August 8, 2017

SVT #100, If I Die Before I Wake: Deliver Us from Eva

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:07 pm by Jenn

Well, they should have known something was wrong with the house when they saw that there were giant eyes inside

Summary: Eva is ready to finish off the twins, Amy, Winston, and Todd on the Riccolis’ widow’s walk. Even though they have the advantage of five people against one, and Todd is ready to fight, the kids resign themselves to death. Eva attacks Elizabeth, who falls from the widow’s walk, but Eva grabs her arm to save her, I guess so she can kill Liz herself. Come on, Eva, let gravity help! She loses her grip and Liz falls again, then suddenly wakes up inside the house. The other babysitters are also alive and well, though confused about how all five of them could have had the same dream. Liz also has cuts from where Eva scratched her in the “dream.”

It’s pretty early in the morning, but the sitters keep themselves awake until the kids get up. Amy, Todd, and Winston leave, and the twins fall asleep for about an hour while the kids are watching TV. They don’t have any dreams, so they figure they’ve somehow defeated Eva. When the twins get back home, Andrew calls to tell them that the kids’ nightmares have also ended. The twins think the horrible stuff is behind them and start looking forward to Halloween, which is the next week.

Fast-forward a few days, and everyone’s getting costumes. Steven wishes he could find something super-scary, but the store everyone’s shopping in doesn’t have anything he likes. Since his sisters have been talking about Eva a lot, he decides to dress up as her and scare the crap out of the twins. This means he’ll have to wear a nightgown with daisies on it and carry a teddy bear, but it’s a sacrifice Steven is willing to make.

The twins visit the Riccolis, who are all happy now, partly because their nightmares are gone and partly because Mr. Riccoli has finally joined them. He and Mrs. Riccoli ask the twins to babysit the kids on Halloween while they go to a party, and since they figure Eva’s out of the picture, the girls say yes. (Jess will have to miss a Unicorn party, and Lila bugs her about it, so Jess makes her fall out of a canoe at Secca Lake.) At home, Jessica gives Alice a Halloween costume she bought her, but Alice is apparently anti-Halloween (how have we never heard about this on any of the series’ past Halloweens?) and won’t even consider wearing it.

Jessica hears scratching noises at her window one night and thinks she sees Eva outside. The next night, Liz thinks she sees her, too. When the twins start talking about Eva at breakfast, Steven takes advantage of the conversation to ask a few questions about what Eva looks like, so he can put the finishing touches on his costume. The twins think they see Eva again that night and wonder if she somehow left their dreams and became real.

While doing some landscaping at the Riccolis’, Steven finds a piece of cloth with daisies on it under a boulder. Even though he was just thinking about Eva, he doesn’t put it together that this must be from her nightgown. Meanwhile, the twins pay a visit to a cemetery and find Eva and her parents’ graves. They’re shocked to see that Eva has followed them there and run from her. Eva loses her bunny slipper, and Elizabeth picks it up, for some reason. The twins barely get away.

Halloween is the next day, and the twins ask Amy, Todd, and Winston to join them at the Riccolis’ that night. Steven is just about ready to put his costume to scarifying use when he decides he’s missing something. He remembers that Jessica has a teddy bear (which is actually Eva’s) and goes to get it from her closet. He spots the bunny slipper, too, and decides to take it as well. Jessica sees him heading back to his room and thinks he’s really Eva, freaking out the twins. Steven pretends he was asleep and didn’t see anyone in his room.

While trick-or-treating that night, Steven comes across the real Eva, who’s not happy that he has her bear and her slipper. Steven’s so shocked and scared that all he can think to do is give them to her. Eva isn’t appropriately grateful, telling Steven that he and his sisters will die that night. Steven rushes home, where Alice has received a picture and letter from Eva, leading her to remember the last night she babysat Eva: Halloween exactly 25 years ago. Eva’s parents got to a party, and Alice puts Eva to bed with her teddy bear and one bunny slipper. She makes sure to lock the balcony door so Eva won’t fall if she sleepwalks.

Alice’s friends Dyan, Jim, and Walter (Amy’s mom, Todd’s dad, and Winston’s dad, remember) surprise her by sneaking into the house through Eva’s window. Alice realizes too late that they didn’t lock the balcony door after they came in. By the time she gets up to Eva’s room on the third floor, Eva’s on the balcony. Alice doesn’t finish her flashback until later, but it’s pretty obvious what happens: Eva falls over the railing.

Steven interrupts Alice, babbling about “she” and the twins being in danger. She tells him the twins are trick-or-treating, since she doesn’t know they’re babysitting. Steven runs around town looking for them, learning from Lila that they’re at the Riccolis’. As he’s on his way over there, Jessica is lured to Eva’s room by a voice she thinks is Elizabeth’s. She passes out, and the others start getting worried when she doesn’t come back, but they don’t bother going to look for her. When they hear a scream, they run up to Eva’s room, where Liz sees that the picture of Eva and Alice that used to be there is gone.

As Eva locks the sitters in a room together, Steven shows up. His costume is so good that the sitters think there are somehow two Evas now. Steven is able to slow Eva down while the sitters go get the kids out of the house. They realize that the house is on fire and they can’t make it outside by going downstairs. They’re able to get the kids out through a window, since the roof slopes low enough that they don’t have to jump too far to the ground. But Eva’s still coming for them…

At home, Alice finishes the rest of her flashback, then reads Eva’s letter, which reveals that she didn’t die after her fall. She was somehow able to keep coming back to the house without her parents knowing. She blames Alice for her fall, since Alice scared her when she was on the balcony. She admits to using makeup to make herself look like a monster so she can scare the sitters. Now she plans to go even further and kill Alice’s daughters as revenge. Alice realizes this is all real, and that her kids are in danger. She rounds up her old friends and tells them to meet her at the Riccolis’ house. Just then, the Riccoli kids arrive to confirm that Eva is about to kill the sitters.

Back at the house, the sitters head to Eva’s bedroom, since they have no other place to hide. The house starts falling apart due to the fire, but the sitters and Steven are able to escape through a window. Eva isn’t so lucky, as the house collapses her around her, apparently killing her for real this time.

Sometime later, Alice and the twins go to the cemetery to visit Eva’s grave, which actually contains her body now. They’ve figured out that Eva, like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, was never able to let go of what happened to her. They think the gardener who died in Too Scared to Sleep may have been helping her stay hidden. Though they can’t explain the shared nightmares, they think Eva was hurting them in real life, and they just thought she was harming them in their dreams. But who cares about details – Eva is gone, and everyone is safe. Let’s just hope the Riccolis had excellent insurance.

Thoughts: If you ask me, this whole thing is Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan’s fault. They should have moved Eva to a different bedroom or made the railing on the balcony higher when she started sleepwalking. And it wasn’t Alice’s fault that the balcony door was unlocked – it was Jim, Dyan, and Walter’s fault. Eva spent 25 years being mad at the wrong person.

So did Eva never grow? She should have been in her 30s during this miniseries, but apparently she was the same size as when she was a kid.

The ghostwriter needs to make up her mind whether Alice was 12 or a sophomore when she sat for Eva.

Winston: “I’m too nice to die!” Okay, Winnie.

