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.

July 11, 2017

SVT Super Edition #7, Jessica’s Animal Instincts: In Case You Were Wondering, No, Elizabeth Is Not Smarter Than a Monkey

Posted in books tagged , , at 4:55 pm by Jenn

Bruce doesn’t look nearly scared enough

Summary: For the first two weeks of their summer vacation, kids from SVMS can do internships around town, either organized through the school or arranged on their own. SVMS probably should have restricted them to just ones on an approved list, because Jessica thinks working for Sweet Valley Makeovers is appropriate. But then Elizabeth surprises her with the news that she entered both of their names in a lottery to get internships at the zoo, and both of them have been chosen. Jess is justifiably angry that Liz didn’t tell her she was entered in the lottery, but unjustifiably angry about working at the zoo, because who hates the zoo?

Jessica is sent to the bear habitat, and acts like a jerk to her “boss,” Justin. He’s too nice/wimpy to call her on her behavior, whereas I would have sent her straight back to school and asked for an intern who actually wanted to be there. Jess tries to get an internship at Sweet Valley Makeovers; when that doesn’t come through, she goes to any interesting-looking store at the mall that might have her. None of them extends an offer. To add insult to injury, Lila is interning at the posh Briana Taylor’s, where she gets to be around nice clothes all day. Yeah, I’d still rather be at the zoo. I mean, retail. Shudder.

Jessica finally warms up to her internship when two grizzly bears, a mother and cub, are brought to the zoo. They were tranquilized after being captured outside a mall, but the mother was given too much of the drug and winds up dying. Jessica notices that she’s in distress and tries to find Justin, but she wasn’t listening when he told her where he was going, so she can’t get in touch with him. He assures her that there was nothing she could do anyway. Jessica tries to make up for her failure by comforting the cub. She names him Gus after her own teddy bear and spends all her time with him, since he’s traumatized and clingy.

The internship at Sweet Valley Makeovers comes through after all, and Jessica ditches the zoo for it. Unfortunately, she hates it. When she learns that Gus is heartbroken without her, she quits and goes back to the zoo. What a wonderful employee Jessica will make someday. She becomes obsessed with Gus, talking about him all the time and spending as much time as possible with him. Ned and Alice do nothing, of course.

Justin breaks it to Jessica that the zoo isn’t equipped to keep Gus full-time, so he’s going to be released back into whatever kind of wild is near Sweet Valley. Jess responds in the only reasonable way: She sneaks Gus out of the zoo in her backpack and takes him home with her. I’m not at all surprised that Ned and Alice are too clueless to notice an actual wild animal in their house.

The news comes out when Gus sneaks out of her room and invades the kitchen. There’s also a monkey (more on that in the B-plot). Alice’s demanding new clients, who happen to be over, are pretty distressed. Jessica has to ‘fess up to what she did (is grand theft bear a crime?), and Gus is ultimately released into the wild anyway, so it was a pretty pointless stunt. I guess the storyline was meant to make Jessica seem more compassionate, since she looked after a poor little orphaned bear, but in my eyes, it just made her look stupid. I mean, a bear in the house. Freaking A.

Elizabeth is much more into the internship than Jessica, and when she’s assigned to work with the monkeys, she thinks she’ll end up like Jane Goodall, like they’ll make her their queen or something. She laughs off her boss, Madeleine, when she says monkeys are just as smart as humans. We’re led to believe that a monkey named Spanky overhears her and escapes just to teach her a lesson. I like to think that’s true – a monkey was offended when Elizabeth called it dumb, and decided to make her look dumb in turn.

Liz spends the whole book looking around town for Spanky, spotting him, and failing to capture him. The zoo doesn’t seem too concerned with the fact that one of its animals has escaped, and it doesn’t sound like the public has been informed. I’m starting to think this zoo isn’t on the up-and-up. I mean, they let a 12-year-old cuddle a bear. Or maybe there were insurance and permission forms involved, and Ned and Alice were just like, “Eh, whatever. If something happens to Jessica, we have another kid who looks just like her.”

