April 12, 2016
Summary: When Chloe first arrived at SVU, she was very much against joining a sorority, since she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But now that everyone in her dorm thinks she’s a dork, and she’s kind of become friends with Jessica, she’s desperate to join Theta and move into the sorority house. Chloe befriends a girl in her dorm, Val, and is so eager not to lose her that when Val says she also wants to become a Theta, Chloe decides to work extra-hard to get them both inducted.
Theta has just elected new officers: Denise is president, Alex is vice president, Lila is treasurer, and Jessica is pledge chairwoman. Jessica is immediately inundated with requests to consider new pledges. She was really excited about her new role, but that wears off pretty quickly since people only want to talk to her to kiss up or ask for a favor. Chloe doesn’t like that other girls are sucking up, either, but it’s because she can’t convince them that she and Jessica are totally BFFs. Chloe has totally deluded herself into thinking she’s not annoying and that Jess really wants to spend time with her.
The first step in making Val a viable pledge: a makeover! Chloe wants to turn Val from dorky to glam. Val has un-rush-worthy clothes and spends too much time with her dumpy roommate, Deena, which disgusts Chloe. Chloe, by the way, becomes a huge witch in this book, to the point where I can no longer tolerate her. She thinks that if Val keeps hanging out with Deena, Deena will ruin Val’s chances with Theta. Chloe takes Val shopping, buys her a bunch of new clothes, and pays for her to get a haircut. Val continually objects to letting Chloe spend so much money on her, but Chloe’s family is so rich that she doesn’t think her parents will even notice.
Rush week events begin, and Jessica is already sick of them. The girls rushing Theta are all idiots. Two of them make the huge mistake of saying homophobic things about Neil, not realizing that he and Jessica are best friends. They figure they’ve lost their shot at Theta because of that, but Jess tells them it’s really because Theta doesn’t want bigots. It’s a pretty awesome moment.
Chloe is shocked when Val hits it off really well with the Thetas – much better than Chloe herself does. Jess can see that Chloe’s trying really hard and reminds her that the whole sorority votes on new members. In other words, sucking up to Jess is a waste of time. But Chloe doesn’t catch the hint, and she hatches a plan to win Jessica over. She buys scalped tickets to a concert Jessica really wants to go to and offers them to Jess, pretending her mom bought them but Chloe can’t go. Even though Jess was really hoping to get tickets, she turns Chloe down, knowing it’s wrong to accept a bribe.
Val meets Chloe’s horrible roommate and her horrible friends, and again, Val manages to make a good impression. Chloe worries that Val will end up surpassing her in the popular department and ditch her, so she invites her to the concert. But then they run into a couple of Thetas who want to go to the concert, and Chloe gives them the tickets, deciding that a bribe is more important than having a good time with a new friend.
At the next rush event, Chloe goes on and on about how she’s a Theta legacy and her family’s rich and her mom is BFFs with some designer. Jess is irritated until someone calls Chloe out for lying about dating Tom. Jess comes to her defense, saying that Tom led her on. That night, Chloe starts worrying that she won’t get into Theta, and even wakes Val up to get reassurance. I really don’t know what Val sees in Chloe, especially since she’s starting to get that Chloe thinks Val will ruin her chances with Theta.
When it comes time for the Thetas to discuss pledges, it first seems like Chloe will be turned down. Jessica starts talking her up, though, and everyone begins to spin Chloe’s negatives into positives. I don’t understand this. Jess clearly can’t stand Chloe. Why is she going to bat for her? Anyway, the officers decide to give Chloe a little test.
On Bid Day, Val gets an offer from Theta, Jessica invites Chloe to breakfast off-campus. Chloe thinks she’s being taken somewhere private so Jess can break bad news to her where she can’t make a scene. They meet up with Lila, Alex, and Denise, and everyone but Chloe orders a huge breakfast. When they’re done, the Thetas all pretend they haven’t brought any money with them, so Chloe will have to pay. Chloe says she will, since she’s desperate to be a Theta and will do anything for a bid.
The girls imply that they’d like Chloe to buy new furniture for the house (didn’t Alison do that?), so if she agrees to, they’ll make her a Theta. Chloe says again that she’ll do anything because being a Theta is the most important thing in the world to her, despite the fact that she was so against it just a couple books ago. When bids go out, Val gets an offer from Theta, but Chloe gets nothing. Then Jessica tells her in person that Theta wants her, but they wanted to teach her a lesson about sucking up. I can’t believe they want to voluntarily spend time with this trainwreck of a girl.
Elizabeth is still seeing Finn, and since she hasn’t talked to him for a little while, she goes by the med school to see if she runs into him. She does, and she has to pretend she’s there to meet up with someone else. This makes Finn jealous, and he quickly invites Elizabeth to his place for dinner. Sam is also jealous because Liz likes Finn, but I really don’t care how Sam feels about anything.
The couple’s date goes well, but when Finn is ready for dessert, Elizabeth backs off. Oh, and by “dessert,” I mean sex. Elizabeth isn’t quite ready to take that step, so she asks Finn if they can slow things down. He’s all, “Yeah, that’s completely fine. Now I’m going to take you home for a completely unrelated reason.” Smooth, Doctor. He tries again after another date, using the excuse that he’s so into Liz that he can’t help himself. Red flag!
Elizabeth tells Jessica what’s going on, and Jess says she’s doing the right thing – Finn will be more interested in her if she keeps denying him sex. Yeah, that sounds like a foolproof plan. Off-screen, so to speak, Liz tells Finn about her relationships with Todd and Tom, and why she’s a little gun-shy. She’s still thinking over what to do the next time Finn brings up sex. Also, somehow their relationship has made her feel like she needs to stop fighting with Sam over stupid things, since she’s dating a man instead of a boy, which makes her more of an adult. Oh, just hook up with Sam already. We all know it’s going to happen.
Nina decides to move out of the duplex, thank God – her constant fighting with Sam was bugging the crap out of me. She gets a single in a dorm, but I guess she doesn’t have any friends other than Elizabeth, because she gets lonely pretty quickly. She meets a classmate named Francesca and agrees to go see a band with her. Nina has to study, so she plans to only go out for a few hours, but she ends up staying out until one in the morning. Then she decides to keep partying since she’s already out. Never mind that she has an 8 a.m. class.
After falling asleep in class, Nina goes to her dorm to take a quick nap before she has to go to her part-time job. The nap turns into an hours-long sleep, and Nina misses work. Francesca is completely unconcerned. Nina doesn’t seem to get that Francesca only cares about having fun. Then again, Nina’s decided that she needs to have more fun, even if it means her grades suffer a little. There’s no way this will turn out badly!
Todd gets the really boring plotline in this book. To make a long story short, Dana has moved out, and Todd wants to become a big ol’ bachelor. He decides to drop some classes and work more hours at the bar, possibly using some of his money to buy a motorcycle. He meets a girl named Lucy and they hit it off, but she cools off on him when she finds out he works at a “townie” bar. He hangs out with a friend all night and decides going to class isn’t that important, now that he’s a grown-up with a grown-up job. Yeah, good luck explaining that logic to your parents.
Thoughts: In a throwaway moment, we learn that Neil lost the election. Boo!
Finn wears “a black Armani jacket, Levi’s, and loafers without socks.” Run away, Elizabeth! Never trust a guy who wears loafers without socks.
A girl named Angela asks Jessica if she can eat coconut, since she’s allergic to nuts. Jessica can’t believe she’s never had coconut before. Angela says it’s because she’s from Michigan. Jessica doesn’t know what that has to do with anything, but she realizes she doesn’t know if coconut is a nut. My head hurts.
March 29, 2016
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: “…”
February 2, 2016
Summary: This book isn’t as bad as the summary on the back makes it sound. Well, in some ways. The blurb makes it out like Jessica falls in love with a guy holding her hostage. And though she has some sympathy for him and maybe a little crush, it’s not quite that ridiculous.
