November 7, 2017

SVT #111, Sisters at War: I’m Thankful I’m Not Part of This Crazy Family

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

This has to be Elizabeth. Jessica would never wear that dorky jumper

Summary: Alice’s sisters Nancy and Laura are coming to Sweet Valley with their families for Thanksgiving. We’ve read about Nancy’s daughters, Robin and Stacey, a few times, but Kelly has never appeared in SVT, only in SVH. The twins are excited to get to spend time with their cousins. Steven is much, much less excited, since there are no boys in the family. I wouldn’t want to spend that much time with four 12-year-old girls either, so Steven actually has some of my sympathy for once.

The kids have to give the house a massive cleaning to prepare for their guests. Everyone will be staying at the house, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even before that, the twins are starting to get on each other’s nerves. Alice claims that she and her sisters never fought as kids, which is either a) the biggest lie she’s ever told, b) means she’s in incredible denial, or c) indicates that at some point, Alice suffered a head injury or some sort of trauma that wiped out part of her memory.

We know from Kelly’s previous appearance in the Sweet Valley-verse that her parents are no longer together. At 12, the twins don’t know why, and are especially confused about why Laura and her husband Greg would split up since he’s so likable. Alice mentions that he’s “unreliable,” which is PG code for “deadbeat.” Alice also mentions that she thinks Laura should have married another guy. Steven’s interested in learning more about this family dirt, since he has to write about family stories for a school project.

Jessica overhears Alice on the phone, talking about arranging a surprise for someone at Thanksgiving. She’s pretty sure she hears Aaron’s name in the conversation, which means Alice must have invited Aaron over for dinner. I’d make fun of Jess for believing this, but it’s a pretty 12-year-old thing to think, and very keeping with Jessica’s character (mainly, her belief that the world revolves around her).

The relatives all arrive, and Kelly soon proves to be a quiet, shy, delicate flower. The twins aren’t as close to her as they are Robin, so they don’t know her very well. Kelly is clearly depressed, and hasn’t made any friends since she and Laura moved to Tucson, even though it was four years ago. Jessica wants to help Robin and Kelly become close, so she makes up some things they might have in common. Robin quickly discovers that they’re not true, but fortunately, the two have enough real things in common that they’re able to connect anyway. For the first time in four years, Kelly’s happy.

Steven tries to glean some interesting information from Alice’s conversations with her sisters. All he learns is that Kelly is boring, and Nancy shares Alice’s opinion that Laura shouldn’t have married Greg. She thinks Laura should have ended up with her high school boyfriend, Darren Caruso. In fact, they were supposed to go to college together and would probably have gotten married eventually, if not for Darren’s sudden disappearance. Laura never found out why he ditched her and joined the Marines with no notice. He sent her a couple letters a few months later, but she never read them.

It isn’t long before the Robertson sisters’ supposedly solid relationship starts to crack. Nancy criticizes Laura for not being a stricter parent. Alice has fonder memories of a childhood trip to the Grand Canyon than her sisters do. Elizabeth is like, “So you guys never fight, huh?” The tension isn’t helped by the fact that the younger pairs of sisters are bickering, especially the twins. They fight through most of the book, ignoring the fact that there are guests in the house. If I were Ned or Alice, I would pull them aside, threaten to never give them allowance again if they kept fighting, and mean it. But of course, Ned and Alice have no parenting skills, so the girls just keep fighting.

By the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, everyone seems to be ready to calm down and enjoy the holiday. Then they realize that there are 12 places set at the table instead of 11. Alice reveals that she ran into Darren, exchanged a few letters with him, and invited him to dinner. Jessica’s embarrassed that she misheard “Darren” as “Aaron” and isn’t getting a surprise visit from her sort-of boyfriend after all.

Laura goes nuclear. She tells Kelly they’re leaving immediately and refuses to stay long enough to see Darren. Kelly’s upset, since she’s been enjoying the time with her cousins and was just starting to feel happy. Both of Alice’s sisters are mad at her. Surprisingly, we don’t get a moment where Steven’s like, “Can I eat while everyone’s fighting?” Because honestly, that would be me.

