February 7, 2017
Summary: Maria Slater has suddenly become interested in directing (in case her career as an actress never gets back off the ground), so she’s excited when her dad gets a new video camera and lets her have his old one. She’s going to film a performance the Boosters are doing at the mall the next day to generate press for the opening of a new food court. This is a Big Deal, because things in Sweet Valley aren’t exciting enough with random visits from celebrities and people almost dying all the time. I mean, it can’t be too important if the main entertainment is some 12-year-old cheerleaders.
Everything’s going fine at the press event until everyone hears glass being smashed and realizes there’s been a robbery at a jewelry store. Jessica, who was about to jump on top of the Boosters’ pyramid (whatever), gets distracted and crashes. Lila’s angry that Jess wasn’t more professional. She thinks she should have Jessica’s role in the Boosters, and she wants to prove that she’s the better cheerleader.
Elizabeth has more important things to worry about – there’s a mystery afoot. Her parents don’t want her to look into the robbery, since she put herself in danger when she was investigating the charm school. But no way will Elizabeth turn her back on an opportunity to be like Christine Davenport, the heroine of her beloved Amanda Howard mysteries. Why leave the police work to the police when this 12-year-old has everything it takes to catch a robber?
The Boosters gather to watch Maria’s video of their performance (after Lila wins a high-jump competition with Jessica in her bid to prove that she’s a better Booster). The video is a disaster as apparently Maria is incompetent and can’t even figure out where the camera lens is. Jessica and Lila try to brush it off with a fence-walking contest. What is this, Anne of Green Gables? Guys, don’t go on the roof, okay? Anyway, Lila wins again.
While the kids are at school, another store at the mall is robbed. A security guard, MacDuff, gives a TV interview, and since he was present during the first robbery, Amy wonders if he’s pulling an inside job. Meanwhile, Jessica and Lila compete to see who can hold the most grapes in her mouth. Jess wins, but really, aren’t they both losers for this sort of stuff?
Since Elizabeth is writing about the new mall restaurants for the Sixers, she and her friends have a good excuse to keep hanging out at the mall. She and Todd go to a record store and chat with an employee who has a scar on his hand. Liz realizes that he was working elsewhere in the mall the last time she was there. Back in Jess/Lila Land, Lila wins a swimming competition. Their friends are at least entertained by their rivalry.
There’s another robbery, and Todd encourages Liz to go to the mall and investigate. She talks to a cop, offering to give a witness statement since she was at the mall during a previous robbery. She’d love to read the police reports and give her input. Amazingly, the cop doesn’t laugh in her face, but he also doesn’t indulge her fantasy that she’ll write about the robberies for the Sixers and, I don’t know, win a Pulitzer. Elizabeth talks to the employee from the record store instead; he’s now working at a Chinese restaurant.
Lila and Jess’ next competition is hanging upside-down from monkey bars. Jess wins, so she’s only one point behind Lila. They’ll have one more contest, after which Lila thinks she’ll be declared the winner and will get to take Jessica’s place at the top of the pyramid. If Jess wins, there will be a tie-breaker, but Lila clearly doesn’t think that will happen. The girls decide that whoever is the overall winner gets to pick her costume for the food court’s official opening, where the Boosters will be serving hors d’oeuvres. The loser gets last pick.
In a break from all the stealing going on at the mall, Maria’s house is robbed. She’s confused because all the family’s valuables are left alone, but her videotapes are stolen. Liz thinks that someone got a hold of Maria’s address after she gave it to the cop she offered to help. Jessica is on board with Amy’s theory that MacDuff is the robber – since he works at the mall, he would have easy access to all the stores.
Elizabeth realizes that Maria’s tape from the Boosters’ performance might contain evidence. Yeah, everyone reading figured that out, like, 50 pages ago, Liz. Since Maria didn’t keep it with her other tapes, it wasn’t stolen. Liz, Maria, and Amy watch it, and though the quality is horrible, they’re able to make out what looks like a hand taking a necklace. Well, at least it’s more than the police have found. They stake out the mall for a little while and see MacDuff at the Chinese restaurant, off-duty. Not long after, the Chinese restaurant is the next place to be robbed.
Lila and Jessica’s last contest is a bike race through an obstacle course. Jess wins, so the girls need a tiebreaker. They agree to a hot dog-eating contest at the mall. Lila wins, which I find really hard to believe. I can’t see her eating even one hot dog, let alone more than Jessica. But whatever, this means Jess could get stuck with a horrible costume at the opening.
Elizabeth stalks MacDuff, overhearing him on the phone, sounding sketchy. He catches her and she gets in major trouble with her parents. She’s even grounded! Undeterred, she continues her investigation, watching Maria’s tape again. This time Liz is able to see that the hand stealing the necklace has a scar on it. She knows she’s seen that scar before, but because she’s actually a much, much worse detective than she thinks, she doesn’t remember where. She thinks it’s MacDuff’s.
There’s a big party for the food court opening, and Elizabeth convinces Amy and Maria to sneak in with her. They don’t have invitations, but they pretend they were invited to cover the story for the Sixers. The record store/Chinese restaurant/various other stores guy is now working as a coat check. Just seconds after arriving, Elizabeth sees the scar on his hand and realizes she’s been investigating the wrong suspect.
