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 1, 2017

SVT #99, The Beast Must Die: I’ll See You in My Dreams

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

Two girls, two awful outfits

Summary: We pick up right where The Beast is Watching You left off, with the twins trapped in Eva’s bedroom while a fire is burning downstairs. The Riccoli kids are all asleep and somehow don’t hear the girls yelling and pounding on the door. Fortunately, Steven happens to be on his way over to scare his sisters, and he rescues the kids. Eva’s ticked and adds Steven to her kill list. The twins manage to break down the door, and Steven’s plan to scare them succeeds as they’re terrified to see what they think is a monster with the kids. (He’s wearing a mask.) When Mrs. Riccoli comes home, she figures Andrew, who has a history of playing with matches, started the fire, but he insists he was asleep. Steven backs that up.

Jessica already wasn’t that thrilled to be babysitting so much, and after this latest scare, she announces she’s done going to the Riccolis’ house. Alice is relieved, as she’s never liked how much time the twins have been spending at the old Sullivan house. Alice flashback time! Eva hates going to sleep because she has horrible nightmares, but Alice assures her that nothing will happen to her while Alice is around.

One afternoon when the twins are enjoying their free time, Mrs. Riccoli calls to beg them to come over. Her mother has been hospitalized, and Mrs. Riccoli has to fly out to Florida to see her right away. She apparently doesn’t know anyone else in town, so she asks two 12-year-olds to watch her kids for the weekend. (Remember that Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor, which means she must know a few dozen 20-somethings who would be much more responsible, and would probably appreciate the money. But whatever.) Jessica reluctantly accepts the job once Mrs. Riccoli offers to pay her and Liz triple their usual rate.

Elizabeth isn’t happy to have to cancel her plans with friends, but she can’t in good conscience leave the Riccolis in the lurch, so she and Jess go over for their marathon sitting job. (Todd will be joining them later.) Liz falls asleep and dreams about going back to Eva’s room, where a doll comes to life. The monster girl from the kids’ dreams attacks, trying to strangle her. Jessica wakes up her sister when she screams in her sleep, and both realize that Liz now has red marks on her neck.

Alice calls to check on her daughters, then has another flashback: One night when she was sitting for Eva, her friends Dyan, Jim, and Walter came by to visit. These would be Amy’s mother, and Todd and Winston’s fathers. Alice and Jim appear to have crushes on each other, which we’ve never heard about before and never will again. Nothing happens in this scene, really; it’s just setting up the kids’ friendship.

Over at the Riccolis’ house, Elizabeth asks Jess to wake her up after she’s been asleep for five minutes. She dreams about Eva’s room again, and the monster girl threatens her. Jess falls asleep as well and winds up in Liz’s dream. They hide from Eva, but she finds them and tries to strangle both twins. Fortunately, Todd arrives and wakes them up before Eva can finish them off. But somehow, Eva’s teddy bear makes it to the real world with them. Spooky…

The babysitters decide to try to stay awake the rest of the night, but Todd nods off for a little while and also dreams about Eva. Amy and Winston come over the next morning to relieve the overnight sitters and learn about the weird goings-on in the house. Wait…the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston – the children of Alice, Dyan, Jim, and Walter? No way! What a strange coincidence! When the twins get home, they ask Alice about Eva, but Alice won’t tell them anything.

All five sitters go back to the house for a second night of sitting, and the sitters decide they need to stay awake all night. (By the way, the kids have stopped having nightmares, so at least the job is a lot easier now.) Jess tries to make coffee, but she screws it all up. Winston realizes it was decaf anyway, so it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d made it right. The sitters play board games for a while, but that’s not exactly a thrill a minute.

Eventually they decide that they can sleep for ten minutes at a time, setting an alarm to wake them up before Eva can attack them in their dreams. I’m sure sleeping in ten-minute increments all night will make them feel refreshed and ready to take care of five kids the next day! Winston accidentally unplugs the alarm clock, which Eva was about to unplug anyway, and all five sitters end up in the same dream. They’re all on the house’s widow’s walk, and Eva is thrilled to have them all in one place.

