October 17, 2017

SVT Super Edition #9, The Twins Go to College: This Isn’t the Kind of Pot I Expected Jessica to Do

Posted in books tagged , at 5:01 pm by Jenn

BURN THOSE OVERALLS

Summary: Jessica’s ready for a mindless summer of shopping and tanning, but when she and Elizabeth get accepted into a two-week study program at SVU, Ned and Alice tell her she’s going. They’ll be vacationing in Grand Canyon, no kids allowed, and Steven will be at basketball camp, so Jess has no choice. She’s devastated, and it doesn’t help when the Unicorns amusingly throw her a mini-funeral to mourn the loss of her summer. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is excited to take one class for two weeks, live in the dorms, and basically get a taste of what college will be like (minus the love triangles and attempted murder).

Ned and Alice take the girls to SVU and proceed to talk nonstop about their time there. The twins try to rush them along so they can sign up for their classes before all the slots fill up. Elizabeth will be taking a course on Romantic poetry (that’s Romantic with a capital R, as in odes and nature and stuff, not love), while Jessica has settled on ceramics, since she thinks it’ll be easy. Thanks to a broken clock tower, the girls are able to get rid of their parents an hour ahead of schedule.

They get the classes they want, then meet their roommates. Elizabeth’s is a girl named Marion whose parents are both detectives. She’s learned her parents’ tricks and become a master of disguise and observation. I kind of love her. She’s taking a criminology course, which I think I would choose if I were in this program. Jessica’s roommate, Susan, is AWFUL. She’s a snob from L.A. who thinks Jessica’s beneath her because she wears jeans and T-shirts. She’s Lila cranked up to 11, without the class.

The girls meet a guy named Mike who’s at SVU for a few days before he and his fellow Nature Scouts go on a canoe trip. Jessica likes him, but Susan quickly steals him, so now Jess hates her even more. Elizabeth is next to meet a guy, encountering a kid on a bridge and quoting poetry with him. She doesn’t get his name, but she’s in luuuuuuuuuuuv.

Jessica’s hopeful about her ceramics class, thanks to all the cute guys there, but when she starts actually working, she realizes it won’t be as easy as she’d hoped. Just making a clay pot takes a lot of concentration and control. She ends up covered in clay and embarrassed in front of her new classmates. Liz, meanwhile, gets a shock in her poetry class – it’s taught by her poetry buddy. His name is Ethan, and he’s a student and TA at SVU, which means he’s too old for Elizabeth.

Jessica comes across a gallery on campus and chats with an old woman who tells her about a curse pot. To mess with someone you hate, you can make an imperfect pot with the face of your enemy etched into it, along with some symbols. Firing the pot will trap the person’s spirit inside it. As she’s leaving, Jess runs into a guy transporting her classmates’ work and accidentally breaks some of it. So far, this summer isn’t going great for Jessica.

Inspired by Marion’s skill with disguises, Elizabeth decides to try to land Ethan by pretending to be someone else – specifically, someone older. She calls her new alter ego Geraldine and decides she talks like a southern belle from a few decades ago. She’s supposed to be 18, by the way. I would love to know how the characters in Elizabeth’s stories talk.

Jess decides she’s done with the study program (wow, she almost lasted an entire day!), so she packs a bag and heads for the bus stop. She’s missed the last bus home for the day, but it’s not a complete bust: She sees Elizabeth leaving a boutique in her new Geraldine clothes and decides to follow her. Liz goes to SVU’s snack bar and chats with Ethan, pretending to be her own older sister. They arrange to hang out later in the week and discuss poetry.

Jess gives ceramics another try, this time making a pretty decent-looking pot. She etches Susan’s face in it and turns it into a curse pot. She fires it with Bernard, the guy she ran into who was transporting the other pots. Meanwhile, Ethan tells Liz that he met Geraldine, then asks her to come along when the two of them hang out. Liz says she can’t go. Marion figures out what she’s up to and seems amused by the whole thing. Susan doesn’t come back to her and Jessica’s room that night, and she’s not around the next morning. Jessica is a little confused but doesn’t give it much thought.

Ethan and Elizabeth chat after a class, and he tells her that he thinks she’s more suited to Romantic poetry than Geraldine is, just from the way Geraldine talks. Way to insult your student’s sister, dude. Liz realizes she needs to quit it with always saying “my, my!” and “indeed” as Geraldine. Yeah, I’d say so. Jess has lunch with Bernard and later finds a poem in her pocket called Ode to Blue-Green Eyes. She figures it’s from Bernard, since she was just with him, but it’s obvious to the reader that it’s from Ethan, and he mistook Jess for Liz.

Susan is still MIA, and Jess starts to wonder if her curse pot actually did the job what it was supposed to. She goes looking for Elizabeth to fill her in, and finds her hanging out with Ethan, as Geraldine. Liz quickly pretends that Jessica is her. Jess plays along, hoping that in exchange, she’ll get a favor in the future. She mentions the poem she found in her pocket, and again, it’s clear to the reader that Ethan wrote it, but the twins don’t catch on.

Jessica pressures/threatens Elizabeth into helping her find the woman from the gallery so she can learn more about curse pots. Marion helps them get into the gallery after hours, but they have to hide from a guard and can’t get to the curse pot. The next day, Bernard tells Jessica that someone broke into the gallery and stole the pot. Jess is shocked, since it was there when she, Liz, and Marion broke in, and she knows none of them took it. She asks about the old woman, and Bernard offers to try to get contact information for her.

Ethan mentions Ode to Blue-Green Eyes to Liz, who has no idea what he’s talking about. He invites her and Geraldine to a concert on campus that night. Liz tries to bow out so only Geraldine will go, but Ethan insists. Elizabeth gets Jess to agree to play her again, and Jess gets Liz to agree to go with her to see the old woman, Hatta. The mystery of the missing curse pot is quickly solved, as Hatta took it. She made it, so she figures she can do what she wants with it. Jessica tells her that she made her own curse pot but now wants to reverse the curse. Hatta isn’t sure she can.

When the girls are back at their dorm, Ethan calls to tell Elizabeth that he got a fourth ticket to the concert, so she should bring Jessica along. Of course, Jess is already planning to play Liz while Liz plays Geraldine, so they’re all out of twins. But Marion looks enough like the twins and can mimic Jessica’s characteristics well enough to pass herself off as Jess. It seems like a foolproof plan until Bernard joins them and easily IDs “Elizabeth” as Jessica, and Marion as an imposter. All three girls fake stomachaches and flee.

Jess finds another poem in her pocket, and Liz starts figuring out that Ethan is writing the poetry. Good job, Nancy Drew! However, she thinks Ethan likes Jessica. She’s surprised when Marion tells her that obviously Ethan likes Elizabeth – the real Elizabeth, not Geraldine. This is gross, because he knows Liz is 12, but I think it’s supposed to seem sweet.

Ethan confirms his crush after the next class. He also reveals that he’s 16, and the Doogie Howser of SVU’s English department. So there’s only a four-year age difference between him and Liz, which is less gross than when she thought he was at least 18, but still gross enough. Fortunately, both realize that their difference in ages means they shouldn’t date. They agree to just be friends.

