November 22, 2016

SVT #72, The Love Potion: The Unicorns Will Make It Up Right Here in the Sink

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

I can't figure out who the girl in the middle reminds me of and it's driving me crazy

I can’t figure out who the girl in the middle reminds me of and it’s driving me crazy

Summary: SVMS throws an annual carnival with the proceeds going to charity, and every year the Unicorns find time in their busy schedule of flirting and practicing new hairstyles to run a booth. This year, the group who raises the most money will get a prize. That’s great and all, but it’s not the biggest news in town: Johnny Buck is going to give a concert in Sweet Valley. Instead of selling tickets, they’re being given away raffle-style, and people can only win them by sending an entry in to the Sweet Valley Tribune. This requires filling out a form only found in the paper, which means if you want to send in multiple entries, you have to buy multiple copies of the paper.

As if that weren’t enough for the Unicorns to be anxious about, they’re worried about Mary’s new hanger-on, Peter Burns. Peter’s a nerd (he’s good at science! Ew!), and his obvious crush on Mary makes the girls worry that their reputation will be tainted. They (well, mostly Janet) urge Mary to be rude to Peter so he’ll go away, but Mary’s an actual nice person and doesn’t want to do that. When he walks home with her one afternoon, she mentions how much she’d like to go to the Johnny Buck concert. He tries to be encouraging, even though the odds of her winning a ticket are pretty slim.

The Unicorns have been trying to come up with an idea for their booth, and Jess thinks up one that everyone agrees on: selling a love potion. They’ll mix up some drink and sell it for a dollar a bottle, promising that whoever drinks it will soon become the object of someone else’s affection. At least it’s a creative idea.

Peter gives Mary a magazine with info about Johnny, which worries the Unicorns. They decide she should be taken off the market so Peter will back off. Mary used to have a crush on an eighth-grader named Tim, so the girls do some matchmaking and let him know that Mary’s interested. He invites her to a big picnic at Secca Lake the day after the carnival, and though she’s not that excited about going with him, she agrees because she doesn’t want to tick off the Unicorns.

Peter helps out with the Sixers and chats with Elizabeth, admitting that he entered the concert raffle even though he doesn’t like Johnny Buck that much. She figures out that he wants to win tickets for Mary. Over the weekend, the ticket winners receive their prizes (more on this in the B-plot section), but Peter and Mary are both out of luck. But everyone has one more chance: Mr. Bowman bought tickets for his niece but is now going to raffle them off at the carnival. This time, people can only enter once, which puts everyone back on equal footing.

Even without the tickets, Peter gets up the courage to ask Mary out. Just before he can, Tim arrives, and Peter learns that he and Mary are going to the picnic together. Peter realizes he’s lost his chance with the girl he’s in love with. Poor guy. The Unicorns are happy, though, since Mary now has a respectable boyfriend. Mary herself isn’t so happy – Tim is full of himself and more interested in talking about what he likes than finding out anything about Mary. Also, he doesn’t like Johnny Buck.

The girls mix up their love potion, which is really pineapple punch with purple food coloring. (It actually sounds kind of good.) They make a ton of sales, either to people who really want to fall in love or to people who are just thirsty. Tim buys three bottles to make himself look like a bigshot. Mary is, unsurprisingly, not impressed. Everyone buys raffle tickets, including Peter, who’s still holding on to hope that he can win Mary over.

Mary runs into Peter, who’s back to hoping that things will work out for them. He tells her that he bought a raffle ticket but is hopeful about things even if he doesn’t end up winning. She tries to get him to explain that, but he clams up. Now she thinks he’s being cold to her, which confuses her, since he was so nice before. Maybe he didn’t like her as much as she’d thought. Yeah, or maybe he’s upset that you’re dating a jerk instead of him. Wake up, Mary.

Jessica’s sick of Peter and decides to sell him a love potion. This one is special – it contains a bunch of ingredients Jessica finds around the carnival, including salsa and root beer. Peter first says he doesn’t believe in love potions, but he figures it can’t hurt to try. The poor guy drinks the whole thing while the Unicorns giggle about him. Joke’s on you, girls – he’s going to grow up to find a cure for cancer or something, while you have three kids you don’t even like and spend your lives trying to recapture the magic of your senior year of high school.