In the midst of the chaos, Darren arrives, deeply apologetic for the way things went down with Laura. He explains that he was too embarrassed to tell her when he didn’t get into college, thanks to some learning disabilities. He joined the Marines and wrote a letter to ask her to wait. But his dyslexia made him transpose the numbers in her address, so she didn’t get the letter. By the time Darren figured that out, a few months had gone by. He sent more letters, but as we know, Laura didn’t read them. He asks her forgiveness, and amazingly, she quickly grants it.

But not everything is peachy: Kelly’s now missing. Her cousins find her at her old house, and she admits that she hates living in Tucson. Her only friend is her mom. She’s worried that, now that Laura and Darren have reconnected, Kelly and her mother won’t have as much time together anymore. Okay, girlfriend, they’ve talked for five minutes after 20 years apart. They don’t even live in the same state. It’s not like they’re going to get married tomorrow and ship you off to boarding school.

Stacey, who at eight years old is an Elizabeth in training, tells Kelly a story she wants to turn into a play. It’s about a girl who makes a ragdoll that comes to life and becomes her friend. Somehow, this makes Kelly feel better, like, is she going to go back to Tucson and build herself a friend? Is there a Build-a-Friend Workshop at the mall? The cousins try to cheer her up by pointing out that, if Laura and Darren do get back together, Laura could decide to move back to Sweet Valley to be closer to him. Then Kelly would be around the twins all the time.

Back at the house, Kelly tells everyone that they’re lucky to have sisters, and she wishes she had one. I think Steven just wishes he had something juicy to include in his family-stories project. How about a story about a disastrous Thanksgiving? No, wait, every family has one of those stories. Eh, just borrow one of Stacey’s.

Thoughts: I’d love to know the odds of three sisters all having children in the same year, especially when there’s an eight-year age difference between two of them.

Way to be on time for dinner at someone else’s house, Darren.

…And then Kelly got therapy, right? Her mother realized she’d been depressed for years and did something about it?

May 9, 2017

SVT #90, The Cousin War: Blockin’ Robin

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

No one wears her hair like that

Summary: Cousin Robin is coming to visit for two weeks while her parents are on a trip for their anniversary. (No mention of Robin’s younger sister Stacey, so I guess she’s Home Alone-ing it.) Jessica’s top priority while Robin is in town is to find her cousin a “vacation boyfriend.” There’s a Sadie Hawkins dance coming, and she wants to get Robin hooked up with someone. Jessica herself is interested in a guy named Juan, an exchange student from Argentina. She has no problem ditching Aaron…even though, awkwardly, Aaron’s family is Juan’s host family.

A bunch of sixth-graders go bowling together one afternoon, though Elizabeth has to skip the fun to work on a special issue of The Sixers. She asks Todd to be nice to Robin, since she doesn’t know anyone except Jessica. Robin and Todd hit it off, while Jessica tries to get to know Juan better. Robin quickly falls in luv with Todd, telling Elizabeth all about her new crush without mentioning his name. Liz has no idea that her cousin is interested in her sort-of boyfriend. And Jessica has no idea that her new crush, Juan, is interested in Robin.

Robin gets a note and some candy from a secret admirer and figures that Todd is trying to express his interest. Jessica thinks Robin is interested in Juan, so she wants to make a move before her cousin does. When she learns that Robin actually likes Todd, she decides to use this to her advantage – she’ll send Robin after Todd to keep her away from Juan. She doesn’t care that this might hurt Liz. She just wants Juan all to herself.

When Robin gets another secret-admirer note, Jessica eggs her on to go ask Todd to the dance already. But when Robin goes to Casey’s to talk to him, she sees him with Elizabeth. Robin is immediately furious with her cousin, thinking Liz is trying to steal her man. Because she’s 12, she doesn’t stop to think about how Elizabeth and Todd might have already had something going, or that Elizabeth couldn’t steal Todd from Robin when she didn’t know Robin liked him, or that you can’t steal a guy from someone he’s not actually dating. All Robin knows is that her cousin betrayed her.

Jessica sees this is a great time to ask Juan to the dance, but first she needs to make sure Robin doesn’t find out that Liz and Todd are together. She pretends to be Elizabeth and asks Todd to accept when Robin inevitably asks him to the dance. Liz won’t be attending herself since she’s so busy with the Sixers issue. Robin asks Todd to the dance, and he says yes, so he’s really surprised when the real Elizabeth is upset with him for agreeing to go on a date with another girl.