Since Spanky keeps showing up wherever Elizabeth goes, I imagine he’s following her around town and taunting her by popping up, then running off before she can catch him. Good job, Spanky. You’re a good monkey. Elizabeth finally tells Madeleine that she was right – monkeys are smart. Not long after, Spanky goes back to the zoo, I guess have decided that Elizabeth learned her lesson. But since Spanky willingly returned himself to captivity, can he really be that smart? He should have joined Gus in the wild.

The other two lucky zoo interns are Bruce and Melissa McCormick. Bruce is thrilled because he has a big crush on Melissa, and this internship gives him the chance to spend two full weeks with her. Then he’s less thrilled, because they’re working in the aviary, and Bruce’s secret shame is that he’s terrified of birds. He spends the two weeks trying not to show how scared he is, but embarrassing himself over and over in front of Melissa. The funniest part is that eventually she tells him she figured out his fear, so I imagine she spends the whole time secretly laughing at him.

A baby bird imprints on Bruce and starts following him everywhere. I guess we should be glad the bird (Bruce names it Drumstick) doesn’t escape like Spanky and follow Bruce around town. Bruce keeps rejecting Drumstick until a bunch of raptors pick him out for a meal, and Bruce has to climb some sort of pole (in his underwear, for reasons known only to the ghostwriter) to rescue the bird. Melissa sees everything and declares that the crush she already had on Bruce has now grown. They end up going on a date to Casey’s, but I can’t imagine that relationship lasts long, since Melissa seems like a nice person, while Bruce is…Bruce. Who’s afraid of birds. Don’t forget that.

Thoughts: Madeleine doesn’t know the exact number of monkeys in the zoo, which seems like a recipe for disaster.

Releasing a baby bear into the wild before it can take care of itself also seems like a recipe for disaster. Why didn’t they find a mama bear in the zoo to look after Gus? Or send him too a different zoo? He doesn’t even know how to find food!

Melissa: “Girls can always tell when animals are girls.” Huh?

June 27, 2017

SVT #95, The Battle of the Cheerleaders: This Is Why the Clovers Thought They Should Be Called Inspiration Leaders

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

This is kind of excellent

Summary: The title of this book should really be The Battle of the Basketball Players, since The Battle of the Cheerleaders implies a battle between two squads. In actuality, the plot is about how the girls decide to start a basketball team but have trouble finding support. The twins have recently developed an interest in the sport (I could have sworn Jessica used to play on a team, but according to this book, no such team exists), and some of their friends show off their skills during a pick-up game. Since SVMS has no girls’ team, they decide to start one.

The season is almost over, and there’s no one available to coach them, and no place to practice even if they had a coach. The girls – the twins, Lila, Janet, Ellen, Maria, Amy, Julie, and a couple other Unicorns no one cares about – are really into their new idea, though, and decide to keep moving forward. Jessica comes up with their team name, the Honeybees.

Without a coach, the girls’ first practice doesn’t go well. They decide to ask Steven to help them out, but he laughs them off – he’s not going to waste his time helping middle-school girls who aren’t going to win any games. He’s right, as they play horribly in their first game. But Steven is trying to get a job coaching at a basketball camp that summer, and he needs experience, so he changes his mind about coaching the Honeybees.

Steven runs his practices like any other coach would, making the girls run and do calisthenics. They hate him for it, but it works. Meanwhile, the middle-school boys’ team, the Wolverines, are on their way to the finals. They’ve had a ton of fans at their games, and the Boosters are always on hand to cheer them on and drum up crowd support. The Honeybees think that, in exchange, the Wolverines should come to their games. The guys laugh them off – girls? Playing sports? How ridiculous!

Thanks to their coaching and the improvements they’ve made in their practices, the Honeybees play much better in their next game and only lose by two points. They still wish the Wolverines would come to see them, but the Wolverines still refuse. The girls decide to make a threat: If the guys don’t come to their games, the Boosters won’t cheer at the Wolverines’ games anymore. Plus, Elizabeth won’t mention their next game in the Sixers, so they won’t have the big crowd they usually do.

The boys ignore the threat, and the Boosters follow through, leaving the Wolverines without a cheering section at their next game. They lose, but Bruce refuses to back down. Meanwhile, the Honeybees win a game, and the Boosters who aren’t on the team (Winston, Grace, and Kimberly) agree to form a mini-squad with Mary to cheer at the girls’ games. With the Boosters all busy either playing or cheering at the girls’ games, the guys are really left on their own.