The twins, Ethan, and Bernard go back to Hatta’s house, but she’s still not sure how Jess can break the pot’s curse. Her only idea is for Jess to break the pot and leave the pieces in the mud on her riverbank, which is where the clay came from. Maybe if it’s returned to its origins, the curse will be ended. Jessica reluctantly breaks the pot, and the clay seems to pull the pieces into the ground. Moments later, the Nature Scouts appear in canoes, on their way back from their trip. Among them is Susan.

The official story is that Susan decided to ditch the study program after she met Mike. She didn’t bother to tell anyone she was going on the trip with the Nature Scouts, and I guess the school didn’t call her parents when they couldn’t find her, since no one went looking for her. This would have been a better plot if Jessica had said her roommate was missing and everyone else denied that Susan ever existed. Also, Susan doesn’t strike me as the sort of girl who would enjoy a nature trip, so she must have really liked Mike. I wish Jess had just enjoyed that she was gone – she got to have a dorm room all to herself.

Thoughts: Some of the courses offered: Cooking for Fun and Profit, Cruising the Internet, What Really Happened to the Titanic?

This program has no curfew or chaperones, and I really can’t believe so many parents would allow their kids to participate. I suspect they just wanted them out of the house for two weeks.

I’d rather read a series about Marion than the twins.

Advertisements

October 10, 2017

SVT #108, Cammi’s Crush: The Three Matchketeers

Posted in books tagged at 5:06 pm by Jenn

The phones! Hee hee hee!

Summary: Principal Clark announces that the school district wants to honor a Scholar of the Semester, a student from any school in the area who has the highest GPA for the semester. There are three finalists, and two are from SVMS – Cammi Adams and Randy Mason. (Elizabeth is out of the running thanks to a B she was given after a fight with a home-ec teacher over the proper consistency of brownies.) If Cammi or Randy wins, Mr. Clark will give the entire sixth grade a picnic and an entire day off from anything school-related, including homework.

Jessica is desperate for that day off, and she takes it upon herself to ensure that one of her classmates wins the competition. After Elizabeth talks her out of getting the unknown third student eliminated (and Jessica figures she couldn’t pull that off anyway), Jess approaches Cammi with an offer to sabotage Randy. Cammi notes that the third student could still beat her, so that’s no guarantee. Jess advises her to suck up to her teachers, but Cammi wants to win fair and square. Jessica next approaches Randy about sabotaging Cammi, but he has the same attitude Cammi does, wanting to rely on his intelligence to win, since that’s what’s gotten him this far.

Both Cammi and Randy start getting paranoid that the other has agreed to work with Jessica to sabotage him or her. They decide to worker harder than ever to take their grades from straight A’s to straight A+s. But one morning, Cammi oversleeps, misses a quiz, and has to hand in crumpled homework, earning herself two F’s from a cranky substitute, Ms. Sherman. Later in the day, Randy accidentally rips a project he spent extra time on and earning himself a 0 from another cranky sub, Mr. Jules.

Thanks to one teacher out on paternity leave and another out with a broken ankle, the SVMS students are stuck with Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules for a while, and no one’s happy about it. They’re tough graders, taking off points for poor penmanship, and they have no sympathy over the amount of work the kids have to do for other classes. Randy and Cammi realize that they won’t be getting a break from these two, so they both turn to Jessica for help getting their grades back up. Because…that’s exactly who anyone would think of for that?

Jessica’s first instinct is to find a way to get rid of Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules. Her plan involves playing pranks until the teachers get so fed up that they quit. When Cammi and Randy veto this idea, Jessica says they should instead try to make the two teachers happy so they’ll be nicer to everyone. Cammi comes up with a plan that all three agree to: Play matchmaker for the teachers, a la Clueless. Love conquers all!

The Three Matchketeers start by finding out the teachers’ favorite colors, flowers, and food. They leave Ms. Sherman a bouquet of her favorite flowers, pretending they’re from a secret admirer. Then they arrange for Mr. Jules to find out about a new Mexican restaurant in town so he’ll ask Ms. Sherman to go there with him. It works, and Jessica tells the Unicorns that she’s ensured the sixth grade’s day off. What she doesn’t realize is that Cammi and Randy have started to develop feelings for each other as well.

Now that the subs are mellower, Cammi is able to get one of her bad grades changed, since Ms. Sherman realizes she graded her unfairly. Mr. Jules decides not to give Randy’s class a quiz, which means one less potential bad grade for Randy. Everything seems to be going great, but then Janet notes to Jessica that Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman’s blossoming relationship might not work out. If they break up, they’ll be crankier than ever, and the students will suffer. Jessica realizes that she, Randy, and Cammi need to make sure the two teachers stay happy.

Cammi tries to get closer to Randy by asking him the same questions they asked the teachers. He doesn’t seem interested in her, so Cammi asks Jessica for more matchmaking help. Jessica turns to her go-to plan for helping her female classmates: a makeover. Cammi thinks that Randy doesn’t care about her new look, but the truth is that Randy doesn’t think Cammi has the same feelings for him that he does for her. He thinks she got a makeover because she’s trying to get the attention of another guy. He decides to try to drop his crush on her and focus on his grades.

Cammi tells Jessica that Randy acted kind of weird with her, so Jess encourages her to talk to him about it. Just as Cammi finds him, they hear Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules fighting – he found Jessica’s notebook with notes about his favorite things, and he thinks Ms. Sherman was coming up with ways to woo him. They break up, and they’re back to being cranky with their students. Randy and Cammi take out their anger on Jessica for not keeping a better eye on her notebook.

Jessica goes back to brainstorming and comes up with a variation on the get-Mr.-Jules-to-ask-Ms.-Sherman-out-on-a-date plan. While looking for a calculator so she can make sure she can pay for their next date, Jessica comes across some of Ned’s client files and discovers that Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules knew each other before they started subbing at SVMS – they’re currently going through a divorce.

She tells Ned, who breaks attorney-client privilege to tell her that the two teachers probably shouldn’t get a divorce. They fight because they’re competitive with each other, but they don’t have any issues that they couldn’t resolve. The fact that their last straw was a fight over a bowling match makes me think that they’re not mature enough for this kind of committed relationship, but what do I know?

Jessica takes this new information to Cammi and Randy, getting them to agree that they need to use the teachers’ competitive nature to their advantage. If they each think the other is beloved by the students, they’ll try harder to be nicer. This actually makes so much sense that I’m surprised Jessica came up with it. Unfortunately, the Matchketeers don’t get to put their new plan into action. Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman hear them plotting and call them out.

The good news is that the teachers admit that they’ve been letting their personal problems affect their teaching, and they need to stop. They punish Jessica by making her write a 10- to 12-page paper about why you shouldn’t meddle in people’s lives (which is way over the top), but they allow Cammi and Randy to make up the assignments they got bad grades on.

All of the Matchketeers’ work amounts to nothing, however: The third student, who goes to a school in Big Mesa, wins Scholar of the Semester. Fortunately, Mr. Clark decides to reward Randy and Cammi’s hard work by giving the sixth grade a day off anyway. And at the picnic, the two nerds admit their feelings to each other, wrapping up that barely-there subplot. They give Jessica a Certificate of Excellence to thank her for helping them out. So Jessica will mostly likely take that as a sign that she needs to meddle in people’s lives more often.

