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?

December 8, 2015

SVU #47, You’re Not My Sister: Elizabeth Has No Time for Your Psychological Breakdown

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:21 pm by Jenn

At no time in this book is Jessica ever this put-together

At no time in this book is Jessica ever this put-together

Summary: Liz has FINALLY filled her parents in on Jessica’s condition, and they’ve taken her home to get her some help. Ned, Alice, and Steven wonder why Elizabeth didn’t notice sooner that Jess was such a wreck. Instead of admitting that she did notice, and just tried a bunch of ineffective things to snap her out of it, Elizabeth whines that she has a life and can’t be with her twin 24 hours a day. Never mind that she WAS with Jessica 24 hours a day, or that everything Elizabeth was doing that wasn’t about Jess was dumb. Liz has a hissy fit and goes back to school.

Jessica sees someone outside her window and thinks it’s her guardian angel. She spends most of the book on this topic, making people think she’s either seeing things or that she has a stalker. Steven actually has a smart idea, wanting to call the police, an especially good move since we know Nick was killed by a guy with some pretty dangerous connections, and it would be reasonable to fear that they would come after Jessica, too. Also, we know she’s being watched, since we keep getting sections from her stalkers point of view. He’s trying to find a moment when he can get her alone.

When Elizabeth gets back to school, she goes to see Mike, because why should Jessica’s mental health be more important than Liz’s barely-first-base action? They make out a little, but Liz balks at going any further. Partly it’s because Mike slept with her sister, which is, admittedly, weird. But she’d still rather hang out with Mike than answer any of Jessica’s messages.

Ned and Alice’s big solution for Jessica’s problems is to bring over a psychiatrist and give Jess the sedatives he prescribes. Amazingly, Jess doesn’t get better! She gets a little crazier every day, mainly because Elizabeth won’t talk to her. Jess worries that something bad happened to her like it happened to Nick.

Liz is sent to L.A. to cover a story about an extreme-sports TV network, which is hosting some sort of competition. (This will come up in the next book.) Mike tracks her down there and they come very, very close to hooking up. Elizabeth wants to, since everyone sees her as a prude, and she wants to prove that she can have a purely physical relationship. Yes, Liz, this is a perfectly mature response to people being mean to you. Elizabeth panics over buying condoms and realizes she’s not ready for sex. Especially sex with her sister’s ex-husband.

Back in Sweet Valley, Jessica is worse than ever – she thought Elizabeth was coming for a family dinner, but Liz doesn’t show up. Jess tries to call her at her hotel, but Mike has asked the receptionist not to put through any calls. This just makes Jess even more worried that something bad has happened to her twin. She sees her guardian angel again, but now her family thinks the sedatives are making her hallucinate. So…maybe have her stop taking them? No? You’re not going to do that? Okay.

The guardian angel leaves Elizabeth a note letting her know that Jessica needs her. Thanks for your help, angel! This sends Liz back home, where the sisters make up. Then Jess gets really clingy, which is unsettling. She tells Elizabeth all about her angel, leading Liz to tell her she needs to get over Nick’s death already. Thanks for helping, Liz! She continues that she has a life and can’t waste her time dealing with Jessica’s stupid problems, like depression and possible psychosis because her boyfriend was murdered. I mean, Jess is such a drama queen, right? Like, move on already!

Somehow, Jessica doesn’t punch her sister in the face. Instead, she says Elizabeth is right, and she appreciates what Liz has done for her. You mean how she abandoned you? I know, that was great of her, right? I think this is all supposed to seem like Elizabeth was using tough love on her sister, but it’s more like she’s selfish and didn’t want to have to deal with Jess, so she ignored her until Jess came to her senses.

Then Elizabeth starts to do something useful: She wants to get Jess’ expulsion from SVU revoked. She and Nina (who has temporarily moved into the twins’ dorm room because Liz is lonely, and because Nina needs something to do) decide to use the angle that Jess is suffering from a mental-health disorder and should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school should have noticed that something was wrong and done more to help her. Never mind that ELIZABETH didn’t do more to help Jess. Also, they didn’t give her a fair expulsion hearing, which is the only part of this I will go along with.

Liz and Tom once did a story about the ADA, so she goes to him to get their notes. While they’re working together, and actually getting along again, Lila calls (more on that later). Elizabeth thinks Tom is getting ready for a super-special date with a super-special lady, which sets off her poor-me-I’m-so-neglected siren. You broke up, Liz. You were two seconds from having sex with Mike. Chill out.

Armed with what must be pretty flimsy information on the ADA, Elizabeth and Steven come up with a plan. She approaches the dean and threatens to sue the school if Jessica’s situation isn’t reviewed. There’s no resolution in this book, but I think we can all expect Jess to be reinstated at SVU, though hopefully they’ll have her go through an extensive psychological evaluation first.

Meanwhile, Jessica decides that her sedatives are messing with her head, so she stops taking them. Then she decides that since she stopped seeing the angel when she quit the pills, there must be a connection, so she starts taking them again. Then she decides to just take a bunch and take care of the whole situation altogether. She leaves Elizabeth a goodbye message and then starts having weird dreams or visions or something. Elizabeth gets the message and heads back to Sweet Valley.

The angel finds Jessica outside the house, and Jess finally realizes it’s Nick. Yes, friends, Nick faked his death to save his own life, but didn’t tell Jessica because he knew she’d never let him go, and the truth would put her in danger. Somehow this is better for her? Whatever, Nick. He tells her he’s okay, and that he’ll always love her. Fortunately, Elizabeth finds Jessica before the pills kill her, and I assume she’s okay even after overdosing on sedatives. At least now she knows her dead boyfriend isn’t really dead. Hooray, she’s cured!

Danny’s having a really tough time with Isabella gone. He’s getting drunk every night to try to forget her, but it still doesn’t take his mind off of the fact that he might never see her again. Tom thinks he would feel better if he were allowed to talk to Isabella, so he sets out to find out which clinic her parents took her to. He makes some calls, but can’t get any answers, not least because he doesn’t speak German or French. Finally he realizes that Lila might know where Isabella is. But Lila won’t give up the information without a catch: Tom has to come on a double date with her, Bruce, and a prospective student named Chloe Murphy.

