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: “…”

October 13, 2015

SVU Thriller Edition, Cyber Stalker: The Return of William White, Part 1: Lizception

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

The guy on the right who's probably William White looks like Milo Ventimiglia

The guy I’m guessing is William White looks like Milo Ventimiglia

Summary: Life at SVU is currently pretty normal – no undercover investigations, no kidnappings, not even any recent twin switches. We’re in that weird alternate universe where Elizabeth and Tom are together, and Nick doesn’t exist (or should I say didn’t – we’ll miss you, buddy). For Liz and Tom, things are too normal – there’s no longer a spark between them. They’ve become so boring that she thinks they’re going to break up. Yes! Finally! Be done with each other! Forever, this time!

But before anything happens there, Elizabeth notices a white tent going up on the quad, along with a banner depicting a white rose. She’s a little panicked because the white rose was William White’s calling card. (Remember William White? That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?) Jessica takes Liz to check out the tent, which houses something called the CyberDreams Virtual Reality Fair. No one knows what that actually means, but everyone on campus is excited to find out.

The twins, Tom, Bruce, and Lila go to the fair, where they learn that they can be hooked up to machines that give them super-awesome dreams. Basically, whatever they want the most will be presented to them as virtual reality. It’s kind of like The Matrix, but they’ll supposedly be able to guide what they experience through their subconscious desires. The only catch is that no one can dream more than twice. Three or more dreams can lead to sensory damage. Everyone wants to participate, so they pay the fee and enter the tent.

In Elizabeth’s first dream, there are books and top-secret documents everywhere. I would laugh about Elizabeth wanting to read more than anything in life, but let’s face it, that’s what I want, too, most days. Plus, the documents contain secrets like who really killed JFK and what the government is hiding at Area 51. Before Liz can start reading, she encounters William White. She’s very confused about why, of all people she could dream of – and remember, the dream is supposed to show her what she wants most in life – she dreams of a psychotic killer.

Tom’s first dream is about how he wants to be a knight and save Princess Elizabeth. Gag. His dream is basically the world’s worst fairy tale. It ends when the real Elizabeth screams and passes out after her William dream. Tom takes her to her room, where she tries to make things romantic but stops when she looks into Tom’s eyes and sees William’s instead. Liz can’t shake her dream, and she keeps thinking someone is coming after her.

Liz and Tom go back to the fair and continue their dreams. In Elizabeth’s, William gives her a white rose and tells her he wants to make up for what happened between them before. Elizabeth is almost won over but fights him off just before she wakes up. Tom continues his previous dream, but it ends just before he finds Princess Elizabeth. Tom tries to get Elizabeth to tell him why she’s been freaking out so much lately, but she doesn’t want to tell him that she dreamed about William.

Apparently people can get around the two-dreams-only rule by signing a waiver and paying extra money (and apparently a lot of college students have that extra money just lying around). Liz and Tom both go in for third dreams, Elizabeth wanting the truth about William, and Tom wanting to hang out with Princess Elizabeth, since she has to be better than the real Liz right now. Dream Elizabeth has to run along a cliff to get away from William, and she almost falls off. Real Liz thinks she’ll die in reality if she dies in her dream. Spoiler: She doesn’t die. But William falls off the cliff, then disappears, so she’s not sure if he’s dead or not.

Tom finishes up his dream, but when he finally reaches Princess Elizabeth, she has no face. He confronts Jonah, who’s running the dream sessions (more on him later), and Jonah admits that the dreams don’t really pull from each person’s subconscious. They’re basically templates that the dream fills in with specific people and experiences. Tom chalks up the faceless princess to a technology fluke. Jonah mentions that the fair was funded and organized by a rich guy who seemed to be college-age.

Elizabeth is freaking out again after her dream, and Tom tries to go after her, but someone knocks him out. Elizabeth ends up on a hill overlooking the campus, and it looks like the tent has already been taken down, even though only a few minutes have passed. Then she sees the literal man of her dreams: the real William. Of course, he has a white rose. Elizabeth pricks her finger on a thorn to prove to herself that she’s not dreaming.

Like Tom and Liz, Lila and Bruce are verging on relationship troubles. Lila feels like Bruce doesn’t pay enough attention to her. They dream about each other at the fair, but in very different ways. Lila’s dream involves a super-expensive shopping spree that Bruce bankrolls. Her second one is about going to a big party and meeting a bunch of celebrities. Lila’s first two dreams are the only ones with happy endings, and show that her life is pretty much just what she wants subconsciously.

In Bruce’s dream, he’s James Bond and has to steal a microchip and take out some terrorists. (He feeds one to piranhas, which is pretty cool.) The terrorists have kidnapped Lila, and Bruce isn’t able to rescue her before his second dream is over. He asks for a third, but decides he doesn’t want to pay the $150 fee. Is Bruce sick? Someone take his temperature. Bruce decides to bring his dream persona into his real life, which for some reason involves driving his car on the beach. Lila isn’t impressed.

Lila and Bruce then get mugged, and Bruce decides to use his dream spy moves on the muggers. Surprisingly enough, he doesn’t actually possess those moves. Lila begs Bruce not to go in for a third dream, but they both end up back at the fair. Lila should have stopped after her second dream, because her third involves Bruce treating her like a hooker. Bruce’s third lets him find the kidnapped Lila, but he accidentally blows her up. Oops! The real Bruce and Lila decide that their real lives are more important than their dream lives, and they’re happy together.