Thoughts: No one mentions that if Cammi and Randy’s poor grades would knock them out of the running for Scholar of the Semester, someone else from SVMS would move into the running. The competition isn’t for students with perfect GPAs, just the students with the highest averages. If Elizabeth was taken out by one B, Cammi and Randy’s F’s should bump her up to the top. Eh, whatever.

Randy: “If I don’t get my average back above a C soon, I can forget about being valedictorian of Sweet Valley High.” Jessica: “Randy, that’s like five years from now. At least.” Maybe a few more for you, Jess.

Jessica: “Randy won’t even know what hit him when you show up at school tomorrow, looking gorgeous.” Cammi: “I don’t want to hit him.” Seriously, Cammi?

Not only does Ned break attorney-client privilege, but he also thinks Jessica will keep what he told her secret. In related news, Ned is new here.

“She’d been making notes for over two hours, but so far she hadn’t come up with a good reason not to interfere in other people’s lives.” It’s official: Jessica never learns anything.

October 3, 2017

SVT #107, The Twins Hit Hollywood: That’s Show Business, Baby

Posted in books tagged at 5:05 pm by Jenn

Next, turn the scissors on those horrible denim outfits, please

Summary: A casting agent who saw the twins in their Corny O’s commercial thinks they would be perfect for an upcoming movie. They head to L.A. and discover that they’re up against a number of pairs of twins. No one will tell them what the roles are or even what the movie is about. No parents are present. The whole thing is completely ridiculous, and not even in a good way.

One pair of twins is so determined to land the roles that they sabotage the other girls. They cut one girl’s hair so she and her twin won’t be identical anymore, and so they won’t keep landing shampoo commercials. Another pair of twins, Tammy and Louise Parker, kind of laugh this off, since it’s show business and that’s just how things go. Elizabeth is understandably anxious about getting too deep in this, but there’s no way Jessica’s going to let her walk away now.

The Pearsons (the twins who were recently rendered unidentical) show up to the next round of auditions with new haircuts, still in it to win it. Because the movie will include at least one musical number, the girls all have to sing and dance in their auditions. One of the Pearsons keeps getting in Elizabeth’s way to make her look bad. But then she loses a contact lens, rendering herself and her twin unidentical again while also screwing up her vision, which interferes with her dancing. Karma must be smiling on the Wakefield twins, because the Pearsons get cut.

It comes down to the Wakefields and the Parkers, and the girls start fighting dirty. Steven has a cold, so the girls send him to sneeze on the Parkers and get them sick. (Dude, germ warfare! Not cool!) This doesn’t work. The Wakefields receive a gift basket, supposedly from their agency, and when Jessica uses the shampoo it includes, she gets tar in her hair. A hairstylist is able to get it out, so the two sets of twins are tied at 0 to 0 for successful schemes.

The Wakefields send the Parkers fake script pages, making them think they’re doing scenes where they have to scream. Their hope is that the Parkers will lose their voice before the final auditions. The studio sends real pages, though, so the Parkers figure out the deception. The Parkers somehow set up a stereo playing a tape of fighting cats outside the Wakefields’ house so the twins won’t be able to sleep. That’s…creative, I guess, but pretty weak.

The night before the last audition, Jessica and Elizabeth can’t sleep, so they watch a movie on TV. They quickly realize that it stars the Parker twins (playing the same role), and that they’re really good actresses. The Wakefields actually praise the Parkers at the audition the next day, but in the process, the crew realizes that the Parkers couldn’t be 12, since they were 12 when the movie was made four years ago. The girls admit to being 16, which means they’re too old for this movie. They’re cut, and Jess and Liz are in the film.

Jessica is ecstatic to learn that the movie stars her favorite actress, Connie Bryant. It’s set in World War II, and Jess and Liz play Connie’s twin sisters, who want to perform with her in a USO show. Connie turns out to be a complete diva who’s horrible to everyone and wants to make sure she’s always the focus on screen. She gets the twins written out of scenes, makes them dye their hair brown, and holds up production by throwing tantrums and making various changes. The studio can’t do anything since Connie owns 51% of the movie, and it’s only getting made because of her. To add insult to injury, the twins have to do their schoolwork on set, which Jess hates. They don’t have time to see their friends.

The twins would love to quit, even if it means giving up their chance at a big break. Their contract prevents that, though, and they realize that the only way to get out of doing the movie is to have Connie send them away. The twins have befriended the film’s writer, who hates the changes Connie’s made to the script, and she helps them get Connie to believe that 12-year-old twins are too cute and would upstage her through the whole movie. Instead, she needs twins like the Parkers. Thus, the Wakefields are released from their contract and get revenge on the Parkers all at once. At some point in the future, the twins see the movie in a theater and discover that their characters were written out anyway, so they basically saved themselves a lot of torture with nothing to show for it.

Thoughts: Why would you audition for a role you know nothing about? You could end up doing something really embarrassing.

My imagination cast Sarah Paulson as Connie, not because I think she’s a diva but because I think she could pull off the character’s over-the-topness.

The executive producer tells Jessica she’s attractive, so now I have to go throw up.

One of the twins’ outfits in the movie is matching white velvet sailor suits. Let me repeat that: WHITE. VELVET. SAILOR SUITS.

September 26, 2017

SVT #106, Breakfast of Enemies: Cereal Killers

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Whoever wrote the blurb here didn’t read the book

Summary: Jessica and Lila entered a magazine contest in hopes of being chosen for California Girl‘s real-girl feature. Lila is picked but Jessica isn’t. The Unicorns are ecstatic that one of them will be in a national magazine, but Jess finds it hard to be happy for her friend. No surprise there. She sees an ad about a casting call seeking twins for a commercial filming nearby and decides that this is how she’ll get the attention she so desperately wants. (Has Jess ever wanted something in a way that couldn’t be described as “desperate”?)

Elizabeth isn’t on board right away, but Jessica convinces her that she can use the money she makes from the commercial to buy stuff for The Sixers. This is so fitting – Jess wants to be in the commercial so she’ll be famous and more popular than Lila, while Liz is only up for it because she can do something nice for other people. That’s it, that’s the whole series.

Next, Ned and Alice need convincing. They’re very wary that, like other times in the past when the girls have had to work together, they’ll end up fighting instead. They agree that the twins can audition if they show they can get along. So the twins go above and beyond to prove that they’re able to cooperate. They even take advantage of Steven’s constant teasing to back each other up and defend each other. Ned and Alice know it’s all an act, but it’s better than hearing them fight, so they give them the green light to audition.

Jessica screws up the singing part of the audition (they commercial is for Corny O’s cereal, and they have to sing a jingle), but the twins get the part anyway. They’ll be sharing one role to work with child-labor laws. Apparently, in this universe, the twins never appeared in a movie, as this concept is brand-new to them. Ned signs the twins’ contract, but it doesn’t seem like the twins have to have a parent or guardian on set with them while filming, so I guess the ghostwriter only read up on some aspects of child-labor laws.