Tom reluctantly goes on the date, thinking Chloe will be just like Lila. But Chloe’s not like other girls! She reads the New York Times! She’s interested in things other than clothes and country clubs! Tom really hopes she decides to come to SVU when she finishes high school. Keep it in your pants, Tom.

As for Danny, he calls the clinic, but Isabella’s father won’t let her talk to him, even when Isabella says she wants to. Mr. Ricci thinks everyone at SVU is on drugs, and that Danny’s a bad influence on his daughter. Danny wishes he’d never made the call in the first place. He goes back to drinking, and is offered drugs by a guy at a bar. Even though drugs are what took Isabella away from him in the first place, he contemplates taking some.

Dana starts out the book thinking that she wants to take things slowly with Todd. That doesn’t last long. After a run-in with Elizabeth, who tells Todd that Dana’s a bad choice in girlfriends, Dana throws out her plans, and she and Todd start going at it like bunnies. Then she starts talking about marriage and makes him panic. Oops!

Thoughts: For the record, Prince Albert is still alive.

“It’s macho jerks like Patman who make it harder for the rest of us.” Tom, sweetie, you’re a macho jerk, too.

“That way we can get on with our relationship, and you can get on with being lonely and bitter…or whatever it is you do when you and Tom Watts aren’t busy with your tedious little on-again, off-again love-hate drama.” I have newfound respect for Dana.

Chloe’s taking a feminist-law class, which means she really shouldn’t spend any more time with Tom.

November 3, 2015

SVT #41, The Twins Get Caught: “I’m Twelve Years Old, and They Can’t Tell Me What to Do!”

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:32 pm by Jenn

I kind of like Jessica's sweater. I'll see myself out

I kind of like Jessica’s sweater. I’ll see myself out

Summary: Alice’s parents are coming to visit the Wakefields for ten days. The twins will have to share a room so their grandparents can have Jessica’s, which sounds dumb to me, since we know Jessica’s room is a mess, so why not give them Elizabeth’s? Unless this is Ned and Alice’s way of forcing Jess to clean her room. Except I don’t think they deserve that kind of credit. Anyway, Elizabeth thinks her grandparents are super-old and will have trouble doing things like walking and eating regular food. For the record, Grandma and Grandpa Robertson are in their 60s. Shut up, Elizabeth.

There’s a new teen club called the Hangout (which I don’t remember ever being mentioned after this book), and Steven comes home from a night there with a black eye. He explains that some Big Mesa students showed up and started a fight because they were mad about losing a basketball game to Sweet Valley. Steven wasn’t even a target; he was trying to help a kid the Big Mesa guys went after. Ned and Alice decide their kids aren’t allowed to go to the Hangout anymore.

Jessica’s still upset that she’s not allowed to get her ears pierced, but she cheers up when she chats with Todd (making his first appearance of this series), who seems interested in her. She cheers up even more when she finds out that Aaron’s throwing a big party, where Dave Carlquist will be DJing. But oh, no! The party’s at the Hangout! Ned and Alice forbid the twins from going.

Jessica’s outraged: Every sixth-grader at SVMS is going to the party, as are several seventh-graders. This is the party of the year, and she’s not allowed to go. Lighten up, Jess – Lila will have 18 more parties in the next month. Steven tries to help the twins out, telling Ned and Alice that there were plenty of chaperones at the Hangout, and he thinks the fight was a one-time thing. But Ned and Alice are afraid for their precious babies and won’t change their minds.

More furious than ever, Jess has had it. She’s 12 years old, which means she’s practically an adult! She should be able to go where she wants, when she wants! She complains to her grandmother about how she’s not allowed to get her ears pierced. Grandma Robertson says that she herself got her ears pierced at Jessica’s age, and she doesn’t see why Alice is so stubborn about letting Jess do the same. Jess decides that since she’s old enough in her mind to do what she wants, she’ll defy her parents.

A now pierced Jessica is immediately punished…until Grandma Robertson says it’s really her fault that Jess went against her parents’ wishes. She feels like she might have given Jess the idea that she had permission. Yeah, no, that’s not what happened. Jessica was just a brat. But anyway, Ned and Alice decide she doesn’t need to be punished because she didn’t know she was breaking a rule. Once again, horrible parenting by the Wakefields, but I don’t think anyone’s surprised.

Since Jessica got away with breaking one rule, she thinks she can get away with another. Off of a suggestion from Lila, she decides that she and Elizabeth will just sneak out to the party while their parents are out for the evening. Amazingly, Elizabeth goes along with this plan. But the dumb girls don’t use their inside voices, and Grandpa Robertson overhears them plotting to break the rules. He and Grandma Robertson make the twins confess their plans to their parents.

Then Grandma and Grandpa tell Ned and Alice that they’re demonstrating bad parenting, and that the girls should be allowed to go to the party. Ned and Alice decide they’re right, so the twins can go. And no, they’re not punished for planning to sneak out. No one faces any consequences. Jessica gets pierced ears and both twins get to go to the party, where Jess hangs out with Todd. It’s so wonderful to be a Wakefield!

Thoughts: Today in out-of-context amusement: “But all the other Unicorns are getting their ears pierced!”

“Todd didn’t seem to be interested in girls.” YOU GUYS.

“I’m twelve years old, and they can’t tell me what to do!” is, of course, spoken by Jessica. I’ve never heard a more 12-year-old thing come out of her mouth.

Every time Todd talks to Jessica, he mentions Elizabeth. Like, he asks her if they’re at the mall together. He asks if they’re both going to Aaron’s party. I was sure that at the end of the book, Jessica would realize that Todd’s actually interested in Elizabeth. But at the party, he wants to dance with Jess. Weird.

March 10, 2015

SVT #27, Teamwork: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Backyard

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:08 pm by Jenn

Puppyyyyyy!

Puppyyyyyy!

