March 14, 2017

SVT #84, Romeo and 2 Juliets: Two Wakefields, Both Alike in Indignity

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

I guess Todd was too out of it to notice that anything weird was going on

Summary: Apparently no one at SVMS is familiar with Romeo and Juliet, arguably Shakespeare’s most famous play, so Mr. Bowman is going to change that. Only instead of just reading the play in class, the students will be acting out some of the scenes. After some confusion where Mr. Bowman says that Shakespeare’s language is musical, and Jess thinks the play is a musical, everyone’s excited about doing something new. Jessica and Lila both want to play Juliet, and they make a bet where whichever of them doesn’t get the part has to wear fake warts (meant to be for whoever plays Juliet’s nurse) for a week. Sadly, this does not lead to a scene where neither girl gets the role and both have to wear the warts.

Jess prepares for her audition by reading Juliet’s scenes over and over at home, until everyone in the house has memorized all the lines. But then Jessica comes down with the cold/flu (the ghostwriter seems to think these are interchangeable) that’s been spreading through the school, and the day of the first auditions, she can barely speak. Alice deems Jessica too sick to go to school, and she misses all of the audition days. Desperate for the part, and especially desperate to keep Lila from getting it, Jessica talks Liz into auditioning as her.

At first Elizabeth isn’t that excited about the scheme, but when she realizes that she can’t let Lila win, she really gets into it. Her audition is great, and everyone responds like she just gave a Tony-worthy performance. Liz quickly remembers that Jessica is technically the star here, as everyone thinks that’s who she is. Elizabeth wants the part for herself, though, and Jessica refuses to give it to her.

Instead of going to Mr. Bowman to say there was a mix-up and she’s the rightful Juliet, Elizabeth just pretends to be Jessica at rehearsals and takes her role. The girls fight over the part, and Jessica wins the first round by locking Liz in a bathroom. Diabolical! Jessica gets her back by blowing pepper at her during dinner so Ned and Alice will think she caught Jess’ cold and keep her home from school. This doesn’t work, and just makes Elizabeth madder and more vicious. Like, she dresses like Jess, then rips Jessica’s shirt so she can’t go on stage to rehearse.

Lila figures things out and agrees to let Jessica out of their wart bet (which I guess is back in play because technically Jessica didn’t win the role) if Jess gives her a chance, as Jess’ understudy, to appear on stage during the big performance. In exchange, Lila will help Jessica ensure that Elizabeth can’t take her place. She has two costumes from a professional production, and she’ll make sure both are kept under lock and key so Liz can’t steal one. Jess isn’t happy about having to give Lila a chance to shine on stage, but it’s worth it to keep her role, not to mention keep herself from having to wear warts.

The night of the performance, Jessica schemes to keep Liz out of the way by dosing her with cold medicine before the show, so she’ll be too drowsy to perform. Meanwhile, Elizabeth works with Amy and Maria to create a diversion and get Jessica out of the way so Liz can take her place backstage. Even Lila is fooled, easily handing over one of the costumes. When Jess finds out that Liz has already gotten her hands on a dress, she gives Mandy (the stage manager) a soda with cold medicine in it. Mandy gives it to Amy, who ends up giving it to Todd (who’s playing Romeo), since he needs something to soothe a tickle in his throat.

Jessica manages to be the first Juliet to make it onstage, but Elizabeth lies in wait by the balcony to beat her up there for the next scene. The two start trying to physically pull each other off the set. The audience doesn’t seem to catch on that something weird is going on, and they definitely don’t notice that Juliet is being played by two girls.

When it’s time for the big death scene, which Elizabeth is in place for, Todd falls asleep while playing dead. His understudy is out sick, so Amy gets Jessica to play Romeo for the final scene. It goes great, but the twins are immediately busted after the show, and Mr. Bowman is TICKED. He threatens to give them both Fs for the week, but ultimately agrees to punish them by making them wear the fake warts for a day. Somehow, Elizabeth gets away with not having to undergo a psych evaluation for her out-of-character behavior through the book.

Thoughts: Everyone at SVMS seems awfully excited about a performance that’s just for one class. Though Janet’s involved, so I’m not sure what’s going on here.

How do the Wakefield kids ever make it to school when Alice considers keeping them home every time they sneeze?

No girls want to play the nurse, because of the warts, so Dennis Cookman takes the role. Beautiful.

October 11, 2016

SVT #67, Jessica the Thief: American Swiper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 4, 2016

SVT #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch: Middle-School Relationship Drama Is the Worst

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.

Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.

Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.

The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.

Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.

Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.

Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.

That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.

Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.

Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.

Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.

The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.

Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.

Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.

The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?

“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.

“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.

September 13, 2016

SVT #64, The Charm School Mystery: Don’t You Know By Now That Elizabeth Is Always Right?

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

This isn't suspicious at all

This isn’t suspicious at all

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.

July 19, 2016

SVU Super Edition, Face It: Highway to Hell

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:20 pm by Jenn

They don't even look identical!

They don’t even look identical!

Summary: We have finally reached the end of this ridiculous series, and we’re going out with a road trip. Sam’s cousin, the only family member he still talks to, is getting married in Boston, and even though he doesn’t want to see his family, Elizabeth and Neil encourage him to go. (Sigh, Neil. He’s barely in this book and I’m sad about it. I’ll miss you, buddy.) Jessica ends up inviting herself and her new boyfriend along. This will be the twins’ last hurrah before junior year, since Jessica will be moving out of the duplex and back into the dorms to be an RA. Yeah, no one does that. Once you’re out of the dorms, you only go back if you can’t pay rent anymore. Plus, no way is Jessica qualified to be an RA.