Mr. Bowman lets Elizabeth and Amy hang around while he draws the winner of the concert tickets. Unsurprisingly, it’s Peter. He swears the girls to secrecy, since he won’t announce the winner until the next day. But Jessica tricks Elizabeth into telling her, pretending she’s going to read her mind, then getting her to write the winner’s name on a napkin, which Jess just grabs. She wishes Mary had gone out with Peter instead of Tim, since this would ensure her a ticket to the concert. Then Jess realizes that she can secure a ticket by buttering Peter up. She also tells Lila that he won.

Mary finally realizes that Peter is a nice guy and she hasn’t treated him well. She decides to make up with him at the picnic. She’s still going with Tim, but she was zero interest in him. The next day, Mary has a horrible time getting to the picnic. Tim’s father was supposed to drive them, but he can’t make it, so they have to ride bikes. Mary rides Tim’s mom’s bike but gets a flat tire. Tim says she must have done something wrong, then ditches her. When Mary finally gets to Secca Lake, she yells at Tim in front of all his friends, which is awesome.

Mary then apologizes to Peter, who now has a bunch of girls being nice to him. He doesn’t know he won the tickets, so he doesn’t get that they’re trying to kiss up to him. Well, except for Mary, who genuinely feels bad about how she treated him. Peter figures the love potion actually worked. Sorry, buddy, Mary just realized she was being a jerk and stopped letting her friends peer-pressure her into staying away from you.

The Unicorns get a plaque for making the most money at the carnival. Lila is unimpressed. Peter learns that he won the tickets and gives them to Mary and Jessica, even though he knows that Jessica gave him a gross love potion on purpose. Once again, Jessica’s bad behavior is rewarded and she suffers no consequences. Sigh.

The B-plot is about how much the Wakefield kids want to go to the concert. Steven wants to win tickets so he can take Cathy, and he sends in 30 entries.  Jessica can only get her hands on six copies of the paper, and Elizabeth just sends in one entry. Apparently the paper receives 25,000 entries all together, which has to be, like, 2.5 times the number of subscribers, so the Tribune is going to have a great Christmas party this year. Jess and Steven get competitive, agreeing that whoever doesn’t get to go to the concert has to do the other’s chores for a month.

Thanks to his 30 entries, Steven wins tickets while Jessica doesn’t. (Elizabeth doesn’t either, but Amy does, so Liz gets a ticket anyway.) Then Steven misplaces his tickets, so Jess makes another deal with him: If she finds them, she gets one. Steven ends up cleaning the entire house while looking for the tickets, but he can’t find them. He even accuses Jessica of stealing them, which is kind of dumb, because how would she get away with going to the concert without him finding out?

Eventually Steven finds the tickets in his geometry book. His parents aren’t happy with the realization that he didn’t find them earlier because he hasn’t used his geometry book in days. Jessica isn’t happy with the fact that, since Steven found them without her help, he doesn’t have to give her one. Just before the concert, Steven misplaces the tickets AGAIN, this time in his Spanish book. Maybe Steven should focus more on schoolwork and less on buying 30 copies of a newspaper. Anyway, all three Wakefield kids get to go to the concert, so yay.

Thoughts: “How about a booth selling special paper?” This is why you’re never allowed to do anything in this series, Kimberly.

Jessica mentions that she has good luck with pineapple recipes, which is a nice bit of continuity.

Mary: “I think he cares more about himself than anyone else.” Lila: “What’s wrong with that?” As if Lila would waste two seconds on a guy who cared more about himself than he did about her.

May 31, 2016

SVT Super Edition #4, The Unicorns Go Hawaiian: Pineapple Express

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:12 pm by Jenn

I want to stay away from all of them

I want to stay away from all of them

Summary: Jessica and Mandy are hanging out after school one day when they see an ad in a magazine for a cooking competition sponsored by the Pineapple People. They’re looking for an interesting recipe using their pineapple. Jessica and Mandy start throwing gross stuff in a bowl to make Poisonous Pineapple Salad. They get Steven to taste it, and though he says it’s not bad, there’s no way either girl is going to try it. Jess sends in the recipe, basically as a joke.

