January 17, 2017
Summary: Jessica has recently started to think that a 12-year-old boy might not make the best boyfriend. Aaron Dallas may be cool and popular, but he’s not exactly mature. She tries to avoid him in the cafeteria, getting delayed by Elizabeth, who’s trying to find a tutor for Amy. Jess suggests that she run an ad in the Sixers. She’s unable to run off before Aaron can reach her, so she agrees to go get ice cream with him after school. But he’s childish, ordering bubblegum ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, and wearing a Donald Duck shirt. They have a fight about how she’s snobby and he’s immature, and that’s it for their relationship.
Going off of Jess’ suggestion to run an ad in the paper, Elizabeth comes up with the idea to start a Classified section. Jessica decides to run an ad looking for a date to a party at Rick Hunter’s house. Liz balks at running it, since she wants the Sixers to be a serious paper, like The New York Times. (No, seriously, she makes that comparison. I don’t think the Times prints cafeteria menus, though.) But Jets gets her way, of course.
The ad gets Jess a few responses, including one from a high schooler who says Johnny Buck is his cousin. Jess is naïve enough to believe that, as well as believe that a guy old enough to drive is looking for a 12-year-old girlfriend. She goes to meet him at the Dairi Burger, but it turns out to be Steven pulling a prank. Still, there are some guys at SVMS who are interested in Jessica, or at least her personal-ad persona, Gorgeous Blond.
Lila’s having guy problems of her own now, as Jake forgot their one-month anniversary. I didn’t realize they were officially dating. He probably didn’t either, which explains not acknowledging their anniversary. Jess suggests that Lila write a personal ad, too, keeping quiet the fact that she wrote the first one. After they write Lila’s ad, she tells Janet, and suddenly a bunch of girls at SVMS want to find new guys.
Suddenly the Sixers is super-popular, though not for the reasons Elizabeth would prefer. Everyone’s reading the paper just for the Classified section, which is now mostly the Personals section. She’s also annoyed that Amy ran an ad, and they fight about it. The only good thing she has going for her right now is that Todd has no interest in running an ad or finding a new girlfriend.
Unimpressed with the guys who responded to her ad, Jessica reads the other ads and comes across Athletic Guy. He likes pineapple pizza and roller coasters, just like she does. She writes him a letter but doesn’t get a response. She’s disappointed until she realizes that she didn’t give him the number of her response box, so he couldn’t write her back. Instead, he places a new ad asking for her contact info.
The two start writing each other like this is You’ve Got Mail, and Jess is smitten. A bunch of other girls who wrote ads have also made new love connections, and with Rick’s party coming up, they all decide to meet there for their first official dates. The only pair not going on a blind date to the party is Elizabeth and Todd. Liz is also happy because she’s turned the Classified/Personals section into a profit center. Charging people $1 to place an ad, the Sixers makes about $200.
Athletic Guy shows up to the Wakefields’ house to get Jessica for the party, and she’s floored to see that he’s Aaron. He, like Tom Hanks, already figured out who she was but didn’t say anything. Jessica, like Meg Ryan, is glad he’s Athletic Guy. They’ve learned a bunch about each other, and I guess now their relationship is going to be fine. They even skip the party so they can get pineapple pizza together.
This was probably a good idea, since the party isn’t great. All the new couples are complete mismatches, like Janet and Ken, Sophia and Rick, and Ellen and nerdy Donald Zwerdling. Everyone quickly realizes that they were happier with their original people. So the paper made $200 while everyone went back to relationships they were already in. I think Elizabeth comes out on top here.
Thoughts: Please enjoy the song stylings of Mr. Johnny Buck:
“Bringin’ me down
Bringin’ me up
Rockin’ me round
Just like a pup
She’s my roller coaster baby
My roller coaster gal
See if you can catch her
My roller coaster pal.”
Everyone gets pretty dressed up for a party at a teenage boy’s house. These kids go to parties practically every week; they can’t consider this a special occasion.
Mandy: “How did you come up with the name Awesome Dude?” Jake: “It fit me.” Mandy: “Oh. I should have known.” For some reaso, that cracked me up.
November 15, 2016
Summary: Soccer has become a big deal at SVMS, especially since the boys have just qualified for division A. (Apparently this means they’re really good.) As boys try out for the team, they dedicate their goals to the girls they like. I had no idea this was a thing. Jessica’s excited that Aaron might make a goal and dedicate it to her. Considering how low-scoring soccer games can be, she may have to wait a while.
Elizabeth isn’t having such a great day – she wrote an article for the Sixers about two boys being kicked out of a new sweet shop, and the shop owner, Mrs. Simmons, is upset that she wasn’t interviewed. The article said that the boys were turned away because Mrs. Simmons doesn’t like kids, but she claims it’s because they started a food fight the last time they were there. Elizabeth is embarrassed, and Mr. Bowman is unhappy with her failure to get both sides of the story.
