January 31, 2017
Summary: Janet’s birthday is coming up, and for the Unicorns, that’s basically on the same level as a national holiday. Ellen is determined to throw her birthday party and organize the planning and purchasing of her gift. Jessica’s mad because she wants that honor (not to mention the awesome hostess gift Janet will give her in return), but since Steven has been hogging the phone so much to talk to Cathy, it’s hard for her to call the other Unicorns or be let in on their plans. Ellen thinks they should get Janet a gift certificate for a psychic reading. Janet, Betsy, and Kimberly have recently become beatniks, so the girls’ usual ideas for gifts for Janet are things she’s no longer interested in.
Ellen gets right to the party planning by calling a bunch of the Unicorns and asking them to support her plan to have the party at her house. She’s very invested in this and works on it harder than probably anything else she’s ever worked on. Jessica tries to stage a coup and get the Unicorns to agree to have the party at her house instead, but even the Wakefields’ pool doesn’t sway them.
Jess sees an ad for three-way calling and gets excited about the possibility of having mini-conference calls with her friends. Ned won’t pay for it, so Jess recruits Elizabeth to help her stage a chaotic situation that would be eased with three-way calling. The girls are working on group projects for history, and they make Ned keep calling the houses where they’re working so he can arrange their rides home. After very little work, Ned cracks and gets the three-way calling. I don’t know why Jessica doesn’t ask for her own phone line instead. Then she wouldn’t have to deal with Steven hogging the phone all the time.
Ellen scores another win when Janet asks her to host and run a Unicorn meeting she can’t attend. I’m surprised they have meetings when Janet can’t come. Janet strikes me as the type who doesn’t want people hanging out without her. Jessica has to miss the meeting as well, which thrills Ellen, since they’re going to vote on where Janet’s party will be held. The meeting doesn’t go great, not least because Ellen’s father crashes it, wearing a hat with an octopus on it, and embarrasses his daughter. But the Unicorns vote to have the party at Ellen’s, so she’s happy.
Mandy calls Jessica that night to tell her about the vote. She admits that she wanted to have the party at the Wakefields’, since Ellen’s father will be grilling at Janet’s party, and he’s not great with barbecuing. The last time he did, Mandy almost choked on a dry hot dog. Since the three-way calling is up and running, Jess brings Ellen into the conversation to find out what to bring to the party. Ellen’s suddenly become disorganized again and can’t remember what Jess was supposed to be in charge of. The two of them fight and Mandy hangs up, not wanting to deal with their drama.
Jessica calls Lila, and once she’s clarified things, Jess hangs up on Ellen and complains to Lila about how annoying Ellen is, and how Mr. Riteman almost gave Mandy food poisoning. Except she’s still getting the hang of three-way calling and doesn’t hang up on Ellen properly, so Ellen hears her. Lila hangs up for real, so Jess and Ellen can fight in peace, but they easily make up. Lila doesn’t know this, though, and she tells Belinda about Jessica’s accusation about Mr. Riteman. The two of them wonder if they should still have Janet’s party at Ellen’s house.
Belinda then tells Grace that Mandy had food poisoning, and Grace tells Tamara that Ellen’s father poisoned Mandy. The whole thing turns into a big game of Telephone, with Mandy’s condition slowly growing worse. Kimberly mentions her aunt, a teacher, having food poisoning once, and Betsy misunderstands and tells Mary that Mr. Riteman poisoned a teacher. The tale gets back to Belinda, who now thinks Mr. Riteman poisoned both Mandy and the teacher. They tell Lila that Mr. Riteman was in jail for attempted murder.
Jessica’s oblivious to the whole thing until Kimberly and Betsy tell her. She realizes the rumor stems from her fight with Ellen, and she confronts Lila, who says she only told one person about it. Jess is ready to set the record straight when the other Unicorns decide to revote on the location of Janet’s party. They want it at the Wakefields’ instead. Jess thinks this is more important than clearing up a rumor, so she doesn’t say anything. Kimberly gives Ellen the news that the party is no longer at her house because of what her father did. Ellen thinks she means wearing the dorky octopus hat.
Janet’s the first person to mention to Ellen that everyone thinks her father’s a murderer (the rumor has now expanded so that Mr. Riteman is a serial killer). Ellen’s shocked at the accusation; her father has never even gotten a speeding ticket. She even calls her dad to get him to tell Janet that he’s not a killer. Janet realizes that someone has started a vicious rumor about Ellen, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.
The school projects the kids have been working on are about the Cold War era, and Elizabeth has been teamed with Lila and not-yet-dead Olivia. They get the idea to talk to Mrs. Harrington about her experiences in Hollywood during blacklisting. Liz realizes how much damage was done to people’s careers simply because others spread rumors about them. Jessica’s like, “Yeah, I get it, I get it.”
Janet believes that Mandy started the rumor about Mr. Riteman, so she kicks her out of the Unicorns. Poor Mandy. She just wanted an edible hot dog, that’s all! Grace, Mary, and Belinda are appalled at Janet’s actions and side with Mandy. The other Unicorns shun Mandy for being a traitor. Jessica tries to make peace between the two groups, but each side accuses her of being a spy for the other.
Elizabeth helps Jessica come up with a plan to work everything out. No, it doesn’t involve just confessing that she accidentally started a rumor. They use three-way calling to let Lila overhear Elizabeth telling Olivia that Johnny Buck is going to make a surprise appearance at Janet’s party. Then Jess has Mandy overhear the same thing. The rumor spreads through both groups, picking up more and more exaggerations as it moves. Eventually one side thinks Johnny Buck is going to play Janet a special song at the party, and the other thinks he’s moving to Sweet Valley.
Everyone shows up to the party excited for Johnny Buck but trying to act like they don’t know he’s coming, since it’s supposed to be a surprise. Jessica breaks the news that it was all a rumor they let get out of control. Everyone realizes how ridiculous they’ve been, and they all make up. (I guess Mandy’s let back in the club, too.) Jessica actually feels bad for Ellen and gives her Janet’s hostess gift, which is a book of poems neither of them wants anyway. Lila uses the experience in her, Liz, and Olivia’s presentation on McCarthyism and how rumors can ruin lives. I’m sure these girls will never gossip again…
There’s also a pointless not-even-good-enough-to-be-considered-a-B-plot where Alice has a difficult client. No one cares.