Jessica, because she’s Jessica, wants to start spreading the word at school that she’s going to be getting her big break in a commercial. Elizabeth thinks they should hold off in case they’re required to do something embarrassing. Jess agrees to keep quiet, but when Lila keeps talking about her awesome magazine photo shoot, Jess snaps and announces that she’s going to be on TV. No one believes her, so she sings the jingle. This backfires, as the new Corny O’s jingle is really…well, corny. Jess goes from potential big star to the laughingstock of SVMS.

Elizabeth hears some kids making fun of the jingle and realizes that Jessica told people about the commercial. They fight, and when Ned and Alice see that they’re not getting along like they promised they would, the girls are threatened with a month’s grounding. They’ll have to keep pretending to be BFFs all through the filming of the commercial.

Jessica sees an interview with her favorite actress, Connie Boyer, who’s a stereotypical Hollywood diva. Jess is inspired, and when she starts working on the commercial, she tries to take control. She thinks she should do the part the way she wants, no matter what the director, Stan, says. Between her showboating and Elizabeth’s wooden delivery, the first day of filming doesn’t produce anything good. The second day doesn’t go any better, and Stan is quickly growing annoyed with Jessica.

Liz has gotten more interested in the commercial, and she’s worried that Jessica will ruin everything for them, so she decides her best option is to keep Jess out of things entirely. Liz locks her in the makeup room, goes to the set as herself, and then pretends to be Jessica when it’s Jess’ turn to perform. Jess gets out of the room and makes accusations against her twin, but no one listens to her.

With only a couple hours left in the filming schedule, both twins are tasked with running through a kind of obstacle course, each being filmed by a different crew at the same time. They’ll use green screens to make it look like the twins are traveling around the world in a race for Corny O’s. The girls start bickering and end up in a serious catfight, destroying the set. Stan fires them, and the twins decide to come up with an excuse for why their commercial will never air.

But when Lila’s magazine profile comes out, there’s a sidebar mentioning the twins’ commercial, so now everyone’s eager to see it. The girls brace themselves for humiliation, but the producers were able to make their catfight look like a battle over Corny O’s. Suddenly the twins are beloved again, and they even get an invitation to go to Hollywood to talk about a movie role. So the lesson here is that even if you massively screw up your job, people will still like you.

The B-plot is like that episode of Friends where Joey tries to find a twin so he can be in a medical study. Steven wants to find a twin so he can do a commercial for Wake Up and Win Flakes. (Are the only commercials available in Sweet Valley for cereal?) He thinks he and Joe can fudge their identicalness enough to fool a casting director, but Joe doesn’t want to participate in this madness. Steven then runs into a guy at the mall who looks a lot like him, but the kid is already a twin, and Danny and Manny appreciate Steven telling them about the audition.

Finally, Steven meets Larry, a new kid at school who looks like him. He talks Larry into auditioning, but they’d be working with Stan, who has just fired the girls and vowed to never work with another Wakefield. There goes Steven’s big break and the payday he was hoping for. The only funny part of the plot is that Danny and Manny get the role Steven wanted, and they never would have known about it if it weren’t for him. Heh.

Thoughts: The ghostwriter seems to think that a couple of no-name 12-year-olds would make a ton of money doing a single commercial. Where is Maria Slater to fact-check this stuff?

Wake Up and Win Flakes? No, thanks.

Jessica, locked in the makeup room: “You’re holding me back as an actor! You’re keeping me from my public!” Heh. That’s such a Jessica thing to say.

September 19, 2017

SVT Super Edition #8, Jessica’s First Kiss: Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Yeah, this didn’t happen

Summary: In the category of Things That Would Never Happen, the whole middle school is going on a mandatory week-long camping trip. I would fake mono or some sort of horrible injury so I wouldn’t have to go. Lila thinks that since they’re staying at a place with “estate” in the title, they’ll basically be at a spa for a week. Elizabeth tells her and Jessica that they’re wrong. Liz, by the way, is super-excited about spending a week in the great outdoors, especially since she’ll get to spend time with Todd. She writes a really bad poem about it, and Jess and Lila find it and tease her. Siblings are the worst.

On the way to the estate, Elizabeth and her dorky friends pass the long bus ride by singing camp songs. The Unicorns are completely over it. Liz tries to flirt a little with Todd, bringing up the possibility of going on a private nature walk together. Jess tries to do the same with Aaron, but he’s the epitome of a middle-school boy in this book and doesn’t get it. Aaron just keeps talking about bears, so Jessica hopes he gets eaten by one. Spoiler alert: Before long, the reader will have the same hope.

The first night of the trip, Aaron wakes everyone up by yelling that he saw a bear. A new student named Dennis Asher calls him on his prank, kicking off a rivalry between the two of them. Aaron’s the real idiot, though, since Bruce accidentally cuts a hole in their tent while trying to run to safety, and when it rains later in the night, Aaron gets soaked. He deserves it.

The Unicorns are miserable on the trip; they’re not allowed to have any electric beauty products with them, so their hair goes uncurled, and the showers smell of sulfur, so they don’t want to get in them. Aaron tries to pull his bear prank again, this time on Jessica, and she decides she’s through with their near-relationship. When she meets Dennis, she decides she’s ready to move on to a new guy. Too bad her unshowered, unprimped appearance is leaving her looking like a mess.

Though the kids are expected to take classes (such as learning about the history of the estate) or participate in athletic or craft activities during the day, the rest of the experience is a lot like summer camp. They have campfires every night, and at one, Winston tells a story about a pair of twins who were in love with the same man. They flipped a coin to decide who should be with him, but then the twin who lost murdered the twin who won and took her place. Was her name Margo? Aaron annoys everyone by pretending again that he saw a bear. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of adult supervision on this trip, and Aaron doesn’t suffer any consequences for pulling the same trick over and over.

Inspired by Winston’s story and the fact that April Fools’ Day is coming up, Jessica decides to pull her own twin switch in order to win over Dennis. Elizabeth is looking much cleaner and more attractive than her sister, so Jess wants to make Dennis fall for her, thinking she’s Jess and the dirty twin is Liz. Then when they get back to civilization, Jess will pretend she was the clean one all along. She signs up for the same activity as Dennis, pretending to be Liz, and chats with him a little. She warns him that her sister likes to play tricks, so if he addresses her as Jessica, she’ll say she’s really Elizabeth.

Indeed, Dennis sees Liz elsewhere and calls her Jess, confusing her. Jessica, pretending to be Elizabeth, encourages him to get to know her better, then makes sure Todd is off somewhere else so he can’t interfere. She also tells Dennis, who’s noticed “Jessica” with Todd, that Todd isn’t anyone to worry about. Jess convinces Dennis that “Jessica” likes him, but then Liz starts to put everything together. She tells Todd, and they decide to mess with Jessica for pulling a twin switch.