At the scrimmage that serves as tryouts for the soccer team, Aaron dedicates two goals to Jessica. The Unicorns fawn all over her, except Lila, who’s jealous. Janet thinks Denny Jacobson is going to dedicate a goal to her, but he gives a shout-out to his English teacher instead, since he failed a test last week. Heh. Jess thinks Elizabeth should write an article about Aaron and the goals, though of course it should focus on Jess rather than Aaron’s accomplishments. Liz knows better than to write something stupid just to boost her sister’s ego, but at least she can hide behind the excuse of journalistic integrity.
Jess watches an interview with her favorite actress, Lois Latimer, who’s really into activism. She encourages kids to get involved in good causes because doing so makes people beautiful. Jess realizes how many protests her parents were involved in back in college, and starts to think that activism really does make you more attractive. You know, like how all the people who marched for Civil Rights woke up the next morning with magically clearer skin.
Liz writes a correction piece to retract what she reported about the boys at the sweet shop. But she’s in for another embarrassment, as she accidentally publishes a version where Amy added a line about the boys being jerks for lying to Liz about the reason for their banishment. Liz is in trouble with Mr. Bowman again. Doesn’t he read the paper before it’s published? Later, it turns out that Mrs. Simmons mistook the two boys for two other troublemakers, so their banishment was based on mistaken identity. Maybe she should just require all kids in her shop to be chaperoned. Anyway, the whole thing is a mess, and everyone’s upset with Elizabeth for not covering all the angles of the story.
The students receive some bad news: The school’s soccer field is a few yards too short for regulation size, which means they can’t compete in division A after all. No other fields nearby are available, and expanding the field would cost $5,000, so the season is effectively cancelled. Can’t they just compete in division B instead? Whatever. The kids take a shot at fundraising, but since they only have a week to make the money (for some reason), they only get $1,767. Lila gets her father to make up the difference, so she gets all the credit for the fundraising, even though Jessica gave an impassioned motivational speech. The boys on the team decide to dedicate all of that season’s goals to Lila.
Jess gets depressed about the turn of events – the students got what they wanted, but they’re not paying attention to her. Sadly, Lois Latimer doesn’t show up to tell Jess to suck it up because activism isn’t about getting praise. Jess just spends the afternoon in the woods by the soccer field, crying to a bird that she thinks is sympathetic but that’s probably just waiting for Jess to feed it.
Elizabeth takes Jess with her to an interview with an engineer who will be working on the enlargement of the soccer field. She tells them that some trees will have to be bulldozed to make room. Jessica then goes with Liz to the Nature Society to learn more about the trees. (Elizabeth is obsessed with covering every single angle of the story. She’ll probably interview the birds about how they feel about their trees being taken away.) A man named Bill tells the twins that knocking down trees isn’t the greatest idea. Some trees in the area are 400 years old, and should be put ahead of expanding a soccer field.
Jess, feeling lonely and unappreciated, grabs a hold of this idea. She thinks the enlargement of the field should be stopped so the trees aren’t disturbed. She tells Elizabeth to say so in her article, but Elizabeth wants to just present facts and let the readers decide for themselves what they want. So Jessica starts recruiting her own little band of environmentalists and starts a movement to stop the expansion of the field. They only have a week to get out the word, so they get right to work.
Aaron is surprised that Jess is suddenly against the soccer field. After all, there are plenty of other trees around; cutting a few down isn’t going to hurt anything. He takes it personally that Jess wants to keep him from playing soccer. The Unicorns are also unhappy with Jess (and Mandy, to a lesser extent, since she’s on Jess’ side); they want to keep watching cute guys play soccer. Janet tells Jessica and Mandy to pick the Unicorns or the trees. The girls pick the trees, even picking up another supporter when Mary decides to join their cause.
By this point, pretty much everyone at SVMS has chosen a side except Elizabeth and Todd. Elizabeth is refraining from making a decision on the issue so she can continue to remain objective in her articles. Todd just hasn’t made up his mind yet. Both sides are getting ugly, calling each other “tree killers” and “tree huggers.” They protest on school property and get threatened with suspension for not being civil to each other. Jessica almost gets in trouble for announcing that they refuse to negotiate.
Aaron tries to make up with Jessica, but it’s really so she’ll back down and let the field expansion go forward. She’s so sure she’s on the right side that she refuses to compromise or admit that she’s done anything wrong. Aaron thinks she’s acting out because Lila got all the glory for the fundraising. Jessica insists that she really does want to save the trees. They’re at a stalemate.
Elizabeth interviews some students and teachers for her article on the whole fiasco. Randy Mason helped with the fundraising for the field, but now that he knows the trees are 400 years old, he thinks they should be protected. Rick Hunter points out that 400 years isn’t very long when you consider how old the world is, so they can sacrifice some trees to enlarge the field. A teacher tells Elizabeth she’s for saving the trees because she likes nature, and somehow Liz interprets this as her wanting to side with her friends, which she and Todd had agreed was a bad idea.