Anyway, road trip. But first, drama! Jessica sees Sam getting some random girl’s phone number. She already thinks he’s scum, and this doesn’t make him any more endearing. Jess then learns that Elizabeth was accepted into a study-abroad program in London, but since she hasn’t said anything about it, she must not be going – and Jess figures it’s because she doesn’t want to leave Sam. She’s right.

Jessica wanted a summer internship at an art museum, but a cute senior named Tyler nabbed it first. Jessica’s not too broken up since Tyler’s really interested in her, and she’d rather have the guy than the internship anyway. After they’ve gone on a couple of dates, he mentions that his sister is graduating high school in Illinois, but he can’t afford to fly home for the ceremony. Jessica realizes that Liz and Sam can take him on their way to Boston, so she gets them to agree to bring her and Tyler along on the road trip.

The kids take a detour to the San Diego Zoo, so I guess they’re not under a time crunch. Jessica gets mad when Sam checks out a waitress (right in front of Elizabeth, no less). Tyler thinks Jess needs to calm down, and though I agree with her that Sam is skeezy – and she doesn’t even know that he feels trapped in his relationship with Elizabeth and doesn’t even want to be with her – this is not the time to pick a fight. No one wants to share a long car ride with two people who won’t stop fighting.

Next stop: Grand Canyon. It’s big. The road trippers check into a B&B for the night, and Jessica catches Sam flirting with a desk clerk. Dude, what is up with this guy? At dinner, Sam makes Jess mad by asking why she and Tyler got a room together but are sleeping in separate beds. Elizabeth confides in Jessica that she’s ready to have sex with Sam, though he doesn’t want to rush anything. Jessica doesn’t get it. I don’t think Elizabeth does either. Sam is weirdly hesitant to “take” Elizabeth’s virginity, as if she’s not freely and eagerly offering it up. Guys, just have sex already. I’m tired of reading about this.

The kids spend some time in Santa Fe, where the tables turn and Sam catches Jessica flirting with another guy. Later, they fight about his own flirtations, and Elizabeth gets annoyed at her scummy boyfriend. Then, in Illinois, he flirts with ANOTHER woman, a waitress at some restaurant, and ends up making out with her. Why are so many women into Sam anyway? Jessica spots them and immediately tells Elizabeth, but Liz thinks she’s lying because she wants to break them up. She thinks Jess is mad that Liz is going to lose her virginity to a great guy when Jess lost hers to jerky Mike. Way harsh, Liz.

Elizabeth questions Sam, who tells her that Jessica lies. Tyler sides with him, since Sam lied to him, too, so now Jess looks really petty. Everyone goes off in separate directions, and Sam ends up making out with the waitress AGAIN. And Jessica sees them AGAIN. This time Jess grabs Liz and drags her to see her boyfriend cheating with her own eyes. Of course, by the time they get there, Sam is alone, writing something. Liz thinks he’s writing in a journal just like she does, because if there’s anything Sam has proven to be, it’s sensitive and introspective.

Jess decides she needs to show Liz how bad Sam is in a way Elizabeth can’t deny. She plans to dress up as Liz, seduce Sam, and get Elizabeth to see them together. Yeah, there’s no way this could go wrong. It’s not like Sam will explain to Liz that he thought Jess was her, and Jess will come off looking crazy. While Jess is plotting, Elizabeth buys a bunch of candles and condoms and plans to get all pretty before having sex with Sam.

Jessica puts her plan into motion, and though Sam thinks “Elizabeth” is acting weird, he doesn’t suspect that she’s not really Elizabeth. Liz catches them, but instead of thinking Sam’s the only one to blame, she hates Jessica as well. Sam takes advantage of the mess to tell Liz he knew who he was with and doesn’t want to be with Elizabeth. Dang, way to kick her while she’s down. Elizabeth takes the Jeep and heads off on her own, leaving the others behind. I guess Tyler’s now close enough to home to find a ride, but I can’t wait for Jessica to have to call her parents and explain why she’s stranded in Illinois. Maybe Lila can swing by with her father’s jet.

Elizabeth sees her London acceptance letter in the car and decides to go. I don’t know how she plans to pay for a plane ticket, or how she plans to get through customs without her passport (since I can’t imagine she brought it with her), or what she’s going to do until the semester starts. But at least Jess can probably retrieve the Jeep from long-term parking after Liz flies halfway across the world, hoping to never see her sister again. And that’s a wrap on SVU!

Thoughts: Sam: “Liz, I’m really, really, like, I don’t know what to say – honored that you feel like you can sleep with me.” ICK.

How can these people afford to eat breakfast out so often? They don’t have jobs! Wait, Jessica has one. How is Jessica the only one with a job??

“After all, what guy in his right mind wouldn’t want to sleep with Elizabeth Wakefield?” Ugh, now I have to go jump out a window.

“You look really cute in that baseball shirt. Kind of like a little girl in her father’s clothes.” Sam, it’s time to start thinking before you speak.

Along with Neil, I hope Nina gets to live happily ever after. Everyone else in this series is dead to me.

February 9, 2016

SVT #47, Jessica’s New Look: Guys Don’t Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:26 pm by Jenn

That purple outfit isn't a dress. It's two separate pieces. THAT'S what Jessica should be self-conscious about

That purple outfit isn’t a dress. It’s two separate pieces. THAT’S what Jessica should be self-conscious about

Summary: Things are going pretty well for Jessica, at least in the boy department: Bruce, Aaron, and Jake Hamilton want to eat lunch with the Unicorns. After changing her mind about getting chocolate cake (you can’t eat cake in front of boys! Also, cake makes you fat! Boys don’t like fat girls!), Jess gets to spend lunch flirting with Aaron and making the other Unicorns jealous that she has a love interest. They talk about basketball, and Aaron invites Jess to a Lakers game. Jessica is super-excited about her first official non-group date, and the fact that the other Unicorns envy her.