Advertisements

August 1, 2017

SVT #99, The Beast Must Die: I’ll See You in My Dreams

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

Two girls, two awful outfits

Summary: We pick up right where The Beast is Watching You left off, with the twins trapped in Eva’s bedroom while a fire is burning downstairs. The Riccoli kids are all asleep and somehow don’t hear the girls yelling and pounding on the door. Fortunately, Steven happens to be on his way over to scare his sisters, and he rescues the kids. Eva’s ticked and adds Steven to her kill list. The twins manage to break down the door, and Steven’s plan to scare them succeeds as they’re terrified to see what they think is a monster with the kids. (He’s wearing a mask.) When Mrs. Riccoli comes home, she figures Andrew, who has a history of playing with matches, started the fire, but he insists he was asleep. Steven backs that up.

Jessica already wasn’t that thrilled to be babysitting so much, and after this latest scare, she announces she’s done going to the Riccolis’ house. Alice is relieved, as she’s never liked how much time the twins have been spending at the old Sullivan house. Alice flashback time! Eva hates going to sleep because she has horrible nightmares, but Alice assures her that nothing will happen to her while Alice is around.

One afternoon when the twins are enjoying their free time, Mrs. Riccoli calls to beg them to come over. Her mother has been hospitalized, and Mrs. Riccoli has to fly out to Florida to see her right away. She apparently doesn’t know anyone else in town, so she asks two 12-year-olds to watch her kids for the weekend. (Remember that Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor, which means she must know a few dozen 20-somethings who would be much more responsible, and would probably appreciate the money. But whatever.) Jessica reluctantly accepts the job once Mrs. Riccoli offers to pay her and Liz triple their usual rate.

Elizabeth isn’t happy to have to cancel her plans with friends, but she can’t in good conscience leave the Riccolis in the lurch, so she and Jess go over for their marathon sitting job. (Todd will be joining them later.) Liz falls asleep and dreams about going back to Eva’s room, where a doll comes to life. The monster girl from the kids’ dreams attacks, trying to strangle her. Jessica wakes up her sister when she screams in her sleep, and both realize that Liz now has red marks on her neck.

Alice calls to check on her daughters, then has another flashback: One night when she was sitting for Eva, her friends Dyan, Jim, and Walter came by to visit. These would be Amy’s mother, and Todd and Winston’s fathers. Alice and Jim appear to have crushes on each other, which we’ve never heard about before and never will again. Nothing happens in this scene, really; it’s just setting up the kids’ friendship.

Over at the Riccolis’ house, Elizabeth asks Jess to wake her up after she’s been asleep for five minutes. She dreams about Eva’s room again, and the monster girl threatens her. Jess falls asleep as well and winds up in Liz’s dream. They hide from Eva, but she finds them and tries to strangle both twins. Fortunately, Todd arrives and wakes them up before Eva can finish them off. But somehow, Eva’s teddy bear makes it to the real world with them. Spooky…

The babysitters decide to try to stay awake the rest of the night, but Todd nods off for a little while and also dreams about Eva. Amy and Winston come over the next morning to relieve the overnight sitters and learn about the weird goings-on in the house. Wait…the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston – the children of Alice, Dyan, Jim, and Walter? No way! What a strange coincidence! When the twins get home, they ask Alice about Eva, but Alice won’t tell them anything.

All five sitters go back to the house for a second night of sitting, and the sitters decide they need to stay awake all night. (By the way, the kids have stopped having nightmares, so at least the job is a lot easier now.) Jess tries to make coffee, but she screws it all up. Winston realizes it was decaf anyway, so it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d made it right. The sitters play board games for a while, but that’s not exactly a thrill a minute.

Eventually they decide that they can sleep for ten minutes at a time, setting an alarm to wake them up before Eva can attack them in their dreams. I’m sure sleeping in ten-minute increments all night will make them feel refreshed and ready to take care of five kids the next day! Winston accidentally unplugs the alarm clock, which Eva was about to unplug anyway, and all five sitters end up in the same dream. They’re all on the house’s widow’s walk, and Eva is thrilled to have them all in one place.

In the B-plot, Steven and Joe, who have just started a landscaping business, get a job from a man named Mr. Morgan. He needs them to spiff up his yard over the weekend, to get it ready for a dinner party on Sunday. Steven takes one look at Mr. Morgan’s daughter, Karen, and falls instantly in love. Joe proposes a bet: Whichever of them can’t get a date with Karen for Saturday night has to take one of the twins’ jobs at the Riccolis’ house.

Steven is completely oblivious to the fact that Karen clearly has no interest in him, and that’s even before Joe charms her a little. Then it turns out that Karen already has a boyfriend, which will make winning the bet even harder. But Joe manages to pull it off, getting a date with Karen while Steven does most of the landscaping work. Then Steven gets pulled over for riding his lawn mower in the street. Womp womp. At least he has a chance to make some money at the Riccolis’ house. You know, if Eva doesn’t murder everyone there first.

Thoughts: If I ever decide it’s a good idea for 12-year-olds to watch my five kids for an entire weekend, I authorize someone to call Child Protective Services on me.

Steven, who’s 14, doesn’t know what a cul-de-sac is. I’m so sad.

“He’d never even thought of feet as having looks before – but hers were amazing.” That’s a side of Steven I never wanted to know about.

July 25, 2017

SVT #98, The Beast is Watching You: Sweet Dreams, Sweet Valley

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:03 pm by Jenn

The scariest thing about this is Jessica’s outfit

Summary: The girl from Too Scared to Sleep is still keeping an eye on the twins when they come to the old Sullivan house, ready to do something terrible to them if they ever fall asleep there. They’re none the wiser, and are even trying to explain away the weird stuff from their last sitting job with the Riccolis. They figure that Juliana was scratched by the cat and only thought a girl was responsible because of her nightmares. Jessica has also convinced herself that the Alice in the picture she saw in the hidden room isn’t her mother.

After the kids go to bed, the twins try to stay calm in the big, dark, possibly haunted house. Steven and Joe show up to scare them, traumatizing the kids in the process. Ned and Alice do some actual parenting, telling Steven not to go anywhere near the twins when they’re babysitting. Jessica mentions that Steven would have less time on his hands if he got a job like the twins did. Her parents think this is a wonderful idea. Steven does not. More on that in the B-plot.

Alice has a flashback to sitting at the old Sullivan house for a girl named Eva. Eva has night terrors and often sleepwalks, which is a big problem because her room’s on the third floor and there’s a balcony off of it. Alice has to make sure to lock the balcony whenever she puts Eva to bed. Eva likes to wear bunny slippers, but Alice only lets her wear one to bed because both would muffle her footsteps and prevent Alice from knowing where she is when she sleepwalks. It’s pretty obvious by this point that Eva is the girl watching the twins, and something horrible happened while Alice was babysitting her as a preteen.

Juliana seems to have gotten past her nightmares, but they’ve been passed on to her sister Gretchen. She dreams about a “monster girl” in a nightgown with yellow flowers on it – the same nightgown Eva wore as a child. The girl tries to push Gretchen down the stairs, but Gretchen wakes up. On another night, when Elizabeth and Todd are babysitting together, they smell smoke in Andrew’s bedroom but don’t find any signs of a fire. The boy tells them that he dreamed about a girl with a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper who set the room on fire.

Jessica sits with Elizabeth again and falls asleep while putting Gretchen to bed. She dreams about the house back when the Sullivans lived there and is horrified at the sight of a grotesque figure wearing a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper. The girl tries to push Jessica off the balcony, but Jess wakes up. She realizes that her shirt is ripped, just as it was ripped in her dream. At first the twins think that Jess just dreamed what Gretchen’s been dreaming because she’s heard all about it, but Elizabeth realizes that Jess never knew about the single bunny slipper, since only Andrew has mentioned it.

