December 27, 2016
Summary: Valentine’s Day is approaching, as is a Valentine’s Day dance at SVMS. The Unicorns (spurred on by Mandy) are organizing a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital (appropriately named Children’s Hospital) in which students can hire a personal servant for a day or two. Ellen wants to call it Yours for a Day, but the other girls say that’s dumb since the fundraiser takes place over two days. But that’s what the book is called, so I guess Ellen wins in the end. Anyway, for $5 you can hire someone for a day, and for $10 you get someone over two days. The “servants” don’t have to pay, but they also don’t get compensated, so servants are just volunteering out of the kindness of their hearts.
Mandy has a crush on a guy named Peter Jeffries, but she’s too nervous to ask him to the dance. When she calls to talk to him, she just hangs up the phone. Oh, Mandy, we’ve all been there. She also can barely speak to Peter when he comes by the Unicorns’ table to sign up to be a servant. Jessica realizes that if Peter and Mandy (who will be a master) get paired up, she can order him to take her to the dance. How romantic.
At the drawing, Mandy winds up as Jessica’s servant, which Jess is thrilled about. Not only is she paired with a friend (the other girls were worried about being paired with people they don’t like), but she can order Mandy to ask Peter to the dance. The drawback here is that the Unicorns are working as both servants and masters, and Jess winds up as Lloyd Benson’s servant. Lila’s working for Peter, and Janet’s working for Winston. Ha ha!
Lloyd’s annoyed with Jessica for the earthquake stuff in the last book, so he makes her do lots of stuff for him. If Jess were really smart, she would have Mandy do it for her. Instead, she tells Mandy that her only task is to ask Peter to the dance. Mandy manages to pull herself together and do it…but Peter already has a date to the dance. Aw, Mandy. At least he’s nice about having to turn her down.
Still, Mandy feels humiliated and gets mad at Jessica. She gets a little pleasure out of watching Jessica do dumb things on Lloyd’s orders, like eat gross cafeteria food and help him with science experiments. Aaron feels bad for Jess and tries to think of a way to get her switched to him so Lloyd can’t mess with her anymore. Elizabeth correctly guesses that Lloyd won’t agree to a switch since he’s eager to get revenge on Jessica.
Jessica is also hoping to switch, and she even asks Elizabeth to be Lloyd’s servant. Liz balks, but since Jess rigged the drawing for her and Amy (see the B-plot), she eventually agrees. But Lila and Mandy, scheming against Jessica, pull their own switch. Jessica was supposed to work for Belinda, so the girls get Belinda to switch servants with Mandy, making Jessica serve Mandy instead. In the meantime, Aaron convinces Lloyd to switch with him, thinking he’d get Jessica. Now he has Elizabeth as a servant.
The usually-not-vindictive Mandy makes Jessica sing “Feelings” in the cafeteria so she’ll be humiliated like she inadvertently humiliated Mandy. The song makes Grace Oliver cry, but not from horribleness. She and Winston had been going out, or whatever the 12-year-old equivalent of that is, but they had a huge fight and aren’t speaking. Grace asked Peter to the dance, but now she wants to make up with Winston and go with him. Jessica realizes that she has the opportunity to make everyone happy.
She goes to Lloyd, who’s Grace’s master for the day, and gets him to switch servants with Winston. Winston thinks he’s getting Jessica as a servant, but he’s getting Grace. They quickly make up and will be going to the dance together. Half of Jess’ plan is a success, even though the switch means Lloyd will be Janet’s master.
Jessica tries to negotiate with Lila to get her to make Peter, her new servant, ask Mandy to the dance. Lila wants too much in return, so Jess just calls Peter on her own. But it turns out that her work is done, and Mandy and Peter have already decided to go to the dance together. Once Peter learned that Grace was going with Winston, he asked Mandy, the person he’d wanted to go with in the first place. He wasn’t sure Mandy liked him, but once Jessica made her ask him to the dance, he realized she did. So Jess’ meddling helped a couple get together!
The new couple has a great time at the dance, and the master/servant fundraiser makes $800 for the hospital. Jessica’s the only one who’s not happy at the end, since Janet makes Lloyd a certificate entitling him to another day of servitude from Jessica. I guess it’s a small price to pay for a successful fundraiser.
In the B-plot, Elizabeth and Amy are annoyed with Todd and Ken, who are just acting like typical preteen boys. They play a prank on the boys, getting them to eat mayo instead of vanilla pudding. They think this makes them even, especially when the guys send the girls on a scavenger hunt for what the girls think will be invitations to the dance. They get the invitations, but they also get drenched with cold water. The girls decide they need more revenge.
Elizabeth and Amy get Jessica to rig the master/servant drawing so Todd will be Liz’s servant and Ken will be Amy’s. Then they make the guys do things like wear embarrassing ties, walk on their hands in the cafeteria, and give the wrong answers in class. The guys handle things well, and still want to take the girls to the dance. They’re even going to get them corsages. The girls think they’ve learned their lesson and are going to be gentlemen from now on.
On Valentine’s Day, the girls spend most of the dance sneezing. They figure out that the guys got one last revenge by putting sneezing powder in their corsages. The girls get revenge right back by making them sing “Feelings” in front of everyone. I guess this evens things up, as the pranks stop. The girls were definitely winning that war anyway.
