March 27, 2017
Summary: Ned and Alice are called to school on a Monday night to discuss Elizabeth. Yes, Elizabeth, not Jessica, the twin you would expect to have a parent-teacher conference called for. Liz is terrified that she’s done something wrong, and normally I’d make fun of her, because when has she ever done anything wrong, but this is a totally normal reaction. It’s like when you drive by a police car and start worrying that you’ve broken the law. Anyway, the conference is for something completely unexpected: Elizabeth’s teachers think she’s not being challenged enough at school, and she should skip ahead to the seventh grade.
Elizabeth thinks this is a great idea, even if it might be hard for her socially. Jessica is less than thrilled, since being in different classes will mean that the sisters won’t get to spend as much time together or have as much in common. Steven tells Jess that he doesn’t think Liz will be able to handle hanging out with the older kids. For the first in what will be dozens of instances through the book, I roll my eyes, because there is not that much difference between sixth-graders and seventh-graders, but whatever. Jessica and Steven decide to try to convince Liz not to move up to seventh grade.
Liz doesn’t think much will change – she’ll keep her friends and will still see them a bunch. But she soon realizes that she’ll no longer be able to write for The Sixers. Amy takes over as editor-in-chief, and Elizabeth becomes the lowest person on the totem pole at the 7&8 Gazette. (Sidebar: Maybe people wouldn’t see the sixth-graders as so different from the other middle-schoolers if they were allowed to do things with them, like work on the same dang newspaper.)
I’m not sure Jessica and Steven fully understand reverse psychology, but that’s what they plan to use on Liz to get her to change her mind about switching grades. Jess will join The Sixers and hang out with Liz’s friends to make her realize what she’ll be missing. If they make the sixth grade seem super-fun, Elizabeth won’t want to leave it. You know, because Liz always chooses what’s fun over what seems to be the best fit for her, especially when it comes to academics.
Elizabeth gets a B+ on the very first quiz she takes as a seventh-grader, and she realizes she’ll have to work harder to maintain her grades. Maybe they shouldn’t have moved her ahead in the middle of the school year? Liz tries to befriend some seventh-graders, but they seem to view her as a child. Again, there’s only a year’s difference in their ages, and one of the girls is Kerry Glenn, who’s never had a problem being friends with sixth-grader Jessica, so there shouldn’t be an issue here.
Elizabeth is invited to a party Tom McKay is throwing (no sixth-graders allowed!), so now Jess has something to be jealous about. She and Steven tell Ned and Alice that seventh- and eighth-grade parties are wild, and Elizabeth is in for some eye-opening stuff. Ned and Alice are really only strict when it comes to parties, and they tell Elizabeth she can’t go. Liz’s new friends point out that the party will be a great way for her to socialize with her new classmates, so she decides she needs to find a way to go. She’s going to pull a trick from Jessica’s book and sneak out.
Jessica gives Elizabeth a mini-makeover so she won’t look like a baby in front of the “older” kids. Secretly, Jess and Steven plan to alert Ned and Alice (who are going to a dinner party) once Elizabeth leaves, so they’ll bust her and demote her to the sixth grade. But Steven realizes that Ned and Alice are so proud of Elizabeth that they’ll just punish her and let her stay in the seventh grade. He thinks that the better idea is to let Liz go to the party and find out for herself how unready she is for the seventh grade.
While Jessica hangs out with Elizabeth’s friends, who are planning the sixth grade’s class camping trip, Elizabeth goes to the party with Mary. The kids play Spin the Bottle, and Liz’s spin lands on Bruce. Liz negs him and runs off to cry in the bathroom. When she rejoins the party, everyone’s playing Truth or Dare. Mary realizes that Liz is going to be dared to do something horrible, so she pretends they have to leave right away. Janet announces that since Liz is going to miss her dare, Janet will think of something for her to do at school. Elizabeth is so desperate to leave that she agrees, not thinking about what Janet might make her do.
Alice and Ned catch Elizabeth coming back from the party, and though they’re upset that she disobeyed their orders, they’re fine with her desire to fit in with her new classmates. Liz realizes that she has to make it work in her new grade so her parents won’t be disappointed. She tells Jessica the party was great but won’t give her any details, since she’s not a seventh-grader and therefore not cool enough to find out.
Jess finds out what really happened at the party from Janet, and realizes she can use the upcoming dare to show Elizabeth that she’s not ready for the seventh grade. She gets Janet to dare Elizabeth to kiss Bruce in the cafeteria, in front of the whole middle school. Amy and Maria tell Liz to just not do it (really, what can Janet do if she doesn’t?), but Liz is suddenly big on peer pressure and worried that she’ll be ostracized if she doesn’t follow through. Someone please tell Elizabeth that she doesn’t have to make everyone like her.
Jessica is supposed to write a couple of articles for The Sixers, but she gets Liz to write one for her. Jess says that Amy can’t handle being editor-in-chief, so Liz needs to help out so the paper goes out on time and Amy won’t be embarrassed. Jess will probably keep this in her back pocket and use it as an excuse again in the future. On top of trying to make Elizabeth think that The Sixers is struggling without her, Jess hints that Todd is upset because he thinks his girlfriend is going to kiss Bruce in front of the whole school. Elizabeth is miserable in the seventh grade now, and she decides to tell her parents she wants to go back to the sixth grade. But they’re so proud of her that she realizes she can’t break their hearts.
Jess and Steven tease Liz about kissing Bruce, thinking they’ll get her to back out. Jessica brings up Todd again, saying that he might dump Elizabeth if she goes through with the kiss. Amy and Maria still think Liz should stand up to Janet and refuse to do it. Instead, Elizabeth goes for the kiss…and then balks at the last minute, announcing that she’s not going to do it. Instead of looking like a baby, though, Elizabeth looks like a boss for dissing the coolest guy in school.
Elizabeth decides to forget about making seventh-grade friends and just hang out with the sixth-graders. They all go on their camping trip, which Liz is now unable to go on, but Alice surprises her by taking her to join them. She tells her that she and Ned realized that, while Liz was doing well in her classes, she was clearly unhappy in every other aspect of the seventh grade, so she needs to go back to sixth. So Elizabeth’s two weeks in the seventh grade are over, and I guess she’ll go back to being unchallenged in her classes.
Thoughts: Saint Elizabeth is so pure and innocent that she’s never heard of Spin the Bottle.
Steven: “One time, a bunch of eighth-grade guys got together and…” Alice: “What?” Steven: “Maybe I shouldn’t say.” I know it’s Sweet Valley, so it couldn’t have been anything you wouldn’t see in a G-rated movie, but all I can think of is dirty stuff.
Elizabeth has green jeans. I feel sick.
While people are teasing Elizabeth about her upcoming kiss, Tom McKay says, “Bruce! Bruce! Kiss me! Kiss me!” So I guess the signs were there all along.
March 7, 2017
Summary: Christmas is approaching, and since it wouldn’t be an SVT book without a party, the Howells want to throw one. Joe has agreed to let Janet invite a bunch of middle-schoolers to his high school party, which is A Big Deal. Janet warns all of the Unicorns to dress appropriately, since there will be older boys in attendance. Jessica is singled out as a fashion don’t. Ouch. Jess vows to find a killer outfit, and to make sure Elizabeth doesn’t embarrass her.
