September 5, 2017

SVT #104, Big Brother’s in Love Again: More Like Big Bother

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

This is perfect

Summary: Steven has been happily dating Cathy for a while now, but when Joe starts talking about how being single allows him to date multiple girls, Steven starts to regret tying himself down (his words, not mine). Cathy probably has the same regrets when he starts acting jerky, making decisions about the movie they’re seeing and not sharing his popcorn with her. Some popular guys are at the movie theater, and Steven is pumped when a senior named Richard Ferris says hi to him. He’s so pumped that he ditches Cathy and sits with Ferris and his friends. He figures Cathy’s fine because some friends have joined her.

Jill Hale is also hanging out with the popular kids, and Steven’s crush on her suddenly returns. Cathy and her friends leave (we find out later that they went to another movie), so Steven is alone when Ferris invites him to come get pizza with the popular guys. Jill isn’t interested, so Steven invites her to get burgers and go roller-skating. Everyone thinks Steven is dating Cathy, but he says they’re just friends. Not great friends, apparently, since he ditches her twice, once during the movie and then afterwards to go off with Jill. I hope she got another ride home.

At the Dairi Burger, Jill orders a salad and water. Because she’s a girl, you know. Steven decides he’s too good of a guy to cheat on Cathy, so he calls her and breaks up with her over the phone. Cathy barely responds, so I’m guessing that she’s mad enough to realize she’s better off without him. Steven is ready to have some alone time with Jill, but she turns out to be incredibly vapid. At this point, this is exactly what Steven deserves, but he doesn’t get that yet.

Steven and Jill go skating and run into Cathy, who’s come with her friends and doesn’t look the least bit upset about being dumped minutes earlier. Steven thinks she’s masking her pain over their breakup. He “apologizes” to her, saying that he wishes there were two of him so Cathy wouldn’t have to suffer being without him. He basically says that the breakup hurts him as much as it hurts her. Cathy again barely responds, because she is a normal human being, unlike this weird alien who’s just done her the favor of dumping her.

Joe learns of Steven and Cathy’s breakup and asks Steven if he can go out with Cathy. Steven doesn’t think Cathy will return his affections, so he gives his blessing. He goes out with Jill, who continues to be superficial and uninteresting. He starts to doubt his decision to choose her over Cathy, but stops immediately when the popular guys show up. He’d rather be bored with Jill and get the approval of the popular guys than be “tied down” to Cathy.

When Steven sees Cathy and Joe together at school, he still thinks Cathy is just trying to ease her pain over their breakup. He goes to her house after school to tell her he’ll take her to an upcoming Valentine’s Day street dance, since he’d promised to, and I guess he still thinks he’s noble and respectable enough to keep his word. Cathy tells him she already has a date – Joe. Steven’s hurt and tries to get sympathy from the twins, who point out that he caused all his own problems by breaking up with Cathy.

Steven makes a deal with the twins to help them get dates to the dance (more on that in the B-plot) if they help him get back together with Cathy. Their plan involves running into Cathy downtown, and Steven pretending to comfort Jessica over something so Cathy can see what a compassionate, wonderful person he is. But the twins love Cathy and are angry with their brother for the way he’s been treating her, so instead they make him look like even more of a jerk in front of Cathy.

Things get even worse for Steven (but still not as bad as he deserves) when he sees Jill hanging out with Ferris. He mopes about how horrible things are going for him, as if he didn’t put everything in motion. Joe tells him how great things are going with Cathy, and how he’s changed his mind about not wanting to be a one-woman man. Steven lies that Cathy tried to get back together with him. Steven is seriously the hugest jerk in this book, and I hoped it would end with people throwing rotting produce at him.

Joe gets mad about Steven’s claims and goes off to break up with Cathy. Then Jill calls to tell Steven that she’s going to the dance with Ferris, who happens to be her ex. Steven realizes that she was just hanging out with him to make Ferris jealous. He has the nerve to be upset, as if he wasn’t using Jill to get access to the popular crowd. Steven’s whole life has fallen apart (couldn’t happen to a nicer guy), so he makes a new deal with the twins: He’ll get them dates to the dance if they help him get Joe and Cathy back together.

The twins accept, and Steven fulfills his end of the deal, but he learns that they didn’t – Joe and Cathy haven’t reunited. At the dance, Joe’s band plays Steven and Cathy’s song, as requested by the twins and dedicated to the former couple. Cathy asks Steven to dance and reveals that she and Joe were never really dating. They just wanted to make Steven jealous. Somehow, she thinks the experience has made Steven realize that other people have feelings and he needs to respect them. You know, like everyone else learns in kindergarten. For some reason, Cathy wants to get back together. That poor girl.

In the B-plot, the twins are upset that Todd and Aaron are going to an away basketball game and won’t be able to take them to the street dance. The girls think their guys should care more about Valentine’s Day. Jessica learns that one of Steven’s classmates, Pete, has two cousins visiting, and without knowing what they’re like or seeing them for more than a couple seconds, Jessica wants them. She decides to keep their visit quiet so no other girls can call dibs first. She convinces Elizabeth to help her meet the cousins so they can have two cool dates to the dance.

Because they’re 12-year-olds and don’t know how to behave like normal people, the girls stalk the cousins by hiding in the bushes outside their house. They figure eventually the boys will leave the house and the twins can pretend to just be passing by. Janet catches them, and Jessica gets her to leave by telling her that Janet’s crush, Denny, is on his way to the Dairi Burger with another girl. Then the twins learn that the cousins are already at the Dairi Burger.

