December 5, 2017

SVT #114, The Boyfriend Mess: You’re 12! Stop Worrying About Love!

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 4:57 pm by Jenn

Scrunchie sighting!

Summary: The couples from Young Love have gathered for their prize trip to Dizzy Planet. No one’s happy (except for totally-in-the-dark Todd, who thinks he’s going with Elizabeth, and Maria, who doesn’t mind spending the day with Patrick), since no one has matched with the person they wanted to be with. But if they want their Valentine’s Day dance, they have to fulfill their contractual obligations. No one seems to remember that they’ve all been wanting to go to Dizzy Planet, so hanging out with people they may not like is a small price to pay.

Jessica wants to get Todd carsick so she can ditch him and hang out with Byron. The plan backfires, and instead Byron ends up carsick. Byron’s cousin Marshall (well, he says he’s Byron’s cousin, but he sounds kind of uncertain) is tagging along, and he and Maria hit it off right away. Now she’s not quite as thrilled about having to spend the day with Patrick when she could be spending it with Marshall.

Sophia learns that the show is trying to catch “cheaters,” and she worries that she and Patrick will get busted for trying to rig their match. She takes a bus to Dizzy Planet but can’t afford the entrance fee. She manages to sneak in with a group of kids from a daycare by pretending to be a chaperone. Elizabeth also learns about the hunt for cheaters and accidentally stumbles into a way to enter the park without paying – Byron mistakes her for Jessica and brings her in. He also gives her a shirt from the show, so now the twins are accidentally dressed alike.

While the girls search the park for Patrick and Jessica, Maria tries to get some alone time with Marshall. For some reason, these 12-year-olds are willing to admit that they want to ride a carousel. Todd wants to win Elizabeth (really Jessica) a teddy bear by playing some sort of bowling game, but the bear costs 100 tickets and Todd isn’t very good at the game. Jessica’s getting more and more bored by the second.

Liz finds her sister and asks to undo their twin switch so she can hang out with Todd. Jessica jumps at the chance to go find Byron and spend the day with him instead. But she also has to make sure he doesn’t see Todd with Elizabeth and bust the twins for their scheme. The twins and their guys end up on the same water ride, and Jess has to fall overboard to distract Byron from seeing Liz and Todd together. Meanwhile, Liz herself is so distracted by the scheme that Todd thinks she’s lost interest in him and takes off alone.

Sophia finds Patrick and shares her theory that Marshall was sent to spy on him. She thinks Patrick can fool him by pretending he really wants to be with Maria. Patrick takes it too far, though, and Maria blasts him for showering her with affection right in front of Sophia. Good for Maria for being all sisters before misters here. Patrick explains what’s going on to Maria, but now she thinks Marshall was just being nice to her because he was sent to spy on her. Her and Sophia’s day have been ruined.

When it’s time for everyone to leave the park, Maria doesn’t get on the van with everyone else. Apparently this is a violation of the contract, and if she doesn’t come home with everyone else, they have to forfeit the dance. The people there with the show find this amusing, apparently forgetting that they’ll have to tell Maria’s parents that they lost her.

Amy tracks down Maria, who’s moping because she thinks everyone in Sweet Valley is awful. Amy reminds her that she has friends, then encourages her to get in the van because if she loses the dance for everyone, they’ll be even more awful to her. So Maria secures the dance for her classmates, but then Byron, who says he’s suspected the twin switch all day, tricks “Elizabeth” into outing herself as Jessica. He doesn’t care, though, since the same twin who came in the morning is going home with the group. And at least now Todd knows why “Elizabeth” was acting so weird all day.

Everyone goes to the dance, where Byron reveals that he’s been filming them all day for a new show about the negative side of dating. They were only looking for “cheaters” so they could feature them on the new show. Byron waxes poetic about love, and how it can be tough, and blah blah blah, they’re 12, dude. They’re all going to break up next week for stupid reasons.