The only thing everyone can agree on at this point is that Elizabeth should be on their side. They want her to write articles supporting their opinions rather than just presenting the issue in a straightforward manner. Mr. Bowman finally tells Liz that she needs to put stories in the paper that express people’s passion over the situation. She gets Jessica and Aaron to write editorials and publishes them next to each other. Everyone’s mad about that, too, since Liz still hasn’t backed one side over the other.
There’s a protest outside Casey’s, I guess because the kids got in trouble for protesting at school, and it ends with yelling and everyone getting kicked out. Todd gets booted, even though he wasn’t involved in the protest, and he tells Liz he’s now against both sides. I can’t believe Todd makes it through this book without getting beaten up.
After chats with Bill and Ned, Elizabeth decides to do some research on the trees themselves. This research leads her to a surprising turn of events. She tries to tell Jessica what she found out, but Jess is too focused on her cause to listen. Just as the trees are about to be bulldozed, Jessica and her supporters leave their classrooms and run outside to chain themselves to the trees with bike locks.
Elizabeth brings Bill to the school to confirm what her research has revealed: The trees that would be knocked down for the field are diseased and actually NEED to be removed. What’s more, their disease could spread to other trees, so the whole wooded area needs to be bulldozed so the trees don’t die. People object, since the trees are 400 years old. Bill says that he told Jess some of the trees in Sweet Valley are that old, but he didn’t specify that they were the ones she wanted to protect. Those trees are actually only about 60 years old. (Not that it should matter – if they’re dying and going to kill other trees, their age isn’t really an issue.)
Jessica is embarrassed that she went full force on the protests without having all the information, and with faulty facts. Steven thinks she should look on the bright side: Without her protests, no one would have paid attention to the trees in the first place, and the disease might not have been discovered until it was too late. Not that Jess cares about that right now. The trees still have to go, and getting rid of the whole wooded area will cost so much that the school won’t be able to afford the field expansion after all.
Finally, though, Jessica’s desire to be an activist leads to something good. Since the trees are part of the town, not just the school, the community should contribute to the cost of removing them. The City Council agrees and will pitch in, which means SVMS can still expand their field. The students finally stop fighting and organize a fundraiser so they can plant new trees. Jessica even gets rewarded with a letter from Lois Latimer telling her to keep up the good work. Well, crap, now Jess is only going to do good things so she can get praise.
Thoughts: Jessica: “I’m not just trying to get attention for myself.” So you admit you ARE trying to get attention, at last partly.
Of course Todd is neutral. When has he ever been passionate about anything?
If Mr. Bowman doesn’t read the paper before it goes to press, and he never taught Elizabeth about interviewing both sides of a matter, what, exactly, does he do as the Sixers‘ advisor?
October 4, 2016
Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.
Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.
Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.
The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.
Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.
Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.
Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.
That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.
Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.
Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.
Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.
The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.
Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.
Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.
The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?
“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.
“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.
February 9, 2016
Summary: Things are going pretty well for Jessica, at least in the boy department: Bruce, Aaron, and Jake Hamilton want to eat lunch with the Unicorns. After changing her mind about getting chocolate cake (you can’t eat cake in front of boys! Also, cake makes you fat! Boys don’t like fat girls!), Jess gets to spend lunch flirting with Aaron and making the other Unicorns jealous that she has a love interest. They talk about basketball, and Aaron invites Jess to a Lakers game. Jessica is super-excited about her first official non-group date, and the fact that the other Unicorns envy her.
But Jessica’s world is about to come crashing down. She has trouble reading the blackboard at school. She gets headaches when she does her homework. Mr. Bowman thinks she should get her eyes checked – she might need glasses. This, for Jess, is a fate worse than death. Boys won’t pay attention to her if she wears glasses. She’ll be branded a nerd and forced to spend the rest of her life in the library. She decides to tell Mr. Bowman she’ll talk to her parents, then never bring it up.
After school, the twins go for a bike ride, picking a route that takes them by Aaron’s house. Jess sees what she thinks is paper in the street, realizing too late that she’s about to hit a cat. She crashes in Aaron’s yard, thinking she’s humiliated herself in front of her crush. Fortunately, Aaron is a nice guy and likes her so much that he’s worried about her rather than amused.
Mr. Bowman is smart enough not to trust Jess to talk to her parents, so he calls them to say she should get her eyes checked. Jessica brushes off her eye problems, even though she has to admit that her vision is bad enough to make her mistake a cat for paper. She tries to heal herself by eating a lot of carrots over the weekend before her eye appointment. This, of course, doesn’t work.
The twins both go to the eye doctor (even though Elizabeth hasn’t shown any signs of having vision problems), and Jessica is told she’ll need to wear glasses for a few months. Apparently they’ll strengthen the muscles in her eyes and she’ll eventually be fixed. Uh, sure. Jess is mad that Liz doesn’t need glasses. She’s even madder that she can’t get out of looking like a nerd.