The guys finally talk Bruce into giving in and trying to get the Boosters to come back to their games. Awesomely, the girls don’t consider their non-apologies and passive-aggressiveness as enough of an olive branch. The Wolverines have to agree to come to the Honeybees’ games and cheer them on from the stands. They show up reluctantly, late and in disguise so no one will recognize them. I guess it’s a fate worse than death to be seen at a girls’ basketball game? The guys also leave early, missing the end of the game, which the girls win.

Bruce throws a victory party for the Wolverines, even though they haven’t won finals yet (I imagine there’s a “mission accomplished” banner on the wall). The girls show up and are upset that their accomplishments are barely acknowledged. Bruce just puts their name on the corner of a cake, but he puts “Bumblebees” instead of “Honeybees.” Jessica’s so mad that she throws cake at him.

Since the boys barely stuck to their end of the deal, the Boosters skip the Wolverines’ next game. Aaron and Todd tell Bruce that he needs to apologize to the Honeybees for real, or they’ll have no chance in the rest of the tournament. The girls happen to be practicing during the Wolverines’ game, so Bruce finds them, literally gets down on his knees, and tries to make himself look pathetic so they’ll have pity on them. It doesn’t work, because the girls really are awesome in this book.

Finally, the girls decide to take advantage of the boys’ desperation and make a new deal: They’ll cheer at the Wolverines’ game if the boys dress up and cheer at their next game. The boys win their game and stick to the deal, actually getting into it as the Honeybees’ game goes on. The Honeybees win, of course, despite having only been a team for a few weeks. Steven gets the summer job, thanks to his excellent coaching. And I hope the girls take lots of pictures of the boys so they can always have the memory of the time they were so awesome.

Thoughts: Maybe it’s just from being on a power trip but Steven is actually a good coach.

Dear girls from Johnson Middle School: The Violets is a bad team name. A very bad one. The Honeybees isn’t that great either, but it’s not as bad as the Violets.

Jessica to a girl she’s guarding during a game: “I’m all over you like ugly on an ape.” That’s a new one.

May 30, 2017

SVT #92, Escape from Terror Island: Yeah, Yeah, We All Read “Lord of the Flies”

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:51 pm by Jenn

That’s Todd. He looks like a doofus, doesn’t he?

Summary: While Elizabeth was drowning at the end of the last book, the boat was somehow breaking up, so we’re in an official shipwreck situation. Somehow, everyone ends up on an island, alive and unharmed. The unpopular kids are all stranded on the same side of the island together, while the popular kids are on the other side; neither group knows the other group is there. Whenever they hear noises made by the other group, they think they’re sharing the island with cannibals or pirates.

Elizabeth almost drowns again, this time in a waterfall, but it leads to her discovering a cave. Mandy falls into a pit that also leads to the cave, and the two groups meet up there. (Also, Lila and Janet are all, “Mandy’s just trying to get attention,” which is really weird.) The twins are thrilled to see each other, but the others aren’t especially happy to be stuck with each other again. Bruce takes charge, and the unpopular kids are immediately sick of hearing him talk.

Bruce thinks their first priority is building a fire and hunting something to eat (other than the melons they’ve been finding all over the island.) Elizabeth and the unpopular kids think they should build a shelter and make an SOS in the sand. Bruce argues that they can just sleep in the cave they’ve already found. The popular kids all side with him, but Jessica takes some convincing. The two groups split up again.

In the morning, Liz and Maria discover the briefcase of money the hijackers stole from a bank before taking their boat. They decide to hide it in the cave. Bruce’s crew thinks they should build a raft so they can leave the island, but Liz thinks their chances of doing it well enough to get themselves to safety are pretty low. Bruce and his group disagree: He’s a Boy Scout, which I guess gives him a natural ability to build a seaworthy raft. But the kids all build one anyway, planning to head out on it the next day.