Elizabeth and Sophia are busted for their scheming, but they don’t get in trouble, so it doesn’t matter. Everyone ends up with his or her preferred partner, including Maria, who learns that Marshall, while not a spy, is really Byron’s nephew. (His sister is a lot older and had a child just a few years after Byron was born. They find it easier to say they’re cousins than to explain their real relationship. No one cares.)

In other news, Janet and Donald wound up having a great day together and are now practically BFFs. Who knew?

Thoughts: The kids seem to think that enjoying their time together is part of the deal for the party, but there’s no way that’s enforceable. Plus, the odds are pretty low that all those couples who were paired off because one of them liked three answers the other gave to random questions would be 100% compatible.

One of the women from the show, when Maria doesn’t show up to the van: “You don’t like it, blame her. Tear her apart Monday morning when she gets to school. Or poison her milk.” LADY. You should not be allowed around children.

Maria is suddenly insecure about what people think of her. It’s really out of character for her.

Marshall calls the SVMS kids “the losingest bunch of stuck-up dorks I’ve ever met.” He’s not wrong.

November 28, 2017

SVT #113, The Boyfriend Game: Let’s Make a Date

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

The guy on the far left is very, very ’90s. Like, every guy in my school dressed like that

Summary: The hottest show in Sweet Valley right now is Young Love, a dating show where middle-schoolers get to question three unseen potential suitors and then go out with them. Ahh, yes, the ever-elusive preteen-matchmaking market has finally been targeted. The show is holding a contest for local schools who want to send students on the show; all couples matched on the show get a trip to Dizzy Planet, a new theme park everyone wants to go to. To enter the running to be chosen, SVMS has to submit a group photo and an essay on why they should be considered.

A bunch of different clubs write essays, and Elizabeth is one of the students put in charge of choosing which should be submitted to the show. Since each essay does such a good job of highlighting a portion of the student body, Liz decides that all the essays should be submitted so the show’s producers can see how eclectic the school is. They have to take the group photo multiple times, since the Unicorns keep ruining it, but ultimately, SVMS sends in their essays and photo, and they’re chosen to be on Young Love.

Now the kids at SVMS get to sign up to be contestants or candidates (the potential dates the contestants can choose from). They’re sworn to secrecy so no one can make any arrangements to choose/be chosen by someone they want to go out with. Liz is chosen as a contestant, while Jess is picked to be a candidate, though she’d rather just go out with the show’s host, Byron Miller. Sophia Rizzo is also a candidate, and her boyfriend Patrick is a contestant, which they tell each other even under threat of disqualification for violating the secrecy agreement. They want to come up with a way to ensure they end up together.

Jess watches the show to figure out which candidates are more likely to be chosen for dates. She realizes that honesty and sincerity are big pluses, but being Jess, she has no idea how to be either of those things, so she goes to Liz for help. Liz is like, “Tell…the truth? Maybe?” Jess: “That sounds difficult, but maybe I can fake it.” Also, this is ironic considering what Liz pulls next.

Elizabeth isn’t that familiar with the show, so she’s worried when she learns from Amy that Byron sometimes teases the contestants. (They’re children, Byron. Take it easy.) Liz doesn’t want to be embarrassed on TV, but she still wants to go to Dizzy Planet, so she asks Jess to pull a twin switch with her. So much for honesty. Jessica doesn’t really care how she gets to Dizzy Planet, so she easily agrees to pretend to be Liz.

Patrick and Sophia start sneaking around to try to meet up to discuss how they’re going to rig the show. Guys, you’re dating. No one would find it suspicious if you were seen hanging out. They’ve heard about the game-show scandals of the ’50s and are worried that they’ll get busted and investigated by the FBI. Patrick’s really paranoid and barely listens when Sophia tries to tell him what their secret signal will be. Contestants get to pick the questions they ask the candidates, so Patrick will need to ask his three potential dates about their favorite foods. Sophia will answer, “Poetry, for woman does not live by bread alone.”