Summary: The twins are bored and want to do something exciting. Elizabeth finds some fun recipes, so the girls decide they want to throw a fancy dinner party for their friends. But Ned and Alice think they’re too young for something like that and tell them to have a cookout instead. Boring! Next the twins decide they’d like to visit their Great-Aunt Helen on an upcoming long weekend. This means taking the bus to Sandy Harbor, wherever that is, all by themselves. Again, their parents think they’re too young, but the twins manage to negotiate with them. Ned and Alice agree to let them go if they can earn the money to pay for the trip.

Next comes a brainstorming session. Elizabeth makes really good cakes, so she decides that they can sell them to raise the money. Alice squashes that idea pretty quickly by noting how expensive that would be. The next idea is walking dogs – if they charge $2 per dog per day, they just have to walk [insert math here] for [more math] days. (Yeah, I don’t do math. We’ll just say that the twins think they can get by with minimum work for the minimum amount of money they need.)

But to provide a service, you first have to advertise that service, and that costs money. The twins borrow $5 from Steven to copy some fliers, which means they’ll have to make back that $5 on top of the $80 they need for bus tickets. Oh, and Steven charges them 50% interest on the loan, so they really need to pay him back $7.50. The idea of Steven charging his sisters 50% interest makes me laugh. Though he might consider the fact that they’ll be gone for a long weekend enough of a reward for loaning them the money.

The girls pass out their fliers, and Jessica starts to realize that having a job actually requires work. Part of me is surprised that she went along with this plan in the first place, since she doesn’t like dogs or any job that might result in her getting dirty, but the rest of me thinks she didn’t actually think this through. She thought about making money and getting what she wanted, but her brain skipped the part about what she’d have to do to make money. Anyway, Elizabeth runs into Ken Matthews, who loves the idea of hanging out with dogs every afternoon. See, Ken is smart. Playing with dogs + money = good times.

Apparently there’s a big need for dog walkers in Sweet Valley, because the twins quickly get some clients. Of course, Jessica isn’t really on board with this whole thing, especially when it means having to miss out on Unicorn hangouts and Booster practices. Ken offers to fill in for her and even refuses to take any money. Hanging out with dogs is enough of a reward. I get it, Ken. Plus, he really wants a dog but his parents don’t think he’s ready for the responsibility, so this is his chance to play with puppies.

One of the clients asks if the twins can keep a couple of dogs at their house over the weekend, and though Ned and Alice aren’t thrilled with the idea, the twins work out arrangements (the dogs will stay in the backyard) and demonstrate that they’re serious about being responsible. Elizabeth has plans to go roller-skating with some friends (ahh, the ’80s), so Jessica’s left looking after the dogs one afternoon. Lila comes by with plans for something much more interesting. Ken comes by to visit and offers to watch the dogs while Jessica’s gone. Elizabeth isn’t happy, but at least the dogs are looked after.

Then a guy named Mr. Quincy shows up. He has a dog named Joe and needs someone to watch him for a week while he’s out of town. He’ll pay them $20 and another $20 at the end of the week, which is the rest of the money the twins need. As soon as Mr. Quincy leaves, Ken realizes that something’s wrong with Joe. He doesn’t like being touched, and he gets scared when he’s approached. Ken discovers that the dog has cuts and bruises all over him. He and the twins realize that someone – most likely Mr. Quincy – has been abusing the dog.

The kids quickly show Joe some compassion, bathing him and fixing up his injuries. They’re just not sure what to do about Mr. Quincy. They don’t want to tell their parents, because Ned and Alice said they didn’t want to hear any complaining about their work. (Bad parenting alert!) As Joe gets better and becomes more and more friendly, the kids worry about having to give him back to his abusive owner. They think about telling the police, but now that Joe’s cuts and bruises have healed, they don’t think the police will accept their story without evidence.

Their next thought is to take Joe to a shelter and tell Mr. Quincy that he ran away. Of course, if Mr. Quincy went around to shelters looking for a runaway dog, he would recognize Joe right away. So the kids decide to cut and dye his fur to make him unrecognizable. They’re 12 and have no idea what they’re doing, so the dog ends up looking kind of strange, but at least he looks different now.

Ken tries to talk his parents into letting him keep Joe (pretending he’s a stray), but they still don’t think he’s responsible enough. Ken tells the twins that his cousin Fred lives a few miles away on a ranch and already has some dogs – maybe Fred would take Joe. The kids go visit Fred, who happily accepts Joe. Problem solved! Except now they have to tell Mr. Quincy that Joe ran away. Mr. Quincy is furious and threatens to sue, which I don’t think he can do, but whatever. Also, the twins can forget about their second $20.

Then Joe really does run away – he disappears from Fred’s ranch. He ends up at the Wakefields’ after walking ten miles in the rain, which washes away the dye. Ned calls Mr. Quincy, wanting the guy off his back. When he arrives, Ken and the twins admit what they did and accuse Mr. Quincy of abusing Joe. Ned, to his credit, believes them and refuses to let Mr. Quincy take the dog. Mr. Quincy decides he doesn’t need the hassle and tells them to do whatever he wants with Joe. Ned warns that if he ever sees Mr. Quincy with another dog, he’ll report him. Yay, Ned!

Ken’s parents come by, having heard from Fred that Joe ran away, and Ken tells them how he’s been helping take care of a dog. They realize that he’s responsible after all and decide to let him keep Joe. The Wakefields are a little ticked that the kids didn’t tell them what was going on, but they’re also proud that the kids did something so good. They reward them with the rest of the money they need for their trip (including the money they need to pay Steven back). Everyone’s happy, but probably not as happy as Joe is.

Thoughts: Ned and Alice are no fun. If I had preteens, I’d let them throw a fancy dinner party. What’s the problem?

Between them, the twins only have $3 before they start walking dogs. How is that possible? I don’t believe for a second that Elizabeth doesn’t have any savings. How does she pay for her Amanda Howard mysteries and horse figurines?

Jessica, confused as to why a dog ran away from her: “I told her to stay.” This reminds me of Hildi from Trading Spaces. She was once advised not to use straw in a design, not just because it was stupid but because the kids in the house would pull it off the walls. Her response was, “Well, tell them not to.”