Ironically (I guess), Liz turns to the person she just stopped suspecting to help her capture her new suspect. MacDuff is displeased that she’s still investigating, but he listens when she tells him the guy with the scar is probably the robber. The robber sees them together and figures out he’s busted, so he takes off. Elizabeth chases him, and MacDuff chases her. Jessica sees her sister being pursued by the guy she still thinks is a robber and decides to stop him by jumping out in front of him. Oh, and by the way, she’s dressed as a giant hot dog. The visual from this scene is one of my favorite things from this whole series.
So of course the robber is caught, and Elizabeth is hailed a hero (though Jessica should get half the credit for risking her physical safety). The Wakefields are so proud of their little detective that they give her back some of the privileges they took away when they grounded her. Steven calls bull, as do I, but we shouldn’t expect anything less from Ned and Alice. Maria is still horrible with her video camera, but she’s happy that her video helped catch a criminal. Maybe someone will let her know that the director doesn’t have to handle the camera, so her cinematography skills probably won’t have an effect on her career goals.
Thoughts: “The Valley Mall: An International Dining Extravaganza.” You have seven restaurants, four are American, and the Mexican one is called the Taco Shack. Calm down, Valley Mall.
Elizabeth describes a coconut-orange smoothie as a “platonic experience.” What are you on, Liz?
Janet picks a costume that consists of “a pair of short denim overalls, a red-checked blouse, and a blond wig with two braids.” I call bull again.
Elizabeth has black velvet leggings. WHAT?
This week in Adventures in Out-of-Context Passages: “‘Stop!’ the hot dog shouted with Jessica’s voice.”
November 8, 2016
Summary: The morning after a movie marathon the twins tried to stay up for, Steven finds his sisters asleep on the couch in the den. Alice is on the phone in the kitchen, trying to book a conference room (preferably the George Washington Room) at the Regent Hotel for a black-tie even for 317 people on either the 15th or 28th of the month. Ned tells Steven that he watched part of the marathon (including a movie where Johnny Buck, who must now be both a rock star and an actor, played a hero in the French Revolution) but got annoyed because they kept showing ads for Corny-Os cereal. Coincidentally, Corny-Os is exactly what both twins wake up wanting to eat, even though they haven’t had it for a while. Very strange…
At school, everyone has to pick a topic for a history paper, and the twins both pick the French Revolution. Jessica thinks it’s funny that, for the second time, they’ve had the same idea at the same time. Elizabeth just brushes it off. At lunch, the Unicorns, Elizabeth, and Amy discuss an upcoming talent show. Ellen is doing the spotlight performance, even though she can’t sing and Janet’s worried that her lack of talent will make the Unicorns look bad. Amy thinks the twins should enter with a psychic sister act. Clearly, since they had the same ideas a couple of times, they’re psychic.
Suddenly everyone’s interested in a demonstration of the twins’ abilities. Jessica loves the attention, of course, and Liz decides to go along because she thinks they’ll just quickly disprove the theory and move on. But when the twins are told to write down a number between 1 and 400 hundred, they both pick 317. When told to think of a president, they both think of Washington. Then Liz guesses that Jess is thinking of the number 28. Bruce suggests that they go for something more complicated – they should both think of a color and an item of clothing. Both girls think of a black tie.
Jess takes advantage of her newfound abilities to give people advice. For example, she warns Denny Jacobson to look both ways before he crosses the road. Elizabeth doesn’t like the idea of Jess pretending to be psychic, but she can’t really argue with that kind of suggestion. Jessica thinks they should keep having fun with their new parlor trick, especially if it leads to a role in the documentary Randy Mason’s uncle is making about psychics. Plus, now the talent-show committee wants to make the twins the star performers. Liz tries to decline, but since the show’s proceeds are going to charity, she can’t say no.
At school, Denny tells Jess that a car came the wrong way down his one-way street, so if he hadn’t listened to her and looked both ways before crossing, he would have been hit. Jessica thinks she might really be psychic after all. Randy’s uncle is coming to town soon, but Randy isn’t sure the twins are interesting enough for the documentary. Jess wins him over with a story about knowing Elizabeth was locked in the basement when the twins were younger; it was flooding, and Jessica was able to save her from drowning. Randy thinks this will be enough to make his uncle want to interview the twins. Oh, by the way, the documentary is about phony psychics and how the police hate them because they make real psychics look bad. Yeah, I don’t think that’s why the police hate them. Jessica doesn’t think the twins have anything to worry about, since obviously, they’re really psychic.
Elizabeth disagrees – Jess’ story about saving her never happened. In fact, Jessica knew Liz was in the basement because she locked her down there. Heh. I don’t know why that makes me laugh. There was barely any water down there either. Elizabeth is worried about the whole thing, but Jessica wins her over with her eagerness to practice their act for the talent show. Liz sends Jess the psychic message to smooth her hair, and when Jess does it (after, like, five minutes), Elizabeth thinks there might be something to this psychic business after all.
Before going out of town for a few days, Alice asks Elizabeth to take a check to the Regent Hotel so she can secure the conference room. Liz totally forgets about it and has a nightmare about the whole event falling apart. Everyone in the dream is wearing a black tie – all 317 of them. Dream Alice tells Liz that she went through a lot trying to book either the 15th or the 28th. When Elizabeth wakes up, she realizes why she and Jess had all the same thoughts. They must have unconsciously heard Alice on the phone, talking about the event.