They rush over and distract Janet from seeing the cousins by telling her that there are roaches in the food, so she has to keep Denny from eating anything. While they’re there, Elizabeth sees the cousins for the first time and agrees that she and Jess are doing the right thing by trying to claim them, because the boys are hot. They lock Janet in a bathroom, but this keeps them from being able to talk to the boys.

The girls go a-stalking again, and Jess has the brilliant idea to try to get them to leave the house by yelling, “Fire!” The boys aren’t home, and everyone in the neighborhood is confused. Even though they’ve never so much as spoken to these guys, Jessica decides to tell everyone that she and Liz have hot dates to the dance. Janet calls her bluff and suggests a bet. If Jess and Liz do show up with hot dates, Janet will tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than Johnny Buck’s. If the twins are lying, they have to come to the dance dressed alike and dance every dance together.

Jessica’s desperate now, so she actually calls up Pete and asks to talk to either of his cousins. Pete couldn’t care less about helping a bunch of middle-schoolers make love connections, and he refuses. The twins next go to his house and pretend they’re polling boys, in hopes that Pete’s mom will bring one of them to the door. She tells them the boys have already gone home.

As mentioned above, Steven offers to get the twins dates with the cousins if they’ll help him get back together with Cathy. Since the twins know that the cousins are gone, they don’t bother helping him out. They’re unable to find other dates, so when Steven presents his second deal to get them dates, they accept. Steven is able to convince Todd and Aaron to skip the basketball game and take the twins to the dance. Apparently they count in the twins’ bet with Janet, so she has to tell everyone at the dance that Joe’s band is better than the Buckster’s. Everyone ends the book happy (except Janet, I guess).

Thoughts: I need the ghostwriters to stop inserting “like” and “you know” into so much of the dialogue. It’s, you know, like, really annoying.

Jessica: “You can give a jerk a shower and put him into a clean T-shirt. But it doesn’t change his essential jerkiness.” Truer words were never spoken.

Please keep in mind that when Steven tries to get Cathy back, he’s still dating Jill. Even when he tries to fix a jerk move, he’s still a jerk.

“Through absolutely no fault of his own, he’d lost two girlfriends even though he was one of the coolest dudes he had personally ever met.” Steven needs a psychiatrist.

“In his mind he ticked off the people he’d managed to hurt or let down. Cathy, Joe, the twins. And most of all, himself.” Excuse me? How did Steven hurt himself more than Cathy? This guy is a mess.

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August 29, 2017

SVT #103, Elizabeth Solves It All: When You Ask a 12-Year-Old for Advice, You Get What You Pay For

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

Am I crazy or does Liz look like Taylor Swift here?

Summary: Because Elizabeth is so smart and so intuitive and so caring and so helpful and so awesome, she’s going to be writing an advice column for The Sixers. At first, no one cares. Amy and Maria are disappointed, because having an advice column would allow them to enter some magazine contest that could win them desktop publishing software. They write letters to Dear Elizabeth (such an original name!) asking for some minor advice – Amy wants to know what to get her grandmother for her birthday, and Maria wants to know what to wear to a party with some old Hollywood friends.

Knowing exactly who she’s responding to, despite their aliases, Liz tells Amy to buy scrapbooking supplies so she and Grandma Sutton can organize photo albums. She tells Maria to wear her favorite outfit so she’ll feel confident and comfortable. There’s also a third letter from someone who wants to know how to tell his parents he’s responsible enough to get a dog. Elizabeth doesn’t know who this person is.

Liz’s advice to Amy and Maria leads to a successful birthday present and a successful party, respectively. The third letter writer is Denny, who was able to use her advice to convince his parents to let him get a dog. He names the dog Woolly Booger, which would make me change my mind about Denny’s level of responsibility and maturity if he were my kid. Janet mocks Liz for being perfect enough to give others advice, so Maria lies that Liz’s advice to her helped her land a part in a movie, and the advice to Amy made her grandmother so happy that she’s taking her family to Hawaii.

Elizabeth tries her hand at unsolicited advice next, telling Jessica to stop copying Mandy, who’s getting annoyed by it. Jess doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with this sincerest form of flattery, so she tells Elizabeth to stuff it. However, everyone else at SVMS is hungry for Dear Elizabeth’s advice. She’s inundated with letters and becomes obsessed with helping to solve everyone’s problems. She misses classes, forgets her chores and dates with Todd, and can’t think about anything but writing responses to her eager advice-seekers.

Things start to go south. Someone writes in asking how to deal with a friend who’s neglecting her in favor of another friend. Liz advises the writer to make friends with the new friend so all three can hang out together. The writer turns out to be Janet, who’s jealous of all the time Denny spends with his dog. She offers to look after the dog for a while, but Denny’s not as responsible as he led on, and he never comes to get his dog back. Janet eventually takes it to a shelter, where it’s adopted by a family who I desperately hope changes its name.

Mandy’s having a sleepover but can’t invite all the Unicorns because there isn’t enough space in her house. Since Jessica has been bugging her, Mandy’s considering cutting her from the guest list. Dear Elizabeth advises her to only invite who she wants to invite, since it’s her party. This results in Jess losing out on an invitation. Randy writes in asking how he can get money for something or other, and Liz suggests that he start a business venture. Randy bakes cookies, but he doesn’t taste the batch before he tries to sell them, and they’re horrible.