Thoughts: Grace is in a lot more books than I remembered. I really didn’t think she was ever mentioned again after The Big Camp Secret.
I can’t believe Amy and Elizabeth didn’t think the guys might try to get them back after everything they had to do as servants. I would expect Elizabeth to be smarter than that.
“Daddy would give more, but he already donated a whole wing to the hospital, and he didn’t want to overdo it.” Oh, of course not. There’s such a thing as helping too many sick children.
October 4, 2016
Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.
Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.
Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.
The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.
Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.
Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.
Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.
That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.
Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.
Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.
Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.
The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.
Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.
Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.
The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?
“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.
“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.
May 17, 2016
Summary: Ned and Alice let their kids know in the last book that they’re soon going to be taking a vacation (just the two of them). The kids think that, at 12 and 14, they’re old enough to stay by themselves for a few days. Jessica decides to take advantage of the opportunity to throw a party. Elizabeth is worried about having people over without their parents’ permission, but she promises to keep quiet. Steven also wants to throw a party, so Jess suggests that they organize it together. Having high-schoolers there will make her even cooler anyway.
The kids don’t have any money for party supplies, but they quickly find a way to remedy that. Ned and Alice ask them to clean out the garage, so Steven and Jess ask if they can have a garage sale. They’ll donate half the proceeds to charity and keep the other half to pay for stuff for the party. Steven and the twins are really excited about the prospect of pulling off their plan, and of being allowed to stay home alone for a few days. Of course, Ned and Alice have to ruin everything.
After days of not telling their children who will be watching them – or even whether someone will be there at all – the Wakefields reveal that a woman named May will be looking after them. The kids protest, but for once Ned and Alice have resigned themselves to be good parents and not leave their preteens and high school freshman alone for an extended period of time while they’re out of the country.
Ordinarily you would think this means the kids can’t throw their party, but Jessica Wakefield has never been accused of being ordinary. She’s determined to throw the party, babysitter or no babysitter. The twins don’t mention the babysitter to their friends, thinking it makes them seem immature. I just hope their friends haven’t told their parents that the Wakefields are leaving the country and letting their kids stay by themselves.
May arrives for babysitting duties, and things are immediately off to a horrible start. She’s basically a drill sergeant, with a long list of rules and no patience for the Wakefield kids. There will be no cookies, no backtalk, and no complaining. Instead, there will be proper manners and lots of vegetables. The kids quickly throw their manners out the window (which is the same thing Steven does with his vegetable-filled dinner) and don’t both hiding their disdain for May the dictator.
Jessica gets some revenge by putting purple dye in May’s shampoo and hiding her clothes. May yells at her and her siblings that their parents have raised them horribly, and since they’ve obviously never been disciplined, May will just have to whip them into shape. The kids just pull more pranks, waking May with an alarm at 3:45 and putting tabasco and a bunch of spices in her coffee. They hope she’ll get fed up enough to ditch them, but instead she bans them from talking on the phone. It’s Jessica’s worst nightmare!
The kids have their garage sale, and Elizabeth meets Amy’s new boyfriend, an eighth-grader named Rob. Amy is obviously thrilled to be dating an older guy, especially since her longtime crush, Ken, doesn’t seem to want to take their relationship beyond friendship. Too bad Rob is a total jerk, and Amy’s the only person (possibly in the whole world) who can tolerate him. Knowing what we know about future Amy, I’m not really surprised she’s okay with dating a jerk, as long as he pays attention to her.
The garage sale is kind of a bust, at least until a man asks to buy a carved wooden rose for $50. When Jessica hesitates, shocked by the amount of money, he ups his offer to $75. Of course, Jess makes the sale, daydreaming about all the junk food the kids will be able to buy for the party. She also comes up with the idea to get May to drive somewhere the night of the party so she’s not around.
But when Liz learns that Jess sold the rose, she’s upset – that rose belonged to Alice Larson and shouldn’t have been at the garage sale. Liz knows that their mother will be devastated to lose something with such sentimental value. The twins are unable to chase down the buyer, and Jessica doesn’t really care that much anyway. Why worry about her mother’s feelings when she has a party to plan? Once again, Elizabeth is left to clean up Jessica’s mess, so she goes to antique shops all over town, hoping someone sold the rose. Apparently there are a lot of antique shops in and around Sweet Valley. But Liz has no luck.
The night of the party, Steven blows up at May in a very angsty-teenager way, then storms out of the house with some of his things. The twins tell May that Steven has run away before – all the way to L.A. – but he’ll be back. May is genuinely worried that one of her charges has split. Steven calls, pretending he ran off to a town a couple of hours away, and asks May to come pick him up. May is nicer than I would be and agrees, instead of telling him to panhandle for bus fare and find his own way home.
As soon as May is gone, Steven comes home with groceries, and the kids get ready for their party. Things get off to a good start, except for the fact that Rob is there and everyone hates him. Amy admits to Elizabeth that she doesn’t actually like him. She was worried that Liz would start spending a lot of time with Todd and forget about her best friend, so she figured she should get her own boyfriend. Elizabeth promises Amy that she’ll always make time for her. So now Amy can feel free to ditch her hateful BF.
Because this is a book aimed at kids, the party can’t just go off without any problems. People show up uninvited, turn up the music, and make a huge mess. If this were an SVH book, someone would bring a keg. Instead, there’s a food fight, which is ridiculous. People start leaving (probably because the middle-schoolers have early curfews), but the kids can’t get the troublemakers to go.