Jess asks Juan to the dance, and he admits that he was hoping Robin would ask him. She tells him Robin’s going with someone else, so Juan accepts her invitation. Meanwhile, Todd feels bad about accidentally hurting Elizabeth, so he backs out of the date with Robin. Robin is stunned to learn that Todd and Liz are sort of dating. Also, now she knows that Juan is her secret admirer, not Todd, and she’s lost her chance to go to the dance with him. To her credit, she feels bad about the way she treated Liz.

To make amends, Robin invites Todd over the night of the dance so she can smooth things over with Liz. The three of them figure out that Jess masqueraded as her twin to get Todd to accept the date with Robin. As retaliation, Elizabeth pretends to be Jessica and tells Juan that Robin wants to be with him. Then Liz gets to go to the dance with Todd, while Robin gets to hang out with her secret admirer, and Jess is alone. Well, at least until she learns that Aaron was helping Juan win over Robin, in part because he didn’t want Juan to be with Jessica. Jess thinks jealousy is hot, so she’s back to liking Aaron. Ick.

Thoughts: Robin knows her way around Sweet Valley pretty well for someone who’s only visited a few times.

“What was the big deal about Robin, anyway?” So Jessica throws over Elizabeth and helps Robin steal Todd, and then wonders what’s so great about her. JESSICA, YOU ARE A HORRIBLE PERSON.

“Then it hit her. The only reason Elizabeth would dress just like Jessica was if she wanted everyone to think she was Jessica.” Check out the big brain on Jess!

November 1, 2016

SVT Super Chiller #5, The Curse of the Ruby Necklace: Ghosts on Film

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

I kind of like this cover

I kind of like this cover

Summary: Jessica finds the ruby necklace of the book’s title on the beach and quickly forms an attachment to it. She doesn’t even want to let Elizabeth hold it. The girls get distracted when they pass the old Keller mansion and see that a movie’s going to be filmed there. It’s called Dead Little Rich Girl, and somehow it’s not a trashy Lifetime movie. It stars a preteen actress named Shawn Brockaway and is being directed by a woman named Becka Silver. Take that, 21st century and your lack of female directors! The movie needs extras, and Becka wants the twins, since you can use them for longer amounts of time than regular child actors. Jessica’s thrilled, and Elizabeth’s just along for the ride.

Jessica drops the necklace in the water on the way home and dives in to get it, even though a storm has formed and the water’s become dangerous. She can’t explain what compelled her to risk her life for a necklace. She soon becomes even more Gollum-like with it, cleaning it and refusing to let anyone else touch it. That night, she has a dream about being in the Keller mansion and seeing someone dig around in a jewelry box. She falls off a balcony onto rocks on the beach, waking up just before she would have died in the dream.

Jess takes the necklace to school with her, losing track of time while she’s cleaning it off in the bathroom. That afternoon, the twins and a bunch of their classmates go to the Keller mansion so the movie crew can pick extras. The twins are shoo-ins, and Maria and Mandy are chosen as well. Lila gets rejected because her face is too modern for a movie that takes place in the 1930s. Only then to the girl learn what the movie’s actually about. It’s the true story of the murder of a 12-year-old girl…by another 12-year-old girl.

Even with the excitement of the movie and the fact that spring break is coming, Elizabeth notices that Jessica’s been a little off lately. It gets worse when she falls asleep in class and wakes up screaming from a nightmare. Jess is sent to the nurse, so Liz grabs her backpack, unknowingly taking possession of the necklace. She does some research on the Keller mansion, learning that Lillian Keller died there on her 12th birthday in the ’30s. How did she die? She fell from a balcony onto some rocks.

Since the twins only got one page of the movie script (the only scene where they have lines), they don’t know much about the plot. I was going to say that I can’t believe their parents let them accept a movie role without knowing anything about the movie, but…it’s Ned and Alice. They probably don’t even think the movie’s real. Liz wonders if Lillian’s death is what the movie’s about. Gee, Liz, you think? How many murders do you think occurred in that house?