Jessica wears her glasses around the house, freaking out that someone might come by and see her. She takes them off at school, so only Elizabeth knows that she has them. Then one night, the Wakefields decide to go to a movie. Jessica panics, knowing she’ll have to wear her glasses in public. Liz reminds her that the theater will be dark. But it’s not too dark for Lila to spot Jessica and see that she’s been nerdified. Jess swears her to secrecy, buying Lila’s silence with a purple outfit she just got. Lila accepts, then starts using the glasses to blackmail Jessica.
Jess continues to avoid wearing her glasses at school and around her friends. Then one night she’s at the skating rink (more on that in the B-plot) when her parents show up. Jessica’s first instinct is to slam into Lois Waller and steal her glasses. Read that again. Jessica’s first impulse when she’s about to get busted is to physically assault an innocent person. She puts on the glasses, telling Aaron she’s just goofing around, and hopes that her parents mistake them for her pair when she skates past them. It doesn’t work.
No longer able to get away with going out in public without her glasses, Jessica decides her best option is to…never go out in public again. Sounds like a winning plan. Elizabeth is sick of Jessica moping and being vain, so she comes up with a plan: She’ll pretend she’s into Aaron so she can take Jessica’s Lakers ticket and go to the game with him. Hopefully, Jess will be so jealous that she chooses looking nerdy over losing out on having a boyfriend. It’s a good effort on Liz’s part, but Jess catches on and pretends she doesn’t care, even when Elizabeth gushes on the phone to Amy about how cute Aaron is.
Plan B: Elizabeth gets her own fake glasses to show Jessica how good they look. Jess agrees that she looks cute in them, but only because they fit Liz’s image, not her own. It’s plan C that really fixes things, though. When Aaron comes to get Jessica for the Lakers game, Elizabeth wears Jess’ glasses and pretends to be her. Aaron loves them on her, convincing the real Jessica that glasses won’t make her seem nerdy. Jessica takes her place for the date, and Aaron is none the wiser.
In the B-plot, Elizabeth has been chosen to write an article for the Sweet Valley Tribune on students who make a difference. The Unicorns are desperate to be featured, despite the fact that they have yet to make a difference and have never even thought about doing something for anyone outside the club. After some horrible brainstorming (one suggestion is to raise money to buy curling irons for the girls’ bathrooms), they settle on holding a skate-a-thon to buy new encyclopedias.
The local rink is currently closed for renovations, but one of the lesser Unicorns has a connection to the owner, and they convince him to reopen a day early for a charity event. The Unicorns do some actual work, planning the whole thing and only employing outside labor (in the form of nerdy Mandy Miller) to hang up posters. Elizabeth and her friends think the whole thing will crash and burn, which is a safe bet. But the whole thing goes off without a hitch. The Unicorns even play a trick on Liz, making her think there are no skates, so everyone will have to pretend to skate. Elizabeth writes her article about the event, and everyone’s happy.
Thoughts: I don’t remember glasses being a big deal in middle school. Same with braces. Jessica probably started a trend anyway, and all the other sixth-graders wound up wanting glasses.
“That doesn’t mean we couldn’t do something charitable just this once, to be sure we’re the focus of Elizabeth’s article.” Lila Fowler in a nutshell.
Ugh, Alice, stop trying to bribe Jessica with clothes to wear her glasses. Be a parent for once.
I do like that Jessica enjoys basketball and doesn’t dumb down her knowledge about it when she’s with Aaron. But that’s pretty much the only non-annoying thing she does in this book.
June 30, 2015
Summary: At the end of Elizabeth’s New Hero, the twins won tickets to a Melody Power concert. At the beginning of this book, they’ve just gotten back from the concert, and Jessica is way too excited about it. Her new life goal is to become a rock star. She starts dressing like Melody, who seems to have the same wardrobe preferences as one Robin Sparkles. She talks about the concert all the time, annoying the other Unicorns. Yeah, that would definitely get old very quickly.
Jessica finds out that some SVMS guys have started a band, and they’re looking for a singer. She decides to audition, but using a singing voice that’s more like Melody Power’s than her own. Elizabeth thinks this is a horrible idea, since Jessica’s Melody impression makes her sound terrible. Jess won’t hear it – this is how rock stars sound, and she’s destined to be a rock star. She thinks her Melody voice will help her beat out the competition, which happens to include Dana Larson, future SVH rock star.
The guys in the band are Bruce, Aaron, and two other guys we don’t care about. Apparently Bruce plays the bass. I’m surprised he doesn’t want to play lead guitar and be the band’s obnoxious front man. Everyone gathers for the auditions, but Mrs. Patman soon kicks them out because she’s having a committee meeting. There will be other meetings at the house, which is apparently not big enough to accommodate a rock band, even though the Patmans are freaking rich, so the kids have to find a new place to practice.