Things get worse when Gretchen sleepwalks and falls down the stairs while Jessica and Winston are watching the kids. She tells them she was dreaming about the monster girl. At this point, I would be taking all the kids to a psychiatrist, because clearly something is wrong, and it can’t just be about the move and the fact that their father hasn’t yet joined them permanently. I might also consider moving out, if my kids are all having the same dream about some monster who hasn’t been in a movie or TV show they all saw.

One night when the twins are sitting again, they decide to check out the third-floor room. They find a single bunny slipper in the closet and start freaking out. Then the door shuts and they can’t get it open. They smell smoke as Eva sets a fire to try to get rid of her unwelcome housemates once and for all.

In the B-plot, Ned gets a riding mower, and Steven and Joe decide to use it to start a landscaping business. Guys, it’s not landscaping if you’re just mowing lawns. Ned tells Steven he needs to read the user’s manual before he even turns on the mower. Steven is a moron and ignores him. He and Joe wreck the Wakefields’ yard, run over the neighbor’s fence, and almost drive the mower into the pool. For some reason, Ned doesn’t take the keys away and tell them to go get jobs at the mall.

While competing to see who can do a better job with the mower (the winner gets to name their business), Steven and Joe can’t get it to turn off. They ride it in circles around the yard, one behind the wheel and one on the hood. There’s an actual funny moment where the twins watch from the house, wondering if they should videotape the boys or place bets on how many laps they’ll end up taking. The boys take the mower out on the road and finally get it to stop at the Riccolis’ house. Mrs. Riccoli sees them and hires them to take care of the property, since the gardener died in the last book. Mrs. Riccoli, I’m going to tell you right now that this is a horrible idea.

Thoughts: Steven mentions a book called Dog Walking for Fun and Profit. That must be a short book. Step 1: Walk dogs. Step 2: Profit.

Jessica notes that Mrs. Riccoli is messy and leaves things like scissors on the floor of her study. Mrs. R., you have a two-year-old. Get it together.

“For safety reasons, the emergency shutoff may only be used once every ten minutes.” How is that safe? How is that mower manufacturer still in business?

July 18, 2017

SVT #97, Too Scared to Sleep: Don’t Close Your Eyes

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:08 pm by Jenn

I kind of like Liz’s shirt

Summary: This book is bookended (…heh) by scenes with a little girl angry that people are in her house. Though it’s not confirmed until the end, that house is the “old Sullivan house,” a mansion in Sweet Valley that’s been empty for a while. The twins are riding their bikes past it one day when they see that a family is moving in. The mother, Mrs. Riccoli, introduces herself and asks if the twins know anyone who can babysit her five kids. (Her husband is still back at their old hometown and won’t be joining them for a while. Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor who’s arranged to only teach at night so she can be with the kids during the day.)

Elizabeth is eager to help, of course, but Jessica isn’t as thrilled about the idea of babysitting. However, when the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston go to Casey’s and don’t have enough money to pay for their ice cream, they realize they really need money. (By the way, Joe is now managing the place, and he’s nice enough to let them start a tab.) Elizabeth comes up with the idea of the five of them starting a babysitting service. The Riccolis become their first regular customers, and the twins take the first job.

Right away, things get off to a spooky start – the kids scare the twins before they’ve even met. Fortunately, the kids are pretty well-behaved and like the twins, which means the sitting job isn’t too difficult for them. The only real trouble is that five-year-old Juliana is scared to go to bed because she’s been having nightmares about a “monster girl.” Then, as the twins are leaving, they run into the gardener, Mr. Brangwen, who’s creepy. He advises them to never close their eyes in the house.

Since the Riccolis have a mishmash of furniture that Jessica thinks is ugly, she suggests that Mrs. Riccoli hire Alice to redecorate. There’s a funny moment where Mrs. Riccoli admits that she’d like to get rid of her husband’s beanbag furniture from college, and she decides to tell him it got lost in the move. Alice is happy to take the job.

Elizabeth and Amy watch the Riccoli kids together, and Juliana has another nightmare about the monster girl. Later, Elizabeth runs into Mr. Brangwen downtown, and he’s creepy some more, telling her someone will get her in her sleep. While sitting for the kids again, Todd and Elizabeth start to wonder if Mr. Brangwen’s spooky warnings are making Juliana’s nightmares worse. Liz mentions the dreams to Mrs. Riccoli, who, while obviously worried for her daughter, thinks they’re just due to the changes in Juliana’s life and will end soon.

Jessica takes Alice to the Riccolis’ house to meet Mrs. Riccoli, but as soon as Alice realizes where they’re going, she flips out. She completely refuses to go into the house. Her excuse is that she’s too busy to take the job, which Jessica finds strange since she wasn’t too busy when she first accepted it.

Mr. Brangwen dies, so now Elizabeth is spooked. Amy doesn’t see any connection to the Sullivan house, since he was in his 80s and died at home. Still, Liz can’t help but think that his warning not to close your eyes in the house is tied to his death. On the plus side, she thinks that with him gone, no one will put scary thoughts in Juliana’s head anymore, and her nightmares will end.

Wrong! The twins babysit again, and Juliana has a nightmare, saying that the monster girl scratched her. And just like someone in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, she has actual scratch marks all over her back. While Liz is tending to this craziness, Jessica finds a hidden room that belonged to a little girl decades ago. There’s a picture of the little girl with a teenager, and it’s labeled “Alice and Eva.” And yes, that’s Alice as in Alice Wakefield. What Jess doesn’t know is that the little girl is watching her, and she’s very unhappy that someone is touching her things…

In the B-plot, Winston runs into Charlie Cashman (who I once called “a huge waste of DNA”) while leaving a music lesson. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the instrument Winston plays is the uber-dorky accordion. Charlie threatens to tell everyone at school unless Winston gives him $25. Good thing Winston’s part of this new babysitting service, and easily gets a job sitting for the eight-month-old Karsten twins. Too bad he has no idea how to take care of children and feeds them soda and Jell-o.

Winston makes $15 and offers to pay Charlie in installments, but Charlie ups the price to $30. So Winston takes another job with the Karstens. For some reason, he doesn’t think to ask Elizabeth if he can help sit for the Riccolis, who need a sitter a lot more often, and don’t have any babies whose health Winston can ruin. Anyway, Winston microwaves a Tiffany bowl with metal in it, ruining both the bowl and the Karstens’ microwave. They fire him and refuse to pay him his $15.

Charlie comes to Winston’s house to collect his money, so Winston traps him in the dark garage while he tries to think of a way to get out of the blackmail. Charlie starts freaking out and admits that he’s afraid of the dark. With his own blackmail material in hand, Winston calls things even with Charlie and even gets his original $15 back. Then the Karstens ask Winston to sit for the twins again, since they apparently liked him a lot. I’m guessing what they really liked was the soda he gave them.

Thoughts: For once in his life, Todd makes an excellent point: No way would a college student take a class on a Friday night.

Mrs. Karsten is officially concerned about paying for a new microwave, considering she could afford a Tiffany bowl.

“My own mother, afraid of a haunted house – not that it’s haunted now, because the Riccolis live there.” So according to Jessica, a house can’t be haunted if people move in. Hasn’t she ever seen a horror movie about a haunted house?