In the B-plot, Steven and Joe, who have just started a landscaping business, get a job from a man named Mr. Morgan. He needs them to spiff up his yard over the weekend, to get it ready for a dinner party on Sunday. Steven takes one look at Mr. Morgan’s daughter, Karen, and falls instantly in love. Joe proposes a bet: Whichever of them can’t get a date with Karen for Saturday night has to take one of the twins’ jobs at the Riccolis’ house.

Steven is completely oblivious to the fact that Karen clearly has no interest in him, and that’s even before Joe charms her a little. Then it turns out that Karen already has a boyfriend, which will make winning the bet even harder. But Joe manages to pull it off, getting a date with Karen while Steven does most of the landscaping work. Then Steven gets pulled over for riding his lawn mower in the street. Womp womp. At least he has a chance to make some money at the Riccolis’ house. You know, if Eva doesn’t murder everyone there first.

Thoughts: If I ever decide it’s a good idea for 12-year-olds to watch my five kids for an entire weekend, I authorize someone to call Child Protective Services on me.

Steven, who’s 14, doesn’t know what a cul-de-sac is. I’m so sad.

“He’d never even thought of feet as having looks before – but hers were amazing.” That’s a side of Steven I never wanted to know about.

July 25, 2017

SVT #98, The Beast is Watching You: Sweet Dreams, Sweet Valley

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

The scariest thing about this is Jessica’s outfit

Summary: The girl from Too Scared to Sleep is still keeping an eye on the twins when they come to the old Sullivan house, ready to do something terrible to them if they ever fall asleep there. They’re none the wiser, and are even trying to explain away the weird stuff from their last sitting job with the Riccolis. They figure that Juliana was scratched by the cat and only thought a girl was responsible because of her nightmares. Jessica has also convinced herself that the Alice in the picture she saw in the hidden room isn’t her mother.

After the kids go to bed, the twins try to stay calm in the big, dark, possibly haunted house. Steven and Joe show up to scare them, traumatizing the kids in the process. Ned and Alice do some actual parenting, telling Steven not to go anywhere near the twins when they’re babysitting. Jessica mentions that Steven would have less time on his hands if he got a job like the twins did. Her parents think this is a wonderful idea. Steven does not. More on that in the B-plot.

Alice has a flashback to sitting at the old Sullivan house for a girl named Eva. Eva has night terrors and often sleepwalks, which is a big problem because her room’s on the third floor and there’s a balcony off of it. Alice has to make sure to lock the balcony whenever she puts Eva to bed. Eva likes to wear bunny slippers, but Alice only lets her wear one to bed because both would muffle her footsteps and prevent Alice from knowing where she is when she sleepwalks. It’s pretty obvious by this point that Eva is the girl watching the twins, and something horrible happened while Alice was babysitting her as a preteen.

Juliana seems to have gotten past her nightmares, but they’ve been passed on to her sister Gretchen. She dreams about a “monster girl” in a nightgown with yellow flowers on it – the same nightgown Eva wore as a child. The girl tries to push Gretchen down the stairs, but Gretchen wakes up. On another night, when Elizabeth and Todd are babysitting together, they smell smoke in Andrew’s bedroom but don’t find any signs of a fire. The boy tells them that he dreamed about a girl with a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper who set the room on fire.

Jessica sits with Elizabeth again and falls asleep while putting Gretchen to bed. She dreams about the house back when the Sullivans lived there and is horrified at the sight of a grotesque figure wearing a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper. The girl tries to push Jessica off the balcony, but Jess wakes up. She realizes that her shirt is ripped, just as it was ripped in her dream. At first the twins think that Jess just dreamed what Gretchen’s been dreaming because she’s heard all about it, but Elizabeth realizes that Jess never knew about the single bunny slipper, since only Andrew has mentioned it.

Things get worse when Gretchen sleepwalks and falls down the stairs while Jessica and Winston are watching the kids. She tells them she was dreaming about the monster girl. At this point, I would be taking all the kids to a psychiatrist, because clearly something is wrong, and it can’t just be about the move and the fact that their father hasn’t yet joined them permanently. I might also consider moving out, if my kids are all having the same dream about some monster who hasn’t been in a movie or TV show they all saw.