Liz flirts with Dennis, then gives him half of a maple leaf; if he’s ever uncertain which twin he’s talking to, he can just ask if she has the other half. She starts laying it on thick, saying she wants to spend tons of time together. Jessica gets sick and is sent home early, but Aaron doesn’t know; every time he sees Elizabeth with Dennis, he thinks she’s Jess. He’s jealous and mad that she’s spending time with a guy he doesn’t like. Aaron confronts Dennis, who tells him that Jessica should be allowed to choose which guy she wants to be with. What a concept!

Jessica’s better by Saturday, when everyone comes home from camp (which also happens to be April Fools’ Day). She gets all glammed up and goes to school to welcome everyone home. Dennis now thinks Jessica is Elizabeth, and since it’s April Fool’s Day, he doesn’t believe Jess when she claims it’s really her. He asks for her half of the maple leaf, and when she doesn’t produce it, he goes to Liz. Liz doesn’t produce it either, so Dennis decides he’s done with Wakefields. Smart boy.

Aaron comes to the Wakefields’ house and apologizes to Jessica for not being nicer to her on the trip. Jess realizes that Liz inadvertently did her a favor by hanging out with Dennis, since it made Aaron jealous. Aaron kisses Jessica, giving her the first kiss in the book’s title. I hope she was still contagious.

The Unicorns spend the whole book complaining about camping. Eventually Lila decides to call her father to send a limo and retrieve all the Unicorns. The camp director, Mrs. Sanchez, doesn’t care who she is or who her father is; she can’t use the phone unless there’s an emergency. The girls decide to fake an illness so they’ll be sent home, but when they can’t get their stories straight about their symptoms, the camp nurse again rebuffs them. Next they try to use ESP to contact their parents. Then they stage a fight so they’ll get kicked out. Instead, they’re forced to clean a grease trap in the kitchen.

The Unicorns decide to just leave camp and try to hitchhike back to civilization. They plan to leave after a campfire one night, but Aaron and Winston pull the bear trick again (sigh), telling a story about a ghost bear, which Aaron pretends to be. The girls are too spooked to venture off in the woods alone. When they attempt to leave the next day, Aaron spots them, follows them, and sees a real bear. He has to climb a tree to get away from it. The Unicorns get spooked and head back to camp, forced to suffer through the rest of the week. Aaron spends the night in the tree because no one believed he was really in danger from a bear. Ha!

Thoughts: I didn’t realize Jessica hadn’t had her first kiss yet. This means, amazingly, Elizabeth has surpassed her in this area.

If my friends started singing “Old MacDonald” on a bus full of middle-shoolers, I would just assume I’d died and this was my personal Hell.

Janet: “If you don’t mind, Jessica, some of us are trying to send ESP messages to our parents?” Snort.

September 12, 2017

SVT #105, Jessica’s Lucky Millions: Jessica Is Officially a Golddigger

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:58 pm by Jenn

Uh, guys? The rainbow’s over there

Summary: After watching a movie about people winning big in Vegas, Jessica becomes interested in the idea of becoming rich without having to, like, work. Dare to dream, Jess. She considers playing the lottery, but since she’s only 12, that’s probably a long shot. She then thinks about learning some casino games, and she asks Steven to help her out, but he throws her dice out the window, which cracked me up.

The twins have been studying Irish folklore and history, and when Jessica gets caught daydreaming in class (now she wants to win money in a sweepstakes), she’s assigned to write an essay about the legend of the pot of gold. Jessica spends more time whining about this and the fact that it’ll keep her from hanging out with her new crush, Rick Hunter, than it would take her to actually write the essay. But then she realizes that if the legend is true, and she can find a pot of gold, she’ll become super-rich. She gets Lila interested, since Lila’s father has just denied her request for an expensive leather jacket – if Lila has gold, she can buy whatever she wants.

Steven overhears the girls plotting and tells them he found an old map inside a book. He gives just enough detail to make Jessica think that the map will lead to a pot of gold. She steals the map and tells Liz that she plans to use it to find her fortune. Elizabeth points out that since it’s Steven’s map, he should be involved, but since he’s been a jerk lately, he doesn’t deserve it.

During the unit on Irish history and stories, Elizabeth has found her new favorite writer, Maggie Sullivan. She wants to turn one of Maggie’s stories into a play. It’s called Fool’s Paradise, and it’s about a couple who move from Ireland to America together, then get separated and realize they’ve lost everything. Cheery! Liz learns that Maggie moved to Southern California, so she puts in a request with some writers’ association for Maggie to call her. Steven pretends to be Maggie and gets Liz’s hopes up that the writer wants to meet her. For once in her life, Elizabeth wants revenge.

Jessica and Lila determine that the gold is buried at Sunset Beach (wasn’t that a soap in the ’90s?). Yes, it just so happens to be in Sweet Valley. When Liz and Amy look at the map, Liz realizes that Steven made it and is just messing with Jess. Jess and Lila are in denial, and the subsequent fight makes Elizabeth want revenge on another sibling. She and Amy bury some stuff at the beach to mess with Jessica and Lila, then amuse themselves by watching the girls dig up what they don’t realize is nothing special.

Jess and Lila dig up Liz’s key and a rock she’s labeled the Blarney stone. Cut to Lila making out with a rock. After they have to go home for the night, Liz tells Steven where he can find the treasure. When Jessica and Lila go back to finish their dig, Steven shows up as well. The dig continues, and Elizabeth is stunned when Jessica finds a purple bag. The bag contains a gold necklace inscribed with a love note from Patrick to Maggie, and a card with Maggie Sullivan’s address.

Steven, Jessica, and Lila go to Maggie’s house the next day to give her back her necklace. She tells them she lost it years ago and thought she’d never see it again). Jessica and Steven didn’t want Liz to come along, since they’re mad at her, but when she shows up, having followed them, they want her to meet the writer she admires so much. Maggie gives them each a gold coin, which she says will bring the kids good luck. They do, but it’s little stuff like a date with Rick, so I’m not sure we can credit that to the coins.

Thoughts: “Did they have malls in Paris? Jessica wondered.” I don’t think Lila would go there if they didn’t.

Speaking of Lily, I really doubt she has Doc Martens.

If Maggie’s so famous (there are pictures of her with celebrities in her house), how did no one know she lived in Sweet Valley? Why do so many famous people end up there anyway?

September 5, 2017

SVT #104, Big Brother’s in Love Again: More Like Big Bother

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 4:55 pm by Jenn

This is perfect

Summary: Steven has been happily dating Cathy for a while now, but when Joe starts talking about how being single allows him to date multiple girls, Steven starts to regret tying himself down (his words, not mine). Cathy probably has the same regrets when he starts acting jerky, making decisions about the movie they’re seeing and not sharing his popcorn with her. Some popular guys are at the movie theater, and Steven is pumped when a senior named Richard Ferris says hi to him. He’s so pumped that he ditches Cathy and sits with Ferris and his friends. He figures Cathy’s fine because some friends have joined her.

Jill Hale is also hanging out with the popular kids, and Steven’s crush on her suddenly returns. Cathy and her friends leave (we find out later that they went to another movie), so Steven is alone when Ferris invites him to come get pizza with the popular guys. Jill isn’t interested, so Steven invites her to get burgers and go roller-skating. Everyone thinks Steven is dating Cathy, but he says they’re just friends. Not great friends, apparently, since he ditches her twice, once during the movie and then afterwards to go off with Jill. I hope she got another ride home.