That night, Jessica dreams that two people are wandering around the kids’ camp. Anyone who’s ever read a book can figure out that the hijackers have also wound up on the island. In the morning, the kids get on the raft, which is somehow big enough to hold everyone. I’m not sure if all the kids who were on the boat are on the island, since I was under the impression that a lot more kids went on the field trip, but I guess the other kids get rescued, because this book doesn’t end with a mass funeral for a bunch of minor characters.

Anyway, the raft doesn’t stay together, and Elizabeth almost drowns AGAIN. How did she ever qualify as a lifeguard in the SVU books? And Janet and Lila are all, “Attention-seeking!” again. I don’t get them at all. Bruce accuses Liz of sabotaging the raft to show that he was inept. Because she would want to sabotage her one way off the island? Whatever, Bruce. Jessica brings up her dream and wonders if there really were two people at their camp who might have sabotaged the raft. While everyone’s fighting, they spot a plane flying over the island and realize that if they’d made an SOS, as Liz and Maria suggested, they could have been rescued.

More sabotages occur: The popular kids’ fruit stash disappears, and Bruce suspects Elizabeth stole it. He’s ready to vote her off the island. Sorry, Bruce, but Jeff Probst won’t approve of this. Jessica remembers all the supposedly horrible things her sister has done to her in the past and decides that Bruce is right. Over at the unpopular kids’ camp, they realize that all their shoes are gone and their shelter has been moved. They, of course, suspect the popular kids. Of course, the truth is that the hijackers are on the island and have been messing with both groups of kids. Once they’ve found their money, they plan to kill all the kids.

The two groups meet up and fight, but they get distracted when they see a message written for them in the sand: “$ or you are dead.” They realize the hijackers are on the island with them, and they need to work together to protect themselves. They decide to keep the money hidden – they can’t trust that the hijackers will really let them live if they hand it over. Liz thinks they should tell the hijackers that only one of them knows where the money is, so the hijackers can’t kill any of them. The popular kids don’t like this idea, and there’s another fight and another separation of the two groups.

Jessica thinks the popular kids should hide on the beach, since it’ll be easier for them to see the hijackers coming. They hope the tide will wipe out their footprints so the hijackers can’t follow them. The unpopular kids find a dinghy, figuring it’s how the hijackers made it to the island. Instead of piling in and leaving the popular kids behind to fend for themselves, they head off to find the rest of the kids so they can all escape together.

But the hijackers find the popular kids first, tying them to each other with vines and marching them through the jungle or forest or whatever’s on this island. At first the kids pretend they haven’t seen the briefcase with all the money, but Lila’s an idiot and says they did. Jessica tries out Elizabeth’s plan, telling the hijackers that only one kid knows where the money is, so they can’t kill anyone yet. This backfires, and the hijackers decide to torture the information out of the kids by withholding food and water until someone cracks.

The unpopular kids arrive and are too dumb to listen when Jessica warns them to run away. Now everyone’s tied up together, and the hijackers are ready to get their money and get off the island. They announce that they’ll kill someone every hour until they find out where the money is. It’s not long before Bruce announces that he knows where it is and will take them to it. The other kids are horrified that he’s sacrificing them to save himself. Bruce pretends to be sorry, telling the others that the hijackers “exerted undue pressure on me.” As he heads off with them, he yells “Not!” back at the others.

Bruce is, amazingly, actually being heroic. He takes the hijackers (who are too dumb to split up and have one stay behind to keep an eye on their hostages) to the waterfall, then torches the money and runs away. Back in the forest/jungle/wherever, Elizabeth realizes that Bruce’s final words were instructions to undo the knots in the vines tying them all together. They do so and free themselves, then meet up with Bruce and head for the dinghy.

A fishing boat comes across the kids and rescues them. They learn that the captain and crew member who were set adrift in the lifeboat in the last book were also rescued and are fine. The kids are all proud of themselves for finally working together, and for saving themselves. Somehow, everyone makes it home in one piece. I assume the hijackers were later found by the proper authorities and taken to prison, or they burned in a forest/jungle/whatever fire, along with their precious money. In which case, Bruce is technically a murderer, which sounds about right.

Thoughts: I can’t believe there isn’t at least one kid crying the entire time they’re on the island. I’m sure it would have been Tamara, who cried her way through the last book, but she’s never mentioned in this one.