But Jessica’s world is about to come crashing down. She has trouble reading the blackboard at school. She gets headaches when she does her homework. Mr. Bowman thinks she should get her eyes checked – she might need glasses. This, for Jess, is a fate worse than death. Boys won’t pay attention to her if she wears glasses. She’ll be branded a nerd and forced to spend the rest of her life in the library. She decides to tell Mr. Bowman she’ll talk to her parents, then never bring it up.

After school, the twins go for a bike ride, picking a route that takes them by Aaron’s house. Jess sees what she thinks is paper in the street, realizing too late that she’s about to hit a cat. She crashes in Aaron’s yard, thinking she’s humiliated herself in front of her crush. Fortunately, Aaron is a nice guy and likes her so much that he’s worried about her rather than amused.

Mr. Bowman is smart enough not to trust Jess to talk to her parents, so he calls them to say she should get her eyes checked. Jessica brushes off her eye problems, even though she has to admit that her vision is bad enough to make her mistake a cat for paper. She tries to heal herself by eating a lot of carrots over the weekend before her eye appointment. This, of course, doesn’t work.

The twins both go to the eye doctor (even though Elizabeth hasn’t shown any signs of having vision problems), and Jessica is told she’ll need to wear glasses for a few months. Apparently they’ll strengthen the muscles in her eyes and she’ll eventually be fixed. Uh, sure. Jess is mad that Liz doesn’t need glasses. She’s even madder that she can’t get out of looking like a nerd.

Jessica wears her glasses around the house, freaking out that someone might come by and see her. She takes them off at school, so only Elizabeth knows that she has them. Then one night, the Wakefields decide to go to a movie. Jessica panics, knowing she’ll have to wear her glasses in public. Liz reminds her that the theater will be dark. But it’s not too dark for Lila to spot Jessica and see that she’s been nerdified. Jess swears her to secrecy, buying Lila’s silence with a purple outfit she just got. Lila accepts, then starts using the glasses to blackmail Jessica.

Jess continues to avoid wearing her glasses at school and around her friends. Then one night she’s at the skating rink (more on that in the B-plot) when her parents show up. Jessica’s first instinct is to slam into Lois Waller and steal her glasses. Read that again. Jessica’s first impulse when she’s about to get busted is to physically assault an innocent person. She puts on the glasses, telling Aaron she’s just goofing around, and hopes that her parents mistake them for her pair when she skates past them. It doesn’t work.

No longer able to get away with going out in public without her glasses, Jessica decides her best option is to…never go out in public again. Sounds like a winning plan. Elizabeth is sick of Jessica moping and being vain, so she comes up with a plan: She’ll pretend she’s into Aaron so she can take Jessica’s Lakers ticket and go to the game with him. Hopefully, Jess will be so jealous that she chooses looking nerdy over losing out on having a boyfriend. It’s a good effort on Liz’s part, but Jess catches on and pretends she doesn’t care, even when Elizabeth gushes on the phone to Amy about how cute Aaron is.

Plan B: Elizabeth gets her own fake glasses to show Jessica how good they look. Jess agrees that she looks cute in them, but only because they fit Liz’s image, not her own. It’s plan C that really fixes things, though. When Aaron comes to get Jessica for the Lakers game, Elizabeth wears Jess’ glasses and pretends to be her. Aaron loves them on her, convincing the real Jessica that glasses won’t make her seem nerdy. Jessica takes her place for the date, and Aaron is none the wiser.

In the B-plot, Elizabeth has been chosen to write an article for the Sweet Valley Tribune on students who make a difference. The Unicorns are desperate to be featured, despite the fact that they have yet to make a difference and have never even thought about doing something for anyone outside the club. After some horrible brainstorming (one suggestion is to raise money to buy curling irons for the girls’ bathrooms), they settle on holding a skate-a-thon to buy new encyclopedias.

The local rink is currently closed for renovations, but one of the lesser Unicorns has a connection to the owner, and they convince him to reopen a day early for a charity event. The Unicorns do some actual work, planning the whole thing and only employing outside labor (in the form of nerdy Mandy Miller) to hang up posters. Elizabeth and her friends think the whole thing will crash and burn, which is a safe bet. But the whole thing goes off without a hitch. The Unicorns even play a trick on Liz, making her think there are no skates, so everyone will have to pretend to skate. Elizabeth writes her article about the event, and everyone’s happy.

Thoughts: I don’t remember glasses being a big deal in middle school. Same with braces. Jessica probably started a trend anyway, and all the other sixth-graders wound up wanting glasses.

“That doesn’t mean we couldn’t do something charitable just this once, to be sure we’re the focus of Elizabeth’s article.” Lila Fowler in a nutshell.

Ugh, Alice, stop trying to bribe Jessica with clothes to wear her glasses. Be a parent for once.

I do like that Jessica enjoys basketball and doesn’t dumb down her knowledge about it when she’s with Aaron. But that’s pretty much the only non-annoying thing she does in this book.

July 14, 2015

SVT Super Thriller #1, The Christmas Ghost: With Many Apologies to Charles Dickens

Posted in books tagged , , at 8:14 pm by Jenn

I wish we'd gotten to see the unicorn poster

I wish we’d gotten to see the unicorn poster

Summary: The twins are at the mall, doing some pre-Christmas window shopping. They see a carousel horse for sale that reminds them of the carousel they used to ride as kids. Jessica thinks Elizabeth should put the horse on her Christmas list, but Liz has already asked for too many things. Plus, the horse is pretty pricey. Jessica decides to ask for the horse herself, even though she knows Liz would like it more. Elizabeth’s feelings are hurt.

