December 12, 2017

SVT Super Edition #11, Jessica’s No Angel: Truth and Consequences

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

This makes you think the book is very different from how it really is

Summary: Janet Howell is mad. (Janet seems to spend most of her life mad, yeah?) She was supposed to hang out with her boyfriend Denny, but he had to bail because he was studying for a science test. Then Janet caught him playing basketball with some friends. She wants to start a petition banning lying from SVMS. Anyone who lies has to wear an ugly shirt that reads “I am a liar.” All the Unicorns are offended on Janet’s behalf and quickly sign the petition.

The school year is winding down, and the kids will soon be rewarded with a school-wide picnic. For some reason, everyone thinks this is the sort of event they should attend with dates. Everyone quickly pairs up (including Elizabeth and Todd, of course), but Jessica, Lila, and Janet are the only Unicorns who don’t get invited. Lila wants to go with Bruce, despite never having expressed interest in him before. Jess wants to go with Aaron, and Janet has no potential suitors since she just broke up with Denny.

Janet tells Jess and Lila that the three of them can just go to the picnic together. Jess and Lila hate this idea, knowing how high-maintenance Janet is. They don’t want to spend the whole day consoling her or listening to her complain about how boys are scum. They make a deal that whoever gets a date to the picnic first gets to bow out of babysitting duty; the other girl will have to look after Janet.

Even without a date, Jessica wants a new outfit for the picnic. Her math grade has been falling, so Ned and Alice, in a rare moment of being actual parents, tell her that she’ll need to get at least a B on her next test in order to earn a reward. Suddenly, Lila shows up at the Wakefields’ house with a shocking surprise: She got a perm. It looks horrible, but Jessica doesn’t want to hurt her feelings (that must be a first), so she lies that it looks great. She secretly hopes that this will help keep boys away from Lila, which will give Jess a better chance of getting a date first.

Everyone at school makes fun of Lila, though Jess keeps up the charade that her new hairstyle looks awesome. She learns that she only got a C on her math test, so now she has bigger problems to deal with. Her math teacher, Mr. Glennon, offers her extra credit: If she walks his dog while doing some measurements (the test was on converting to the metric system), she’ll earn a B. Even Jessica, who canonically hates dogs, can’t say no to that deal.

Jessica walks the dog, Sparky, downtown, running into Denny at the bakery where he was supposed to meet Janet the day he supposedly lied about his activities. He confides that he really did have a science test to study for, but his tutor canceled the session. He tried to call Janet to meet up, but he couldn’t reach her, so he went to hang out with his friends instead. Jess encourages him to tell Janet what happened so they can make up, but Denny’s stubborn and mad that Janet thought he lied, so he doesn’t feel like making the first move.

Jess has earned her B, so Ned and Alice give her money for a new outfit. She goes to Casey’s to celebrate and runs into Bruce. As Jess hoped, Bruce thinks Lila’s hair is hideous and doesn’t want to take her to the picnic. Instead, he wants to go with Jess. Even though she still wants to go with Aaron, she doesn’t want that as badly as she doesn’t want to spend the day with Janet, so she accepts. Minutes later, Aaron asks Jessica to the picnic. She accepts that date as well, planning to set up two different blankets and go back and forth between the guys without telling them.

But Lila has also accepted a date, and hers was arranged earlier in the day, so Jess still has to hang out with Janet. Jess goes from two dates to zero in a matter of minutes. She realizes that she just has to get Janet and Denny back together so Janet will be off her hands. She tells both of them some lies about the situation, expecting them to make up without going into too many details. Elizabeth lectures her sister about lying, ticking her off so much that Jessica wishes on a shooting star that Liz will learn a lesson about why being 100% honest all the time isn’t as great as it sounds.

The results start manifesting almost immediately. Elizabeth tells Mr. Bowman that she didn’t write an essay for some competition because the topic is boring. She tells Lila that her hair looks awful and everyone has been making fun of her behind her back. She adds that even Jess thinks it’s horrible and has been lying to her about it. Liz then overhears Bruce telling Aaron that, like Jessica, he has two dates to the picnic and is even going to do the same back-and-forth thing she’d planned. Liz tells Aaron that Jessica had the same idea.

