November 28, 2017

SVT #113, The Boyfriend Game: Let’s Make a Date

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

The guy on the far left is very, very ’90s. Like, every guy in my school dressed like that

Summary: The hottest show in Sweet Valley right now is Young Love, a dating show where middle-schoolers get to question three unseen potential suitors and then go out with them. Ahh, yes, the ever-elusive preteen-matchmaking market has finally been targeted. The show is holding a contest for local schools who want to send students on the show; all couples matched on the show get a trip to Dizzy Planet, a new theme park everyone wants to go to. To enter the running to be chosen, SVMS has to submit a group photo and an essay on why they should be considered.

A bunch of different clubs write essays, and Elizabeth is one of the students put in charge of choosing which should be submitted to the show. Since each essay does such a good job of highlighting a portion of the student body, Liz decides that all the essays should be submitted so the show’s producers can see how eclectic the school is. They have to take the group photo multiple times, since the Unicorns keep ruining it, but ultimately, SVMS sends in their essays and photo, and they’re chosen to be on Young Love.

Now the kids at SVMS get to sign up to be contestants or candidates (the potential dates the contestants can choose from). They’re sworn to secrecy so no one can make any arrangements to choose/be chosen by someone they want to go out with. Liz is chosen as a contestant, while Jess is picked to be a candidate, though she’d rather just go out with the show’s host, Byron Miller. Sophia Rizzo is also a candidate, and her boyfriend Patrick is a contestant, which they tell each other even under threat of disqualification for violating the secrecy agreement. They want to come up with a way to ensure they end up together.

Jess watches the show to figure out which candidates are more likely to be chosen for dates. She realizes that honesty and sincerity are big pluses, but being Jess, she has no idea how to be either of those things, so she goes to Liz for help. Liz is like, “Tell…the truth? Maybe?” Jess: “That sounds difficult, but maybe I can fake it.” Also, this is ironic considering what Liz pulls next.

Elizabeth isn’t that familiar with the show, so she’s worried when she learns from Amy that Byron sometimes teases the contestants. (They’re children, Byron. Take it easy.) Liz doesn’t want to be embarrassed on TV, but she still wants to go to Dizzy Planet, so she asks Jess to pull a twin switch with her. So much for honesty. Jessica doesn’t really care how she gets to Dizzy Planet, so she easily agrees to pretend to be Liz.

Patrick and Sophia start sneaking around to try to meet up to discuss how they’re going to rig the show. Guys, you’re dating. No one would find it suspicious if you were seen hanging out. They’ve heard about the game-show scandals of the ’50s and are worried that they’ll get busted and investigated by the FBI. Patrick’s really paranoid and barely listens when Sophia tries to tell him what their secret signal will be. Contestants get to pick the questions they ask the candidates, so Patrick will need to ask his three potential dates about their favorite foods. Sophia will answer, “Poetry, for woman does not live by bread alone.”

The twins pull their switch the day of the taping, and no one notices. Jessica is up first, and her three potential suitors are Todd, Bruce, and Winston (though she doesn’t know this, as they’re separated by a divider and the guys are using voice-changing mics). Even though Jess makes a fool of herself in front of Byron, she accidentally makes Liz and Todd look like they’re meant to be, or something, by picking Todd as her date. She’s disappointed that she won’t get to go to Dizzy Planet as Bruce’s date, but at least she won’t have to hang out with Winston.

Liz’s fellow candidates are Amy and Ellen, and their contestant is Aaron. Liz realizes that if she and Jess hadn’t pulled their switch, they could have a chance at being with their preferred guys. But Aaron ends up picking Amy, since Liz was too preoccupied by the switch to give good answers, and Ellen probably doesn’t even know where she is. Now the twins can’t even undo their switch and go to Dizzy Planet with the guys they like.

After Janet takes her turn as a contestant and unwittingly picks nerdy Donald Zwerdling as her date, Patrick is up. His choices are Sophia, Maria, and some other girl who’s not important. Patrick forgets the signal question and instead asks what the girls think of poetry. Each gives an answer that includes the word “bread,” so Patrick has no idea which one is Sophia. He accidentally chooses Maria as his date. Sophia’s so annoyed with him that Patrick is probably glad he gets to spend the trip to Dizzy Planet with someone other than her.