Elizabeth, Amy, and Julie are participating in a fundraiser so the local hospital can buy a piece of equipment for their children’s ward. The local middle- and high-schoolers are holding their own mini-fundraisers to help out before the big event after Christmas. The kids have a rummage/bake sale, but the proceeds are barely a drop in the bucket. Time to start selling your plasma, kiddos!

Elizabeth learns that teenage movie star Beau Dillon is going to be in Sweet Valley in a few days. He’s known for participating in children’s charity events, so Elizabeth wonders if he’d make an appearance at Sweet Valley’s big fundraiser. She writes him a letter, even though Jessica scoffs that someone as famous as Beau Dillon will never give her the time of day. If this book took place today, Elizabeth could just hit up Beau Dillon’s Twitter and get an answer right away. Beau would come to the fundraiser, post photos of himself with cute kids, and get himself some instant good publicity. Win-win.

Liz catches Jessica searching for her Christmas presents (I’ll admit, I did this, too) in their parents’ room. She turns up the carousel horse, which upsets Liz. Girl, if you wanted it that badly, you should have asked for it. Whatever. Things start looking up for Elizabeth when Beau writes back to say he’ll stop by the Wakefields’ house the afternoon of Christmas Eve so they can talk about the fundraiser. Jessica can’t believe that he’s actually going to come.

At Lila’s Christmas party, the twins spread the news about Beau’s visit. Lila calls B.S., and Liz gets upset when Jessica doesn’t back her up. When they get home, the twins fight. Jessica says she didn’t speak up because she’s worried about staying on Lila’s good side. Elizabeth calls Jessica selfish and warns that she’ll lose all her friends if she doesn’t start being nicer to people.

The twins kind of make up in time for Beau’s visit…which doesn’t happen as planned. They wait around for him, but he doesn’t show. Eventually Elizabeth has to leave. Jessica’s fuming that her favorite actor is such a jerk. But then Beau shows up, claiming his limo broke down and he didn’t have his car phone with him. He offers to take her to lunch  the day after Christmas to make up for his lateness. Jessica’s thrilled. As Beau is leaving, he calls her Elizabeth, and Jessica realizes that he thought he was talking to Liz the whole time.

Now Jessica has a dilemma – tell Elizabeth the truth and let her have lunch with Beau, or keep quiet and have him to herself. (I’d like to state for the record that Beau is 17, so it’s not like a 40-year-old wants to go to lunch with a 12-year-old. I mean, it’s still a little weird, but less weird than it could be.) It’s Jess, though, so of course she doesn’t tell Liz that Beau showed up. Fortunately, she actually feels guilty about it. Not so guilty that she comes clean, but at least it’s something.

Jessica goes to bed feeling horrible, and thinking the purple unicorn on her new poster is judging her. It probably is. Jess notices that her lamp has changed – it now looks like the clown lamp she and Elizabeth had when they were kids. Jess hated it and purposely broke it, then pretended she was sad it was gone. The lamp changes back to Jessica’s current lamp, and she tries to sleep, but the guilt keeps her awake.

In the middle of the night, Jessica sees a little girl in her room. This is the Ghost of Christmas Past. It’s actually Jessica as a kid, and she wants to show Jess how she used to be. She takes Jessica to the carousel, where Jess sees herself and Liz playing as seven-year-olds. Instead of fighting or resenting each other, the girls get along, happy when the other is happy. Jessica sees them at school, dressed alike and wanting to do everything together. Back then, Elizabeth was her favorite person to be with, but they’re not as close as they used to be.

Jessica ends up back in bed, thinking she dreamed the whole thing, but she realizes her unicorn poster is missing. The unicorn is now hovering outside the window. What is this, Stephen King’s A Christmas Carol? The unicorn is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and it wants to take Jessica for a ride. Yeah, that seems normal. They fly to a hotel, where Jessica listens in as Beau talks about how awesome she is (though he thinks she’s Elizabeth). She feels bad that she was selfish when Liz wanted to do something charitable.

Jess and the unicorn return to the house, where the family is opening Christmas presents. Jessica’s mean to Elizabeth for no reason, and I can’t believe Ned and Alice let her get away with that, but then again…Ned and Alice. The real Jess can hear Liz’s thoughts, and she realizes how upset Elizabeth is that Beau didn’t come through for her. Next, the unicorn shows Jessica a scene from Best Friends, when Elizabeth complains to Alice that Jessica wants to join the Unicorns. The real Jess is upset that Liz was so unhappy about them growing apart.

Jessica’s back in bed again, with the unicorn back on the wall. Now it’s time for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. She takes Jessica to the woods, where she sees herself at about 16, hanging out with a bunch of friends. She’s super-popular and everyone loves her, but they all hate her sister. The teens are putting someone through an initiation for their sorority, and waiting for the girl to make it back to them.

In the woods, Jessica comes across the initiate, who happens to look just like her. She’s gotten lost in the woods and won’t make it back in time to complete her task. After a minute, Jessica realizes that the girl is her, not Elizabeth. Liz is the popular one with all the friends. Jessica is the loser everyone hates.

The real Jessica sees herself at a basketball game and at the Dairi Burger, alone and miserable while Elizabeth is the center of attention with her friends. Jess is such a jerk that she won’t even be nice to Lois Waller, the only person considered lamer than she is. Lila uses Bruce to get revenge on Jessica for something, making him pretend he wants to go out with her. He tells her he’ll take her to a dog show, where she’ll be one of the contestants. You can do better, Patman.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come then takes Jessica to Elizabeth’s room, where Liz is writing in her journal. Jessica learns how miserable Elizabeth is because of Jess’ unhappiness. She wishes they were still close. Liz blames the stunt with Beau for the downfall of the twins’ relationship. Little does she know that this is one of the least harmful tricks Jess will pull in her life. In fact, knowing what we know about Jessica’s actions later in life, this is really tame.