Liz shares her revelation with Jessica, who’s disappointed that they’re not really psychic…but not so disappointed that she’s not going to keep up the act for the talent show. Why be honest when you can keep getting loads of attention? Jess barely even blinks when Randy talks about how horrible fake psychics are, and how his uncle helps the FBI put them in jail. She just decides to approach things from a different angle. She asks Maria, who once did a movie about a fake psychic (how convenient!), to help the twins put together an act that will fool everyone.
At first Elizabeth agrees, thanks in part to Jessica turning on the fake tears, but then she changes her mind. The twins fight, then have dreams about getting busted on stage. This is enough to make Elizabeth change her mind back. When the twins learn that Randy’s uncle is going to come film the talent show for his documentary, Elizabeth almost rechanges her mind, but Jess and Maria help her feel better about communicating on stage without words. They make up hand gestures and facial expressions that correspond to letters so they can silently spell out words. They have to practice a ton to get everything down, and they’re worried that they’ll seem obvious, but at this point, there’s no going back.
On Friday, just before the talent show, Liz takes the check to Mr. Peters, the manager of the Regent Hotel. The hotel is being renovated, and all the workers are off for a few weeks, so it’s basically deserted. Mr. Peters is planning to leave right after he gets the check. After she’s handed it over, Elizabeth starts to take the elevator back down, but it’s slow, so she decides to take the stairs. Unfortunately, the doors are all locked. With Mr. Peters gone, there’s no one in the building to let Liz out. Not only will she miss the talent show, but she’ll be trapped in the stairwell until Monday.
Jessica makes it to school for the show but has no idea what’s keeping her sister, who said she’d be there right after she dropped off the check. Jess worries that Liz’s conscience made her back out of the act. She does feel a little better when Ellen loses her voice just before the show, which means she won’t embarrass the Unicorns. But when show time rolls around, Jessica has to take the stage by herself.
Jess plans to just apologize to the audience and explain that Elizabeth isn’t there, but suddenly she realizes that something must be wrong. No matter how guilty Liz felt about the act, she wouldn’t just ditch Jess without an explanation. Jess figures that something happened at the hotel to keep Elizabeth from making it to school. While Liz tries to psychically communicate with her twin, hoping that there’s some ability there after all, Jess pretends to receive a message from Elizabeth begging for rescue.
Mr. Mason films as Jessica hams it up, then tells her parents that, for real, something’s wrong. They all head over to the hotel and free Elizabeth. There’s a kind of funny bit where Mr. Mason narrates what’s going on (I don’t think his documentary is going to be Oscar-caliber) but gets annoyed when Jessica tries to direct things. Once Elizabeth has been rescued, she admits to Jess that she tried to send a psychic message. Jess is thrilled to play this up for the camera. The story makes it onto the local news broadcast, so even if the twins aren’t featured in the documentary, at least they got to be on TV. They decide their days of being “psychic” are over. I’m sure it won’t be long before Jess comes up with a new wacky scheme to get some more attention.
Thoughts: Jessica: “I’m not sure I have enough clothes to be famous.” Heh.
The fact that Jessica has learned to cry on cue is really scary.
Suddenly Amy’s an excellent gymnast. Who knew?
When Ellen loses her voice, she blames Jessica, accusing her of being a witch. That would have been a much more interesting book.
September 13, 2016
Summary: For some reason, a bunch of girls at SVMS are excited to learn that a charm school is opening in Sweet Valley. I’m not sure I even knew what a charm school was when I was 12. No, wait, I knew about it from A League of Their Own. The school is run by a Ms. Monique Beaumont, who has come all the way to little Sweet Valley from Switzerland. She wants to teach her students about all of Europe’s beautiful things and how to live gracefully, or something. She’s also opening an art gallery. She’s working with her husband, as well as a guy named Richard. They have different accents but supposedly both hail from Switzerland.
While the Unicorns are thrilled about the charm school, Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria don’t see the point. I guess Elizabeth already has enough charm. Maria’s cool with or without it. Amy’s hopeless either way, so why bother? Besides, girls have to be invited in order to attend. And first, their parents are invited to the opening of the art gallery, which will allow the Beaumonts to see what kinds of families live in Sweet Valley. Poorer families like the Millers and McCormicks are overlooked.
Ned and Alice go to the opening with Jessica, while Elizabeth and Amy hang out at home. Elizabeth wants them to put their hair in beehives, the style that was all the rage when Alice was in school. They look at one of Alice’s high school yearbooks and spot a girl named Margaret Rudenthaler who looks an awful lot like Ms. Beaumont. Meanwhile, Jessica realizes that the Beaumonts have only invited rich families to the gallery opening (which makes sense to her, since poorer families aren’t going to buy any art). She gives Ms. Beaumont the names of a couple more girls to invite to charm school. Later, Elizabeth asks Alice about Margaret, but Margaret didn’t spend a lot of time in Sweet Valley, so Alice doesn’t remember her much.
Maria (whose family went to the opening even though she’s not going to charm school) tells Elizabeth that her sister Nina chatted with Ms. Beaumont in French but told Maria that her accent sounded strange. Maria chalks this up to Ms. Beaumont being Swiss, not French. That night, Elizabeth sees a newspaper article about phony art and antiques, and she starts to get the idea that the Beaumonts are conning everyone in Sweet Valley. Keep in mind that at this point she has absolutely no evidence of this. But she, Amy, and Maria are suspicious enough to decide they need to attend charm school and gather more information.