Everyone’s upset with the way things turned out, but they learn that they have to go on their dates to Dizzy Planet or the show won’t put on the Valentine’s Day dance that serves as part of their prize. The ones who pulled twin switches or rigged the game also can’t say anything, for fear of having the whole school punished. Basically, the only person who’s happy at the end of the book is Maria, who has no idea why everyone else is mad at each other. This will, I’m sure, all get worked out in the next book.

Thoughts: “Honest and sincere. Jessica thought about that for a moment. It was definitely an approach she wouldn’t have come up with on her own.” Yeah, that’s a shocker.

When asked which Johnny Buck song best describes what he’s looking for in romance, Bruce picks “Forever Fever,” “because that’s what any girl gets when she’s with me.” From an STD, right?

Todd wants to be a dolphin, because “they’re so beautiful and smart.” Oh, Todd. You’re beautiful on the inside.

I’m so disappointed that we barely get to witness the moment Janet discovers she matched with Donald. I bet you could hear her scream from two counties away.

Aaron’s a jerk. Jessica can do better.

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November 21, 2017

SVT #112, If Looks Could Kill: No TV and No Fighting Make the Wakefields…Something Something

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

No, I don’t know why it’s called “If Looks Could Kill”

Summary: It’s New Year’s Eve, and of course there’s a party. This one will be at Lila’s house. The twins go shopping and pick out matching makeup bags. Jessica’s the only one who wants to actually use hers for makeup; Elizabeth has recently gotten into rock-collecting and thinks the bag will be perfect to store her collection. Jess hates the idea of having the same bag as her dorky sister with her dorky new hobby, so she ditches the bag. Liz does, too, since it’s expensive. So that whole part of the book was pointless, and only sets up a new fight between the twins.

The girls run into a new classmate, Eric, and Jess invites him to Lila’s party. She already has a crush on him, but Eric seems to have more in common with Liz, as he also likes rocks. Meanwhile, Joe Howell spots Eric’s sister, Patty, and tries to flirt with her. She’s nice to him but doesn’t seem that interested. Steven has a much easier time talking to Patty, though she doesn’t show much interest in him either.

The Wakefield kids all go home, where the twins get into a fight over Eric. Alice tells them that their aunt and uncle have invited them to go skiing during their next school break, but the twins’ constant bickering makes her think they’re not mature enough to go away without their parents. Alice, you’re looking at this all wrong: If they go away on a trip, they’re out of the house and you don’t have to deal with them. But no, Alice decides that Steven can go on the trip, but the twins have to earn it.

The twins really want to go skiing, so they quickly come up with an idea: Their New Year’s resolution will be to stop fighting for a whole week. Steven hates the idea of his little sisters tagging along on the ski trip, and he complains to his mother that she wasn’t hard enough on them. Alice ignores this and instead notes that Steven has been watching a lot of TV lately. Steven volunteers to stop watching TV, movies, and videotapes for a week, though at this point he’s not getting anything out of the deal.

At Lila’s party, Janet becomes smitten with Eric and basically calls dibs on him. Then Janet starts hassling Elizabeth, telling Jessica to let her know how dumb her rock collection is. If Jess doesn’t, she may be kicked out of the Unicorns. Remembering her resolution, Jessica defends her twin. Then she has to tell her friends about her resolution, so they don’t think she actually likes her sister.

Some of the other girls decide to make resolutions as well. Lila thinks they should compete – anyone who breaks her resolution has to wear a cloth diaper to the party Janet’s having in a week. For some reason, they all agree to this. The winner gets nothing other than the satisfaction of not wearing a diaper. Weak. Anyway, the resolutions:

  • Amy has been late for school a lot recently, so she resolves to be on time.
  • Maria wants to stop being vain, and will give up looking at herself in the mirror.
  • Lila will stop bragging for a week.
  • Janet will give up all sweets.

Steven and Joe somehow get roped into the competition as well; Steven will make his TV ban official, and Joe will avoid going to Casey’s for a week. The kids seem to be on the honor system for the competition, and the threat of having to wear a diaper in front of their classmates is enough to keep them on their best behavior.