Ken busts Rob trying to steal some of Jessica’s CDs, so Rob announces he’s leaving. Amy finally gets a backbone and refuses to go with him. Enjoy the backbone now, because it won’t last. She asks Ken to walk her home, and honestly, he doesn’t seem that excited, but whatever. All of the Wakefields’ friends leave, which is kind of crappy of them; it would be nice if they’d offered to help clean up. Now everyone left at the party is a troublemaker, and the Wakefields don’t know any of them.
After the kids make a few efforts to get everyone to leave, May returns home. She storms upstairs and starts packing her things. The twins and Steven are suddenly very remorseful, apologizing for sending her away. She kicks out the partygoers, though I’m surprised they didn’t leave as soon as an adult showed up. Then she apologizes for being so hard on the Wakefield kids – she’s not used to looking after teenagers, and she wanted to get them in line before they could cause trouble. The kids nicely clean up the whole house by themselves.
In the morning, May reveals that she’s managed to find the wooden rose. Apparently she saw Elizabeth searching antique stores and secretly decided to help her out. She had to buy it back, which sucks, and I hope Jessica reimbursed her (since Jess was the one who sold the rose in the first place and just got her butt saved). When Ned and Alice come home, May pretends that everything went great and no one threw any parties. The kids name her their honorary grandmother. If I were May, I’d get the heck out of there and never look back.
Thoughts: “We haven’t had a baby-sitter for at least five years.” You haven’t had a sitter since you were seven? Really, Jessica? Really?
“Honestly, I don’t know why you have to look so much alike.” Well, it’s not like they planned it. Blame nature.
Who has a yard sale during the week?
Steven: “Do you think it’ll work?” Jessica: “It worked on Days of Turmoil.” From now on, I’m testing ideas based on how successful they were on soap operas. First up: using the dagger used to kill my wife’s mother to stab a guy who could testify against me. (Enjoy Hell, Carlos Rivera.)
Todd thinks the rose could turn up at another garage sale. Why would someone buy it just to sell it at another yard sale? He’s certainly not going to be able to resell it for a profit there. Shh, Todd.
March 10, 2015
Summary: The twins are bored and want to do something exciting. Elizabeth finds some fun recipes, so the girls decide they want to throw a fancy dinner party for their friends. But Ned and Alice think they’re too young for something like that and tell them to have a cookout instead. Boring! Next the twins decide they’d like to visit their Great-Aunt Helen on an upcoming long weekend. This means taking the bus to Sandy Harbor, wherever that is, all by themselves. Again, their parents think they’re too young, but the twins manage to negotiate with them. Ned and Alice agree to let them go if they can earn the money to pay for the trip.
Next comes a brainstorming session. Elizabeth makes really good cakes, so she decides that they can sell them to raise the money. Alice squashes that idea pretty quickly by noting how expensive that would be. The next idea is walking dogs – if they charge $2 per dog per day, they just have to walk [insert math here] for [more math] days. (Yeah, I don’t do math. We’ll just say that the twins think they can get by with minimum work for the minimum amount of money they need.)
But to provide a service, you first have to advertise that service, and that costs money. The twins borrow $5 from Steven to copy some fliers, which means they’ll have to make back that $5 on top of the $80 they need for bus tickets. Oh, and Steven charges them 50% interest on the loan, so they really need to pay him back $7.50. The idea of Steven charging his sisters 50% interest makes me laugh. Though he might consider the fact that they’ll be gone for a long weekend enough of a reward for loaning them the money.
The girls pass out their fliers, and Jessica starts to realize that having a job actually requires work. Part of me is surprised that she went along with this plan in the first place, since she doesn’t like dogs or any job that might result in her getting dirty, but the rest of me thinks she didn’t actually think this through. She thought about making money and getting what she wanted, but her brain skipped the part about what she’d have to do to make money. Anyway, Elizabeth runs into Ken Matthews, who loves the idea of hanging out with dogs every afternoon. See, Ken is smart. Playing with dogs + money = good times.
Apparently there’s a big need for dog walkers in Sweet Valley, because the twins quickly get some clients. Of course, Jessica isn’t really on board with this whole thing, especially when it means having to miss out on Unicorn hangouts and Booster practices. Ken offers to fill in for her and even refuses to take any money. Hanging out with dogs is enough of a reward. I get it, Ken. Plus, he really wants a dog but his parents don’t think he’s ready for the responsibility, so this is his chance to play with puppies.
One of the clients asks if the twins can keep a couple of dogs at their house over the weekend, and though Ned and Alice aren’t thrilled with the idea, the twins work out arrangements (the dogs will stay in the backyard) and demonstrate that they’re serious about being responsible. Elizabeth has plans to go roller-skating with some friends (ahh, the ’80s), so Jessica’s left looking after the dogs one afternoon. Lila comes by with plans for something much more interesting. Ken comes by to visit and offers to watch the dogs while Jessica’s gone. Elizabeth isn’t happy, but at least the dogs are looked after.
Then a guy named Mr. Quincy shows up. He has a dog named Joe and needs someone to watch him for a week while he’s out of town. He’ll pay them $20 and another $20 at the end of the week, which is the rest of the money the twins need. As soon as Mr. Quincy leaves, Ken realizes that something’s wrong with Joe. He doesn’t like being touched, and he gets scared when he’s approached. Ken discovers that the dog has cuts and bruises all over him. He and the twins realize that someone – most likely Mr. Quincy – has been abusing the dog.