The Christmas carnival is back, and amazingly, Janet doesn’t think the Unicorns are too old to go to it. Steven, a mature high-schooler, also doesn’t find it too babyish. The Wakefield siblings run into each other, and the twins embarrass their brother. I have a feeling that there isn’t a lot about the twins that doesn’t embarrass Steven. This just sets up a slow burn through the book for Steven, who’s annoyed by how immature his sisters are.
Jessica has a hard time finding a party outfit, since everything in the juniors section is too small (really?), everything in the children’s section is too childish, and everything in the adult section is too mature. It doesn’t help that the department-store employees just see Jess as a kid. Elizabeth has similar problems when she tries to buy a book for Amy – everything the clerk recommends is too young, and the horse book she picks out is too expensive. She’s treated like a child as well, so both twins are annoyed that, at the ripe old age of 12, they’re not seen as adults.
Jess tags along on a shipping trip to L.A. with Lila and ends up hitting the jackpot – a woman was having a garage sale and getting rid of a bunch of clothes she’s made over the years. They’re perfect for Jess, and just in her price range. But then Ned finds out that the party at the Howells’ will feature high school boys. Apparently he thought Joe was just bringing some friends over to help set up, and then they would leave. Okay, Ned. Steven plays up this angle, trying to get his sisters banned from the party so they can’t embarrass him. This, plus Alice’s disdain for the twins’ party outfits, leads to the twins being told they can’t go.
The twins try to sneak out, pretending they’re going to the carnival, but Ned and Alice invite themselves along, so they have to go to the carnival for real. The twins are miserable. They head to a wishing well, run by a guy dressed like an elf, and both girls make the same wish: to be grown-ups. If you think this sounds like Big or 13 Going on 30, you’re right.
The next morning, Liz wakes up and realizes her nightgown is too small. At first she thinks she had a sudden overnight growth spurt, but she soon discovers that things are way weirder than that: She’s now an adult. Jessica finds her freaking out in the bathroom, and when they see each other, they both freak out some more. They realize they made the same wish, and both came true.
The twins decide they need to avoid their parents, so they steal some clothes from Alice, as their own clothes are now too small. Jessica runs into Steven, who can’t figure out why there’s a strange woman in his house who somehow knows his name. Ned and Alice start panicking about an intruder while the twins run off to figure out how to get themselves back to normal. Ha ha, no, they don’t. They want to start new lives for themselves as adults.
Jessica’s hungry, so she suggests that they go get donuts, even though they don’t have money. A delivery guy has skipped out on work, so Jess offers herself and Liz as replacement drivers. Never mind that they don’t have driver’s licenses, work experience, or any idea how to drive. Jessica flirts her way to the job and a free breakfast, saying that the twins need to be familiar with the product they’ll be delivering. They both eat a bunch of donuts, because being a grown-up means you need more food. Jess drives the truck, which is a disaster, and when she hits a car, she and Liz flee the scene of the accident, the little criminals.
Having discovered that the twins are missing, Ned and Alice call the police and try to convince them that the girls were kidnapped by the woman Steven saw. The police are unconcerned, figuring the twins just ran away after the fight with their parents about the party. Steven feels bad, since he got the twins banned from the party and then realized it was the wrong move.
He sets out to find his sisters, and accidentally runs into them as they’re dodging the police. It takes some convincing before he believes they’ve grown up overnight. Fortunately, he has some money on him, so the twins get him to hand it over. Steven also offers to make arrangements for them to sleep in the Wakefields’ garage without Ned and Alice finding out. This involves getting Joe to ring the doorbell and run, distracting Ned and Alice long enough for Steven to move things like sleeping bags to the garage.
The twins need money so they can find their own place to live, so they go to a temp agency to get jobs. Again, they have no work experience, no diplomas, and no IDs. Apparently it’s super-easy to get a job in Sweet Valley. Jess gets placed at a fashion company, and on her way to work on the bus, she tells a guy she’s a supermodel. The guy turns out to be a photographer at the fashion company, so Jess is pretty embarrassed when she’s outed as a temp. But probably not as embarrassed as the guy would be if he knew he was checking out a 12-year-old.
The twins both have horrible days – Elizabeth can’t juggle all the phone calls at the publishing house where she’s working as a receptionist, and Jess has no idea how to tackle her company’s filing system. Also, everyone is mean to them, which I find hard to believe. It’s all just to show that being an adult is hard, and you have to, like, work and stuff.
Jessica gets banished to a conference room to put together binders for a meeting. She starts sketching party clothes instead, and the photographer from the bus is impressed. The company has been trying to sell clothes to tween girls, but they can’t figure out what they want. I guess it would be too much work to…ask them? Anyway, Jess is immediately promoted and brought on board to consult for the line.
Elsewhere in town, Elizabeth is supposed to take minutes for a meeting about a book series for tween girls. My favorite part of this is when someone suggests a series about horses, and Elizabeth thinks to herself that since she loves the horse series she already reads, she wouldn’t want to read any other. That’s so ridiculous. Liz decides to contribute to the meeting by saying that the company should do a series about 12-year-old twin girls. This is seen as a genius idea, and, like Jess, Liz is asked to work on the series – which will be called Sweet Valley Twins. Please kill me.
The twins meet up for dinner and celebrate the great days they both had. When Steven joins them later, he tries to hide his disappointment – he wanted to convince them to go to the carnival and make a wish to go back to being themselves, but since they’re enjoying adulthood, he knows they won’t do it. Steven heads home, where Ned has decided to cancel a big meeting because he can’t focus on work when his daughters are missing. Steven realizes that this means he could lose money, which means Steven’s allowance could get cut, and he wouldn’t be able to help the twins. He tells Ned not to cancel the meeting, but won’t say why. Alice and Ned ground him for helping his sisters stay hidden.
Steven sneaks out of the house to meet up with the twins, not realizing that now Elizabeth is struggling to adjust to being an adult. They run into a bunch of middle-schoolers out caroling, and Liz is hurt when Amy doesn’t recognize her. Jessica is now also missing her old life, but it takes a while for the twins to admit to each other that being an adult is hard. And it only took two days!
The girls decide to go back to the carnival with Steven and make another wish. But alas! The carnival has closed and left town! They grab a bus and head to the next location, begging the man at the wishing well to let them in after-hours so they can make their wishes. The man’s wife is with him, and Jessica recognizes her as the woman she bought all the party clothes from. The three siblings make the wish together, and the man disappears in a flash of light. However, the twins haven’t turned back into 12-year-olds yet.
The Wakefields take the bus home, and the twins fall asleep. Steven wonders how he’s going to explain things to his parents. But it’s a moot point – when the bus reaches Sweet Valley, the twins are back to normal. Ned and Alice are so happy to see them that they don’t really care what happened, and the girls’ only punishment is doing a bunch of stuff with the family for Christmas. Well, I guess they don’t get paychecks or proper credit for their single day of work, so that’s punishment, too. And now they have a newfound appreciation for how much easier it is to be 12 than it is to be an adult.