Jessica starts out the book deciding she’s a feminist now and she doesn’t need a man. This lasts all of five minutes, before she meets and immediately falls in love with Jonah. In her first dream, Jess is a PI and Jonah is her client. She has to save him from some sort of dangerous situation, but I’m not really clear on the details. Jessica’s second dream is a continuation of the first, with generic action-movie stuff, and Jess protecting Jonah.

Jessica decides she wants Jonah for real, so she does some flirting. However, he turns out to be a lot more awkward than his dream persona. When Jess comes back the next day to give it another shot, she learns that Alison has also been dreaming about Jonah. Jess does a third session, but Alison’s in this one, along with a second Jonah. Jess and Alison fight over the guys, though…if there are two…why not just each take one and…? Oh, whatever.

The two Jonahs become one, and he basically proposes a threeway. The girls aren’t pleased. Real Jonah admits that he inserted himself in their dreams so he could get to know them better. So Jonah practiced inception before anyone had ever heard of inception. (And I imagine that’s what William did, too.) All this accomplished, though, was giving Jessica and Alison something new to fight about.

Thoughts: “She could no longer look at the bruised sky. It was too much of an omen, foretelling the death of their love.” What a drama queen. It’s just a storm, Elizabeth.

In case you’re wondering, Jessica’s type is “both suave and scraggly at the same time.” Or that’s her type this week, I guess.

“This is one of the safest campuses in the whole country.” Since when??

Dream Lila says “my stars and garters.” Wow.

Dream Lila also says “Private Dancer” is her song. Lila, sweetie, you know what that song is about, right?

September 8, 2015

SVT #38, Lois Strikes Back: If Elizabeth Is Nancy Drew, Then Lois Is Bess

Posted in books tagged , , at 12:55 pm by Jenn

Yeah, she sure is huge

Yeah, she sure is huge

Summary: Instead of raising money on their own, the PTA wants the kids of Sweet Valley Middle School to hold a bike-a-thon to earn money for a VCR and videotapes. Students will get people to pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they ride out of 30. Whoever makes the most money (which doesn’t necessarily mean finishing the race first, or even finishing at all, depending on the amount/size of pledges) wins a top-of-the-line mountain bike.

Everyone wants to win the bike, especially plus-sized Lois Waller, who wants to start a paper route. Bruce thinks this is ridiculous. How could a fatty-fatty-fat-fat like Lois finish a 30-mile bike ride? Hasn’t anyone seen what she eats? He starts calling her Lois Walrus. Because middle-schoolers are generally awful people, no one stands up for poor Lois. And since Bruce gets his desired result – humiliation on Lois’ part – he just keeps harassing her.

The twins get to work lining up sponsors. Their parents, of course, contribute, and Steven reluctantly pledges a nickel a mile, so that the most he’ll have to give each twin is $1.10. SVT Steven is such a jerk. Lila and Ellen aren’t the least bit interested in the bike-a-thon, and frankly, I’m a little surprised Jessica is. She wants a new bike, and I’m not sure she realizes how much effort she’ll have to put forth to get it.

At school, Bruce lays into Lois again, and this time she gets revenge without even meaning to. He trips over her backpack and spills his lunch all over himself. He tries to blame her, saying she tripped him on purpose, but no one believes him – and the janitor makes him clean up the mess. Awesome. Bruce decides to get even by getting a huge sponsorship for the bike-a-thon. Lois has already signed up 23 sponsors, but not for huge amounts. Bruce gets his parents to pledge $20 a mile.

When Lois, Elizabeth, Amy, and barely-in-this-book Julie find out what Bruce has planned, they get together to figure out how much more Lois needs to have pledged in order to beat him. She’s almost there, and gets the pledges she needs at the retirement home where her mother works. Lois’ mother hadn’t wanted her to bother the residents, so Lois didn’t ask any of them for pledges, but the residents want to help out. This time, Lois keeps her mouth shut about how much she’s going to make.

The Sixers decide to do some special articles about the bike-a-thon, with an insider’s view. Elizabeth will ride with Lois, and Amy will ride with Bruce. They’re pretty excited about the whole thing. Jessica, however, is no longer excited. Lila’s uncle has sent her Johnny Buck’s album before it comes out, and all the cool people are gathering at Lila’s house the day of the bike-a-thon to listen to it together. Jessica has promised her parents that she’ll do the bike-a-thon, since she made a commitment, but she plans to duck out after a few miles.

The bike-a-thon begins, and Jessica rides four miles before quitting. Elizabeth sticks right by Lois, even though Lois is going pretty slowly and Elizabeth would like to go faster. They wind up having a pretty good time, and Lois manages to ride 22 miles before she tires out. Rock on, Lois. Elizabeth goes home and calls Amy, who admits that she lost track of Bruce after eight miles. But Amy herself finished the bike-a-thon, and she reports that at the finish line, everyone who rode all 30 miles got a gift certificate for a free sundae.

At school, Bruce brags about finishing the whole bike-a-thon. But Elizabeth starts to get suspicious. He’s not riding a bike anymore – his old one or the brand-new one he would have won at the bike-a-thon. He also doesn’t know about the sundae certificates everyone got at the finish line. Plus, Jessica reported that he turned up at Lila’s party, which doesn’t seem likely if he rode all 30 miles. He also seemed angry when he made it to Lila’s. Jess thinks Liz is crazy, and they make a bet: If Liz is right that Bruce didn’t finish, Jess has to do her chores for a week.