Thoughts: Ellen is more pathetic than she usually comes across. She’s desperate to be liked and prove her worth. I’d feel sorrier for her if she weren’t so annoying.
All of the Unicorns decided to wear gold and white to school one day (in honor of Johnny Buck’s new album, Gold Heart), but Jessica didn’t get the message. She wore purple as usual, so the other girls made her sit at the end of their lunch table “so she wouldn’t wreck the color scheme.” That is some Mean Girls craziness right there.
Janet: “When you think of the ocean, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” Jessica: “Um, food?” Janet: “Food.” Jessica: “Yeah, everything makes me think of food.” I guess Jess and I aren’t so different after all.
The SVMS spring musical CANNOT be Hair. There’s no freaking way.
Ellen’s father is peak embarrassing dad and I love him.
May 31, 2016
Summary: Jessica and Mandy are hanging out after school one day when they see an ad in a magazine for a cooking competition sponsored by the Pineapple People. They’re looking for an interesting recipe using their pineapple. Jessica and Mandy start throwing gross stuff in a bowl to make Poisonous Pineapple Salad. They get Steven to taste it, and though he says it’s not bad, there’s no way either girl is going to try it. Jess sends in the recipe, basically as a joke.
Two months later, guess what? Jessica won the competition. The prize is a trip for her and two friends to Hawaii. The caveat is that she has to accept the prize in a certain amount of time, and the only chance she has to go is over Christmas break. The twins are supposed to go skiing with their grandparents, but Jess doesn’t want to go, so here’s the perfect excuse to skip the trip. If I had a nickel for every time I had to choose between skiing and going to Hawaii… She chooses Mandy and Mary as her travel buddies. (She wanted to take Liz, but Liz feels like at least one of them should go see their grandparents. If I were their grandparents, I’d understand and reschedule the ski trip so they could both go to Hawaii, but whatever.)
Of course, the girls are still in middle school, so there’s no way Alice and Ned will let Jess go to Hawaii without a chaperone. Just as she thinks she’ll have to turn down her fabulous grand prize (and accept the consolation, hundreds of cans of pineapple, which Jessica doesn’t even like), a jealous Lila inadvertently comes up with a solution. She complained to her father about not being invited on the trip, so he agreed to take her, Ellen, and Janet to Hawaii. Jessica realizes that Mr. Fowler can chaperone her, Mary, and Mandy as well. So the trip is back on.
The only drawback is that Mr. Fowler will also be bringing his new girlfriend, Bambi. Yes, Bambi. She’s an aspiring actress, which Lila doesn’t find endearing. She hates how much time her father spends with Bambi rather than paying attention to his daughter. Fair enough. But, of course, Bambi is very sweet and doesn’t deserve any of the animosity Lila directs toward her. Lila, sweetie, you’re going to Hawaii with your best friends. Lighten up.
As soon as the girls get to Hawaii, it becomes clear that Mr. Fowler’s chaperoning is pretty much in name only. The only rule he gives the girls is to not spend their money on cheap crap. Bambi promises to keep an eye on the girls, then promptly disappears. The girls all split up to go shopping, go to the beach, etc. Apparently 12-year-old girls are perfectly capable of navigating around Hawaii without any help, even though the only one who’s ever been there before is Lila, and it was just for a long weekend.
Janet runs into a local boy named Kenji, who insists that she’s the reincarnation of the Hawaiian princess Keiko. Janet falls for it, because she doesn’t realize that a Hawaiian princess would most likely not be white. Kenji warns that, according to lore, if Keiko’s reincarnation ever tries to leave Hawaii, the goddess Pele will erupt and cover the island in lava. Fun! Janet tries to find a way out of this mess, but Kenji tells her she’s now cursed for wanting to leave.
The Pineapple People have arranged a tour of their plant for the Unicorns, which sounds like a really exciting way to spend your time in Hawaii. Jessica’s confused because they keep calling her Jessica Wakely. She and Mandy decide that they must have gotten her mixed up with the real competition winner. After all, how could their pineapple disaster beat a delicious pineapple upside-down cake? They don’t bother to wonder how a pineapple upside-down cake could win a contest looking for a unique recipe. Anyway, Jess feels guilty for the rest of the trip, thinking she’s taken someone else’s prize.
Lila finds a ring on the beach and convinces herself that it’s super-fancy and expensive. Janet’s new buddy Kenji meets her and tells her it’s from King Kamehameha’s tomb, and now she’s cursed for wearing it. Kenji sure knows a lot about curses, doesn’t he? Lila spends the rest of the book trying and failing to take the ring off.
Mary and Mandy don’t have much of a plot (though at least they get more to do than Ellen, who’s at her dumbest here), but they overhear Mr. Fowler and Bambi talking and think they’re getting married. Bambi mentions that she’s not sure she’s ready to be a stepmother. Mandy and Mary know that Lila will freak out if she learns her father wants to marry Bambi, so they keep it to themselves.
The girls go on a tour of a volcano, and Lila and Janet think it’s erupting. They think nearby bulldozers are the shaking ground and the sudden extreme heat for lava. The other girls get a good laugh at them. Then they go on a glass-bottom boat tour, and Jessica falls in the water and thinks she’s drowning. The other girls gleefully tell her to put her feet down because the water’s only three feet deep. I love the visual here.
Mary and Mandy tell Ellen, Jess, and Janet about Mr. Fowler’s possible marriage plans, so the girls decide to sneak into Bambi’s room and look for…I don’t know, a piece of paper where she’s written down, “I’m getting married”? There’s some weirdness where they get access to the room by calling the front desk, pretending to be Bambi, and complain that there are no towels. This requires hiding all the towels in the room so the maid doesn’t see them. Once they’re in the room, Bambi almost catches them, but they hide in the bathtub. Bambi wants to take a shower, but there are no towels, of course. The girls hear her on the phone, talking again about getting married and becoming a stepmother.