Then Elizabeth’s advice starts affecting those closest to her. Amy can’t get her to talk in person, so she writes for advice about her grandmother (more on that in the B-plot). It goes over badly, and Amy gets mad. Jessica’s even madder when Liz is so preoccupied by her advice-giving that she forgets to tell Jess about a rescheduled test. Jess is upset that her own sister doesn’t have time to talk to her about her problems. Maria finds Elizabeth crying in the bathroom and tries to help her, but the girl who has advice for everyone doesn’t want anyone else’s advice or help.

Everyone’s mad at Liz for giving advice that has ruined their lives. Amy comes to school one morning to find Liz barricaded in the Sixers office, trying to avoid the angry kids outside. Amy tells them all that Elizabeth’s advice was fine; they just made dumb decisions, then blamed her when things went badly. For example, Denny used Liz’s advice to convince his parents he was responsible enough for a dog, but his actions didn’t prove that. Mandy used the advice to trim her guest list, then got mad that Jessica was upset about being cut. (Amy’s very smart here – she points out that you can’t exclude someone and then get mad when that person feels excluded.)

Amy literally tells everyone to grow up, which is awesome, then writes Liz one last letter with her own advice: Ask for help when you need it. Liz takes the advice, and Jessica, Amy, Maria, and Mandy help her get caught up on all the things she hasn’t been doing because she’s been so busy writing letters. Then she ends her advice column, so her classmates will have to go back to making dumb decisions on their own.

In the B-plot, Amy’s grandmother has just moved to Sweet Valley, and she’s a little cranky about it. To be fair, Amy’s parents treat her like a child or like someone who’s incapable of taking care of herself. Amy starts worrying when her grandmother doesn’t buy groceries and forgets to get her medicine from the pharmacy. She thinks Grandma Sutton might not be able to take care of herself after all.

Dear Elizabeth’s advice to Amy is to talk to her grandmother about seeing a psychiatrist. Amy brings up the topic, but Grandma Sutton is offended. Amy’s parents are dismayed when they hear about the conversation – Amy should have come to them instead of suggesting that her grandmother is having mental problems. Eventually Amy tells her grandmother that she’s concerned about her behavior, and Grandma Sutton admits that she just didn’t go to the store or pharmacy because she didn’t know how to get around Sweet Valley, and she didn’t want to ask for help. Sigh. Has she never heard of a cab?

Thoughts: I’m with Amy – Elizabeth didn’t do anything wrong. Her advice was fine, if a little naïve at times. Her job is to give it; she’s not responsible for what happens as a result.

Maria’s outfit for the party may be the most ’90s of any outfit in any series I’ve covered: a sunflower-print dress, a denim vest, and sandals with rope soles. I hop there’s a Blossom-type hat that goes with it.

Sadly, Denny’s dog probably ends up dead, since Janet feeds it a chocolate chip cookie.

August 22, 2017

SVT #102, The Mysterious Dr. Q: As Usual, Bruce Screws Everything Up

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:15 pm by Jenn

I hope Jess hypnotizes Liz into developing a better fashion sense

Summary: Jessica’s excited because a hypnotist is coming to SVMS for an assembly. Elizabeth will be writing a story for The Sixers debunking hypnotism. Meanwhile, Bruce urges Todd to ask her out after Todd admits that he has a crush on her. Also meanwhile, Amy’s mom is doing a news story on female pilots and gives Amy the opportunity to interview a pilot’s daughter. Amy’s thrilled until she learns that the interviews will take place on a helicopter – she’s scared of flying. To her credit, she decides to suck it up and face her fears.

At school, Todd writes Elizabeth a note asking her to a movie. She’s thrilled and immediately finds him and accepts. Everyone goes to the assembly, where the hypnotist, Dr. Q, brings the twins and some other kids on stage for a demonstration. Elizabeth plays along with the hypnosis and wonders if the other volunteers are faking as well, or if Dr. Q really hypnotized them.

Since Lila didn’t get chosen, Jessica suggests that she hypnotize her. She thinks she knows how to do it since she’s seen it done. Yes, and since I’ve watched multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ER, I’m confident that I could remove a ruptured spleen if necessary. Jess tries it out, but it doesn’t work. Wow, what a surprise! Amy’s also disappointed not to be picked, since she was hoping to have Dr. Q hypnotize her to overcome her fear of flying. Throughout the book, Amy is the only person who truly grasps the point of hypnotism.

Bruce asks Elizabeth to a movie, and, of course, she turns him down. She goes to interview Dr. Q for The Sixers, and Amy and Jessica crash the meeting, Jess so she can learn about hypnosis and Amy so she can be hypnotized. Dr. Q warns Jessica that she shouldn’t mess around with hypnosis. She explains the practice to Elizabeth, who still thinks it’s a scam.

Jessica decides to prove Liz wrong by hypnotizing her and some of their friends – Lila, Amy, Janet, and Bruce. Bruce disrupts the process by listening to a baseball game and talking out loud about the Twins and certain plays. Jess tries to ignore him as she hypnotizes Janet and Amy to overcome their fear of spiders, and makes Lila quack whenever she sees the principal, Mr. Clark. As she’s trying to hypnotize Elizabeth into adoring her, someone yells at Bruce.

Thanks to the distractions and Bruce’s comments about the game, Amy and Janet end up thinking they’re identical twins, Elizabeth falls in love with Bruce, and Lila starts calling the principal Mr. Quack. Jessica’s thrilled. Todd, not so much – now Elizabeth wants to go to a movie with Bruce instead. Todd gets Jess to go to the movie with him so they can spy on the new couple. They end up getting kicked out when Todd dumps food on Bruce just as he’s about to kiss Liz.