Jessica confronts Elizabeth for her overeager truth-telling just as Liz is on her way to tell Janet and Denny about how Jess lied to get them back together. Jess is able to stop her, but Elizabeth then tells Bruce that Jessica has two dates to the picnic. Bruce dumps Jess, and Aaron was already ticked at her, so she’s back to having no date to the picnic. Also, Denny and Janet have broken up again, since a simple conversation about their reunion makes them realize that Jess lied to both of them.

Elizabeth further ruins her sister’s life by telling their parents that she only got a B on her test after she did extra credit. I’m not sure why this matters, since the deal didn’t say anything about how or when the B had to be earned, and at least Jessica did the work, unlike Cher, who just talked her way into higher grades. Anyway, Ned and Alice are mad that Jess misled them about her grade, and they ground her. Jessica tries to undo her earlier wish by wishing on another shooting star that Elizabeth will stop being so honest.

This means that Liz starts lying all the time. She uses the “my dog ate my homework” story on Mr. Bowman. She tells Aaron that Jessica actually turned down Bruce’s invitation to the picnic, but he pretended she’d accepted. She tells Janet that Jess only lied because she wanted to get her and Denny back together. Suddenly everyone’s happy, and Aaron even asks Jess to the picnic again.

Lila tells Liz that she wants payback, but it’ll only work if Jessica is ungrounded. Elizabeth helps out by smoothing things over with Ned and Alice. Lila takes Jess to a salon for a makeover, secretly making sure she gets a perm so she looks as hideous as Lila does. Well, as Lila did – she gets her hair straightened at the same time, so now Jess is the only one with the outdated hairstyle.

That night, Jessica spots Sparky outside her house during a big thunderstorm. She goes to rescue him, in the process getting in a big fight with Liz about how Liz’s recent actions have affected her. Jess just wishes that things would go back to normal. She trails Sparky to Denny’s house, where the poor dog hides from the storm under a car in the garage. Jess and Denny need a way to coax the dog out, so they go to the bakery to get a piece of the cake Sparky liked the last time Jess took him there.

Janet’s at the bakery, buying the last piece of the same cake Jess needs. At first Janet thinks the two of them are dating now, but Denny explains what’s going on. They convince Janet to hand over the cake, then realize that she was buying it as a peace offering for Denny. Jess and Denny successfully get the dog out of hiding and return him to Mr. Glennon. Unfortunately, Ned and Alice are furious when Jess gets home and has a seemingly dumb explanation for why she was running around in a thunderstorm.

The good news is that getting rained on all night has ruined Jessica’s perm (a lesson we all learned from Legally Blonde), so her hair is back to normal. Jess explains to Aaron why she accepted Bruce’s invitation to the picnic, even though she didn’t want to go with him. Janet and Denny have made up, which means Jess can go to the picnic with Aaron. Or at least she could, if Ned and Alice hadn’t told her she can’t go.

Mr. Glennon to the rescue! He calls them in for a parent-teacher conference and tells them how grateful he is that Jessica saved Sparky. He then reveals that he graded her test wrong; she had a B even before the extra credit. In fact, her grade is improving, and she’s on track to get an A in the class. Ned and Alice reward Jess by allowing her to go to the picnic. Elizabeth uses the experience to write an essay for the competition about truth and consequences. She doesn’t know what happened to make her behave so strangely, but it seems to be over. P.S. No one picked up the “I am a liar” shirts Janet ordered, so the store put them on clearance, and Mr. Clark bought one. It’s orange with pink lettering. Oh, Mr. Clark. Why?

Thoughts: It’s 1998 and only one computer in the middle school’s lab is connected to the Internet. Aww.

Also, it’s 1998 and people are still getting perms. Though, according to Legally Blonde, they were still getting them through at least 2001.

“So now that you look good again, and I’m free, I was thinking this works out sort of perfectly.” Even if I didn’t tell you Bruce was the one who said this, you would know it was him, wouldn’t you?