At the Dairi Burger, Jill orders a salad and water. Because she’s a girl, you know. Steven decides he’s too good of a guy to cheat on Cathy, so he calls her and breaks up with her over the phone. Cathy barely responds, so I’m guessing that she’s mad enough to realize she’s better off without him. Steven is ready to have some alone time with Jill, but she turns out to be incredibly vapid. At this point, this is exactly what Steven deserves, but he doesn’t get that yet.

Steven and Jill go skating and run into Cathy, who’s come with her friends and doesn’t look the least bit upset about being dumped minutes earlier. Steven thinks she’s masking her pain over their breakup. He “apologizes” to her, saying that he wishes there were two of him so Cathy wouldn’t have to suffer being without him. He basically says that the breakup hurts him as much as it hurts her. Cathy again barely responds, because she is a normal human being, unlike this weird alien who’s just done her the favor of dumping her.

Joe learns of Steven and Cathy’s breakup and asks Steven if he can go out with Cathy. Steven doesn’t think Cathy will return his affections, so he gives his blessing. He goes out with Jill, who continues to be superficial and uninteresting. He starts to doubt his decision to choose her over Cathy, but stops immediately when the popular guys show up. He’d rather be bored with Jill and get the approval of the popular guys than be “tied down” to Cathy.

When Steven sees Cathy and Joe together at school, he still thinks Cathy is just trying to ease her pain over their breakup. He goes to her house after school to tell her he’ll take her to an upcoming Valentine’s Day street dance, since he’d promised to, and I guess he still thinks he’s noble and respectable enough to keep his word. Cathy tells him she already has a date – Joe. Steven’s hurt and tries to get sympathy from the twins, who point out that he caused all his own problems by breaking up with Cathy.

Steven makes a deal with the twins to help them get dates to the dance (more on that in the B-plot) if they help him get back together with Cathy. Their plan involves running into Cathy downtown, and Steven pretending to comfort Jessica over something so Cathy can see what a compassionate, wonderful person he is. But the twins love Cathy and are angry with their brother for the way he’s been treating her, so instead they make him look like even more of a jerk in front of Cathy.

Things get even worse for Steven (but still not as bad as he deserves) when he sees Jill hanging out with Ferris. He mopes about how horrible things are going for him, as if he didn’t put everything in motion. Joe tells him how great things are going with Cathy, and how he’s changed his mind about not wanting to be a one-woman man. Steven lies that Cathy tried to get back together with him. Steven is seriously the hugest jerk in this book, and I hoped it would end with people throwing rotting produce at him.

Joe gets mad about Steven’s claims and goes off to break up with Cathy. Then Jill calls to tell Steven that she’s going to the dance with Ferris, who happens to be her ex. Steven realizes that she was just hanging out with him to make Ferris jealous. He has the nerve to be upset, as if he wasn’t using Jill to get access to the popular crowd. Steven’s whole life has fallen apart (couldn’t happen to a nicer guy), so he makes a new deal with the twins: He’ll get them dates to the dance if they help him get Joe and Cathy back together.

The twins accept, and Steven fulfills his end of the deal, but he learns that they didn’t – Joe and Cathy haven’t reunited. At the dance, Joe’s band plays Steven and Cathy’s song, as requested by the twins and dedicated to the former couple. Cathy asks Steven to dance and reveals that she and Joe were never really dating. They just wanted to make Steven jealous. Somehow, she thinks the experience has made Steven realize that other people have feelings and he needs to respect them. You know, like everyone else learns in kindergarten. For some reason, Cathy wants to get back together. That poor girl.

In the B-plot, the twins are upset that Todd and Aaron are going to an away basketball game and won’t be able to take them to the street dance. The girls think their guys should care more about Valentine’s Day. Jessica learns that one of Steven’s classmates, Pete, has two cousins visiting, and without knowing what they’re like or seeing them for more than a couple seconds, Jessica wants them. She decides to keep their visit quiet so no other girls can call dibs first. She convinces Elizabeth to help her meet the cousins so they can have two cool dates to the dance.

Because they’re 12-year-olds and don’t know how to behave like normal people, the girls stalk the cousins by hiding in the bushes outside their house. They figure eventually the boys will leave the house and the twins can pretend to just be passing by. Janet catches them, and Jessica gets her to leave by telling her that Janet’s crush, Denny, is on his way to the Dairi Burger with another girl. Then the twins learn that the cousins are already at the Dairi Burger.

They rush over and distract Janet from seeing the cousins by telling her that there are roaches in the food, so she has to keep Denny from eating anything. While they’re there, Elizabeth sees the cousins for the first time and agrees that she and Jess are doing the right thing by trying to claim them, because the boys are hot. They lock Janet in a bathroom, but this keeps them from being able to talk to the boys.

The girls go a-stalking again, and Jess has the brilliant idea to try to get them to leave the house by yelling, “Fire!” The boys aren’t home, and everyone in the neighborhood is confused. Even though they’ve never so much as spoken to these guys, Jessica decides to tell everyone that she and Liz have hot dates to the dance. Janet calls her bluff and suggests a bet. If Jess and Liz do show up with hot dates, Janet will tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than Johnny Buck’s. If the twins are lying, they have to come to the dance dressed alike and dance every dance together.

Jessica’s desperate now, so she actually calls up Pete and asks to talk to either of his cousins. Pete couldn’t care less about helping a bunch of middle-schoolers make love connections, and he refuses. The twins next go to his house and pretend they’re polling boys, in hopes that Pete’s mom will bring one of them to the door. She tells them the boys have already gone home.

As mentioned above, Steven offers to get the twins dates with the cousins if they’ll help him get back together with Cathy. Since the twins know that the cousins are gone, they don’t bother helping him out. They’re unable to find other dates, so when Steven presents his second deal to get them dates, they accept. Steven is able to convince Todd and Aaron to skip the basketball game and take the twins to the dance. Apparently they count in the twins’ bet with Janet, so she has to tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than the Buckster’s. Everyone ends the book happy (except Janet, I guess).

Thoughts: I need the ghostwriters to stop inserting “like” and “you know” into so much of the dialogue. It’s, you know, like, really annoying.

Jessica: “You can give a jerk a shower and put him into a clean T-shirt. But it doesn’t change his essential jerkiness.” Truer words were never spoken.

Please keep in mind that when Steven tries to get Cathy back, he’s still dating Jill. Even when he tries to fix a jerk move, he’s still a jerk.

“Through absolutely no fault of his own, he’d lost two girlfriends even though he was one of the coolest dudes he had personally ever met.” Steven needs a psychiatrist.

“In his mind he ticked off the people he’d managed to hurt or let down. Cathy, Joe, the twins. And most of all, himself.” Excuse me? How did Steven hurt himself more than Cathy? This guy is a mess.

August 29, 2017

SVT #103, Elizabeth Solves It All: When You Ask a 12-Year-Old for Advice, You Get What You Pay For

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

Am I crazy or does Liz look like Taylor Swift here?