On top of the competition, Steven still wants to get the twins banned from the ski trip, so he tries to come up with ways to get them to fight. Nothing works. Meanwhile, everyone else in the competition gets really serious about it. Amy even makes up scorecards with “kill” columns so they can check off when someone breaks a resolution. Everyone wants to make Janet break, but Lila’s the one who cracks first. It makes sense, since bragging is so much a part of who she is.

Janet proves to be a master manipulator, taking down both Amy and Maria even as the others try to get her to break her resolution. Maria’s easy to crack, since it only takes one glance in a mirror to make that kill. Amy’s tougher, but Janet turns her own manipulation against her. Amy takes Janet to a bunch of places to try to tempt her with sweets, but makes the mistake of eating them all herself. Janet just sits back and lets Amy stuff herself until she’s sick, thereby ensuring that she doesn’t make it to school on time the next day.

Steven is now desperate to get the twins to fight, and he turns to Janet for help. In exchange, Steven will get Janet a date with Eric. They’re not very good at this, though; their plan is to have the Unicorns run into Elizabeth at a rock and mineral show, and make Liz think that Jess brought her friends to mock her, but the twins just pretend everything is great. However, Elizabeth is starting to crack, and when the kids go to Casey’s, and Jess orders the same shake Liz wanted, Liz throws a tantrum.

Because the answering machine had started to pick up when Steven called Janet to present his plan, Joe is able to hear their conversation and learn that they’re plotting against the twins. He doesn’t want Janet to win the competition, so he runs to Casey’s to warn the twins that she’s trying to take them down. Unfortunately, this means he’s broken his own resolution, so he’s out. Then the twins eliminate Steven by talking up some awesome action movie and getting him to watch it in secret. It’s actually an episode of Jess’ soap, Days of Turmoil, so Steven didn’t even get eliminated for something cool.

The twins and Janet are the only people left in the competition, so the twins bring in the big guns: Eric. They get him to bake cookies for Janet’s party, then pretend to be disappointed when she declines to try one. Since Janet doesn’t want her new crush to think she’s a loser, she has to eat a cookie, thereby removing herself from the competition. This means the twins win the competition and are the only participants who don’t have to wear diapers to the party,

But Steven gets one last swing in by telling each twin that the other is going to buy the diapers, leading to a fight when neither has them. This should mean they can’t go on the ski trip, but now Ned and Alice have been invited along, so the whole family is going. Sorry, Steven. The twins make up, Eric dances with both of them at the party, and no one wears diapers. So what was described as a book where the twins fight over a guy turned out to be something completely different (and actually kind of fun to read).

Thoughts: Alice should have offered Steven something in exchange for his week without TV. He had no incentive to try it.

TV shows in the Sweet Valley universe: Celebrity Ping-Pong (which I’m surprised hasn’t become a real thing yet) and The Extra-Late Show hosted by Daniel Betterman. Sigh.

Quotable Liz, when the twins are listing things Steven might like about the fake movie: “And the babes. They were so, like, um, pretty.”

August 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 22, 2017

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

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

I hope Jess hypnotizes Liz into developing a better fashion sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 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.

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.

May 23, 2017

SVT #91, Deadly Voyage: It’s Like “Home Alone,” But on a Boat

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

This dude looks like a deranged monk with jaundice

Summary: The twins are about to head out on a day-long Saturday field trip with a bunch of other middle-schoolers. They’ll be exploring Santa Maria Island and observing wildlife for extra credit in science. Everyone’s excited to hang out on an island all day, and some of the students figure this will just be an easy extra-credit grab while they work on their tans. For once, Alice is getting involved in her kids’ lives, as she’s going along as a chaperone.

The kids are on a strict schedule, since a storm is coming that afternoon, and they need to be back before it hits. While the kids board the boat, the adults – teacher Mr. Siegel and chaperones Alice and Mr. Slater – stay on the dock, dealing with Kimberly, who doesn’t have a permission slip. Bruce gets all “I’m on boats all the time because my father has one, but it’s much better than this one.” He thinks he could run the boat, called the Island Dreamer, by himself. Nerd Donald Zwerdling disagrees, since the boat is old and probably doesn’t have the kind of technology Bruce is used to.