How to do so when they’ve told their parents they’re not interested? Convince their parents that they need some charm. Maria’s on her worst behavior at a dinner with one of her mother’s clients, and her punishment is charm school. Amy acts overly clumsy, which would make me think she had a neurological disorder if she were my daughter, but what do I know? Elizabeth pretends to let Jessica change her mind about going, and somehow, no one’s suspicious.
Charm school is just as awesome as the other girls (read: the Unicorns) hoped. At the end of the classes, someone will get the Mademoiselle Manners/Queen of Charm award, which means wearing a tiara and having bragging rights. Jessica and Janet each think they’re a lock for the award, and they decide to make a bet. Whichever of them doesn’t win has to curtsy to the other for a week. No word on what happens if neither of them wins.
Because Europe is full of beautiful things, and Ms. Beaumont wants the Sweet Valley girls to recognize the beautiful things in their own lives, she tells them to write down all the expensive things in their homes for homework. Sure, that sounds completely unsuspicious. Then the girls work on their posture by walking around with books on their heads. Jessica and Janet bicker, then act overly gracious and polite to each other so they don’t risk losing their chances at the Queen of Charm award.
Jessica and Lila work on their homework assignments together, though Jessica has trouble completing hers, since her family doesn’t have a lot of fancy, expensive stuff. Really, all they have is Alice’s jewelry and some things her ancestors brought over from Sweden. Richard arrives with a painting Mr. Fowler bought from the Beaumonts’ gallery, and Jessica tries to impress him by telling him about all the expensive things the Wakefields have. According to her, they’re about three times richer than the Fowlers. She’s so caught up in her lie that she doesn’t see the cartoon dollar signs in Richard’s eyes.
At the next class, Ms. Beaumont expresses concern over how the Wakefields safeguard all the fabulous things in their home. Jessica has apparently forgotten all her lies already, so she tells Ms. Beaumont that they just keep Alice’s jewelry in an old tennis shoe. The best hiding place I’ve ever heard of is a plastic bag under the liner in a litterbox. No burglar is going to look there. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is goofing off in class, so Ms. Beaumont tells her to stop wasting everyone’s time. She humiliates Liz in front of the rest of the class, causing her to run off in tears.
Really, though, Elizabeth is just taking advantage of the situation to check out the Beaumonts’ office. She doesn’t have much time to look around, but she does overhear Mr. Beaumont on the phone, talking about how Mr. Fowler isn’t suspicious about his new painting. He pretty much confirms that the charm school is just a front so he and “Margaret” can pull some con. So Elizabeth thinks she’s right about Monique being Margaret, and about the Beaumonts selling fake art.
Elizabeth shares the news with Amy and Maria, who agree to help her gather more evidence to take to the police. They sneak back into the office and learn that the antiques Alice bought from the gallery for a design client are fakes. Ouch. Liz tries to warn her mother, but Ned and Alice dismiss her suspicions.
As a plan B, Liz asks her art teacher about authenticating paintings. Then she has Maria call Mr. Beaumont, pretending to be Alice, to ask him to meet her at the Fowlers’ to help her get some ideas for a design client. “Alice” also calls Mr. Fowler to ask if she can come over that weekend, and Alice (as Ms. Beaumont) to get her to show up as well. Everyone shows up at the Fowlers’ as they’re supposed to, and Elizabeth announces that she thinks the Beaumonts are crooks who sold Mr. Fowler a fake painting. Unfortunately, she’s wrong – a museum curator she called comes and authenticates the painting.
Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria are all in trouble with their parents for their stunt, and Elizabeth is even told she can’t read Amanda Howard mysteries for a year, since they’re making her so suspicious. Since Jessica and Lila were present during the accusations at the Fowlers’, they gleefully spread word to the school, and Elizabeth becomes a laughingstock. She still thinks the Beaumonts are up to something, though, and she’s not about to give up her investigation.
Elizabeth sneaks into the office again and overhears the Beaumonts talking…with American accents. They’re thrilled that everything is going as planned. During the big, fancy dinner the charm students are attending with their families to celebrate the end of classes, Mr. Beaumont and Richard will rob their houses. Since the girls so helpfully provided the Beaumonts lists of their expensive belongings, the cons know exactly who has what, and where it is. One house in particular has them very eager to get on with things. The Beaumonts know Elizabeth is suspicious, so Monique is going to give her the Queen of Charm award, which will somehow keep her from interfering with their plans.
Now Elizabeth has more than enough evidence to convince her friends that she was right about the Beaumonts…but they don’t want to listen to her anymore. Jessica’s especially skeptical since Liz says the Beaumonts plan to give her the Mademoiselle Manners award. Elizabeth notes that if they do, Jess will have to believe the rest of her claims, so Jessica agrees to help her out of Liz gets the award. They come up with a plan.
Steven pretends to have a headache so he can stay home while the other Wakefields go to the dinner. I thought this would mean he’d catch the robbers in the act, but it doesn’t really serve a purpose. Elizabeth does, indeed, get the title of Mademoiselle Manners (Ms. Beaumont claims that it’s because she made so much progress in a short amount of time), so Jessica realizes that Liz’s suspicions were right.