Now that she knows that her actions can have negative effects on other people, Jessica realizes that she needs to do something to ensure she and Elizabeth don’t end up hating each other. She tries to talk to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who ignores her. Jess rips off the ghost’s cloak, revealing that it has no face. She starts screaming, which is totally understandable.

Jessica wakes up in bed on Christmas morning, just as her family is wondering where she is. She immediately makes up with Elizabeth and tells her what really happened with Beau. Elizabeth is so happy that Beau’s a nice guy after all that she doesn’t care what Jessica did. She also doesn’t think it would have spelled doom for the twins’ relationship. So basically, everything with the ghosts was a waste of time because Elizabeth would have gotten over it anyway. Awesome.

Jess isn’t sure if her experiences the night before were just a dream, but Alice notices scratches on her legs that Jess thinks could have only come from being in the woods. Whatever. Elizabeth gets a letter from Beau apologizing again for missing their meeting, and formally inviting her to lunch. The Wakefields open their presents, and Jessica gives Elizabeth the carousel horse. Enjoy it, Liz – that’s probably the last selfless thing she’ll ever do for you.

Thoughts: This book is amazingly dumb. I imagine that the ghostwriter wanted to do something special for Christmas but ran out of ideas and just decided to adapt A Christmas Carol for ten-year-olds. Kids, read the real thing. Watch one of the movie versions. This story has been adapted hundreds of times, and every single other version is better than this book.

“She wore a lavender sweater and black miniskirt with leggings and dangling earrings. ‘I think I look great,’ she said.” You put on a shirt and a skirt, Jessica. Calm down.

“The big chandelier was draped in mistletoe. Elizabeth giggled as she saw how the boys all avoided being caught underneath the ‘kissing’ plant.” Okay, that’s pretty funny.

I really doubt that cool teenager Steven Wakefield sings Christmas carols with his family.

This book mentions that future Jessica will try to steal Todd from Elizabeth, which we know she actually deos, so I guess Jessica doesn’t remember this book when that time comes. Way to learn, Jess!

June 23, 2015

SVU Thriller, Love and Murder: I’ve Just Seen a Face

Posted in TV tagged , , at 8:09 pm by Jenn

They couldn't have retaken the photo until they got a good shot of the guy?

They couldn’t have retaken the photo until they got a good shot of the guy?

Summary: We haven’t had a Lila book in a little while, so here’s something to satisfy us. Well, not really. Nothing about it is satisfying. This book takes place in an alternate universe where Bruce is spending the semester in Japan. Also, Nick doesn’t seem to exist.

Lila has a hot new TA in her class about 20th century art. He’s Damon Price, and something about him seems familiar to Lila. The two of them feel an immediate connection, beyond the fact that they’re both hot. Lila tells Jessica, who was supposed to be in the class with her; she skipped to go tanning. Instead of being intrigued by this automatic connection Lila and Damon have, Jessica decides that she’ll steal Damon for herself. With friends like Jess, who needs archrivals?

Lila manages to track down Damon’s phone number, and she leaves him a message asking to meet up with him to discuss…research. Yes, research. That’s what the kids are calling it these days. Meanwhile, Damon doodles a picture of Lila, feeling like she’s familiar. He puts up a painting in his office of clouds that form a girl’s face. The face looks like Lila’s. That’s not creepy at all.

There’s a Theta meeting, as the sisters are trying to come up with an idea for a fundraiser. Lila suggests a masked ball. Everyone loves the idea and fawns over Lila. Jessica, jealous as always, hates when Lila makes her feel like she’s not a star. Maybe come up with your own ideas instead of being lazy in every aspect of your life? Just a suggestion.

Damon and Lila make a dinner date, and then there’s a whole thing about how Lila wants Damon to call, but she doesn’t want to call him because that would be too forward. When has Lila ever worried about being forward? Jess starts scheming to steal Damon from her. I’d like to point out that Jessica hasn’t even met Damon yet. This is so dumb. The lack of Nick is confusing.

Damon and Lila have their date, which Lila switches to a fancy restaurant at the last minute, using her money and name to get in. She offers to pay for dinner. And yet she won’t make a phone call? The two of them feel like they’ve known each other for years, and seem to know things about each other already. They go to Damon’s place, where he accidentally hits Lila in the head with a book and knocks her out. She seems fine, but then weird things start happening.

First there are dreams. Lila dreams about a woman named Flora who’s part of high society in the 1930s. She and her husband, Theodore Grey, seem happily married. Flora falls down the stairs, landing as Lila wakes up. She goes to Damon’s class, where Jessica decides to grace everyone with her presence for the first time in a week. She mentions Bruce, who Lila downplays. Damon chastises Jessica for her poor attendance, and she runs off.

Lila’s totally in love with Damon, though she’s not sure why he told her he didn’t have a phone when she saw one at his place. She’s quickly distracted from that when she recognizes a painting Damon shows the class as one from her Flora dream. She’s sure that she’s never seen it before. When she tells Damon, he shows her the cloud painting and tells her how he thinks the face in it looks like her. And the painter’s name? Theodore Grey. Dun dun DUN!