One night when the twins are sitting again, they decide to check out the third-floor room. They find a single bunny slipper in the closet and start freaking out. Then the door shuts and they can’t get it open. They smell smoke as Eva sets a fire to try to get rid of her unwelcome housemates once and for all.

In the B-plot, Ned gets a riding mower, and Steven and Joe decide to use it to start a landscaping business. Guys, it’s not landscaping if you’re just mowing lawns. Ned tells Steven he needs to read the user’s manual before he even turns on the mower. Steven is a moron and ignores him. He and Joe wreck the Wakefields’ yard, run over the neighbor’s fence, and almost drive the mower into the pool. For some reason, Ned doesn’t take the keys away and tell them to go get jobs at the mall.

While competing to see who can do a better job with the mower (the winner gets to name their business), Steven and Joe can’t get it to turn off. They ride it in circles around the yard, one behind the wheel and one on the hood. There’s an actual funny moment where the twins watch from the house, wondering if they should videotape the boys or place bets on how many laps they’ll end up taking. The boys take the mower out on the road and finally get it to stop at the Riccolis’ house. Mrs. Riccoli sees them and hires them to take care of the property, since the gardener died in the last book. Mrs. Riccoli, I’m going to tell you right now that this is a horrible idea.

Thoughts: Steven mentions a book called Dog Walking for Fun and Profit. That must be a short book. Step 1: Walk dogs. Step 2: Profit.

Jessica notes that Mrs. Riccoli is messy and leaves things like scissors on the floor of her study. Mrs. R., you have a two-year-old. Get it together.

“For safety reasons, the emergency shutoff may only be used once every ten minutes.” How is that safe? How is that mower manufacturer still in business?

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!”

October 11, 2016

SVT #67, Jessica the Thief: American Swiper

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:54 pm by Jenn

I probably would have worn Jessica's skirt when I was her age

I probably would have worn Jessica’s skirt when I was her age

Summary: Veronica Brooks is settling in at SVMS, and she wants to become a Unicorn. Elizabeth is the only person who thinks Veronica is bad news. This is even after Veronica threatened to get even with Jessica at the end of the last book. The Unicorns haven’t yet invited Veronica to join them, possibly because right now they’re more interested in their newest accessories. Lila just got a Watchman (a watch/TV combo) and Ellen’s been allowed to wear her mother’s expensive hoop earrings to school.

At lunch, Ellen takes off her earrings (they’re heavy) and leaves them at the table while a bunch of the Unicorns go get cookies. Jessica and Veronica hang behind a little. When everyone gets back to the table, the earrings are missing. Then, at Boosters practice (which Veronica hangs around, since Bruce is also in the gym), Janet’s hairbrush and Lila’s newest Teenager magazine disappear. Veronica wonders if the same person took the magazine, hairbrush, and earrings. Jessica thinks the girls are all just bad at keeping track of their stuff.

Some of the girls chat about the disappearances in the bathroom, nicknaming the thief the Sweet Valley Swiper. Jessica admires Mandy’s new hat, which she got from a thrift store. By the way, everyone used to see Mandy’s style as low-class, but now she’s considered quirky and unique. She accidentally leaves the hat in the bathroom, and when she goes back to get it…well, of course it’s gone. The Sweet Valley Swiper strikes again!

Elizabeth fancies herself a detective, so she takes an interest in the case. She figures that since the hat was taken from the girls’ bathroom, the thief is probably a girl. Well, yeah – a guy probably isn’t going to steal earrings and a brush. Next, Mandy’s jacket vanishes. Ellen thinks her deodorant was also stolen, which leads to a lot of jokes about how she smells. There’s a pattern emerging beyond girls having their things taken – they’re all things Jessica has admired. Also, only the Unicorns have been victims of the thefts.

The pattern breaks when Veronica reports her notebook missing. The girls finally tell the principal, Mr. Clark, who promises to get the teachers to keep their eyes out. Elizabeth and Amy apparently solved mysteries together as kids, calling themselves the Snoopers, and they consider getting back together for one last case. How is this situation different from the other times they’ve teamed up to solve mysteries?