The twins enact their plan, with Jessica pretending to be devastated over losing the award. When Elizabeth goes to “comfort” her, Jessica puts on Liz’s clothes and returns to the dinner as Elizabeth, pretending Jess is too upset to see anyone. Elizabeth heads off to the Fowlers’, thinking she’ll be able to catch Mr. Beaumont and Richard in the act there and call the police on them. Jessica brings Amy and Maria in on things, telling them to make sure one of them is by a pay phone in the building every 20 minutes. If Elizabeth doesn’t call, she’s in trouble.
Elizabeth follows Mr. Beaumont and Richard around town, but they don’t stop at any of the houses Liz thinks they will. She can’t figure out which family they think has the most things to steal. Meanwhile, Jessica goes back and forth between being herself and pretending to be Elizabeth so no one wonders where Liz is. Her parents are dumb enough to fall for this.
After this goes on for about an hour, Elizabeth makes a pit stop at the Wakefields’ to call the payphone and give Maria or Amy an update. She catches Steven leaving with a friend and overhears him saying that the same van has driven past a bunch of times. Somehow, Liz doesn’t get that this means Mr. Beaumont and Richard are targeting their house. While she’s calling Maria, the robbers show up and lock Liz in a closet. They decide to take her with them when they head to Mexico (to pull their con again), so she can’t rat them out.
Maria tells Jessica and Amy that something happened while she was on the phone with Liz, and she thinks Elizabeth is in trouble. Jessica figures out that the robbers broke into the Wakefields’ house, thinking they could steal a bunch of nonexistent treasures. Fortunately, Elizabeth has the real treasures (Alice’s jewelry) in her hands. Her sister and friends call the police, who arrive just before Elizabeth can be spirited away to Mexico.
Jessica uses her acceptance speech as Mademoiselle Manners to call out Ms. Beaumont for being a criminal. She also takes the opportunity to boast to Janet that she’s Jess, not Elizabeth, so she wound up with the Queen of Charm crown after all (sort of). The Wakefields are upset that Elizabeth took such a big risk, but they’re proud of her for taking down some criminals. I guess the ban on Amanda Howard books is off?
Thoughts: “We also hope that Sweet Valley will learn to appreciate the art of gracious living.” The what now?
“I have been in countries far, far away where your head would be cut off if you tripped and fell in front of their queen.” Westeros?
If all the mysteries Elizabeth has read turned her into a good detective, then that book I once read about brain surgery should come in REALLY handy.
Imagine coming up with this whole big con and getting outsmarted by some 12-year-olds. Imagine having to live that down in prison.
March 22, 2016
Summary: Maria Slater is finally here! One of SVT and SVH’s most normal recurring characters has just moved to Sweet Valley from L.A. Jessica’s eager to meet the cool new girl, who she finds a little familiar. The next day, stuck at home with a cold (wimp), Jessica realizes where she’s seen Maria before – in movies and commercials. Maria’s a former child actress who’s found it hard to transition to tween actress. Nowadays she’d have her pick of Nickelodeon and Disney shows, but in the early 1990s, I guess TV and movies weren’t interested in kids who weren’t tiny and cute.
Jessica’s even happier than before to become friends with Maria, who seems more like she would fit in with Elizabeth’s crowed. She’s interested in writing, so Liz assigns her to write about the about-to-be-formed drama club for the Sixers. Jess takes Maria home with her after school, and Maria accidentally leaves her backpack behind. Jessica looks through her notebook for an address or phone number but instead finds something she’s writing about researching a role as a regular 12-year-old. Jess thinks she’s only in town to prepare for a movie role, and wants to do it undercover. (Jess is wrong – Maria was just working on a story.)
The next time Jess talks to Maria, she tries to play up how average and normal she is, so Maria will want to use her in her research. Maria’s pretty smart and figures out that Jess is on to her. When Jessica comes clean, Maria asks her to keep quiet. Of course, Jess can’t do that, and immediately tells the Unicorns that their new classmate is a movie star. This is possibly the best thing to ever happen to the Unicorns. Meanwhile, Maria befriends Mandy Miller, who convinces her to try out for the drama club.
The Unicorns try to latch on to Maria, who unsurprisingly thinks she’s better suited to be friends with Liz’s group. She’s so comfortable with them that she shows them her story about researching a movie role. The Unicorns come up with a plan to reveal to Maria that they know her secret: They’ll have a sleepover and play Truth or Dare. Jess will ask Maria if she’s an actress under penalty of…whatever, and when Maria confirms it, the Unicorns will pretend that this is the first time they’ve heard the news.
This works, somehow, and Maria tells the Unicorns that the movie she’s preparing for will be a star-studded feature. Melody Power and Johnny Buck will star, and Kent Kellerman will make an appearance. Maria agrees to arrange for the Unicorns to meet the stars, because I guess she wants to impress these girls she doesn’t really have an interest in being friends with.
With the news out about her real identity, Maria is suddenly very popular at school. Lila wants to throw a big party for Maria’s co-stars on her father’s yacht. Maria starts to realize that this is getting a little out of hand, but she doesn’t come clean about the fact that there’s no movie. Jessica tells Elizabeth that she found out Maria’s secret by reading her notebook, which makes Liz realize that her “diary” isn’t a diary, and Jess read her story. Maria’s sister Nina confirms this.