Two months later, guess what? Jessica won the competition. The prize is a trip for her and two friends to Hawaii. The caveat is that she has to accept the prize in a certain amount of time, and the only chance she has to go is over Christmas break. The twins are supposed to go skiing with their grandparents, but Jess doesn’t want to go, so here’s the perfect excuse to skip the trip. If I had a nickel for every time I had to choose between skiing and going to Hawaii… She chooses Mandy and Mary as her travel buddies. (She wanted to take Liz, but Liz feels like at least one of them should go see their grandparents. If I were their grandparents, I’d understand and reschedule the ski trip so they could both go to Hawaii, but whatever.)

Of course, the girls are still in middle school, so there’s no way Alice and Ned will let Jess go to Hawaii without a chaperone. Just as she thinks she’ll have to turn down her fabulous grand prize (and accept the consolation, hundreds of cans of pineapple, which Jessica doesn’t even like), a jealous Lila inadvertently comes up with a solution. She complained to her father about not being invited on the trip, so he agreed to take her, Ellen, and Janet to Hawaii. Jessica realizes that Mr. Fowler can chaperone her, Mary, and Mandy as well. So the trip is back on.

The only drawback is that Mr. Fowler will also be bringing his new girlfriend, Bambi. Yes, Bambi. She’s an aspiring actress, which Lila doesn’t find endearing. She hates how much time her father spends with Bambi rather than paying attention to his daughter. Fair enough. But, of course, Bambi is very sweet and doesn’t deserve any of the animosity Lila directs toward her. Lila, sweetie, you’re going to Hawaii with your best friends. Lighten up.

As soon as the girls get to Hawaii, it becomes clear that Mr. Fowler’s chaperoning is pretty much in name only. The only rule he gives the girls is to not spend their money on cheap crap. Bambi promises to keep an eye on the girls, then promptly disappears. The girls all split up to go shopping, go to the beach, etc. Apparently 12-year-old girls are perfectly capable of navigating around Hawaii without any help, even though the only one who’s ever been there before is Lila, and it was just for a long weekend.

Janet runs into a local boy named Kenji, who insists that she’s the reincarnation of the Hawaiian princess Keiko. Janet falls for it, because she doesn’t realize that a Hawaiian princess would most likely not be white. Kenji warns that, according to lore, if Keiko’s reincarnation ever tries to leave Hawaii, the goddess Pele will erupt and cover the island in lava. Fun! Janet tries to find a way out of this mess, but Kenji tells her she’s now cursed for wanting to leave.

The Pineapple People have arranged a tour of their plant for the Unicorns, which sounds like a really exciting way to spend your time in Hawaii. Jessica’s confused because they keep calling her Jessica Wakely. She and Mandy decide that they must have gotten her mixed up with the real competition winner. After all, how could their pineapple disaster beat a delicious pineapple upside-down cake? They don’t bother to wonder how a pineapple upside-down cake could win a contest looking for a unique recipe. Anyway, Jess feels guilty for the rest of the trip, thinking she’s taken someone else’s prize.

Lila finds a ring on the beach and convinces herself that it’s super-fancy and expensive. Janet’s new buddy Kenji meets her and tells her it’s from King Kamehameha’s tomb, and now she’s cursed for wearing it. Kenji sure knows a lot about curses, doesn’t he? Lila spends the rest of the book trying and failing to take the ring off.

Mary and Mandy don’t have much of a plot (though at least they get more to do than Ellen, who’s at her dumbest here), but they overhear Mr. Fowler and Bambi talking and think they’re getting married. Bambi mentions that she’s not sure she’s ready to be a stepmother. Mandy and Mary know that Lila will freak out if she learns her father wants to marry Bambi, so they keep it to themselves.

The girls go on a tour of a volcano, and Lila and Janet think it’s erupting. They think nearby bulldozers are the shaking ground and mistake the sudden extreme heat for lava. The other girls get a good laugh at them. Then they go on a glass-bottom boat tour, and Jessica falls in the water and thinks she’s drowning. The other girls gleefully tell her to put her feet down because the water’s only three feet deep. I love the visual here.