June 13, 2017

SVT Super Edition #6, The Twins Take Paris: What’s French for “These Girls Are Idiots”?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

Ick

Summary: In what’s supposed to be their first trip to France (of many throughout all the Sweet Valley books), the twins have been chosen to spend their spring break in Paris. By the way, they speak, like, ten words of French. They’re annoyed that their phrasebooks don’t include anything helpful. Oh, come on, girls, you don’t think you’ll ever have the opportunity to say “hail to the never-dying ancestors of long ago” or “we are not dead yet”? I mean, I do nothing BUT wish I knew the French for that. Jessica thinks she should write her own phrasebook.

At the last minute, the twins’ host family has to back out, and they’re told they’ll be staying with an older women named Madame du Noir. The host family says a bunch of stuff in their explanatory letter about what Madame du Noir is like, but their English is pretty bad, and the girls aren’t sure what they’re trying to say. They both get an ominous feeling about the change in plans. But whatever, do you want to go to France or not? You do? Then you’re staying with the possibly weird lady.

On the plane, Jessica reads a magazine article about some American girls who went missing in Paris. Before one of them disappeared, she was seen with an older woman who was wearing a polka-dotted scarf. Both twins have dreams about an old woman (Liz’s inspired by the villain in a mystery novel). When they land in Paris and go to meet Madame du Noir, they recognize her black and white polka-dotted scarf. Their host is a murderer!

The girls make one of the dumbest decisions of their lives (and that’s saying a lot) – they get in a cab and flee. While Madame du Noir calls the Wakefields back in Sweet Valley to tell them their foolish daughters have run off alone in Paris, the twins eat pastries and wonder if their host is really a murderer. After all, she may have said threatening things about them in French, but she may not have – Elizabeth can’t be sure. They decide to go to her place to make sure, but they run into her and hear her saying something about cooking the girls for dinner and putting them under glass. They dodge her and run away again.

Ned and Alice book a flight to Paris to find their daughters, dragging Steven along instead of leaving him behind with a family friend or something. Steven couldn’t care less that his sisters are on their own in a strange city; he’d much rather try to sell a bunch of his college T-shirts, which he’s heard are really popular in France. How did he get 86 college shirts in the first place? Those things are expensive! Steven happens to run into a flight attendant from the twins’ flight, and she tells him that they may believe that Madame du Noir is behind the disappearance of all the American girls.

The twins come across a baker whose assistant just quit, leaving him with no help in preparing for a big wedding. The girls offer to help out in exchange for being allowed to sleep in the backroom. The baker soon learns that two 12-year-old girls aren’t the best people to rely on for help with a big project that requires attention to detail and meticulous measurements. While they’re working, the Wakefields meet up with Madame du Noir, who takes them to…the same bakery. Sure. The girls hear her say something about their mother, and they think she’s lying to the baker about being their mom. They run off without realizing that their family is with her.

The twins go to the Louvre, because a) what else do you do in Paris, b) it’s basically the law that you have to go to the Louvre when you’re there, and c) they probably don’t know where else to go. They try calling home but just get the answering machine. Steven goes off alone, thinking he sees the twins, and learns from a Parisian that college shirts aren’t popular anymore. Sacre bleu! A little later, when the Wakefields go looking for the twins at the Louvre, Steven almost gets arrested for saying “j’ai sorry” (“I have sorry” instead of “I am sorry”) to a guard, who thinks he stole a sari from an exhibit. Thanks for tagging along on this trip, Steven.

Apparently security at the Louvre is pretty lax, other than when a 14-year-old boy may have stolen a piece of clothing, so the twins are able to hide under a bed until everyone leaves. When they leave the next day, they encounter an older woman named Madame Renault who has a scarf similar to Madame du Noir’s, only hers is blue with pink dots. The woman invites the twins to her apartment for tea and cookies, telling them how lonely she is. Jess is like, “You have a mustache but I’m hungry, so let’s go.”

Ned and Alice get separated from Steven and Madame du Noir, who run into the baker again. He offers to drive them around and help look for the twins. They happen to pass Madame Renault’s apartment, and Steven happens to see the twins through the window, even though the book makes a big deal out of how fast the baker drives. The three head to the apartment, but again, the twins hear Madame du Noir’s voice and run away. Madame du Noir senses that something weird is going on and calls the police, who suspect that Madame Renault is the serial kidnapper/killer. But Madame Renault escapes and follows the twins to the Eiffel Tower.

While running from Madame du Noir and the cops, the twins realize that Madame Renault is wearing a wig and carrying a knife. Also, she’s not Madame Renault – she’s Monsieur Renault. I guess dressing up as a harmless little old lady was a good way to get young American girls to trust him. Or maybe this is a Norman Bates situation. Either way, the twins realize that they were wrong not to trust Madame du Noir. Plus, they only thought the killer had a black-and-white scarf because the picture they saw of her was in black and white. Okay, I buy Jessica making that mistake but not Elizabeth.

There’s a lot of running around in the tower, which Steven gets stuck on top of, but eventually everything gets worked out and Monsieur Renault is captured. Ned and Alice cancel the rest of the twins’ trip and will have to occupy themselves for the rest of spring break by working in the garden and clearing out the attic. The twins don’t seem to get how serious the situation was, but then again, it’s not like their parents bar them from ever traveling alone again, so maybe no one learned a lesson here.

Thoughts: “She tossed aside From Wimp to Hunk Quarterly, reminding herself to buy Steven a copy for his birthday.” Hee hee.

“They have electricity in France, don’t they?” How did Jessica make it to the sixth grade?

I hope no kids try to read this book to learn about France. All I learned is that it has a lot of traffic and pastries.

If I were Ned and Alice, I would abandon the kids in Paris and go home without them.

April 11, 2017

SVT #87, The Mother-Daughter Switch: Freaky Friday (and Saturday and Sunday)

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

I just realized that I’m almost as old as Alice, and now I have to go lie down

Summary: Jessica’s getting ready for a rollerblading fundraiser (creatively called the Rollerblade-a-thon) when she almost flattens a neighbor’s flowers and gets yelled at for being irresponsible. I imagine that the neighbor, Mrs. Wolsky, screams at kids to get off her lawn no fewer than six times a day. Jessica’s offended at the implication that she’s irresponsible… then proceeds to prove how irresponsible she is by throwing together a barbecue with Liz in 20 minutes because neither did what she was supposed to do to get ready.

Alice is also irresponsible, though, as she hasn’t done her part. She blames all the time she’s spent working on a design for Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch. They’re supposed to be hosting a mother-daughter event for friends, but neither mother nor daughters has bought anything. Instead of hamburgers, they serve bologna and tomato sandwiches with weak lemonade. They couldn’t at least order a bunch of pizzas?

After the disastrous event, Alice blasts the twins for thinking they’re busier than her when all they have to deal with is school and homework, while she works full-time and parents three kids. Ha ha, like Alice actually does any parenting. Jessica thinks being a preteen is way harder than being an adult. She suggests that she and Elizabeth switch places with Alice for the weekend. Alice will do Elizabeth’s project for her media class (reviewing some TV shows – what kind of easy homework is that?) and collect Jessica’s pledges for the Rollerblade-a-thon. In exchange, the twins will decorate Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch.

Alice immediately slips into lazy-and-flighty-kid mode, while the twins relish getting to boss around both their mother and their brother. Really, at this point, Alice has already won this little experiment – as a working mom, she basically has two jobs, so she’s automatically busier than the twins. Alice gets to eat junk food and lounge around while the twins have to do grown-up things like cook dinner and clean.