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December 5, 2017

SVT #114, The Boyfriend Mess: You’re 12! Stop Worrying About Love!

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 4:57 pm by Jenn

Scrunchie sighting!

Summary: The couples from Young Love have gathered for their prize trip to Dizzy Planet. No one’s happy (except for totally-in-the-dark Todd, who thinks he’s going with Elizabeth, and Maria, who doesn’t mind spending the day with Patrick), since no one has matched with the person they wanted to be with. But if they want their Valentine’s Day dance, they have to fulfill their contractual obligations. No one seems to remember that they’ve all been wanting to go to Dizzy Planet, so hanging out with people they may not like is a small price to pay.

Jessica wants to get Todd carsick so she can ditch him and hang out with Byron. The plan backfires, and instead Byron ends up carsick. Byron’s cousin Marshall (well, he says he’s Byron’s cousin, but he sounds kind of uncertain) is tagging along, and he and Maria hit it off right away. Now she’s not quite as thrilled about having to spend the day with Patrick when she could be spending it with Marshall.

Sophia learns that the show is trying to catch “cheaters,” and she worries that she and Patrick will get busted for trying to rig their match. She takes a bus to Dizzy Planet but can’t afford the entrance fee. She manages to sneak in with a group of kids from a daycare by pretending to be a chaperone. Elizabeth also learns about the hunt for cheaters and accidentally stumbles into a way to enter the park without paying – Byron mistakes her for Jessica and brings her in. He also gives her a shirt from the show, so now the twins are accidentally dressed alike.

While the girls search the park for Patrick and Jessica, Maria tries to get some alone time with Marshall. For some reason, these 12-year-olds are willing to admit that they want to ride a carousel. Todd wants to win Elizabeth (really Jessica) a teddy bear by playing some sort of bowling game, but the bear costs 100 tickets and Todd isn’t very good at the game. Jessica’s getting more and more bored by the second.

Liz finds her sister and asks to undo their twin switch so she can hang out with Todd. Jessica jumps at the chance to go find Byron and spend the day with him instead. But she also has to make sure he doesn’t see Todd with Elizabeth and bust the twins for their scheme. The twins and their guys end up on the same water ride, and Jess has to fall overboard to distract Byron from seeing Liz and Todd together. Meanwhile, Liz herself is so distracted by the scheme that Todd thinks she’s lost interest in him and takes off alone.

Sophia finds Patrick and shares her theory that Marshall was sent to spy on him. She thinks Patrick can fool him by pretending he really wants to be with Maria. Patrick takes it too far, though, and Maria blasts him for showering her with affection right in front of Sophia. Good for Maria for being all sisters before misters here. Patrick explains what’s going on to Maria, but now she thinks Marshall was just being nice to her because he was sent to spy on her. Her and Sophia’s day have been ruined.

When it’s time for everyone to leave the park, Maria doesn’t get on the van with everyone else. Apparently this is a violation of the contract, and if she doesn’t come home with everyone else, they have to forfeit the dance. The people there with the show find this amusing, apparently forgetting that they’ll have to tell Maria’s parents that they lost her.

Amy tracks down Maria, who’s moping because she thinks everyone in Sweet Valley is awful. Amy reminds her that she has friends, then encourages her to get in the van because if she loses the dance for everyone, they’ll be even more awful to her. So Maria secures the dance for her classmates, but then Byron, who says he’s suspected the twin switch all day, tricks “Elizabeth” into outing herself as Jessica. He doesn’t care, though, since the same twin who came in the morning is going home with the group. And at least now Todd knows why “Elizabeth” was acting so weird all day.

Everyone goes to the dance, where Byron reveals that he’s been filming them all day for a new show about the negative side of dating. They were only looking for “cheaters” so they could feature them on the new show. Byron waxes poetic about love, and how it can be tough, and blah blah blah, they’re 12, dude. They’re all going to break up next week for stupid reasons.

Elizabeth and Sophia are busted for their scheming, but they don’t get in trouble, so it doesn’t matter. Everyone ends up with his or her preferred partner, including Maria, who learns that Marshall, while not a spy, is really Byron’s nephew. (His sister is a lot older and had a child just a few years after Byron was born. They find it easier to say they’re cousins than to explain their real relationship. No one cares.)