The kids quickly show Joe some compassion, bathing him and fixing up his injuries. They’re just not sure what to do about Mr. Quincy. They don’t want to tell their parents, because Ned and Alice said they didn’t want to hear any complaining about their work. (Bad parenting alert!) As Joe gets better and becomes more and more friendly, the kids worry about having to give him back to his abusive owner. They think about telling the police, but now that Joe’s cuts and bruises have healed, they don’t think the police will accept their story without evidence.
Their next thought is to take Joe to a shelter and tell Mr. Quincy that he ran away. Of course, if Mr. Quincy went around to shelters looking for a runaway dog, he would recognize Joe right away. So the kids decide to cut and dye his fur to make him unrecognizable. They’re 12 and have no idea what they’re doing, so the dog ends up looking kind of strange, but at least he looks different now.
Ken tries to talk his parents into letting him keep Joe (pretending he’s a stray), but they still don’t think he’s responsible enough. Ken tells the twins that his cousin Fred lives a few miles away on a ranch and already has some dogs – maybe Fred would take Joe. The kids go visit Fred, who happily accepts Joe. Problem solved! Except now they have to tell Mr. Quincy that Joe ran away. Mr. Quincy is furious and threatens to sue, which I don’t think he can do, but whatever. Also, the twins can forget about their second $20.
Then Joe really does run away – he disappears from Fred’s ranch. He ends up at the Wakefields’ after walking ten miles in the rain, which washes away the dye. Ned calls Mr. Quincy, wanting the guy off his back. When he arrives, Ken and the twins admit what they did and accuse Mr. Quincy of abusing Joe. Ned, to his credit, believes them and refuses to let Mr. Quincy take the dog. Mr. Quincy decides he doesn’t need the hassle and tells them to do whatever he wants with Joe. Ned warns that if he ever sees Mr. Quincy with another dog, he’ll report him. Yay, Ned!
Ken’s parents come by, having heard from Fred that Joe ran away, and Ken tells them how he’s been helping take care of a dog. They realize that he’s responsible after all and decide to let him keep Joe. The Wakefields are a little ticked that the kids didn’t tell them what was going on, but they’re also proud that the kids did something so good. They reward them with the rest of the money they need for their trip (including the money they need to pay Steven back). Everyone’s happy, but probably not as happy as Joe is.
Thoughts: Ned and Alice are no fun. If I had preteens, I’d let them throw a fancy dinner party. What’s the problem?
Between them, the twins only have $3 before they start walking dogs. How is that possible? I don’t believe for a second that Elizabeth doesn’t have any savings. How does she pay for her Amanda Howard mysteries and horse figurines?
Jessica, confused as to why a dog ran away from her: “I told her to stay.” This reminds me of Hildi from Trading Spaces. She was once advised not to use straw in a design, not just because it was stupid but because the kids in the house would pull it off the walls. Her response was, “Well, tell them not to.”
October 21, 2014
Summary: Seventh-grader Dennis Cookman has been menacing sixth-graders, and they decide they’ve had enough. They inform a teacher, Dennis is punished and starts receiving counseling, and everyone calls a truce. The end. Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen. Instead, some of the sixth-graders – including Ken, Aaron Dallas, and some scrawny kid named Jimmy Underwood – call a “summit conference” and invite Elizabeth to help them with their problem. Dennis is so intimidating that even Lila can’t bring herself to stand up to him – when he asks her for money, she just hands it over.
The summiteers meet at a place called Larson’s lot, which is near something everyone calls Dean Man’s Cave. The kids decide that instead of telling a teacher about Dennis’ bullying, they’ll just get revenge on him. Steven wanders by and tells them they’re dumb and they should tell an adult what’s going on. Jimmy hates this idea, since it’ll just get him in more trouble with Dennis, but the other kids decide to talk to Mr. Bowman.
Elizabeth and her cronies talk to the English teacher, who promises to handle Dennis. Elizabeth thinks that’ll be the end of it. Of course, it’s not. Dennis corners the summiteers after school, starts a fight with Aaron and Ken, and threatens to come after everyone else. The summiteers decide Operation Tell a Teacher was a bust, and they should try revenge next.
Their plan is to tell Dennis they’re going to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave to peer-pressure him into doing the same. Aaron and Ken know there’s a rain pipe in the cave that they can use to get to the woods and head home. Dennis will sleep in the cave when his turn comes, not realizing that no one else spent the night. The summiteers put their plan in motion, making sure Dennis overhears Amy daring Aaron to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave.
Meanwhile, Grace Oliver (who I remember from a later book but didn’t realize was in the series this early on) wants to join the Unicorns. To make sure she’s special enough for this super-exclusive group of girls who like shopping and own purple clothing, Jessica, Lila, and Ellen decide to put her through a series of initiation rituals. First she has to recite a poem in the middle of class. Then she has to get a bunch of kids’ homework. (I’m not sure what that’s about. Why would they give her their homework? Is she just pretending she needs to borrow it?)