“‘I didn’t mean to sound bossy,’ she said, wondering if she had sounded that way.” Because when you’re stranded on an island with bank robbers and a bunch of preteen morons, your tone is what’s important. Get a backbone, Liz.

So if Bruce hadn’t said anything, the kids wouldn’t have thought to untie themselves? Like I said, they’re morons.

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.”

March 27, 2017

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

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

Same, Liz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth has green jeans. I feel sick.

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

October 18, 2016

SVT #68, The Middle School Gets Married: You Mean Young Love Doesn’t Always Work Out?

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

Not a bad cover, actually

Not a bad cover, actually

Summary: I guess some of the teachers at SVMS don’t want to have to teach for a little while, so science teacher Mr. Seigel is heading up a project where all the middle-schoolers get fake-married to each other and learn what being an adult is all about. The project combines math (because they have to make budgets), social studies, and science, somehow. The “couples” have to work together on every aspect of the project. A lot of the students are excited about getting “married,” even though the couples will be chosen randomly.

Jessica’s paired with Rick Hunter, a hot seventh-grader, and though she knows she should be happy about this, she’s not. Rick is the epitome of a seventh-grade boy, and most of his interactions with Jess involve teasing her. They fight most of the time. When the couples get eggs they have to pretend are babies, Jessica keeps breaking hers and Rick’s (which they hilariously name Steven Fido). Normally Jess would just grit her teeth and wait things out, but she needs a good grade on the project, so she actually does some work. Rick is horrible with making a budget, but Jess ends up being good at it.

One of the tasks during the project is to shop for, cook, and eat a meal together. Jess and Rick both screw everything up and get in yet another fight. But then, in something right out of a movie, Rick kisses Jessica in the middle of the fight. Suddenly they’re happy together and getting along for the first time. Except it quickly becomes clear that they only thing interesting they had going for them was their rivalry. Now they have nothing to talk about. Womp womp.

Elizabeth is paired with Bruce, who really couldn’t care less about the project. Then when he comes to the Wakefields’ house to work with Liz and sees what an involved parent Ned is, he gets really intense about the whole thing. They have to spend quality time with their egg, he lectures Elizabeth with information from a guide they’ve been given for the project, and he basically treats her like she’s his child. Elizabeth gets mad and accidentally breaks their egg, but replaces it and pretends nothing happened. Bruce doesn’t find out until he realizes their “baby” is hard-boiled.

The only people generally happy at the beginning of the project are Sophia Rizzo and Patrick Morris, since they got along well before being partnered up. Unfortunately, being with Patrick brings out the worst in Sophia. She’s afraid to eat too much in front of him because she might not seem girly. She won’t give her opinion or make any decisions because she’s afraid she’ll come across as bossy, like Janet. Since Patrick is nice and wants to make sure he and Sophia are making all their decisions together, this leads to a lot of stalemates. They can’t make up their minds on anything because neither wants to hurt the other’s feelings.

After things finally boil over and Sophia and Patrick have a big fight, Sophia learns that her mother and Sarah’s father are getting married. (And in only two weeks!) Sophia hates this idea, even though the adults are happy together right now – marriage is stupid, and they’re just going to end up hating each other.

All of the students are in study hall together, working on the finishing touches of their final projects, when Rick and Jessica get in their last big fight. The tension between all the other couples finally reaches its peak, and everyone starts fighting. Eggs are even thrown. The students all agree that it’s impossible to get a good grade on the project because marriage itself is impossible to succeed at. But this is exactly what Mr. Seigel wanted to hear. He wanted the kids to realize that marrying someone without discussing what you want from the partnership won’t work out. For recognizing this, everyone gets an A.

With the madness over, Jess and Rick sort of become friends. Just the kind of friends who mock each other all the time. Bruce calms down, but I don’t think Elizabeth wants to spend any more time with him. Lila, who was paired with Todd (though we don’t hear much about them, other than that Lila has expensive tastes and Todd is a little too obsessed with neatness), decides he’s a nice guy. Sophia realizes that her mom and Sarah’s dad know what they’re doing, so there’s no reason to think their marriage won’t work out. And then I think no one who participated in the project ever eats an egg again.