Elizabeth tries to give the necklace back to Jessica, but Jess is suddenly uninterested in it. That’s fine with Liz, since she’s now pretty attached to it. That night, she has the same nightmare Jess did, with an additional detail: She can see that the man reaching into the jewelry box only has four fingers on that hand. Elizabeth’s new obsession with the necklace leads her to ask a science teacher about cleaning it, then borrow some chemicals to get the barnacles off of it. She accidentally loosens one of the stones, which was covering an engraving of the initials J.K.T.

It’s super-convenient that the movie starts filming just as the twins are out of school for spring break. Their cousin Robin comes to visit and get involved in their shenanigans. The girls get a crash course in filmmaking, partly from a lighting tech named Harold Brooks. Later, they learn that both twins had the same dream, though Liz doesn’t think it’s a big deal. She’s much more interested in writing an article on the movie and the history of the Kellers, which involves interviewing Becka. Becka sure has a lot of time to sit and chat with a 12-year-old.

Anyway, here’s the story of Lillian’s death: During her 12th birthday party, she got in a fight with a girl named Hilda Tomlinson, an orphaned cousin who lived with the Kellers. Lillian ran up to her parents’ bedroom, Hilda followed, and moments later, Lillian fell from the balcony. Hilda was immediately branded a killer and sent to an institution. No one knows what happened to her after that.

The scene where the twins have lines (well, really just Jessica, since Elizabeth doesn’t care much about acting and is going to let Jess play their role as much as possible) is the scene where Lillian and Hilda fight at the party. Shawn is playing Lillian, and she’s the biggest diva anyone has ever encountered. By the way, there are no parents or guardians on the set to look after all these child actors, so no one has any control over Shawn’s behavior. She’s nasty to everyone but nails every take, so I guess her amazing acting skills make people ignore her brattiness.

That night, Elizabeth dreams about Lillian and Hilda fighting, then running upstairs. Lillian says she’s going to put something in her mother’s jewelry box. When she gets to the room, the four-fingered man is there. Lillian seems to slip and fall over the balcony while the man tries to grab her ruby necklace. So Liz puts some pieces together – the girls were fighting over a necklace Lillian got for her birthday, which Hilda thought belonged to her mother. The twins decide that the necklace is so important that it’s caused them to try to protect it. They think the necklace is causing the nightmares, and Lillian’s ghost is trying to tell them something.

To make sure they’re right about the connection between the necklace and the dreams, the twins convince Robin to wear it to bed the next night. She reluctantly agrees. I think they should have given it to someone who didn’t know what was going on, since Robin knows the details of the dreams and could have them herself unrelated to the necklace, but this isn’t a formal psych experiment, so whatever. (It would have been funny if they’d snuck the necklace under Steven’s pillow to see what happened, though.)

At the mansion the next day, Elizabeth goes up to the Kellers’ bedroom, which looks just like it did in her dream. She runs into Mr. Brooks, who claims he came there to smoke because the other crew members don’t want to smell his cigarettes downstairs. But right after Elizabeth leaves, she runs into other crew members, including Becka, smoking. Hmmm, do you think there might be something suspicious about Mr. Brooks?

Robin does, indeed, have a nightmare that night, and is suddenly attached to the necklace. She fills in another blank in the dream, saying that the four-fingered man grabbed the necklace from Lillian as she fell, but he dropped it. Lillian was able to grab onto the edge of the balcony instead of falling right onto the rocks, and Hilda was there but doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with Lillian’s fall.

Becka lets the girls watch footage from their scenes the day before, and the three of them see a girl in the scene who wasn’t actually on set. She touches the actress playing Hilda, then points to a picture over the fireplace of Lillian’s mother at her wedding. They think they’re seeing Lillian’s ghost. After some brainstorming, they decide that Lillian was trying to tell them that Hilda got married and changed her last name, which is why no one can track her down. They manage to find her wedding announcement, which gives them her married name. After they look her up in the phone book (aw, a phone book), they decide to go see her. Well, the twins decide this. Robin thinks they’re nuts, since Hilda could very well be a murderer.

Hilda isn’t too thrilled to talk to girls who think she might have killed someone, but when she learns that they have the ruby necklace, she opens up. She confirms that she thought the necklace belonged to her mother, and she got upset when her aunt gave it to Lillian. Elizabeth remembers the initials J.K.T., which were Hilda’s mother’s initials, and agrees with Hilda. Hilda claims that Lillian had already gone over the balcony when she followed her (to apologize, not to fight more or, you know, kill her). She tried to pull Lillian up but wasn’t strong enough, and Lillian fell.