The girls end up telling Lila about their investigation, so now she’s upset that Mr. Fowler is getting remarried. They all have dinner together, and Janet and Lila’s supposed curses rear their heads again – Janet sits in cole slaw, Lila accidentally lets out a belch, and Jessica falls out of her chair. Everyone else is really amused.
The girls get caught eavesdropping on Bambi and Mr. Fowler, who reveal that Bambi’s auditioning for a role on a soap (Days of Turmoil – Jessica’s favorite), and Mr. Fowler has been helping her with her lines. The role is a woman who’s in love with a guy who has a daughter, so every time Bambi’s said she’s not sure she can be a stepmother, she’s either been in character or is worried about playing a stepmother on TV. Bambi makes it clear that she’s nowhere near ready to marry Mr. Fowler, and isn’t even sure it’ll ever happen. Lila starts to warm up to her.
Kenji and his friend Lono have Jessica believing she’s cursed, too, because of her lies, but they have a solution: She needs to mix up a bunch of ingredients and perform a ritual at midnight. For some reason, she also has to wear her hair in a ponytail. The boys tell Lila that she can only remove her “cursed” ring if she goes to King Kamehameha’s tomb at midnight…though no one who’s ever gone there has come back out. Lila’s willing to risk it.
As both girls are trying to sneak out at midnight, the other girls catch them and everything comes out. They figure out that Kenji and Lono have been messing with them all the whole time. (Also, Lila’s ring comes off with suntan lotion, and the inside shows that it’s from a souvenir shop.) The girls come up with a revenge plan, enlisting Bambi to play Pele and make the boys think they’ve angered her into erupting and burying the island in lava. That’s actually pretty clever. The boys apologize and invite the girls to a luau.
As for Jessica’s “curse,” she didn’t take her grand prize from anyone. She goes to the Pineapple People to confess, and they realize that the memo announcing her the contest winner spelled her name wrong. There’s no Jessica Wakely, and Jess’ recipe did win. All of the recipes were awful, so the Pineapple People went with the most original, just for fun. For Jessica’s honesty, she’s rewarded with 200 cans of pineapple. I only wish we’d wrapped up the book with a scene where Ned and Alice accept dozens of boxes from the Pineapple People and have no idea why.
Thoughts: The Pineapple People expect over a million entires. Uh-huh. They also publish an announcement about Jessica winning in a magazine instead of calling her directly. And they don’t bother to confirm that she’s who she says she is when she calls – she could be any random person. I don’t think this company is run by very smart people.
“Hawaii was nice, but it was no Sweet Valley.” You have GOT to be kidding me.
“Pele! It’s me, Princess Keiko! Mellow out, would you?” Janet’s a mess.
Janet’s suggestions for gifts to appease Pele so she can leave Hawaii: a curling iron and a Johnny Buck cassette. Like I said, a mess.
Bambi wants to play a character named Flame, who’s in love with Caleb Dakota. I love it.
January 12, 2016
Summary: In case you’ve forgotten that Elizabeth likes horses, this book serves as your reminder. Elizabeth’s hanging out at Carson Stables again, where Ted is struggling to keep up with payments for Thunder, the horse he bought from Lila. He manages to get an extension until after an upcoming championship competition, where he hopes to win the thousand-dollar prize. Ellen is also entering the competition.
Elizabeth and Ted meet Lucy Benson, a seventh-grader new to Sweet Valley. She loves horses, too, and has been hanging around the stables. She used to have her own horse and participated in competitions. But when Ted offers to let her ride his horse, she makes up an excuse. Later, Ellen challenges Lucy’s supposed riding expertise, but Lucy still won’t get on a horse, even after she tells Elizabeth she wants to.
Eventually, Lucy decides she’s had enough of Ellen’s taunting that she’s not actually good at riding. She takes Thunder for a spin, but when she’s done, she’s shaking. When Elizabeth calls Lucy at home, Mr. Benson thinks Liz is a friend from glee club. Sounds like he has no idea where his daughter has been spending her afternoons.
While practicing for the competition, Ted falls off of Thunder and breaks his leg. There goes his chance to win the $1,000 he needs to keep his horse. Elizabeth and Lucy go to the hospital with him, and a nurse chats with Lucy, making her uneasy. Elizabeth wonders why Lucy’s so uncomfortable with someone being friendly to her.
But there’s no time for that – Ted needs money! Elizabeth thinks Lucy’s good enough to take his place in the competition. Lucy disagrees, and Ellen taunts that she can’t handle the pressure. So Lucy decides she won’t back down after all. Ellen talks to Jessica about Lucy, so when Lucy comes over for dinner, Jess tries to dig up dirt on her. All Jessica learns is that Lucy carries something with her that she claims is aspirin.
In the nurse’s office sometime later, Jessica hears Lucy talking about forgetting her medication. She mentions having had an accident, and her parents subsequently forbidding her from riding her horse. Elizabeth then comes across a story about Lucy falling during a competition. When she asks Lucy about it, Lucy comes clean: She has epilepsy. Her parents panicked over her having a seizure while riding and decided it would be safer for her to quit. Lucy, however, wants to prove that she can still ride (and also that she can beat some girl named Alison, but that’s a much smaller motive).
Ellen wants Lucy out of the way so she can win the competition, so she tries to call the Bensons to tell them how Lucy has been riding again without their permission. They don’t get her call until the competition has already started, so Lucy is able to enter. Her parents arrive while she’s competing and are understandably furious with her. Lucy tells them that she needed to prove that she could do the things she wants despite her epilepsy. After all, her doctor said she could keep riding as long as she takes her medication.
The Bensons calm down, and Lucy’s able to finish the competition. Of course, she wins, and she gives Ted the prize money. Her parents are even willing to consider buying her old horse back. So they all live happily ever after, except Ellen, who falls off her horse when the Boosters arrive to cheer for her during the competition. And I assume Ted never has money problems again.
In the B-plot, Jessica has some close encounters with animals. First, while she’s on a picnic with her family, a skunk gets into the cooler and eats the piece of chocolate cake Jessica wanted. Then, while she’s at the beach with Lila, she finds a baby seal covered in oil from a nearby oil spill. Jessica saves him, sacrificing her outfit, and is rewarded with the attention of a cute guy named Adam.