A man on the boat tells Aaron they’re ready to cast off, so Aaron undoes the rope tying the boat to the dock. After a couple minutes, the boat starts moving. The kids realize that the adults are all still on the dock (and Kimberly, but no one cares about her). Elizabeth and her smart friends (namely Amy, Maria, and Todd) panic about the lack of adult supervision, while the cool kids like the Unicorns think this means they get to hang out all day without doing schoolwork. They get annoyed when Liz says she’s going to tell the captain he needs to go back to the dock.

The captain isn’t as concerned as Elizabeth, telling her that the chaperones will join them on the island from another boat. He won’t open the door very wide or come out to talk to the kids, which Liz finds strange. The cool kids tell her to calm down. Janet even blasts her for always trying to run things, which is pretty rich coming from the bossy president of the Unicorns. Liz tries to relax and have fun with all the other kids, who are all enjoying themselves, except Donald. He brought a bunch of equipment with him for the island, and it’s telling him that they’re not going toward Santa Maria Island.

The kids foreshadow the next book by talking about getting shipwrecked on an island. The girls think it could be romantic. Bruce brings up Lord of the Flies, and suddenly the idea isn’t so appealing anymore. Then Jessica and Lila hear a banging noise from a supply closet and go to investigate. They’re shocked to find the real captain and a crewman tied up inside. They explain that the boat was hijacked, and two men knocked them out to use the boat as a getaway vehicle. The captain thinks they may be going to Mexico to get out of the country. This is a bigger problem than it seems: The trip to Mexico will take ten hours, so they won’t be able to dock before that big storm hits. The captain tells the kids to use a CB radio in his room to call for help.

Despite the fact that Janet was just mocking Elizabeth for always wanting to be in charge, this is the sort of situation where Liz shines. She quickly shifts into leader mode, assigning some kids to get the radio while the others pretend they don’t know anything’s up, in case the hijackers are watching them. Bruce tries to keep quiet about how he said before that he could handle the boat on his own.

While Liz, Amy, Maria, and Winston go find the CB, Jessica and Lila listen to a regular radio and hear that two men robbed a bank in Sweet Valley that morning. The police suspect that they’re on a boat. Good job, police! You’re so effective in this book! The other kids find the radio and Winston makes a mayday call, but the hijackers hear and get rid of the radio. They take the kids back to the rest of the group and tie everyone to the guardrail. Bruce and Jerry try to fight back with some karate moves, but they just embarrass themselves in front of everyone. This feels realistic – 13-year-old boys would probably think they can take on criminals, but would just end up looking ridiculous.

Back on shore, the chaperones have contacted authorities and are told that Winston made a mayday call. The adults start to realize that something really bad is going on. On the boat, the hijackers – who are dumb enough to use their real names, Jack and Gary – eat the kids’ lunches in front of them (just for funsies, I guess), then put the captain and crewman on a lifeboat and set them adrift in the water. Now the kids are completely on their own against the two hijackers.

Some of the kids start getting emotional, including Tamara Chase, one of the seldom-mentioned Unicorns. Janet’s like, “There’s no crying in Unicorns! Suck it up!” Ken thinks he sees dolphins, but they’re really sharks. So much for that sliver of happiness. Back on shore, the parents have all gathered and are told that the storm will make a rescue effort impossible. They’ll have to wait until it passes before they go looking for the kids.

As time passes on the boat, where everyone remains tied up, it soon becomes clear that the hijackers aren’t very bright. For one thing, they didn’t search the boat to make sure they’d secured all the hostages. Cammi Adams and Donald were able to hide during all the typing-up, and they use Winston’s pocketknife to start cutting kids free. Cammi proves her intelligence by deciding that they should only free a couple of people, to make it less likely that the hijackers will notice.

The freed kids, including Elizabeth, run off to hide. Lila and Bruce start fighting about which of their fathers will be first to offer up a reward for their return. Everyone is a little reassured that Elizabeth, Sweet Valley’s patron saint of good ideas, will come up with a plan to save everyone. Fortunately, they’re right. Liz uses Winston’s Walkman to make the hijackers think she’s found another CB. When they emerge to confront her, she scalds them with hot water and tries to flee through a porthole. She loses a shoe, but it’s a worthy sacrifice. The other kids then trap the men in a room, using brooms to keep the doors closed.