For Grace’s last initiation task, Jessica comes up with the idea to make Grace ask Dennis to each lunch with her. Even Lila and Ellen are like, “Whoa, slow down, Regina George.” But Jessica is, for some reason, set on making Grace do her bidding. Grace tries to summon the courage to ask Dennis to eat lunch with her but fails so badly that she thinks that’s it for her chances with the Unicorns. Later, she happens to find Dennis’ baseball mitt, so she takes it to his house. He’s kind of surprised that someone’s doing something nice for him.
That night, Aaron completes his part of the revenge plan, pretending to sleep in Dead Man’s Cave. Ken agrees to go next, but Dennis is skeptical about the legitimacy of the situation and wants to stay outside the cave overnight so he can’t leave. Jimmy gets roped into staying with him. Once Ken’s part is complete, Jimmy takes his turn, which means Dennis really has no excuse not to do it as well.
Grace tries again to ask Dennis to have lunch with her, not realizing that Jessica (having been yelled at by Elizabeth for making Grace do something so difficult) has decided to let her off the hook. But at lunch, Dennis asks if he can sit with Grace. They talk about how he has no friends, and she points out that, you know, he’s mean to everyone. Dennis is all, “They’re mean to me, too! They make fun of me because I’m huge!” Grace is like, “Well, then clearly you’re allowed to be mean back and be surprised that no one likes you.”
Dennis really doesn’t want to spend the night in Dead Man’s Cave, so he tries to pretend he’s sick. No one’s going to let him off the hook, especially after Jimmy supposedly went through with it. When the big night comes, there’s a storm a-brewin’, which means lots of rain in the rain pipe. Aaron realizes that if it gets too blocked, Dennis could drown. The kids head into the cave and rescue Dennis, who realizes that he should probably start treating them differently. He and Jimmy seem to become friends, while Grace gets to be a Unicorn. So the lesson here is that if you have a bully, you just have to save his life and everything will be okay.
Thoughts: They had to have named him Dennis just so people could make Dennis the Menace references, right?
“Steven Wakefield was fourteen going on obnoxious.” Hee.
Amy gets Dennis away from Jimmy by sending him after another group of kids. Well, that’s a bad idea.
“Jessica had just finished dyeing most of her white socks purple to add to her Unicorn wardrobe. If Grace managed to get Dennis to eat lunch with her, maybe Jessica would even give her a pair as an initiation gift.” Ooh, used socks! Go for it, Grace!
July 1, 2014
Summary: While burying Ellen Riteman’s brother Mark’s pet parakeet, the two of them and Jessica come across a box buried in the Ritemans’ backyard. The girls send poor little Mark on an errand, promising they’ll wait for him to come back before they open the box, then proceed to open the box. Inside are $200, some pictures, and love letters. The girls barely glance at the letters, which are between two people named Jane and William; William wants to marry Jane, but she’s uncertain about their compatibility since her family doesn’t like him. Whatever – free money!
When Mark gets back, the girls pretend they’re opening the box for the first time and that only the letters are inside. Mark is smart enough to be suspicious. The girls immediately start spending the money, though they have to lie about how they got the things they buy. For example, Ellen got some really expensive earrings from her aunt. Jessica “found” a Walkman on a bench at the mall. Elizabeth is suspicious about that last one. The girls also hand in money for a class trip, claiming they sold chocolate bars as part of a fundraiser, but Elizabeth knows Jessica still has a full box of candy. Nothing gets past Nancy Drew, Jr.
Amy’s in charge of looking after the money for the trip, and when it disappears, people think she stole it. Amy points the finger at Jessica and Ellen – after all, they’ve recently come into some pricey items. Elizabeth is stuck in the middle, and the accusations against Jessica hurt her campaign for class treasurer. Who would want a treasurer whose twin sister might be a thief?
Elizabeth is running against super-dork Peter DeHaven, and her connection to an alleged thief combined with Peter’s slow undorkening threaten to make her lose the campaign. Amy and Elizabeth fight about the money – Elizabeth doesn’t think Amy took it, but she thinks Amy was careless enough to lose it – and Ken (who’s sort of, kind of Amy’s boyfriend, in the tame ways 12-year-olds can be boyfriend and girlfriend) shows signs of being on Team Amy Stole It. Amy thinks Ken is interested in Elizabeth, so she quits as Liz’s campaign manager and starts helping Peter. Ooh, betrayal. Amy’s showing signs of the shady girl she grows up to be.
While all this is going on, Jessica and Ellen are getting some heat. Mrs. Wyler, the teacher organizing the class trip, mentions that there are rumors going around about them taking the money, but since they deny they stole it, she can’t do much. The girls are no longer enjoying the things they bought. Mark busts them, figuring out that they found money in the box, so the girls hide their stuff at Jessica’s and play dumb when Mark tells his mother about the money.
The night before the Student Council candidates give their campaign speeches, Jessica borrows Elizabeth’s notebook for homework. Not realizing this, Elizabeth puts her speech in Jessica’s notebook. The notebooks get switched back, and when it’s time for her speech, Liz doesn’t have her notes. She totally blanks and gives the world’s worst speech. To add insult to injury, Peter is suddenly cool, and everyone loves his weird speech/rap.
So Elizabeth has been humiliated and lost her best friend, so when she starts crying in Mr. Bowman’s room, it’s hard not to feel sorry for her. Mr. Bowman asks her and Amy go to get something from a supply closet, and they end up getting locked inside. Which…who put in a supply closet that locks from the outside? Anyway, this gives the girls a chance to talk, and they make up. Then they find the money, which Mrs. Wyler must have accidentally put in the closet a few days earlier. Everyone’s problem is solved!
