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?

November 18, 2014

SVT #20, Playing Hooky: The Six-Minute Escape

Posted in books tagged , , , at 6:28 pm by Jenn

I know I've said it before, but...Precious Moments figurine, right here

I know I’ve said it before, but…Precious Moments figurine, right here

Summary: The twins are at the mall when Jessica gets the best news of her life (or at least her life this week): Kent Kellerman, star of her favorite soap, is coming to town. In fact, his show will be taping some scenes at the Sweet Valley Mall. I guess a lot of people watch this soap, because a ton of girls in the mall are freaking out about the news. I don’t think 16-year-old soap actors were all that big in the ’80s – weren’t people mostly into Luke and Laura, Frisco and Felicia, and whatever craziness was going on over on Days of Our Lives? Anyway, this is a Big Deal. And I will say that if Jonathan Jackson were coming to my town when I was a preteen, I would have been just as excited.

The bad news is that the scenes will be taped while the girls are supposed to be in school. The good news is that Brooke has an in: Her father, a Hollywood screenwriter, is working on the soap (which: no) and may be able to get Jessica and Lila access to the taping. Brooke is upset that her father is spending so much more time with Kent, his new project, than with her, but we’re not supposed to care about that. We’re supposed to care about the fact that Jessica has a potential new minion to do her bidding.

First Jessica and Lila offer Brooke the chance to try out for the Boosters. (How convenient that there’s suddenly an open spot because someone moved away!) Elizabeth had already asked Brooke to hang out with the staff of the Sixers to see if she wants to join them, so Jess and Lila keep her from that meeting. When they start talking about Kent, Brooke mentions that her father might be able to get them passes to the set. What a great idea, Brooke! That thought had never even occurred to Jessica and Lila!

Brooke is able to get the passes, but there’s something about the filming location changing, and the girls not being able to get there. It’s not really clear. But Caroline Pearce reports that the gym teacher has been called for jury duty all week, which means they’ll have a sub. Jess and Lila realize that they just need to get a couple girls to say “here” during roll call, and no one will know they’re not in class. They can leave school during lunch, catch a few minutes of the taping, and get back to school without anyone noticing they were gone.

Unfortunately, Caroline has produced faulty information. The gym teacher was dismissed from jury duty, so there won’t be a substitute. Elizabeth decides that she needs to go get Jessica and Lila and drag them back to school before class starts. This means Elizabeth, the perfect, golden child, also cuts class. EMTs, please stand by while the readers all have heart attacks. Liz rushes to the set and gets Jess and Lila (who were there for all of a few minutes), but on their way out, the principal’s secretary spots her.

Back at school, the principal summons Jessica and Lila. His secretary only saw two girls on the set, and mistook Elizabeth for Jessica, which makes sense, because Jess is definitely the twin more likely to skip school. Jess and Lila are sentenced to wash blackboards after school, and must sit out their extracurriculars for two weeks. This is a huge blow to Jessica, who has recently become a star basketball player, leading the middle school girls’ team to the championships. Her teammates are ticked, and Jessica is afraid of losing her star status to newcomer Billie Layton.

But the mistake that got Jessica into this mess will surely get her out of it. She just needs to switch places with Elizabeth. Liz is willing to agree, since she wants the team to win just as much as Jessica does. However, she also has to wash blackboards so Jessica can pretend to be Liz and go to practice all week. This means she has to miss a Sixers interview with a famous ballerina. Jessica’s supposed to sub for her but doesn’t want to leave practice, so she sends Brooke in her place. However, she screws up the location and Brooke misses the interview.

So now Mr. Bowman is mad at Elizabeth, and everyone else is mad at Jessica. Plus, Liz and Brooke have to find someone else to interview for the paper. Brooke thinks she can interview someone coming to a dinner party her father’s throwing that weekend. Elizabeth is invited to dinner, but she’s so tired from doing Jessica’s punishment that she almost cancels. She changes her mind when Brooke tells her who will be at dinner, and who she can interview for the paper: Kent Kellerman.