Jessica starts hanging out with Adam and the environmentalist group he’s part of. Unfortunately, this book does not lead to Jessica joining Greenpeace or leading protests about pollution. She just helps clean up the oil spill and worries a lot about the seal, Whiskers. She does bug her family a little about being a little more ecological, but they don’t really listen. Also, Steven knows her sudden interest in saving the planet mostly stems from a new crush. Anyway, Whiskers winds up okay, and Jessica helps release him back into the wild.
Thoughts: I guess the moral of this book is that it’s okay to disobey your parents if you have a really good reason.
The image of a skunk eating cake has always stuck with me. It sounds adorable.
After Jessica hears Lucy talking to the nurse, she’s all, “I’m a detective.” I love that Jessica considers eavesdropping “detective work.”
Apparently you can enter a riding competition without your parents’ permission. Keep that in mind, kids!
August 11, 2015
Summary: Mary is, indeed, missing. She hasn’t been in school, she’s missed Unicorn meetings and get-togethers, and the Unicorns can’t get in touch with her to find out how much money they have in their treasury. When Jessica calls Mary’s mother, Mrs. Wallace just says she’s not available. Since Mary’s been having a lot of issues with her mom, the twins wonder if she ran away from home.
Amy’s next to get involved, going to Mary’s house to retrieve something. Lila and Ellen tell her what Jessica learned from Mrs. Wallace. Steven relays a phone message to the twins, telling them some girl called a few days ago, talking about money. They wonder if Mary took the Unicorn treasury and split town with it. (The treasury supposedly has around $50 in it, which wouldn’t get her far, but to a 12-year-old, that’s a pretty good amount of money.)
Jessica’s able to get Mrs. Wallace to let her into Mary’s room, where she snoops to find clues. I guess she thinks Mary left a note behind saying, “Yes, I took the money and jetted. I’m going to buy ten pairs of purple jellies!” Jessica sees that there are clothes everywhere, even though Mary is usually very neat. It looks like she was packing to leave quickly. But her favorite teddy bear, Max, is still there – Jess doesn’t think Mary would have left without him.
The strange disappearance of a friend doesn’t stop Jessica and Elizabeth from spending some time shopping. While at the mall, they find a newspaper with words cut out of it. Elizabeth Sherlocks the paper until she realizes that the missing words spell “YOUR DAUGHTER IS SAFE WILL BE IN TOUCH SOON DON’T CALL POLICE.” I guess whoever made the cuts didn’t take any punctuation. The girls think the cutter is a kidnapper and used the paper to write a ransom note. Specifically, the think the cutter kidnapped Mary.
The twins bring Amy in to brainstorm possibilities of what happened to Mary. Amy reports that she saw Mrs. Wallace withdrawing money at the bank. Well, that’s damning evidence if I ever heard it. Amy thinks Mary was taken by Annie DeSalvo, the same woman who took her from her mother when she was little, screwing up her entire life.
The girls call the police, speaking with the officer who helped them get back the scrapbook in Jessica on Stage, which is some nice continuity. The officer calls Mrs. Wallace, then reports back to the girls that she said everything’s fine, so they don’t need to worry. Yeah, like the girls buy that. They think Mrs. Wallace lied to the police because, after all, the kidnapper told her not to get them involved. Clearly, Annie kidnapped Mary again, and the girls will have to rescue her.
Elizabeth and Amy want to wait a little while before they make any more moves, so Jessica pulls in Lila and Ellen to team up with her. The three of them hang out outside Mary’s house, trying to listen to Mrs. Wallace’s phone conversations through the window. They hear her telling someone that she’s bringing them “small stuff” that isn’t “marked.” She doesn’t have all of it but is working on getting it together. Sounds like a money drop!
Then the girls see Mrs. Wallace leaving the house with a suitcase, some of Mary’s clothes, and Max. The girls figure that Mrs. Wallace put the money in the suitcase and is delivering some of Mary’s things to her so she can have them while she waits for her mother to get the rest of the money. They try to follow Mrs. Wallace, but they lose her.
Elizabeth and Amy go to the library, where Liz hears someone tearing paper. She loses track of the woman who did the tearing, but finds the newspaper she left behind – it’s an L.A. paper from a week ago. Matching up what was torn out with the full version on microfilm, Elizabeth and Amy see that the woman took an article about the kidnapping of a girl about their age. They figure that the woman is the kidnapper, though they don’t bother coming up with a reason the woman would want the article.
Putting together everything that’s happened, Elizabeth wonders if Mary called the twins not to talk about the Unicorn treasury but to mention the ransom money. She reasons that Mary was unable to get in touch with her mother, so her second best option was calling 12-year-old girls who would be no help. Sure, why not?
At school, a teacher overhears the Unicorns talking about Mary. She tells them that Mary’s in Mexico for a few days; the school okayed the trip because Mary’s social studies class is studying Mexico. The Unicorns think she’s lying. Later, Amy and Elizabeth are at the grocery store when they see the woman from the library. They follow her to a house, deciding that this is Annie and this is where she’s keeping Mary.
Elizabeth and Amy regroup with Jessica, Lila, and Ellen, and they all go to the house together. They spot a basement window they could get through to enter the house and rescue Mary. You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t they call the police?” Congratulations – you are smarter than a Wakefield. The girls can see a light in an upstairs window, and it looks like there’s someone in the house along with the woman. The girls decide to come back the next day.
They head over after dinner the next night, with only two hours before the twins have to be home. Jessica and Lila are late showing up because Lila was on the phone, flirting with Bruce. Then her shoe broke and she made Jessica go back to the house with her. As the kidnapper leaves, Amy and Ellen trade barbs; Ellen and Lila don’t like that Amy’s involved, and vice versa. Amy keeps taunting that Ellen’s too chicken to participate in the rescue mission. Eventually Ellen disappears, and the girls realize she’s heading into the house on her own.