The Kellers’ chauffeur, Harry, was the next to arrive, and he told everyone he saw Hilda push Lillian. Hilda thinks he just thought he saw that when she was really trying to help Lillian. There are some details in Hilda’s story that don’t match the girls’ dreams, but they don’t really have a reason not to believe it. Hilda mentions that Harry always had one hand in his pocket (and the other was playing the piano…no, wait), which Liz finds odd. Hilda explains that he was self-conscious about only having four fingers on that hand.

No dummies (well, this time, at least), the girls figure that Harry the chauffeur is now Harold Brooks the lighting tech (who also tends to keep one hand in his pocket). It’s easy enough to confirm that Mr. Brooks only has four fingers on that hand, so the girls’ next step is to find out if Hilda’s story about trying to reach Lillian on the ledge makes sense. It does. So the theory the girls are going with is that Lillian caught Mr. Brooks trying to steal jewelry, and he pushed her off the balcony to keep her quiet. Becka tells the girls that Mr. Brooks retired from movies years ago, but he begged to work on this one when he heard about it. The girls think he wanted to make sure nothing about his crimes came out.

With help from Becka and a security guard named Tony, the girls come up with a plan to confront Mr. Brooks. Jessica dresses up as Lillian, putting on the ruby necklace, and reenacts the party, getting Mr. Brooks to follow her up to the bedroom. He’s smart enough to know he’s not actually dealing with a ghost, but he’s dumb enough to tell Jess that he’s going to kill her like he killed Lillian. People will just think she was playing in the room and fell off the balcony. He goes for the necklace, which is worth a ton of money, and Jessica gets backed up to the edge of the balcony and falls. Fortunately, there’s an air mattress already set up below for the stunt in the scene where Hilda kills Lillian.

Mr. Brooks ends up with the necklace, but Lillian’s ghost comes to him and shames him into feeling back about killing a 12-year-old and trying to kill another one. He’s arrested and confesses to all his crimes. This means the plot of the movie has to change, which makes Shawn mad – she’s not really the star anymore. Jessica silences her by throwing cake at her and starting a massive food fight. And I’m sure Shawn was never mean to anyone ever again. The girls then give Hilda the necklace and show her footage from an empty set so Lillian’s ghost can have one last conversation with her. TOTALLY NOT WEIRD AT ALL.

Thoughts: This was another of my favorites as a kid. I’m glad it came up right around Halloween.

Becka casts the twins, then asks if they can actually act. Good job, Becka.

“Excuse me, but catching killers is a job for the police, not for sixth-graders.” Robin’s too good for this series.

“What’s a stunt coordinator?” It’s the guy who does the catering, Elizabeth. What does it sound like?

Mandy, while the girls are talking about how they can’t stand Shawn: “Where’s Elizabeth? She should be here to not stand Shawn too.” Mandy is also too good for this series.

August 9, 2016

SVT Super Chiller #4, The Ghost in the Bell Tower: Liz Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:47 pm by Jenn

What are you even looking at, Jess?

What are you even looking at, Jess?

Summary: The Wakefield kids are home for the evening and watching a horror movie with Joe Howell. (Sidebar: I think Joe is a fun character, and I feel bad that he wound up with a disaster of a sister like Janet.) During the movie, the kids hear moaning in the house and Jessica thinks there’s a ghost or something in there with them. Elizabeth is too logical to go down that route and explains how Steven and Joe set up a prank. This establishes a thread that runs through the book: Elizabeth is too logical to believe in things like ghosts.

Aunt Helen is back, and she’s inherited a run-down inn somewhere in California. She wants to hold a big family reunion there, but first, she’d like the twins, Steven, and their cousins Robin and Stacey (Robin’s younger sister) to help her spruce it up. (Lest you think Aunt Helen is taking advantage of child labor to get all the work done, she’s also hired actual professionals. She really wants the kids to spend their summer vacation in a new environment.) The kids accept the invitation, and Steven’s allowed to bring Joe so he’s not outnumbered by girls.