Before everyone learns this, though, Mrs. Wyler summons the Wakefields and Ritemans to the school to discuss the missing money. Jessica and Ellen decide that they’ll find a way to get the money back so they’ll get out of trouble. A woman shows up at the Ritemans’ house, and Jessica freaks because she looks just like Jane in the pictures from the box. The woman is Laura, Jane’s granddaughter; she was in town and wanted to see her grandmother’s old house. She tells the girls that her grandmother didn’t marry William, and she always seemed liked something was missing from her life.
When Alice and Mrs. Riteman arrive, Jessica and Ellen tell them everything. Laura lets them keep the money (good, since they spent it already), and the girls reluctantly agree to give what they haven’t spent, about $50, to Mark. I shudder to think what a kid in elementary school will spend all that money on. Laura reveals that she’s in a similar situation as Jane was, and reading her letters has helped her decide to marry the man she truly loves.
So yay, a person we know nothing about and will never hear about again is happy! Elizabeth is class treasurer, because cool clothes and sudden popularity only get you so far! Jessica and Ellen aren’t thieves! Amy and Elizabeth are friends again! Amy and Ken are…whatever again! Mark can buy a new parakeet, maybe! Happy endings, yaaaaaay!
Thoughts: I didn’t remember Olivia Davidson ever showing up in the Sweet Valley Twins series, but she pops up here.
Elizabeth thinks red glitter is too flashy. Liz, chill out.
Jessica’s story is that she found a Walkman in a shopping bag on a bench at the mall, and Elizabeth is totally okay with her taking it. That doesn’t scream “stealing” to her? Stuff lying around isn’t just free to a good home.
Jessica buys an orange and purple shirt. Gag.
“She had never been more disappointed in her twin in all their twelve years.” Oh, Elizabeth. She’s just getting started.
SVMS stuents get to take class trips to Disneyland. One of the many perks of living in Southern California. But growing up right outside D.C., I got to go on class trips to the Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo.
Amy, when a boy asks you out for ice cream, you don’t invite someone else to come with you.
March 18, 2014
Summary: As will inevitably happen with the popular girls, the Unicorns have decided to start a cheerleading squad. They’re calling it the Boosters. Which is weird, because at my school, Boosters were the parents who supported and fundraised for sports teams. Why don’t they just call themselves the cheerleading squad? It’s like on Degrassi, where they called themselves the power squad, but they were clearly cheerleaders. Okay, I’ve completely lost control of this paragraph.
So anyway, Amy wants to be a cheerleader and show off her baton-twirling skills. The Unicorns hate this idea because they don’t want to be associated with such a loser. If I were Amy, I wouldn’t want to be associated with them either, but Amy thinks she can make the squad. Elizabeth worries that the Unicorns will be nasty to her or cut her just for being Amy.
Ken Matthews is going through something similar. He wants to join the basketball team, but he’s short and dweeby, so there’s a lot of bullying directed at him. He also has his father, a former star basketball player, to live up to. Elizabeth helps him out a little, and with a lot of practice, Ken becomes a much better player. Unfortunately, Bruce sees the two of them together and starts a rumor that they’re dating, which horrifies Jessica. Amy’s not happy either, since she has a little crush on the Kenster.
The Unicorns pressure Amy to drop out of tryouts, but Amy won’t budge. Then Jessica, Lila, and Ellen write her a note (signing it as Ken) telling her that she’s not going to make the squad so she might as well give up. Amy isn’t fooled, since she and Ken already discussed the topic and encouraged each other. But the Unicorns also send Ken a love letter from Amy, and he thinks it’s real and handles it like a typical 12-year-old boy.
Elizabeth finds out that the Unicorns were behind the notes and tells Amy and Ken. Amy still isn’t worried about the girls embarrassing her or being mean; even if she didn’t think she could make the squad, she’d still try out just to tick them off. Amy’s pretty awesome in this book.
The Booster and basketball tryouts are held at the same time. The Unicorns trick Amy into doing a cheer for Ken by herself, but instead of getting embarrassed, Amy gets enthused. Ken also takes advantage of the situation, while the other players are distracted, to show that he’s a basketball superstar. He makes the team and Amy makes the Boosters, though, seriously, why would she voluntarily spend time with the Unicorns?
Thoughts: Steven: “Who’s the babe in the leotard?” Your sister, sicko.
It’s funny to read about Jessica thinking Ken’s a loser when we know she thinks he’s awesome in high school.
So what’s a pizzaburger? Pizza on top of a burger? That doesn’t really sound appetizing.
I don’t get the title. Who was choosing sides? Elizabeth?
July 31, 2013
Summary: There was an earthquake, Olivia’s dead, and now everyone’s super-sad. The Wakefields’ house was destroyed, so they’re staying at Fowler Crest. Elizabeth is depressed because Olivia’s dead; Jessica’s depressed because she feels guilty for not being able to save Alyssa. Lila’s not depressed, she’s just Lila. A lot of the book involves people driving around town, looking at destruction, and having flashbacks.