January 13, 2015

SVT #24, Jumping to Conclusions: How I Met Your Mother, Whether It’s Canonically Correct or Not

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 7:59 pm by Jenn

This might be the cover I remember most clearly from my childhood reading

This might be the cover I remember most clearly from my childhood reading

Summary: Happy anniversary to Ned and Alice, who have been married for 16 years! Unfortunately, their kids are the only ones who remember the anniversary. Their parents have been so busy recently that they haven’t been spending much time together. In fact, Alice has been spending a lot of time with a client named Frank Howard, a millionaire from Beverly Hills. The twins are distressed because Mr. Howard is hot and has a nice mansion and is a million times better than Ned, so he could easily tempt Alice into leaving her husband.

The sixth-graders have to do a group project for a history class, and Elizabeth, Amy, and Pamela decide to find out how their parents met and write about that. What does that have to do with history? They should at least talk about how the time period and events affected the relationships. This is all just a contrivance for Elizabeth to need to find out how Alice and Ned met.

The twins start getting nervous that their parents are no longer in love. They tell Steven, who first thinks they have nothing to worry about, but then starts drinking the Kool-Aid and thinks they’re on to something. They decide that they need to make Mr. Howard believe that getting involved with Alice would be a huge mistake because her children are monsters. The twins offer to run an errand for Alice, delivering something to Mr. Howard, so they dress in ridiculous outfits and make it look like they never bathe. Mr. Howard just thinks they’re weird.

Then Mr. Howard shows up at the Wakefields’ house unexpectedly. The twins have already changed clothes, so they tell Steven to blast his music. Mr. Howard barely notices, and clearly wasn’t influenced by the twins’ previous scheming, because he still wants to work with Alice. Alice invites him to stay for lunch, so Jessica gives him super-spicy salad dressing, which manages to get him to flee. Out of Alice’s earshot, she tells Mr. Howard that maybe later he can meet Alice’s other children – from her first two marriages.

Elizabeth, Amy, and Pamela go out for ice cream at Casey’s (of course it’s Casey’s), and Liz spots her mother shopping with Mr. Howard. Pamela’s mother notices that it looks like there’s someone following them. Jessica has put on a trench coat and hat to stalk her mom. She would do that, wouldn’t she? Jess reports to Elizabeth that the adults have been shopping for china, and are now looking at rings.

Jessica’s next move is to tell Ned what’s going on. But Ned’s in such a good mood about a case he’s winning that the kids don’t want to ruin it. Then Jess decides to confront Mr. Howard directly and tell him to back off. While she’s at his office, she overhears him on the phone, telling someone that they’ll soon be together. Jessica thinks Alice and Mr. Howard are going to elope.

Time for a new plan: When Alice and Ned go out to finally celebrate their anniversary, the Wakefield kids will invite Mr. Howard over to dinner. A bunch of their friends will be there to pose as their siblings. They’ll all be dirty, loud, and obnoxious. The kids enlist Amy, Pamela, and a bunch of Steven’s basketball buddies. They all act like hillbillies and are extremely helpful with the twins’ plan, especially Amy, who makes it look like she’s missing teeth. If I were Mr. Howard and thought I’d be marrying into a family that insane, I’d be out of there in a second.

But one thing the Wakefield kids didn’t expect was Ned and Alice returning to the house. They’re quickly joined by someone else: Mr. Howard’s fiancée, Karen. Alice was helping Mr. Howard shop for wedding china and rings for another woman. Fortunately, Mr. Howard thinks the twins’ scheming is funny. The Wakefields are just grateful that their kids want their family to stick together. They came back to get them so the whole family could celebrate Ned and Alice’s anniversary together.

Now that everyone’s all together and happy, Elizabeth finally finds out how Alice and Ned met. It’s some story about how Alice was waiting tables at a restaurant where Ned went on a group date, and she spilled food on him and was embarrassed, but they started talking and fell in love. Except that didn’t happen, but whatever. Everyone’s happy, so no one cares about made-up history.

Thoughts: I can’t believe none of these kids know how their parents met. Parents love to talk about that stuff. I mean, one guy talked about it for nine straight years.

“I think your father is really handsome.” Amy, just…shh, okay?

Someone please explain to the Wakefield children that you can’t elope with someone if you’re married to someone else.

Alice tells Mr. Howard that “raising three children is definitely a full-time job.” Uh, Alice, spending five minutes a week with your kids is not “full-time.”

October 7, 2014

SVT #18, Center of Attention: The C Word

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:16 pm by Jenn

I just don't think Steven would put up with this

I just don’t think Steven would put up with this

Summary: Alice has been sick for a few days, and though she keeps insisting it’s not that serious, the twins are worried. Jessica tries to put it out of her mind so she can focus on auditions for the middle school’s production of Carnival. She’s desperate to play the lead, Lily, and needs to work on her singing so she can beat Dana Larson for the part. Kerry Glenn briefly makes Jessica panic by telling her that when her mother got sick with the same symptoms Alice has, she turned out to be pregnant. I’m surprised Jess doesn’t want a little brother or sister to boss around and dress up like a doll. But anyway, Alice isn’t pregnant, just sick.

In fact, Alice is so sick that she stays home instead of accompanying Ned on a business trip. She even has blood tests done. When she gets a call from her doctor, Jessica listens in and hears that there’s something abnormal in the results. Jessica quickly tells Elizabeth and Steven, and they all ask their mother what’s going on. Alice admits that she needs to have a lump on her neck biopsied – it might just be a swollen lymph node, but it could be something else.

Jessica takes charge of the family, assigning chores to her brother and sister, and appointing herself Alice’s caregiver. I’m not surprised that Elizabeth just goes along to avoid an argument, but I am surprised that Steven doesn’t protest. Jessica gets all the credit for being such a big help. But it might not matter anyway: Alice’s test results are inconclusive, and she could have anything from a virus to the dreaded C word.

Of course, Jessica immediately jumps to the worst-case scenario and starts panicking that her mother’s going to die of cancer. She can’t focus on anything else, even her potential starring role in Carnival. This means that when Caroline Pearce calls to talk to Elizabeth, Jessica makes the rookie mistake of mentioning that Alice is desperately sick. To no one’s surprise, the news spreads around school, and suddenly everyone is feeling sorry for the Wakefield twins, with their possibly dying mother.