Jessica, Lila, Denise, and Alex decide to have dinner at the Red Lion Diner. It’s a week before their sophomore year, and not everyone is back on campus yet. They’re staying at the sorority house until their dorms or apartments are ready. (The twins will be living with Neil, so he’s decided to transfer to SVU after all.) On their way inside, Jessica spots Trevor Paley, a guy she had a class with the year before. He’s fighting with another guy, so he’s distracted when Jess says hi to him. She thinks he’s just not interested in her. The nerve!
The girls banter with the waitress, Stella. Picture every diner waitress you’ve ever seen in movies or TV. That’s Stella. While they’re waiting for their food, two masked men burst in with guns and demand money. Everyone gets on the floor and tries to stay calm. Instead of just keeping her mouth shut and getting the money, which is the smart option, Stella has to be sassy about the whole thing. Hey, Stella? Did you see the guns? Yeah. They have ouchy bullets inside. Shut up and give them what they want so you don’t get shot.
Willie, the owner/cook, comes out of the kitchen and tries to intimidate the robbers into leaving. They won’t, so Willie gives Stella the go-ahead to empty the cash register. While the bigger robber is off his guard, thinking things are going his way, Willie swings a baseball bat at him. Unfortunately, gun beats bat, and Willie gets shot in the arm. Stella yells at the robber, like, do you want to get shot, too? Just give him the money!
The second robber yells at the first, upset that their brilliant scheme isn’t going the way they’d planned. I guess he thought that everyone would cooperate and they would get the money without having to hurt anyone. Jessica recognizes the second robber’s voice and realizes it’s Trevor. Through bits of conversation, she figures out that the first robber is his brother, Jason.
Despite the bullet in his shoulder and the fact that he’s about to lose a bunch of money, it’s kind of Willie’s lucky day. One of the diner patrons is a med student named Clark, and Jason allows him to help tend to Willie’s wound. Things go south, though, when Jason realizes that their take for this robbery is just over $175. Well, what did he expect? It’s a diner and no college students have been there all summer. Willie laughs because he’s dealing with idiots. Yeah, but they’re the ones with the guns.
Trevor and Jason start arguing, and three other patrons take advantage of their distraction to try to sneak out the door. Way to secure all the exits, guys! One patron escapes, and Jason shoots another. Trevor wants to minimize the loss of innocent life, so he tries to stop Jason by…shooting him in the arm. This is not a healthy family relationship. Jason threatens to shoot Trevor so they’re even, but he decides he can’t hurt his own brother like that.
While Clark tends to his new patients, Jessica quietly lets Denise know that she knows one of the robbers. Denise smartly tells Jessica to keep it to herself. Jason tells Denise to close all the blinds, and she uses the opportunity to try to negotiate: She’ll do it if he lets the injured hostages go. Nice try, Denise, but I don’t think Jason’s getting enough out of this deal to see it as a good trade.
Denise closes the blinds anyway, then tries again to talk Jason into letting the injured people go. While I admire her for trying, her methods just make Jason mad. The police arrive, having been called by the escapee, so at least now we have a negotiator here who knows what he’s doing. But Alex and Trevor are also on Denise’s side, and eventually wear Jason down. Not only does he let the injured hostages go, but he sends Denise and Alex out with them so he doesn’t have to deal with them anymore. Note to self: If you’re ever taken hostage, just annoy the guy in charge until he releases you. A fool-proof plan!
Thanks to the magic of shifting narrative points of view, we get to find out why the Paley brothers are in this mess. Trevor tells us that Jason has always been a little monster. Recently he racked up some gambling debts and decided to rob the diner so he could pay off a loan shark. Trevor agreed to help because he’s such a good brother. Yeah, listen, I love my brothers, but if they ever tried to get me to commit a crime with them, I would draw the line of sisterly devotion there.
Jessica decides to tell Trevor that she knows who he is, though I’m not sure what she thought this would accomplish. She can’t believe the quiet guy from her class is now holding people hostage. Trevor gets sick of the whole situation and tells Jason he’s done. Jason thinks about killing his brother but doesn’t. Aww, they’re making progress. Their brief standoff allows a couple other hostages to try to escape, but Trevor stops them. So I guess he’s not really done after all.
Since Jason is losing a lot of blood, Trevor decides he needs to get him out of the diner. He takes Jessica with him to check out the back of the building, telling the others that if they try anything, he’ll shoot Jess. Jess starts to warm up to Trevor a little, despite the fact that he just threatened her, but he turns mean again and she realizes he’s still a bad guy. They find a storm drain, and Trevor realizes that he could escape and just leave Jason to deal with the fallout of the hostage situation.
On the outside, Denise and Alex find Elizabeth and tell her what’s going on. The three head back to the diner, where Denise decides they could call Lila’s cell phone to find out what’s going on inside. Alex deems this an okay idea since Lila keeps her phone on vibrate, so Jason and Trevor won’t hear it ringing. But won’t they hear her talking? This is dumb. Also, apparently the police have told everyone outside not to try to communicate with anyone inside, so this is a horrible idea.
The girls call anyway, and are able to speak to Lila for a minute. Elizabeth comes up with an escape plan for her, telling her to climb out through the bathroom window. Jason catches Lila on the phone and takes it away before Lila can even hear the plan. Another hostage, Steve, tries to get Jason to leave Lila alone by basically telling him to pick on someone his own size. The two men fight, and Steve manages to grab Jason’s gun.
Trevor and Jessica return just then, and Trevor threatens to kill Jessica if Steve doesn’t drop the gun. So Jessica’s definitely not in love with him now. Steve tries to shoot Trevor, but Jason jumps in front of his brother, taking another bullet. Steve’s now out of bullets, but Trevor’s more concerned with losing his brother than he is about teaching Steve a lesson. He comes up with a new plan: Let the hostages go, get medical attention for Jason, and run away.
Trevor takes Jessica back to the storm drain and they escape the diner. He asks her to help him hide out, so she takes him to the sorority house. Meanwhile, the other hostages are freed, and everyone learns that Trevor took Jessica with him. The police start looking for him, and it doesn’t take long for them to show up at the sorority house. When she’s recognized as one of the hostages, Jessica lies that she’s Elizabeth. This news reaches the diner, and Elizabeth tells the police that Jess lied.
Everyone heads to Theta house, where Jessica has managed to leave a note on the back of the door in lipstick: “Train.” Trevor’s ingenious new plan is to take a train out of town and, I guess, hope the police don’t bother looking for him anywhere outside of Sweet Valley. The police show up before Trevor can flee, so Trevor threatens to shoot Jessica. She basically talks him out of it, saying she knows he won’t hurt her. Like, he stands there with a gun pointed at her and she just walks away. Weird.
Trevor lowers his gun, but the police shoot him anyway. He and Jason both survive the ordeal, and I guess will get to bond while they’re in prison together. The police are kind of mad that the girls called Lila when they weren’t supposed to, but I guess they can’t do much about it, since it didn’t lead to anyone getting hurt. Anyway, this book had the potential to be good, but ended up being dumb, though not as dumb as it could have been.
Thoughts: Trevor: “Nice to meet you, Steve.” Steve: “Don’t talk to me, scumbag. If I didn’t have a gun pointed at my back, you’d be choking on your teeth.” I like you, Steve. Let’s be friends.
“I have a really brilliant and potentially stupid idea.” I like you, too, Denise.
“If you’re ever in a situation like that again, leave it to the professionals.” They never have before; why would they start now?
September 29, 2015
Summary: Clay’s trial for killing Officer Riviera is approaching, and Jessica is reluctantly staying away from Nick, who’s hiding out in case Clay wants to have him offed. Jessica’s been ordered to stay away from the trial, and I think it’s really cute that Nick believes she’ll listen to him. She shows up at the courthouse in disguise, pretending to be an old woman. Nick, however, is a trained detective, not to mention her boyfriend, so the disguise doesn’t fool him.