Before they head out, Steven plays another prank on Jess, this one involving a fake bloody hand. Liz, of course, easily figures out that Steven didn’t put a real severed human hand in his sister’s suitcase. Ned and Alice do some actual parenting for once, asking Steven and Joe not to pull pranks at the inn, since Aunt Helen has heart problems and already has enough to deal with.

Everyone gathers at the Lakeview Inn, which has a bell tower, for some reason. That’s kind of the only thing it has going for it; everything else is shabby and needs a lot of work. Aunt Helen would like the girls to clear out the attic so they can access the bell tower. Oh, and by the way, there’s supposedly a ghost up there. Sleep tight! I assume Helen doesn’t believe in ghosts or she’d never invite a bunch of kids to spend the summer in her haunted inn.

Robin and Stacey show up in the twins’ room in the middle of the night, claiming their room is freezing, even though the radiator is on (no one bothers to ask why they were using a radiator in the middle of the summer). Jessica decides there’s a ghost around. I guess Jess has been watching Supernatural, I see. The girls can’t figure out why the room is so cold, so they all just go to bed in the twins’ room.

In the morning, the girls get started on the attic while Steven and Joe work on a boathouse. They tell the girls they found a cave but have claimed it as a secret spot for themselves. Then why say anything at all? Elizabeth finds Alexandra’s diary and learns that she was smitten with a guy named William Cliff when she was younger. She’s surprised to see that a portrait of Alexandra’s father, Phineas, has disappeared from her and Jess’ bedroom and has been replaced with another painting. When she brings Jess in to show her, the painting of Phineas is there again.

That afternoon, Jessica encounters a worker named Bill who tells her about a secret passageway between the twins’ room and Robin and Stacey’s room. There’s a huge mirror in the twins’ room that Bill reveals is a two-way mirror – when the right lights are on, you can see between the two rooms. That night, Liz locks the bedroom door and sleeps with the key under her pillow. She notes the next morning that nothing weird happened, intimating that she thinks humans are responsible for the weird stuff going on, and couldn’t pull any pranks without access to the twins’ room.

But things are still weird: Elizabeth put a fresh bouquet of flowers in the bedroom before going to sleep, and now they’re all dry and dead. Aunt Helen mentions that she can smell flowers in the kitchen, though Liz can’t smell them in the hallway nearby. She starts to get an idea. The twins and Robin go into town to do some shopping, and on their way home, they come across what they think is the guys’ cave. They go inside, only to be met with screaming and what looks like a ghost running at them. As the girls are fleeing, Elizabeth drops her notebook so she has an excuse to go back on her own. As the girls return to the inn, Liz says that she’s sure Steven was just playing another joke on them. But Steven’s been at the inn with Aunt Helen all afternoon. Hmmm, very curious.

The twins wake up in the middle of the night to see light shining behind the two-way mirror. A message shows up, seemingly written in blood, threatening to come after Elizabeth. Liz is freaked out but notices that Jessica isn’t. Curiouser and curiouser! The girls see a grotesque face in the mirror and declares that the ghost is targeting them. Elizabeth suggests that they’re both still asleep and having the same exact dream. Sure, Liz. Suuuuuuure.

The next day, Elizabeth sneaks out and returns to the cave, where she finds two sets of footprints leaving it. She takes some measurements, and when she’s back at the inn, she compares them to Steven and Joe’s shoes. One set matches Joe’s, but the others are a lot smaller – more like the size of Stacey’s shoes. She also discovers a bookcase that swings out to lead to a secret passageway (the same one behind her and Jessica’s mirror).

Liz has now figured out everything that’s happened, but she doesn’t want to confront her sister and cousins yet. Instead, she turns to Joe and Steven for help getting some revenge on the girls. They’ll make a raft, put a fake ghost on it, and have Joe pull it behind a boat on the lake. Hopefully, in the dark and from far enough away, it’ll look like a ghost and fool the girls. Bill pops in to suggest a lighting trick to make sure the girls can really see it. The plan goes off great, and Elizabeth is impressed that the guys were able to use some pyrotechnics to spice things up. The guys, however, tell her they didn’t have anything to do with that.