Elizabeth isn’t happy about this turn of events, but Jessica loves that everyone’s so interested in her. Yes, it only took a potentially fatal illness for Jess to gain the popularity she so desperately craves. What does that tell you about our resident evil twin? Jessica considers giving up being in Carnival, in case it takes her away from the last precious moments her mother has on Earth, but Alice loves the musical and encourages Jessica to try out. Jess figures that playing the lead could give her mother her last earthly happiness. Then she steals money from the family’s emergency stash so she can order a pizza.

Jessica “bravely” forges ahead with her audition plans, telling the Unicorns that she will proudly martyr herself to star in a musical. The words “my mother’s dying wish is to see me on stage” are implied. After a day of crying and worrying about Alice’s test results, the twins get the news that she just has a virus. Too bad – dying would have been the most interesting thing Alice could do in this series.

Jess heads to the auditions, where Dana tells her that she’s going to drop out so Jessica can be the star. I guess Dana was a shoo-in and no one else was going to audition for the lead. The role is automatically Jessica’s, and she decides not to say anything about Alice’s health, so people will continue to give her things she hasn’t earned. Jessica would rather star in a musical than celebrate her mother’s good health with her friends. I don’t think that’s news.

Ned comes home from his trip, and the family spends the weekend together, swimming in their pool. Dana, Brooke, and the barely mentioned Sandra Ferris drop by the house to spend time with Jessica, who tries to shoo them away so they don’t find out that Alice is not only dying but is actually goofing off with the rest of the family. Just as Jessica’s conscience is about to get the better of her, Elizabeth shows up and pretty much blows her story. Jess pretends she was just about to give her friends the good news that Alice will be okay. She also decides to give up the role of Lily to Dana.

Elizabeth and Steven punish Jessica for her behavior by making her do their chores. Jessica also gets in trouble for stealing money to buy pizza (though she tells Ned she was going to buy Alice flowers – yes, she covers for a lie with another lie). Dana gets the role of Lily, but Jessica gets another role in the musical, plus the sweater she’s been wanting the whole book. Consequences for bad actions? Jessica doesn’t know what you mean by that.

Thoughts: Yeah, you probably shouldn’t tell people (especially kids) you might have cancer when you don’t know for sure. Nothing good can come of that.

“Winston was a tall, quiet boy.” I believe that’s the first and last time Winston’s ever been described as quiet.

So there’s no possibility that someone other than Jessica or Dana could get the lead? Like, say, an eighth-grader? Does Dana still have to audition? If I were one of the other girls who wanted to be in the show, I’d be ticked.

July 8, 2014

SVU #20, Here Comes the Bride: How Is Mike the Most Mature Person Here?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Jenn

Spoiler alert: This never happens

Spoiler alert: This never happens

Summary: At the end of Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams, Billie asked Steven for some time apart, so now they’ve broken up. He’s living with Mike and studying at the feet of Mr. Charm. This mostly means that they go out and play pool and get drunk together. Then Mike flirts with girls and Steve tries to do the same, but is dorky and inexperienced, and also not a man-slut like Mike (which is clearly the message we’re supposed to be getting here). Steven decides he wants Billie back, so he goes to their apartment to surprise her, but he sees her kissing Chas on the cheek and flips out. Cheek kisses are always a problem in soaps, too. Same with hugs.

Steven talks to Tom, who smacks some sense into him and gets him to decide fully that he wants Billie back, Chas or no Chas. For some reason, he needs a horn to win her back. Maybe Steven was Ted Mosby before there was a Ted Mosby. Mike knows a woman who runs some sort of store that happens to have horns (I guess it’s a pawn shop? It’s not really clear), and she gives Steven one, and he plays it really badly for Billie, and somehow that convinces her that he really loves her and they should get married. Like, next week. This is mainly so Steven can go to Spain with Billie when she spends her semester abroad.

Alice is still in charge of planning everything, and she goes extra crazy. It doesn’t help that Jessica becomes even brattier than usual and fights her on everything. Unfortunately, Billie no longer has a backbone, and doesn’t tell everyone to shut up and do what she wants, since it’s her wedding. Steven is no help either, since he’s just learn that half of all marriages end in divorce, and he’s freaked out that he and Billie won’t make it. He runs off to buy books about marriage, then starts spouting pop psychology stuff and acting very Stepford. It’s the kind of thing that’s funny to read about, but if someone actually pulled it on you, you’d slap him.

Of course, other crazy wedding stuff happens. The caterer disappears after giving people at his previous wedding food poisoning. Somehow, the water in the Wakefields’ pool is pink. Billie’s dress comes back from the dry cleaner’s with a stain on it. Her parents can’t get back from their vacation in Mexico in time for the wedding. Ned, the one person you’d think would actually be responsible, loses the rings. Steven’s like, “Huh. I guess this was a bad idea, then.” You think?

Because everything had to be thrown together so quickly, no one’s organized a rehearsal dinner, so Ned sends the twins out with Billie, Steven, Tom, and Mike to have a regular dinner in a nice restaurant. It doesn’t go well. Mike starts saying some sexist things, so he and Jessica fight. (More on them later.) Then Billie and Steven fight. Then Jessica and Elizabeth fight. Basically Tom is like, “I don’t know any of these people. I don’t know how I wound up sitting at their table.” Everyone ends up storming out.

Steven finally realizes what everyone reading this book realized long ago: He doesn’t want to get married right now. He tells Ned, who thinks he just has cold feet. Then Billie tells Ned she doesn’t want to get married either. Ned awesomely tells the two of them to talk to each other, because it’s too late at night and he’s too tired to deal with their crap. Steven and Billie come to a decision, but don’t tell anyone the next morning.

Everyone oversleeps, so Alice freaks out again, some more, and tries to get things moving on everything that has to be done for the wedding. Steven and Billie are too scared to tell her that they’ve decided to call it off. Part of me thinks that’s normal, since Alice is a freaking maniac in this book, but most of me is like, really? You’re only enough to make important life decisions but not mature enough to own up to them? They get Elizabeth to do it for them. Elizabeth should have smacked them both and told them to man and woman up.