Elizabeth can’t remember what happened after the earthquake, so when Enid tells her that she thinks Devon saved them, Liz figures that makes sense and goes along with it. The girls smother Devon with affection, and though it’s obvious to anyone with an IQ above 50 that he did nothing, he keeps the lie going. Enid tells some reporters that Devon saved her life, so now everyone thinks he’s a hero.
Maria Slater is the only one who doubts Devon – she vaguely remembers hearing Elizabeth yell for Devon after the earthquake, and she thinks they were fighting. Liz is so sold on Devon being a hero that she gets into a big fight with Maria for not contributing to the hero narrative. Then they make up and Maria hypnotizes her. Yes, really.
At Olivia’s funeral, Elizabeth sees Dana’s snake bracelet, and it jogs her memory about the snake she encountered after the earthquake. Suddenly she remembers everything, including her fight with Devon and having to save Enid by herself. Later, Ken confirms that some stranger helped Liz and Enid after Elizabeth had already done what she could on her own. Suddenly everyone hates Devon, and they basically run him out of town like an angry mob. Smell ya later, Devon!
Jessica and Ken are both struggling with feelings of survivor guilt and feeling responsible for Alyssa and Olivia’s deaths. Jessica’s depressed enough that she even considers killing herself. Alyssa’s parents aren’t mad at Jessica, since she was selfless enough to try to help a stranger, but Alyssa’s brother Bryan is furious with her. After some yelling, he admits that he’s actually just mad at himself for not being able to save his sister.
Maria Santelli has set up a refugee center for the people whose homes were damaged, and a bunch of families get matched up so they have places to stay. The Santellis are hosting a little boy whose father is in the hospital and not expected to recover. Jessica connects with the boy and spends some time with him, trying to take both their minds off of what happened. Just as she’s feeling at her lowest, the boy’s father wakes up, and she realizes that there are still miracles in the world.
Olivia’s parents want Ken to give the eulogy at her memorial service. He really doesn’t want to, so they ask him to spend some time in Olivia’s room while he thinks about it. Ken looks through Olivia’s paintings and finds one she did of him that captures the person no one else sees him as. Somehow this changes his mind.
Lila and Todd feel some residual attraction to each other after having spent the earthquake together. After Olivia’s funeral, Lila gets emotional, realizing how mean she’s been to people and how her snobbery made her miss out on having a friendship with a nice person. Todd comforts her and they finally kiss…and immediately realize they have no chemistry. Lila even yells at him for having the nerve to kiss her at a funeral. Hee.
Of course, things with Elizabeth and Todd are still an issue. He was already heading for basketball camp for the summer, so they agree to stick to their plan not to keep in touch. Which means Elizabeth is truly guy-less. I’m sure that’ll last.
Thoughts: “Bill Jozniak was a famous computer company owner.” Bill Gates + Steve Jobs + Steve Wozniak, I assume?
“Maybe Elizabeth will hate me for it…but my survival always comes first.” And that’s why Devon is single.
What was the city planning to do with all the people who are suddenly homeless if Maria Santelli hadn’t set up a refugee center? Why is a 16-year-old doing all the work?
Elizabeth is way too smart to let a 16-year-old hypnotize her. Though it’s pretty funny when Maria wants to see Liz’s watch, and Liz thinks she’s going to hypnotize her by waving a watch, but Maria just wants to know what time it is.
Before Olivia’s memorial service starts, Elizabeth gets emotional and Maria tells her to “pull it together.” Seriously? HER FRIEND DIED. Shut up, Slater.
Oh, really, Nicholas? You thought of Olivia as a sister? Were you even in the last 20 books?
It’s over! I read the whole series! (Minus the diaries, but I don’t care about those.) It took forever, but I did it! And I can’t even say goodbye to these people because next I’m going to read Sweet Valley University! Ahhhhhhhhhh!
July 17, 2013
Summary: This book has four plots, so I’ll split the recap into four parts:
Jessica and Steven: After their car accident at the end of Last Wish, Jess and Steven are fine, but the new Jeep joins the long list of totaled Wakefield vehicles. (RIP, buddy. You almost made it an entire book.) Jessica wants to go home to make sure Elizabeth’s okay, since her twin spidey sense is telling her something’s wrong. Steven, however, wants to keep going to the gas station where Billie’s stranded. They get into a big fight over it, and even though it would be reasonable for him to just drop her at home and go after Billie himself, and even though Steven practically says he’d rather go get Billie than worry about his own sister, they go downtown.
Once Billie has been retrieved (and she’s fine), she and Steven realize that Ned and Alice are also downtown. Jessica finally heads home while the elder Wakefields are rescued. But on her way, Jess runs into a guy named Bryan whose 12-year-old sister Alyssa is clinging to the edge of a big crevasse in the road. Jessica tries to help Bryan save her, but the girl can’t hold on long enough, and she falls into the pit and dies. That’s right, SVH killed off a 12-year-old. But wait, there’s more!
Elizabeth: At the house, which is massively damaged and about two seconds from collapsing, Elizabeth finds Enid unconscious in a big pool of water. There are downed power lines, and Liz realizes that Enid has been shocked. She tries to get Devon to help her rescue Enid, but he’s some combination of in shock and a huge jerk, so he just sits there and taunts that there’s nothing they can do and they’re all going to die. So for those of you compiling mental lists of which SVH characters to have around in an emergency, Devon should not be on that list.