Amy and Janet are suddenly BFFs, constantly talking about how much they love being twins and the awesome parts of their shared childhood. I don’t know how that’s possible, since it’s not like Jessica planted false memories in them, but okay. Lila and Jessica both get in trouble when Lila keeps quacking at Mr. Clark. Elizabeth isn’t sure why she’s suddenly into Bruce, or why she even wants to hang out with him, but she just goes with it.

Jessica realizes that everything’s backfired and she needs to fix it. She calls Dr. Q and begs for her help, then gathers everyone for another hypnosis session. This time Steven’s watching baseball, and the game again interferes with Jessica’s efforts. Everyone hears her yelling at Steven to turn the volume back to normal, then telling him to forget all about baseball. When her hypnosis subjects awaken, they’re back to their usual selves, but they don’t know what baseball is.

Dr. Q arrives and saves the day. She restores everyone’s memories of baseball and hypnotizes Amy to not be afraid of flying. Elizabeth is now over Bruce (and even dumps a milkshake on him to prove it) and back with Todd. Janet and Amy hate each other again. And Amy’s able to do her interview without any fear. Thanks, Dr. Q! Sorry Jessica is such an idiot!

Thoughts: Who approved an assembly with a hypnotist? No parents had objections?

Todd gets 5 points for deciding that “cad” is the best word to describe Bruce, but he loses them for shouting at him that he hopes Liz turns into a pumpkin, which makes no sense.

Ellen, to Amy and Janet when they won’t shut up about being twins: “Hey, guys, like, nobody cares.” Turns out Ellen’s good for something after all.

I wish it had turned out that no one was really hypnotized and everyone was just messing with Jessica.

May 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2017

SVT #88, Steven Gets Even: Pranks a Lot

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I’m so glad I don’t have to live next door to these people

Summary: Even though it’s not Halloween, Mr. Bowman wants his class to study scary books, starting with Frankenstein. Each student also has to pick a scary story that’s at least 20 years old and write a report about it. All the kids think this will be a piece of cake – nothing more than 20 years old is going to scare them. These kids are the reason slasher movies have gotten so grotesque. Mr. Bowman suggests that Elizabeth read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is dumb – it’s not a horror story.

The kids slowly realize that the stories Mr. Bowman wants them to read are scarier than they expected. Jessica gets spooked when he reads Dracula in class, and afterward, none of the girls wants to go to the bathroom alone. I’d make fun of them but I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and there’s definitely safety in numbers where vampires are concerned. Some spooky stuff happens in the bathroom, and Jessica hears glass breaking and sees a hand turning off the lights. It turns out Bruce, Aaron, Brian, and Charlie Cashman were just pulling a prank. Now Jess wants revenge.

Inspired by a trick Steven pulls with a knife, pretending he cut off his finger (and he probably shouldn’t pull that with his parents around, because Ned practically has a heart attack), Jessica pulls the old gross-finger-in-the-candy-box prank on Charlie while Mr. Bowman is reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the class. Elizabeth finds a Barbie hanging in her locker, dripping with fake blood, and the kids officially kick off a “scare war,” boys vs. girls. It’s mainly the twins, Lila, Janet, Amy, Maria, and Mandy against the four boys.

Since the girls are unsure what will actually scare the boys, they decide to use Steven to test out some pranks. Steven is a lot more gullible and prankable than you’d expect, considering he’s the one who’s usually pulling tricks. The girls become savvier and less scareable, to the boys’ dismay. However, they’re also getting spooked by Edgar Allan Poe stories and other stuff they said wouldn’t frighten them.

By the end of the week, Steven is scared to be in his own house because his sisters have been pulling so many pranks on him. They’re having a sleepover on Friday, and Ned and Alice will be out for a while, so he figures this is a good time to get revenge. The four boys show up to scare the girls, who quickly come up with a plan to spook them back, using glow-in-the-dark paint and sleeping bags to fool them into thinking there are weird floating faces outside the house. When Elizabeth realizes Charlie is dressed as a mummy, she drenches him with the hose. The boys admit defeat in the scare war, so the girls make them cluck like chickens and call the girls “Your Awesomeness” for a week.

Steven gets his revenge by making scary noises in the basement, where he’s been hiding the whole night, having made the girls think he was out somewhere. Jessica hides in the pantry, thinking there’s some sort of monster in the basement. The other girls have to face off with the “monster,” but Steven can’t keep from laughing, so he gets busted pretty easily. He tells the younger kids that they’re all wimps, so the girls’ win in the scare war doesn’t really mean anything. Then Ned and Alice scare everyone with masks. I don’t know. This book was probably fun to read when I was younger, but now it’s pretty weak.

Thoughts: “Kids today are too sophisticated to be frightened by a story like Frankenstein.” Are you sure, Amy? Are you sure you’re sophisticated? (I hope Mr. Bowman heard about all the scaring afterward and teased the kids about thinking they were unscareable.)

Why is Aaron still hanging out with Brian?

Here it is, the greatest sentence to appear in any Sweet Valley book: “‘I want to go home!’ Bruce sobbed.”

January 31, 2017

SVT #80, The Gossip War: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Member of the Unicorn Club?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

No, I don't know why Ellen's using a pay phone

No, I don’t know why Ellen’s using a pay phone

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.