Summary: Because Elizabeth is so smart and so intuitive and so caring and so helpful and so awesome, she’s going to be writing an advice column for The Sixers. At first, no one cares. Amy and Maria are disappointed, because having an advice column would allow them to enter some magazine contest that could win them desktop publishing software. They write letters to Dear Elizabeth (such an original name!) asking for some minor advice – Amy wants to know what to get her grandmother for her birthday, and Maria wants to know what to wear to a party with some old Hollywood friends.

Knowing exactly who she’s responding to, despite their aliases, Liz tells Amy to buy scrapbooking supplies so she and Grandma Sutton can organize photo albums. She tells Maria to wear her favorite outfit so she’ll feel confident and comfortable. There’s also a third letter from someone who wants to know how to tell his parents he’s responsible enough to get a dog. Elizabeth doesn’t know who this person is.

Liz’s advice to Amy and Maria leads to a successful birthday present and a successful party, respectively. The third letter writer is Denny, who was able to use her advice to convince his parents to let him get a dog. He names the dog Woolly Booger, which would make me change my mind about Denny’s level of responsibility and maturity if he were my kid. Janet mocks Liz for being perfect enough to give others advice, so Maria lies that Liz’s advice to her helped her land a part in a movie, and the advice to Amy made her grandmother so happy that she’s taking her family to Hawaii.

Elizabeth tries her hand at unsolicited advice next, telling Jessica to stop copying Mandy, who’s getting annoyed by it. Jess doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with this sincerest form of flattery, so she tells Elizabeth to stuff it. However, everyone else at SVMS is hungry for Dear Elizabeth’s advice. She’s inundated with letters and becomes obsessed with helping to solve everyone’s problems. She misses classes, forgets her chores and dates with Todd, and can’t think about anything but writing responses to her eager advice-seekers.

Things start to go south. Someone writes in asking how to deal with a friend who’s neglecting her in favor of another friend. Liz advises the writer to make friends with the new friend so all three can hang out together. The writer turns out to be Janet, who’s jealous of all the time Denny spends with his dog. She offers to look after the dog for a while, but Denny’s not as responsible as he led on, and he never comes to get his dog back. Janet eventually takes it to a shelter, where it’s adopted by a family who I desperately hope changes its name.

Mandy’s having a sleepover but can’t invite all the Unicorns because there isn’t enough space in her house. Since Jessica has been bugging her, Mandy’s considering cutting her from the guest list. Dear Elizabeth advises her to only invite who she wants to invite, since it’s her party. This results in Jess losing out on an invitation. Randy writes in asking how he can get money for something or other, and Liz suggests that he start a business venture. Randy bakes cookies, but he doesn’t taste the batch before he tries to sell them, and they’re horrible.

Then Elizabeth’s advice starts affecting those closest to her. Amy can’t get her to talk in person, so she writes for advice about her grandmother (more on that in the B-plot). It goes over badly, and Amy gets mad. Jessica’s even madder when Liz is so preoccupied by her advice-giving that she forgets to tell Jess about a rescheduled test. Jess is upset that her own sister doesn’t have time to talk to her about her problems. Maria finds Elizabeth crying in the bathroom and tries to help her, but the girl who has advice for everyone doesn’t want anyone else’s advice or help.

Everyone’s mad at Liz for giving advice that has ruined their lives. Amy comes to school one morning to find Liz barricaded in the Sixers office, trying to avoid the angry kids outside. Amy tells them all that Elizabeth’s advice was fine; they just made dumb decisions, then blamed her when things went badly. For example, Denny used Liz’s advice to convince his parents he was responsible enough for a dog, but his actions didn’t prove that. Mandy used the advice to trim her guest list, then got mad that Jessica was upset about being cut. (Amy’s very smart here – she points out that you can’t exclude someone and then get mad when that person feels excluded.)

Amy literally tells everyone to grow up, which is awesome, then writes Liz one last letter with her own advice: Ask for help when you need it. Liz takes the advice, and Jessica, Amy, Maria, and Mandy help her get caught up on all the things she hasn’t been doing because she’s been so busy writing letters. Then she ends her advice column, so her classmates will have to go back to making dumb decisions on their own.

In the B-plot, Amy’s grandmother has just moved to Sweet Valley, and she’s a little cranky about it. To be fair, Amy’s parents treat her like a child or like someone who’s incapable of taking care of herself. Amy starts worrying when her grandmother doesn’t buy groceries and forgets to get her medicine from the pharmacy. She thinks Grandma Sutton might not be able to take care of herself after all.

Dear Elizabeth’s advice to Amy is to talk to her grandmother about seeing a psychiatrist. Amy brings up the topic, but Grandma Sutton is offended. Amy’s parents are dismayed when they hear about the conversation – Amy should have come to them instead of suggesting that her grandmother is having mental problems. Eventually Amy tells her grandmother that she’s concerned about her behavior, and Grandma Sutton admits that she just didn’t go to the store or pharmacy because she didn’t know how to get around Sweet Valley, and she didn’t want to ask for help. Sigh. Has she never heard of a cab?

Thoughts: I’m with Amy – Elizabeth didn’t do anything wrong. Her advice was fine, if a little naïve at times. Her job is to give it; she’s not responsible for what happens as a result.

Maria’s outfit for the party may be the most ’90s of any outfit in any series I’ve covered: a sunflower-print dress, a denim vest, and sandals with rope soles. I hop there’s a Blossom-type hat that goes with it.

Sadly, Denny’s dog probably ends up dead, since Janet feeds it a chocolate chip cookie.

August 22, 2017

SVT #102, The Mysterious Dr. Q: As Usual, Bruce Screws Everything Up

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:15 pm by Jenn

I hope Jess hypnotizes Liz into developing a better fashion sense

Summary: Jessica’s excited because a hypnotist is coming to SVMS for an assembly. Elizabeth will be writing a story for The Sixers debunking hypnotism. Meanwhile, Bruce urges Todd to ask her out after Todd admits that he has a crush on her. Also meanwhile, Amy’s mom is doing a news story on female pilots and gives Amy the opportunity to interview a pilot’s daughter. Amy’s thrilled until she learns that the interviews will take place on a helicopter – she’s scared of flying. To her credit, she decides to suck it up and face her fears.

At school, Todd writes Elizabeth a note asking her to a movie. She’s thrilled and immediately finds him and accepts. Everyone goes to the assembly, where the hypnotist, Dr. Q, brings the twins and some other kids on stage for a demonstration. Elizabeth plays along with the hypnosis and wonders if the other volunteers are faking as well, or if Dr. Q really hypnotized them.

Since Lila didn’t get chosen, Jessica suggests that she hypnotize her. She thinks she knows how to do it since she’s seen it done. Yes, and since I’ve watched multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ER, I’m confident that I could remove a ruptured spleen if necessary. Jess tries it out, but it doesn’t work. Wow, what a surprise! Amy’s also disappointed not to be picked, since she was hoping to have Dr. Q hypnotize her to overcome her fear of flying. Throughout the book, Amy is the only person who truly grasps the point of hypnotism.