Jessica gets revenge on Lila by trying to call Bruce in Japan to tell him that Lila’s cheating on him with a TA. I wonder what Ned and Alice will say when they get that phone bill. Jessica can’t reach him, so she writes a letter. I guess no one in this book has email, even though it’s 1998 and lots of people had it then. Maybe Jessica doesn’t think an email will travel all the way to Japan.

Lila has another dream about Flora and Theodore. In this one, they throw a big costume party, even though Theodore admits to Flora that his family’s money is running out. He’s mad at her for talking to a reporter about it, though Flora denied it (because she didn’t know). Theodore is becoming a stereotypical frustrated artist, growing angrier because he can’t sell his paintings. They fight, and he throws a book at Flora’s head. Quality guy there, Flora.

When Lila wakes up, she gets a phone call but there’s no one on the other end. She heads to the library to read up on Theodore. Damon is doing the same, looking at Theodore’s paintings, which all feature the same face. One has a slash and red paint through the neck. Creepy. Lila learns that Damon looks just like Theodore, and that Theodore’s wife’s name was Flora.

At this point, I’d be so out. I’d drop the class and never talk to Damon again, because everything was fine before he showed up. But no, Lila goes to Damon’s and tells him about her dreams and Theodore and Flora. He thinks she’s losing it and offers her no sympathy, even though she’s really shaken up.

Lila’s next dream sees Flora finding Theo destroying his paintings. He slashes the throat of her portrait and adds red paint to it. Okay, Flora, time to get the heck out of there. Lila gets another phone call, hearing someone murmuring her name over and over. She thinks Damon has been calling her, playing a weird joke on her. Maybe Damon is trying to recreate Theodore’s life. In Lila’s next dream, Theodore claims not to remember destroying his artwork. He thinks the slashed portrait looks great, and he’ll put it in his next exhibit.

Lila goes back to the library, reading about the slashed portrait. Apparently it was a bit of foreshadowing – there was some big tragedy in Theodore’s life. After doing some more research, Lila finds Flora’s obituary, which says her body was found with neck wounds. Theodore was arrested for her murder, and witnesses say they heard a big argument between the couple. Oh, and Lila looks just like Flora.

Even though she just suspected that Damon was trying to recreate Theodore’s life, which means he could be plotting to kill her like Theodore killed Flora, Lila decides she needs to warn Damon. She now thinks that history is repeating itself. Damon still thinks she’s nuts. But as they’re fighting, he calls her Flora, so now who’s nuts? At least now Lila gets that Damon might not be a stable person to be around. Damon himself worries that he’s become a horrible person. You think?

Lila dreams of Theodore taking Flora to see his new exhibit. All of his art is pictures of her with slashes on her body. Everyone thinks they’re brilliant. What’s wrong with these people? Lila gets another phone call; this time she’s called Flora. She’s sure Damon’s making the calls because no one else knows about Flora. In another dream, Theodore beats up Flora, accusing her of stealing his ideas and his money.

Damon calls to let Lila know he’s going out of town for a few days. Minutes later, she gets another creepy call warning that with Damon gone, Lila’s helpless. He goes looking for her, instead of leaving town, and Lila agrees to talk to him. Lila, no! She thinks there’s something off about him; there isn’t life in his eyes like there usually is. He says the phone calls must be from a frat boy playing a joke. Lila reveals that she’s going to get a caller ID machine (smart girl). She notices a scar on his face that she hadn’t noticed before, and decides she doesn’t know enough about him to be with him.

Lila’s too freaked out to be alone, so she goes to Jessica’s room. The two of them make up and talk about all the weird things that have been going on. While they’re having a big sleepover, Jessica spots Damon lurking in the bushes outside the dorm. Okay, guys, time to call the police. At least Lila realizes that she wants to be with Bruce, not Damon.

Lila dreams of Theodore strangling Flora, though Flora notices that her husband’s hands aren’t soft like they usually are. When Lila tells Jessica about the dream, Jess wonders if someone other than Theodore killed Flora. Time for more library research! They read up on Flora’s cause of death, which wasn’t her neck wounds, but a heart attack.

Jessica suggests that Lila see a reincarnation therapist, who tells Lila that she’s dreaming about her past life – she’s a reincarnation of Flora, and Damon is a reincarnation of Theodore. I mean, of course. But karma will come through, and the suffering Flora underwent in her life will be avenged. Except that means Lila might kill Damon. Of course, again.

Damon’s waiting outside the building to be creepy with Lila some more. Jessica rescues her, then decides this is a good time to admit that she wrote Bruce to tell him about Damon. Lila’s furious and takes off on her own. While Jessica searches for her Jeep, Lila goes home and hears a message from Bruce telling her that he got Jessica’s letter but still loves Lila. Bruce is kind of great in the SVU-verse.

Damon ambushes Lila in her apartment and knocks her out. She dreams of Flora seeing two Theodores fighting. Jessica finally makes it to Lila’s, running into…Damon. He’s outside, not in the apartment. When Jess accuses him of all the creepiness, he insists it wasn’t him. The other, creepier Damon ties Lila up and puts knives in front of and behind her so she can’t move without getting stabbed. He’s full-on crazy now, calling her Flora and whining about everything the other Damon has gotten. Lila finally realizes that Damon has an identical twin.

Damon confirms this when he and Jessica get to the apartment. The twin is Dylan, and he wants Lila out of the picture. Jessica helps Lila while the brothers beat each other up. Eventually Jess gets sick of them, decides the one with the bad haircut is the bad twin, and knocks him out with a Cuisinart. He falls on one of the knives, accidentally killing himself. (The description is actually pretty graphic for a Sweet Valley book.) Lila starts having chest pains, which paralells Flora’s death from a heart attack, but it turns out she’s just having a panic attack.