December 27, 2016

SVT #76, Yours for a Day: Indentured Servitude Has Never Been So Romantic

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I can't believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

I can’t believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

Summary: Valentine’s Day is approaching, as is a Valentine’s Day dance at SVMS. The Unicorns (spurred on by Mandy) are organizing a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital (appropriately named Children’s Hospital) in which students can hire a personal servant for a day or two. Ellen wants to call it Yours for a Day, but the other girls say that’s dumb since the fundraiser takes place over two days. But that’s what the book is called, so I guess Ellen wins in the end. Anyway, for $5 you can hire someone for a day, and for $10 you get someone over two days. The “servants” don’t have to pay, but they also don’t get compensated, so servants are just volunteering out of the kindness of their hearts.

Mandy has a crush on a guy named Peter Jeffries, but she’s too nervous to ask him to the dance. When she calls to talk to him, she just hangs up the phone. Oh, Mandy, we’ve all been there. She also can barely speak to Peter when he comes by the Unicorns’ table to sign up to be a servant. Jessica realizes that if Peter and Mandy (who will be a master) get paired up, she can order him to take her to the dance. How romantic.

At the drawing, Mandy winds up as Jessica’s servant, which Jess is thrilled about. Not only is she paired with a friend (the other girls were worried about being paired with people they don’t like), but she can order Mandy to ask Peter to the dance. The drawback here is that the Unicorns are working as both servants and masters, and Jess winds up as Lloyd Benson’s servant. Lila’s working for Peter, and Janet’s working for Winston. Ha ha!

Lloyd’s annoyed with Jessica for the earthquake stuff in the last book, so he makes her do lots of stuff for him. If Jess were really smart, she would have Mandy do it for her. Instead, she tells Mandy that her only task is to ask Peter to the dance. Mandy manages to pull herself together and do it…but Peter already has a date to the dance. Aw, Mandy. At least he’s nice about having to turn her down.

Still, Mandy feels humiliated and gets mad at Jessica. She gets a little pleasure out of watching Jessica do dumb things on Lloyd’s orders, like eat gross cafeteria food and help him with science experiments. Aaron feels bad for Jess and tries to think of a way to get her switched to him so Lloyd can’t mess with her anymore. Elizabeth correctly guesses that Lloyd won’t agree to a switch since he’s eager to get revenge on Jessica.

Jessica is also hoping to switch, and she even asks Elizabeth to be Lloyd’s servant. Liz balks, but since Jess rigged the drawing for her and Amy (see the B-plot), she eventually agrees. But Lila and Mandy, scheming against Jessica, pull their own switch. Jessica was supposed to work for Belinda, so the girls get Belinda to switch servants with Mandy, making Jessica serve Mandy instead. In the meantime, Aaron convinces Lloyd to switch with him, thinking he’d get Jessica. Now he has Elizabeth as a servant.

The usually-not-vindictive Mandy makes Jessica sing “Feelings” in the cafeteria so she’ll be humiliated like she inadvertently humiliated Mandy. The song makes Grace Oliver cry, but not from horribleness. She and Winston had been going out, or whatever the 12-year-old equivalent of that is, but they had a huge fight and aren’t speaking. Grace asked Peter to the dance, but now she wants to make up with Winston and go with him. Jessica realizes that she has the opportunity to make everyone happy.

She goes to Lloyd, who’s Grace’s master for the day, and gets him to switch servants with Winston. Winston thinks he’s getting Jessica as a servant, but he’s getting Grace. They quickly make up and will be going to the dance together. Half of Jess’ plan is a success, even though the switch means Lloyd will be Janet’s master.

Jessica tries to negotiate with Lila to get her to make Peter, her new servant, ask Mandy to the dance. Lila wants too much in return, so Jess just calls Peter on her own. But it turns out that her work is done, and Mandy and Peter have already decided to go to the dance together. Once Peter learned that Grace was going with Winston, he asked Mandy, the person he’d wanted to go with in the first place. He wasn’t sure Mandy liked him, but once Jessica made her ask him to the dance, he realized she did. So Jess’ meddling helped a couple get together!

The new couple has a great time at the dance, and the master/servant fundraiser makes $800 for the hospital. Jessica’s the only one who’s not happy at the end, since Janet makes Lloyd a certificate entitling him to another day of servitude from Jessica. I guess it’s a small price to pay for a successful fundraiser.

In the B-plot, Elizabeth and Amy are annoyed with Todd and Ken, who are just acting like typical preteen boys. They play a prank on the boys, getting them to eat mayo instead of vanilla pudding. They think this makes them even, especially when the guys send the girls on a scavenger hunt for what the girls think will be invitations to the dance. They get the invitations, but they also get drenched with cold water. The girls decide they need more revenge.

Elizabeth and Amy get Jessica to rig the master/servant drawing so Todd will be Liz’s servant and Ken will be Amy’s. Then they make the guys do things like wear embarrassing ties, walk on their hands in the cafeteria, and give the wrong answers in class. The guys handle things well, and still want to take the girls to the dance. They’re even going to get them corsages. The girls think they’ve learned their lesson and are going to be gentlemen from now on.

On Valentine’s Day, the girls spend most of the dance sneezing. They figure out that the guys got one last revenge by putting sneezing powder in their corsages. The girls get revenge right back by making them sing “Feelings” in front of everyone. I guess this evens things up, as the pranks stop. The girls were definitely winning that war anyway.

Thoughts: Grace is in a lot more books than I remembered. I really didn’t think she was ever mentioned again after The Big Camp Secret.

I can’t believe Amy and Elizabeth didn’t think the guys might try to get them back after everything they had to do as servants. I would expect Elizabeth to be smarter than that.

“Daddy would give more, but he already donated a whole wing to the hospital, and he didn’t want to overdo it.” Oh, of course not. There’s such a thing as helping too many sick children.