Alice does struggle to get sponsors for the Rollerblade-a-thon (and she ends up just giving the money herself), but that’s nothing compared to her normal life. She also has trouble getting the VCR to work, because it’s supposed to be funny when people over the age of 18 have trouble with modern electronic devices, though in this case, either Alice has some actual cognitive problems or the VCR is needlessly complicated. She tries to get Steven to help her figure it out, but the twins get him to agree not to.

The twins get to work on Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch but immediately hit a snag when they discover how much furniture costs. They also never talk to her about what she wants. It’s a good thing the twins are still kids because they wouldn’t last five minutes as adults (despite their experiences in BIG for Christmas). They spend a few minutes back as their kid selves by helping Steven, who’s now a budding filmmaker, create fake blood by microwaving tomatoes. The kid in me thinks that sounds awesome. The adult in me just cries, “Who’s going to clean that up?”

Alice solves her VCR problem by reviewing episodes of Days of Turmoil that Jessica had already taped. She’s having fun with the switch again, so when the twins come to her admitting defeat and asking to switch back, she says no. After all, when you’re an adult, you can’t just…stop being an adult. Okay, but a) when you’re an adult and you’re struggling to do something, you can ask for help, and b) if Alice had agreed to stop the experiment, she would have proven that being an adult is harder than being a kid. I think she just wants to have an excuse to keep sleeping in and eating donuts.

The twins have to cook dinner again, even though we know Alice doesn’t usually cook every night, so they shouldn’t have to do it this much. They try to pass off Dairi Burgers as their own, but Steven busts them. Whatever – the family got fed, so who cares? The twins then go back to their design job, and Jessica comes up with the “brilliant” idea of just moving the Wakefields’ sunporch furniture over to Mrs. Wolsky’s house. They don’t think anyone will notice that their own furniture is missing for a few days. No word on what they plan to do to replace it.

Apparently Alice is now participating in the Rollerblade-a-thon instead of Jessica, but she’s never rollerbladed before, and it soon becomes clear that she’s horrible at it. Steven tries to help her, but she doesn’t have much time to learn. Now she wants to end the switch, but the twins are doing well and say no. While Alice is off making a fool of herself on rollerblades, the twins sneak the sunporch furniture over to Mrs. Wolsky’s house. Steven promises to keep quiet if they dress up as burglars and let him film it.

The twins find a collage Alice made them all about how awesome they are and how much she loves having them as daughters. She was going to give it to them after the barbecue, but everyone ended up mad at each other, so she must have forgotten about it. The twins hurry to the Rollerblade-a-thon and see how hard she’s trying to finish. They realize that being a working mom is a lot harder than being a kid, and that Alice now sees how they sometimes have it rough, too.

Alice comes home from the Rollerblade-a-thon to find a redo of the mother-daughter barbecue (this time with food and napkins and stuff). Everyone’s happy and they all sympathize with each other now. Even Mrs. Wolsky is happy and thinks the twins are responsible after all. Alice lets them know that she had a backup plan in place – she bought furniture on the sly and was ready to swap it in for whatever monstrosities the twins put in Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch. Since Mrs. Wolsky is so happy with what the twins did (she must not realize it’s all used furniture), the Wakefields will keep the new stuff. I hope Mrs. Wolsky also got a discount for letting 12-year-olds make decisions about her décor.

Thoughts: How do you “accidentally put all the cheese on one side of the pizza”?

But wait, that’s not the dumbest thing Elizabeth does in this book. She has no idea how interior decorators work. She and Jess think they have to pay for all the furniture themselves. How do they think their mother makes money, anyway?

When the girls come up with a plan to serve the family burgers from Dairi Burger and pretend they cooked, they hope no one finds all the hamburger patties in the freezer that they’re going to pretend they made. So why didn’t they…cook the burgers in the freezer? We know they know how to cook. They’re just so incredibly dumb in this book.

March 27, 2017

SVT #85, Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader: What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:03 pm by Jenn

Same, Liz

Summary: Ned and Alice are called to school on a Monday night to discuss Elizabeth. Yes, Elizabeth, not Jessica, the twin you would expect to have a parent-teacher conference called for. Liz is terrified that she’s done something wrong, and normally I’d make fun of her, because when has she ever done anything wrong, but this is a totally normal reaction. It’s like when you drive by a police car and start worrying that you’ve broken the law. Anyway, the conference is for something completely unexpected: Elizabeth’s teachers think she’s not being challenged enough at school, and she should skip ahead to the seventh grade.

Elizabeth thinks this is a great idea, even if it might be hard for her socially. Jessica is less than thrilled, since being in different classes will mean that the sisters won’t get to spend as much time together or have as much in common. Steven tells Jess that he doesn’t think Liz will be able to handle hanging out with the older kids. For the first in what will be dozens of instances through the book, I roll my eyes, because there is not that much difference between sixth-graders and seventh-graders, but whatever. Jessica and Steven decide to try to convince Liz not to move up to seventh grade.

Liz doesn’t think much will change – she’ll keep her friends and will still see them a bunch. But she soon realizes that she’ll no longer be able to write for The Sixers. Amy takes over as editor-in-chief, and Elizabeth becomes the lowest person on the totem pole at the 7&8 Gazette. (Sidebar: Maybe people wouldn’t see the sixth-graders as so different from the other middle-schoolers if they were allowed to do things with them, like work on the same dang newspaper.)

I’m not sure Jessica and Steven fully understand reverse psychology, but that’s what they plan to use on Liz to get her to change her mind about switching grades. Jess will join The Sixers and hang out with Liz’s friends to make her realize what she’ll be missing. If they make the sixth grade seem super-fun, Elizabeth won’t want to leave it. You know, because Liz always chooses what’s fun over what seems to be the best fit for her, especially when it comes to academics.

Elizabeth gets a B+ on the very first quiz she takes as a seventh-grader, and she realizes she’ll have to work harder to maintain her grades. Maybe they shouldn’t have moved her ahead in the middle of the school year? Liz tries to befriend some seventh-graders, but they seem to view her as a child. Again, there’s only a year’s difference in their ages, and one of the girls is Kerry Glenn, who’s never had a problem being friends with sixth-grader Jessica, so there shouldn’t be an issue here.

Elizabeth is invited to a party Tom McKay is throwing (no sixth-graders allowed!), so now Jess has something to be jealous about. She and Steven tell Ned and Alice that seventh- and eighth-grade parties are wild, and Elizabeth is in for some eye-opening stuff. Ned and Alice are really only strict when it comes to parties, and they tell Elizabeth she can’t go. Liz’s new friends point out that the party will be a great way for her to socialize with her new classmates, so she decides she needs to find a way to go. She’s going to pull a trick from Jessica’s book and sneak out.

Jessica gives Elizabeth a mini-makeover so she won’t look like a baby in front of the “older” kids. Secretly, Jess and Steven plan to alert Ned and Alice (who are going to a dinner party) once Elizabeth leaves, so they’ll bust her and demote her to the sixth grade. But Steven realizes that Ned and Alice are so proud of Elizabeth that they’ll just punish her and let her stay in the seventh grade. He thinks that the better idea is to let Liz go to the party and find out for herself how unready she is for the seventh grade.

While Jessica hangs out with Elizabeth’s friends, who are planning the sixth grade’s class camping trip, Elizabeth goes to the party with Mary. The kids play Spin the Bottle, and Liz’s spin lands on Bruce. Liz negs him and runs off to cry in the bathroom. When she rejoins the party, everyone’s playing Truth or Dare. Mary realizes that Liz is going to be dared to do something horrible, so she pretends they have to leave right away. Janet announces that since Liz is going to miss her dare, Janet will think of something for her to do at school. Elizabeth is so desperate to leave that she agrees, not thinking about what Janet might make her do.