Elizabeth Nancy Drews things up, and after she and Lois bug Bruce, he admits that he crashed his bike and didn’t finish. The participants all had punch cards and were supposed to get a punch at each mile; Bruce just punched holes himself and lied about finishing. I mean, of course. So Lois is declared the real winner and even gets an assembly in her honor. I’d like to note that people are pretty nice to her in this book, but I don’t think it lasts.

Thoughts: If Elizabeth is such a great person, why isn’t she friends with Lois? Why doesn’t she stand up for her more?

I love that the people who ride the whole 30 miles get ice cream. “You just did a ton of exercise! Celebrate with junk food!”

Elizabeth and Lois are shocked that Bruce punched his own card to cheat. I’m shocked that he was the only one who did it (or at least the only one who got caught).

June 30, 2015

SVT #34, Jessica, the Rock Star: Becoming Famous Is Hard, You Guys

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:09 pm by Jenn

I'm on board for the orange guitar

I’m on board for the orange guitar

Summary: At the end of Elizabeth’s New Hero, the twins won tickets to a Melody Power concert. At the beginning of this book, they’ve just gotten back from the concert, and Jessica is way too excited about it. Her new life goal is to become a rock star. She starts dressing like Melody, who seems to have the same wardrobe preferences as one Robin Sparkles. She talks about the concert all the time, annoying the other Unicorns. Yeah, that would definitely get old very quickly.

Jessica finds out that some SVMS guys have started a band, and they’re looking for a singer. She decides to audition, but using a singing voice that’s more like Melody Power’s than her own. Elizabeth thinks this is a horrible idea, since Jessica’s Melody impression makes her sound terrible. Jess won’t hear it – this is how rock stars sound, and she’s destined to be a rock star. She thinks her Melody voice will help her beat out the competition, which happens to include Dana Larson, future SVH rock star.

The guys in the band are Bruce, Aaron, and two other guys we don’t care about. Apparently Bruce plays the bass. I’m surprised he doesn’t want to play lead guitar and be the band’s obnoxious front man. Everyone gathers for the auditions, but Mrs. Patman soon kicks them out because she’s having a committee meeting. There will be other meetings at the house, which is apparently not big enough to accommodate a rock band, even though the Patmans are freaking rich, so the kids have to find a new place to practice.

Jessica immediately offers up the Wakefields’ basement, not bothering to ask her parents if it’s okay (of course). After the girls audition, the guys pick Jessica. How convenient that they chose the girl who has rehearsal space for them! Even though she clearly wasn’t the best singer! Isn’t that just the best coincidence? Elizabeth immediately realizes what’s going on, but Jessica’s too happy and clueless to figure out that the guys are just using her.

Jess remains clueless as the guys hold practices in her basement but don’t give her a chance to sing. They send her on errands and treat her like a manager/roadie instead of a lead singer. This might be a blessing, though, since Jessica still sounds horrible when she sings like Melody. She picks the stage name Gem, but she sure doesn’t sound like one. Even though the practices cause Jess to miss Unicorn meetings, making everyone mad at her, she keeps going to them.

Jessica advertises for the band, NRG (sounds like Energy), putting up signs around town so people can hire them to play at parties. They actually land a birthday party, though the guys in NRG don’t bother crediting Jess with getting them the gig. They know they’re not in the best shape to play in public, but they get to work improving their sound. Jess has to fend for herself. She hears herself on tape and realizes that she’s not as great as she thought. Fortunately, she figures out quickly that it’s the Melody voice causing the trouble, and she practices using her own voice.

Lila learns about the birthday party and decides to get herself invited so she can hear NRG. Jessica is self-aware enough to know this is a bad idea. She’s starting to realize how much work goes into being a big star. Plus, all the practices mean she doesn’t get to spend time with the Unicorns, doing stuff she actually enjoys.

At the mall, Elizabeth overhears the NRG guys talking about the party. They want matching outfits, and they don’t care if Jessica looks dumb for dressing differently. In fact, they don’t want her there at all. They’re going to tell her to come to the part an hour and a half after it starts, so by the time she gets there, she won’t have a chance to sing. Elizabeth is mad about their scheming, but she’s not sure if she should tell Jessica what they’re up to. After all, Jess will just embarrass herself if she sings.

Back at home, Elizabeth hears Jessica practicing and realizes that she’s good. She tells Jessica that Bruce called to change the time she’s supposed to be at the party, so now Jess will be there on time. She also tells her sister what the guys are wearing and loans her an outfit that will match theirs. At the party, NRG is pretty bad, but Gem swoops in to save the day, impressing everyone.

Now the tables have turned, and the guys in the band want to make sure Jessica is involved in everything. But Jess has decided that being a rock star is too much work, so she’s done with the band. She’d rather hang out with the Unicorns and talk about boys than do something a lot of people would love to do. The guys will have to find a new place to practice and/or a new girl to use.

The B-plot is pretty brief, and is only there to set the stage for the next book. Amy has a pen pal named Samantha, but Samantha hasn’t written her lately, so Amy’s worried about her. Samantha probably just found out that Amy is lame and decided to stop writing her.