In other news, Janet and Donald wound up having a great day together and are now practically BFFs. Who knew?

Thoughts: The kids seem to think that enjoying their time together is part of the deal for the party, but there’s no way that’s enforceable. Plus, the odds are pretty low that all those couples who were paired off because one of them liked three answers the other gave to random questions would be 100% compatible.

One of the women from the show, when Maria doesn’t show up to the van: “You don’t like it, blame her. Tear her apart Monday morning when she gets to school. Or poison her milk.” LADY. You should not be allowed around children.

Maria is suddenly insecure about what people think of her. It’s really out of character for her.

Marshall calls the SVMS kids “the losingest bunch of stuck-up dorks I’ve ever met.” He’s not wrong.

November 28, 2017

SVT #113, The Boyfriend Game: Let’s Make a Date

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

The guy on the far left is very, very ’90s. Like, every guy in my school dressed like that

Summary: The hottest show in Sweet Valley right now is Young Love, a dating show where middle-schoolers get to question three unseen potential suitors and then go out with them. Ahh, yes, the ever-elusive preteen-matchmaking market has finally been targeted. The show is holding a contest for local schools who want to send students on the show; all couples matched on the show get a trip to Dizzy Planet, a new theme park everyone wants to go to. To enter the running to be chosen, SVMS has to submit a group photo and an essay on why they should be considered.

A bunch of different clubs write essays, and Elizabeth is one of the students put in charge of choosing which should be submitted to the show. Since each essay does such a good job of highlighting a portion of the student body, Liz decides that all the essays should be submitted so the show’s producers can see how eclectic the school is. They have to take the group photo multiple times, since the Unicorns keep ruining it, but ultimately, SVMS sends in their essays and photo, and they’re chosen to be on Young Love.

Now the kids at SVMS get to sign up to be contestants or candidates (the potential dates the contestants can choose from). They’re sworn to secrecy so no one can make any arrangements to choose/be chosen by someone they want to go out with. Liz is chosen as a contestant, while Jess is picked to be a candidate, though she’d rather just go out with the show’s host, Byron Miller. Sophia Rizzo is also a candidate, and her boyfriend Patrick is a contestant, which they tell each other even under threat of disqualification for violating the secrecy agreement. They want to come up with a way to ensure they end up together.

Jess watches the show to figure out which candidates are more likely to be chosen for dates. She realizes that honesty and sincerity are big pluses, but being Jess, she has no idea how to be either of those things, so she goes to Liz for help. Liz is like, “Tell…the truth? Maybe?” Jess: “That sounds difficult, but maybe I can fake it.” Also, this is ironic considering what Liz pulls next.

Elizabeth isn’t that familiar with the show, so she’s worried when she learns from Amy that Byron sometimes teases the contestants. (They’re children, Byron. Take it easy.) Liz doesn’t want to be embarrassed on TV, but she still wants to go to Dizzy Planet, so she asks Jess to pull a twin switch with her. So much for honesty. Jessica doesn’t really care how she gets to Dizzy Planet, so she easily agrees to pretend to be Liz.

Patrick and Sophia start sneaking around to try to meet up to discuss how they’re going to rig the show. Guys, you’re dating. No one would find it suspicious if you were seen hanging out. They’ve heard about the game-show scandals of the ’50s and are worried that they’ll get busted and investigated by the FBI. Patrick’s really paranoid and barely listens when Sophia tries to tell him what their secret signal will be. Contestants get to pick the questions they ask the candidates, so Patrick will need to ask his three potential dates about their favorite foods. Sophia will answer, “Poetry, for woman does not live by bread alone.”

The twins pull their switch the day of the taping, and no one notices. Jessica is up first, and her three potential suitors are Todd, Bruce, and Winston (though she doesn’t know this, as they’re separated by a divider and the guys are using voice-changing mics). Even though Jess makes a fool of herself in front of Byron, she accidentally makes Liz and Todd look like they’re meant to be, or something, by picking Todd as her date. She’s disappointed that she won’t get to go to Dizzy Planet as Bruce’s date, but at least she won’t have to hang out with Winston.