Thoughts: I’m not sure the lesson taught here was the right one. What are the odds that these middle-schoolers will grow up to get married without discussing the details of marriage? Probably lower than the odds of them getting married young because they think it’s romantic (which is how a lot of them feel before the project begins). I wonder what would have happened if they’d been allowed to pick their partners, and kids with crushes on each other had been forced to face every aspect of each other’s personalities and find out if they’re really compatible. I mean, obviously the project was harder for people who didn’t get along. Pairing everyone up randomly basically stacked the deck against them.

I don’t think Mr. Seigel has the patience to teach middle-schoolers. He should probably go into a different line of work.

Lila and Todd were late turning in their budget because he couldn’t find a folder that looked neat enough. This is why Todd and Elizabeth are perfect for each other.

October 4, 2016

SVT #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch: Middle-School Relationship Drama Is the Worst

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.

Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.

Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.

The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.

Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.

Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.

Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.

That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.

Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.

Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.

Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.

The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.

Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.

Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.

The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?

“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.

“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.

March 29, 2016

SVU Thriller, Killer Party: And Then There Was One

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

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Summary: Lila’s throwing an exclusive party on New Year’s Eve, having only invited a few dozen people. Making the cut: the twins, Denise, Alex, Chloe, Todd, Neil, Sam, and Nina, who I didn’t think Lila had ever even met. She’s barely in the book anyway. And I’m not sure how Chloe made the cut, but whatever. As Lila’s boyfriend, Bruce is also invited, of course, but he hasn’t yet made it back from his semester in France. An anonymous girl who wasn’t invited calls Lila to complain, warning that Lila will be sorry for not including her on the guest list.

Bruce calls Lila from Europe to tell her that his father has their private jet, and since Bruce would never in a million years fly commercial, he’s stuck until the jet is free again. He can’t just hire a private plane? Lila is furious that Bruce would rather sit around and wait than come home to her. She tells him they’re over. Jessica, of all people, tries to cheer Lila up by reminding her that she doesn’t need a guy to make her feel fulfilled. They’re going to have an awesome time at the party with or without Bruce. Chloe meets some grungy guys at the mall and invites them to the party. Chloe, NO. Lila tells the guys there’s no party, and for some reason doesn’t disinvite Chloe on the spot.

The party starts, but Lila’s sad because of what happened with Bruce. She distracts herself by dancing with Sam. Todd learns of the breakup and tries to convince Lila to give Bruce a second chance. Why does he even care? Chloe’s new friends from the mall crash the party, but Lila and Neil chase them off, threatening to call the cops. The guys warn that Lila will be sorry. After they leave, someone watches Lila from the bushes.

The partiers go back to partying, but suddenly the lights go out. The Fowlers’ house is apparently right near some woods, and far enough from the rest of civilization for it to be pitch black with the electricity out. Chloe’s on the deck and has to feel her way back into the house. As she’s getting there, someone grabs her and takes her into the woods. She figures the guys from the mall have come back to get revenge.

Inside the house, Todd heads off to check out the circuits. Lila gets another call from the girl who called before, making Lila think this is what the girl was planning when she warned that Lila would be sorry. Lila, Jessica, Elizabeth, Denise, and Alex light some candles, slowly realizing that a bunch of the partygoers have vanished. In fact, they’re being dragged through the woods by people they can’t see.

There are only a dozen or so people left at the party, and they can’t figure out how everyone else disappeared without anyone noticing. No one heard cars driving away, and it’s pretty unlikely that 25 just randomly decided to leave all at once without anyone seeing them go. They don’t think the guys from the mall could have kidnapped everyone, since some of the guests were big football players and would have fought back.

Lila gets two Theta pledges to go look for Todd, who never came back from checking the circuits. But since this is basically a horror movie, the pledges don’t come back either. The person watching from the bushes has himself a good laugh when he realizes how spooked Lila is by all the disappearances. The 13 remaining guests lock themselves in a room together, realizing that there are only girls left.

Alex and Denise talk Lila and the twins out of calling the police, because why do something logical? They don’t think the police will believe them without any evidence, like, if 13 girls tell the police that 27 other people disappeared, they’ll have to do something. I’ll just say that it turns out to be a good thing that the police never get involved, because someone would be in a ton of trouble. Lila suspects that her caller is responsible, and worries that the girl’s warnings about something happening at midnight mean more danger.