Mary and Mandy tell Ellen, Jess, and Janet about Mr. Fowler’s possible marriage plans, so the girls decide to sneak into Bambi’s room and look for…I don’t know, a piece of paper where she’s written down, “I’m getting married”? There’s some weirdness where they get access to the room by calling the front desk, pretending to be Bambi, and complain that there are no towels. This requires hiding all the towels in the room so the maid doesn’t see them. Once they’re in the room, Bambi almost catches them, but they hide in the bathtub. Bambi wants to take a shower, but there are no towels, of course. The girls hear her on the phone, talking again about getting married and becoming a stepmother.

The girls end up telling Lila about their investigation, so now she’s upset that Mr. Fowler is getting remarried. They all have dinner together, and Janet and Lila’s supposed curses rear their heads again – Janet sits in cole slaw, Lila accidentally lets out a belch, and Jessica falls out of her chair. Everyone else is really amused.

The girls get caught eavesdropping on Bambi and Mr. Fowler, who reveal that Bambi’s auditioning for a role on a soap (Days of Turmoil – Jessica’s favorite), and Mr. Fowler has been helping her with her lines. The role is a woman who’s in love with a guy who has a daughter, so every time Bambi’s said she’s not sure she can be a stepmother, she’s either been in character or is worried about playing a stepmother on TV. Bambi makes it clear that she’s nowhere near ready to marry Mr. Fowler, and isn’t even sure it’ll ever happen. Lila starts to warm up to her.

Kenji and his friend Lono have Jessica believing she’s cursed, too, because of her lies, but they have a solution: She needs to mix up a bunch of ingredients and perform a ritual at midnight. For some reason, she also has to wear her hair in a ponytail. The boys tell Lila that she can only remove her “cursed” ring if she goes to King Kamehameha’s tomb at midnight…though no one who’s ever gone there has come back out. Lila’s willing to risk it.

As both girls are trying to sneak out at midnight, the other girls catch them and everything comes out. They figure out that Kenji and Lono have been messing with them all the whole time. (Also, Lila’s ring comes off with suntan lotion, and the inside shows that it’s from a souvenir shop.) The girls come up with a revenge plan, enlisting Bambi to play Pele and make the boys think they’ve angered her into erupting and burying the island in lava. That’s actually pretty clever. The boys apologize and invite the girls to a luau.

As for Jessica’s “curse,” she didn’t take her grand prize from anyone. She goes to the Pineapple People to confess, and they realize that the memo announcing her the contest winner spelled her name wrong. There’s no Jessica Wakely, and Jess’ recipe did win. All of the recipes were awful, so the Pineapple People went with the most original, just for fun. For Jessica’s honesty, she’s rewarded with 200 cans of pineapple. I only wish we’d wrapped up the book with a scene where Ned and Alice accept dozens of boxes from the Pineapple People and have no idea why.

Thoughts: The Pineapple People expect over a million entries. Uh-huh. They also publish an announcement about Jessica winning in a magazine instead of calling her directly. And they don’t bother to confirm that she’s who she says she is when she calls – she could be any random person. I don’t think this company is run by very smart people.

“Hawaii was nice, but it was no Sweet Valley.” You have GOT to be kidding me.

“Pele! It’s me, Princess Keiko! Mellow out, would you?” Janet’s a mess.

Janet’s suggestions for gifts to appease Pele so she can leave Hawaii: a curling iron and a Johnny Buck cassette. Like I said, a mess.

Bambi wants to play a character named Flame, who’s in love with Caleb Dakota. I love it.

August 11, 2015

SVT #36, Mary is Missing: Gone Girl

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:15 pm by Jenn

What are they even looking at?

What are they even looking at?

Summary: Mary is, indeed, missing. She hasn’t been in school, she’s missed Unicorn meetings and get-togethers, and the Unicorns can’t get in touch with her to find out how much money they have in their treasury. When Jessica calls Mary’s mother, Mrs. Wallace just says she’s not available. Since Mary’s been having a lot of issues with her mom, the twins wonder if she ran away from home.

Amy’s next to get involved, going to Mary’s house to retrieve something. Lila and Ellen tell her what Jessica learned from Mrs. Wallace. Steven relays a phone message to the twins, telling them some girl called a few days ago, talking about money. They wonder if Mary took the Unicorn treasury and split town with it. (The treasury supposedly has around $50 in it, which wouldn’t get her far, but to a 12-year-old, that’s a pretty good amount of money.)