Jessica’s barely able to keep her mouth shut during the trial, since Nick’s testimony doesn’t go well. This is doubly depressing for Nick, since he goes through with his plan to commit perjury, lying that he (not Jessica) heard Clay admitting to killing Riviera. With things looking bleak for the police, Nick convinces the prosecutor to offer Clay a deal if he turns on the head of the mob organization he works for. This almost succeeds, until Clay hears Nick sneeze behind a two-way mirror and refuses to cooperate in anything he’s involved in. I don’t know how Clay knew it was Nick, but whatever. Also, he threatens to kill Nick.
Jessica tries to find out where Nick’s hiding out, so she can visit him. The police chief tells her a story about how he and his then-girlfriend were separated because they witnessed a crime, and it was super-difficult and blah blah blah, I thought it would end with the girlfriend being murdered, and a lesson for Jess that you don’t mess around when it comes to dangerous situations. But the chief and his girlfriend are now married and have been happy for decades, so I guess the lesson is that Jessica should get what she wants because what’s better than two people in love, even if they’d be risking their lives to see each other?
The police chief has Jessica followed so someone can slip her the address of the safehouse where Nick’s been hiding out. Jessica thinks she’s being followed by a hitman sent by Clay. It’s really dumb. Nick and Jessica are allowed to spend some time together, and she decides she can’t live without him, so they should get married, and then she can go with him into witness protection. Nick’s like, “But your codependence with your twin!” Jess is willing to leave Liz forever if it means she gets to stay with Nick. He doesn’t really respond, just telling her not to come to court when the verdict’s read.
Of course, Jessica doesn’t listen. This time she disguises herself as an old man. I kind of wish she’d resurrected Perdita del Mar for this. The chief tells Nick, in so many words, that he needs to break up with Jessica so she won’t want to come with him to witness protection. Jessica gets kicked out of the courtroom, but Nick manages to sneak away for one last makeout session. Then he’s dragged back to the courtroom, just like in a nightmare Jessica had, and she freaks out about never seeing him again.
She’s right to freak out: The verdict is read and Clay is sent to prison, but a masked gunman appears and shoots Clay. Jessica is back on campus at this point, so she and Elizabeth rush to the courthouse. Unfortunately, it’s too late: Nick’s dead. Now I’m sad. I liked him, and Jessica’s going to be devastated. Plus, this is, like, her fifth boyfriend who’s died. You suck, ghostwriter.
Hey, remember Todd? He still exists. Elizabeth runs into him and they chat about nothing for a little while before he heads to a session with a school therapist. Finally, someone in this town is getting well-needed counseling! Todd is still struggling with Gin-Yung’s death. He’s not as interested in basketball anymore, so his counselor advises him to find a new activity. How about music? When Todd heads to the music building to see what’s available for him to try out, he sees Dana. He thinks she’s hot. We don’t care, Todd.
The writers have suddenly decided that Dana needs our sympathy, so they let us know that all her friends hate her (because she ditched them when she was dating Tom). Also, she’s struggling with cello lessons, and everyone thinks she’s a jerk because she kept Tom and Elizabeth apart. Apparently everyone at SVU ships Tom and Elizabeth. Ugh.
At least one person has sympathy for Dana: Elizabeth. She tries to chat with her, but things go south when she brings up Tom. Liz gushes about how Tom is such a great guy for not just wanting to have sex with girls – he wants real relationships with them. Dana’s confused, so Elizabeth tells her that Tom said they never slept together. Dana gets offended, because why would a guy she was completely in love with deny having sex with her? She makes it clear that they humped like bunnies.
Elizabeth is humiliated that Tom lied to her. Now she can never trust another guy! Wow, Liz. She feels like he betrayed her. Not to go all Ross Geller on anyone, but they were on a break. But Elizabeth never let a little thing like facts get in the way of indignation, so she dumps Tom. Buddy, she probably did you a favor. But don’t think this means Elizabeth’s going to run back to Todd – after she bombs a recital and risks her scholarship, Dana runs into Todd, who asks her to get coffee. Todd, no! This is a bad idea!
Danny spends the whole book feeling horrible for the way he treated Isabella, and worrying that he’ll never get to talk to her again. Her parents consider moving her to Switzerland, but Mrs. Ricci decides that she should stay in Sweet Valley so Danny can visit her. Danny makes it his mission to bring Isabella out of her coma, so he plays her favorite Elvis songs and sprays her favorite perfume in her room. It’s actually kind of sweet. And somehow, it works! Except Isabella has total amnesia and can’t remember who Danny or anyone else is! GASP!
Denise is still furious with Winston for kissing visiting prep-schooler Brenda, though Winston maintains that she kissed him and he didn’t reciprocate. He’s desperate to make things up to Denise, so he goes to Bruce for advice. Yeah, read that sentence again. I wonder why this plan doesn’t work? Bruce tells Winston that Lila always responds to expensive jewelry, so Winston should win Denise back with something shiny. Winston gives this a try, not realizing that the ivory figuring he bought her was made possible by the death of an elephant. Wow, romantic.
Winston gets some advice from some random girl in his dorm, who tells him to think about Denise specifically, not women in general. He needs to do something to remind her why she fell in love with him in the first place. Winston’s brain interprets this as “buy her a cheeseburger and use that as a metaphor.” Denise finds this ridiculous, but when she sees how sad her reaction makes him, she feels bad. She decides to drag out her anger a little longer, but eventually forgives him after he serenades her with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It’s a kind of funny moment where all the girls in the dorm hear him singing outside Denise’s window and chant for her to take him back. So at least one couple in Sweet Valley is happy.
Thoughts: Brenda is described as a “brunette ringer for Jessica.” Does that mean there’s yet another Wakefield lookalike in Sweet Valley?
Nina (who has one unremarkable scene in the book) eats cottage cheese on toast. Is that a thing?
Isabella studied aikido. Sure, she did.
Why have Winston get relationship advice from someone we’ve never met before? Why not, say, Nina?
Elizabeth goes to the movies in a “short gold summer dress.” Wrong twin, ghostwriter.
“I mean, what does my sex life have to do with you, Elizabeth?” This might be the first thing Dana’s ever said that I agree with.
September 15, 2015
Summary: The book starts just where the last one ended, with Jessica and an unconscious Nick in the house where he tried to sting Clay. Nick regains consciousness, and Jessica tells him some of the things Clay said while he was out – namely, that he killed another cop, Riviera. Nick swears her to secrecy, deciding that he’ll pretend he heard the confession so Jess doesn’t have to testify and get involved in the whole mess. Unfortunately, until then, Nick and Jess will have to pretend they’ve broken up.
Jessica decides to make the fake split look more realistic by flirting with Clay. This seems like a foolproof plan. Lila thinks Jessica’s insane, considering what Clay did to Isabella. She tells Nick about Jess and Clay’s possible new relationship, which makes Nick go all Todd on Clay. Nick then covers up his jealousy by screaming at Jessica – in public – that she’s a slut for hooking up with another guy so soon after their breakup.
This doesn’t convince Clay of anything, or if it does, it doesn’t really matter. After all, Clay almost killed Nick, and with Nick…you know, not dead, Clay has a problem on his hands. He tries to have Nick kidnapped off the street, but Nick manages to get the attention of some nearby cops. Clay gets away, but Nick passes along the information that he killed Riviera, so the police are now on the lookout.
Since Jessica is a potential target, Nick enlists a young cop named Graham to be her bodyguard while posing as her new boyfriend. Jessica objects, even when Graham turns out to be cute. She’s pretty awful to him, making it clear that Nick is much more awesome than he is. I don’t think Graham really cares. Graham is a pushover, actually; he helps Nick and Jessica get together for a date when they’re not supposed to see each other. Thanks, Graham.