Amy follows Ellen into the house, but it’s dark, so they can’t find each other. Then the kidnapper returns unexpectedly, so Amy has to hide. When Lila and Jessica arrive, Lila finally decides that it’s time to get the police involved. This is easily the most reasonable Lila has ever been. Amy makes it upstairs, looking for Mary. She finds Ellen just as the kidnapper comes upstairs. Amy’s able to hide in a closet, but Ellen is, of course, Ellen, and just stands there like a deer in the headlights.
When the kidnapper spots her, Ellen tries to make a break for the window. Um…good plan? You’re on the second floor, Einstein. The kidnapper tries to grab her, they wrestle a bit, and Ellen accidentally breaks a lamp, the room’s only light source. Amy just hears her screaming. The other girls hear her from outside and rush into the house. When they get upstairs, Ellen’s fine, and Amy is casually sitting on top of the unconscious kidnapper, who Amy knocked out with a chair leg. Between this and calling Ellen a chicken, Amy is easily the MVP of this book.
The girls remember the reason for the rescue mission and go back to rescuing Mary. But she’s not Mary – she’s Becky, a girl from L.A. And the kidnapper isn’t Annie. So the girls stumbled across a kidnapping after following clues they thought pointed to a different kidnapping. Only in Sweet Valley, right?
The police arrive, along with reporters, and the girls are declared heroes. Ellen suddenly loves Amy, who saved her from the kidnapper. Sadly, I don’t think this lasts beyond the book, but it’s pretty funny to see Ellen wanting to invite Amy to Unicorn stuff, when absolutely no one else, including Amy, would be on board with that.
Then the mystery of the book is solved very anticlimactically. Mary was in Mexico, just as the teacher said; she went on a trip with her former foster parents. She had to get ready quickly, which is why her room was a mess. She called Jessica to tell her about the treasury money, but Steven is a dolt and didn’t understand her. Mrs. Wallace was taking some of Mary’s old clothes to a church bazaar, and she took Max to get cleaned. And I guess she was at the bank to…I don’t know…get ice cream? Pet puppies? Certainly not withdraw a normal amount of money for normal purposes.
There’s also some stuff in the book about how the Unicorns are mad that the Sixers (the sixth-graders’ newspaper) doesn’t mention them more often. Elizabeth and Amy are like, “Do something interesting and then we’ll talk.” Liz finally tells Jessica that she can write an article, but she’ll have to figure out how to fit in stuff about every Unicorn who’s thrown a fit about the lack of publicity. This is all a buildup to the next book.
Thoughts: Everything in this book could have been avoided if Mrs. Wallace had just told Jessica what was going on. Thanks a lot, Mary’s mom!
This book is so ridiculous that it almost comes back around to reasonable. I wonder how the girls’ parents reacted when they found out what their kids had been up to.
Elizabeth: “Things like this just don’t happen in real life!” Jessica: “Yes, they do!” Further proof that Jessica doesn’t operate within the bounds of reality.
12-year-old Lila knows the word “reconnaissance.” Mm-hm, sure.
December 16, 2014
Summary: This is basically your standard there’s-a-new-kid-in-Sweet-Valley-and-no-one-likes-her book. Ginny Lu Culpepper hails from Stony Gap, Tennessee, and has come to live with her aunt, Ms. Waldron, who’s a teacher at SVMS. It’s never explained why she comes to Sweet Valley, since her parents are back in Tennessee, but I guess it’s because Stony Gap only has a one-room schoolhouse, and Ginny Lu’s family wanted her to learn about things like electricity and running water.
Ginny Lu makes a less-than-favorable debut, bursting into a class and loudly asking where her aunt is. Everyone thinks she’s weird, because she has a southern accent and wears old-fashioned dresses. Ellen brands her a hillbilly, a stereotype the ghostwriter happily plays into. Ms. Waldron takes Ginny Lu shopping, and they run into Ellen and Lila. The girls offer to help Ginny Lu find the latest fashions so she’ll fit in at school. Then they put together a horrific combination of clothes and laugh in her face. Ginny Lu’s too naïve to realize that she was just mean-girled.
The students learn about an arts and crafts fair, which Ginny Lu considers entering. The other kids make it clear that this wouldn’t be a cool thing. Word has spread that Ginny Lu is weird, so everyone teases her and talks trash about her. Ginny Lu ends up skipping school and wandering around town. She winds up at Carson Stables, where she immediately takes a liking to a pregnant horse named Snow White.
When Elizabeth shows up for a riding lesson, the two girls bond over their love of horses. She compliments Ginny Lu’s artistic talents; she carves wooden dolls, which are what she thought of entering in the arts and crafts fair. Elizabeth later learns that this talent is for Appalachian folk art, and in high demand. Unfortunately, Elizabeth has bad news for Ginny Lu: Snow White belongs to Ellen.
Ellen is ticked when she finds out Ginny Lu has been spending time with her horse. She even has her father put up a notice to keep people off of their private property. Elizabeth helps her get around it and keep visiting Snow White. Ellen ups the rivalry by daring Ginny Lu to ride Mr. Riteman’s untamed mustang. She goes so far as to not attach the saddle properly, which Ted the stable boy notices. Ellen is an awful, awful person, you guys.
Ginny Lu enters her dolls in the fair, and they are clearly impressive. She even gets some admiration from other students. Suddenly Ginny Lu isn’t weird – she’s cool. But things get screwed up when Ginny Lu recites a poem and the SVMS mean girls make fun of her. Ginny Lu runs off in tears, ready to admit defeat and return to Stony Gap. First she swings by the stables to say goodbye to Snow White, and she discovers that Snow White has had her foal. The foal is premature, and if Snow White doesn’t nurse him, he’ll die. But Snow White won’t let Ted near the foal.
Of course, Ginny Lu gets to be a hero. Thanks to her bond with Snow White, she’s able to get to the foal, and thanks to her experience with farm animals, she saves the foal. Ellen arrives and realizes that Ginny Lu is a good person. So you see, kids, you shouldn’t make fun of people because they’re different from you. You should be nice to everyone. Except Ellen, who is Satan’s own spawn and deserves to be shunned.
