life story, which involved running away and dying in a fire while trying to save a stray cat. She wishes she’d had someone like Elizabeth in her life to keep her in line. Yeah, yeah, she’s a saint.
As Jessica’s about to fall from the tree, probably to her death, Elizabeth wishes that things would go back to the way they were. Laura sends her back, and everything’s normal again. Plus, Jessica has learned what happened to the party money and feels bad for getting mad at Elizabeth. Mr. Glass has finally made it back to Sweet Valley, money in hand, so the party can go on as planned. The Glasses easily get a new apartment, and hopefully one of them gets a job, since that apartment isn’t going to be of much use if they can’t keep paying the rent. Elizabeth is forgiven and lauded at the party, the theme of which seems to be Elizabeth Is Awesome. I mean, of course.
Thoughts: This book is 250 pages about how Elizabeth is awesome. GAG.
For people without a place to live, the Glasses sure are willing to spend extra money for three bedrooms instead of getting a two-bedroom apartment for cheaper and just having the two girls share a room.
Some of the “without Liz, XYZ” stuff makes no sense, but Jessica being a friendless loser doesn’t. I think she’d at least be friends with Amy and Maria. And why aren’t the Unicorns still the Unicorns? They have nothing to do with Elizabeth.