Elizabeth, however, should. Even though she makes a detour into the swimming pool, and even though she has to face down a rattlesnake (no, seriously), and even though she can’t actually pick Enid up and carry her to safety, Elizabeth manages to get her away from the live wires. Unfortunately, she herself gets shocked in the process, so now she’s unconscious, too.
Todd and Lila: These two spend the whole book trapped in the bathroom, fighting like Xander and Cordelia in Buffy’s basement (I know I made that reference before, I think with Lila and Bruce, but it’s even more appropriate here). Lila first thinks there’s nothing to worry about, but then there’s a fire, which freaks her out because of the fire at her house. Todd proves to also be good in an emergency, though he can’t find a way out of the room. The two of them end up sitting together in the bathtub, kissing goodbye. Fortunately, firefighters arrive just seconds before they can be burned alive.
And the rest: Ronnie Edwards is dead. Try to hold back your tears. Almost everyone else is okay, despite some minor injuries. Winston and Ken take charge, and Winston winds up being the person to get the rescue squad to the house. Ken spends most of the book with Olivia, who’s badly injured, as well as trapped under a beam and the Wakefields’ refrigerator. By the time the rescue crew arrives, she’s died from internal injuries. And it’s actually pretty sad.
Thoughts: Devon doesn’t see the point in calling the fire department. When there’s a fire. And people are trapped in a house. Shut up, Devon. I’m so happy to almost be rid of you.
How is Jessica being immature and selfish by worrying about Elizabeth? You shut up, too, Steven.
I don’t really have anything else to say, so I’ll just tell Devon to shut up again. Shut up some more, Devon.
July 3, 2013
Summary: You guys, the twins are finally turning 17!!! Each wants to throw a surprise party for the other, so there’s a lot of secret planning and trying to figure out what the other girl would consider a fun party. Elizabeth rents out the Beach Disco (after having to promise the manager that she can get 100 people to come), and Jessica plans a classy beach party with a string quartet. She has no money, so she asks Steven for a loan (then gets Lila to give her an advance on that loan).
Lila and Amy get invitations to both parties and have to come up with a plan to keep people from choosing one party over the other, and to keep the twins from finding out about each other’s party. They enlist Enid and Maria Slater to help, and the girls come up with some grand scheme that they think is brilliant but really isn’t. Basically, they manufacture reasons for the parties to be canceled, then get the twins back to their own house, where there’s one monster party. Ned and Alice leave, but Steven and Billie stick around to chaperone.
There’s a lot of drama going on in Sweet Valley in the two weeks leading up to the party. Winston and Maria Santelli are fighting because he’s unable to keep his mouth shut about things she told him in confidence. (This is one of the reasons no one lets him in on the party-planning scheme.) Olivia and Ken are fighting because she did a nude painting of him and wants to enter it in an art show. He demands that she destroy it, but she wants to be free to express herself as an artist.
The Todd/Elizabeth/Devon triangle is still in play, but they’re all still awkward around each other because of what happened at prom. Todd even plans to ditch the party, then changes his mind. Devon gets Elizabeth a really boring present, in order to prove…you know what, I don’t even know what he’s trying to prove. My eyes glaze over whenever I read his name. And finally, Bruce has been bragging that he’s going to Harvard when he’s only on the waiting list. When he gets rejected, he tells everyone he’d rather go to SVU anyway (though his dad has to buy a building to get him in).
There’s a minor earthquake, and Prince Albert is acting crazy, but everyone plans to have a good time at the party (even the people who are fighting with each other). Things get off to a great start when the twins arrive, very happy with the way things have turned out. Then they get their birthday present from their parents – a new Jeep, to replace the one Todd destroyed – and they’re even happier.
The fighting couples make up, with Olivia showing Ken a revised version of the nude portrait that doesn’t show anything R-rated. He “allows” her to keep the original painting, and she promises never to display it. Billie leaves to get some ice, taking Steven’s car, but it breaks down, so Jessica and Steven take the new Jeep to go get her. Todd comes to the party, telling Elizabeth that he’s going to a basketball camp for the summer, and they agree to reassess things when he gets back.
Then all Hell breaks loose. There’s a huge earthquake that takes down various parts of the Wakefields’ house (including the chimney, and that would scare the heck out of me). Olivia, Ken, Annie, and Maria Santelli get trapped in the kitchen, and things don’t look good for Olivia. Winston can’t find his girlfriend. Todd and Lila are in the bathroom together (he was trying to kick her out of there when the earthquake hit). Jessica and Steven get into a major car accident. And it looks like when the next book starts, people are going to have to pick through a lot of wreckage to find out who’s survived.
Thoughts: Before they get the Jeep from their parents, the twins think they’ll have to pay for a new car themselves. But why? Did their insurance not cover Todd driving it off a cliff?
Ken’s mad about the painting because people will think Olivia’s seen him naked, and I guess by extension that they’ve had sex. I’m sorry, no teenage boy would be mad about that.
Lila: “It makes even more sense to let the servants straighten up. It makes them feel useful.” Jessica: “You’re a real humanitarian, Lila.” Lila: “Don’t ever say that! Not even in jest.” I think Lila grew up to be Jenna from 30 Rock.
Olivia, re: the nude painting: “I used my imagination.” Maria Slater: “With a hunk like Ken for a boyfriend, I’d use my imagination, too.” I love Maria.
Jessica sits on Steven’s lap. JESSICA, STAAAAAAHP.