B-plot: Jessica loans Ned’s tennis racket to Janet, who leaves it in her yard, where it’s run over by her brother Joe while he’s mowing the lawn. Now, if it were me, I’d make Janet and Joe pay for a new racket, but Jessica decides she’ll have to get the money herself. First she wants to sell some of her clothes, but she realizes that that would mean getting rid of her stuff. Then she tries to steal some of Elizabeth’s clothes to sell. Jerk. Jess also makes a deal with Steven, doing his chores in exchange for his allowance. Hilariously, Ned and Alice are so impressed with Jessica’s work ethic that they give her extra allowance money.
Jessica learns of Ginny Lu’s whittling skills and appoints herself Ginny Lu’s agent. Ginny Lu will sell her dolls and Jess will get a cut of the profits. Jessica is like a younger, female Zack Morris. Even without ever discussing the arrangement with Ginny Lu, Jessica manages to sell some dolls and collect 10 percent of the money. She successfully replaces the racket and lives to scheme another day.
Thoughts: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You couldn’t pay me to go back to middle school.
Elizabeth, you probably shouldn’t sign things with your initials, since they’re EW.
“If you show your dolls at the Arts and Crafts Fair, people will get a chance to see how talented you are. And no one will make fun of you for that.” Right, Liz. No one who’s got at something is ever teased. It’s like a rule.
Since when is Ellen’s family rich enough to have two horses?
Also, maybe all the rich people should keep their horses in stables that employ actual adults? Because when Snow White has her foal, there’s no one around over the age of 14.
August 12, 2014
Summary: Some girl we’ve never heard of is moving to Texas, which normally wouldn’t make a difference, but since she’s the president of the sixth grade, that means they need to find a new one. I’m not sure why the vice president can’t just step up, but that’s never mentioned. Elizabeth would like to be the new president (despite already having a student government role), but the Unicorns want a Unicorn president. Never mind that there are only three Unicorns in the sixth grade, and one of them is Ellen, who I wouldn’t trust to run a lemonade stand.
No one actually knows what the class president does, but this time around, he or she will get to make a big decision. The class is holding a book fair, and the president gets to decide what to do with the money they make. Jessica thinks they should have a big party. Everyone will come in costume as a favorite book character (this is later expanded to include movie characters), which is the only tie-in to books. Elizabeth thinks the money should be used to buy a VCR. Yeah, this book is a little dated.
When it comes time to nominate candidates, Amy names Elizabeth, and Lila names Jessica. Probable future dropout Jim Sturbridge nominates uber-nerd Randy Mason, wanting to embarrass him. Little does he know that Randy actually wants to run, so Jim did him a favorite. I love it when bullies’ plans backfire. Jessica is sure she’ll win the election, since she’s the most popular of the three candidates and this is, after all, a popularity contest. (Kids: Don’t ever let anyone tell you a school election is about the issues or anyone’s platform. It’s not. Sorry. Also, a good number of high-schoolers who run for student government do it because it looks good on their college applications.)
Elizabeth actually wants to be an effective president, bless her heart, and she comes up with ideas like giving an award to the best teacher. Jessica’s more focused on getting votes. She decides to have a party at Lila’s so all the popular kids will know how cool she is. Elizabeth makes up a bunch of flyers with her platform, but before she, Amy, and Julie can distribute them, they disappear. They wind up in the school’s fountain – and who knew the school had a fountain? Liz doesn’t want to believe that Jessica had anything to do with them getting dumped there, but it’s pretty clear Lila and Ellen were involved, and it’s possible Jess put them up to it. (She actually didn’t know about it until later.)
Fearing retaliation from her sister, Jessica snoops in Elizabeth’s room and finds out that she’s going to hold a campaign rally after a school soccer game. I’ve never heard of a student doing that, especially a middle-schooler. Lila enlists her father and his connections to come up with a counter-plan: They’ll have their own gathering and distract people with copies of Johnny Buck’s newest single.
Steven urges Elizabeth to start fighting dirty. I kind of enjoy Steven in this book; he’s really entertained by his sisters competing against each other, and basically wants them to drive each other crazy. SVT Steven is so much more fun than SVH and SVU Steven. Anyway, Elizabeth draws mustaches on Jessica’s campaign posters, like, way to be creative, Liz. When Ned and Alice find out, they announce that the girls will both have to drop out of the election if they can’t be civil. That’s an actual parenting moment, there. Good job, Wakefields!
Elizabeth thinks about quitting the race, since it’s not worth it if she and Jessica are going to end up hating each other. Amy tells her that they have to keep going to show Jess that she can’t get what she wants all the time. That’s probably half the reason Amy’s backing Liz. Elizabeth goes to Randy’s teeny, tiny, pathetic rally, since he went to hers, and realizes that he has some great ideas for the class. He’s also come up with the plan to have the party Jessica wants, charge admission, and use the proceeds to buy the VCR.
Liz likes this idea so much that she thinks about incorporating it in her platform (though she would give Randy credit). She asks Alice about it, and Alice advises her to do what she thinks is right. On election day, Elizabeth does that, and then some: She announces that she’s dropping out of the race and supporting Randy. This is especially bold because Jessica has no idea what she’s doing, and Elizabeth probably could have easily won. But her votes go to Randy, who ends up winning.
Elizabeth is worried that Jessica will be furious at her for what she did, but Jessica couldn’t care less – she gets to have her party, and she doesn’t have to do any work. Can you imagine if she’d won, though? That would have been a disaster. And she wouldn’t have time to go roller-skating and run into cute older boys in a set-up for the next book.
Thoughts: We just did a campaign storyline! Why are they doing another one?
I watched Election while I was reading this. Tracy Flick would laugh in Lila’s face over her campaign tactics.
Johnny’s single comes in record form. In 1987? Hadn’t most people moved on to cassettes by then? Especially rich people like Lila?
July 1, 2014
Summary: While burying Ellen Riteman’s brother Mark’s pet parakeet, the two of them and Jessica come across a box buried in the Ritemans’ backyard. The girls send poor little Mark on an errand, promising they’ll wait for him to come back before they open the box, then proceed to open the box. Inside are $200, some pictures, and love letters. The girls barely glance at the letters, which are between two people named Jane and William; William wants to marry Jane, but she’s uncertain about their compatibility since her family doesn’t like him. Whatever – free money!