Lila gets her Watchman taken away in class, and when she goes to get it back from the teacher, it’s gone. I’m impressed that the thief was able to grab it without the teacher seeing. Later, Lila gets a note telling her she can find the Watchman in Jessica’s locker. Indeed, that’s where it is, though Jess has no idea how it got there. Half the Unicorns turn on her, thinking she’s the swiper. They want to oust her from the Unicorns and replace her with Veronica.

Even Elizabeth isn’t sure about her sister’s innocence. After all, Jessica borrowed her sweatshirt and lost it…or did she steal it? But Elizabeth thinks that Occam’s Razor is bull: The simplest explanation is that Jess is the thief, but that’s too easy. She’s probably being framed. Liz decides to focus on the note Lila got about the Watchman’s location, but she’s already thrown it out. Elizabeth recruits Amy to help her dig through the trash at school, which means Amy is a much better friend to Liz than I could ever be. Too bad they don’t find the note. Right now the only thing going in Jess’ favor is the fact that Aaron doesn’t think she’s the swiper.

Elizabeth sees the Unicorns hanging out with Veronica and thinks she’s cracked the case. She comes up with a multi-step plan to catch the swiper. First, Jessica pretends to be sick so she can stay home from school. Elizabeth goes to school as her twin, saying Liz is the one who’s sick. She chats with Veronica, telling her that Mandy still believes in Jessica’s innocence. The only thing that could make her turn on Jess is if her favorite rhinestone pin disappeared.

Guess what disappears not long after? Like Lila, Mandy gets a note telling her Jess took the pin. But Elizabeth announces that she’s not Jess, and that Jess isn’t even at school today, so there’s no way she could have taken the pin. Mandy calls Alice to confirm that Liz is who she says she is, getting confirmation when Jessica can’t spell “thief.” But even with Jess out of school, the pin is in her locker.

Elizabeth tells Mandy and Lila that she’s figured it out: Veronica is the thief. She framed Jessica to get her kicked out of the Unicorns. While Amy goes to get Mr. Clark, Elizabeth and Mandy stage a fight so Veronica will overhear. Veronica thinks Mandy’s mad at “Jessica” for stealing her pin, but the girls point out that they never mentioned a pin being missing. Mandy even says it’s not gone.

Elizabeth notes that only the thief would know it was missing. Veronica tries to blame Jessica, but Liz tells her that Jess isn’t at school. Mr. Clark checks Veronica’s locker, where all the missing things have been stashed. Jessica’s name is cleared, and Veronica’s suspended. Jess figures out that Veronica got her locker combination from a book she borrowed from Jess. The Unicorns, amazingly, feel horrible about the way they treated Jess, and they bring her ice cream as a peace offering. Also, Jess finds Elizabeth’s missing sweatshirt, proving once and for all that she may be a thoughtless sister, but she’s not a thief.

The B-plot is kind of entertaining. Steven and Joe take tests to see if they qualify for MEGA (the Mentally Gifted Association), the Sweet Valley-verse’s version (say that five times fast) of MENSA. Steven’s mailed results say he’s in the 99th percentile, the “genius intelligence quoshent [sic].” Steven thinks this is awesome, not just because it means he’s super-smart but also because Jess told him she would never tease him again if he got a genius score on the test.

Suddenly Steven has a new hobby: being an intellectual. He gets interested in tort law, chess, opera, and a Jeopardy-style TV show called Q&A. Even the twins are impressed with his ability to answer all the questions correctly. He gets Joe to watch a documentary about the mating habits of porcupines. Everyone finds him insufferable now, since he just wants to talk about high-brow things, and doesn’t even want to play basketball anymore.

On her day home “sick,” Jessica helps clean Steven’s room and does some detective work of her own. She finds a list of answers (or questions, I guess) from the episode of Q&A they watched, and realizes that he cheated – they watched a taped episode that Steven had already seen. Along with some other evidence proving that Steven isn’t, in fact, a genius, Jess is able to bust her brother.