The twins pull their switch the day of the taping, and no one notices. Jessica is up first, and her three potential suitors are Todd, Bruce, and Winston (though she doesn’t know this, as they’re separated by a divider and the guys are using voice-changing mics). Even though Jess makes a fool of herself in front of Byron, she accidentally makes Liz and Todd look like they’re meant to be, or something, by picking Todd as her date. She’s disappointed that she won’t get to go to Dizzy Planet as Bruce’s date, but at least she won’t have to hang out with Winston.

Liz’s fellow candidates are Amy and Ellen, and their contestant is Aaron. Liz realizes that if she and Jess hadn’t pulled their switch, they could have a chance at being with their preferred guys. But Aaron ends up picking Amy, since Liz was too preoccupied by the switch to give good answers, and Ellen probably doesn’t even know where she is. Now the twins can’t even undo their switch and go to Dizzy Planet with the guys they like.

After Janet takes her turn as a contestant and unwittingly picks nerdy Donald Zwerdling as her date, Patrick is up. His choices are Sophia, Maria, and some other girl who’s not important. Patrick forgets the signal question and instead asks what the girls think of poetry. Each gives an answer that includes the word “bread,” so Patrick has no idea which one is Sophia. He accidentally chooses Maria as his date. Sophia’s so annoyed with him that Patrick is probably glad he gets to spend the trip to Dizzy Planet with someone other than her.

Everyone’s upset with the way things turned out, but they learn that they have to go on their dates to Dizzy Planet or the show won’t put on the Valentine’s Day dance that serves as part of their prize. The ones who pulled twin switches or rigged the game also can’t say anything, for fear of having the whole school punished. Basically, the only person who’s happy at the end of the book is Maria, who has no idea why everyone else is mad at each other. This will, I’m sure, all get worked out in the next book.

Thoughts: “Honest and sincere. Jessica thought about that for a moment. It was definitely an approach she wouldn’t have come up with on her own.” Yeah, that’s a shocker.

When asked which Johnny Buck song best describes what he’s looking for in romance, Bruce picks “Forever Fever,” “because that’s what any girl gets when she’s with me.” From an STD, right?

Todd wants to be a dolphin, because “they’re so beautiful and smart.” Oh, Todd. You’re beautiful on the inside.

I’m so disappointed that we barely get to witness the moment Janet discovers she matched with Donald. I bet you could hear her scream from two counties away.

Aaron’s a jerk. Jessica can do better.

June 6, 2017

SVT #93, The Incredible Madame Jessica: Uh-Oh, Jessica’s Cosplaying as Miss Cleo

Posted in books tagged , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Please close your mouths, everyone. She’s 12 years old. She’s not going to predict lottery numbers

Summary: Jessica has recently become interested in psychic phenomena again, and she tries out her supposed psychic powers on her family. She predicts that Steven will eat nine pancakes at breakfast, which is a lot even for him. This prediction turns out to be accurate, though Steven grabs a tenth pancake just to tick Jessica off. I don’t know, I’d still count it – she said nine, not nine and no more.

There’s a fair coming up at SVMS, taking place over three consecutive weekends, and the proceeds will be going to the school library. Despite the dorky cause, the Unicorns want to have a booth. Jessica wants to tell fortunes, but the other girls think that’s dumb. Instead, they’ll do a twist on a dunking booth, filling it with grape Jell-O instead of water. That’s actually pretty creative. Elizabeth will be running a table where people can turn in overdue library books without having to pay a fine. (More on that later.)

Jessica tries to shows off her abilities again at a party at Bruce’s house, but no one’s interested in hearing their futures. She finally convinces Patrick Morris to get his fortune told, but he’s disappointed when she predicts that he and Sophia Rizzo, his sort-of girlfriend, will fight and break up. Jessica also foresees Liz failing a test, which everyone finds ridiculous, since perfect Liz would never fail anything. But then Sophia and Patrick get in a fight because he forgot her birthday, and suddenly one of Jess’ predictions has come true. Then Elizabeth fails a history test because she didn’t see the final page of questions.