Elizabeth confronts Maria (kindly, of course), and Maria admits that there’s no movie. She confides that she can’t get work anymore. She wants to skip the yacht party so she’s not humiliated when no stars show up. But that’s the coward’s way out, and cowards never win in Sweet Valley. Maria goes to the party and tells everyone the truth about not being undercover or being able to find roles anymore. Literally no one cares, and she even gets a slow clap. Ew. I think everyone’s just happy to get to hang out on a yacht.
There isn’t really a B-plot, just Mandy and Maria becoming friends as they prepare for drama-club auditions. They both want to do the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, but they can’t find a Romeo. They eventually decide to switch off, with Mandy playing Juliet to Maria’s Romeo, then Maria playing Juliet to Mandy’s Romeo. They both nail the audition, of course.
Thoughts: I have to say, it’s refreshing that absolutely no one in Sweet Valley cares that Maria isn’t white. Contrast that with the Baby-sitters Club, where people were practically burning crosses on the Ramseys’ lawn. Is it because California isn’t as WASP-y as Connecticut? Or did SVT just not want to introduce racism into the series (though they do take on antisemitism later)?
Tamara: “We’re average!” From what I’ve read in this series, yes, you definitely are.
Lila’s father’s yacth is decorated in apricot and puce. To…gether?
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 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.
June 19, 2013
SVH #143, Party Weekend!: Dance Like Nobody’s Watching. Because They’re Not. Because You’re In the Dark
Summary: Apparently the weekend after prom has been designated Monster School Competition Weekend. There’s a big fair with all the local high schools, and then the juniors have their own competition. This year’s is a talent show; each school can only have a certain number of students involved, and they have two days to put together an act. Olivia has been elected SVH’s team captain. Of course, the other juniors on SVH’s team are all characters we know: the twins, Lila, Maria Slater, Winston, Ken, and Devon. Ken, Olivia, and Devon will do the behind-the-scenes work while the others will do a stupid group dance.
Things get off to a bad start. Jessica meets Erica, the captain of El Carro’s team, who’s a horrible shrew to both Jess and Olivia. Ken meets her and doesn’t think she’s that bad, so Olivia’s ticked that he doesn’t hate the same person she hates. Olivia’s totally a mouse through the book, and she thinks she’s not an “A-lister” like the twins and the other people involved with the act. It’s pathetic and annoying, and I never thought Olivia was this bad before.
Ken and Olivia’s relationship hits more rocks when Jessica “accidentally” spills grape juice on Erica, and Ken says Olivia should apologize. Wow, Ken’s annoying, too. Then he’s upset that Olivia won’t go to a dance celebrating the Monster School Competition Weekend. To be fair, they only have two days to get everything ready for the talent show, and Olivia’s making everyone’s costume, so Ken should probably shut up.
Jessica’s been having some tough times, too – the competition between the schools makes her think of Christian, whose death was the result of school rivalries. She also keeps thinking she sees him. The night of the dance, Jessica has a date with a guy named Josh, who goes to Palisades, Christian’s school. Josh brings a guy along when he picks up Jess, and he looks so much like Christian that it makes her faint. It turns out the guy is Christian’s never-before-mentioned brother, Jason, who was at boarding school when Christian died. Even after that drama, he’s barely mentioned again in the book.
Anyway, at the dance, a girl from El Carro tells Jessica that she should check out SVH’s practice room. Jessica thinks she’s being lured into a trap, so she ignores the girl. Then she changes her mind and finds the room destroyed. El Carro has vandalized a bunch of SVH’s stuff, including their props. The twins were using some stuff from their bedrooms as set dressing, and Liz had brought Christian’s surfboard along. Jessica’s devastated to see that it’s been ruined.
Jessica, Maria, and Lila decide to get revenge that night, but then Jessica has a dream (or possibly a hallucination) where Christian reminds her that vengeance can get out of hand and lead to violence. Jess tells Maria and Lila that the revenge plan is tabled, and they’re kind of hilariously ticked.
The SVH kids keep working on their act, and for some reason Jessica wants to make a grand entrance via rigging that will allow her to fly. I don’t know. The El Carro kids find out, and Erica schemes to cut the power during SVH’s act so Jessica will be stuck up high in the dark. Ken overhears and realizes that Olivia was right about Erica being a bitca. He tells Todd, who’s been randomly hanging around during the book.
Little does Ken know that Jessica isn’t going to do the entrance – Olivia is. Jessica gets sick at the last minute and convinces Olivia to take her place. Ken arrives just as the lights go out, and he manages to rescue his girlfriend. Now, of course, everything’s okay. A bunch of kids start fighting, so Jessica and Josh project a picture of Christian on a screen to remind them where violence can lead.
There’s some dumb stuff sprinkled in the story about the Liz/Devon/Todd triangle (Todd’s mad at Elizabeth, and kind of depressed all over the place), but it doesn’t go anywhere. Basically, Todd ends up feeling like an outcast because everyone else has bonded over the talent show and he didn’t participate. Also, Devon and Elizabeth got to spend time together, so he got the short straw there, too. Pretend you care.
Thoughts: I don’t get why this book is called Party Weekend! when there’s…no party.
Maybe schools in the area shouldn’t have big competitions anymore, considering all the violence that’s erupted due to school rivalries. Christian’s death wasn’t the only time the rivalries got out of hand; there was also the incident at Jungle Prom.
You know, I didn’t think about it with the last book, but why is Todd mad at Elizabeth? The twin switch didn’t involve lying to him. Shouldn’t he be happy about it, since it a) embarrassed Devon and b) allowed him to go to the prom with Liz?