Alice and Ned catch Elizabeth coming back from the party, and though they’re upset that she disobeyed their orders, they’re fine with her desire to fit in with her new classmates. Liz realizes that she has to make it work in her new grade so her parents won’t be disappointed. She tells Jessica the party was great but won’t give her any details, since she’s not a seventh-grader and therefore not cool enough to find out.

Jess finds out what really happened at the party from Janet, and realizes she can use the upcoming dare to show Elizabeth that she’s not ready for the seventh grade. She gets Janet to dare Elizabeth to kiss Bruce in the cafeteria, in front of the whole middle school. Amy and Maria tell Liz to just not do it (really, what can Janet do if she doesn’t?), but Liz is suddenly big on peer pressure and worried that she’ll be ostracized if she doesn’t follow through. Someone please tell Elizabeth that she doesn’t have to make everyone like her.

Jessica is supposed to write a couple of articles for The Sixers, but she gets Liz to write one for her. Jess says that Amy can’t handle being editor-in-chief, so Liz needs to help out so the paper goes out on time and Amy won’t be embarrassed. Jess will probably keep this in her back pocket and use it as an excuse again in the future. On top of trying to make Elizabeth think that The Sixers is struggling without her, Jess hints that Todd is upset because he thinks his girlfriend is going to kiss Bruce in front of the whole school. Elizabeth is miserable in the seventh grade now, and she decides to tell her parents she wants to go back to the sixth grade. But they’re so proud of her that she realizes she can’t break their hearts.

Jess and Steven tease Liz about kissing Bruce, thinking they’ll get her to back out. Jessica brings up Todd again, saying that he might dump Elizabeth if she goes through with the kiss. Amy and Maria still think Liz should stand up to Janet and refuse to do it. Instead, Elizabeth goes for the kiss…and then balks at the last minute, announcing that she’s not going to do it. Instead of looking like a baby, though, Elizabeth looks like a boss for dissing the coolest guy in school.

Elizabeth decides to forget about making seventh-grade friends and just hang out with the sixth-graders. They all go on their camping trip, which Liz is now unable to go on, but Alice surprises her by taking her to join them. She tells her that she and Ned realized that, while Liz was doing well in her classes, she was clearly unhappy in every other aspect of the seventh grade, so she needs to go back to sixth. So Elizabeth’s two weeks in the seventh grade are over, and I guess she’ll go back to being unchallenged in her classes.

Thoughts: Saint Elizabeth is so pure and innocent that she’s never heard of Spin the Bottle.

Steven: “One time, a bunch of eighth-grade guys got together and…” Alice: “What?” Steven: “Maybe I shouldn’t say.” I know it’s Sweet Valley, so it couldn’t have been anything you wouldn’t see in a G-rated movie, but all I can think of is dirty stuff.

Elizabeth has green jeans. I feel sick.

While people are teasing Elizabeth about her upcoming kiss, Tom McKay says, “Bruce! Bruce! Kiss me! Kiss me!” So I guess the signs were there all along.

March 7, 2017

SVT Magna Edition #3, BIG for Christmas: Don’t Grow Up! They Make You Do Stuff!

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

I’m not sure what they’re looking at. Santa?

Summary: Christmas is approaching, and since it wouldn’t be an SVT book without a party, the Howells want to throw one. Joe has agreed to let Janet invite a bunch of middle-schoolers to his high school party, which is A Big Deal. Janet warns all of the Unicorns to dress appropriately, since there will be older boys in attendance. Jessica is singled out as a fashion don’t. Ouch. Jess vows to find a killer outfit, and to make sure Elizabeth doesn’t embarrass her.

The Christmas carnival is back, and amazingly, Janet doesn’t think the Unicorns are too old to go to it. Steven, a mature high-schooler, also doesn’t find it too babyish. The Wakefield siblings run into each other, and the twins embarrass their brother. I have a feeling that there isn’t a lot about the twins that doesn’t embarrass Steven. This just sets up a slow burn through the book for Steven, who’s annoyed by how immature his sisters are.

Jessica has a hard time finding a party outfit, since everything in the juniors section is too small (really?), everything in the children’s section is too childish, and everything in the adult section is too mature. It doesn’t help that the department-store employees just see Jess as a kid. Elizabeth has similar problems when she tries to buy a book for Amy – everything the clerk recommends is too young, and the horse book she picks out is too expensive. She’s treated like a child as well, so both twins are annoyed that, at the ripe old age of 12, they’re not seen as adults.

Jess tags along on a shipping trip to L.A. with Lila and ends up hitting the jackpot – a woman was having a garage sale and getting rid of a bunch of clothes she’s made over the years. They’re perfect for Jess, and just in her price range. But then Ned finds out that the party at the Howells’ will feature high school boys. Apparently he thought Joe was just bringing some friends over to help set up, and then they would leave. Okay, Ned. Steven plays up this angle, trying to get his sisters banned from the party so they can’t embarrass him. This, plus Alice’s disdain for the twins’ party outfits, leads to the twins being told they can’t go.

The twins try to sneak out, pretending they’re going to the carnival, but Ned and Alice invite themselves along, so they have to go to the carnival for real. The twins are miserable. They head to a wishing well, run by a guy dressed like an elf, and both girls make the same wish: to be grown-ups. If you think this sounds like Big or 13 Going on 30, you’re right.

The next morning, Liz wakes up and realizes her nightgown is too small. At first she thinks she had a sudden overnight growth spurt, but she soon discovers that things are way weirder than that: She’s now an adult. Jessica finds her freaking out in the bathroom, and when they see each other, they both freak out some more. They realize they made the same wish, and both came true.

The twins decide they need to avoid their parents, so they steal some clothes from Alice, as their own clothes are now too small. Jessica runs into Steven, who can’t figure out why there’s a strange woman in his house who somehow knows his name. Ned and Alice start panicking about an intruder while the twins run off to figure out how to get themselves back to normal. Ha ha, no, they don’t. They want to start new lives for themselves as adults.

Jessica’s hungry, so she suggests that they go get donuts, even though they don’t have money. A delivery guy has skipped out on work, so Jess offers herself and Liz as replacement drivers. Never mind that they don’t have driver’s licenses, work experience, or any idea how to drive. Jessica flirts her way to the job and a free breakfast, saying that the twins need to be familiar with the product they’ll be delivering. They both eat a bunch of donuts, because being a grown-up means you need more food. Jess drives the truck, which is a disaster, and when she hits a car, she and Liz flee the scene of the accident, the little criminals.

Having discovered that the twins are missing, Ned and Alice call the police and try to convince them that the girls were kidnapped by the woman Steven saw. The police are unconcerned, figuring the twins just ran away after the fight with their parents about the party. Steven feels bad, since he got the twins banned from the party and then realized it was the wrong move.

He sets out to find his sisters, and accidentally runs into them as they’re dodging the police. It takes some convincing before he believes they’ve grown up overnight. Fortunately, he has some money on him, so the twins get him to hand it over. Steven also offers to make arrangements for them to sleep in the Wakefields’ garage without Ned and Alice finding out. This involves getting Joe to ring the doorbell and run, distracting Ned and Alice long enough for Steven to move things like sleeping bags to the garage.