Despite the fact that Nick is staying in a hotel and using a “light disguise,” Clay is able to track him down. He brings along Nelson “The Nose” Karl, the head of the whole Sweet Valley drug empire. I’m curious whether he’s called “The Nose” because he has a large one or because he does a lot of cocaine. Nick escapes and leads Clay and Karl straight to where a bunch of cops are waiting for them. They’re not the smartest criminals, are they? Also, there’s an appearance by a helicopter, which supposedly takes the criminals by surprise, because bad books and movies always forget that helicopters are loud and can’t exactly sneak up on people.
So this means things get to go back to normal for Nick and Jessica, right? Wrong. There isn’t enough evidence to put Clay away without Nick having to testify, and Nick can’t be protected even after Clay’s in prison. He’s decided he needs to enter witness protection. Jessica wants to go with him, but Nick refuses to make her leave her life. They won’t be able to see each other ever again. There’s a super-dramatic scene where they say goodbye to each other. I would be more interested if I didn’t know what happens in the next book.
Elizabeth and Tom spend the entire book not talking about whether he slept with Dana. Elizabeth is freaking out about the idea but won’t bring it up. Tom notices that Elizabeth is upset about something but can’t get her to tell him what it is. This goes on FOREVER. Elizabeth finally asks the question…and Tom lies. Freaking A, Tom. I can’t take this plot anymore.
Winston gets a ridiculous plot involving a bunch of prep-school girls who visit SVU. They’re all in love with him (though I think it’s mostly because they go to an all-girls’ school and are so desperate for any kind of male interaction that they’d take anything). The girls act like rowdy six-year-olds. They have an actual food fight. And one of them, Brenda, kisses Winston while Denise is watching. This plot is exhausting.
Danny should have the most interesting storyline in the book, what with Isabella still being unconscious in the hospital, but it goes nowhere. Remember how Danny was accused of stealing a test he accidentally picked up? He’s supposed to meet with the professor about the incident and whatever kind of punishment he faces for it, but instead, she realizes that he didn’t do anything wrong. The professor’s suddenly so nice to Danny that I was sure she was going to try to seduce him and kick off a completely different plot. But no, she just lets the whole thing go. And then Danny realizes that he’s not mad at Isabella after all, and he wants her back. She’ll have to wake up first, of course.
Thoughts: The girls on Winston’s hall only get a few hours’ notice that they’re all expected to house overnight guests. I would walk out and spend the weekend somewhere else.
Winston tells the prep-school girls that he has a degree in sexual chemistry. First of all, that’s so weak. Second of all, THEY’RE UNDERAGE, EGBERT.
Jessica wears black velvet jeans. Why do I feel like Lila tricked her into buying those, making her think they were fashionable?
June 9, 2015
Summary: It’s the morning after Elizabeth’s disastrous goodbye party, and Tom is thinking about how he finally got to make out with her again…or so he thought. After a few minutes of kissing, he realized that he was with the wrong twin. By the time he’d figured it out, Elizabeth had left. Jessica, for her part, tells Nick that Tom kissed her. Nick buys it and never bothers to mention it to Tom, so it’s just another lie Jess gets away with.
Scott is ridiculously pleased that he’s about to get what he wants – namely, his obsession with him in Denver, away from Tom. He finds Dana, butters her up, and reminds her that they have the same goal: Keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. He warns her not to let Tom and Liz be alone together or Liz might change her mind about Denver.
Dana becomes a stereotypical crazed girlfriend, obsessed with keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. Tom isn’t amused. She cries, pretending to be upset because he kissed “Elizabeth” at the party, then kisses him, making sure Liz sees. Tom is pretty much done with Dana but doesn’t actually tell her that, which I don’t get. Maybe Tom is an any-port-in-a-story kind of guy.
Jessica tells Elizabeth that she pulled a twin switch and learned that Tom still loves Elizabeth. Liz is mad that she meddled. She’s still going to Denver, even though Jess begs her to stay. Scott talks Elizabeth into taking a leave of absence for the rest of the semester and going to Denver early. Like, tomorrow. He takes control of all the arrangements, like Elizabeth is some ’50s housewife who can’t pick up a phone to make a plane reservation. Elizabeth needs better instincts, like, now.
Jess buys flowers to make up with Liz. She runs into Tom, who talks her into letting him take the flowers to Liz. He writes an apology note, declaring his love. Later, Jess learns that Elizabeth’s leaving early, and she leaves Tom a message letting him know. She runs into Dana and tells her, so Dana knows that she only has to keep Tom and Liz separate for 24 more hours. Liz gets the flowers but gives them away to someone at the paper before she can read the note she thinks is from Jessica. Tom tries to talk to Elizabeth, but she’s annoyed with him and tells him to leave her alone.
Bruce invites Tom to his parents’ party. Dana decides she needs to go, too, even though Tom clearly doesn’t want to take her. While packing her things, Elizabeth finds a locket Tom gave her and decides to keep it. Tom finds a silly tie Liz once gave him and decides to wear it to the party. This is, by the way, the third or fourth party in this miniseries. How do these people ever get any studying done?
Dana is so determined to keep Tom from seeing Elizabeth before she leaves that she gets him angry before the Patmans’ party, knowing he’ll speed and possibly get pulled over for it. She also breaks his taillights to cause even more trouble. Unfortunately, her plan works a little too well – Tom is so angry that he talks back to the cop who pulls him over, and when he figures out that Dana broke his lights, he snaps at her. The cop sees him as a violent threat and makes him spend the night in lock-up.
By the time Tom gets out, Elizabeth is about to leave for the airport with Scott. Nick and Jessica rush Tom to the dorm, where Scott basically kidnaps Liz to get her away from anyone who might change her mind about leaving. Dana finds Tom, sees how upset he is, and realizes that she’s gone insane and screwed up his life. She confesses everything she did, including taking the letter he wrote Elizabeth a long time ago in an attempt to apologize for not believing her when she told him what his father did to her. Dana adds that Scott is a nutter, so Tom should try to get Elizabeth away from him.
Tom, Jessica, and Nick race to the airport while Scott continues freaking out about getting out of California. He tries to rush Elizabeth through airport security, acting more and more like a controlling, abusive boyfriend. Liz is wearing Tom’s locket under her shirt, and it keeps setting off the metal detectors. When she finally realizes what’s happening, she gives the locket to a kind security guard, who offers to return it if Elizabeth ever changes her mind.
Like a good little romantic movie cliché, Tom tries to get through security to stop Elizabeth from getting on the plane. He seems to think there’s a special pass they’ll give you when you just want to get to a gate without getting on a plane. He’s lucky this takes place pre-9/11, or he’d land himself back in jail. Airport security finds out that he was arrested recently and thinks he’s a threat. Tom’s mental state at this point isn’t really helping matters.
Liz finally calls Scott on his behavior, as he’s been throwing little tantrums all morning. He finally loses it completely, saying he’s wasted his money on her, and she wouldn’t have gotten into the DCIR without him. They fight, and she finally accepts what she’s been feeling for a while: She doesn’t want to go to Denver anymore. But it’s too late – the plane is leaving.
Tom finally gets to the gate and sees the security guard with the locket Elizabeth gave her. Somehow, he manages to get the plane stopped. Again, it’s like a movie, with the hero getting to his girl at the very last minute and convincing her to stay with him. Not that she needs much convincing. Elizabeth gets off the plane and announces that she’s not leaving Sweet Valley. Not seen: Scott screaming for the entire flight to Denver. So we have a semi-happy ending: Elizabeth is away from Scott, but she’s back with Tom, and I’m not looking forward to returning to that mess.