Jessica immediately offers up the Wakefields’ basement, not bothering to ask her parents if it’s okay (of course). After the girls audition, the guys pick Jessica. How convenient that they chose the girl who has rehearsal space for them! Even though she clearly wasn’t the best singer! Isn’t that just the best coincidence? Elizabeth immediately realizes what’s going on, but Jessica’s too happy and clueless to figure out that the guys are just using her.
Jess remains clueless as the guys hold practices in her basement but don’t give her a chance to sing. They send her on errands and treat her like a manager/roadie instead of a lead singer. This might be a blessing, though, since Jessica still sounds horrible when she sings like Melody. She picks the stage name Gem, but she sure doesn’t sound like one. Even though the practices cause Jess to miss Unicorn meetings, making everyone mad at her, she keeps going to them.
Jessica advertises for the band, NRG (sounds like Energy), putting up signs around town so people can hire them to play at parties. They actually land a birthday party, though the guys in NRG don’t bother crediting Jess with getting them the gig. They know they’re not in the best shape to play in public, but they get to work improving their sound. Jess has to fend for herself. She hears herself on tape and realizes that she’s not as great as she thought. Fortunately, she figures out quickly that it’s the Melody voice causing the trouble, and she practices using her own voice.
Lila learns about the birthday party and decides to get herself invited so she can hear NRG. Jessica is self-aware enough to know this is a bad idea. She’s starting to realize how much work goes into being a big star. Plus, all the practices mean she doesn’t get to spend time with the Unicorns, doing stuff she actually enjoys.
At the mall, Elizabeth overhears the NRG guys talking about the party. They want matching outfits, and they don’t care if Jessica looks dumb for dressing differently. In fact, they don’t want her there at all. They’re going to tell her to come to the part an hour and a half after it starts, so by the time she gets there, she won’t have a chance to sing. Elizabeth is mad about their scheming, but she’s not sure if she should tell Jessica what they’re up to. After all, Jess will just embarrass herself if she sings.
Back at home, Elizabeth hears Jessica practicing and realizes that she’s good. She tells Jessica that Bruce called to change the time she’s supposed to be at the party, so now Jess will be there on time. She also tells her sister what the guys are wearing and loans her an outfit that will match theirs. At the party, NRG is pretty bad, but Gem swoops in to save the day, impressing everyone.
Now the tables have turned, and the guys in the band want to make sure Jessica is involved in everything. But Jess has decided that being a rock star is too much work, so she’s done with the band. She’d rather hang out with the Unicorns and talk about boys than do something a lot of people would love to do. The guys will have to find a new place to practice and/or a new girl to use.
The B-plot is pretty brief, and is only there to set the stage for the next book. Amy has a pen pal named Samantha, but Samantha hasn’t written her lately, so Amy’s worried about her. Samantha probably just found out that Amy is lame and decided to stop writing her.
Thoughts: Mary’s stepfather is a big Melody Power fan. Isn’t that kind of weird?
I can’t believe no one makes a Jem joke about Jessica’s stage name.
“All the boys laughed at his wit.” Bruce is only 13 and he already has yes men.
October 21, 2014
Summary: Seventh-grader Dennis Cookman has been menacing sixth-graders, and they decide they’ve had enough. They inform a teacher, Dennis is punished and starts receiving counseling, and everyone calls a truce. The end. Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen. Instead, some of the sixth-graders – including Ken, Aaron Dallas, and some scrawny kid named Jimmy Underwood – call a “summit conference” and invite Elizabeth to help them with their problem. Dennis is so intimidating that even Lila can’t bring herself to stand up to him – when he asks her for money, she just hands it over.
The summiteers meet at a place called Larson’s lot, which is near something everyone calls Dean Man’s Cave. The kids decide that instead of telling a teacher about Dennis’ bullying, they’ll just get revenge on him. Steven wanders by and tells them they’re dumb and they should tell an adult what’s going on. Jimmy hates this idea, since it’ll just get him in more trouble with Dennis, but the other kids decide to talk to Mr. Bowman.
Elizabeth and her cronies talk to the English teacher, who promises to handle Dennis. Elizabeth thinks that’ll be the end of it. Of course, it’s not. Dennis corners the summiteers after school, starts a fight with Aaron and Ken, and threatens to come after everyone else. The summiteers decide Operation Tell a Teacher was a bust, and they should try revenge next.
Their plan is to tell Dennis they’re going to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave to peer-pressure him into doing the same. Aaron and Ken know there’s a rain pipe in the cave that they can use to get to the woods and head home. Dennis will sleep in the cave when his turn comes, not realizing that no one else spent the night. The summiteers put their plan in motion, making sure Dennis overhears Amy daring Aaron to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave.
Meanwhile, Grace Oliver (who I remember from a later book but didn’t realize was in the series this early on) wants to join the Unicorns. To make sure she’s special enough for this super-exclusive group of girls who like shopping and own purple clothing, Jessica, Lila, and Ellen decide to put her through a series of initiation rituals. First she has to recite a poem in the middle of class. Then she has to get a bunch of kids’ homework. (I’m not sure what that’s about. Why would they give her their homework? Is she just pretending she needs to borrow it?)