The twins need money so they can find their own place to live, so they go to a temp agency to get jobs. Again, they have no work experience, no diplomas, and no IDs. Apparently it’s super-easy to get a job in Sweet Valley. Jess gets placed at a fashion company, and on her way to work on the bus, she tells a guy she’s a supermodel. The guy turns out to be a photographer at the fashion company, so Jess is pretty embarrassed when she’s outed as a temp. But probably not as embarrassed as the guy would be if he knew he was checking out a 12-year-old.

The twins both have horrible days – Elizabeth can’t juggle all the phone calls at the publishing house where she’s working as a receptionist, and Jess has no idea how to tackle her company’s filing system. Also, everyone is mean to them, which I find hard to believe. It’s all just to show that being an adult is hard, and you have to, like, work and stuff.

Jessica gets banished to a conference room to put together binders for a meeting. She starts sketching party clothes instead, and the photographer from the bus is impressed. The company has been trying to sell clothes to tween girls, but they can’t figure out what they want. I guess it would be too much work to…ask them? Anyway, Jess is immediately promoted and brought on board to consult for the line.

Elsewhere in town, Elizabeth is supposed to take minutes for a meeting about a book series for tween girls. My favorite part of this is when someone suggests a series about horses, and Elizabeth thinks to herself that since she loves the horse series she already reads, she wouldn’t want to read any other. That’s so ridiculous. Liz decides to contribute to the meeting by saying that the company should do a series about 12-year-old twin girls. This is seen as a genius idea, and, like Jess, Liz is asked to work on the series – which will be called Sweet Valley Twins. Please kill me.

The twins meet up for dinner and celebrate the great days they both had. When Steven joins them later, he tries to hide his disappointment – he wanted to convince them to go to the carnival and make a wish to go back to being themselves, but since they’re enjoying adulthood, he knows they won’t do it. Steven heads home, where Ned has decided to cancel a big meeting because he can’t focus on work when his daughters are missing. Steven realizes that this means he could lose money, which means Steven’s allowance could get cut, and he wouldn’t be able to help the twins. He tells Ned not to cancel the meeting, but won’t say why. Alice and Ned ground him for helping his sisters stay hidden.

Steven sneaks out of the house to meet up with the twins, not realizing that now Elizabeth is struggling to adjust to being an adult. They run into a bunch of middle-schoolers out caroling, and Liz is hurt when Amy doesn’t recognize her. Jessica is now also missing her old life, but it takes a while for the twins to admit to each other that being an adult is hard. And it only took two days!

The girls decide to go back to the carnival with Steven and make another wish. But alas! The carnival has closed and left town! They grab a bus and head to the next location, begging the man at the wishing well to let them in after-hours so they can make their wishes. The man’s wife is with him, and Jessica recognizes her as the woman she bought all the party clothes from. The three siblings make the wish together, and the man disappears in a flash of light. However, the twins haven’t turned back into 12-year-olds yet.

The Wakefields take the bus home, and the twins fall asleep. Steven wonders how he’s going to explain things to his parents. But it’s a moot point – when the bus reaches Sweet Valley, the twins are back to normal. Ned and Alice are so happy to see them that they don’t really care what happened, and the girls’ only punishment is doing a bunch of stuff with the family for Christmas. Well, I guess they don’t get paychecks or proper credit for their single day of work, so that’s punishment, too. And now they have a newfound appreciation for how much easier it is to be 12 than it is to be an adult.

Thoughts: I can’t wait until I’m old enough to be called ‘Ms.,’ she thought.” You’ll change your mind when you’re older, Jess. I hate being called “Ms.”

“[Jessica] stepped into a sleeveless black sheath dress with a giant tiger head stitched onto the front. It was the coolest dress she had ever seen.” WHAT.

You know what will help convince your parents that you’re mature, Elizabeth? Storming out of an argument in tears.

June 14, 2016

SVT #55, Brooke and Her Rock-Star Mom: Madonna Never Tried to Pull This Crap

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:54 pm by Jenn

Same, Brooke. Same

Same, Brooke. Same

Summary: The twins are both friends with Brooke Dennis now, so they’re more than happy to try to help her come up with an idea for a Sixers article about a celebrity. She’s not feeling inspired, and she feels like all the “good” ones are taken. On the radio they hear the awesome new song “Chocolate Kisses for My Baby” by awesome new rock star Coco, who’s just about to hit it big in the U.S. Brooke decides to write her article about Coco, who, coincidentally, lives in France (though she’s American), as does Brooke’s mother (also American).

Everyone at SVMS has become a Coco fan, including a boy named Colin Harmon, who Brooke has a crush on. He seems to feel the same way about her. Jessica, Lila, and Ellen decide to start a Coco fan club, and when Jessica calls Coco’s record company to get information, she learns that the club would be the first in the U.S. This entitles Jessica to free stuff like shirts, and possibly a newspaper feature in the future. She also gets a signed photo of Coco, the first picture anyone’s seen of her in the States.

Though Brooke is excited about the fan club and Coco’s upcoming stateside music video debut, she’s more excited about the fact that her mother, stepfather, and half sister are coming to visit. Her mom, Constance, has some big news. For one, she, her husband Bobby, and one-year-old Sonya are moving to California, so now Brooke will get to see them all the time. She feels like her life couldn’t get any better. But wait! There’s more! Guess why Constance’s career is bringing her back to the States? Because she’s Coco!

Before Brooke can pinch herself to see if she’s really dreaming all these wonderful things, Constance’s agent, Bernice, tells her she can’t let anyone know Coco’s her mother. They want Coco to seem mysterious, so word can’t get out that she’s married and has kids. Yeah, no one ever liked a rock star who had kids. I really don’t think anyone cares about the family lives of their favorite singers unless they’re married to other celebrities and involved in scandals. I guess boy band members try to keep that stuff quiet, because it ruins the possibility that one will hook up with a fan if you know he’s in a relationship, but whatever. The point is that Brooke can’t even tell her friends that her mom is a rock star.

This is where Brooke’s happy new reality starts coming apart. She tries to spend time with her mom, but Constance keeps getting called away for photo shoots and interviews. The family can’t go out and do stuff together because Constance might be recognized. Brook ends up spending a lot of time with Bobby and Sonya, but barely any with her mom. Bernice is a controlling monster, and Constance doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to her and remind Bernice that she works for Constance, not the other way around.

Things don’t get any better at school. Everyone’s still all about the Coco fan club, but Brooke wants to distance herself from all the hype. Lila announces that she’s throwing a big viewing party for Coco’s debut video on a channel that’s supposed to be MTV. Brooke begs off and watches the video alone at her own pity party. She also begs off going with the rest of the fan club to a record store where Coco will be signing autographs. Elizabeth hangs out with her, trying to figure out why she’s suddenly so glum. When she notices that Brooke and Coco look a lot alike, Brooke spills her secret.

Constance hangs out with Jessica at her signing and gives her two front-row tickets to her first stateside concert. Jessica’s determined to find out more about her new idol, so she stalks Constance to her hotel (yes, really) and spots her with Bobby and Sonya. Brooke passes Jess on her way to see her mom, but doesn’t find it strange that a 12-year-old would be hanging out alone at a fancy hotel. Brooke learns about the concert and throws a fit over how much Constance is working instead of spending time with her family, and how hard it’s been to keep quiet about her mother’s identity.