Jessica takes a nap in the attic and is spooked by some creaking sounds. Then she sees a white figure approaching her. She’s so scared that she tries to escape through the window. Elizabeth realizes she’s gone too far with her revenge and comes clean with the girls about how she figured everything out. She knows Steven stayed home with Aunt Helen so he could have an alibi while Joe and Stacey pulled the prank in the cave. Robin and Stacey made the room cold by opening the windows, then used blue eyeshadow to make their lips look blue (ew). Jessica switched the paintings and cooked Liz’s flowers in the oven, which is why Helen smelled flowers in the kitchen. And Robin used lipstick she bought in town to write the message the twins saw in the mirror.

The only thing Elizabeth can’t figure out is who provided the mask that she and Jess thought was a face in the mirror. Robin says that there was no mask in their plan. Elizabeth, in turn, denies leaving Jessica in the dark attic or sending anyone in to scare her. The girls think Steven must be adding some embellishments to their pranks.

Because this is suddenly a Baby-sitters Club book, the girls find old clothes and dress up for something called Gold Rush Day. Elizabeth grabs a few minutes with a historian who tells her more about the Lakeview Inn ghost: Legend has it that it’s the ghost of a man who died of a broken heart when the woman he loved married someone else. Supposedly the ghost can be banished by ringing the bell.

More wackiness at the inn! Jessica’s doing laundry when bedding starts disappearing and reappearing in the washer and dryer. She thinks Elizabeth is pulling another joke. Liz is the next target of weirdness when she finds that her nice, hot bath has turned ice-cold. She confronts Jessica, who denies any involvement. When Liz goes back to the tub, the water is hot again. The twins decide that Steven and Joe are at it again. But the next morning, they wake up to discover that their beds have been swapped – and there’s no way two 14-year-old boys could have dragged their heavy beds across the room without waking the twins up.

Through all of this, Liz has been reading Alexandra’s diary, and she finally realizes why her picture of William looks so familiar – he looks just like Bill. Just as she figures out this connection, a strong wind comes into the room and almost makes the picture fly away. Then a message appears on the wall telling everyone to get out of the inn. Later, maggots appear, then disappear from muffins Aunt Helen is baking. Suddenly the girls can no longer use logic to explain what’s going on at the inn. They decide Bill is the ghost in the bell tower.

Remembering the lore about banishing the ghost by ringing the bell, the girls focus on getting to the tower. They try to move things around in the attic to get to the door, but the stuff slides back into place behind them, preventing them from going back the way they came. Then the power goes out, so the girls can only see when lightning flashes (because of course there’s a storm outside). Clothes start flying around the attic, which is pretty weak as far as ghost tricks go. Stacey fights back with a bayonet. Stacey’s pretty cool.

The girls head to the tower, though apparently only the twins are there because Robin and Stacey aren’t mentioned for the rest of the scene. The girls find Bill, who’s suddenly glowing. Yes, boys and girls, we’re dealing with an actual ghost. He threatens to kill the kids, but Elizabeth calls his bluff, noting that any time things have started to get dangerous, he’s backed off. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone; he’s just sad.

Bill confirms that he was in love with Alexandra but she was going to marry someone else. Elizabeth has learned from her diary that Alexandra’s father was forcing her to marry a doctor, but Alexandra was going to stand up to him and call off the wedding to be with Will/Bill. Bill died, of course, and Alexandra never married. Bill realizes that, with Alexandra dead, there’s no reason to hang out at the inn anymore, so he lets the girls ring the bell. ‘Bye, Bill!

The kids spend the rest of their time at the inn cleaning, and eventually the place is ready for guests. Steven and Joe try to pull one last prank by dropping a fake spider on Jessica from a tree, but she’s seen so much actual scary stuff that it doesn’t faze her. Then the girls see two ghosts walking on the other side of the lake, which means Bill and Alexandra have finally found their way back to each other. Liz is like, “Well, true love is logical, so this makes perfect sense!” Eh.

Thoughts: Elizabeth: “I’m sure he’s stuck in that dark mine shaft. You know how ghosts are.” Yes, of course.

Actually, Elizabeth’s pretty enjoyable in this book, until she starts thinking there’s really a ghost.

“Nice ghost. Nice little ghost. You don’t want to hurt me.” Hee. I like Robin.