For Grace’s last initiation task, Jessica comes up with the idea to make Grace ask Dennis to each lunch with her. Even Lila and Ellen are like, “Whoa, slow down, Regina George.” But Jessica is, for some reason, set on making Grace do her bidding. Grace tries to summon the courage to ask Dennis to eat lunch with her but fails so badly that she thinks that’s it for her chances with the Unicorns. Later, she happens to find Dennis’ baseball mitt, so she takes it to his house. He’s kind of surprised that someone’s doing something nice for him.
That night, Aaron completes his part of the revenge plan, pretending to sleep in Dead Man’s Cave. Ken agrees to go next, but Dennis is skeptical about the legitimacy of the situation and wants to stay outside the cave overnight so he can’t leave. Jimmy gets roped into staying with him. Once Ken’s part is complete, Jimmy takes his turn, which means Dennis really has no excuse not to do it as well.
Grace tries again to ask Dennis to have lunch with her, not realizing that Jessica (having been yelled at by Elizabeth for making Grace do something so difficult) has decided to let her off the hook. But at lunch, Dennis asks if he can sit with Grace. They talk about how he has no friends, and she points out that, you know, he’s mean to everyone. Dennis is all, “They’re mean to me, too! They make fun of me because I’m huge!” Grace is like, “Well, then clearly you’re allowed to be mean back and be surprised that no one likes you.”
Dennis really doesn’t want to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave, so he tries to pretend he’s sick. No one’s going to let him off the hook, especially after Jimmy supposedly went through with it. When the big night comes, there’s a storm a-brewin’, which means lots of rain in the rain pipe. Aaron realizes that if it gets too blocked, Dennis could drown. The kids head into the cave and rescue Dennis, who realizes that he should probably start treating them differently. He and Jimmy seem to become friends, while Grace gets to be a Unicorn. So the lesson here is that if you have a bully, you just have to save his life and everything will be okay.
Thoughts: They had to have named him Dennis just so people could make Dennis the Menace references, right?
“Steven Wakefield was fourteen going on obnoxious.” Hee.
Amy gets Dennis away from Jimmy by sending him after another group of kids. Well, that’s a bad idea.
“Jessica had just finished dyeing most of her white socks purple to add to her Unicorn wardrobe. If Grace managed to get Dennis to eat lunch with her, maybe Jessica would even give her a pair as an initiation gift.” Ooh, used socks! Go for it, Grace!
April 23, 2011
Summary: It’s summer, and there’s a day camp at Secca Lake where a bunch of the SVH students (the twins, Todd, Enid, Winston, Aaron, and Cara) volunteer to be counselors. There’s also a guy there named Kevin, who Todd knows from Vermont. Todd has never told anyone, even Elizabeth, that he tried to stop Kevin from mugging someone and was instrumental in putting him in jail. Kevin’s father offered Todd money not to testify, and Kevin threatened him as he was taken away. So…not exactly a guy Todd was hoping to see again. But apparently the camp didn’t run any kind of background check, so no one has any idea that Kevin’s an ex-con, or that he and Todd know each other.
Kevin hits it off with everyone, including Todd’s father, who’s sure that Kevin’s a completely changed man now. In fact, he thinks Todd is just being bitter any time he says anything negative about Kevin. (Great guy, that Mr. Wilkins.) Mostly he’s upset that Todd doesn’t want to work for Mr. Wilkins’ company, so when Kevin expresses an interest, Mr. Wilkins is all over it. Everyone thinks Todd is crazy for not liking Kevin, and they think he’s turning into something of a bully.
Jessica’s totally in luv with Kevin, so the two of them double date with Todd and Elizabeth. Then the Wilkinses tell Todd to invite Kevin over for dinner, and Todd catches him looking through Mr. Wilkins’ desk and rats him out. It turns out Mr. Wilkins asked him to get something, so now he thinks Todd is just a jerk. And then Elizabeth breaks up with him because he tells her to stay away from Kevin but won’t say why. People’s stuff starts disappearing (including Elizabeth’s lavaliere – oh, noes!), and a guy is mugged, so Todd thinks Kevin’s up to his old tricks. He tries to investigate, becoming more and more isolated from his friends. At the same time, Kevin tells them that Todd was a bully in Vermont and may have tried to rape a girl.
Dumbo Todd thinks that Kevin couldn’t possibly be a bad guy when he presents himself as such a good guy, so maybe he’s not guilty after all. Kevin asks Elizabeth out, and since she thinks Todd doesn’t care about her anymore, and because Jessica, for some reason, told her that Todd’s been flirting with another girl, she agrees to the date. Kevin proves to be not so much of a nice guy on the date, but Elizabeth doesn’t quite get that Todd was right when he told her she should be careful around him. Todd goes to Secca Lake that night, since some people have been hanging out there after camp, and he sees Kevin mug one of the counselors, but he…doesn’t do anything. Maybe the police, Todd? No? Okay, then.