Winston drives an orange VW Beetle. Of course he does.
Elizabeth: “Just don’t get carried away.” Jessica: “I’d love to see Erica and her team carried away – on stretchers!” Lame, Jess. You can do better.
After the SVH kids decide not to get revenge on El Carro, I don’t get why they don’t rat El Carro out for vandalism. Elizabeth admits later that she’d like to see them get disqualified, so…get them disqualified. I’m sure they want to compete and beat them, blah blah blah, but people who play that dirty shouldn’t be allowed to play anymore.
SVH didn’t even get to finish their performance, but the judges score the other schools anyway. Shenanigans! I call shenanigans!
June 8, 2013
Summary: It’s finally time for prom! No, not Jungle Prom, a new one. Elizabeth and Devon are on good terms after he set her up to see if she’d choose him or Todd, and they’re going to the dance together. (By the way, there are three events that night: Lila’s pre-prom party, the prom itself, and an after-party on a yacht.) Devon and Liz plan to have dinner first, but he calls to tell her to meet him at the restaurant instead of Secca Lake. Jessica forgets to give Elizabeth the message, so Liz winds up at the lake, where she runs into Todd. She thinks Devon has stood her up, so she and Todd decide to go to the dance together, even though he was supposed to go with Courtney.
Remember how Jessica and Lila both made dates with the same guy but didn’t know it? The guy, Jordan, thinks they’re horrible for going behind each other’s backs, so he ditches them both, leaving them both dateless. Jessica suggests that they just steal other girls’ dates at the prom. She goes to tell Devon that Elizabeth didn’t get his message, then decides to pretend to be Liz and spend the pre-prom time with him, then give him to Liz for the prom. Devon falls for it.
Elizabeth and Todd skip the pre-party, so they’re not there when Courtney shows up, ticked about having been dumped just before the prom. Lila tells her to come to the prom anyway. Courtney does, and when she sees Todd and Liz together, she freaks out. Meanwhile, no one (except Enid and possibly Maria Slater) notices that Devon and Todd both think they’re with Elizabeth, and Devon thinks Todd is with Jessica. I really have no idea how Devon goes the entire dance without figuring out he’s with the wrong twin. Well, at least until Courtney tells him who he’s really with.
Devon confronts Elizabeth, whose default reaction is to start crying. (I can’t feel that bad for her; she went along with Jessica’s plans and let Jess pretend to be her.) Todd is also ticked, so Liz is single again. Lila wants revenge on Jessica, so she and Courtney arrange to lock the twins up in a shed. Liz is with Enid and Maria, so Lila locks them in, too. Then everyone else heads to the yacht for the after-party.
Tyler and Blubber (Maria and Enid’s dates) free the girls, and they all take a speedboat out to meet the yacht. No, I don’t know who would rent a speedboat to a bunch of 16-year-olds after dark. On the boat, Courtney goes fully insane and pushes Todd overboard. Elizabeth rescues him, but he still doesn’t want to be with her. Then Jessica sees Lila and Devon together and gets mad, though I don’t think they’re actually doing anything.
Thoughts: Guys, the first 1,000 people who log on to the Sweet Valley website get a free ‘N Sync cassette sample and autographed picture! Hurry, hurry, hurry!
“We’ve beend reaming about prom night for years, and it’s finally here!” You’ve already had a prom, Jess. Remember? Your boyfriend died?
I’m surprised Lila finds Jessica’s twin switch so objectionable. Maybe she’s just jealous that she can’t do it.
Winston: “You only have one junior prom.” No, you don’t! Am I the only one who remembers Jungle Prom?
The twins think they can pull off the switch for the entire dance. The problem is that they would need everyone else to go along with it for it to work. As soon as anyone talks to Elizabeth and Todd, and finds out that’s Liz, it’s obvious Jessica’s with Devon. To have everyone either pretend Jessica is Elizabeth and vice versa would be impossible.
Tyler wears a navy jacket with black pants. As a model, he should really know better.
December 4, 2012
Summary: The bad news is that Elizabeth had her brilliant idea snaked by Leona. The good news is that Enid and Maria don’t hate her anymore. The three of them and Reggie, who works at Flair, team up to get Elizabeth a meeting with Gordon Lewis, the head of Flair, so she can present her idea without Leona knowing. This involves Elizabeth pretending she actually works there and Enid pretending to be her secretary. Also, Reggie has a crush on Gordon, so the girls want to help fix them up. The four of them also wind up at a fancy party, where Reggie talks Liz up so Gordon thinks she’s a hotshot.
The meeting goes really well, but Leona crashes it and announces that Elizabeth stole her idea instead of the other way around. Elizabeth and Reggie both get fired, though Elizabeth was just an intern and her two weeks are up anyway. Liz sneaks into Leona’s house and steals the tape recorder Leona used to dictate the letter to Gordon talking about her idea and how Elizabeth shouldn’t know about the meeting. Unfortunately, the letter has been erased.
Leona calls Liz and asks her to meet for lunch, but on the way there, someone tries to run Elizabeth off the road and kill her. Todd happens to be driving by and saves her. This almost leads to a reconciliation between the two lovebirds, but Liz is still mad. Todd goes to the police to report the incident and learns that the driver is a known hitman. So Leona hired him to kill Elizabeth so she wouldn’t spill that Leona stole her idea. Overreact much?