Thoughts: Mary’s stepfather is a big Melody Power fan. Isn’t that kind of weird?

I can’t believe no one makes a Jem joke about Jessica’s stage name.

“All the boys laughed at his wit.” Bruce is only 13 and he already has yes men.

April 14, 2015

SVU #35, Undercover Angels: Spy vs. Spy

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 7:53 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth would never wear a shirt that sparkly

Elizabeth would never wear a shirt that sparkly

Summary: We pick up pretty much where the last book left off, with Bruce upset that Paul hustled him in a tennis game, and Elizabeth going over the details of the investigation in her head. She teases Bruce about calling the police on Paul to report that he’d stolen money he’d actually won. Bruce mentions that he gave Paul a check, which is news to Elizabeth, since she knows Tom saw him with a bunch of cash, including the bill Tom wrote “buena suerte” on, supposedly for a club employee. So the newest wrinkle in the investigation is that money one of the employees collected went to a club member.

Paul’s father, a congressman, is having a reception at the club, and somehow Dana was invited and asks Tom to go with her. Tom is basically done with Dana, but he needs her to get access to the country club, since you can only go there as a couple. What a stupid club. Elizabeth and Scott are also going to the reception, if anyone cares. And of course Lila and Bruce are going, because Lila practically lives at the club now. Lila chats with Paul for a little while, and then he heads off to switch cars with someone, getting into a van with a missing mud flap. Jessica happens to see this.

Elizabeth and Scott review the investigation, so I might as well, too: A caddy named Dwayne Mendoza was discovered dead in the lake at the country club. Brandon Phillips, a fellow caddy and SVU student, was arrested for murder after some of Dwayne’s things were found in his locker. A busboy named Manuel Coimbra has gone missing, and Elizabeth has uncovered possible voter fraud involving him – he got a voter registration card, despite the fact that he wasn’t a citizen. Plus, the card spells his name Manoel instead of Manuel.

Scott and Liz go to the county records office to look for Manuel’s address. None exists, but there’s info on Manoel. Except Manoel was from Brazil and died in 1991 at the age of 76. So it seems someone was employing some good old-fashioned fraud by collecting the votes of dead people. While Elizabeth is busy doing some actual investigating, Jessica snoops in her things to find out what she’s uncovered about the case. Liz catches her, and Jessica mocks her for keeping secrets so she can compete with Tom, instead of trying to solve the case and get justice.

Tom talks to Carlos, the waiter he gave the “buena suerte” bill to, and starts to think that Paul’s extorting the club employees who are working illegally. This makes a lot of sense, but I hate that Tom was the one to figure it out, because I don’t want him to be right about anything ever. Meanwhile, Scott and Elizabeth pose as lawyers so they can visit Brandon in lockup. Except Scott didn’t tell Liz that he’d planned this, which is pretty rotten of him, since I’m pretty sure they could get in a lot of trouble for this. All they really learn from their conversation with Brandon is that Dwayne may have figured out that Manuel was using someone else’s identity, and was killed so he couldn’t tell anyone.

Reception time! There’s a funny scene where Lila gets upset that Bruce isn’t dressed nicely enough for the reception at the club, so she fake-cries until he changes, because she knows Bruce can’t handle tears. If anyone else did this, I would be disgusted, but since it’s Lila, it cracks me up.

Jessica spots Tom and Dana making out, and she’s so surprised that she accidentally breaks character (as Perdita). Lila overhears her and figures out that she’s Jessica. Jess hightails it out of there. Elizabeth also sees Tom and Dana together, so Tom ditches Dana to try to get Liz to agree to work with him on the investigation. Scott shows up, as he always does, and Tom’s so mad to see him that he decides not to tell Elizabeth anything he’s learned, since she would inevitably give the information to Scott. Lila tracks down Jessica but doesn’t care what “Perdita” and “Chip” are up to as long as it doesn’t keep her and Bruce from becoming VIP members.

Congressman Krandall addresses the guests at the reception, and Bruce seems to be the only one surprised that it’s really a fundraiser. Why else would a politician hold an event for rich people? Bruce refuses to give Krandall any money. While he and Lila are fighting about this, Tom overhears him mention that he gave Paul a check after he was hustled, so now Tom is confused about where Paul got all that cash, including the “buena suerte” bill.

Tom goes looking for Carlos, but he’s busy, so Tom tries to talk to a busboy instead. The busboy doesn’t seem to speak English, but Tom knows someone who speaks Spanish: Perdita! Ha, I knew this would come back to bite Jessica. He pulls Jess in to translate, but unfortunately, Carlos arrives before she can really make a fool of herself. Carlos warns Tom to stop snooping around. While Tom’s trying to figure out if Carlos is threatening him or helping him, Jessica breaks her cover again. Tom tries to get her to tell him about the investigation, but she won’t.

Lila’s mad enough at Bruce to tell him they’re through. She can put up with a lot, but not a cheapskate! She thinks Bunny’s bored with Paul, so she just needs to get in good with him to be able to stay at the club. Speaking of Paul, the van Jessica saw him driving has been found abandoned with a few dozen people inside. Nick and Jessica are sent to talk to one of the people, who reveals that they were brought over the Mexican border after being promised papers and jobs by a guy using the name Wil E. Coyote. So Nick and Jessica head out to check out the van. Tom sees them and follows, while Elizabeth and Scott see him and follow.