Speaking of Liz, her and Tom’s plot is so ridiculous and stupid that I can’t believe I have to write about it. They’re sent to get Elizabeth’s Aunt Sylvia from the airport, even though Elizabeth has never met her and the only picture she has of her is from 40 years ago. Sylvia said she’s bringing her husband Howard with her, but Howard’s been dead for years. The plane arrives early, so the passengers are already off when Elizabeth and Tom arrive. They can’t find Sylvia, despite ingenious attempts such as asking random people if they know someone named Sylvia, or if they are Sylvia.

Elizabeth finally finds her, but she’s getting into a car with a man, and Liz thinks she’s being kidnapped. Most people would call the police at that point, if they really believed someone had been abducted, but not Liz. She talks to someone at a rental-car agency and learns that the man driving the car is staying in Santa Carmine, a town a couple hours away. Liz and Tom head off to look for Sylvia there, but first Tom calls Alice, pretending to be Sylvia (no, seriously), and makes up an excuse for why he won’t be seeing her today. These guys are brilliant. But Alice buys it, so I guess she’s just as brilliant.

In another stupid, stupid move, Elizabeth and Tom go home, deciding to resume their search for Sylvia the next day. Never mind that she might have really been kidnapped and could have been murdered by now. When they finally make it to Santa Carmine, they don’t seem to have a plan beyond looking around in hopes that they’ll randomly run into Sylvia or her possible abductor. But then, somehow, Elizabeth does see the man from the car, and she realizes that he looks like her late Uncle Howard. Even though he’s old, Liz and Tom aren’t able to keep up with him, so they’re alone again.

After all of this insanity, Elizabeth and Tom finally got to the police. But the cops think they’re crazy: If Sylvia got in a car with a man who looks like her husband, then she’s probably not in any danger. Way to do your job, police. But the horrible rehearsal dinner happens to be at a restaurant right near Sylvia’s hotel, and Elizabeth and Tom run into the man from the car and learn what’s really going on: The man is Carl, not Howard, and the only picture they have of Sylvia was originally of two couples – Sylvia and Howard, and Carl and his wife. Sylvia and Carl (now dating) came to Sweet Valley together to spread their late spouses’ ashes. So when Sylvia said she was bringing Howard, she meant in an urn.

There’s a happy ending, though: Sylvia and Carl decide that after Billie and Steven’s wedding, they’re going to find a justice of the peace and get married. When Steven and Billie call off their ceremony, the Wakefields just turn it into Sylvia and Carl’s wedding. I hope there was some kind of financial agreement made later, because the Wakefields and Winklers spent a lot of money on something two other people enjoyed. Whatever, mazel tov. Steven and Billie are still dating, and she’ll go to Spain alone for the semester. Sylvia throws the bouquet, but no one wants to get married, so everyone avoids it. Womp womp.

Jessica and Mike are half flirty, half crabby with each other, partly because she thinks he and Val are hooking up. Steven asks Mike to be his best man, and Jess throws a hissy about having to be in the wedding with her ex-husband. Val calms her down by telling her the truth about her history with Mike: He was friends with her husband, who was a racecar driver and was killed in a crash. Mike has been looking out for Jessica this whole time, asking Val to do the same. He even sold his car so they could afford to keep their business going.

So now Jess thinks Mike is awesome, and they decide to try dating again. First they try to fight temptation by eating gross foods that make them not want to kiss each other. Then Mike starts acting more subdued, and Jessica realizes he’s trying to be like Steven. Bad call, dude. Also, insert your own joke here about how Mike wanted Jessica to be attracted to her brother.

At the totally lame rehearsal dinner, Mike runs into an old (female) friend, and Jessica gets extremely jealous for no reason, because how dare her not-really-boyfriend talk to other women when she’s around? Doesn’t he know she’s the only female who exists? He can’t even talk to her mother or sister! If Alice asks how he is, he’d better ignore her! Eventually they realize that since Jessica is so overdramatic and jealous, and Mike can’t seem to keep himself from having completely innocent conversations with other people who have breasts, they shouldn’t be together. So last time they broke up because Mike was insane, and this time it’s because Jess is.

Lila’s father wants to buy her donut shop, though he apparently doesn’t know it’s hers. I don’t know how that’s possible, considering all the publicity it’s gotten lately. Plus, you’d think she’d brag to him that she runs a successful business. Anyway, Lila wants to give the shop to a non-profit organization, but she plays hardball with her father and gets him to pay twice what he wanted for the shop. Bruce starts to realize that his girlfriend is kind of good at negotiating. He worries that someday they’ll end up married, then divorced, and he’ll lose all his money and toys to her.

So Bruce decides that they should create pre-nups. Never mind that they’re not getting married, and aren’t even engaged. They work on them, but start fighting and agree to drop it. Then they both secretly go to their lawyers to have them create the pre-nups. Their lawyers happen to work for the same firm. Bruce and Lila make out while their lawyers basically attack each other, fighting about hypothetical situations and money that doesn’t actually exist. I don’t know.

Thoughts: Billie doesn’t appear to care that she just had a miscarriage. It’s a little disturbing.

Dear ghostwriter, Lila’s father’s name is not Robert. It’s George. Be ashamed of yourself.

Tom: “I don’t know anything about weddings.” If you’re not in it, sit down and shut up. That’s all.

Elizabeth not calling the police over a possible abduction is why we can’t have nice things.

“A lot of strange stuff seems to happen to the Wakefields that doesn’t happen to anyone else I know.” Finally, Tom and I agree on something.

May 27, 2014

SVT #9, Against the Rules: But the Rules Are Stupid!

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:45 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth actually looks really cute, and is paying attention to the person the party's for. Amy just wants cake

Elizabeth actually looks really cute, and is paying attention to the person the party’s for. Amy just wants cake

Summary: Elizabeth has befriended classmate Sophia Rizzo, and Jessica isn’t happy about it. Sophia’s family is poor, and her brother is a juvenile delinquent (do people still use that phrase?). But Liz knows better than to judge someone on her class or her family’s troubles, and she admires Sophia’s writing talent. She’s pretty much the only person who doesn’t treat Sophia like dirt.