In other, even less interesting stories, Denise has been hired to cater the Patmans’ party, but it means she has to fool another group of people with lobster that isn’t really lobster. She’s terrified that she’ll be found out and sent to jail. I don’t think you can be sent to jail for serving tofu in place of lobster. But Denise has become dumber with each book, so I’m not surprised she thinks this way. It doesn’t help when she learns that one of the party guests is a reporter well-known for busting frauds.
But luck is on Denise’s side, and when the reporter finds out she’s serving lobster, he announces that a bunch of places in the area were shipped tainted lobster. The Patmans agree that the lobster shouldn’t be served. So you see, kids, if you lie long enough, eventually someone will get you off the hook and you’ll get away with everything!
There’s also a tiny bit about Nick taking college-entrance exams so he can go pre-law, and how his new taste in clothes makes Jessica think of Steven. The two of them fight because Jess doesn’t like the person Nick is turning into (a polite, productive member of society? Sounds about right). With Elizabeth leaving, Jessica decides there’s no reason to stay at SVU, so she makes the impulsive decision to follow through on something she thought about a couple books ago: going to the police academy. We’ll see if that lasts longer than five minutes.
Thoughts: I can’t believe Tom has so much trouble telling Dana that he’s through with her. It’s not like he’s ever had trouble speaking his mind before. Though maybe he’s smart for not coming right out and dumping her. She could react violently, since SHE’S A PSYCHOPATH.
“You must be Scott’s little girlfriend!” Do not work for that man, Elizabeth.
When Lila sees Nick dressed up for the party, she says he looks like “that cute guy in that new lawyer movie…based on that John Grisham book.” A Google search tells me that was The Gingerbread Man, and she’s either talking about Kenneth Branagh or Robert Downey, Jr. (unless Lila has a thing for Tom Berenger or Robert Duvall). I doubt it’s Branagh, so from now on, I’m going to imagine that Nick looks like a young RDJ. Nick “Iron Man” Fox.
May 26, 2015
Summary: At the end of the last book, it wasn’t clear whether Elizabeth had decided to go to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting. But now we have confirmation that she’s going. She tells Jessica, and Jess flips, because she can’t get through life without her other half/babysitter/conscience. At the same time, Danny (hi, Danny! Where have you been?) gives Tom the news. And not long after, Scott warns Dana to make sure things with Tom stay awesome. Obviously he’s worried that Elizabeth and Tom will get back together and she’ll end up staying in Sweet Valley.
Nina and Winston throw the first party of the book, to congratulate Elizabeth on getting into the DCIR. Winston has made a video commemorating Elizabeth’s life. When did he have time to do that? Do these people ever go to class? Todd’s at the party and on the video, and I wish there’d been a twist in this book where Todd and Elizabeth got back together, instead of Tom and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Jessica get into a stupid fight about how Elizabeth isn’t showing emotion, and how Jessica never shuts up, or something. Jessica accuses Liz of going to the DCIR to run away from Tom. They both storm off, and Jess goes to see Nick, who’s a little distracted by his plans to take a longer leave of absence from the police force so he can go to college. Thanks for showing up, Nick!
The twins quickly make up, and Jessica decides to throw a going-away party for Liz, even though she’s still upset that Liz is leaving. While she puts that together, Elizabeth gets ready to transfer to the DCIR, returning the books she’s already bought for next semester (of course) and cancelling her classes. Except Scott has already cancelled her classes for her. Elizabeth yells at him, but he does that emotional-manipulation thing and makes himself look like the good guy.
Jessica intercepts a call from the DCIR for Elizabeth; some guy there wants to meet with her. Jessica decides to pull a twin switch, meet with the guy as Elizabeth, and make him want to reject her from the school. I don’t get why this is happening at all, since Elizabeth has already been accepted, and Jess has to know that this will come back around to bite her. Wait, what am I saying? Jessica never thinks about consequences. It doesn’t work anyway, since the guy just thinks she’s goofing around when she acts out.
While all this has been going on, Denise has been struggling with her financial issues. She has yet to figure out a reasonable way to pay off her debts, and apparently the collection agencies start calling two minutes after you rack up debt. Getting a job would be too easy, so Denise tries to think of a way to make money fast. When she hears about Elizabeth’s party, she jumps at the chance to cater, because apparently Denise is a really good cook. Jess is fine with it, and gives her money from Ned and Alice to pay for everything. She wants all the food to be gourmet.
Denise and Winston go all out, buying lobster and other expensive food. Except they accidentally leave the lobsters in the car for hours, rendering them inedible. Raise your hand if you think Denise is getting dumber. Left with little money and even less time, Denise sends Winston back to the store to get something – anything – she can make for the party. He settles on tofu.
Just before the party, Elizabeth and Tom almost have a Meaningful Moment, but Dana interrupts it. Boo, Dana! I don’t even like Tom and Elizabeth together, but boo, Dana! Jessica invited Tom to the party, and he’s coming with Dana. That doesn’t sound like a potential disaster at all!
Speaking of potential disasters, Denise does her best to turn tofu into something resembling lobster. Somehow, this works, and she manages to fool Bruce and Lila. Unless they’re pretending so they don’t ruin the party. It’s not clear. Anyway, Bruce asks Denise to cater a party his parents are throwing, and she’ll need to make her special “lobster” dish again. Denise worries that she won’t be able to fool a bunch of rich people.
Jessica puts into motion her last-ditch effort to make Elizabeth stay in Sweet Valley. It involves another twin switch. She pretends to be Elizabeth and goes off with Tom to find out how he feels about Liz. Tom is still in love with her, and is thrilled to learn that, supposedly, Elizabeth wants to be with him again. Scott spots them kissing and takes Dana out to see what’s going on. She’s devastated.
Now here’s what’s weird: Tom is currently kissing Elizabeth but thinks she’s Jessica. Scott can tell just from watching them through a window that Elizabeth is Jessica. How is that possible? Anyway, Scott finds the real Elizabeth and shows her that Jessica’s kissing Tom. Dana eavesdrops and realizes that Tom is kissing Jess, not Liz. She realizes that she and Scott want the same thing – to keep Liz and Tom apart. And the plan is successful: Elizabeth realizes that she really has nothing keeping her in Sweet Valley, so she can go to Colorado without regrets. Ha ha, Jessica’s plan backfired!
Thoughts: Jessica’s codependency is out of control. Does she plan to live with Elizabeth for the rest of their lives?
Jessica doesn’t like Scott because he seems “slippery,” so somehow, in this situation, her instincts are better than Elizabeth’s.
Speaking of Scott, I notice that no one’s throwing him any goodbye parties. Probably because he has no friends.
May 12, 2015
Summary: UGH, this Elizabeth/Tom/Scott triangle is still going on. Can’t we have another Nina book? No, instead, we have to hear about how a newsmagazine with the stupid name of NEWS2US wants to profile Elizabeth and Scott about the country-club mystery. The interviewer (a woman) mostly focuses on Scott, and Elizabeth is basically asked to be pretty and look at Scott like she admires him. When the article is published, it paints Scott as the sole mystery-solver, and Elizabeth as a groupie.
Elizabeth is understandably upset (as are Jessica, Nick, and Tom, who were major players in the case). Scott tells Liz that the interviewer was just jealous of her, because all women are always automatically jealous of other successful women. He claims that the interviewer also hit on him. Liz is dumb and falls for this.
Tom’s upset when he reads the story, since he knows Elizabeth deserves more credit. He calls a contact at NEWS2US and learns that Scott’s father is on the board of the corporation that owns the magazine. Plus, the elder Sinclair has connections to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting, a supposedly prestigious journalism school (with a dumb name) where Scott has just been accepted. Tom thinks this is a huge scandal and even does a story about it on WSVU. Clearly Tom has never heard of nepotism.