A few of the girls head back to the ballroom to get cigarettes, and another little group heads off to the bathroom. Only Lila, the twins, Alex, and Denise stay behind. Alex and Denise follow the other group the ballroom, since Denise hurt her ankle and needs ice. Jessica follows a minute later, wanting her sweater. This leaves Elizabeth and Lila alone, not wanting to accompany Jess in case someone comes back to the room they’re hiding in.

Jess checks to make sure the deck doors are locked, but while she’s there, someone comes inside and grabs her. Jess realizes that this person must have keys to the house. When she doesn’t return to Lila and Elizabeth, they go looking for her, then decide to call the police, finally. But now the phones don’t work, and Lila’s cell phone is missing. When she finds it, she gets another call from the girl, reminding her that something big is coming at midnight. Lila’s so spooked that she faints. Yeah, I bet.

Elizabeth hears someone in the house and ditches Lila to hide. Sorry, Lila! The person in the house knows Liz is there and is specifically looking for her. She gets grabbed, leaving only Lila in the house, like the only survivor in an Agatha Christie mystery. When Lila regains consciousness, she gets another call from the girl – but this time it’s a confession. The caller is Marnie, a girl from down the street who Lila has babysat for. She was mad about not getting to come to a glamorous party with college students, so she pranked Lila as revenge. Her mom caught her and made her come clean. Since there’s no way a 12-year-old could have orchestrated everything that happened at the party, the calls were a red herring.

The kidnapper comes back into the house, looking for the last woman standing. One of the rooms in the house has a secret room behind a bookshelf (of course), so Lila hides in there. I’m surprised the Fowlers don’t have a panic room, but the movie didn’t come out for a couple more years, so maybe they got one then. The kidnapper stumbles around in the dark for a whole (weird, since he had a flashlight earlier), then figures out where Lila is. He grabs her, blindfolds her, and takes her through the woods to the Patmans’ house, which is apparently right next door (since when?).

Lila realizes that the other partygoers are probably all at the mansion. The Patmans are out of town, so what better place to stash 40 people? She wonders if this is all a scheme to get revenge on the Fowlers and Patmans. But the truth is much, much more annoying. When Lila’s blindfold comes off, the partygoers all yell, “Surprise!” Then she realizes that her kidnapper is Bruce.

The whole twisted story is that Bruce wanted revenge on Lila for being mean to him on the phone. SO HE KIDNAPPED ALL HER FRIENDS AND MADE HER THINK SHE WAS GOING TO BE MURDERED. A totally fair response, right? Bruce enlisted some crew guys to help him “kidnap” the guests, many of whom were in on the game. And most of those people only agreed to participate because they were told that the twins were in on it and approved of the “joke.”

Instead of a New Year’s kiss, Lila gives Bruce a punch in the face. He deserves that and much more. The twins promise that they weren’t in on the plan (neither were Denise, Alex, or Todd). Sam and Neil were given the story that the twins were in on it, so they went along. Bruce tries to make up with Lila, who spends about 15 pages hating him before forgiving him. Lila, no! He’s messed up! That is not normal behavior! Let’s hope she’s just stringing him along while she comes up with a proportionate revenge plan of her own.

P.S. Chloe wasn’t part of the mass “kidnapping” – she was actually kidnapped by the guys from the mall. They took her to a treehouse and then ditched her. If she were anyone else, I would feel bad for her, but she’s really annoying in this book, so I just have to laugh.

Thoughts: Jessica mentions that all of her and Lila’s friends are “guyless and happy,” so I guess Denise and Winston broke up.

Jess thinks the partygoers’ disappearances are like something out of The X-Files, and that Elizabeth is like Scully. Okay, but Jessica is no Mulder.

“Eyewitnesses to the kidnapping – none! So that rules out any proof that the guess were kidnapped.” So Elizabeth’s logic is if no one saw a crime take place, the crime didn’t happen? That might be the dumbest thing she’s ever said.

Lila: “I’m not budging from my decision not to budge, and that’s final!” Hee.

“If there was one thing Jessica knew she could do, it was use her smarts.” Me: “…”

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