Jessica’s able to get Mrs. Wallace to let her into Mary’s room, where she snoops to find clues. I guess she thinks Mary left a note behind saying, “Yes, I took the money and jetted. I’m going to buy ten pairs of purple jellies!” Jessica sees that there are clothes everywhere, even though Mary is usually very neat. It looks like she was packing to leave quickly. But her favorite teddy bear, Max, is still there – Jess doesn’t think Mary would have left without him.

The strange disappearance of a friend doesn’t stop Jessica and Elizabeth from spending some time shopping. While at the mall, they find a newspaper with words cut out of it. Elizabeth Sherlocks the paper until she realizes that the missing words spell “YOUR DAUGHTER IS SAFE WILL BE IN TOUCH SOON DON’T CALL POLICE.” I guess whoever made the cuts didn’t take any punctuation. The girls think the cutter is a kidnapper and used the paper to write a ransom note. Specifically, the think the cutter kidnapped Mary.

The twins bring Amy in to brainstorm possibilities of what happened to Mary. Amy reports that she saw Mrs. Wallace withdrawing money at the bank. Well, that’s damning evidence if I ever heard it. Amy thinks Mary was taken by Annie DeSalvo, the same woman who took her from her mother when she was little, screwing up her entire life.

The girls call the police, speaking with the officer who helped them get back the scrapbook in Jessica on Stage, which is some nice continuity. The officer calls Mrs. Wallace, then reports back to the girls that she said everything’s fine, so they don’t need to worry. Yeah, like the girls buy that. They think Mrs. Wallace lied to the police because, after all, the kidnapper told her not to get them involved. Clearly, Annie kidnapped Mary again, and the girls will have to rescue her.

Elizabeth and Amy want to wait a little while before they make any more moves, so Jessica pulls in Lila and Ellen to team up with her. The three of them hang out outside Mary’s house, trying to listen to Mrs. Wallace’s phone conversations through the window. They hear her telling someone that she’s bringing them “small stuff” that isn’t “marked.” She doesn’t have all of it but is working on getting it together. Sounds like a money drop!

Then the girls see Mrs. Wallace leaving the house with a suitcase, some of Mary’s clothes, and Max. The girls figure that Mrs. Wallace put the money in the suitcase and is delivering some of Mary’s things to her so she can have them while she waits for her mother to get the rest of the money. They try to follow Mrs. Wallace, but they lose her.

Elizabeth and Amy go to the library, where Liz hears someone tearing paper. She loses track of the woman who did the tearing, but finds the newspaper she left behind – it’s an L.A. paper from a week ago. Matching up what was torn out with the full version on microfilm, Elizabeth and Amy see that the woman took an article about the kidnapping of a girl about their age. They figure that the woman is the kidnapper, though they don’t bother coming up with a reason the woman would want the article.

Putting together everything that’s happened, Elizabeth wonders if Mary called the twins not to talk about the Unicorn treasury but to mention the ransom money. She reasons that Mary was unable to get in touch with her mother, so her second best option was calling 12-year-old girls who would be no help. Sure, why not?

At school, a teacher overhears the Unicorns talking about Mary. She tells them that Mary’s in Mexico for a few days; the school okayed the trip because Mary’s social studies class is studying Mexico. The Unicorns think she’s lying. Later, Amy and Elizabeth are at the grocery store when they see the woman from the library. They follow her to a house, deciding that this is Annie and this is where she’s keeping Mary.

Elizabeth and Amy regroup with Jessica, Lila, and Ellen, and they all go to the house together. They spot a basement window they could get through to enter the house and rescue Mary. You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t they call the police?” Congratulations – you are smarter than a Wakefield. The girls can see a light in an upstairs window, and it looks like there’s someone in the house along with the woman. The girls decide to come back the next day.

They head over after dinner the next night, with only two hours before the twins have to be home. Jessica and Lila are late showing up because Lila was on the phone, flirting with Bruce. Then her shoe broke and she made Jessica go back to the house with her. As the kidnapper leaves, Amy and Ellen trade barbs; Ellen and Lila don’t like that Amy’s involved, and vice versa. Amy keeps taunting that Ellen’s too chicken to participate in the rescue mission. Eventually Ellen disappears, and the girls realize she’s heading into the house on her own.