While this caravan of fools drives around, Bruce goes back to the club and announces that people are being extorted. Carlos thinks he’s uncovered the whole illegal-worker thing, but Bruce is just talking about Paul’s hustling. Lila hopes that the two guys start fighting over her. Oh, Lila. Bruce makes a big scene, then leaves, stealing the trophy from the tennis tournament Lila fixed. Lila falls in the pool. I don’t know.

The others all meet up at the van, where Nick almost shoots everyone because it’s a little sketchy for people to be tailing a cop. He’s pretty ticked that reporters are running around, getting involved in this investigation but not sharing any information. He’s ready to arrest everyone, even though he doesn’t actually have anything to charge them with. Jessica tricks everyone into getting into the van (AKA the crime scene – come on, Jess), then says they can only get out when they start working together. She wants them to feel the way the immigrants felt when they were abandoned in the van.

Nick, Elizabeth, Tom, and Scott finally start sharing information, which leads to them deciding that Congressman Krandall is Wil E. Coyote, and he was using fake votes from illegal immigrants. They also think that Paul was extorting the illegal employees at the club, so they were getting doubly screwed. They ask to be let out of the van, but Jessica’s in no position to help them – Paul has followed them all out there and has stuffed her in the front of the van, which he plans to drive into a reservoir.

Jessica accidentally knocks herself out, which is pretty spectacular. When she comes to, she manages to get out of the van, like I’m so sure Jess was able to jump out of a moving vehicle without killing herself. She heads off to get help, and just happens to come across Bruce (who, hilariously, doesn’t realize at first that Perdita and Jessica are the same person). They head after the van as Jessica fills Bruce in on Paul’s crimes.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures that Jessica’s dead, and though the others convince her that Jess is probably okay, they know they’re going to have to save themselves. They face off with Paul, who reveals that Dwayne wasn’t murdered after all. Paul was just going to beat him up, but when he threw Dwayne in the lake, he quickly discovered that Dwayne couldn’t swim. Also, nothing bad happened to Manuel; they just sent him back to Mexico. (Later, Jessica finds out that he was one of the immigrants in the van, having come back across the border for another shot.)

Paul’s accomplice arrives, and the investigators realize that Paul isn’t Wil E. Coyote. So who is? It’s Carlos, the waiter Tom gave the “buena suerte” bill to. This was a nice twist I didn’t see coming. Paul plans to kill all the investigators, starting with Elizabeth. He shoots at her, but Tom shields her, because they’ve kind of reconnected and she’s given him a reason to live, or something. Carlos doesn’t think Paul’s plan is the way to go, and Tom seizes on his conscience to try to talk him out of helping Paul any longer.

It’s a moot point anyway, because rescue comes in the form of Jessica. She shows up with Bruce’s tennis racket and helps the captives overpower their captors. Carlos ends up with the gun, but Tom talks him into not using it. Then Bruce arrives and knocks Carlos out with the tennis trophy. Then Lila shows up, somehow. Why are all these people driving around in the middle of nowhere at the same time? The bad guys are taken into police custody, and Elizabeth and Tom come close to kissing.

The whole mess with the club leads to Lila deciding that she doesn’t want to be a VIP member after all. Also, she’s turned on by how brave and strong he was. He hit someone with a trophy, Li. Calm down. Tom covers the story on SVUTV, and Scott encourages Elizabeth to write about it for the paper. He also makes out with her, and this time, she’s into it. Too bad he’s about to leave – he was accepted into some investigative-reporting school in Denver. He thinks Liz should apply, too. And in other career news, Jessica announces to Nick that she wants to leave SVU to become a police officer. He tells her he wants to leave the police force and go back to school. Womp womp!

Thoughts: Why no, I don’t know why the book is called Undercover Angels. Thanks for asking.

Bruce: “I’m not obsessing. I’m venting. There’s a difference.” I’m stealing that for future use.

Dana wears zebra-print jeans. ICK.

Lila carries a papier-mâché clutch shaped like a sea cow. Uh, what? Rich people are weird.

My favorite thing in this book as how Jessica keeps saying “adios” and running away from Tom before he can completely figure out who she really is.

Nick gets mad at Tom and kicks the van. Jessica: “Why are you kicking the van?” Nick: “Because it’s illegal to kick him.” Hee.

Elizabeth with a gun pointed at her: “Yikes!” Okay, Liz.

“We’re just two college students, completely unarmed except for a tennis racket and a tin trophy cup. What am I supposed to do? Yell ‘Freeze or I’ll double fault’?” Bruce, you’ve just given me a great idea for a unique new action hero…

March 31, 2015

SVU #34, Spy Girl: These People Aren’t Exactly Giving James Bond a Run for His Money

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:16 pm by Jenn

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Summary: You may recall that in the previous book, Nick finally agreed to let Jessica partner with him for a case. He needs a woman to accompany him to the country club where everyone’s been hanging out, so he tells Jess to get ready to go undercover. Because Nick is an idiot in so many ways, he doesn’t bother to tell her what kind of undercover assignment they’ll be on, so she dresses like a hooker and goes to meet him on a street corner. Nick is also somewhat in disguise, accidentally dressed like a nerd, and they don’t recognize each other. He thinks she’s some criminal he’s busted before, and she thinks he’s a geek from high school.