Todd tells Winston and Aaron everything about Vermont, announcing that he’s going to go to the police the next morning. But they get to him first, having found his pen at the scene of the counselor’s mugging. He admits that he was there that night but can’t provide any evidence that Kevin was the real mugger. Jessica goes to get something from Kevin’s car and winds up finding everyone’s missing stuff, making everyone realize that Kevin’s a bad guy and Todd is innocent. Fortunately, Todd’s father has also figured that out by this point. Unfortunately, Elizabeth hasn’t. She goes for a walk with Kevin, who loses his temper and strangles her. Todd gets there in time to save her.
There’s some stupid wrap-up about Kevin accidentally killing his brother in a car accident and hating Todd for having a great life and blah, blah, blah, this book was dumb. Thank God this is the last Super Star, because three of them were about characters no one cares about.
Thoughts: This book was clearly written way before it was published, and no one bothered to check it to make sure things would fit. For one thing, Jessica goes out with Kevin and there’s no mention of Sam. For another, Cara’s randomly in Sweet Valley and still dating Steven, and there’s nothing in the book about her going to London.
Todd, if you don’t want Kevin at your house, DON’T INVITE HIM OVER. Tell your parents you asked him and he was busy, or you forgot to ask him. I can’t believe I’m advocating lying, but apparently you’re too dumb to get yourself out of this.
“In her opinion, a lie wasn’t really a lie if you told it for a good purpose, and if it sounded plausible.” Three guesses who “she” is, and the first two don’t count.
April 2, 2011
Summary: The twins are 27 and haven’t spoken in eight months. Elizabeth lives in New York and writes about off-Broadway plays; Jessica lives in Sweet Valley and works for a green makeup company. Oh, and she’s engaged to Todd, which is why Elizabeth won’t talk to her. Through flashbacks we learn about Todd and Jessica’s affair, Elizabeth’s discovery of it, and the twins’ falling-out.
Long story short, Jessica and Todd fooled around in college, but Elizabeth never knew about it. Jessica wound up moving to L.A., where she met a guy named Regan and married him after only a couple of months of dating. He turned out to be a jerk, and she ditched him while they were in Europe and ran back to Sweet Valley. She moved in with Elizabeth and Todd, and Elizabeth remained oblivious to their sexual tension. Regan showed up to see Jessica, got in a fight with Todd, and announced that it was obvious Jessica and Todd had something going on. Elizabeth finally realized it and left Sweet Valley.
Alice wants Elizabeth to come to Sweet Valley for her mother’s birthday, so Elizabeth decides to bring along Liam, a hot bartender, hoping Jessica will be so interested in him that she’ll show Todd her true colors. Except when Liam flirts with Jessica, Elizabeth gets mad. There’s also some stupid stuff about a playwright named Will who Elizabeth is writing about, and they hook up, but then he gets back together with his ex, and seriously, I can’t believe that was supposed to pass as a storyline.
Jessica decides she’d rather have Elizabeth than Todd, so she leaves him and heads to New York. Elizabeth suddenly forgives her and decides she approves of Todd and Jessica’s relationship. She agrees to be Jessica’s maid of honor. Once again, Jessica gets what she wants, even when that’s HER TWIN SISTER’S BOYFRIEND. And Elizabeth ends up with her best friend, Bruce, which…just…whatever.
The most interesting stuff is what happened to all the lesser characters, but the book barely spends any time on them. We barely learn:
- Steven married Cara but keeps having affairs. Jessica catches him with Aaron Dallas and tells Cara, which means she’s ruined another relationship with a sibling. And of course, she gets forgiven again.
- Todd writes a sports column.
- Ken (and NFL player) and Lila got married two years ago and are separated.
- Caroline is a real estate broker and runs a gossip website. She’s described as “the Perez Hilton of Sweet Valley.” She also battled cancer, but that doesn’t stop everyone from trash-talking her (Jessica even does it to her face).
- Jeffrey is a dentist.
- Enid is dating A.J. Morgan. She’s a Republican, an OB/GYN, and a recovering alcoholic.
- Robin is a caterer and a food critic.
- Winston is dead. Bleh.
Thoughts: I hated this book. Hated it. It was like reading about a bunch of people with the same names as SVH characters who act nothing like them. And with all the continuity issues, it’s not hard to think of them as not being the real characters. The book is also horribly written, as if Francine decided a third of the way through that it was a bad idea and then rushed to finish it so she could cash her checks. She has Jessica say “like” 137,000 times, and she’s obviously delighted that she can use whatever kind of language she wants, so she does. This isn’t an SVH book, it’s a book masquerading as an SVH book. It’s not worth your time.
Francine seems to have forgotten that Elizabeth and Todd dated in middle school.
“It’s a body I would know anywhere, even from the back: broad shoulders, neat waist, good legs.” No, Jessica isn’t talking about Todd – she’s talking about Steven. Say it with me: EWWWWWW.