Amy follows Ellen into the house, but it’s dark, so they can’t find each other. Then the kidnapper returns unexpectedly, so Amy has to hide. When Lila and Jessica arrive, Lila finally decides that it’s time to get the police involved. This is easily the most reasonable Lila has ever been. Amy makes it upstairs, looking for Mary. She finds Ellen just as the kidnapper comes upstairs. Amy’s able to hide in a closet, but Ellen is, of course, Ellen, and just stands there like a deer in the headlights.

When the kidnapper spots her, Ellen tries to make a break for the window. Um…good plan? You’re on the second floor, Einstein. The kidnapper tries to grab her, they wrestle a bit, and Ellen accidentally breaks a lamp, the room’s only light source. Amy just hears her screaming. The other girls hear her from outside and rush into the house. When they get upstairs, Ellen’s fine, and Amy is casually sitting on top of the unconscious kidnapper, who Amy knocked out with a chair leg. Between this and calling Ellen a chicken, Amy is easily the MVP of this book.

The girls remember the reason for the rescue mission and go back to rescuing Mary. But she’s not Mary – she’s Becky, a girl from L.A. And the kidnapper isn’t Annie. So the girls stumbled across a kidnapping after following clues they thought pointed to a different kidnapping. Only in Sweet Valley, right?

The police arrive, along with reporters, and the girls are declared heroes. Ellen suddenly loves Amy, who saved her from the kidnapper. Sadly, I don’t think this lasts beyond the book, but it’s pretty funny to see Ellen wanting to invite Amy to Unicorn stuff, when absolutely no one else, including Amy, would be on board with that.

Then the mystery of the book is solved very anticlimactically. Mary was in Mexico, just as the teacher said; she went on a trip with her former foster parents. She had to get ready quickly, which is why her room was a mess. She called Jessica to tell her about the treasury money, but Steven is a dolt and didn’t understand her. Mrs. Wallace was taking some of Mary’s old clothes to a church bazaar, and she took Max to get cleaned. And I guess she was at the bank to…I don’t know…get ice cream? Pet puppies? Certainly not withdraw a normal amount of money for normal purposes.

There’s also some stuff in the book about how the Unicorns are mad that the Sixers (the sixth-graders’ newspaper) doesn’t mention them more often. Elizabeth and Amy are like, “Do something interesting and then we’ll talk.” Liz finally tells Jessica that she can write an article, but she’ll have to figure out how to fit in stuff about every Unicorn who’s thrown a fit about the lack of publicity. This is all a buildup to the next book.

Thoughts: Everything in this book could have been avoided if Mrs. Wallace had just told Jessica what was going on. Thanks a lot, Mary’s mom!

This book is so ridiculous that it almost comes back around to reasonable. I wonder how the girls’ parents reacted when they found out what their kids had been up to.

Elizabeth: “Things like this just don’t happen in real life!” Jessica: “Yes, they do!” Further proof that Jessica doesn’t operate within the bounds of reality.

12-year-old Lila knows the word “reconnaissance.” Mm-hm, sure.

July 29, 2014

SVT #13, Stretching the Truth: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Posted in books tagged , , at 6:42 pm by Jenn

Why isn't Mary on the cover of a Mary-centric book? Darn you, Jessica Wakefield and random guy!

Why isn’t Mary on the cover of a Mary-centric book? Darn you, Jessica Wakefield and random guy!

Summary: Mary’s mother has been dating a guy named Tim, and Mary is annoyed that he’s spending so much time at their house. She feels like Tim’s taking her mother away from her. For some reason, she tells everyone that Tim is rich and building them a mansion, as if she needs that to be liked. I mean, she was liked when she was a foster kid. No one cares about her family situation or how much money she has. Also, if Mary just got some much-needed therapy, everything would be a whole lot better.

Anyway, Mary’s mom quickly marries Tim, and that definitely doesn’t make things better. Because Tim’s been around so much, Mary tries to grab any time she can with her mother, which means her grades and her friendships are suffering. In fact, she’s missed so many Unicorn meetings that she might get kicked out! A fate worse than death! Mary doesn’t like Tim, who acts like, as described by the person who recapped this book for 1bruce1, “a creepy youth minister.” This is completely accurate. He’s super-friendly and seems to walk around with a guitar, making up songs all the time. That’s annoying for anyone, especially a 13-year-old whose entire life has recently changed. Also, he has a tugboat. I don’t know.