Once they sort things out, Jessica confesses that she told Lila she was going to go undercover, which means she and Nick will both need to get really good disguises before they go to the country club. Jessica says she’s channeling Eva Peron, wearing vintage clothes, dyeing her hair black, and calling herself Perdita del Mar (which roughly translates to Lost from the Sea, and how I wish it translated to Lost at Sea). Nick becomes Chip, a preppy who I doubt Eva Peron would ever associate with, but whatever.

At the club, everyone falls all over themselves to impress “Perdita.” She makes up a bunch of stuff about Argentina, and everyone pretends it’s right because who’s going to correct the hot chick? Jess manages to fool everyone – including her best friend AND HER OWN TWIN – until Liz gets up close to her and realizes, “Hey, this woman has my EXACT FACE!” I’m thinking that Liz might want to go into something other than investigative reporting.

Speaking of which, Elizabeth and Scott are still investigating Dwayne’s murder, under the guise of writing a story about a tennis tournament. Scott is having trouble with boundaries, even though Elizabeth has told him straight out that nothing is going to happen between them, and that they need to stay professional. Liz goes back and forth between doing exactly the right things and being too wimpy to tell Scott when he’s making her uncomfortable and generally being a creep.

Meanwhile, Tom realizes that he doesn’t actually like Dana as more than a friend, and that he’s been using her to try to get over Liz. He breaks things off with her, but quickly starts stringing her along again when he needs a partner to get back into the country club. Dana is too vindictive to care what’s going on; she’s just happy to keep Tom from spending time with Elizabeth.

The investigation has few developments, but Elizabeth learns of the disappearance of an employee named Manuel and steals a letter he never received. It’s addressed to a Manoel instead of a Manuel, and it mentions that his voting location has changed. But Elizabeth was told that Manuel barely speaks English, which means he’s probably not a citizen, which means he wouldn’t be allowed to vote. So I’m guessing the whole murder mystery/cover-up has to do with the club violating employment laws by hiring non-citizens, and people being killed because they threatened to blow the whistle.

Meanwhile, Tom gets chummy with a waiter and catches him collecting money from some of his co-workers. The waiter claims that it’s for someone’s birthday. Tom offers up a $10, writing “buena suerte” (good luck) on it. Later, he spots the bill in a stack of money Paul (see below) has, and wonders how it got to a club member instead of the employee he was told it was going to.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth and Tom keep crossing each other’s paths and competing over who can solve the case first. I’m sure Dwayne’s family would be happy to know that two reporters are vying to see who can find his murderer first – not to get justice, but to make each other mad. Eventually they agree that they should work together, and they let down their guards long enough to almost kiss. Then Scott pops up and pretends that Liz was just using Tom to get information. Tom storms off, and the rivalry is back on. Thanks a lot, Scott.

Lila has somehow been put in charge of the tennis tournament, which people imply to her needs to be rigged. While she’s working on that and sucking up to the other country club socialites, Bruce is stuck hanging out with Paul, the fiancé of Bunny, a girl Bruce once dated (and ditched without formally breaking up with her). Paul is…dumb. So dumb he would spell it dum. He can also barely walk five steps without falling over. He and Bruce start playing tennis, and Bruce slaughters Paul. Paul thinks he’s doing okay and asks if they can play for money. Bruce actually feels bad for taking the guy’s money – Bruce is possibly a pod person in this miniseries – but he figures he should get a reward for having to spend time with Paul.

The games continue, and Paul still sucks but keeps raising the stakes. Poor, naïve Bruce keeps agreeing to the bets, because he doesn’t know that this is a classic hustling technique. Indeed, Paul suddenly becomes a tennis star and beats Bruce over and over, collecting a bunch of money from him. Ticked that he was made a fool of, Bruce calls the police and anonymously reports that Paul stole money. But Bruce is dumb, and the police simply ask Paul where the money came from, and when he says he won it, the police are like, “You’re dumber than he is, Patman.”

Thoughts: “Barely two weeks had passed since he’d seen her tramping around the quad with Todd Wilkins.” “Tramping”? I HATE YOU SO MUCH, TOM WATTS.

“His father is Sweet Valley’s number one congressman.” Sweet Valley has its own Congress?

Who drinks iced tea with lime? Is that a super-rich-people thing?

Paul calls Bruce “old chum” and “dear chap.” Shut up, Paul.

I’m so sad that none of the Spanish-speaking club employees speaks Spanish to Jessica and busts her for not really being fluent.

Elizabeth doesn’t recognize Jessica’s voice as Perdita? Mmm-hmm, sure.

March 17, 2015

SVU #33, Out of the Picture: You’ll Find Me in Da (Country) Club

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

Twin with bangs: No

Twin with bangs: No

Summary: For this book, we have to pretend that the previous four never happened, and that it’s only been a few days since Gin-Yung died. We start at her funeral, where everyone is understandably somber, but somehow Elizabeth is the saddest. Interesting, since they were never friends and both wanted the same guy. Todd is also wrecked, and he decides he needs time to himself to mourn, so he and Elizabeth are over. Again. For the 19th time. After the 20th, they get a free sub!

Elizabeth decides to sweep aside the breakup and all the other messes she’s been in through the SVU series, and make a fresh start. She quits the TV station and joins SVU’s paper, the Gazette. What’s awesome is that Liz, star reporter and editor of the Oracle, is a big ol’ nothing at the Gazette. No one cares that she edited her high school paper because everyone at the Gazette did the same. I think a lot of the time Elizabeth forgets that she’s a freshman, and that freshmen have no standing anywhere.