December 20, 2016

SVT #75, Jessica and the Earthquake: (Not a) Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:48 pm by Jenn

I thought Jessica's walls were brown

I thought Jessica’s walls were brown

Summary: Jessica wakes up in the middle of the night during what she later finds out is an earthquake. It’s minor – only a 3.2 – but it’s Sweet Valley’s first in 20 years, so it’s kind of a big deal. It becomes an even bigger deal for Jessica when she learns that she was the only person at school who woke up. I don’t know why anyone cares, but they do. Jessica uses her overactive imagination to spice up the story a little. She tells people that she woke up before the earthquake, and must have sensed that it was coming. Super-nerd Lloyd Benson is intrigued and starts following her around, wanting her help with a project on earthquakes.

With news of an aftershock possibly coming, Lila and Janet, who are sick of Jessica’s embellishments, decide to get some revenge. They urge her to predict when the aftershock will come, then plan a big part at the Fowlers’ so everyone can experience it together. At first Jess loves all the attention, but when Lila and Janet try to call her bluff, she gets worried. If she predicts an earthquake and nothing happens, she’ll be humiliated. She’s already humiliated enough by Lloyd’s sudden obsession with her.

Everyone is really excited about the possibility of Jessica proving her earthquake-sensing powers. A ton of people are invited to Lila’s party, and Bruce even has souvenir T-shirts made. Since the date of the party is on them, Jessica’s prediction better be right or no one will want a shirt, and she’ll have to deal with Bruce’s anger on top of everything else. Jess tries to put a stop to the party, but everyone wants earthcake, a cake Lila and Janet will decorate to look like Sweet Valley, then cut in half like it’s been split by an earthquake. I have to admit, that’s pretty clever.

Desperate for her prediction to come true, Jessica does an earthquake dance (a variation on a rain dance) before the party. This involves her hopping around her room, chanting, “Earthquake, earthquake, please come soon. If you don’t come, I’ll be ruined.” I have a feeling that if Lila and Janet saw this, they’d be satisfied with their revenge. Elizabeth sees Jess dancing and tries to cheer her up, noting that there’s a chance the aftershock will come just when she said.

At the party, Jessica frets that she’s going to be embarrassed in front of everyone. People are making a huge deal out of the aftershock – Aaron is even taking bets from people on what time it will occur. Jessica says it’ll happen at 8:30, so everyone spends the party checking the time. Bruce warns that if the aftershock doesn’t happen that night, Jess will have to pay for all his unsold shirts. Hey, Bruce, no one asked you to make shirts. That’s your own problem.

8:30 rolls around, and guess what? No earthquake. Jessica pretends that the vibes she was getting before were just off a little, but everyone’s lost interest. Jessica sulks off somewhere in the basement and takes a nap. As Lila brings the earthquake down to the party, the aftershock hits. Lila takes a header into the cake. Oh, sweet justice for Jess. Too bad she slept through the whole thing. (Fortunately, Amy takes a picture.)

In the B-plot, Steven’s new favorite band, the Katybugs, comes out with a video about animal cruelty and why people should be vegetarians. Steven’s so disturbed by the images and ideas that he reacts like Lisa in that Simpsons episode where she can’t eat lamb chops after seeing a lamb at a petting zoo. He gets very Dawn Schafer about the whole thing, annoying his family and friends with his self-righteousness.

In what I think might be an attempt to shove him out of his new habits by overloading him, Ned and Alice have the whole family adopt Steven’s new diet. The twins aren’t happy, though Elizabeth at least puts forth an effort. Steven quickly grows tired of his new self-imposed restrictions (the boy loves a bacon cheeseburger), but he knows he can’t back down, because his family and friends will call him out for being a hypocrite. Cathy tells him she understands his convictions, and she does what she can, but she’s not going to change her whole lifestyle just because some animals are cute.

Steven finally breaks down and decides to have some spaghetti and meatballs. But the earthquake hits and he drops the jar holding the sauce, ruining the last bit of non-healthy food in the house. The twins figure out what happened and follow him to Hughie’s Burger Shack (competition for the Dairi Burger? Oh, no!) after school. They catch him about to eat a burger and tease him about it. At this point he doesn’t really care anymore, and he agrees to stop trying to push his beliefs on other people if it means he can eat some meat.

The C-plot is connected to the A-plot: Elizabeth and Amy think they can only be true reporters if they experience something themselves, so they decide to stay up all night for a few nights in case the aftershock comes. That way, at least one of them will be able to write about it from first-hand experience. This leads to the girls falling asleep in school and even struggling to stay awake at Lila’s party. Of course, they’re awake for the aftershock, so they end up able to write their article without learning a lesson about responsible journalist procedures, or something.

Thoughts: These kids act like they’ve never experienced an earthquake before, but even if there hasn’t been one in Sweet Valley in 20 years, they can’t all have lived in S.V. their whole lives. None of them has ever been to L.A.? San Francisco? Any other freaking place in Southern California?

Alice has nothing to say about Elizabeth and Amy trying to stay up all night multiple nights in a row. I mean, of course.

Lloyd talks about “the magical terror of earthquakes.” Please get a life, Lloyd.

December 6, 2016

SVT #74, Elizabeth the Hero: Nobody Puts Janet in a Corner

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

That's some forehead on Denny

That’s some forehead on Denny

Summary: It’s another perfect day in Sweet Valley, and Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria are hanging out at the beach, collecting seashells. Suddenly, things go horribly wrong! Denny Jacobson, the object of Janet’s affection, is knocked out while surfing in rough water. His brother Sam is nearby but doesn’t notice anything wrong. The girls try to get his attention, but he doesn’t hear them yelling that his brother’s unconscious. So Elizabeth puts to use the lifeguard skills she’ll display in SVU and saves Denny from drowning.