Liz’s fellow candidates are Amy and Ellen, and their contestant is Aaron. Liz realizes that if she and Jess hadn’t pulled their switch, they could have a chance at being with their preferred guys. But Aaron ends up picking Amy, since Liz was too preoccupied by the switch to give good answers, and Ellen probably doesn’t even know where she is. Now the twins can’t even undo their switch and go to Dizzy Planet with the guys they like.

After Janet takes her turn as a contestant and unwittingly picks nerdy Donald Zwerdling as her date, Patrick is up. His choices are Sophia, Maria, and some other girl who’s not important. Patrick forgets the signal question and instead asks what the girls think of poetry. Each gives an answer that includes the word “bread,” so Patrick has no idea which one is Sophia. He accidentally chooses Maria as his date. Sophia’s so annoyed with him that Patrick is probably glad he gets to spend the trip to Dizzy Planet with someone other than her.

Everyone’s upset with the way things turned out, but they learn that they have to go on their dates to Dizzy Planet or the show won’t put on the Valentine’s Day dance that serves as part of their prize. The ones who pulled twin switches or rigged the game also can’t say anything, for fear of having the whole school punished. Basically, the only person who’s happy at the end of the book is Maria, who has no idea why everyone else is mad at each other. This will, I’m sure, all get worked out in the next book.

Thoughts: “Honest and sincere. Jessica thought about that for a moment. It was definitely an approach she wouldn’t have come up with on her own.” Yeah, that’s a shocker.

When asked which Johnny Buck song best describes what he’s looking for in romance, Bruce picks “Forever Fever,” “because that’s what any girl gets when she’s with me.” From an STD, right?

Todd wants to be a dolphin, because “they’re so beautiful and smart.” Oh, Todd. You’re beautiful on the inside.

I’m so disappointed that we barely get to witness the moment Janet discovers she matched with Donald. I bet you could hear her scream from two counties away.

Aaron’s a jerk. Jessica can do better.

November 21, 2017

SVT #112, If Looks Could Kill: No TV and No Fighting Make the Wakefields…Something Something

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:01 pm by Jenn

No, I don’t know why it’s called “If Looks Could Kill”

Summary: It’s New Year’s Eve, and of course there’s a party. This one will be at Lila’s house. The twins go shopping and pick out matching makeup bags. Jessica’s the only one who wants to actually use hers for makeup; Elizabeth has recently gotten into rock-collecting and thinks the bag will be perfect to store her collection. Jess hates the idea of having the same bag as her dorky sister with her dorky new hobby, so she ditches the bag. Liz does, too, since it’s expensive. So that whole part of the book was pointless, and only sets up a new fight between the twins.

The girls run into a new classmate, Eric, and Jess invites him to Lila’s party. She already has a crush on him, but Eric seems to have more in common with Liz, as he also likes rocks. Meanwhile, Joe Howell spots Eric’s sister, Patty, and tries to flirt with her. She’s nice to him but doesn’t seem that interested. Steven has a much easier time talking to Patty, though she doesn’t show much interest in him either.

The Wakefield kids all go home, where the twins get into a fight over Eric. Alice tells them that their aunt and uncle have invited them to go skiing during their next school break, but the twins’ constant bickering makes her think they’re not mature enough to go away without their parents. Alice, you’re looking at this all wrong: If they go away on a trip, they’re out of the house and you don’t have to deal with them. But no, Alice decides that Steven can go on the trip, but the twins have to earn it.

The twins really want to go skiing, so they quickly come up with an idea: Their New Year’s resolution will be to stop fighting for a whole week. Steven hates the idea of his little sisters tagging along on the ski trip, and he complains to his mother that she wasn’t hard enough on them. Alice ignores this and instead notes that Steven has been watching a lot of TV lately. Steven volunteers to stop watching TV, movies, and videotapes for a week, though at this point he’s not getting anything out of the deal.