Steven admits that he was playing a joke on Joe; he knew Joe made up the test results. Messing with the twins was just a bonus for Steven. Now he wants the girls to help him get payback. A bunch of the Wakefield kids’ friends come over, and Janet tells Jessica that Joe made up the test results to mess with Steven. Jessica pretends that Steven has no idea. Then Steven announces that his genius IQ makes him too smart for high school, so he’s going to drop out and try to get into Harvard. Joe tries to pretend that the test results were a mistake (there’s a guy out there named Steven Wokefield who doesn’t know he’s a genius), but Steven comes clean. Everyone’s amused by the whole thing.

Thoughts: A watch that you can watch TV on is so ahead of its time.

“When a crime seems too easy to solve, there’s probably a good reason.” And maybe the reason is that the criminal was too dumb to avoid getting caught.

Rick Hunter thought Jessica was too much of a klutz to be a thief. I don’t get that logic. She would have dropped the things she tried to steal? She would have tripped while taking them? Please explain yourself, Rick.

August 9, 2016

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

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

What are you even looking at, Jess?

What are you even looking at, Jess?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2016

SVT #57, Big Brother’s in Love!: Matchmakers, Matchmakers, Make Him a Match…

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:07 pm by Jenn

Please try not to think about how much Cathy looks like the twins

Please try not to think about how much Cathy looks like the twins

Summary: Despite their horrible date in the last book, Steven still likes Jill and wants to find a way to win her over. Janet thinks the whole thing is ridiculous, since Jill is now dating Joe and clearly doesn’t have any romantic interest in Steven. Jessica decides to take advantage of the situation by making a bet with Janet: If she proves over the next week that Steven’s over Jill, Janet has to hand over her two tickets to a TV show called Staying Up with Bob. If Jess fails, Janet gets Elizabeth’s new camera.

Elizabeth is furious with Jess for using something that belongs to her in a bet, but Jessica is confident that she can beat Janet. Since Liz loves Staying Up with Bob (ugh, what a horrible title), Jess is easily able to convince her twin to help show that Steven is over Jill. Jessica figures the best way to do this is to get him interested in someone else. And the best candidate for that someone else is his friend Cathy Connors.

The twins make a big plan to send Cathy a series of gifts from a secret admirer, attached to a few letters of Steven’s name. By the time Cathy gets the last of the gifts, she’ll have all the letters and be able to figure out who her secret admirer is. While I find this plan creative, it doesn’t guarantee that Steven will want to be with Cathy instead of Jill. It doesn’t even guarantee that Cathy will want to be with Steven. In fact, it could backfire and end their friendship. But this is Sweet Valley Twins, not Sweet Valley High, so the chances are good that the plan will work.

First the twins send Cathy flowers, but Steven doesn’t pay any attention. He’s still hung up on Jill, and still making a fool of himself in front of her. He thinks he can win her heart by getting a motorcycle, since she’s mentioned liking them. He knows he can’t drive one for two more years, but nothing’s stopping him from buying one. Well, nothing but a ton of money. Steven decides to get a job, which is easier said than done for a 14-year-old with no marketable skills. He ends up getting a job at McRobert’s, a mall fast-food restaurant that I’m sure is in no way based on McDonald’s. Cathy happens to work there, too, so apparently McRobert’s is immune to child labor laws.

The twins spend most of their money on Cathy’s gifts, and asking for an advance on their allowance gets them nowhere – their parents point out that they just got $100 each from Aunt Helen, and it’s not Ned and Alice’s fault if they’ve already spent it. That’s totally fair, actually. Steven needs his laundry done, so he offers his sisters $1.50 to do it for him. That’s a horrible price, but the twins are desperate. While doing the wash, Jessica finds $15 in the sock Steven uses for his piggy bank and, under the family’s finders-keepers laundry rule, confiscates it.

So now, hilariously, the twins are going to use Steven’s own money to buy gifts that are supposedly from him. Well, Elizabeth doesn’t know – Jess knows she’ll make her give the money back, so she tries to buy balloons for Cathy without her twin finding out. Liz learns the truth and refuses to continue the plan until Jess gives back Steven’s money. Jess stubbornly says she’ll continue the plan on her own, though Elizabeth points out that she’s the one who’s been cutting out the letters in Steven’s name, and Jessica probably doesn’t know which ones have already been sent.