Suddenly Liz is a local hero. The Jacobsons are forever in her debt. (By the way, even though it was established a long time ago that Pamela with the bad heart is one of these Jacobsons, she’s never mentioned in this book. In fact, there’s a completely different Pam.) The rescue gets media coverage, though Denny exaggerates what happened, saying the waves were twice as high as they really were, and that Liz risked being struck by lightning to save him. He goes from never noticing Elizabeth to suddenly being her biggest fan.

Liz, however, doesn’t want a biggest fan. She’s humble about what happened and doesn’t appreciate Denny making a big deal out of it. I’m not sure she gets what a big deal it is – she actually saved someone’s life. He would be dead without her. But then again, Denny gets really annoying really fast. He wants to walk her to school and carry her backpack every day. He tells everyone they run into how she saved him. He talks the school into giving her a medal (then complains that it’s too small). Liz is miserable. She’s lizerable.

Also lizerable: Janet, who resents that Denny is giving Elizabeth so much attention. She orders Jessica to fix it, threatening to take away her chances to be hostess at the upcoming Teen Health Fair. Janet’s representing SVMS and giving a speech about orthodontia, which I guess means she’s not so embarrassed about her new night gear that she won’t use it to get something she wants. As representative, she gets to pick hosts and hostesses, and for some reason, this is an honor and all the Unicorns want in.

No way is Jessica going to pass up the chance to do whatever it is a Teen Health Fair hostess does, so she comes up with an idea to get Denny to back off: Elizabeth will pretend she’s drowning at the pool, and Denny will save her. Amazingly, this doesn’t go as planned. Denny eats too much and falls asleep, so when Liz pretends she needs help, he doesn’t hear her. Amy tries to save her instead. Good old Amy. Then when Denny goes swimming, he really does need help, and Elizabeth has to save him again. Maybe Denny should just stay away from water.

Now Denny’s even more obsessed with Liz. He serenades her outside her window and needs to know where she is at all times. Alice won’t let Liz tell him off; she thinks Liz should just let him feel grateful for a while. Alice, he’s stalking her. Shhh. Steven agrees to help the twins fix things, and Joe Howell happily joins in, since Janet’s being horrible and he wants to make that stop. He’ll pretend to mug Liz and Denny, and when Denny gets rid of him, he’ll be Elizabeth’s hero. Wouldn’t that just make him think he needs to spend even more time with Liz, to protect her?

Anyway, the fake mugging occurs, but Denny attacks Joe, and Joe has to fight back. Elizabeth grabs Joe’s arm and forces him to leave, which just makes Denny think she’s saved him yet again. Janet’s so angry that she accuses Liz of stealing her boyfriend. Elizabeth almost has her convinced that she hates the situation as much as Janet does, but Bruce ruins it by saying that Liz should take Janet’s place as the Teen Health Fair representative. Janet takes out her anger on Jess, taking her out of the running for hostess. She even forbids Jess from wearing purple! THE HORROR!

Even with the backfire, Joe’s still on board to help the twins and Steven (as is Denny’s brother Sam, who should really feel more embarrassed about not noticing that his brother was dying). They realize that they need to get Janet to do something heroic so Denny will focus his hero-worshipping on her instead of Elizabeth. They come up with a complicated plan involving skates and a big papier-mâché tooth Mandy and Mary made for the health fair. Liz has to get Denny to a spot in a strip mall at a certain time so the guys can skate toward him in the tooth. Jessica will get Janet there, and Janet will push Denny out of the way.

Somehow, despite a few hiccups, this goes almost exactly as planned. Janet panics as the tooth approaches, and Maria has to knock into Amy to get her to collide with Liz and domino into Jess and Janet to get her to save Denny. But Denny’s dumb enough to think Janet saved him, and suddenly he’s all into her instead of Liz. Everyone’s happy now. Denny should maybe have a chaperone with him everywhere, though, since he keeps getting into dangerous situations.

In the B-plot, Steven and Cathy are fighting because she’s sick of him bragging about how good he is at basketball. Instead of being sad or changing his attitude, Steven decides to go after another girl, Pam Martin. Joe encourages him to talk to her, but when he pushes Steven into her path, she trips over him and immediately thinks he’s a doofus. Well, he is, but not usually like this. Joe also likes Pam, and he wants to make Steven look bad in front of her so she’ll like Joe instead. What a nice friend.

After Joe pretends to mug Elizabeth and Denny, Steven gets him to pretend to mug him and Pam, too (though he tells Joe he’ll be with Cathy). Joe doesn’t fulfill his end of the bargain, so Steven ends up chasing him down the street like an idiot. Steven spends the whole book crushing on a girl who’d be happy never seeing him again. But he finally realizes that Cathy’s great and he needs to stop being an idiot so she’ll want him back. They fix things in, like, five seconds, though I don’t know why Cathy would even want to be with Steven after he spent the whole book being a dork.

Thoughts: Way to stand around, doing nothing, while Elizabeth saves someone’s life, Amy and Maria.

Hospital admissions calls the newspaper to tell them about Elizabeth’s heroics, which has to be some kind of HIPAA violation.

Hey, Ned, why is it okay if Steven asks for six pancakes but not if Jessica does?

Joe: “Ever since this thing with Elizabeth and Denny started, Janet’s been a nightmare to live with.” She wasn’t already?

Fun with out-of-context quotes: “It’s my tooth! And it’s out of control!”