Later, Damon explains that Dylan was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, after years of crazy behavior. He escaped from the institution where he was living and started to wreak havoc. So some of the times Lila saw Damon and he was being weird, that was actually Dylan. (Some of the times, it was Damon. He has some anger issues, it seems.) Guess who else had a twin? Theodore. Damon, Lila, and Jessica piece together that Theodore’s twin, Thomas, killed Flora. Dylan almost reenacted Flora’s fate on Lila, but instead was the one who wound up dead. That breaks the curse, or whatever, and Lila thinks Flora can now rest in peace.

Damon feels horrible for the times he treated Lila badly, and he doesn’t ever want to hurt her again. That won’t be a problem – Lila has decided they can’t be together. She wants to go back to Bruce and, I imagine, never speak of this again. Which she probably doesn’t. So this whole book was a waste of time. Awesome.

Thoughts: I haven’t seen it, but apparently this book is a rip-off of the movie Dead Again. Incidentally, Dead Again stars and was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who was also in The Gingerbread Man, which was referenced in the previous book. So maybe the ghostwriter is a Branagh fan and that’s who Nick is supposed to look like after all.

“I read The Rules. I know The Rules.” Lila, no!

Elizabeth has an ab roller. Liz, no!

At least a third of this book is just Lila wondering why Damon hasn’t called. (And don’t ask why she doesn’t just call him. Rules girls don’t do that.)

New career goal: become a reincarnation therapist named Astra.

May 26, 2015

SVU #37, Breaking Away: Can I Move 1,000 Miles Away from Jessica, Too?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:05 pm by Jenn

They're happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

They’re happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

Summary: At the end of the last book, it wasn’t clear whether Elizabeth had decided to go to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting. But now we have confirmation that she’s going. She tells Jessica, and Jess flips, because she can’t get through life without her other half/babysitter/conscience. At the same time, Danny (hi, Danny! Where have you been?) gives Tom the news. And not long after, Scott warns Dana to make sure things with Tom stay awesome. Obviously he’s worried that Elizabeth and Tom will get back together and she’ll end up staying in Sweet Valley.

Nina and Winston throw the first party of the book, to congratulate Elizabeth on getting into the DCIR. Winston has made a video commemorating Elizabeth’s life. When did he have time to do that? Do these people ever go to class? Todd’s at the party and on the video, and I wish there’d been a twist in this book where Todd and Elizabeth got back together, instead of Tom and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Jessica get into a stupid fight about how Elizabeth isn’t showing emotion, and how Jessica never shuts up, or something. Jessica accuses Liz of going to the DCIR to run away from Tom. They both storm off, and Jess goes to see Nick, who’s a little distracted by his plans to take a longer leave of absence from the police force so he can go to college. Thanks for showing up, Nick!

The twins quickly make up, and Jessica decides to throw a going-away party for Liz, even though she’s still upset that Liz is leaving. While she puts that together, Elizabeth gets ready to transfer to the DCIR, returning the books she’s already bought for next semester (of course) and cancelling her classes. Except Scott has already cancelled her classes for her. Elizabeth yells at him, but he does that emotional-manipulation thing and makes himself look like the good guy.

Jessica intercepts a call from the DCIR for Elizabeth; some guy there wants to meet with her. Jessica decides to pull a twin switch, meet with the guy as Elizabeth, and make him want to reject her from the school. I don’t get why this is happening at all, since Elizabeth has already been accepted, and Jess has to know that this will come back around to bite her. Wait, what am I saying? Jessica never thinks about consequences. It doesn’t work anyway, since the guy just thinks she’s goofing around when she acts out.

While all this has been going on, Denise has been struggling with her financial issues. She has yet to figure out a reasonable way to pay off her debts, and apparently the collection agencies start calling two minutes after you rack up debt. Getting a job would be too easy, so Denise tries to think of a way to make money fast. When she hears about Elizabeth’s party, she jumps at the chance to cater, because apparently Denise is a really good cook. Jess is fine with it, and gives her money from Ned and Alice to pay for everything. She wants all the food to be gourmet.

Denise and Winston go all out, buying lobster and other expensive food. Except they accidentally leave the lobsters in the car for hours, rendering them inedible. Raise your hand if you think Denise is getting dumber. Left with little money and even less time, Denise sends Winston back to the store to get something – anything – she can make for the party. He settles on tofu.

Just before the party, Elizabeth and Tom almost have a Meaningful Moment, but Dana interrupts it. Boo, Dana! I don’t even like Tom and Elizabeth together, but boo, Dana! Jessica invited Tom to the party, and he’s coming with Dana. That doesn’t sound like a potential disaster at all!

Speaking of potential disasters, Denise does her best to turn tofu into something resembling lobster. Somehow, this works, and she manages to fool Bruce and Lila. Unless they’re pretending so they don’t ruin the party. It’s not clear. Anyway, Bruce asks Denise to cater a party his parents are throwing, and she’ll need to make her special “lobster” dish again. Denise worries that she won’t be able to fool a bunch of rich people.

Jessica puts into motion her last-ditch effort to make Elizabeth stay in Sweet Valley. It involves another twin switch. She pretends to be Elizabeth and goes off with Tom to find out how he feels about Liz. Tom is still in love with her, and is thrilled to learn that, supposedly, Elizabeth wants to be with him again. Scott spots them kissing and takes Dana out to see what’s going on. She’s devastated.

Now here’s what’s weird: Tom is currently kissing Elizabeth but thinks she’s Jessica. Scott can tell just from watching them through a window that Elizabeth is Jessica. How is that possible? Anyway, Scott finds the real Elizabeth and shows her that Jessica’s kissing Tom. Dana eavesdrops and realizes that Tom is kissing Jess, not Liz. She realizes that she and Scott want the same thing – to keep Liz and Tom apart. And the plan is successful: Elizabeth realizes that she really has nothing keeping her in Sweet Valley, so she can go to Colorado without regrets. Ha ha, Jessica’s plan backfired!