The good news is that now all the kids are untied. The bad news is that the storm is approaching. While the kids are trying to figure out how to get the boat to shore, the hijackers escape and recapture Elizabeth. Gary starts to push her overboard, but Jess channels her inner Liz and uses suntan oil to make Gary slip, then knocks him out with Bruce’s boogie board. One hijacker down, one to go. Elizabeth throws Gary’s gun overboard, wanting to decrease the odds of violence on the boat. I guess the ghostwriter didn’t want the book to end with one of the kids murdering someone.

Lila suddenly remembers that she has a cell phone with her (it’s 1995, so everyone calls it a cellular phone), so she starts to call her dad. Bruce is there to tell her she’s an idiot and call 911 instead. While they’re fighting with each other and trying to convince the 911 operator that they’re not pulling a prank, the phone goes flying into the water.

The kids move on to capturing Jack, which they pull off by having Winston drop a life preserver on him, then pulling it down to keep his arms immobilized. They knock him out with the boogie board and stash him with Gary. But before they can even celebrate the fact that they’ve now outsmarted two adults, they learn that Donald can’t figure out where they are, and the boat’s radio is broken. They’re lost at sea with a storm coming, and no way to call for help. Oh, and then the boat starts leaking.

Tamara loses it. This is seriously the only thing she contributes to the whole series – a meltdown. She goes out on deck, ranting about wanting to go home, and Liz has to go out in the middle of the storm to try to calm her down. It works, but a huge wave knocks Elizabeth overboard. The book ends with Liz just moments away from drowning. To be continued!

Thoughts: Re: Cammi: “She was a sixth-grader, and she looked it, Bruce thought dryly. Straight up and down.” Which I guess means he’s not going to try to rape her.

Jessica asks Elizabeth what she would pick if she could eat anything right now, and Liz chooses a salad. Girl, what’s wrong with you?

Lila, finding her cell phone: “I forgot that Daddy lent this to me this morning. He does that every now and then, you know. In case of an emergency.” Bruce: “Well, as soon as an emergency comes up, we’ll let you know! Then maybe you can use it!” Hee!

April 25, 2017

SVT #88, Steven Gets Even: Pranks a Lot

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I’m so glad I don’t have to live next door to these people

Summary: Even though it’s not Halloween, Mr. Bowman wants his class to study scary books, starting with Frankenstein. Each student also has to pick a scary story that’s at least 20 years old and write a report about it. All the kids think this will be a piece of cake – nothing more than 20 years old is going to scare them. These kids are the reason slasher movies have gotten so grotesque. Mr. Bowman suggests that Elizabeth read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is dumb – it’s not a horror story.

The kids slowly realize that the stories Mr. Bowman wants them to read are scarier than they expected. Jessica gets spooked when he reads Dracula in class, and afterward, none of the girls wants to go to the bathroom alone. I’d make fun of them but I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and there’s definitely safety in numbers where vampires are concerned. Some spooky stuff happens in the bathroom, and Jessica hears glass breaking and sees a hand turning off the lights. It turns out Bruce, Aaron, Brian, and Charlie Cashman were just pulling a prank. Now Jess wants revenge.

Inspired by a trick Steven pulls with a knife, pretending he cut off his finger (and he probably shouldn’t pull that with his parents around, because Ned practically has a heart attack), Jessica pulls the old gross-finger-in-the-candy-box prank on Charlie while Mr. Bowman is reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the class. Elizabeth finds a Barbie hanging in her locker, dripping with fake blood, and the kids officially kick off a “scare war,” boys vs. girls. It’s mainly the twins, Lila, Janet, Amy, Maria, and Mandy against the four boys.

Since the girls are unsure what will actually scare the boys, they decide to use Steven to test out some pranks. Steven is a lot more gullible and prankable than you’d expect, considering he’s the one who’s usually pulling tricks. The girls become savvier and less scareable, to the boys’ dismay. However, they’re also getting spooked by Edgar Allan Poe stories and other stuff they said wouldn’t frighten them.

By the end of the week, Steven is scared to be in his own house because his sisters have been pulling so many pranks on him. They’re having a sleepover on Friday, and Ned and Alice will be out for a while, so he figures this is a good time to get revenge. The four boys show up to scare the girls, who quickly come up with a plan to spook them back, using glow-in-the-dark paint and sleeping bags to fool them into thinking there are weird floating faces outside the house. When Elizabeth realizes Charlie is dressed as a mummy, she drenches him with the hose. The boys admit defeat in the scare war, so the girls make them cluck like chickens and call the girls “Your Awesomeness” for a week.