Now everyone thinks Jessica really is psychic, so they start asking her to tell them their futures. She uses this as publicity for her booth at the fair. She wants to charge $5 per customer, but the librarian, Ms. Luster, makes her charge 50 cents instead. Except there’s a huge line of customers waiting, and if they were willing to pay $5 each, why ask for less? This is why Ms. Luster is a librarian and not a businesswoman.

Among Jessica’s predictions:

  • Aaron will be suspended from the basketball team
  • Bruce will sprain his ankle
  • Sarah Thomas will get her braces tightened (that one’s kind of a gimme, though)
  • Anna Reynolds will lose her new jacket

On Monday morning, Bruce shows up to school on crutches, having torn ligaments in his ankle. Anna misplaces her jacket, fulfilling another of Jessica’s predictions. She thinks this could win her a Nobel Peace Prize. Sure thing, Jess. Aaron then gets suspended from the basketball team for poor grades, so Jess is 3 for 3. Unfortunately, since she’s only been predicting bad things, no one wants to have their fortunes told anymore – in fact, no one wants to talk to Jessica at all.

Jess decides to only tell good fortunes, predicting that Cammi Adams will win a prize and Randy Mason will get to leave class early. This backfires, as Randy leaves early because he has an asthma attack, and Cammi makes a fool of herself in gym class, prompting Belinda Layton to say that she should get a booby prize. Janet thinks that instead of telling fortunes, Jessica’s cursing people.

At the second fair weekend, Jessica has no customers. She’s inspired by a fortune cookie to start giving people vague advice, which doesn’t go over well. Meanwhile, the Unicorns, who got off to a rough start the first weekend, now have a very popular booth, as teachers are volunteering to get dunked. (The Jell-O never quite sets, so they’re getting dropping into purpleish water, but the dunkers don’t care.)

While all of this has been going on, Elizabeth has slowly been making herself more and more unlikable. She’s become obsessed with people turning in overdue library books, and making sure people know that keeping them past the due date is, like a mortal sin or something. Her booth at the fair offers a free pizza to the person who turns in a book that’s the most overdue, and it’s made her disgusted with people who keep books for years without realizing it. Aaron’s grandmother is the worst offender, returning a book she checked out in 1962.

In what’s known as an ironic twist, Elizabeth finds a copy of Black Beauty that fell behind her dresser four years ago. Doesn’t the library send out late notices? She tries to return the book to her own booth without anyone noticing, but Ms. Luster is always around, so Liz can’t sneak it in with the others.

The twins’ plotlines start coming together when Elizabeth thinks that she can help reverse one of Jessica’s “curses” by helping Sophia and Patrick get back together. Her sage advice is for Patrick to apologize to Sophia and give her something nice, like flowers. Wow, look at Ann Landers over here! Spoiler alert: It works.

Steven notices that the twins are cranky and casually suggests that they switch problems. Jessica decides that she’ll pose as Liz to turn in her overdue book while Liz poses as her, makes predictions that don’t come true (since she’s not really psychic), and pretends she’s lost her psychic powers. Elizabeth isn’t thrilled to have to be a phony psychic at the third fair weekend, but she’ll do it to get out of facing the shame of turning in an overdue book.

The twins switch, and Jess’ part of the deal is over quickly: Ms. Luster couldn’t care less that Elizabeth had an overdue book. While Liz gets ready to play the Incredible Madame Jessica, Janet hides in her booth, not wanting to take a turn in the Unicorns’ dunk tank. Mr. Clark, the principal, volunteered to be dunked, but he never shows up, so the Unicorns are forced to take turns. Janet is wearing a brand-new white blouse and is determined to keep it clean. “Jessica” predicts that she’ll get a stain on it.

The real Jess learns of her sister’s prediction and freaks out – if Janet’s shirt gets stained, people will still see her as cursing them. The twins stalk Janet, trying to keep her from getting dirty, and barely avoid a disaster with some paint. Janet’s shirt comes out spotless, and everyone decides that Jessica’s cursed predictions are done. Also, Anna found her jacket and Sophia and Patrick got back together, so two more predictions were reversed. (Except…Anna DID lose her jacket, and Sophia and Patrick DID break up, so those should still be accurate. Jess never said the jacket would stay lost forever or that Sophia and Patrick would never get back together. Eh, whatever.)