Thoughts: “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to be called ‘Ms.,’ she thought.” You’ll change your mind when you’re older, Jess. I hate being called “Ms.”
“[Jessica] stepped into a sleeveless black sheath dress with a giant tiger head stitched onto the front. It was the coolest dress she had ever seen.” WHAT.
You know what will help convince your parents that you’re mature, Elizabeth? Storming out of an argument in tears.
June 14, 2016
Summary: The twins are both friends with Brooke Dennis now, so they’re more than happy to try to help her come up with an idea for a Sixers article about a celebrity. She’s not feeling inspired, and she feels like all the “good” ones are taken. On the radio they hear the awesome new song “Chocolate Kisses for My Baby” by awesome new rock star Coco, who’s just about to hit it big in the U.S. Brooke decides to write her article about Coco, who, coincidentally, lives in France (though she’s American), as does Brooke’s mother (also American).
Everyone at SVMS has become a Coco fan, including a boy named Colin Harmon, who Brooke has a crush on. He seems to feel the same way about her. Jessica, Lila, and Ellen decide to start a Coco fan club, and when Jessica calls Coco’s record company to get information, she learns that the club would be the first in the U.S. This entitles Jessica to free stuff like shirts, and possibly a newspaper feature in the future. She also gets a signed photo of Coco, the first picture anyone’s seen of her in the States.
Though Brooke is excited about the fan club and Coco’s upcoming stateside music video debut, she’s more excited about the fact that her mother, stepfather, and half sister are coming to visit. Her mom, Constance, has some big news. For one, she, her husband Bobby, and one-year-old Sonya are moving to California, so now Brooke will get to see them all the time. She feels like her life couldn’t get any better. But wait! There’s more! Guess why Constance’s career is bringing her back to the States? Because she’s Coco!
Before Brooke can pinch herself to see if she’s really dreaming all these wonderful things, Constance’s agent, Bernice, tells her she can’t let anyone know Coco’s her mother. They want Coco to seem mysterious, so word can’t get out that she’s married and has kids. Yeah, no one ever liked a rock star who had kids. I really don’t think anyone cares about the family lives of their favorite singers unless they’re married to other celebrities and involved in scandals. I guess boy band members try to keep that stuff quiet, because it ruins the possibility that one will hook up with a fan if you know he’s in a relationship, but whatever. The point is that Brooke can’t even tell her friends that her mom is a rock star.
This is where Brooke’s happy new reality starts coming apart. She tries to spend time with her mom, but Constance keeps getting called away for photo shoots and interviews. The family can’t go out and do stuff together because Constance might be recognized. Brook ends up spending a lot of time with Bobby and Sonya, but barely any with her mom. Bernice is a controlling monster, and Constance doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to her and remind Bernice that she works for Constance, not the other way around.
Things don’t get any better at school. Everyone’s still all about the Coco fan club, but Brooke wants to distance herself from all the hype. Lila announces that she’s throwing a big viewing party for Coco’s debut video on a channel that’s supposed to be MTV. Brooke begs off and watches the video alone at her own pity party. She also begs off going with the rest of the fan club to a record store where Coco will be signing autographs. Elizabeth hangs out with her, trying to figure out why she’s suddenly so glum. When she notices that Brooke and Coco look a lot alike, Brooke spills her secret.
Constance hangs out with Jessica at her signing and gives her two front-row tickets to her first stateside concert. Jessica’s determined to find out more about her new idol, so she stalks Constance to her hotel (yes, really) and spots her with Bobby and Sonya. Brooke passes Jess on her way to see her mom, but doesn’t find it strange that a 12-year-old would be hanging out alone at a fancy hotel. Brooke learns about the concert and throws a fit over how much Constance is working instead of spending time with her family, and how hard it’s been to keep quiet about her mother’s identity.
Jessica decides to tell Elizabeth that she learned about Constance’s marriage and child. But as she’s starting to share the news, Elizabeth thinks she’s discovered that Constance is Brooke’s mother, and accidentally gives Jess that info. Jessica promises to keep quiet, and for once, she actually does. But it doesn’t matter – as revenge on her mother and Bernice, Brooke calls a newspaper and reveals that Coco is married and has two children.
Bernice figures out who leaked the info and tears into Brooke for jeopardizing Constance’s career. On top of that, Brooke has had to turn down a date with Colin – her very first date ever – because he wants to take her to Coco’s concert. She tells him she doesn’t think her mom would let her go, which is kind of funny. Brooke’s whole life has gone pear-shaped, so it’s not that surprising when Mr. Dennis goes to the Wakefields’ house to ask if they’ve seen Brooke. She’s disappeared.
Constance calls later, telling Elizabeth she feels horrible about everything Brooke has had to go through. Then why did you put her through it? It’s Bernice’s fault! Fire her! Constance is too distraught to sing, so she cancels her concert, which was scheduled for the next night. Jessica’s upset – who cares if their friend is missing if it means Jess can’t use her front-row tickets? Well, actually, she’s upset because there’s no reason for the concert to be cancelled. She ran into Brooke and invited her to hide out in the Wakefields’ basement instead of running away out of town.
Brooke quickly calls her mother, and the two of them easily make up. If I were Constance, I’d probably be a little ticked that Brooke disobeyed me instead of talking through her issues, but okay. Now the concert can go on! And Constance is going to fire Bernice and find an agent who actually respects the fact that she has a family! And Brooke doesn’t have to lie anymore! Also, she can probably get to first base with Colin at some point!
The B-plot is about how Ned and Alice keep finding debris from the kids’ big party around the house. They find empty chip bags and wonder what happened to all their pickles and mayo. The twins and Steven tell them that May ate all their food, though that doesn’t explain the slice of lunch meat found in one of Alice’s shoes. If I were her and Ned, I’d worry that I’d left my children in the care of a woman with an eating disorder and possible early dementia. Though if I were Ned or Alice, I would have a lot other problems to deal with.
The kids worry that Caroline’s mom is going to rat them out for the party, so they decide to come clean with their parents. They downplay how out-of-control things got, and don’t admit that they tricked May to get her out of the house (they say she was out running errands during the party). Ned and Alice don’t know anything about the party – Caroline’s mom wanted to talk to them about something else – but they’re impressed with their children for being honest. Yeah, three weeks later! Because of their integrity, or whatever, the kids don’t get punished, but they do have to clean the whole house (again) because their Aunt Helen is coming to visit. So basically, if the kids’ guilt hadn’t gotten the better of them, Ned and Alice never would have known about the party. They would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky consciences!
Thoughts: If Coco’s a rock star, why does she dress like a country singer? Also, Ted Mosby approves of her red cowboy boots.
If my mother gave me a signed picture of herself like Coco does with Brooke, I’d ask her if she had a stroke.
Hmm, I wonder what real-life magazine Rolling Rocks is based on?
January 26, 2016
Summary: We all know Lila Fowler can be a snobby little braggart, but she’s been worse than usual recently. She got to spend the weekend in Hawaii, and she won’t shut up about it. (A weekend? That seems like a waste.) She also has skybox tickets to see Dynamo, a band everyone loves. Jessica’s fed up with Lila’s boasting, but she doesn’t have anything she can brag about to one-up her.