Elizabeth is also accepted into the DCIR but has a hard time deciding if she should go. She and Jessica are so codependent that she’s not sure they can be that far apart from each other. Tom is also a factor – if she leaves SVU, they might never see each other again. She’s upset that she keeps seeing him with Dana, who’s still as annoying as ever. Elizabeth tries to talk to Tom about the story he did on Scott, but they end up having a huge fight in the cafeteria, which everyone hears. She reveals that she also got into the DCIR and might leave.
At the end of the last miniseries, Jessica decided to leave school to attend the police academy, and Nick decided to leave the police department to go back to school. Jess has seemingly abandoned her plan, as she’s still at school. She uses a hugely embellished version of the country-club case to get an extension on a creative-writing assignment. The professor’s so impressed with her imagination that he gives her an A – she basically just wrote the story on the fly while talking to him.
Jessica’s next big adventure is the swimsuit calendar she previously won a spot in. Nick suddenly decides he doesn’t want her to do it, but Jessica whines enough to make him change his mind. He’s wrong for trying to stop her from doing something, but she’s also wrong for being a brat, so neither of them comes off looking too great here. While Jess gets ready to be a model, Nick gets ready to take his college-entrance exams. Neither of them enjoys the experience. Jess doesn’t like the pictures afterward, and she decides she doesn’t want to do the calendar. Alison’s like, “After all that fighting, you quit??” I guess Jessica needs excitement after the whole country-club adventure.
Nick has been so busy studying that he hasn’t called Jessica in a few days, and she thinks it’s because he got hurt on the job. When she goes to see him, she’s relieved that he’s okay, but she soon realizes that by leaving a dangerous job to do something calm like school, Nick isn’t that interesting anymore. She’s not sure she’ll feel the same about him once he’s no longer a cop. Then all that gets brushed aside when Jess hears about Elizabeth and Tom’s fight and learns for the first time that Liz might go to Denver. At the same time, Elizabeth finally makes a choice about whether or not to accept her spot at the DCIR.
The C-plot belongs to Denise, who is dumber than we all thought. She’s the poorest Theta sister and decides that getting a credit card is what she needs to feel better. Of course, she goes on a huge spending spree, which is why 18-year-olds having credit cards is often a bad idea. Especially credit cards with what appear to be no limits. I don’t get how Denise can spend so much. When I got my first card (sometime in college, but I understood that, you know, you have to actually pay the money you’re charging), my limit was $1,000, I think. Now, at 33, my limit might be twice that, at most.
So Denise’s card gets declined at a super-fancy restaurant, and when she goes to the bank to discuss the situation, the guy who signed her up for the card is like, “Maybe you should…stop spending so much money? Have you thought about that?” Denise can’t even afford to pay the minimum amount every month, and then the college comes after her to start paying interest on her student loans. Which…I don’t think is possible. They have access to her credit reports? And I don’t think they can make you pay anything on your loans until you’re done with school.
Anyway, instead of getting a job, like a reasonable, smart person, Denise learns of a company that will help her consolidate her loans. Of course, the interest will be huge, and she still has to make monthly payments, so this isn’t better than having credit-card debt, but Denise thinks things are wonderful. I have a feeling this miniseries will end with Denise living in a cardboard box, eating the crusts of Lila’s tea sandwiches.
Thoughts: They’re calling the mystery at the country club the Krandall Scandal. That’s beautiful.
Jessica’s in a “detective film fan club chat group on the Internet.” I can only imagine her contributions to those discussions.
“Encryption is a word, isn’t it? Or is it kryptonite?” Jessica worries me.
“The Only Bank wants to be your friend.” It’s a cult! Run, Denise!
College-entrance exams require knowledge of trigonometry? If I had to try to get into college now, I’d wind up curled in a ball, whimpering.
Scott, after convincing Elizabeth that he’s not benefiting from nepotism: “I think you’re afraid of your feelings for me, Elizabeth. You keep looking for reasons to dislike me. Don’t you think I deserve better than that from you?” EW EW EW. This is the behavior of an abuser. “It’s your fault you feel that way. You’re crazy for believing that. You’re wrong for thinking like that.” Anyone who tries to make you feel like your feelings are wrong, unimportant, invalid, etc., is someone you need to avoid. Cut him loose, Elizabeth! Don’t get involved with someone like this!
Denise has always seemed like a smart person, so how in the world does she not understand how credit cards work?
Elizabeth spends 20 minutes picking out an outfit before she goes to see Tom…and she settles on overalls. Nailed it! Then she starts chewing a blade of grass. Is she secretly a redneck?
In Tom’s head: “She was so dear to him. He cherished her integrity, her spirit, her intelligence.” Who wants to tell the ghostwriter that no college guy has ever thought like that?
November 11, 2014
Summary: Winston and Denise have been having some unplanned time apart, since she’s been housesitting for her aunt. Winston’s lonely, despite having a bunch of friends and all those female dormmates who used to dote on him. He’s also just started working for Dean Franklin, snagging what’s apparently an in-demand job, though I can’t imagine it involves much more than phone duty and scheduling. Also, I’m sure the upperclassmen were pleased that a freshman got the job. Anyway, this only matters because Dean Franklin is married to the much-younger, smoking-hot Amanda Franklin, who quickly develops a thing for our dear Winnie.
Winston spots Denise talking to Bruce and gets jealous. In most books, their conversation would be completely harmless and platonic, but there is something going on. Denise has asked Bruce to help her out with something, and she’s adamant that Winston not find out about it. Winston’s worried that his relationship with Denise is about to go south. Dean Franklin invites Winston to a trustee party at his house, and Winston asks Denise to go with him. She has a test to study for, so she declines, which leads to a fight. Now Winston’s even more worried about their relationship.
On the party, Winston and Elizabeth spot Denise and Bruce together, even though Denise said she’d be studying. This puts Winston in an even worse mood for a party where he’s supposed to make the dean look good. He ends up spending a lot of time talking to Amanda. Elizabeth, who’s covering the party for WSVU, can’t help but think there’s something fishy there. (Probably because Winston isn’t the kind of guy hot women usually flirt with.)
Winston and Amanda drink champagne together, but when she tries to seduce him, he’s sober enough to realize that hooking up with her would be a very bad idea. Amanda’s determined to change his mind in the near future. Amanda tracks Winston down at his dorm later that night, and this time Winston is barely able to fend her off. (By the way, if their genders were reversed, the ghostwriter would paint male as a sexual predator, but since she’s a woman, she’s just a failed seductress.)
Elsewhere on campus, a guy named Jackson Lowe stops for the night (no, I don’t know why he wants to spend the night on a college campus) and spots Elizabeth hanging out with Tom. Elizabeth reminds him of his former girlfriend, Gina, who was a slut because she slept with another guy. When Jackson found out, he trashed her for not being pure, then slit her throat. Now, when he sees girls who are whores like Gina, he can’t control his urge to kill them.
Sidebar: There is a disgusting amount of slut-shaming in this book. I think we’re supposed to dismiss it because Jackson is completely crazy, but I need to mention it. His whole image as a villain is centered on punishing women who have sex. (Ironic that he targets Elizabeth, the last virgin in Sweet Valley.) I don’t understand why the ghostwriter thought this was necessary. Crazy is crazy; it doesn’t need this kind of motive. We don’t need more male characters who go after women for their sexual habits. Okay, end sidebar.
Elizabeth and Tom split up, and as she’s walking to her dorm alone, Jackson attacks her. From up in Winston’s room, Amanda sees the attack and alerts Winston. Jackson sees Amanda watching him and runs off before he can do any physical harm to Elizabeth. Winston wants to call the police, but Amanda says they can’t – word will get out that she was in Winston’s room. They decide to keep the incident quiet. Fortunately for them, because they’re huge jerks who don’t seem to care that a woman was almost raped and murdered, Elizabeth makes it home in one piece, and Jessica calls the police. Liz doesn’t think there were any witnesses, because wouldn’t someone who saw a horrible crime call for help?