Elizabeth and Sophia are both invited to help write a school play, since they’re the two best English students in the sixth grade. They start hanging out at Sophia’s house, which, while small and not well-kept, is very welcoming, because Sophia’s mom is so nice. Liz admits to being worried about encountering Sophia’s brother, Tony, who has a bad reputation for fighting and stealing. She’s surprised when Sophia gushes over him – he’s always been like a father to her, and when they were younger, they would play together all the time. She would even get him to act out the fairy-tale plays she wrote.

Jessica’s furious that Sophia gets to help write the school play. She wants to be the star, of course, and refuses to act in anything Sophia’s connected to. Ned and Alice tell her to be nice, because Sophia is a lovely girl and shouldn’t be judged based on her social status or her clothing choices. Ha ha, no, they don’t! They’re horrible parents! Steven backs Jess up, since he and Tony are at the same school and Steven thinks he knows how horrible the guy is.

Elizabeth invites Sophia over to the Wakefields’, which horrifies Jessica, especially since Lila’s coming over at the same time. Jess pretends that Sophia’s there to take some of the twins’ old clothes. Jessica is the worst, but we knew that. Elizabeth’s friends start spending time with Sophia, and they really like her as well, because Liz chooses to surround herself with respectable people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a club named after a mythical animal that no middle-schooler would actually admit to liking.

Sophia usually has no one to eat lunch with, so Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke (oh, hey, Brooke!) invite her to join them. They decide to make it a special occasion, planning a potluck picnic outside. They even write out an invitation for Sophia, letting her know how much they like her and want to be friends with her. Poor Sophia has never had friends, and she’s touched by their kindness.

The play committee discusses possibilities, and everyone agrees that they need to put on something that middle-schoolers can relate to. Since Sophia is such a great writer, Elizabeth suggests that she handle the story. The other students are so impressed with her talent that they immediately agree. Sophia is suddenly liked, and she has friends, so of course things are only going to go well from now on! Yeah, not so much. Tony gives Steven a black eye at school, though Steven claims that he was trying to get his friends to leave Tony alone.

Liz learns that Sophia has never had a birthday party (no friends + poor = the saddest birthdays ever, I imagine), and since her birthday’s coming up, Elizabeth decides to throw her a party. Unfortunately, Alice and Ned choose that evening to start parenting – just not in a good way. They decree that Elizabeth is no longer allowed to socialize with Sophia outside of school, and she’s especially not allowed to go to the Rizzos’ house anymore. After all, since Tony’s such a bad kid, Sophia is clearly also a bad influence. Parents of the year, those Wakefields.

Throughout this story, the Wakefields have been talking about the twins being invited to spend the weekend in L.A. with some friends of Ned’s. Originally they thought both girls were invited, but the friends are either jerks or don’t know that twins means two people, because they only have room for one girl. Jessica desperately wants to go, since they’ll be seeing her favorite musical. Elizabeth is willing to let her go – the trip is the weekend of the play, and later, the weekend she’s going to host Sophia’s party.

But the Wakefields think that Liz gives in to Jessica too much, and that the decision of who goes should be fair. They have the girls draw straws, and Elizabeth gets the trip. She’s not even that excited about it, but her parents insist that she go. Fair, schmair – if one of my kids really wanted to do something the other didn’t seem to care about, I’d send the one who was actually interested. Plus, sending Jessica would involve a lot less whining.

Anyway, Steven suggests that the twins pull a switch. Ned and Alice will be away all day, so Ned’s friends won’t know they’re picking up the wrong girl. This way Elizabeth still gets to throw Sophia’s party, and Jessica shuts up. Well, about that, at least. She’s still upset about Sophia writing the play, and she warns Elizabeth that the Unicorns are going to arrange a boycott so no one auditions.

At school, Lila humiliates Sophia by melodramatically reading part of her play. Elizabeth decides that she’d rather comfort Sophia than obey her parents, so she goes to the Rizzos’ after school. She continues to work on the play with Sophia, not telling Ned and Alice where she’s spending her time. Though the Unicorns’ boycott is mostly successful, there are still some people at the auditions, and the other roles are filled by people from the writing committee. Liz thinks this works out well anyway, since the same people tend to get cast in every show, and now other people have a chance to perform. Since Bruce is in the play, the Unicorns decide to attend, though Elizabeth has to threaten to tell Ned and Alice about the switch in order to get Jessica to come.

The play goes off without a hitch, and everyone’s so great that there’s thunderous applause, bouquets of flowers, money being thrown, etc. Though Ned and Alice realize that Sophia isn’t a monster after all, Elizabeth is still afraid to tell them about throwing her a party. She puts that all together while her parents are out of town and Jessica’s off in L.A. The party is very well attended; people were so impressed with Sophia’s writing that they like her now. There are even Unicorns there, and everyone seems to genuinely want to hang out with Sophia.

Unfortunately, Ned and Alice accidentally crash the party. They come back to town to get Jessica (because they think Elizabeth is in L.A.) and take her to a different party, and instead stumble across the good twin acting like the bad twin. Fortunately, instead of ruining things, they make Sophia think that they were in on the whole thing. Ned even brings Sophia’s mom to the party. Alice offers her a job, and Ned puts Tony in contact with a counselor. See, the Wakefields aren’t so bad after all! It only took common sense and a disobedient 12-year-old to make them see the light.

Thoughts: The Patmans have a canning factory?

“My life is in shambles, my dreams are shattered, and now you’re going to bring that ragtag misfit into our living room!” Jessica is more melodramatic than any soap character I’ve ever come across. Also, “ragtag misfit”?

Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke inviting Sophia to have a picnic with them is so sweet. I mean, these are middle-school girls. Middle-school girls are hardly ever sweet. They went above and beyond.

Sophia tells Elizabeth about something her family calls the Rizzo raffle. The Rizzos put their spare change in a jar, and every week they use it to do something fun. That’s a cool idea for a family that can’t spend a lot of money on one thing, or that wants to let their kids take turns picking out family activities.