When Mark gets back, the girls pretend they’re opening the box for the first time and that only the letters are inside. Mark is smart enough to be suspicious. The girls immediately start spending the money, though they have to lie about how they got the things they buy. For example, Ellen got some really expensive earrings from her aunt. Jessica “found” a Walkman on a bench at the mall. Elizabeth is suspicious about that last one. The girls also hand in money for a class trip, claiming they sold chocolate bars as part of a fundraiser, but Elizabeth knows Jessica still has a full box of candy. Nothing gets past Nancy Drew, Jr.
Amy’s in charge of looking after the money for the trip, and when it disappears, people think she stole it. Amy points the finger at Jessica and Ellen – after all, they’ve recently come into some pricey items. Elizabeth is stuck in the middle, and the accusations against Jessica hurt her campaign for class treasurer. Who would want a treasurer whose twin sister might be a thief?
Elizabeth is running against super-dork Peter DeHaven, and her connection to an alleged thief combined with Peter’s slow undorkening threaten to make her lose the campaign. Amy and Elizabeth fight about the money – Elizabeth doesn’t think Amy took it, but she thinks Amy was careless enough to lose it – and Ken (who’s sort of, kind of Amy’s boyfriend, in the tame ways 12-year-olds can be boyfriend and girlfriend) shows signs of being on Team Amy Stole It. Amy thinks Ken is interested in Elizabeth, so she quits as Liz’s campaign manager and starts helping Peter. Ooh, betrayal. Amy’s showing signs of the shady girl she grows up to be.
While all this is going on, Jessica and Ellen are getting some heat. Mrs. Wyler, the teacher organizing the class trip, mentions that there are rumors going around about them taking the money, but since they deny they stole it, she can’t do much. The girls are no longer enjoying the things they bought. Mark busts them, figuring out that they found money in the box, so the girls hide their stuff at Jessica’s and play dumb when Mark tells his mother about the money.
The night before the Student Council candidates give their campaign speeches, Jessica borrows Elizabeth’s notebook for homework. Not realizing this, Elizabeth puts her speech in Jessica’s notebook. The notebooks get switched back, and when it’s time for her speech, Liz doesn’t have her notes. She totally blanks and gives the world’s worst speech. To add insult to injury, Peter is suddenly cool, and everyone loves his weird speech/rap.
So Elizabeth has been humiliated and lost her best friend, so when she starts crying in Mr. Bowman’s room, it’s hard not to feel sorry for her. Mr. Bowman asks her and Amy go to get something from a supply closet, and they end up getting locked inside. Which…who put in a supply closet that locks from the outside? Anyway, this gives the girls a chance to talk, and they make up. Then they find the money, which Mrs. Wyler must have accidentally put in the closet a few days earlier. Everyone’s problem is solved!
Before everyone learns this, though, Mrs. Wyler summons the Wakefields and Ritemans to the school to discuss the missing money. Jessica and Ellen decide that they’ll find a way to get the money back so they’ll get out of trouble. A woman shows up at the Ritemans’ house, and Jessica freaks because she looks just like Jane in the pictures from the box. The woman is Laura, Jane’s granddaughter; she was in town and wanted to see her grandmother’s old house. She tells the girls that her grandmother didn’t marry William, and she always seemed liked something was missing from her life.
When Alice and Mrs. Riteman arrive, Jessica and Ellen tell them everything. Laura lets them keep the money (good, since they spent it already), and the girls reluctantly agree to give what they haven’t spent, about $50, to Mark. I shudder to think what a kid in elementary school will spend all that money on. Laura reveals that she’s in a similar situation as Jane was, and reading her letters has helped her decide to marry the man she truly loves.
So yay, a person we know nothing about and will never hear about again is happy! Elizabeth is class treasurer, because cool clothes and sudden popularity only get you so far! Jessica and Ellen aren’t thieves! Amy and Elizabeth are friends again! Amy and Ken are…whatever again! Mark can buy a new parakeet, maybe! Happy endings, yaaaaaay!
Thoughts: I didn’t remember Olivia Davidson ever showing up in the Sweet Valley Twins series, but she pops up here.
Elizabeth thinks red glitter is too flashy. Liz, chill out.
Jessica’s story is that she found a Walkman in a shopping bag on a bench at the mall, and Elizabeth is totally okay with her taking it. That doesn’t scream “stealing” to her? Stuff lying around isn’t just free to a good home.
Jessica buys an orange and purple shirt. Gag.
“She had never been more disappointed in her twin in all their twelve years.” Oh, Elizabeth. She’s just getting started.
SVMS stuents get to take class trips to Disneyland. One of the many perks of living in Southern California. But growing up right outside D.C., I got to go on class trips to the Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo.
Amy, when a boy asks you out for ice cream, you don’t invite someone else to come with you.
March 18, 2014
Summary: As will inevitably happen with the popular girls, the Unicorns have decided to start a cheerleading squad. They’re calling it the Boosters. Which is weird, because at my school, Boosters were the parents who supported and fundraised for sports teams. Why don’t they just call themselves the cheerleading squad? It’s like on Degrassi, where they called themselves the power squad, but they were clearly cheerleaders. Okay, I’ve completely lost control of this paragraph.
So anyway, Amy wants to be a cheerleader and show off her baton-twirling skills. The Unicorns hate this idea because they don’t want to be associated with such a loser. If I were Amy, I wouldn’t want to be associated with them either, but Amy thinks she can make the squad. Elizabeth worries that the Unicorns will be nasty to her or cut her just for being Amy.
Ken Matthews is going through something similar. He wants to join the basketball team, but he’s short and dweeby, so there’s a lot of bullying directed at him. He also has his father, a former star basketball player, to live up to. Elizabeth helps him out a little, and with a lot of practice, Ken becomes a much better player. Unfortunately, Bruce sees the two of them together and starts a rumor that they’re dating, which horrifies Jessica. Amy’s not happy either, since she has a little crush on the Kenster.