While reading Teenager Magazine, Jessica learns about a contest for “French-oriented” families. Entrants write about their families for a chance to win a week in France. Jessica starts writing about her family, though she includes more fiction than fact. For instance, the Wakefields like to speak French at home. Alice is a ballet dancer who cooks gourmet French meals. Ned is a painter and restores furniture in his spare time. Steven plays trombone in a jazz ensemble. (In actuality, Steven has begun taking trombone lessons but is awful.) Elizabeth’s so awesome that she doesn’t need any embellishment.
Jessica can’t read the fine print on the entry form – it’s too small – but even she knows the family isn’t really eligible for the contest. She decides filling out the form is just for fun, and she won’t send it in. But Alice sees the form and asks Elizabeth to mail it, thinking Jessica was going to but forgot. When Jess learns that Liz sent in the entry, she decides her odds of winning are slim anyway, so it’s not a big deal.
Of course, Jessica becomes a finalist in the contest, and a woman from the magazine, Ms. Harris, sets up a meeting with the Wakefields. For once in her life, Jessica tells the truth, confessing to her family that she accidentally entered the competition. She figures they can just play the parts she wrote for them and try to fool Ms. Harris. Plus, they still have a shot at the trip to France. No harm, no foul.
Ned is reluctant, but Alice gets excited about the possibility of going to France, so she tells Jessica they’re in. As soon as Jess leaves the room, Alice tells the rest of the family that she wants to teach Jessica a lesson about exaggeration. They’ll play along but really ham it up at dinner with Ms. Harris. Then I guess Jessica will never tell a lie again. Brilliant plan!
Through the book, Brooke is being courted by the Unicorns, and she’s too nice to tell them she’s not interested in joining. They want to give her an induction task, and Jessica decides to have her pose as a French maid during the big dinner with Ms. Harris. Brooke agrees to participate because she knows Jess needs help (and also because Liz tells her what’s really going on and she thinks it’ll be fun).
With Brooke’s knowledge of France, from spending time there with her mother, the Wakefields are on their way to seeming like they know what they’re doing. Brooke gives them clothes to wear, pretending they’re the hottest fashions in Paris. She makes Jessica wear magenta, orange, and green together. Jessica’s so excited about the dinner that she cleans the whole house.
Now for the sabotage. Alice gets Steven to undo all of Jessica’s tidying so Ms. Harris walks into a pigsty. Dinner is nouilles au fromage, which is just French for macaroni and cheese. Steven is a bratty teen all through the meal, then plays his trombone horribly upstairs. Ned shows off his latest painting, which is just a bunch of paint splotches. Dessert is supposed to be a flambé, but Alice just sets jelly donuts on fire. Brooke, using the name Brookette, helps serve, then gets to enjoy the festivities. Lucky girl.
Jessica finally calls a halt to everything when Alice announces she’s going to perform a dance for Ms. Harris. She comes clean about everything and learns that her family turned things around on her to teach her a lesson. Fortunately, Ms. Harris was warned ahead of time, so she doesn’t think the family’s insane. She lectures Jessica on reading the fine print before entering a contest; if she had, she would have realized that she needed to be enrolled in a French class to enter. This makes Alice wonder if Jess needs glasses, since she says the print was too small.
So Jessica doesn’t win the trip to France (she gets the consolation prize, French-language tapes – ha!), but she does get the last laugh. Lila and Ellen were supposed to show up during dinner to make sure Brooke was completing her task, but they never made it, so no one knows about Jessica’s embarrassment. Alice has been working on a project for the lead singer of Dynamo, and she’s given front-row seats to a concert. She gets Courteney Coxed and brought on stage (as if). Lila’s skybox seats suck, so Jessica finally has something better than her best friend.
Thoughts: I’m going to need an explanation of what a “French-oriented family” is. “Oriented” is so vague.
Lila’s getting a sauna. What does a 12-year-old need with a sauna?
We know that Alice and the twins do the bulk of the cooking in the Wakefield house, and Ned says in this book that he and Steven will do the after-dinner clean-up “for a change.” So Ned and Steve don’t cook or do dishes? This is the ’90s, not the ’50s, right?
December 8, 2015
Summary: Liz has FINALLY filled her parents in on Jessica’s condition, and they’ve taken her home to get her some help. Ned, Alice, and Steven wonder why Elizabeth didn’t notice sooner that Jess was such a wreck. Instead of admitting that she did notice, and just tried a bunch of ineffective things to snap her out of it, Elizabeth whines that she has a life and can’t be with her twin 24 hours a day. Never mind that she WAS with Jessica 24 hours a day, or that everything Elizabeth was doing that wasn’t about Jess was dumb. Liz has a hissy fit and goes back to school.
Jessica sees someone outside her window and thinks it’s her guardian angel. She spends most of the book on this topic, making people think she’s either seeing things or that she has a stalker. Steven actually has a smart idea, wanting to call the police, an especially good move since we know Nick was killed by a guy with some pretty dangerous connections, and it would be reasonable to fear that they would come after Jessica, too. Also, we know she’s being watched, since we keep getting sections from her stalkers point of view. He’s trying to find a moment when he can get her alone.
When Elizabeth gets back to school, she goes to see Mike, because why should Jessica’s mental health be more important than Liz’s barely-first-base action? They make out a little, but Liz balks at going any further. Partly it’s because Mike slept with her sister, which is, admittedly, weird. But she’d still rather hang out with Mike than answer any of Jessica’s messages.
Ned and Alice’s big solution for Jessica’s problems is to bring over a psychiatrist and give Jess the sedatives he prescribes. Amazingly, Jess doesn’t get better! She gets a little crazier every day, mainly because Elizabeth won’t talk to her. Jess worries that something bad happened to her like it happened to Nick.
Liz is sent to L.A. to cover a story about an extreme-sports TV network, which is hosting some sort of competition. (This will come up in the next book.) Mike tracks her down there and they come very, very close to hooking up. Elizabeth wants to, since everyone sees her as a prude, and she wants to prove that she can have a purely physical relationship. Yes, Liz, this is a perfectly mature response to people being mean to you. Elizabeth panics over buying condoms and realizes she’s not ready for sex. Especially sex with her sister’s ex-husband.
Back in Sweet Valley, Jessica is worse than ever – she thought Elizabeth was coming for a family dinner, but Liz doesn’t show up. Jess tries to call her at her hotel, but Mike has asked the receptionist not to put through any calls. This just makes Jess even more worried that something bad has happened to her twin. She sees her guardian angel again, but now her family thinks the sedatives are making her hallucinate. So…maybe have her stop taking them? No? You’re not going to do that? Okay.
The guardian angel leaves Elizabeth a note letting her know that Jessica needs her. Thanks for your help, angel! This sends Liz back home, where the sisters make up. Then Jess gets really clingy, which is unsettling. She tells Elizabeth all about her angel, leading Liz to tell her she needs to get over Nick’s death already. Thanks for helping, Liz! She continues that she has a life and can’t waste her time dealing with Jessica’s stupid problems, like depression and possible psychosis because her boyfriend was murdered. I mean, Jess is such a drama queen, right? Like, move on already!