Winston spends the next day nervous about the dean finding out that Winston almost slept with his wife. The dean has no idea, and is actually a very nice guy who just happens to be married to a horrible woman. Winston tries to avoid Denise, who doesn’t get why her boyfriend is acting weird.
Amanda goes to Winston’s dorm again, and he shows her a newspaper article about a waitress being murdered near a bar. He thinks the person who attacked Elizabeth is the killer. Even though he’s right, this is a leap the size of the Grand Canyon, and I doubt a normal person would make it. Anyway, Winston says again that he wants to call the police, but again, Amanda says no. Finally he overrules her, with some negotiation: She’ll tell him everything she saw during Elizabeth’s attack, and Winston will pretend he’s the eyewitness.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth gives her statement to the police, but she never saw her attacker, so they don’t have much to go on. All she knows is that he has a southern accent. As soon as Winston reveals himself as a witness, the police pay him a visit. He gives them the information Amanda fed him, then goes to see a line-up. Amanda didn’t give him much to go on – the guy’s general height, weight, and hair color – and there’s only one detail that could separate the guilty from the innocent: a possible tattoo on his arm. Winston IDs the person he thinks is the attacker, but he turns out to be an undercover officer posing as a decoy.
Elizabeth learns that Winston is the eyewitness and thanks him for trying to help her find her attacker. He feels guilty that he’s covering up so much and can’t really help. Elizabeth notices that something’s off with him and takes it upon herself to find out what he’s hiding. Just before he leaves the police station, Winston runs into Jackson and realizes that he’s the attacker. He follows Jackson to a bar, but is so awkward about everything that he gets kicked out. As he goes, he calls Amanda to get her to come to the bar and ID Jackson. She’s unsure, and is more interested in Winston anyway. Meanwhile, Jackson follows and kills a woman he was talking to in the bar.
Winston hears of the murder the next day, recognizes the victim, and realizes that Jackson killed her. He tells the police, who aren’t sure of Winston’s theory but agree to get a search warrant for Jackson’s car. They assure Winston that he won’t have to testify. Cut to later, when the police tell Elizabeth that the warrant didn’t turn anything up. Oh, and now Winston will have to testify because he’s the only one who can link Jackson to Elizabeth’s attack.
Winston goes running to Amanda, who’s mad that she’s been dragged into all this. This is when we find out that Amanda first met Dean Franklin when she was his student at another college, and he cheated on his wife with her. She doesn’t feel like his equal, because of their age difference, and doesn’t feel appreciated, blah blah, all the clichés you hear when a woman cheats. Now she wants to make her marriage work. No one cares, Amanda.
Bruce asks Winston to meet him, and the truth about his and Denise’s secret comes out: She asked him to let Winston take his Porsche for a ride. This is kind of a lame gift, but whatever. Now Winston feels really bad for almost cheating. But that’s the least of his problems, because it’s time for Jackson to go to court. Winston testifies, using the information Amanda gave him, but gets busted for claiming he saw at a far distance without his contacts in, which would be impossible. Jackson is let go, but not before he realizes that Amanda is the real eyewitness.
At the same time, Elizabeth realizes that something happened between Winston and Amanda. She confronts him and he tells her everything. She’s understandably mad that her attacker got off because Winston didn’t suck it up and turn on Amanda. Winston still feels horrible…and then horrible some more when the police decide that he may be the real killer. After all, he was at the bar near where the second woman was killed, and was around Elizabeth the night she was attacked. Winston continues to not tell the police what happened with Amanda, even though he could end up going to prison. WINSTON, YOU MORON.
Denise goes looking for Elizabeth, who spills that Winston cheated on her with Amanda. Elizabeth, stay out of it! Denise dumps Winston, even though he swears that there was no sex and that he’s not interested in Amanda. Winston heads to the Franklins’ house, desperate to get Amanda to clear him as a suspect, but she acts like he’s a crazy stalker and threatens to tell the dean that he’s obsessed with her.
Then there’s something weird, with basically a missing scene where Winston convinces Amanda to tell the dean everything that happened. But they’re on their way to the theater, so Winston rushes to get there so he can tell the dean before Amanda can. This is only in the book so Winston can be goofy at the theater, saying “Macbeth” a bunch of times in an effort to get the show delayed so he can talk to the dean. Anyway, Amanda talks to her husband first, and Winston ends up looking like an idiot.
Jackson is also at the theater, stalking Amanda, and he manages to get her alone. As Winston’s leaving, he sees Jackson’s truck in the parking lot and puts it together that Jackson’s there to kill Amanda. But by the time he gets back to the theater, he’s too late, and Jackson has claimed another victim. Of course, Winston is a suspect in Amanda’s murder, since he was just seen being weird around her and the police already think he’s the killer. Winston runs to Denise, who agrees to hide him and work out a plan with Elizabeth.
The (stupid, dangerous) plan is this: They’ll follow Jackson to a bar, Denise will flirt with him, Jackson will think she’s a whore, and when he tries to kill her, Winston and Elizabeth will call the police. There’s no way this could possibly go wrong! Except that there are many ways this could go wrong, and it does go wrong. Denise has to drink shots to keep up the charade, and she can’t shake a guy named Squid who keeps hitting on her. Every guy in the bar is a sexist jerk who thinks Denise is only as valuable as her body. Jackson actually saves Denise from getting groped too much by Squid.
Denise takes too long inside, worrying Winston and Elizabeth, who decide to call the police ahead of schedule. Except no one bothered to make sure the pay phone outside the bar was actually working, which it’s not. Elizabeth goes inside to use the phone, but again, women are just objects in this bar, and she can’t get something for nothing. She decides to drive to the police station while Winston attempts to fight the bikers in the bar but gets knocked out instead. I mean, of course.
Denise, who has no idea that she now has no back-up, heads to the parking lot to be with Jackson. Winston comes to, smashes a biker in the face with a beer mug, takes his keys, and “borrows” his motorcycle. As he takes off, Jackson kidnaps Denise. Winston returns and fighting ensues while Elizabeth shows up with the police. Jackson and Winston face off, and Denise decides to do what I call steering into the crazy: She tells Jackson that she knows she’s a slut and won’t be one anymore. This manages to get him to let Winston go, just as the police arrive and arrest Jackson.
A few weeks later, Jackson is sentenced to life in prison. What kind of universe is this where trials happen so quickly? Maybe he took a plea agreement? He probably figured that prison is a small price to pay for ridding the world of a few sluts.
Thoughts: The book title makes no sense. The whole point is that Winston didn’t see anything!
Jessica (who’s barely in this book) gives a great description of Bruce: “a victim of a tragic love affair with himself.”
Jackson calls his car Baby. YOU ARE NOT DEAN WINCHESTER, JACKSON.
The cops are mad that Winston didn’t tell them he wears contacts, like, shouldn’t they have asked him? Isn’t that their job?
“Denise couldn’t help noticing that she was the only woman in the entire place, except for a wrinkled old lady who was sitting in the corner, drinking straight from a bottle of tequila.” Someday, I hope to be that woman.
June 24, 2014
Summary: When we last heard from our charming Sweet Valley friends, Billie was pregnant and Steven was making plans for their future. He wants them to get married, start their family a little ahead of schedule, and try to figure out how they can still become lawyers. Billie, however, isn’t completely sure what she wants to do. She talks to her friend Chaz (the guy Steven is jealous of), and he sends her to see his sister at a clinic. There, Billie learns about the magical world of choices. She can have the baby, yes, but she can also place it for adoption or have an abortion.