The Unicorns pressure Amy to drop out of tryouts, but Amy won’t budge. Then Jessica, Lila, and Ellen write her a note (signing it as Ken) telling her that she’s not going to make the squad so she might as well give up. Amy isn’t fooled, since she and Ken already discussed the topic and encouraged each other. But the Unicorns also send Ken a love letter from Amy, and he thinks it’s real and handles it like a typical 12-year-old boy.
Elizabeth finds out that the Unicorns were behind the notes and tells Amy and Ken. Amy still isn’t worried about the girls embarrassing her or being mean; even if she didn’t think she could make the squad, she’d still try out just to tick them off. Amy’s pretty awesome in this book.
The Booster and basketball tryouts are held at the same time. The Unicorns trick Amy into doing a cheer for Ken by herself, but instead of getting embarrassed, Amy gets enthused. Ken also takes advantage of the situation, while the other players are distracted, to show that he’s a basketball superstar. He makes the team and Amy makes the Boosters, though, seriously, why would she voluntarily spend time with the Unicorns?
Thoughts: Steven: “Who’s the babe in the leotard?” Your sister, sicko.
It’s funny to read about Jessica thinking Ken’s a loser when we know she thinks he’s awesome in high school.
So what’s a pizzaburger? Pizza on top of a burger? That doesn’t really sound appetizing.
I don’t get the title. Who was choosing sides? Elizabeth?
February 4, 2014
Summary: Before Elizabeth and Jessica were stealing each other’s boyfriends and getting involved in gang wars and falling in love in two days while on fabulous vacations, they were in the sixth grade. They were also still dressing alike every day, sharing a room, and doing everything together. But things are about to change…FOREVER. (Cue dramatic music.)
Jessica’s being courted by the Unicorns, Sweet Valley Middle School’s club for the most popular girls. There are only a couple of sixth graders in the club (Lila being one of them), so if Jess gets in, it’s a major deal. Elizabeth is interested in starting a newspaper at school, along with Amy (before she became popular and flirty) and Julie. Neither girl is interested in her twin’s new interests, but they still want to spend time together.
The girls start hanging out with their new friends, realizing how nice it is to spend some time apart. Elizabeth worries that hanging out with Amy and Julie will leave less time for her to be with Jessica, but Jessica’s really just concerned with impressing the Unicorns. They tell her that Elizabeth isn’t going to be asked to join anyway, but Jessica figures that she can get them to change their minds once she’s admitted.
Before Jess is allowed in the club, she has to complete three tasks. First she has to steal a teacher’s lesson plan book and get it into her bag by the end of class. She completes that with some help from her classmates. Then she has to get three girls to use the boys’ bathroom. That goes more easily than she expected. Finally, Jessica has to come to school looking completely different from Liz. She also can’t tell Liz what she’s doing.
So Jessica waits until Elizabeth is dressed, then puts on something different. She also curls her hair and puts on some makeup. Liz is hurt that her twin doesn’t want to dress alike anymore. But after a day of looking different at school, Elizabeth learns that people like it better when they don’t look exactly the same. People have been wanting to get to know them, but aren’t sure which twin is which. Elizabeth decides to make a couple of changes herself, fixing her hair a way Jess doesn’t like.
Then Liz learns something else (from resident gossip Caroline Pearce): that the Unicorns want Jessica. Liz worries that this will mean even less time for her and Jess to spend together. Alice points out that Elizabeth wouldn’t even like being in the club, so she shouldn’t see it as a loss. Alice is like, “You know you guys are two separate people, right? And that you don’t have to be attached at the hip?” Apparently this is a new concept for Elizabeth.
But Jessica wants Elizabeth to be a Unicorn, so she asks the club if Liz can join. President and HBIC Janet Howell makes it easy on Elizabeth by assigning her one pledge task. She just has to get Lois Waller – the resident fat girl in a time before Robin Wilson – to go to the Dairi Burger with her for an ice cream sundae, then replace her whipped cream with shaving cream. (Side note: Middle school girls can be huge bitcas.) Of course, Liz isn’t going to do that, but Jessica tells the Unicorns that she will.
This leads to what is supposedly the girls’ very first twin switch. Jessica pretends to be Elizabeth, invites Lois to the Dairi Burger, and does the task. The Unicorns approve, so Liz is in. Jessica tells her that they just changed their minds and didn’t need her to do a pledge task after all. Liz goes to a Unicorn meeting and hates it, of course. Ellen Riteman (the village idiot of the Unicorns – think Karen from Mean Girls) mentions the shaving cream to Liz, who figures out what happened. She’s super-upset that Jessica pulled a switch, and that Lois thinks she’s a jerk.
Elizabeth tells Lois what really happened, then forces Jessica to apologize by blackmailing her. If Jess doesn’t apologize, Liz will tell the Unicorns that she, not Liz, did the task. Then Elizabeth helps Lois get revenge by pulling the shaving cream trick on Lila while Amy takes pictures.
In other storylines: Jessica’s obsessed with ballet. The twins start taking dance classes, and Jess is clearly the best of the group, but the teacher, Madame André, hates her for trying to stand out on the first day.
The twins have been sharing a room, but Alice decides they should have their own space. If I were Liz, having to live with a slob like Jessica, I’d be hugely grateful.
A girl named Roberta was kicked out of the Unicorns for staying out late with a high school boy who supposedly trashed the club. It turns out she was dating Steven, but she was the one trashing the Unicorns, not him. And she wasn’t kicked out for dating him – she was kicked out because Janet wants Steven. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he deserves better.
Thoughts: Janet is Lila’s cousin, but she disappears after SVT and is never mentioned again. My guess is she harassed the wrong person and wound up dead in a ditch.
A man with the last name Nydick became a middle school teacher. Why would he set himself up for torture like that?
“Now I have two sophisticated daughters.” Yeah, one of them wore a yellow sweat suit all day, Ned, so I wouldn’t go with “sophisticated.”
Apparently there’s a middle schooler whose bra size is 36E. I don’t think that’s possible for someone that age.
If my parents made me share a room for 12 years when there was a guest room in the house the whole time, I’d be ticked.
Why did they only get revenge on Lila? Janet’s the ringleader. She’s the one to bring down. You’re supposed to stab Caesar!