April 1, 2014

SVT #5, Sneaking Out: Dog Day Afternoon

Posted in books tagged , , at 6:44 pm by Jenn

Just say no to denim on denim, Jess

Just say no to denim on denim, Jess

Summary: Johnny Buck, America’s favorite rock star (or at least America’s teenagers’ favorite rock star) is coming to Sweet Valley for a concert! WHY AREN’T YOU MORE EXCITED? For $25, every Jimmy and Susie in Sweet Valley can listen to the Buck sing songs about…I don’t know. Kittens? Picnics? Something else inoffensive? Lest you think he’s just another product of the machine that gave us such artists as the Biebs, that other guy who’s kind of like the Biebs, and that third guy who’s also like the Biebs except Australian, even boys like the Buck. Or they pretend to because Bruce does.

Anyway, Jessica wants to go to the concert because the last time the Buck was in town, she and Elizabeth were deemed “too young” to go. But they staked out his hotel and he threw Jessica a hat. Well, actually he threw the hat to Elizabeth, but she snoozed and lost, so Jess grabbed it. She’s the bigger Buck fan anyway. And Elizabeth’s a pushover, so of course she let Jessica have it. Jess wants to take the hat to the concert and have the Buck sign it, since he obviously chose her out of all the other fangirls for this very important prize, which means it’s true luv. And Jessica wants to make him an honorary Unicorn. I’m sure he’ll love that.

Alas, Jessica’s hopes are dashed by Alice and Ned, who think the twins are still too young to go to a rock concert. Steven’s going but doesn’t want to play chaperone, which is understandable. And it’s not like it matters, since Jessica doesn’t have the money for a ticket anyway. But she decides to earn the money somehow, and figure out the logistics later.

Jess spots an ad looking for a dog-sitter, and though she hates dogs (and admits to being scared of them), she decides that’s the fastest, easiest way to make $25. The dog’s owner, Mrs. Bramble, is so impressed with Jessica’s maturity (cough) and love for dogs (cough cough) that she asks Jessica take the dog, Sally, home with her while Mrs. Bramble is out of town. Suddenly this dog-sitting job has turned into temporary foster care for a dog Jessica’s afraid of despite the fact that it’s a chubby, senior citizen cocker spaniel. But Jess has never said no to an easy paycheck, so she gets her parents to agree to let Sally stay with them. Mrs. Bramble pays Jessica up front, which is a horrible idea.

The only thing Jessica hates more than dogs is any kind of work, so she gets her family members to take care of Sally for her. Elizabeth is the only one who realizes she’s being manipulated. This works all the way through the morning of the concert, when Jessica’s the only one around to walk Sally. Mrs. Bramble is supposed to come back that afternoon and pick up Sally before Jessica goes to Lila’s to get ready for the concert. But Mrs. Bramble calls to say she missed her bus and won’t be in until that night, long after Jessica’s supposed to leave.

No way will Jessica give up on her dreams of lying to her parents and going to a concert to meet the supposed love of her life. She ties Sally to a tree in the backyard and splits. But Sally goes chasing after a squirrel and her leash comes loose. Run, Sally! Be free of these people! When Elizabeth comes home, she discovers that Sally’s missing. Being the responsible twin, she enlists Amy to help her find the dog, but they have no luck.

Jessica’s afternoon isn’t much better. Her and Lila’s seats suck, the acoustics aren’t very good, and at one point the Buck’s microphone dies. A bunch of people are upset enough to storm out, but the girls stay, still wanting the Buck’s autograph. The technical issues are resolved and the Buck resumes the concert, which Jessica now gets to enjoy from a better vantage point, since so many people left.

But then – a crisis! Jessica sees other girls with the Buck’s hats and realizes that the one he threw her wasn’t an object of his affection at all. He gives hats away like they mean nothing to him. While she’s dealing with her heartbreak, Jessica falls onto some grass, staining her clothes (which she borrowed from Elizabeth without asking). The girls head home, saddened by the reality that life is hard and sometimes rock stars don’t want to marry you.

Mrs. Bramble returns to town, and Elizabeth has to confess that Sally escaped. They do eventually find Sally at Mrs. Bramble’s house, where Elizabeth is confused by the concept of a doggie door. Alice is annoyed that Jessica left to hang out with Lila when she was supposed to be taking care of Sally, and she demands that Elizabeth call her and summon her home. Also, Jessica will have to give back the money Mrs. Bramble paid her. Elizabeth stalls, but that backfires because Alice decides they’ll just go to Lila’s and get Jessica themselves.

At the Fowlers’, Elizabeth gives Jessica the news that Alice is unhappy with her and she has to give Mrs. Bramble back her $25. Of course, Jessica spent that money on the doomed concert. She asks Elizabeth for a loan, but this is one time Liz won’t be bailing her sister out of an avoidable mess. Also, Elizabeth is upset that Jessica borrowed the earrings Liz bought for Alice’s birthday and then lost one.

Jess then has to apologize to Mrs. Bramble, and she ends up spilling everything she did – going to the concert without permission, spending the $25, and not liking dogs. Mrs. Bramble is sympathetic since she did some things as a child that she wasn’t supposed to do. She makes a deal that Jessica doesn’t have to pay back the $25, but she’ll have to walk Sally every day for a month. Jessica decides this is fair, especially since her parents never find out about the concert and she’s able to give Elizabeth a replacement for the earrings. I guess dealing with a slobbering dog is enough punishment for Jessica this time.

Thoughts: I enjoy Alice actually being a parent. Of course, it won’t last.

Johnny Buck’s supposed to be a rock star, but I can’t help thinking of him as being like the Biebs. They even have the same initials! Which are…also my initials. Okay, I’m not sure what that means.

The clothes Jessica borrows from Elizabeth are “a pale beige with a scoop neck and a raspberry jacket,” and leather slippers. Leather…slippers?

Jessica also doesn’t ask to borrow the outfit or the earrings Liz bought for Alice because she’s sure they would both understand how important the concert is to her and would want her to look nice. This is most likely one of the symptoms of Jessica’s psychopathy.

The Wakefields call the police about the missing dog, which is ridiculous, mostly because in SVH and SVU, they don’t call the police abut real emergencies.

Elizabeth: “Lots of animals find their way back from much farther away. Remember Lassie.” Alice: “Lassie did come home.” Freaking A, people.

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