Somehow, Jessica doesn’t punch her sister in the face. Instead, she says Elizabeth is right, and she appreciates what Liz has done for her. You mean how she abandoned you? I know, that was great of her, right? I think this is all supposed to seem like Elizabeth was using tough love on her sister, but it’s more like she’s selfish and didn’t want to have to deal with Jess, so she ignored her until Jess came to her senses.
Then Elizabeth starts to do something useful: She wants to get Jess’ expulsion from SVU revoked. She and Nina (who has temporarily moved into the twins’ dorm room because Liz is lonely, and because Nina needs something to do) decide to use the angle that Jess is suffering from a mental-health disorder and should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school should have noticed that something was wrong and done more to help her. Never mind that ELIZABETH didn’t do more to help Jess. Also, they didn’t give her a fair expulsion hearing, which is the only part of this I will go along with.
Liz and Tom once did a story about the ADA, so she goes to him to get their notes. While they’re working together, and actually getting along again, Lila calls (more on that later). Elizabeth thinks Tom is getting ready for a super-special date with a super-special lady, which sets off her poor-me-I’m-so-neglected siren. You broke up, Liz. You were two seconds from having sex with Mike. Chill out.
Armed with what must be pretty flimsy information on the ADA, Elizabeth and Steven come up with a plan. She approaches the dean and threatens to sue the school if Jessica’s situation isn’t reviewed. There’s no resolution in this book, but I think we can all expect Jess to be reinstated at SVU, though hopefully they’ll have her go through an extensive psychological evaluation first.
Meanwhile, Jessica decides that her sedatives are messing with her head, so she stops taking them. Then she decides that since she stopped seeing the angel when she quit the pills, there must be a connection, so she starts taking them again. Then she decides to just take a bunch and take care of the whole situation altogether. She leaves Elizabeth a goodbye message and then starts having weird dreams or visions or something. Elizabeth gets the message and heads back to Sweet Valley.
The angel finds Jessica outside the house, and Jess finally realizes it’s Nick. Yes, friends, Nick faked his death to save his own life, but didn’t tell Jessica because he knew she’d never let him go, and the truth would put her in danger. Somehow this is better for her? Whatever, Nick. He tells her he’s okay, and that he’ll always love her. Fortunately, Elizabeth finds Jessica before the pills kill her, and I assume she’s okay even after overdosing on sedatives. At least now she knows her dead boyfriend isn’t really dead. Hooray, she’s cured!
Danny’s having a really tough time with Isabella gone. He’s getting drunk every night to try to forget her, but it still doesn’t take his mind off of the fact that he might never see her again. Tom thinks he would feel better if he were allowed to talk to Isabella, so he sets out to find out which clinic her parents took her to. He makes some calls, but can’t get any answers, not least because he doesn’t speak German or French. Finally he realizes that Lila might know where Isabella is. But Lila won’t give up the information without a catch: Tom has to come on a double date with her, Bruce, and a prospective student named Chloe Murphy.
Tom reluctantly goes on the date, thinking Chloe will be just like Lila. But Chloe’s not like other girls! She reads the New York Times! She’s interested in things other than clothes and country clubs! Tom really hopes she decides to come to SVU when she finishes high school. Keep it in your pants, Tom.
As for Danny, he calls the clinic, but Isabella’s father won’t let her talk to him, even when Isabella says she wants to. Mr. Ricci thinks everyone at SVU is on drugs, and that Danny’s a bad influence on his daughter. Danny wishes he’d never made the call in the first place. He goes back to drinking, and is offered drugs by a guy at a bar. Even though drugs are what took Isabella away from him in the first place, he contemplates taking some.
Dana starts out the book thinking that she wants to take things slowly with Todd. That doesn’t last long. After a run-in with Elizabeth, who tells Todd that Dana’s a bad choice in girlfriends, Dana throws out her plans, and she and Todd start going at it like bunnies. Then she starts talking about marriage and makes him panic. Oops!
Thoughts: For the record, Prince Albert is still alive.
“It’s macho jerks like Patman who make it harder for the rest of us.” Tom, sweetie, you’re a macho jerk, too.
“That way we can get on with our relationship, and you can get on with being lonely and bitter…or whatever it is you do when you and Tom Watts aren’t busy with your tedious little on-again, off-again love-hate drama.” I have newfound respect for Dana.
Chloe’s taking a feminist-law class, which means she really shouldn’t spend any more time with Tom.
November 3, 2015
Summary: Alice’s parents are coming to visit the Wakefields for ten days. The twins will have to share a room so their grandparents can have Jessica’s, which sounds dumb to me, since we know Jessica’s room is a mess, so why not give them Elizabeth’s? Unless this is Ned and Alice’s way of forcing Jess to clean her room. Except I don’t think they deserve that kind of credit. Anyway, Elizabeth thinks her grandparents are super-old and will have trouble doing things like walking and eating regular food. For the record, Grandma and Grandpa Robertson are in their 60s. Shut up, Elizabeth.
There’s a new teen club called the Hangout (which I don’t remember ever being mentioned after this book), and Steven comes home from a night there with a black eye. He explains that some Big Mesa students showed up and started a fight because they were mad about losing a basketball game to Sweet Valley. Steven wasn’t even a target; he was trying to help a kid the Big Mesa guys went after. Ned and Alice decide their kids aren’t allowed to go to the Hangout anymore.
Jessica’s still upset that she’s not allowed to get her ears pierced, but she cheers up when she chats with Todd (making his first appearance of this series), who seems interested in her. She cheers up even more when she finds out that Aaron’s throwing a big party, where Dave Carlquist will be DJing. But oh, no! The party’s at the Hangout! Ned and Alice forbid the twins from going.
Jessica’s outraged: Every sixth-grader at SVMS is going to the party, as are several seventh-graders. This is the party of the year, and she’s not allowed to go. Lighten up, Jess – Lila will have 18 more parties in the next month. Steven tries to help the twins out, telling Ned and Alice that there were plenty of chaperones at the Hangout, and he thinks the fight was a one-time thing. But Ned and Alice are afraid for their precious babies and won’t change their minds.
More furious than ever, Jess has had it. She’s 12 years old, which means she’s practically an adult! She should be able to go where she wants, when she wants! She complains to her grandmother about how she’s not allowed to get her ears pierced. Grandma Robertson says that she herself got her ears pierced at Jessica’s age, and she doesn’t see why Alice is so stubborn about letting Jess do the same. Jess decides that since she’s old enough in her mind to do what she wants, she’ll defy her parents.
A now pierced Jessica is immediately punished…until Grandma Robertson says it’s really her fault that Jess went against her parents’ wishes. She feels like she might have given Jess the idea that she had permission. Yeah, no, that’s not what happened. Jessica was just a brat. But anyway, Ned and Alice decide she doesn’t need to be punished because she didn’t know she was breaking a rule. Once again, horrible parenting by the Wakefields, but I don’t think anyone’s surprised.