Jessica misses out on meeting her favorite actor, but she does get to play in the championship game. However, Billie gets to start, and Jessica, posing as Elizabeth, isn’t able to shine until the end. Of course, she wins the game for her team, and manages to snag the MVP trophy, though it has Elizabeth’s name on it. Heh. Then Elizabeth decides to confess to the principal that she also skipped class, so she’s given the blackboard-washing punishment she already completed. She passes it along to Jessica, which is only fair. So for once, Jessica has to suffer the consequences of her actions.

Thoughts: Maybe it’s because of Kent Brockman from The Simpsons, but the name Kent Kellerman makes me think news anchor, not soap star.

If Brooke’s father is a “famous Hollywood screenwriter,” why is he working on a soap? Is this like when James Franco was on General Hospital?

I assume that the twin switch at the basketball championship game is only successful because Ned and Alice aren’t there to bust it. That means they missed their daughters’ championship game. OF COURSE THEY DID.

Speaking of Ned and Alice… “Jessica has to learn to be responsible for herself.” HA HA HA HA HA HA! Ned, you’re hilarious.

April 15, 2014

SVT #6, The New Girl: Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

Posted in books tagged , , at 8:10 pm by Jenn

This is one of my favorite covers in the whole series

This is one of my favorite covers in the whole series

Summary: Brooke Dennis is new in Sweet Valley, and she is an awful human being. She’s a snobby brat who thinks she’s too good for Sweet Valley. She also kicked a dog. She’s evil. Alice is helping her father with some decorating thing, so she basically volunteers Jessica and Elizabeth to show Brooke around school. Even Liz, who is tolerant of most everyone, can’t stand spending time with the girl.

The last straw for Jessica comes when Brooke spills paint on a poster Jess was making for the upcoming book fair. Apparently the poster was super-awesome and probably would have won first prize. Brooke doesn’t even apologize, so it’s a little understandable when Jessica wants revenge. And her revenge is so creative that it’s hard not to admire her: She tells Brooke that she and Elizabeth aren’t twins, but two of a set of triplets.

From then on, everyone is in on the trick, making Brooke believe that the Wakefield triplets are Elizabeth, Jessica, and Jennifer. The twins take turns playing Jennifer, always wearing a cardigan and a bow in their hair. Liz is willing to go along because Brooke was so mean to her sister. But Brooke becomes friends with “Jennifer,” and Elizabeth starts feeling bad for her. After all, her mother ditched her, her father’s never around, and everyone hates her, so she’s lonely. (Of course, being nicer might help that last one, but whatever.)

After Brooke expresses glee over the possibility of Jessica being injured while cheerleading, Elizabeth is up for the grand finale. At the book fair assembly (which happens to fall on Brooke’s birthday), the twins and some of their friends are going to humiliate Brooke in front of the whole school. They create a collapsible chair that Brooke will fall through. They know that when Brooke says Jennifer was responsible, everyone will think she’s nuts, because, of course, Jennifer doesn’t exist.

The day of the book fair, the twins even get Brooke to help carry the collapsible chair to school, telling her it’s Jennifer’s project. Elizabeth (playing Jennifer) remembers that it’s Brooke’s birthday and realizes how lonely Brooke really is, with no one to throw her a party or even eat cake with her. Elizabeth decides to put an end to the plan by making sure Brooke doesn’t sit in the rigged chair. She tries her hardest, but the other kids in on the plan keep up the act, and it goes exactly as planned. Only now Elizabeth thinks it was a bad idea.

After Brooke runs off sobbing, Elizabeth spreads the word to the other schemers that Brooke isn’t that horrible after all. They decide to make things up to her by throwing her a surprise birthday party. Brooke is slow to forgive, but eventually everyone makes up. Way to make a horrible first impression at your new school, though.

Thoughts: For the record, Brooke apologizes for being mean to the dog, but she doesn’t apologize to any humans for her behavior. So kids, the lesson is: Treat people however you want, and as long as you have a good excuse, you’ll get away with it.

Brooke wears a necklace with emerald beads and earrings that are lime-colored, so I can see why people hate her.

Why does Lila invite Elizabeth, Amy, and Julie to her birthday party?

I love that Elizabeth gets mad when Brooke calls Jessica a “two-faced phony.” How would Liz describe someone who’s been pretending to be someone else? Brooke pegged Jess without even realizing it.