Though the Wakefields and Winklers don’t yet know about the pregnancy, Steven tells Jessica, asking her to keep her mouth shut. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Steven, you naïve dork. Jessica’s mostly excited that Steven and Billie are getting married, which means she gets to wear a pretty dress and be the center of attention as a bridesmaid. What do you mean, the bride’s supposed to be the center of attention? Oh, you naïve dork.
Billie’s parents show up for a surprise visit, and Steven awkwardly shuffles them over to Ned and Alice’s so the families can all be together and learn about the baby at the same time. Except Billie still isn’t sure she wants to keep the baby. There’s some fighting, and though Steve is very supportive of whatever Billie wants to do, he clearly likes his vision of a happy little family.
The news comes out about the baby and the wedding plans. The families are stunned, but agree to help support Billie and Steven however they can. The wedding’s in two-and-a-half weeks (…yikes), and Alice will be planning most of it. This is a Bad Idea. Alice turns into a nutcase, and has the nerve to disagree with the color Billie picked out for the bridesmaid dresses. Hey, Alice, it’s not your wedding, so pipe down.
Billie becomes less and less sure about the choices she’s making. She’s afraid of having a daughter who turns out like one of the twins – either a big mess she can’t control, or a goody two-shoes who’s no fun. Steven, for his part, worries that he’ll have a son who gets horrible grades. But he’s not as freaked out as Billie, who actually locks herself in the Wakefields’ bathroom so she can panic in peace. Steven talks her down.
Billie gets confirmation that she won the guitar competition from the last book, so marrying Steven and having the baby will mean giving up a semester in Spain. Steven tries to cheer her up by decorating their apartment like they’re in Spain. Steven is actually pretty cool in this book. I don’t expect to ever say that again, so enjoy it now.
But then there’s more fighting. Billie feels like Steven is making all the decisions for them. Billie, sweetie? If you don’t like it, tell him. He thinks you’re okay with everything because, you know, YOU KEEP TELLING HIM YOU’RE OKAY WITH EVERYTHING. Funny how that works. Anyway, Steven’s also not completely happy, since he’ll have to take an internship he doesn’t really want in order to provide for his family. There’s fighting, there’s fighting, there’s fighting, and then suddenly something’s wrong and Billie starts bleeding.
Yes, in the grand tradition of soap operas (and this series is definitely a soap), Billie miscarries. Steven feels guilty because they were fighting, and he thinks he put too much stress on Billie. Billie worries that now that they’re not “obligated” to get married for a baby, Steven won’t want to marry her anymore. Except…Billie wasn’t 100 percent down with getting married. I don’t understand that girl. Whatever, the next book’s called Here Comes the Bride, so that kind of answers that question.
Jessica and Val have started their own fashion business, despite not having business degrees, experience running businesses, or, in Jessica’s case, even the tiniest grasp of how the real world works. I don’t know who would want to do business with them. Jessica’s still a college freshman! But apparently things are off to a good start, and Val has everything under control. They just need money.
Since no bank in its right mind would loan money to Jessica outright, she has the option of using her and Elizabeth’s Jeep as collateral. This means convincing Elizabeth to co-sign. Liz is too smart for that, but it’s a moot point – Lila agrees to invest some of the money her father gave her in her unreliable best friend’s startup company that has no business plan or promise of being successful. Silly children with their silly disposable assets.
Jessica and Lila come up with a mutually beneficial idea: a fashion show at Lila’s donut shop. Lila is done with people not paying for food, and the fashion show will bring her exposure. The Thetas will model the clothes. I’m not sure a place that sells unhealthy food is the best place to show off clothes – “you’ll only be able to fit into these if you stop eating donuts!” – but at least someone’s trying something different.
Tripler-Wakefield Designs, or whatever, gets to work, but Jessica’s uneasy because Val and Mike seem really close. And also because there’s no fabric. Apparently fabric imported from other countries often gets held up in customs, but Val insists that what they’re getting is top-of-the-line stuff. If you’re suspicious that Val is actually using the money to buy what she says she’s buying, you’re not alone – Elizabeth is wary, too.
Jessica goes home to help with the wedding, but while she’s gone, she can’t get in touch with Val. The fashion show is coming up quickly, and nothing appears to be ready. Since the proceeds are going to charity, they can’t call it off, or everyone could be arrested for fraud. Jessica eventually ditches her horrible mother-of-the-groomzilla to check on her business, and realizes that Val hasn’t been there for a while. She thinks Val and Mike have taken all their money and run away. Lila (possibly jokingly) suggests that they flee the country, and Jessica (totally not jokingly) gets ready to go.
But it was all a misunderstanding. Val and Mike did leave the state, but only to go to Texas to get more fabric, since what they ordered was destroyed in a fire. Val thinks the show will be able to go on time, and no one will be a fraud. In fact, everything goes well, and somehow, these plucky young entrepreneurs with their laughable business practices are successes.
Speaking of laughable business practices, as I mentioned above, Lila has realized that giving away food isn’t a way to make money. And how do you donate your proceeds to charity when there are no proceeds? Also, how do you pay your employees when you’re not bringing in any money? The answer is that you don’t, which is why Lila’s employees quit. Lila orders her friends to start paying their tabs, but since they don’t have money, she puts them to work. Cue Isabella and Danny trying to make donuts without having any idea how.
And there’s another problem: Jessica knocked down some guy named Pelmer in the shop, and he claims he’s injured, so he’s suing Lila. She needs money to pay for a lawyer, but she’s not very cooperative about the process. (Lila, uncooperative? I know, I was surprised, too.) Lila assigns Winston and Denise to follow Pelmer and find out if he’s really injured. This might actually be the smartest thing Lila’s ever done. Too bad Winston and Denise are horrible at being private investigators, and Winston’s a klutz, so when they get photographic proof that Pelmer is a liar, Winston breaks the camera and accidentally exposes the film.
Bruce becomes Lila’s punching bag, but he tries to be patient while she’s dealing with all her issues (which is good of him, considering he got her the donut shop in the first place). Danny and Isabella quit, sick of Lila’s abusive management tactics, and Bruce tries to convince them to help out their friend. Funny, I never thought of Lila as their friend. But then Bruce learns that since Lila’s the only one who owns the shop, he has no liability in the lawsuit. He immediately quits and takes off to let Lila handle everything on her own. Also, Winston, Denise, Danny, and Isabella picket the shop, which is great.
Lila begs her friends for help, reminding them that they’re putting on a charity fashion show, and that the shop’s proceeds also go to charity. They get her to admit that she opened the shop so she could be respected, not philanthropic. With everyone back on board, they organize the successful fashion show, but Lila isn’t happy with Bruce. I’m not sure why he wants her back anyway. They were both awful to each other.
There’s also a stupid plot where Tom casually proposes to Elizabeth, and she’s not sure if he’s serious or not, so she accepts, but it turns out he WAS serious, and he even gets her a ring. But then he’s all, “This is happening way too fast,” like, no kidding, so they call of their kind-of-not-even-real engagement, which she wasn’t even excited about. On the plus side, Tom enjoys spending time with the Wakefields since it reminds him of when he had a family, so that’s kind of nice.
Thoughts: I really want a donut now.
I’m surprised and a little impressed that the book presents abortion as an option, but the women who talk to Billie about it almost sound like they’re trying to talk her into it.
Bruce says Lila was fired from the department store because she was “unsuited for the workforce.” Winston: “I wish I were rich enough to be unsuited for the workforce.” Heh.
Jessica: “I hope you know what you’re doing.” Val: “I hope so too.” Yeah, they sound like people who should be starting a business together.
I take back what I said about Lila not being able to run a business. She knows how to boss around people to get them to do all the work, which is basically the same thing.
“Just between you and me, Lila, I’ve never trusted Jessica Wakefield.” I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Alison: Everyone knows that.
“Don’t act like a big martyr. You’re a man. You don’t have to do anything.” Well, then enjoy being a single mother, Billie.