Steven realizes that if he does win over Jill, he’ll be stealing his best friend’s girlfriend. Took him long enough to figure that out. Steven decides to tell Joe straight out how he feels about Jill, but Joe takes the news surprisingly well. The truth is that he doesn’t really like Jill that much. He’s figured out that she doesn’t have much of a personality outside of molding herself to what other guys like. So…why doesn’t Joe break up with her? Whatever.

As Steven spends more time with Cathy, he realizes that he’s a little jealous that she’s getting gifts from a secret admirer. Maybe he likes her as more than a friend? When she gets her last secret-admirer gift and puts the letters together, she comes up with Steven’s name. Steven figures out that his sisters were playing matchmaker for them the whole time. He and Cathy are both thrilled and start dating.

So everyone’s happy…until Ned and Alice learn about Jessica and Janet’s bet. They don’t like that Jessica’s gambling with expensive items like cameras and TV tickets. They don’t want her to accept her prize from Janet for winning the bet. But Steven’s so grateful to his sisters for getting him and Cathy together that he offers to give them money so they can buy the tickets from Janet. So when the twins present photographic proof that Steven is over Jill, Jessica hands over money for the tickets instead of just accepting them as a prize. This makes Janet feel a little better about losing the bet.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth has been trying to come up with a stupid human trick for a Staying Up with Bob segment using audience members. She stumbles across one at the dinner table, realizing that she has a hidden talent for batting away peas with a knife. The twins get to go to the show, and Elizabeth is chosen to perform her trick (with assistance from Jess). So by the end of the book, Steven and Cathy are happy together, the twins have been on TV, and Jill and Joe have broken up. She tries to catch Steven’s eye, but he’s already moved on. This means that everyone ends up happy except Jill. Sucks to be her!

Thoughts: “Let’s just say I have connections.” Janet, you’re 14. You don’t have connections.

“Valley Pharmacy was one of Jessica’s favorite stores.” Jessica makes me sad.

“And if Jessica couldn’t deliver the camera, she’d be a welcher – something no Unicorn had ever been.” Probably because they don’t know what it means.

June 28, 2016

SVT #56, The Wakefields Strike It Rich: Why Don’t My Relatives Ever Want to Give Me Money for No Reason?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 4:56 pm by Jenn

This is so dorky, it almost comes all the way back around to cool

This is so dorky, it almost comes all the way back around to cool

Summary: The twins and Steven are hanging out with their friends after school, not wanting to go home because they know their parents will ask them to clean the house again. Jessica only has 50 cents on her and has to ask to borrow $2 from Lila to cover her sundae at Casey’s. Only $2.50 for a sundae? I miss the ’90s. Lila gives her a hard time because Jess never has any money and always asks her rich BFF for a loan. Well, Lila, you can stop giving her money any time. Let her learn to make sure she has enough before she tries to buy something.

Aunt Helen is in Sweet Valley for a visit, and she’s brought a big surprise: She wants to give each of the Wakefield kids $100. The kids are amazed, having never had that much money before. Jessica immediately boasts about her new riches to her friends, then buys them all ice cream at Casey’s. The girls next go to a Claire’s-type store, and Jess treats them to bracelets, posters, shirts, and other things preteen girls spend their babysitting money on. After just a couple days, she’s down to just $15. That’s pretty impressive. When her friends want to go back to the mall, Jess comes up with excuses not to go, which makes Lila realize she’s out of money.

The next time Jess goes shopping with her friends, she keeps her money to herself. Her friends are a little miffed, but really, if you can’t afford a $4 necklace, KIMBERLY, that’s your own problem. Jessica pretends that she enjoyed being so generous with her money, since Lila never is. What’s nice is that the Unicorns get her some earrings to thank her for spending her money on them, so they’re not completely selfish. Then they all go to Casey’s again, and Jessica’s back to having no money, so she has to borrow another $2 from Lila. Heh.