November 29, 2016

SVT #73, Lila’s Music Video: Another Dork Gets a Makeover

Posted in books tagged , , , at 5:03 pm by Jenn

Way to be discreet, Johanna

Way to be discreet, Johanna

Summary: Remember music videos? If not, the Unicorns are here to remind you. They’re hanging out at Lila’s house, watching a Melody Power video, and start dancing along. They decide to make their own video and enter it into [music TV station that isn’t MTV so don’t sue]’s School Days competition for teens. If they win, they can buy a new VCR for the school! Totally radical! Jessica’s never-consistent singing talents are currently present, so she wants to be the lead singer. But Lila has the practice space and the video camera, as well as the massive ego, so everyone is forced to let her sing lead.

The next step is to write an original song. Jessica can do the lyrics (okay, sure), but no one on the project can compose the music. Someone suggests Johanna Porter, a dork who happens to be a talented musician. Lila asks her to join the project, but Johanna declines. Lila’s shocked that someone would refuse to spend time with the coolest people in school. Johanna should be honored that someone like Lila Fowler would loser herself to even speak to her! Lila wears her down, though.

The first gathering of the music video-makers starts off horribly. No one seems to be in charge, and no one pays any attention to Johanna. Finally things start to come together, but then Lila pulls some of Jessica’s stunts from The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley, making excuses so she doesn’t have to sing. The others send Lila and Johanna off to work alone, and Lila confesses to Johanna that she can’t read music. This is the least of her problems, as Lila also can’t actually sing. Johanna can, though she’s too shy to sing in public. She agrees to work with Lila to get her voice into shape.

Lila practices a ton but doesn’t make any progress. Amazingly, she’s ready to admit defeat and concede the position of lead singer to Jessica. Then Jessica overhears Johanna telling her sister Julie that Lila can’t sing. Jess tries to get Lila to come clean, but Lila just gets mad and decides not to back down after all. She comes up with a new plan: She’ll lip-sync while Johanna sings off-stage.

Johanna doesn’t like the idea, so Lila says that Jessica found out about her lack of talent and is going to blackmail her into giving up her spot. Johanna caves and agrees to the plan. Things go so perfectly that they tape the video in only one take (okay, sure). Now that she doesn’t need Johanna anymore, Lila stops being friendly to her, which confuses the poor dork, since she thought Lila genuinely wanted to become friends.

Jessica’s suspicious, since Johanna said that Lila couldn’t sing. She watches the video over and over, looking for anything strange. She tries to get Elizabeth involved, but Liz has the flu and is barely in the book. Amy, however, is all excited for a mystery. She’s been bitten by the investigative-journalism bug and is itching to find something to expose for the Sixers. Meanwhile, the video wins first place in the School Days competition, and a [not MTV so seriously, don’t sue] VJ enters Lila in a new competition for young singers. Lila starts feeling really guilty about her lie.

Jess determines that Lila was lip-syncing in the video, and Amy publishes an exposé in the Sixers. But Johanna lies that she taught Lila to sing, and it really was her performing in the video. Jessica isn’t convinced, and when she hears Janet saying something to Kimberly about a secret, she starts to think that Janet’s behind whatever really happened.

Lila wins the second competition, of course, which means she’ll be performing on TV in L.A. She talks Johanna into pulling their lip-syncing stunt again, even though she knows it’ll be harder to do this time. She gives Johanna a makeover and tries to encourage her to have more self-confidence. I guess if you want to be more self-assured, Lila’s the right person to turn to.

While Jessica and Amy follow Janet to a super-top-secret appointment, Lila and Johanna head to L.A. in Mr. Fowler’s limo. They’re sidelined by a flat tire, so Lila decides that they should grab a bus. That’s right, Lila Fowler is willing to take public transportation. She snags her clothes on something and tells Johanna to make the driver wait while she untangles herself. Johanna practices having self-confidence by acting like Lila, which basically means being entitled. When the girls get to L.A., they realize they don’t have money for lunch or a cab to the studio, so Johanna sings with a guy playing guitar on a street corner to make some quick cash.

Back in Sweet Valley, Amy and Jessica spot Janet leaving an office building with something weird on her head. Since one of the companies in the building does something with radio satellites, they decide that Janet is going to sing there and transmit her voice to the TV studio so Lila can lip-sync. Janet admits that she’s actually wearing head gear and kept her orthodontist appointment secret so no one would know. For some reason, Amy and Jess find this harder to believe than the idea that Janet’s going to use a satellite to pull off a Milli Vanilli-style stunt.

In L.A., the studio won’t let Johanna go in with Lila, since her name isn’t on an approved list. It doesn’t matter how many times Lila insists that Johanna’s her hairstylist and absolutely has to come – only one girl can go in. So Lila convinces Johanna to go on in her place. Johanna overcomes her stage fright and gives an amazing performance (of course). People aren’t even really mad about the lie; they’re so impressed with Johanna that they quickly get over it. They realize that Johanna isn’t such a dork after all. So you see, kids? If you’re talented, everyone will like you! They certainly won’t use you, befriend you for five minutes, and then never speak to you again!

Thoughts: The Unicorns eat Ken & Harry’s ice cream and Amy gives Elizabeth a book called All the Emperor’s Tailors by Carl Birnbaum. Please kill me.

Amy does the same thing Elizabeth got in trouble for two books ago – she publishes an article without researching all sides of the story. What kind of trash publication is Mr. Bowman running?

Johanna gets her hair crimped and curled. That sounds like a disaster, and I’m so sad there’s no picture.

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