Janet can’t avoid getting dunked, so everyone gets some satisfaction out of watching that. The Unicorns’ dunking booth raises a ton of money, Jessica’s booth raises the second highest amount, and Aaron’s grandmother wins the pizza. Not shown: Mr. Fowler having an aneurysm after checking his credit card bill and seeing how much Jell-O the Unicorns bought.

Thoughts: Luster is a weird name.

“When you check out a library book, you have a moral obligation to return it on time. I think we need to think of ways to get people to live up to their responsibilities.” Elizabeth, you’re a child. Please chill out.

“I mean, who cares whether you’ve had a book since second grade? Nobody’s going to stop talking to you over it.” Maybe we should. Everyone, stop talking to Elizabeth right now.

October 18, 2016

SVT #68, The Middle School Gets Married: You Mean Young Love Doesn’t Always Work Out?

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

Not a bad cover, actually

Not a bad cover, actually

Summary: I guess some of the teachers at SVMS don’t want to have to teach for a little while, so science teacher Mr. Seigel is heading up a project where all the middle-schoolers get fake-married to each other and learn what being an adult is all about. The project combines math (because they have to make budgets), social studies, and science, somehow. The “couples” have to work together on every aspect of the project. A lot of the students are excited about getting “married,” even though the couples will be chosen randomly.

Jessica’s paired with Rick Hunter, a hot seventh-grader, and though she knows she should be happy about this, she’s not. Rick is the epitome of a seventh-grade boy, and most of his interactions with Jess involve teasing her. They fight most of the time. When the couples get eggs they have to pretend are babies, Jessica keeps breaking hers and Rick’s (which they hilariously name Steven Fido). Normally Jess would just grit her teeth and wait things out, but she needs a good grade on the project, so she actually does some work. Rick is horrible with making a budget, but Jess ends up being good at it.

One of the tasks during the project is to shop for, cook, and eat a meal together. Jess and Rick both screw everything up and get in yet another fight. But then, in something right out of a movie, Rick kisses Jessica in the middle of the fight. Suddenly they’re happy together and getting along for the first time. Except it quickly becomes clear that they only thing interesting they had going for them was their rivalry. Now they have nothing to talk about. Womp womp.

Elizabeth is paired with Bruce, who really couldn’t care less about the project. Then when he comes to the Wakefields’ house to work with Liz and sees what an involved parent Ned is, he gets really intense about the whole thing. They have to spend quality time with their egg, he lectures Elizabeth with information from a guide they’ve been given for the project, and he basically treats her like she’s his child. Elizabeth gets mad and accidentally breaks their egg, but replaces it and pretends nothing happened. Bruce doesn’t find out until he realizes their “baby” is hard-boiled.

The only people generally happy at the beginning of the project are Sophia Rizzo and Patrick Morris, since they got along well before being partnered up. Unfortunately, being with Patrick brings out the worst in Sophia. She’s afraid to eat too much in front of him because she might not seem girly. She won’t give her opinion or make any decisions because she’s afraid she’ll come across as bossy, like Janet. Since Patrick is nice and wants to make sure he and Sophia are making all their decisions together, this leads to a lot of stalemates. They can’t make up their minds on anything because neither wants to hurt the other’s feelings.

After things finally boil over and Sophia and Patrick have a big fight, Sophia learns that her mother and Sarah’s father are getting married. (And in only two weeks!) Sophia hates this idea, even though the adults are happy together right now – marriage is stupid, and they’re just going to end up hating each other.

All of the students are in study hall together, working on the finishing touches of their final projects, when Rick and Jessica get in their last big fight. The tension between all the other couples finally reaches its peak, and everyone starts fighting. Eggs are even thrown. The students all agree that it’s impossible to get a good grade on the project because marriage itself is impossible to succeed at. But this is exactly what Mr. Seigel wanted to hear. He wanted the kids to realize that marrying someone without discussing what you want from the partnership won’t work out. For recognizing this, everyone gets an A.