There’s a dumb part where Janet calls a Unicorn meeting, announcing that Mary will be out if she doesn’t come, so Jessica rushes to warn her that she needs to be there. But she and Lila run into Bruce and a guy named Rick Hunter, and help them put up posters, because hanging out with older guys is more important than maintaining a friendship. Fortunately, Elizabeth saves the day (what a surprise) by making sure Mary gets to the meeting. I’m not sure why Elizabeth cares about anything involving the Unicorns. I guess she’s just doing things out of the goodness of her heart now.

The meeting’s at the Dairi Burger, and Tim and Mrs. Wallace happen to show up for milkshakes. All the Unicorns fawn over Tim, thinking he’s cute. I’ve never found any of my friends’ fathers cute, so this is weird to me. They also think Tim has a yacht, not a tugboat, thanks to some misleading comments by Mary. Mary pretends to be sick so she can escape, and her mom and Tim take her to the doctor, which is probably an overreaction, but whatever. The doctor’s like, “Your kid has psychological problems. Keep an eye on that.”

Tim and Mrs. Wallace decide that Mary needs a big surprise birthday party to help cheer her up. They invite all her friends to have a party on the tugboat (which everyone still thinks is a yacht). Mary freaks out because now her mom and stepdad are having secret planning sessions, and her friends keep having whispered conversations and are obviously excluding her from something. Apparently her friends have never been invited to a surprise party before and don’t know how to act around the person they’re supposed to be surprising.

Cue Elizabeth coming to the rescue again. She realizes that Mary’s falling apart and spills that everyone’s throwing her a big party because they love her so much. While Mary’s happy to hear it, this just creates another problem: Obviously her friends are going to find out that the yacht isn’t a yacht. She tries to play sick again so she has an excuse to miss the party, but her mom brushes it off. Then Mary decides to just run away, since her family doesn’t care about her. She’ll go looking for her biological father, who…obviously loves her so much that he’s had nothing to do with her for the past nine years. Yeah, that makes total sense.

Mary gets, like, five feet out the door before hurting her arm and realizing her plan isn’t going to work. Tim finds her and comforts her, promising that he’s not trying to come between her and her mom, and that he loves them both. This is all it takes for Mary to see that she has a great family. She even agrees to let Tim adopt her, and to take his last name. The party goes really well, since everyone thinks tugboats are awesome, apparently. I still think Mary needs therapy, though.

The underdeveloped B plot, if you want to even call it that, is that the Unicorns want to have a party but have no money, because they all bought matching purple sweatshirts. (I mean, of course.) Jessica invites a movie star named Tom Houston to come sing for them. He declines through a form letter. I don’t know why this was in the book at all. There’s also a lot of talk about an after-school jewelry-making class everyone wants to take, but nothing comes of that.

Thoughts: Mrs. Wallace: “Mary never acts like this.” But…how would you know? You’ve only known her for six books.

Mary tells the Unicorns that they only have $3.10 in their treasury. (Who knew they had a treasury?) Janet asks if she’s sure, and Mary says she “double-checked the figures.” So she…recounted? It’s $3.10. It doesn’t take a formula to figure out that’s what you have.

Jessica wants to make Mary a bracelet to let her know how much people love her. You guys, Jessica has a heart!

Tim, somehow trying to reassure Mary: “If anyone leaves, it’s going to be me.” That’s…not helpful at all, actually.

April 29, 2014

SVT #7, Three’s a Crowd: Lifetime Presents: Not Without My Daughter

Posted in books tagged , , at 7:46 pm by Jenn

Liz, no one cares about your involvement in this

Liz, no one cares about your involvement in this

Summary: Jessica’s friend and fellow Unicorn Mary has been hanging out at the Wakefields’ house a lot. When Jess or Elizabeth doesn’t invite her over, Mary comes up with reasons to invite herself over. Then she spends a lot of time hanging out with Alice. I think this is the first time we learn that Mary’s in foster care; she rarely talks about her birth parents but seems happy in her foster home.