Elizabeth goes back to Flair to confront Leona, who pulls a gun and tries to kidnap her (even though Leona’s on crutches). Liz pushes the intercom button on Leona’s phone and a bunch of people hear her talking about stealing the idea. Then the police show up and hopefully take Leona to an asylum or something, because she’s insane. So Liz winds up with credit for the magazine idea, like it even matters anymore, and Todd goes Lloyd Dobler on her and wins her back.
Meanwhile, Jessica is sick of Quentin, even though he’s opening doors to the glam life. She wants to be with Cameron, but he’s no longer working at Flair. He seems to be waiting tables at “Spago’s” now. (Psst, ghostwriter: It’s Spago.) Then Jess finds out that Quentin isn’t using her spread after all. She goes to confront him, and Simone tells her that Quentin was just using Jess to make Simone jealous.
But then Jessica gets a copy of the magazine with her spread in it, plus an invitation to a party thrown by Edward McGee, the president of the company that owns Flair. Jessica rushes to the party and meets McGee’s son – Cameron. He was pulling an Undercover Boss in the mailroom and is actually the new vice president of the company (which makes his relationship with Jessica even grosser). He overruled Quentin and put Jessica in the magazine. Congratulations on your sugar daddy, Jess.
Oh, and Todd? Moved into a crappy apartment, has no money, isn’t wanted at Flair anymore, and can’t cook. But the good news is that he realizes how horrible Simone is and dumps her. Eventually he winds up moving back home. I know you all were worried about him.
Thoughts: Quentin says he won “the VH1 award for best fashion photographer.” Who wants to tell him that was just a setup for Zoolander?
“Maria’s outfit of a cashmere sweater and slim-fitting black moleskin pants, with silver hoops in her ears, was much too artsy and unique for the editorial department.” Yes, if you don’t know what “artsy” or “unique” mean.
Later she wears “a tailored black leather sleeveless jacket with gold buttons.” Isn’t a sleeveless jacket just a vest?
Jessica thinks she loves Cameron after two weeks and, like, one-and-a-half dates. Yep, sounds about right.
Todd going to the police may be the only smart thing he’s ever done. Elizabeth’s all, “La la la, I was almost killed, whatever, la la la.” Todd’s all, “Maybe we should find out why this happened?”
In a photo that actually makes it into the magazine, Jessica wears “a belted maillot with a sheer cape.” Is anyone else thinking that sounds like a superhero costume?
They keep calling Jessica’s early copy of the magazine “blue pages,” but I don’t think that’s a thing. They probably mean blue lines. Couldn’t the ghostwriter have done the barest minimum of research?
November 21, 2012
Summary: Elizabeth’s boss, Leona, goes away for a couple of days and leaves Liz in charge. Then Leona breaks her leg and has to take more time off, so she has Elizabeth go to her house to get her mail and collect her messages. Liz kind of pretends to be Leona, which is weird, then hears a recording Leona made of a letter she was going to send to someone at Flair, pitching an idea Elizabeth had for a column written by a reader. Liz realizes that Leona is Bad News. She confides in a co-worker, who convinces her to rat Leona out.
Jessica has those two dates planned for the same night, and somehow convinces Elizabeth to pretend to be her and go out with Cameron while Jess is with creepy teenager-dating Quentin. Jessica would rather spend time with Cameron, but remember, he’s just a mailroom peon while Quentin is a photographer who could get Jessica into modeling. Elizabeth feels bad for Cameron and gets revenge on Jessica by ordering food Jess hates, then making her eat it when they switch places. The joke is on both of them, though, because Cameron figures out the switch.
Jessica’s still determined to be a model, so she ruins some of Simone’s film, then offers to sub in for her when Quentin redoes the shoot. Apparently she’s gorgeous and perfect and blah blah blah, though she realizes that modeling isn’t as fun as she thought. Jessica patches things up with Cameron and he agrees to give her a second chance, but then he catches Quentin kissing her and goes back to thinking that Jessica is horrible. (Which she is. She clearly has no problems basically sleeping her way to the top.)
In Todd-related news, he and Elizabeth are basically kaput, since she saw him kissing Simone. He doesn’t care, since he gets to hang out with people who are just as awesome and gorgeous as he is. He also doesn’t care that his parents don’t like his new job. He breaks curfew and they warn him not to push it. Todd’s sick of being treated like a child, so he keeps breaking the rules. Eventually his parents tell him he has to stop modeling. Todd decides to move out instead. I’m sure that will go well.
Oh, and Maria and Enid try desperately to be interesting, going on a disastrous double date and shutting Elizabeth out because she was so mean to them before. Yawn.
Thoughts: I guess Elizabeth can date and make out with whoever she wants, but if Todd even looks at another girl, he’s devil spawn.
“With her funky retro look, Maria had a style all her own. Tonight she was wearing a pale blue forties dress with huge square buttons and thick army boots on her feet. An exotic green silk scarf was tied over her head, hiding her hair completely.” I can’t stop rolling my eyes.
There’s a restaurant in Sweet Valley called Bobo’s Burger Barn, where you can draw on the tablecloths. It makes the Dairi Burger seem like Le Cirque.
Enid has a mini-backpack. Remember those?
Cameron orders a steak and fries at a French restaurant. Dealbreaker!
Ghostwriter, stop trying to make us care about Enid and Maria. It’s a losing battle.