Elizabeth, our more responsible twin, first decides to put at least some of Aunt Helen’s money toward a new camera. Then she does exactly what I would do with $100 – she goes to the bookstore. She gets the new Amanda Howard and learns that Ms. Howard herself will be at the store the next day and can sign it.

But reading a mystery puts Elizabeth in investigator mode, and she starts to think there’s something fishy about the circumstances of Aunt Helen’s presents and the fact that she has a broken arm but won’t tell anyone what happened. Liz overhears Helen talking to Ned about a court case and possibly being sued. She gets a super-special delivery but won’t open the envelope in front of anyone. Chatting with Amanda Howard makes Liz think there’s a mystery to be solved, since there are mysteries all around us.

Liz gets more suspicious when she catches Aunt Helen crying. Helen says she’s just upset about the death of her favorite soap character. She was present when another character was killed for witnessing a crime, and the gangsters killed her to keep her quiet. What’s funny is that Elizabeth says the character might not really be dead, since presumed-dead soap characters often come back, but Aunt Helen – who’s watched the show for 20 years – says the character must be dead because they just had her funeral. Helen. Sweetie. No.

Anyway, Liz consults with Amy, who thinks Helen is a spy. Okay, Amy. Liz gets Amy to snoop through Helen’s things, but she doesn’t find any clues. The girls find a picture of a man in Helen’s purse and wonder if he’s threatening her. After watching a movie about a mob hit, Liz and Amy think Helen is being targeted by gangsters. Freaking A, girls. They rush home to protect Helen, because if mobsters are afraid of anyone, it’s 12-year-old girls. (Not that the mob exists. It doesn’t. Tony Soprano was in waste management and had no other sources of income.)

Now that Elizabeth is flinging around wild accusations, Helen decides to just explain what really happened. She broke her arm in a car accident and has been having trouble getting her insurance company to pay up. They claim that she hasn’t paid them, and she’s worried about having to go to court to prove that she did. The man in the picture is her boyfriend. There’s no real explanation of why Helen suddenly handed out $300, though. Liz is like, “Whatever, I’m still going to say I solved a mystery.”

Steven has a big crush on a new girl, Jill Hale. Jill clearly doesn’t like him like that, and seems to prefer Steven’s best friend, Joe Howell (Janet’s older brother). Awww, Joe and Jill even have the same initials. It’s like they’re meant to be. Steven’s annoyed that Jill pays more attention to Joe when they’re all together, so he decides to ask Jill out on a date for some one-on-one time. He really wants to wow her, so he buys her gold earrings (which, by the way, can’t be returned).

Jessica takes an interest in her brother’s love life, giving him advice and a magazine article with ideas on what to do on his date with Jill. Steven finally calls Jill to actually ask her on the date. Her response: “[long pause] I guess that would be okay.” Awww, true love. Steven treats the whole thing like they’re going to prom – he gets Jill a corsage, finds a fancy French restaurant for them to go to, and even puts on a tie. If he had enough money, he’d probably rent a limo, but he goes with a cab instead.

The date is…not great. Jill puts forth a good effort, acting really nice even though she clearly doesn’t want to be more than friends with Steven, but he has a miserable time. First, she makes him dance. Then he worries about money. Then he discovers that Jill has the same earrings he bought her, and is even wearing them on the date.

Is if that weren’t bad enough, the bill is $50 (which is pretty low for what’s supposed to be such an elegant place), and Steven only has $45 with him. He would have had $10 more but Jessica asked for a fee for helping him get ready for the date. Steven has to ask Jill for some money, which is pretty embarrassing, and has to get a ride home from her father, since he doesn’t have cab fare anymore, which is even more embarrassing. I don’t think Jill will be going out with him again.

Thoughts: “If the girl who had written this article had liked it enough to call it a ‘dream date,’ wouldn’t Jill?” Yes, Steven. All girls like all the same exact things.

Aunt Helen: (visits family, keeps secrets, gives the kids money). Amy: “She’s a spy!” Try again, Ames.

Elizabeth is okay with searching Helen’s room and suitcase, but not her purse. Why draw the line there?

Jill: “I love dancing. Of course, my favorite kind is square dancing.” Yes, of course. That’s a really sophisticated girl you like there, Steven.