Since Jessica got away with breaking one rule, she thinks she can get away with another. Off of a suggestion from Lila, she decides that she and Elizabeth will just sneak out to the party while their parents are out for the evening. Amazingly, Elizabeth goes along with this plan. But the dumb girls don’t use their inside voices, and Grandpa Robertson overhears them plotting to break the rules. He and Grandma Robertson make the twins confess their plans to their parents.
Then Grandma and Grandpa tell Ned and Alice that they’re demonstrating bad parenting, and that the girls should be allowed to go to the party. Ned and Alice decide they’re right, so the twins can go. And no, they’re not punished for planning to sneak out. No one faces any consequences. Jessica gets pierced ears and both twins get to go to the party, where Jess hangs out with Todd. It’s so wonderful to be a Wakefield!
Thoughts: Today in out-of-context amusement: “But all the other Unicorns are getting their ears pierced!”
“Todd didn’t seem to be interested in girls.” YOU GUYS.
“I’m twelve years old, and they can’t tell me what to do!” is, of course, spoken by Jessica. I’ve never heard a more 12-year-old thing come out of her mouth.
Every time Todd talks to Jessica, he mentions Elizabeth. Like, he asks her if they’re at the mall together. He asks if they’re both going to Aaron’s party. I was sure that at the end of the book, Jessica would realize that Todd’s actually interested in Elizabeth. But at the party, he wants to dance with Jess. Weird.
October 20, 2015
Summary: New book, new random classmate for Elizabeth to help. This time it’s Danny, a fairly new student at SVMS who’s quickly become a track star. He’s also developed a reputation as a troublemaker. For instance, he cuts off some of Julie’s hair in class. Amazingly, he doesn’t get suspended for that. But he does get a warning from the principal, Mr. Clark: If he doesn’t shape up, he’ll be off the track team.
As Danny’s schedule gets rearranged and he’s suddenly in a bunch of the twins’ classes, everyone watches him closely to make sure he doesn’t in trouble. There’s a big track meet coming up, and without Danny, SVMS doesn’t stand a chance. Even though Danny loves track and knows Mr. Clark is serious about his threat, Danny’s behavior doesn’t improve. He acts up in social studies and fights with Ken in science. With his spot on the team up in the air, Danny still manages to set a school record for the 800-meter race.
Elizabeth interviews Danny for the Sixers and learns that his parents aren’t that interested in his extracurricular activities. They’re both scientists and would prefer it if their son got good grades. Elizabeth is confused – Danny’s clearly smart, as he’s able to answer questions in class, but when it’s time to read, he causes trouble. At this point it’s pretty obvious to the reader what’s going on, but no one in the book has paid enough attention to Danny to figure it out.
On parents’ evening, Danny’s folks talk to Mr. Bowman about his work. They want him to quit the track team so he has more time to study. Mr. Bowman disagrees, not wanting Danny to drop an activity he loves so much. Danny barely manages to keep his parents from talking to Mr. Clark, since they might find out that he forged their signatures on a letter Mr. Clark sent home.
Elizabeth talks to Danny again about her article, and realizes that he’s having trouble reading it. She becomes the first person in the book to realize that he might have a learning disability. Danny flips out about having his secret discovered and trashes a room in the library. As a result, he’s officially off the track team. Elizabeth tries to downplay everything and even take responsibility, but Mr. Clark won’t budge.
Elizabeth tries to talk things over with Jessica, which is a horrible idea, even after Liz gets her to promise in writing that she won’t tell anyone about Danny. Jess is surprised that Danny’s teachers have never noticed his problems, not realizing that many students get passed to the next grade just so their teachers don’t have to deal with them anymore, and because the teachers don’t see how severe their problems are. Next, Liz talks to Ned, which is a disaster, since he thinks it’s Danny’s problem to work out on his own.
While cleaning up her room (after guilting Elizabeth into helping), Jessica finds a magazine article about an Olympic runner named Greg Voynow. Greg was unable to read until he was 19, thanks to an undiagnosed learning disability. He asked for help and has overcome his problems. The twins think that Danny will be able to connect with Greg, so Elizabeth writes him a letter and asks him to pay a visit. Greg agrees to drop by SVMS, pretending he read about Danny’s awesomeness in track and wanted to meet him.
Elizabeth has to miss the meeting, so Jessica greets Greg (who’s hot) and points Danny out to him. Greg and Danny chat about running before Greg brings up his own struggles with reading. Danny admits that he has trouble and causes distractions so no one will notice. Greg urges him to talk to someone so he can get help. Danny easily agrees, and the next day he talks to Mr. Bowman. He quickly starts receiving extra help with reading, and is allowed back on the track team.
After a few days working with a tutor, Danny asks Mr. Bowman to tell the class what’s been going on. We get a PSA about dyslexia, which is probably good for kids to see, though I don’t think a lot of kids with dyslexia were reading SVT books. Danny wins a big track meet for the school, and there’s an assembly in the team’s honor, with a special appearance by Greg. He gives a nice speech about how you should ask for help if you have a problem. But really, most of the kids are only listening because he’s hot. Danny apologizes to Elizabeth for his tantrum, which is nice, and he thanks her for helping him out. Take that, Ned!
The B plot tries to give us a lesson on positive body image, but it doesn’t work. Jessica’s jealous of the attention guys like Bruce and Jake Hamilton (Janet’s future boyfriend, I believe) give other girls, and she thinks it’s because she’s not thin enough. After all, a magazine told her she was “half fit, half fat.” Jessica starts working out, even though she hates it. It doesn’t give her any extra attention from guys, either – in fact, Jake only pays attention to her when she gets a blister and needs a ride home. Jess discovers that, after all that work, she’s actually gained weight, so she decides to quit working out. I’m not going to even begin to mention all the problems with including this storyline in a book aimed at preteen girls, because I’ll be here all day.
There’s also a lot of talk about how Jessica wants to get her ears pierced, because Lila’s getting hers done. Ned and Alice decide that the twins can’t get their ears pierced until they’re 14. Lila keeps bugging Jessica about it, so Jess says her parents said she could do it “soon.” Eventually she admits that she has to wait until she’s in high school, which she gets teased about. I’m not sure why this was a plot.
Thoughts: I actually don’t get making girls wait until they’re a certain age before they get their ears pierced. What makes less sense to me is piercing a baby’s ears.
Elizabeth tells Ned that Danny has trouble reading and she thinks his teachers should know. Ned tells her not to do anything, since she told Danny she wouldn’t. Sooner or later, Danny will make a move on his own. So she shouldn’t even tell his parents or a guidance counselor or anyone in a position to help. Ned also says that Danny will eventually confide in someone he trusts, and that person will help. So to summarize: Elizabeth told her father that she wants to help someone with a problem, and he told her to do nothing and let someone else deal with it. A+ parenting, Mr. Wakefield.
Greg introduces himself to Danny and then takes him out for ice cream. Um, excuse me? Stranger danger! Celebrities are not immune!
September 22, 2015
Summary: With Alice out of town on business, Ned is relying on the kids to help out more around the house. Jessica is, as expected, not on board. She gets a lecture about being more responsible, which makes her feel bad that her father doesn’t have faith in her. Ned gives her the chance to prove herself by asking her to deliver an envelope containing $500 to someone named Mr. Hopper. She’ll need to do it soon because Mr. Hopper is about to leave his house.