Pretty much the only person who’s happy to have Elizabeth at the paper is Scott, who’s obviously in love with her. He keeps trying to spend time with her, and he’s gotten a little touchy-feely. It makes Liz uncomfortable, but she tells herself that he doesn’t mean any harm. Yeah, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell him to stop. It doesn’t matter what someone’s intentions are – if his/her behavior makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Okay, end PSA.

Elizabeth is assigned to do a fluff piece about the Verona Springs Country Club. She’s mad that she’s given such a softball, and the editor reminds her that she’ll have to work to get to the juicier stories. But Liz does some research and comes across a better story: a murder. The body of Dwayne Mendoza, an SVU student who worked at the club as a caddy, was found in the lake. The club kept the murder quiet for a week before going to the police, more worried about protecting their reputation than getting justice. Yeah, that’s not shady at all. Also, no one at SVU seems to know about the murder. Dwayne’s things were found in another caddy’s locker, so it looks like that caddy robbed and murdered Dwayne, but obviously that’s not the case, since the police are still investigating (more on that later).

While this is going on, Tom’s father, George, is still trying to reach out to him, because he thinks Tom should be over the fact that George hit on Elizabeth. He sends Tom two memberships to Verona Springs, encouraging him to give one to Elizabeth. Because there’s nothing a college freshman wants more from her ex, who dumped her because he believed his father over her, than permission to wear tennis whites and hang out with snobby rich people. Shut up, George.

Tom takes Dana to the club instead, even though Dana is, like, totally punk rock, yo, and completely the opposite of everyone at the club. I’m surprised they let her through the gates.  They run into Elizabeth and Scott, and everyone is really awkward with each other. Then they encounter a gardener named Juan, who’s Dwayne’s uncle. He obviously knows something about Dwayne’s murder but is too scared to say anything. Tom decides to investigate as well, and hopefully beat Elizabeth and Scott to the scoop. Oh, and then Scott kisses Elizabeth, and she’s like, “When did I ever give you the impression that I wanted your lips on me, creep?”

Jessica is obsessed with playing cop – she wants to go on a stakeout with Nick, who keeps insisting that it’s too dangerous. Also, they don’t just let random people go on stakeouts. Of course, Jessica has never heard a “no” she can’t turn into a “yes,” so she keeps bugging Nick no matter how many times he refuses. This somehow turns into her saying that she wants to be a cop herself. It also somehow leads to Nick deciding that he needs to choose between his job and his girlfriend. He decides he’ll take one last case – the murder investigation at Verona Springs – and then quit.

Nick is paired with another cop, Eileen, and they go undercover at the country club. Jessica goes nuts over this. How dare her boyfriend work with a woman who’s not her, after he told her the job was too dangerous for her! How dare he do his job and accept the partner who was assigned to him! How dare he speak to another female! Eileen has to leave the case to be with her ailing father, so Nick’s chief suggests that he take Jessica to the club in her place. Yeah, okay.

Jessica thinks Nick’s cheating, so she takes all his stuff to the police station and throws it at him, screaming about what a jerk he is. Hilariously, other cops can be heard in the background, egging her on. Nick tells Jess that she wins – she can be his partner. Because the best way to handle Jessica is to give her exactly what she wants.

Lila is affected by Gin-Yung’s death more than you would expect – it makes her remember losing her husband, the count. Bruce can relate because he lost Regina. Not really the same, but okay. He tries to cheer Lila up with trips to the country club, and she develops a new obsession: VIP membership. She and Bruce are currently just “couples only” members, which I guess means they can only go to the club with each other, but being VIP members would give them access to more areas of the club. I find it hard to believe that they’re not VIP members because of their families, or that they haven’t just bought their way to the top echelon.

Lila’s in for VIP membership is Pepper Danforth, and you can tell from her name exactly what kind of person she is. People named Pepper are usually snooty (exception: Pepper Potts). Pepper is a horrible human being, and hanging out with her makes Lila start acting like her. Amazingly, Bruce doesn’t like her new behavior, and is actually offended by how horribly they treat the staff at Verona Springs. When did Bruce develop human feelings?

Thoughts: The police hang out at a coffee shop called the Mug Shot, which is owned by a former crime-scene photographer. That is brilliant.

Jessica, after learning that Nick and Eileen are going undercover together: “Exactly what kind of covers do you two plan to be under?” Also brilliant.

With all the gossip we know goes on at SVU, how is it possible that a student died and no one heard about it? Wouldn’t the newspaper have run an article about it? Wouldn’t the administration have said something? Why is this the least believable part of the book?

Dana wears a purple dress and red sneakers to the country club. Even Claudia Kishi would class it up more than that.

Dana also calls Dwayne’s uncle “some old Mexican dude,” despite not knowing his ethnicity, which is awesome because I already hated her, and now I feel justified.