Jessica decides to tell Elizabeth that she learned about Constance’s marriage and child. But as she’s starting to share the news, Elizabeth thinks she’s discovered that Constance is Brooke’s mother, and accidentally gives Jess that info. Jessica promises to keep quiet, and for once, she actually does. But it doesn’t matter – as revenge on her mother and Bernice, Brooke calls a newspaper and reveals that Coco is married and has two children.

Bernice figures out who leaked the info and tears into Brooke for jeopardizing Constance’s career. On top of that, Brooke has had to turn down a date with Colin – her very first date ever – because he wants to take her to Coco’s concert. She tells him she doesn’t think her mom would let her go, which is kind of funny. Brooke’s whole life has gone pear-shaped, so it’s not that surprising when Mr. Dennis goes to the Wakefields’ house to ask if they’ve seen Brooke. She’s disappeared.

Constance calls later, telling Elizabeth she feels horrible about everything Brooke has had to go through. Then why did you put her through it? It’s Bernice’s fault! Fire her! Constance is too distraught to sing, so she cancels her concert, which was scheduled for the next night. Jessica’s upset – who cares if their friend is missing if it means Jess can’t use her front-row tickets? Well, actually, she’s upset because there’s no reason for the concert to be cancelled. She ran into Brooke and invited her to hide out in the Wakefields’ basement instead of running away out of town.

Brooke quickly calls her mother, and the two of them easily make up. If I were Constance, I’d probably be a little ticked that Brooke disobeyed me instead of talking through her issues, but okay. Now the concert can go on! And Constance is going to fire Bernice and find an agent who actually respects the fact that she has a family! And Brooke doesn’t have to lie anymore! Also, she can probably get to first base with Colin at some point!

The B-plot is about how Ned and Alice keep finding debris from the kids’ big party around the house. They find empty chip bags and wonder what happened to all their pickles and mayo. The twins and Steven tell them that May ate all their food, though that doesn’t explain the slice of lunch meat found in one of Alice’s shoes. If I were her and Ned, I’d worry that I’d left my children in the care of a woman with an eating disorder and possible early dementia. Though if I were Ned or Alice, I would have a lot other problems to deal with.

The kids worry that Caroline’s mom is going to rat them out for the party, so they decide to come clean with their parents. They downplay how out-of-control things got, and don’t admit that they tricked May to get her out of the house (they say she was out running errands during the party). Ned and Alice don’t know anything about the party – Caroline’s mom wanted to talk to them about something else – but they’re impressed with their children for being honest. Yeah, three weeks later! Because of their integrity, or whatever, the kids don’t get punished, but they do have to clean the whole house (again) because their Aunt Helen is coming to visit. So basically, if the kids’ guilt hadn’t gotten the better of them, Ned and Alice never would have known about the party. They would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky consciences!

Thoughts: If Coco’s a rock star, why does she dress like a country singer? Also, Ted Mosby approves of her red cowboy boots.

If my mother gave me a signed picture of herself like Coco does with Brooke, I’d ask her if she had a stroke.

Hmm, I wonder what real-life magazine Rolling Rocks is based on?

January 26, 2016

SVT #46, Mademoiselle Jessica: Pardon My French

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

Yeah, sure. I bet this happened

Yeah, sure. I bet this happened

Summary: We all know Lila Fowler can be a snobby little braggart, but she’s been worse than usual recently. She got to spend the weekend in Hawaii, and she won’t shut up about it. (A weekend? That seems like a waste.) She also has skybox tickets to see Dynamo, a band everyone loves. Jessica’s fed up with Lila’s boasting, but she doesn’t have anything she can brag about to one-up her.

While reading Teenager Magazine, Jessica learns about a contest for “French-oriented” families. Entrants write about their families for a chance to win a week in France. Jessica starts writing about her family, though she includes more fiction than fact. For instance, the Wakefields like to speak French at home. Alice is a ballet dancer who cooks gourmet French meals. Ned is a painter and restores furniture in his spare time. Steven plays trombone in a jazz ensemble. (In actuality, Steven has begun taking trombone lessons but is awful.) Elizabeth’s so awesome that she doesn’t need any embellishment.

Jessica can’t read the fine print on the entry form – it’s too small – but even she knows the family isn’t really eligible for the contest. She decides filling out the form is just for fun, and she won’t send it in. But Alice sees the form and asks Elizabeth to mail it, thinking Jessica was going to but forgot. When Jess learns that Liz sent in the entry, she decides her odds of winning are slim anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

Of course, Jessica becomes a finalist in the contest, and a woman from the magazine, Ms. Harris, sets up a meeting with the Wakefields. For once in her life, Jessica tells the truth, confessing to her family that she accidentally entered the competition. She figures they can just play the parts she wrote for them and try to fool Ms. Harris. Plus, they still have a shot at the trip to France. No harm, no foul.

Ned is reluctant, but Alice gets excited about the possibility of going to France, so she tells Jessica they’re in. As soon as Jess leaves the room, Alice tells the rest of the family that she wants to teach Jessica a lesson about exaggeration. They’ll play along but really ham it up at dinner with Ms. Harris. Then I guess Jessica will never tell a lie again. Brilliant plan!

Through the book, Brooke is being courted by the Unicorns, and she’s too nice to tell them she’s not interested in joining. They want to give her an induction task, and Jessica decides to have her pose as a French maid during the big dinner with Ms. Harris. Brooke agrees to participate because she knows Jess needs help (and also because Liz tells her what’s really going on and she thinks it’ll be fun).

With Brooke’s knowledge of France, from spending time there with her mother, the Wakefields are on their way to seeming like they know what they’re doing. Brooke gives them clothes to wear, pretending they’re the hottest fashions in Paris. She makes Jessica wear magenta, orange, and green together. Jessica’s so excited about the dinner that she cleans the whole house.

Now for the sabotage. Alice gets Steven to undo all of Jessica’s tidying so Ms. Harris walks into a pigsty. Dinner is nouilles au fromage, which is just French for macaroni and cheese. Steven is a bratty teen all through the meal, then plays his trombone horribly upstairs. Ned shows off his latest painting, which is just a bunch of paint splotches. Dessert is supposed to be a flambé, but Alice just sets jelly donuts on fire. Brooke, using the name Brookette, helps serve, then gets to enjoy the festivities. Lucky girl.

Jessica finally calls a halt to everything when Alice announces she’s going to perform a dance for Ms. Harris. She comes clean about everything and learns that her family turned things around on her to teach her a lesson. Fortunately, Ms. Harris was warned ahead of time, so she doesn’t think the family’s insane. She lectures Jessica on reading the fine print before entering a contest; if she had, she would have realized that she needed to be enrolled in a French class to enter. This makes Alice wonder if Jess needs glasses, since she says the print was too small.

So Jessica doesn’t win the trip to France (she gets the consolation prize, French-language tapes – ha!), but she does get the last laugh. Lila and Ellen were supposed to show up during dinner to make sure Brooke was completing her task, but they never made it, so no one knows about Jessica’s embarrassment. Alice has been working on a project for the lead singer of Dynamo, and she’s given front-row seats to a concert. She gets Courteney Coxed and brought on stage (as if). Lila’s skybox seats suck, so Jessica finally has something better than her best friend.

Thoughts: I’m going to need an explanation of what a “French-oriented family” is. “Oriented” is so vague.

Lila’s getting a sauna. What does a 12-year-old need with a sauna?

We know that Alice and the twins do the bulk of the cooking in the Wakefield house, and Ned says in this book that he and Steven will do the after-dinner clean-up “for a change.” So Ned and Steve don’t cook or do dishes? This is the ’90s, not the ’50s, right?

Next page