November 17, 2015

SVT #42, Jessica’s Secret: (Not) Seeing Red

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

Whoever drew that magazine cover wasn't even trying

Whoever drew that magazine cover wasn’t even trying

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield has just started her period. Try not to get too excited. She’s already enthusiastic enough for everyone. She’s happier than a woman at the end of a pregnancy scare. She also assumes that, since they’re identical twins, Jessica has gotten hers as well. Jess goes along with this, not wanting to feel left out of the period party. Jessica, enjoy it while you can. You’re on the cusp of 40 years of torture. There’s some wackiness with pad-buying, but it’s dumb, so let’s move on.

Alice is super-excited that her little girls are now women (no, Alice, they’re still 12, and even when they’re actually adults, they’ll still act like children). She thinks they’re now mature enough to go to San Diego on their own to visit their cousin Robin. The girls haven’t seen her for a while, since her family just got back from living in France for a year. They think Robin will be ultra-sophisticated now, having lived in ultra-sophisticated Europe around all the ultra-sophisticated fashion.

The twins pick out some new clothes for the trip, and to celebrate their womanhood, or whatever. But with Jessica growing more and more despondent over her lack of period, she takes it out on Elizabeth, making fun of her babyish blouse (which she previously said looked nice). Elizabeth doesn’t get why Jess is being a jerk all of a sudden. Alice is less than helpful, just telling Liz that the girls are both going through changes. So that makes it okay for Jess to be a jerk?

The twins head to San Diego and learn that Robin has definitely changed over the past year. She dresses like a New York artist (or at least how a preteen thinks a New York artist would dress) and claims to smoke and have a 16-year-old boyfriend. Oh, but the twins can’t meet him, since he’s away for the weekend. How conveeeeeenient. Robin is being courted by a Unicorn-like group called the Jaguars, who wear matching silver bracelets to show how cool they are. She’s eagerly awaiting word on her initiation.

Robin’s parents let her have a sleepover and invite all the Jaguars. She also has to invite Becky, her ex-best friend, who is definitely not popular or cool. Robin has barely spoken to her since moving back from France, since the Jaguars are much more important people to be seen with. Poor Becky has to walk into a party full of chic, hip girls she knows don’t like her. Elizabeth is the only one who’s nice to her. The Jaguars are more focused on giving Robin her initiation task: She has to go to her supposed boyfriend’s house just before midnight and get him to drive her to the park to meet the other girls.

Robin drags Jessica along with her while the Jaguars go to the park. Elizabeth and Becky stay behind, wondering why Robin wants to be friends with a bunch of jerks. Robin admits to Jess that John isn’t really her boyfriend, which is good, because she’s 12 and he’s 16. The girls make it into the house but come across a big dog that chases them outside. Then they learn that they were in the wrong house anyway. Womp womp. Meanwhile, Robin’s little sister, Stacey, wakes up and learns from Elizabeth and Becky that all the other girls left. She gets worried and wakes up her parents to tell them Robin, Jessica, and the Jaguars snuck out.

Jess and Robin are retrieved from the park, and are in major trouble. Robin’s grounded for a month, and Jessica expects that she’ll face a similar punishment back at home. She’s also mad at Elizabeth for telling their aunt and uncle what was going on. Stacey blames herself, since she woke up her parents, but Jess thinks Liz should have kept her mouth shut. On the plus side, Robin realizes that she was horrible to Becky and decides to try to make up with her.

The twins take a bus home, but Jessica gets off at a station to get something to drink. She takes too long and the bus leaves without her. Fortunately, Elizabeth also got off the bus, so they’re stranded together, waiting for the next one to come along. Jess is still mad at Liz, but tells her why, and the two make up. It turns out that Jaguars were huge mean girls and were going to make Robin cut off Becky’s hair while she slept. Robin realized that they were a bad crowd and told them off.

Jessica admits that she hasn’t started her period yet and only pretended she had because Liz started hers. But it’s all okay, because she starts hers at the bus station. There’s a story she can tell her daughters someday.

Thoughts: Ned and Alice in the last book: “No, you can’t go to a chaperoned party.” Ned and Alice in this book: “Yes, you can go to San Diego by yourselves.” Sure.

Every time Robin calls the Jaguars “Jags,” I giggle. I don’t think that’s what the ghostwriter intended.

Becky’s like a more interesting version of Amy. Can we trade them and leave Amy behind in San Diego?

We should also trade Ned and Alice for Aunt Nancy and Uncle Kirk. They actually parent their kids.