At Lila’s party, Janet becomes smitten with Eric and basically calls dibs on him. Then Janet starts hassling Elizabeth, telling Jessica to let her know how dumb her rock collection is. If Jess doesn’t, she may be kicked out of the Unicorns. Remembering her resolution, Jessica defends her twin. Then she has to tell her friends about her resolution, so they don’t think she actually likes her sister.

Some of the other girls decide to make resolutions as well. Lila thinks they should compete – anyone who breaks her resolution has to wear a cloth diaper to the party Janet’s having in a week. For some reason, they all agree to this. The winner gets nothing other than the satisfaction of not wearing a diaper. Weak. Anyway, the resolutions:

  • Amy has been late for school a lot recently, so she resolves to be on time.
  • Maria wants to stop being vain, and will give up looking at herself in the mirror.
  • Lila will stop bragging for a week.
  • Janet will give up all sweets.

Steven and Joe somehow get roped into the competition as well; Steven will make his TV ban official, and Joe will avoid going to Casey’s for a week. The kids seem to be on the honor system for the competition, and the threat of having to wear a diaper in front of their classmates is enough to keep them on their best behavior.

On top of the competition, Steven still wants to get the twins banned from the ski trip, so he tries to come up with ways to get them to fight. Nothing works. Meanwhile, everyone else in the competition gets really serious about it. Amy even makes up scorecards with “kill” columns so they can check off when someone breaks a resolution. Everyone wants to make Janet break, but Lila’s the one who cracks first. It makes sense, since bragging is so much a part of who she is.

Janet proves to be a master manipulator, taking down both Amy and Maria even as the others try to get her to break her resolution. Maria’s easy to crack, since it only takes one glance in a mirror to make that kill. Amy’s tougher, but Janet turns her own manipulation against her. Amy takes Janet to a bunch of places to try to tempt her with sweets, but makes the mistake of eating them all herself. Janet just sits back and lets Amy stuff herself until she’s sick, thereby ensuring that she doesn’t make it to school on time the next day.

Steven is now desperate to get the twins to fight, and he turns to Janet for help. In exchange, Steven will get Janet a date with Eric. They’re not very good at this, though; their plan is to have the Unicorns run into Elizabeth at a rock and mineral show, and make Liz think that Jess brought her friends to mock her, but the twins just pretend everything is great. However, Elizabeth is starting to crack, and when the kids go to Casey’s, and Jess orders the same shake Liz wanted, Liz throws a tantrum.

Because the answering machine had started to pick up when Steven called Janet to present his plan, Joe is able to hear their conversation and learn that they’re plotting against the twins. He doesn’t want Janet to win the competition, so he runs to Casey’s to warn the twins that she’s trying to take them down. Unfortunately, this means he’s broken his own resolution, so he’s out. Then the twins eliminate Steven by talking up some awesome action movie and getting him to watch it in secret. It’s actually an episode of Jess’ soap, Days of Turmoil, so Steven didn’t even get eliminated for something cool.

The twins and Janet are the only people left in the competition, so the twins bring in the big guns: Eric. They get him to bake cookies for Janet’s party, then pretend to be disappointed when she declines to try one. Since Janet doesn’t want her new crush to think she’s a loser, she has to eat a cookie, thereby removing herself from the competition. This means the twins win the competition and are the only participants who don’t have to wear diapers to the party,

But Steven gets one last swing in by telling each twin that the other is going to buy the diapers, leading to a fight when neither has them. This should mean they can’t go on the ski trip, but now Ned and Alice have been invited along, so the whole family is going. Sorry, Steven. The twins make up, Eric dances with both of them at the party, and no one wears diapers. So what was described as a book where the twins fight over a guy turned out to be something completely different (and actually kind of fun to read).

Thoughts: Alice should have offered Steven something in exchange for his week without TV. He had no incentive to try it.

TV shows in the Sweet Valley universe: Celebrity Ping-Pong (which I’m surprised hasn’t become a real thing yet) and The Extra-Late Show hosted by Daniel Betterman. Sigh.

Quotable Liz, when the twins are listing things Steven might like about the fake movie: “And the babes. They were so, like, um, pretty.”

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.

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.

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