Thoughts: Jessica’s codependency is out of control. Does she plan to live with Elizabeth for the rest of their lives?

Jessica doesn’t like Scott because he seems “slippery,” so somehow, in this situation, her instincts are better than Elizabeth’s.

Speaking of Scott, I notice that no one’s throwing him any goodbye parties. Probably because he has no friends.

April 21, 2015

SVT #30, Princess Elizabeth: Royal Pains

Posted in books tagged , , at 8:20 pm by Jenn

That dress is all kinds of wrong

That dress is all kinds of wrong

Summary: This is the prequel to In Love with a Prince, and far less interesting. A kid named Arthur Castle is coming to Sweet Valley as an exchange student from Santa Dora. Everyone’s excited, but no one more than the Unicorns, who plan a big party for Arthur. To their credit, they’re at least doing research on Santa Dora, partly for school and partly to know more about Arthur’s culture. But it comes across as the sort of thing where girls do a tiny bit of research into, say, Indian culture, then put on saris and bindis and pretend they’re Indian.

When Arthur arrives, the cheerleaders do a little cheer, giving Elizabeth a big case of secondhand embarrassment. I assume that happens a lot with Elizabeth. She and Arthur hit it off when she helps him understand Fahrenheit in science class. She and some other students keep asking him questions about Santa Dora, but he’s a little hesitant to answer. He’d rather learn more about America and do things normal American kids do. Arthur, Sweet Valley is the wrong place for that. You should be out seeing movies and going to the beach, not learning how to steal someone’s girlfriend or escape a kidnapper.

Elizabeth and the other kids on the Sixers staff decide to make Arthur a scrapbook full of American stuff. They also give him a crash course in Americana, and he buys a bunch of American-y souvenirs like a football and a Mark Twain book. He also buys Texas sports-team memorabilia, which I don’t get, because this is California, but okay. Arthur continues to be a little reluctant to talk about Santa Dora, and when anyone asks him about his family, he gives vague answers. No one cares that much, though.

One day Elizabeth and Arthur get milkshakes, and while he’s paying, he drops a…whatever unit of currency they use in Santa Dora. Elizabeth notices that the face on the bill is Arthur’s. He admits that his name is really Arthur Castillo, and he’s the prince of Santa Dora. He wanted to keep his identity secret so he could experience the life of a normal American kid and not be treated like royalty. Elizabeth promises to keep quiet.

But the next day, Arthur panics a little and begs Elizabeth to remember to keep his secret. Only he has the wrong twin, and now Jessica knows that Arthur’s a prince. Of course, Jessica’s the last person who should know someone’s secret. (Well, Caroline Pearce is the last person, but Jessica’s a close second-to-last.) Jess spills to the Unicorns, who are thrilled that they get to hang out with royalty.

The secret is soon out, and of course Arthur thinks that Elizabeth blabbed, since she was the only one who knew. Liz is really confused, because she would never betray Arthur’s trust, but she has no idea what happened. Jessica lies that she heard it from someone else. Middle school Elizabeth is naïve enough to believe her, but I bet high school Elizabeth would see right through this.

Arthur’s not having such a great time in Sweet Valley anymore; his closest friend seemingly betrayed him, and everyone’s treating him the opposite of the way he wanted. He feels compelled to do all the stuff everyone wants him to do, though, because to decline would make his family look bad. He agrees to go to the Unicorns’ party with Jessica, but she feels bad about the trouble she caused and confesses that she told Arthur’s secret after he mistook her for Liz.

Arthur makes up with Elizabeth, who keeps working on his scrapbook. Jessica tells everyone at school to treat Arthur like any other student, which maybe isn’t exactly what he was hoping for, but still better than being treated like a prince. He takes the twins to a big, fancy party at the consulate, because no matter how normal Arthur wants to be, he still gets perks. So I think the lesson of the book is that if you befriend royalty, don’t treat him like royalty, but take advantage of the things that come with that status.

Thoughts: I don’t know why the title is Princess Elizabeth. I wonder if the plot was originally something else and they didn’t bother to change the title.

I started this while finishing Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We, which is a much different story about hanging out with royalty. MUCH different. Like, no one’s clothes come off in this one.

Jessica makes an avocado and banana sandwich. I don’t want to think about how gross that would taste.

Apparently there are no jeans or roller skates outside of the U.S.

The kids have been studying Santa Dora’s royal family but never saw a picture of the country’s prince?

Arthur buys a Confederate cap, and someone donates a Confederate flag for his scrapbook. GUYS, NO.

“All week, [Jessica] had imagined how it would be to walk onto Ellen’s elegant patio – hundreds of lights twinkling, Brooke’s Santa Doran melodies filling the air – on the arm of Prince Arthur, the handsomest prince she had ever seen. All the Unicorns would turn and stare, especially Lila and Janet, who were bound to be green with envy. Everyone else would bow as the royal couple walked past on their way to the throne (Ellen’s grandfather’s carved walnut chair), where Arthur would sit in dignified splendor while she stood beside him. And they would dance together, as everybody looked on, and Arthur would whisper in her ear that she was more beautiful than any princess. It was going to be a fabulous evening – the most beautiful, most wonderful evening of her life.” Have you ever read anything more 12 years old?

Speaking of 12 years old, why does Arthur have a Navy uniform? Is that a royalty thing? How low is the minimum age of enlistment in Santa Dora?

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