Though Mary’s a nice girl, Jessica gets suspicious of her intentions for always wanting to be at the Wakefields’ house. She gets Elizabeth to agree to stop letting her come over for a while. After a while, Mary and Jessica make up, and Mary gives Jess her favorite silver and gold bracelet as a sign of their friendship.

Then Jessica overhears Ned and Alice talking about how the Altmans, Mary’s foster parents, want to adopt her. (She’s been living with them a long time, and I’m kind of surprised this is the first time the subject has come up.) Jess wants to break the news in the paper, and over Elizabeth’s objections, she sneaks the info into Caroline’s gossip column. This is all without even discussing it with Mary, by the way.

So Mary learns about her possible impending adoption from the middle school newspaper, the poor girl. She then tells Elizabeth what led her to foster care. Her parents divorced when she was little, and her mother left her with a co-worker while she went out of town to care for her own mother. The co-worker decided to up and move to California one day, and never told Mary’s mother. She implied to Mary that her mom was dead. Then one day she abandoned Mary, who wound up in the foster system. Even though she hasn’t spoken to her mom in seven years and doesn’t know if she’s even alive, Mary has always told herself that her mother will find her one day. She doesn’t want to be adopted in case that happens.

Mary tells this to her foster parents, who are disappointed but understanding. Then a social worker suggests that Mary move on to another foster family so the Altmans can take in a child who does want to be adopted. I’m not sure that’s plausible, and if the Altmans wanted to adopt a child so badly, why wait seven years to bring it up, but whatever. Mary has to leave Sweet Valley, is the bottom line.

Then, the coincidence to end all coincidences. Just days after hearing about Mary’s life story for the first time, Elizabeth encounters a woman who looks just like Alice…and who turns out to be Mary’s mother. (The resemblance to Alice is only important because it explains why Mary always wanted to spend time with Mrs. Wakefield.) She managed to track Mary down, but I guess she didn’t get an address and had to figure out where Mary goes to school, because she shows up there out of the blue. Elizabeth takes her to her house, knowing Mary’s there, but only figures out who she is as they’re arriving. Good job, Liz – you even suspected she might be the kidnapping co-worker, yet you had no problem going off alone with her. Way to be smart.

Mary and her mom have a nice reunion, and we learn that Mary got the silver and gold bracelet from her mother. (Jessica has to give it back.) Everyone’s all happy for a few days until Mary’s mother tells her they’re moving (since she’s from another town). Mary freaks out and tells Elizabeth she doesn’t want to move. She also doesn’t want to tell her mother that since she doesn’t want to seem ungrateful. Elizabeth tells Alice, who tells Mary’s mother, and after a bunch of off-screen conversations, Mary gets to stay in Sweet Valley. And hopefully have a Lifetime movie made about her, because dang.

In the B plot, such as it is, the Unicorns want to make a celebrity cookbook to make money to host a dance. They write to their favorite celebrities and ask them to send in recipes. Apparently movie stars are very kind in the Sweet Valley-verse, because they’re all cooperative. I’ll admit, it’s a creative idea.

There’s also a story where Elizabeth wants to enter the sixth-grade paper, the Sweet Valley Sixers, in some competition. Jessica accidentally spills juice on the ditto master (this is…the 1980s, right?), and she and Mary have to rewrite an article about a visit from a fashion designer/boutique owner/I’m honestly not sure who she was. The paper goes to print before anyone gets a good look at the article, and there are some typos, but the general consensus is that the article is interesting and well-written. Elizabeth gets a little jealous because she’s supposed to be the only twin who’s good at writing. I get the idea Elizabeth wants to be the only person in general who’s good at writing.

Thoughts: Jessica: “I’ll volunteer to do the typing. I have an electric typewriter.” Janet: “That’s terrific, Jessica. I didn’t know you could type.” Really, this is the 1980s, right?

“Mary, how did your parents meet?” Jessica, she’s in foster care, you bitca.

So remember, kids, if you meet a strange woman wandering around and she says she’s looking for a friend of yours, don’t be suspicious. She’s probably your friend’s long-lost mother. Introduce them! You’ll be a hero! Talk to strangers and save the day!