February 24, 2015

SVT #26, Taking Charge: Children Behaving Badly

Posted in books tagged , , at 8:29 pm by Jenn

This never happened, so I have no idea which twin this is supposed to be

This never happened, so I have no idea which twin this is supposed to be

Summary: The last book kicked off the series’ trend of having a monthly Friend In Need for the twins to help. This book’s is Patrick Morris, who has strict parents who make him do tons of homework, never let him go anywhere fun, cut his allowance and won’t let him talk on the phone after 6. Sounds like Richard Spier. He goes over to the Wakefields’ one day after school, then runs home as soon as his mom calls looking for him. She’s mad that he went to hang out with friends and do actual kid stuff instead of coming straight home to do homework and chores and other boring stuff.

The next day, the twins take Patrick his homework since he stayed home sick. He’s reluctant to let them in the house, since he’s only allowed to have one friend over at a time. When his mom gets home, Jessica leaves, and Mrs. Morris meets Elizabeth. She asks Liz and Patrick to help bring in some groceries. Then she runs into Jessica outside and thinks she’s Elizabeth. I bet the twins could keep this up for a long time if they ever wanted to visit Patrick at the same time.

Patrick tells his friends that he wants to try out for the school band; he’d like to learn to play the saxophone. But he’s not sure his parents will be okay with that. Spoiler alert: They’re not. They want him to focus on his schoolwork, and they’re worried that the lessons and the instrument will be expensive. Even when Patrick assures him that the lessons are through the school and that he can borrow a sax, they say no to the band. I can’t really argue with their rules about having friends over and setting a curfew, but this? Makes no sense. Let the kid have a hobby.

Patrick decides to try out for the band anyway. He’ll demonstrate that he can do band while keeping his grades up; then his parents won’t have an excuse not to let him join. He hides his sax in the Wakefields’ shed and practices there. Ned and Alice are like, “Oh, the neighbor’s practicing with the windows open again.” Elizabeth is reluctant to go along with this plan, but Jessica reminds her that she’s always yapping about doing the right thing and helping people. Like, the one time Jess wants to meddle for the right reasons, Liz is against it.

The practicing pays off and Patrick makes the band. Mr. and Mrs. Morris are furious that he disobeyed them. Patrick disappears, and everyone thinks he’s been kidnapped. Someone delivers a note to the Wakefields’ ordering everyone to stop searching or something bad will happen to Patrick. For once, the twins do the reasonable thing, giving the note to their parents. The police are smart enough to figure out that the note is fake, since it doesn’t demand a ransom.

Winston confesses to the twins that Patrick is hiding out in his basement. He wrote the note and made Winston deliver it (though why would he take it to the Wakefields? Why not the Morrises?). Jessica wants to give Patrick money so he can stay hidden, but Elizabeth thinks that’s a stupid idea.

The twins go home, where the Morrises are freaking out about Patrick. Elizabeth announces that he’s at Winston’s, and her parents are like, “Why didn’t you say something two minutes ago?” Yeah, like you’re going to punish her. You may not be as strict as the Morrises, but you still suck as parents, Ned and Alice. Everyone goes to Winston’s, but Patrick has taken off again, having predicted that Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut. Heh. He’s now hiding out in an abandoned church.

So everyone gathers at the church, which is structurally unsafe, and the Morrises beg Patrick to come out. He won’t, so someone calls the fire department to get him out. At this point, if I were the Morrises, I’d be mentally composing a list of chores for my son to do until the end of time, because it’s one thing to run away, but it’s another to throw a tantrum and practically barricade yourself someplace unsafe instead of trying to talk things over. Anyway, the floor collapses and Patrick gets trapped and has to be rescued by his father. The Morrises are so happy that Patrick’s okay that they don’t even punish him. I would not be so lenient.

The Morrises reveal that they’ve been stricter than usual lately because Mr. Morris lost his job. The Morrises were against Patrick taking sax lessons because they were worried about the added expense, and they wanted him to focus on his schoolwork because he might need a college scholarship someday. Okay, but…he’s in sixth grade. Did Mr. Morris think he’d be out of work for seven years? It doesn’t matter anyway, since he has another job now, and the Morrises have learned their lesson about not being honest with their kids, and about taking it easy on Patrick. I still hope he gets grounded for a really long time, though.

The B-plot is about how Jessica has a crush on Bruce but for some reason isn’t assertive enough to either ask him out or find reasons to spend time with him. She gets paired with Winston for a science project and worries that her friends (and Bruce) will see her as dorky for hanging around with someone who’s actually dorky. I think they understand assigned partners, Jess. They do a project on mold, and their teacher asks them to display it on Science Day at the library. Jess wants to go to a football game that same day, since Bruce will be there, so she makes a deal with Winston to go to the library after halftime.

Then Jessica learns that Bruce is having a big party after the game, with an appearance by a band everyone loves. Jess decides to skip Science Day, but karma comes around to bite her. The party is basically just a bunch of people hanging out. There’s no band or food, and Bruce barely acknowledges most of the guests. I find it hard to believe that Bruce wouldn’t throw a big bash with fancy food and at least a DJ, but then again, middle-school boys are pretty clueless about hosting stuff. The plot fizzles out, except Jessica gets in trouble for telling her parents she was going to Science Day and then skipping it. Ha, she went to a bad party and got punished for it. Serves her right.

Thoughts: Winston is described as shy. In what universe?

Usually I’m against Elizabeth’s endless “I always know the right thing to do” behavior, but in this book, she was right to tell the Morrises where Patrick was. Once the police get involved in something, it’s time to quit screwing around.

(J. Walter Weatherman voice) And that’s why you tell your kids the truth.

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