Steven gets his revenge by making scary noises in the basement, where he’s been hiding the whole night, having made the girls think he was out somewhere. Jessica hides in the pantry, thinking there’s some sort of monster in the basement. The other girls have to face off with the “monster,” but Steven can’t keep from laughing, so he gets busted pretty easily. He tells the younger kids that they’re all wimps, so the girls’ win in the scare war doesn’t really mean anything. Then Ned and Alice scare everyone with masks. I don’t know. This book was probably fun to read when I was younger, but now it’s pretty weak.

Thoughts: “Kids today are too sophisticated to be frightened by a story like Frankenstein.” Are you sure, Amy? Are you sure you’re sophisticated? (I hope Mr. Bowman heard about all the scaring afterward and teased the kids about thinking they were unscareable.)

Why is Aaron still hanging out with Brian?

Here it is, the greatest sentence to appear in any Sweet Valley book: “‘I want to go home!’ Bruce sobbed.”

February 28, 2017

SVT #83, Amy’s Secret Sister: Everything’s Coming Up Ashley

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

The rare ugly-outfit trifecta

The rare ugly-outfit trifecta

Summary: We pick up right where Steven’s Enemy left off, with Amy’s parents about to tell her what they’ve been keeping from her. Amy’s been worried that they’re getting divorced, but she’s hit with something completely unexpected: Mr. Sutton has another daughter. The story is that Mr. Sutton got married right out of high school, they split up when he moved overseas for work, and his never bothered to tell him when she got pregnant. Over the next nine months (since Amy’s sister is only 18 months older than she is), Mr. Sutton met Mrs. Sutton, fell in love, got married, and conceived Amy. (…Yeah.)

Mr. Sutton learned about his other daughter when she was around six, and he and Mrs. Sutton never told Amy. But now the elder Sutton girl, Ashley, is coming to visit her father, stepmother, and half sister for two weeks. Wow, that’ll totally make up for 13 years of nothing. Amy’s parents weren’t fighting because they’re unhappy in their marriage; they’ve been trying to convince Ashley’s mother to let her come visit in the middle of the school year. Part of me thinks Ashley’s mom has a point, but the rest of me thinks she can bite me for not telling her father she existed for six years and not letting her see her father at all for 13.

Amy is thrilled to have a sister, even though most people in her situation would be in shock, and probably mad at their parents for never saying anything. Seriously, there’s “Amy’s only five so it would be confusing to tell her she has a sister we never knew about,” and there’s “let’s see how long we can keep this a secret.” Amy does feel a little weird when Ashley calls their father “Dad” right away, but Ashley is so awesome that Amy immediately feels a connection with her, and she’s too happy about having a sister to let anything else bother her.

Elsewhere in the Sweet Valley-verse, the Unicorns have decided they need some new blood, but not permanent new blood. Just entertain-us-for-a-while-and-then-get-out blood. I’m going to stop saying “blood” now. They decide to let someone join the club temporarily. Amy confides in Elizabeth that she’s interested, which is partly in line with Amy’s character, as she seems to need validation a lot, but also ridiculous because she never shows any interest in the things the Unicorns like.

Since Ashley is now in town and is, as established, awesome, the Unicorns want her to hang out with them until she goes home. Ashley has experience with this sort of elitism, as she’s in a similar club back home, the Butterflies. (Yes, really.) Though the Butterflies do some volunteer work, so they’re at least more respectable than the Unicorns. Ashley would rather hang out with Amy than the prettiest, most popular girls in school, but Amy’s starting to feel a little overshadows by her sister and all the attention she’s getting. It gets worse when Ashley decides the subject of a school essay about someone you admire will be Mr. Sutton. Amy decides to do the same.

Janet asks Amy for her phone number, making Amy think the Unicorns are going to invite her into the club. Wrong! The want her sister. On top of attention from the Unicorns and lots of boys, Ashley is asked to fill in for a sick dancer in Jessica’s ballet class, dancing the lead in Sleeping Beauty. Everything’s coming up Ashley!