Francine also forgot that Jessica and Aaron dated in middle school. I guess in her world, the whole Sweet Valley Twins series doesn’t exist.
Apparently Amy doesn’t exist either, since she’s not mentioned at all, but I can’t say I’m sad about that.
Trivia: Aaron has one blue eye and one brown eye.
Will thinks Elizabeth is horrible for wanting Liam to seduce Jessica. Oh, really, Will? You know what else is horrible? STEALING YOUR SISTER’S BOYFRIEND. Shut up, Will.
A.J. is described as a blond “bad boy.” Uh, no, he had red hair and he was a southern gentleman. He also dated Jessica. Shouldn’t Francine know this stuff?
There are a ton of other inconsistencies, but I don’t want to spend another minute thinking about this book, so I’m not going to address them. I’m also going to forget this book ever existed.
December 4, 2010
Summary: Dana Larson and Aaron Dallas both decide they’re totally over love, which makes Elizabeth want to fix them up. She and Todd engage in the bet of the title – if Dana and Aaron get together, Elizabeth wins; if not, Todd wins. They start inviting Aaron and Dana out to various places they’re going, and eventually the two realize they have a lot more in common than they thought. So of course, they fall in loooooooove with each other.
But then Todd meddles, sending Dana an anonymous note, supposedly from Aaron, to make her think he wants more than just a friendship, even though they both keep saying they don’t. Dana thinks Aaron’s going to profess his love, but then she finds out the note is from Todd and realizes he and Elizabeth were behind the whole set-up. She also thinks Aaron doesn’t looooooove her, and she’s humiliated and storms off. When she confronts Elizabeth, Liz and Todd get into a fight over the note, so now everyone in the situation is mad.
Aaron, who was kind of out of the loop, figures out what’s happening and tells Dana he has fallen for her and wants to try out a relationship. (Crap, Elizabeth’s meddling paid off.) Then the two of them send Elizabeth and Todd notes from each other to get them back together. Blah blah blah, happily ever after, blah blah blah.
In the B plot, there’s a Battle of the Bands coming up, and the winner gets to open for a band at a really cool club (a surprisingly good prize for an SVH book). Jessica wants to get closer to famous people, and she figures this is a way to get a foot in the door. No, she’s not starting a band (which would be more fun) – she decides she wants to be a roadie for one of the bands in the competition. Except the only band that needs a roadie is a metal group called Spontaneous Combustion, and the guys are all jerks. Jessica enlists Lila to roadie with her, apparently thinking Lila would be caught dead carrying heavy equipment for people she can’t stand, and in the end Jessica accidentally blows the band’s amps and they can’t compete anyway.
There are a number of references in this book to things that come up in future books – the friendship between two guys named Andy and Neil, a girl named Claire Middleton, and a rocker named Jamie Peters. So I guess we should stay tuned?
Thoughts: As proposed by Todd, the loser of the bet has to grant the winner three wishes. Todd, have you ever even tried not being lame?
“A talented, independent woman doesn’t need a man in order to feel complete!” You do know you’re in Sweet Valley, right, Dana?
Jessica thinks Spontaneous Combustion is a professional-sounding name for a band. Probably because it has so many syllables. Also, why does she think Lazarus is the lead singer’s real last name? Does she think Spy is his real first name?
Ghostwriter, teenagers do not go to Adam’s Rib or outdoor jazz concerts! They go to horror movies and rock concerts! FOR THE LOVE OF BRUCE, WOMAN!
“What does a jock know about music?” Clearly Dana is not a Glee fan.
April 2, 2010
Summary: Aaron Dallas’ parents are getting divorced, and he’s taking his anger over the situation out on everyone. He throws tantrums, flips out over nothing, and attacks a soccer teammate for accidentally tripping him. Apparently the only thing that can calm him down is his girlfriend Heather’s baby-talk. Eck. Elizabeth, who’s writing an article about the soccer team and their upcoming big game, instead writes about Aaron, apparently not worrying that she’ll make him even madder. That’s exactly what happens. He also gets into an argument with Jeffrey and punches him, even though they’re best friends. Facing removal from the soccer team, Aaron realizes that he has a problem and goes to the guidance counselor. Yes, that’s right, he does something mature and addresses his issues rather than ignoring them or excusing them.
In the B-plot, Jessica buys a bunch of all-natural products made with tofu and becomes a poor man’s Avon lady. Except she doesn’t refrigerate the products, so they rot, and she offers everyone a money-back guarantee, so everything gets returned. She’s almost out all the money she borrowed to buy the products, but Ned finds out that the company who sold them to her is corrupt, and after the world’s shortest lawsuit, Jessica gets her money back, and then some. I hate it when annoying actions are rewarded.
Thoughts: This book is really boring. Who the heck cares about Aaron Dallas?
Jessica says 137! I’m way too excited about this!
After Aaron punches his teammate, the coach threatens to knock him out. What a fantastic role model.