Jessica heads out on her errand, but she’s delayed by Caroline, who has some supposedly juicy gossip. It’s not that juicy. By the time Jess remembers what she’s supposed to be doing, Mr. Hopper has already left. His neighbor was asked to keep an eye out for Jessica and let her know that Mr. Hopper will be back late, but Jess can come by in the morning. You know, if Mr. Hopper had just asked the neighbor to take the envelope from Jessica, we would have been spared the rest of this book. But that would be too easy.
Even though the next day is Saturday and Mr. Hopper is leaving really early in the morning for a week out of town, Jessica sucks it up and plans to go see him then. She stashes the money in the cover of a tennis racket she finds in a closet at the Wakefields’ house. But in the morning, the racket’s gone. Steven tells her that it actually belonged to his friend Peter Moore. Ned was annoyed when he opened the closet the night before and the racket fell on his head, so Steven took it back to Peter.
After recruiting Elizabeth to help her, Jessica rushes over to Peter’s house, where she learns that his father is off playing tennis. The twins pretend they just wanted to borrow the racket, not mentioning that there’s a fat wad of money inside. Peter loans them his mother’s racket, probably wondering why his friend has such weird sisters. After searching a few tennis courts (apparently there are a bunch in Sweet Valley), Elizabeth sees that Mrs. Moore’s racket is from the Sweet Valley Country Club, so that’s probably where Mr. Moore is.
She’s right, and the twins stalk him to the club’s restaurant. Jessica pretends to be a busgirl while she tries to get her hand in the racket cover. Mr. Moore catches her, so the twins do an actual smart thing: They tell him exactly what’s going on. Mr. Moore apologetically tells them that the envelope isn’t there.
Jessica now has a week to figure out what to do about the money before Mr. Hopper comes back. She decides that they’ll just need to earn $500 and pretend it was never missing. (And I say “they” because she easily guilts Elizabeth into helping her.) The girls create an odd-job service calling Helping Hands, planning to make $500 in seven days by washing cars and mowing lawns. All while going to school, doing homework, attending Unicorn meetings and Booster practice (Jess), and working on the newspaper (Liz). Sure.
Of course, Jess doesn’t like doing manual labor, so Elizabeth gets stuck with the brunt of the tasks. Not that it really matters, since there’s no way they can make that much money that quickly. The twins’ last chance to earn back the money is a radio contest Jessica enters. If she’s called, she’ll play Name That Tune with five Johnny Buck songs for a chance to win $1,000.
Amazingly, Jessica gets picked. Ned’s on the phone when Jess is supposed to call the station back, so Elizabeth pretends she has to make an important phone call, I guess because Ned wouldn’t give in if Jess asked. Jessica gets four of the five songs right, but she’s so focused on the prize that she calls the last song “A Thousand Bucks” instead of “A Dozen Bucks.” No money for Jess.
Jessica decides that it’s time to come clean. As she’s about to tell Ned that she lost the money, she sees him leaving the house, accidentally dropping something on the floor. It’s the envelope, and all the money is still inside. She figures that he found the envelope and either forgot to tell her or held on to it to teach her a lesson. Elizabeth is disappointed that her detectiving turned up the wrong answer (she thought Steven took the money from the racket and lost it somewhere in his room).
Jess admits to Ned that she lost the money, so he starts to tell her that he had it all along, only now he can’t find the envelope. She lets him know that she found it. Apparently he forgot to talk to her about it all week. Then he tells her that she should always come to her parents when she screws up so they can help her fix it. Yeah, right! They’ll lecture her about it and punish her. The real lesson here is never give Jessica any responsibilities.
Thoughts: To make $500 in seven days, the girls would have to make just over $70. Neither seems to think this is unreasonable.
Ellen tried to get the Unicorns to change their official color from purple to red. And she didn’t get chased out of town by a mob with torches and pitchforks?
It’s 1990 and Jessica’s still listening to records. NO.
March 10, 2015
Summary: The twins are bored and want to do something exciting. Elizabeth finds some fun recipes, so the girls decide they want to throw a fancy dinner party for their friends. But Ned and Alice think they’re too young for something like that and tell them to have a cookout instead. Boring! Next the twins decide they’d like to visit their Great-Aunt Helen on an upcoming long weekend. This means taking the bus to Sandy Harbor, wherever that is, all by themselves. Again, their parents think they’re too young, but the twins manage to negotiate with them. Ned and Alice agree to let them go if they can earn the money to pay for the trip.
Next comes a brainstorming session. Elizabeth makes really good cakes, so she decides that they can sell them to raise the money. Alice squashes that idea pretty quickly by noting how expensive that would be. The next idea is walking dogs – if they charge $2 per dog per day, they just have to walk [insert math here] for [more math] days. (Yeah, I don’t do math. We’ll just say that the twins think they can get by with minimum work for the minimum amount of money they need.)
But to provide a service, you first have to advertise that service, and that costs money. The twins borrow $5 from Steven to copy some fliers, which means they’ll have to make back that $5 on top of the $80 they need for bus tickets. Oh, and Steven charges them 50% interest on the loan, so they really need to pay him back $7.50. The idea of Steven charging his sisters 50% interest makes me laugh. Though he might consider the fact that they’ll be gone for a long weekend enough of a reward for loaning them the money.
The girls pass out their fliers, and Jessica starts to realize that having a job actually requires work. Part of me is surprised that she went along with this plan in the first place, since she doesn’t like dogs or any job that might result in her getting dirty, but the rest of me thinks she didn’t actually think this through. She thought about making money and getting what she wanted, but her brain skipped the part about what she’d have to do to make money. Anyway, Elizabeth runs into Ken Matthews, who loves the idea of hanging out with dogs every afternoon. See, Ken is smart. Playing with dogs + money = good times.
Apparently there’s a big need for dog walkers in Sweet Valley, because the twins quickly get some clients. Of course, Jessica isn’t really on board with this whole thing, especially when it means having to miss out on Unicorn hangouts and Booster practices. Ken offers to fill in for her and even refuses to take any money. Hanging out with dogs is enough of a reward. I get it, Ken. Plus, he really wants a dog but his parents don’t think he’s ready for the responsibility, so this is his chance to play with puppies.
One of the clients asks if the twins can keep a couple of dogs at their house over the weekend, and though Ned and Alice aren’t thrilled with the idea, the twins work out arrangements (the dogs will stay in the backyard) and demonstrate that they’re serious about being responsible. Elizabeth has plans to go roller-skating with some friends (ahh, the ’80s), so Jessica’s left looking after the dogs one afternoon. Lila comes by with plans for something much more interesting. Ken comes by to visit and offers to watch the dogs while Jessica’s gone. Elizabeth isn’t happy, but at least the dogs are looked after.
Then a guy named Mr. Quincy shows up. He has a dog named Joe and needs someone to watch him for a week while he’s out of town. He’ll pay them $20 and another $20 at the end of the week, which is the rest of the money the twins need. As soon as Mr. Quincy leaves, Ken realizes that something’s wrong with Joe. He doesn’t like being touched, and he gets scared when he’s approached. Ken discovers that the dog has cuts and bruises all over him. He and the twins realize that someone – most likely Mr. Quincy – has been abusing the dog.