Showing that she is, in fact, pretty awesome, Ashley’s more concerned about Amy’s feelings than she is about being popular and adored. She doesn’t want to take her sister’s spot in the Unicorns (not that it was ever going to be Amy’s spot anyway). When she’s invited to a gathering at Lila’s, she asks if Amy and Elizabeth can come along, too. Amy thinks the Unicorns came up with the idea, so she’s happy again. The sleepover is a disaster for Amy, though, since everyone fawns over Ashley and treats Amy like a redheaded stepchild.

The one thing Ashley isn’t good at is writing, so Amy helps her work on an article for the Sixers about the differences between Sweet Valley and New York. Amy’s pleased that she’s better at something than her sister. Her happiness doesn’t last long, though, as Ashley is still the preferred Sutton at school. Amy is basically a six-year-old in this book, with the jealousy and the inability to be happy about anything for her sister.

The day of Ashley’s big recital, the location is changed at the last minute. Ashley leaves a note for Amy and Mr. Sutton, then calls to make sure Amy saw it. Mr. Sutton isn’t home, and Amy gets so frustrated answering calls from others about the recital that she throws away the note, then takes an angry nap (TM Arrested Development). When she wakes up, she goes looking for a sweater she thinks Ashley borrowed and instead finds Ashley’s “person I most admire” essay. It’s not about Mr. Sutton, it’s about Amy. Ashley thinks Amy is amazing and loves her to pieces.

Amy finally realizes that her jealousy over Ashley is ridiculous, and she needs to be a better sister. She goes to tell her father about the location change, but he’s already left. She rides her bike all over town, looking for him, then goes to Elizabeth for help. Liz sends Amy to the recital and continues the search, managing to get Mr. Sutton to the recital on time. He learns about the note but doesn’t say anything until later, apologizing for not making sure Amy was really okay with everything that was going on. Whatever, he’s still a better parent than either of the Wakefields. Amy and Ashley make up, and the Suttons are all happy.

In the B-plot, Jessica tries a bunch of new hairstyles. No, really, that’s it.

Thoughts: The ghostwriter clearly wanted to give Amy a sister close to her age without a scandal, so they gloss over the details, but…it’s just not normal. None of this is normal. It would have been one thing if Mr. Sutton had never told his wife about Ashley, but to have both of them lie to Amy? No.

I bet the other girls in the ballet class really appreciated having some random girl come in and take a role one of them could have had.

I don’t get why Amy doesn’t just look for her father at the place where the recital was originally going to be. Did she think he was going to run errands beforehand?

February 14, 2017

SVT #82, Steven’s Enemy: Oh, Brother

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

With his stance and the vibe he's giving off, it looks like Steven's upset because he wants Ben for himself

With his stance and the vibe he’s giving off, it looks like Steven’s upset because he wants Ben for himself

Summary: Having not learned her lesson from the last time she decided to trade in Denny for a better model, Janet has her eye on an SVH freshman named Doug. The other Unicorns decide to go to the next SVH JV basketball practice to check him out and let her know whether they approve. (I doubt any of them would say no. It’s not like Janet’s looking for an honest opinion here.)

Speaking of basketball players, Steven has recently been switched from starting center to guard in favor of a new kid named Ben Oliver. Steven hates Ben, even though he seems like a perfectly nice guy. But Steven isn’t going to be overshadowed by a kid who always knows the answer in class and probably thinks he’s smarter than everyone just because he’s a year younger than the other freshmen, having skipped seventh grade. To make matters worse, Ben is running against Steven for class treasurer.

Steven’s campaign goes negative against Ben, though Cathy objects, insisting that Ben is a great guy. Steven’s furious that she would find even one good thing about his arch-nemesis. He thinks he’s a shoo-in for treasurer. The Unicorns attend the next basketball practice, and Jessica immediately develops a crush on Ben. She has no idea that he’s her brother’s enemy, and he has no idea that getting involved with her would make Steven mad.

The vote for treasurer is too close to call, so the freshmen vote again. This time, Ben wins. Steven acts like a jerk about it even though Ben is gracious. His day gets worse when he comes home to find Ben there, about to take Jessica to Casey’s for ice cream. Steven goes all overprotective brother, refusing to let Jess leave with Ben. I can’t believe he thinks that’ll work. Jessica ignores him and goes off with Ben. Then Cathy and Joe are friendly toward Ben at school, just making Steven madder.