Bruce asks Elizabeth to a movie, and, of course, she turns him down. She goes to interview Dr. Q for The Sixers, and Amy and Jessica crash the meeting, Jess so she can learn about hypnosis and Amy so she can be hypnotized. Dr. Q warns Jessica that she shouldn’t mess around with hypnosis. She explains the practice to Elizabeth, who still thinks it’s a scam.

Jessica decides to prove Liz wrong by hypnotizing her and some of their friends – Lila, Amy, Janet, and Bruce. Bruce disrupts the process by listening to a baseball game and talking out loud about the Twins and certain plays. Jess tries to ignore him as she hypnotizes Janet and Amy to overcome their fear of spiders, and makes Lila quack whenever she sees the principal, Mr. Clark. As she’s trying to hypnotize Elizabeth into adoring her, someone yells at Bruce.

Thanks to the distractions and Bruce’s comments about the game, Amy and Janet end up thinking they’re identical twins, Elizabeth falls in love with Bruce, and Lila starts calling the principal Mr. Quack. Jessica’s thrilled. Todd, not so much – now Elizabeth wants to go to a movie with Bruce instead. Todd gets Jess to go to the movie with him so they can spy on the new couple. They end up getting kicked out when Todd dumps food on Bruce just as he’s about to kiss Liz.

Amy and Janet are suddenly BFFs, constantly talking about how much they love being twins and the awesome parts of their shared childhood. I don’t know how that’s possible, since it’s not like Jessica planted false memories in them, but okay. Lila and Jessica both get in trouble when Lila keeps quacking at Mr. Clark. Elizabeth isn’t sure why she’s suddenly into Bruce, or why she even wants to hang out with him, but she just goes with it.

Jessica realizes that everything’s backfired and she needs to fix it. She calls Dr. Q and begs for her help, then gathers everyone for another hypnosis session. This time Steven’s watching baseball, and the game again interferes with Jessica’s efforts. Everyone hears her yelling at Steven to turn the volume back to normal, then telling him to forget all about baseball. When her hypnosis subjects awaken, they’re back to their usual selves, but they don’t know what baseball is.

Dr. Q arrives and saves the day. She restores everyone’s memories of baseball and hypnotizes Amy to not be afraid of flying. Elizabeth is now over Bruce (and even dumps a milkshake on him to prove it) and back with Todd. Janet and Amy hate each other again. And Amy’s able to do her interview without any fear. Thanks, Dr. Q! Sorry Jessica is such an idiot!

Thoughts: Who approved an assembly with a hypnotist? No parents had objections?

Todd gets 5 points for deciding that “cad” is the best word to describe Bruce, but he loses them for shouting at him that he hopes Liz turns into a pumpkin, which makes no sense.

Ellen, to Amy and Janet when they won’t shut up about being twins: “Hey, guys, like, nobody cares.” Turns out Ellen’s good for something after all.

I wish it had turned out that no one was really hypnotized and everyone was just messing with Jessica.

August 15, 2017

SVT #101, Twins in Love: Putting the “Dude” in Dude Ranch

Posted in books tagged , , , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

Purple jeans, everyone. Purple. Jeans

Summary: The Wakefields are going on vacation to a dude ranch. Has anyone ever been to a dude ranch in real life? All my knowledge of them comes from books and Hey Dude. Hilariously, the ranch is called the Triple Z, but no one ever makes the obvious comment that that means ZZZ, as in snoring. The owners should have run that by a marketing team. Anyway, Elizabeth is excited to ride horses, while Jessica is excited to…I was going to say ride boys, but this is Sweet Valley. She wants to find a cute guy and get a peck on the cheek.

When the Wakefields arrive at the ranch, everyone makes a big deal out of the fact that the girls are twins. I can imagine that that gets old really fast for identical twins. The family gets right to horseback-riding, and Jessica gets right to boy-watching. Elizabeth is, surprisingly, the twin who meets a cute guy first, but Jess follows shortly after. They soon realize that they’ve fallen for the same guy. They fight about it, then decide to let the guy pick which one of them he likes more. (Please note that at this point, neither of them even knows the guy’s name.)

The twins both run into their dream guy, Nick, and basically have a shoving match right in front of him. Nick does not immediately peace out and avoid them for the rest of his vacation. Instead, he introduces them to his brother Chris. His identical twin brother. In fact, the girls didn’t even fall for the same guy at the same time – Jess fell for Chris and Liz fell for Nick.

The two sets of twins go riding together, and both pairs hit it off. We learn that the boys always wear different brands of shoes, and Chris is right-handed while Nick is left-handed. The new lovebirds all have dinner together. Elizabeth tells them that she and Jess can be told apart by different hairstyles and the fact that Liz wears a watch while Jess doesn’t. Jess snarks that, in addition, she has fashion sense while Liz doesn’t. (This reminds me of The Parent Trap: “I have class and you don’t.”)

As dinner progresses, the girls start to think they’ve fallen for the wrong guys. For instance, Nick keeps doing a Jim Carrey impression. Liz, I feel your pain. The girls separately wonder if they should swap guys. The next day, when Jessica encounters Nick, she tells him she’s Elizabeth. Liz does the same with Chris, then flips out when she learns that Jess impersonated her. Then the girls realize the situation is actually kind of funny, and they agree to pull a twin switch with the guys.

On the kids’ next double date, the girls aren’t any more interested in their new guys than they were in their old ones. Liz sees Chris – or the guy she thinks is Chris – waving with his left hand and thinks that the boys also pulled a twin switch. The girls switch back to themselves, but the guys seem to also switch back as well. The girls keep running to the bathroom to switch outfits, eventually ending up wearing the wrong shoes, though the guys don’t seem to notice.

For their next double date, Jess suggests that she and Liz dress the same to make switching easier. This works well enough to fool Alice, which doesn’t surprise me at all. A problem arises when the girls go on a ride and are given each other’s horses. Liz’s horse isn’t a big Jessica fan and ends up throwing her off. The guys figure out that the girls lied to them and huff off, claiming they never pulled a switch. Which I guess just means that neither guy is that interesting and the girls shouldn’t be with them.

Before the Wakefields leave the ranch, the guys come to make up with the girls…and reveal that they did, in fact, switch. So their anger at the girls is unfounded, since they pulled the same stunt. But it turns out that the twins pulled one last swap for their final meeting. Too bad they’ve wound up with the guys they don’t like, so they didn’t really accomplish anything.

The B-plot is boring and dumb, though I guess that’s not much different from the rest of the book. Steven wants to win a horse race at the end of the week, so he asks to spend the week riding a horse named Rocket that used to compete in derbies. He realizes too late that Rocket hasn’t competed in a long time and is nowhere near as fast as she used to be. Steven decides not to bother with the race, but then Rocket gets stung by a bee and takes off, accidentally winning the race. The prize is a hat. Yeehaw.

Thoughts: The ghostwriter severely overestimates any preteen girl’s interest in any plotline involving Steven.

Chris slices his Jell-o into 16ths and eats it with a fork. I think that’s a sign that he’s a future serial killer.

Jessica’s favorite color is pink, not purple. What would Janet say??

Speaking of purple, I don’t buy that Elizabeth has purple jeans. Maybe I’m just in denial that purple jeans exist.

Next page