The kids quickly show Joe some compassion, bathing him and fixing up his injuries. They’re just not sure what to do about Mr. Quincy. They don’t want to tell their parents, because Ned and Alice said they didn’t want to hear any complaining about their work. (Bad parenting alert!) As Joe gets better and becomes more and more friendly, the kids worry about having to give him back to his abusive owner. They think about telling the police, but now that Joe’s cuts and bruises have healed, they don’t think the police will accept their story without evidence.
Their next thought is to take Joe to a shelter and tell Mr. Quincy that he ran away. Of course, if Mr. Quincy went around to shelters looking for a runaway dog, he would recognize Joe right away. So the kids decide to cut and dye his fur to make him unrecognizable. They’re 12 and have no idea what they’re doing, so the dog ends up looking kind of strange, but at least he looks different now.
Ken tries to talk his parents into letting him keep Joe (pretending he’s a stray), but they still don’t think he’s responsible enough. Ken tells the twins that his cousin Fred lives a few miles away on a ranch and already has some dogs – maybe Fred would take Joe. The kids go visit Fred, who happily accepts Joe. Problem solved! Except now they have to tell Mr. Quincy that Joe ran away. Mr. Quincy is furious and threatens to sue, which I don’t think he can do, but whatever. Also, the twins can forget about their second $20.
Then Joe really does run away – he disappears from Fred’s ranch. He ends up at the Wakefields’ after walking ten miles in the rain, which washes away the dye. Ned calls Mr. Quincy, wanting the guy off his back. When he arrives, Ken and the twins admit what they did and accuse Mr. Quincy of abusing Joe. Ned, to his credit, believes them and refuses to let Mr. Quincy take the dog. Mr. Quincy decides he doesn’t need the hassle and tells them to do whatever he wants with Joe. Ned warns that if he ever sees Mr. Quincy with another dog, he’ll report him. Yay, Ned!
Ken’s parents come by, having heard from Fred that Joe ran away, and Ken tells them how he’s been helping take care of a dog. They realize that he’s responsible after all and decide to let him keep Joe. The Wakefields are a little ticked that the kids didn’t tell them what was going on, but they’re also proud that the kids did something so good. They reward them with the rest of the money they need for their trip (including the money they need to pay Steven back). Everyone’s happy, but probably not as happy as Joe is.
Thoughts: Ned and Alice are no fun. If I had preteens, I’d let them throw a fancy dinner party. What’s the problem?
Between them, the twins only have $3 before they start walking dogs. How is that possible? I don’t believe for a second that Elizabeth doesn’t have any savings. How does she pay for her Amanda Howard mysteries and horse figurines?
Jessica, confused as to why a dog ran away from her: “I told her to stay.” This reminds me of Hildi from Trading Spaces. She was once advised not to use straw in a design, not just because it was stupid but because the kids in the house would pull it off the walls. Her response was, “Well, tell them not to.”
January 13, 2015
Summary: Happy anniversary to Ned and Alice, who have been married for 16 years! Unfortunately, their kids are the only ones who remember the anniversary. Their parents have been so busy recently that they haven’t been spending much time together. In fact, Alice has been spending a lot of time with a client named Frank Howard, a millionaire from Beverly Hills. The twins are distressed because Mr. Howard is hot and has a nice mansion and is a million times better than Ned, so he could easily tempt Alice into leaving her husband.
The sixth-graders have to do a group project for a history class, and Elizabeth, Amy, and Pamela decide to find out how their parents met and write about that. What does that have to do with history? They should at least talk about how the time period and events affected the relationships. This is all just a contrivance for Elizabeth to need to find out how Alice and Ned met.
The twins start getting nervous that their parents are no longer in love. They tell Steven, who first thinks they have nothing to worry about, but then starts drinking the Kool-Aid and thinks they’re on to something. They decide that they need to make Mr. Howard believe that getting involved with Alice would be a huge mistake because her children are monsters. The twins offer to run an errand for Alice, delivering something to Mr. Howard, so they dress in ridiculous outfits and make it look like they never bathe. Mr. Howard just thinks they’re weird.
Then Mr. Howard shows up at the Wakefields’ house unexpectedly. The twins have already changed clothes, so they tell Steven to blast his music. Mr. Howard barely notices, and clearly wasn’t influenced by the twins’ previous scheming, because he still wants to work with Alice. Alice invites him to stay for lunch, so Jessica gives him super-spicy salad dressing, which manages to get him to flee. Out of Alice’s earshot, she tells Mr. Howard that maybe later he can meet Alice’s other children – from her first two marriages.
Elizabeth, Amy, and Pamela go out for ice cream at Casey’s (of course it’s Casey’s), and Liz spots her mother shopping with Mr. Howard. Pamela’s mother notices that it looks like there’s someone following them. Jessica has put on a trench coat and hat to stalk her mom. She would do that, wouldn’t she? Jess reports to Elizabeth that the adults have been shopping for china, and are now looking at rings.
Jessica’s next move is to tell Ned what’s going on. But Ned’s in such a good mood about a case he’s winning that the kids don’t want to ruin it. Then Jess decides to confront Mr. Howard directly and tell him to back off. While she’s at his office, she overhears him on the phone, telling someone that they’ll soon be together. Jessica thinks Alice and Mr. Howard are going to elope.
Time for a new plan: When Alice and Ned go out to finally celebrate their anniversary, the Wakefield kids will invite Mr. Howard over to dinner. A bunch of their friends will be there to pose as their siblings. They’ll all be dirty, loud, and obnoxious. The kids enlist Amy, Pamela, and a bunch of Steven’s basketball buddies. They all act like hillbillies and are extremely helpful with the twins’ plan, especially Amy, who makes it look like she’s missing teeth. If I were Mr. Howard and thought I’d be marrying into a family that insane, I’d be out of there in a second.
But one thing the Wakefield kids didn’t expect was Ned and Alice returning to the house. They’re quickly joined by someone else: Mr. Howard’s fiancée, Karen. Alice was helping Mr. Howard shop for wedding china and rings for another woman. Fortunately, Mr. Howard thinks the twins’ scheming is funny. The Wakefields are just grateful that their kids want their family to stick together. They came back to get them so the whole family could celebrate Ned and Alice’s anniversary together.
Now that everyone’s all together and happy, Elizabeth finally finds out how Alice and Ned met. It’s some story about how Alice was waiting tables at a restaurant where Ned went on a group date, and she spilled food on him and was embarrassed, but they started talking and fell in love. Except that didn’t happen, but whatever. Everyone’s happy, so no one cares about made-up history.
Thoughts: I can’t believe none of these kids know how their parents met. Parents love to talk about that stuff. I mean, one guy talked about it for nine straight years.
“I think your father is really handsome.” Amy, just…shh, okay?
Someone please explain to the Wakefield children that you can’t elope with someone if you’re married to someone else.
Alice tells Mr. Howard that “raising three children is definitely a full-time job.” Uh, Alice, spending five minutes a week with your kids is not “full-time.”