Jessica and Ben plan a double date with Janet and Doug, which Steven tries to get Ned and Alice to cancel. Even though their 12-year-old daughter will be going out with a high-schooler, Ned and Alice are fine with the situation (I think they made Ben 13 so the age gap wouldn’t be so big. But still, a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader?). Steven practically threatens to get violent with Ben, which gets him sent to his room. Hey, an attempt at effective Wakefield parenting for once!

Elizabeth has already started to suspect that Jess is only with Ben to bug Steven, and after the double date, it seems like Jess might only stick with the relationship for that reason. Ben and Doug are both kind of annoying, and Jessica and Janet are starting to realize that dating a high-schooler isn’t as glamorous as they’d expected. Still, Jess isn’t going to pass up the chance to talk up the date so Steven gets even madder. She plays it off like they’re just friends, so Ned and Alice can’t really object. After Steven overhears the Unicorns talking about Veronica, he decides to handle the Jess/Ben situation (JessBen is an awful couple name; let’s hope that, say, Jessica Chastain and Ben Affleck never get together) on his own.

Steven asks Veronica out, I guess not worrying about what Cathy will say if she finds out. Jess is as furious as Steven is every time he sees her with Ben. Though he’s pleased with his plan, Steven gets upset again when he hears a rumor that Cathy voted for Ben in the election. He immediately believes this, which is dumb, but that’s par for the course for Steven in this book. However, Cathy then confirms this, claiming she has a good reason. Steven’s too angry to listen to her.

Now at the side of a high-schooler, Veronica is suddenly popular. Even the Unicorns want to spend time with her, despite the tricks she’s pulled on Jessica in the past. Steven is happy with his revenge plot, but clearly still wants to be with Cathy, as he gets jealous when he hears that she’s been spending time with a guy named Howie. Later, Steven hears Ben telling Doug that Howie lost a bunch of the class’ money for a class trip while he was serving as treasurer. Ben has to do a lot of work to make it back. He knows Cathy voted for him, but only because she didn’t want Steven to have to be stuck with the debt (which she found out about while tutoring Howie in math). Okay, but couldn’t she have told him that?

Steven suddenly gets that Ben isn’t a bad guy after all, and his jealousy comes from…well, nowhere, really. He tries to make up with Cathy, but she’s understandably tired of dealing with him. Steven takes Veronica to Casey’s, and Cathy shows up with Howie. Jessica spots Steven and flings a cherry at him. Steven fires back, innocents are dragged into the fight, and the whole restaurant gets trashed in a food fight. Mr. Casey kicks everyone out, surprisingly not banning them all for life.

The tension has been cut, and all the people who have been fighting make up. Ben and Veronica end up together, because why not? Then Ben has to quit basketball because being treasurer requires too much work, so Steven gets his position back. Everything is awesome again! At least until Steven dumps Cathy for a dumb reason and this whole thing starts over again!

The B-plot is really just setting up a future book: Amy’s suspicious of her parents, who keep having secret conversations and arguing. She thinks they’re going to split up, possibly because of a woman named Jane, as Mr. Sutton wrote a letter to her but hasn’t sent it yet. Liz finds a picture of Mr. Sutton with his arm around a woman, and the words “love, Jane” on the back.

She keeps this from Amy for a while, and when she finally tells her what she saw, Amy blows up at her. She accuses Liz of not wanting Amy to have a family as perfect as the Wakefields. What? Okay, Amy. They make up later, but things between Mr. and Mrs. Sutton don’t get any better. We get a cliffhanger when Jane calls the house and the Suttons ask Elizabeth to leave so they can discuss something in private. If you know the title of book #83, you can guess what the discussion’s about.

There’s also a teeny C-plot where Elizabeth learns that Bruce is going to release a pig in Mrs. Arnette’s class, so she publishes a story about it in the Sixers ahead of time. She and her friends are amused by how angry Bruce gets. I wish they’d done more with this plot; I thought it was funny.

Thoughts: Normally I would call Elizabeth a killjoy for ruining someone’s prank, but doing it to mess with Bruce makes me root for her.

Jessica considers wearing leggings with an Oxford shirt. Ick.

If the freshmen elected someone who’s bad at math to be their treasurer, they kind of deserve whatever happens.

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