With the madness over, Jess and Rick sort of become friends. Just the kind of friends who mock each other all the time. Bruce calms down, but I don’t think Elizabeth wants to spend any more time with him. Lila, who was paired with Todd (though we don’t hear much about them, other than that Lila has expensive tastes and Todd is a little too obsessed with neatness), decides he’s a nice guy. Sophia realizes that her mom and Sarah’s dad know what they’re doing, so there’s no reason to think their marriage won’t work out. And then I think no one who participated in the project ever eats an egg again.

Thoughts: I’m not sure the lesson taught here was the right one. What are the odds that these middle-schoolers will grow up to get married without discussing the details of marriage? Probably lower than the odds of them getting married young because they think it’s romantic (which is how a lot of them feel before the project begins). I wonder what would have happened if they’d been allowed to pick their partners, and kids with crushes on each other had been forced to face every aspect of each other’s personalities and find out if they’re really compatible. I mean, obviously the project was harder for people who didn’t get along. Pairing everyone up randomly basically stacked the deck against them.

I don’t think Mr. Seigel has the patience to teach middle-schoolers. He should probably go into a different line of work.

Lila and Todd were late turning in their budget because he couldn’t find a folder that looked neat enough. This is why Todd and Elizabeth are perfect for each other.

August 30, 2016

SVT #62, Sarah’s Dad and Sophia’s Mom: The Parent Un-Trap

Posted in books tagged , at 5:03 pm by Jenn

You okay there, Liz?

You okay there, Liz?

Summary: The twins’ art class is split into groups to create murals to hang up in the library. Elizabeth goody-two-shoeses her way into heroically coming up with recycling as a theme. I guess “books” would be too obvious a theme. Elizabeth is teamed with Sarah Thomas and Sophia Rizzo, which is fine with her, since she likes them both. Unfortunately, Sarah and Sophia don’t know each other, and when they meet, they immediately clash. Sarah is immature, spoiled, and prissy, while Sophia is tough and outspoken. If one of them were a boy, this would probably end in a love match. (In another series, it could end in a love match without one of them being a different gender, but there are no lesbians in Sweet Valley.)

The project doesn’t get off to a good start, despite Sophia’s art skills. The girls keep baiting and taunting each other, making Elizabeth tell them they’re both acting like children. When the girls decide to work at Sophia’s house one afternoon, Sarah gets nervous because the neighborhood isn’t gated and there are no maids and stuff. Sophia, on the other hand, thinks Sarah is a snob because her father can take time off work to drive her places. Girls, girls. You’re both awful.

Things get more and more heated, until the girls are working in a studio after school one day and Sarah and Sophia get into a paint fight. Their teacher, Mr. Sweeney, ends up in the middle, covered in paint. Elizabeth is let off the hook, since she stayed out of the fight, but Sarah and Sophia’s parents are called in to speak to Mr. Clark, the principal. Despite basically being fluent in English, at least from the dialogue we get from her, Mrs. Rizzo has trouble following the conversation. It turns out that Mr. Thomas, who has traveled to Italy a lot on business, speaks the language and is able to help her out. Sarah and Sophia are assigned to clean up the studio and get it ready for repainting, which seems like a pretty minor punishment.

Mr. Thomas clearly wants to spend more time with Mrs. Rizzo, so he invites her, Sophia, and Sophia’s brother Tony to have dinner with him and Sarah. The girls are furious and fight the whole time. Their parents, however, are smitten with each other and want to hang out more. The families go to a baseball game and picnic together, basically ignoring Sophia and Sarah as they continue to act like children. Even so, they notice that their parents are happy with each other, and each girl starts to like the other one’s parent. Plus, Tony gets along really well with Mr. Thomas, and he definitely needs a positive male figure in his life.

On the picnic, Mrs. Rizzo talks about a pink dragon kite she had when she was a kid. Mr. Thomas asks a bunch of questions, mentioning that he likes to make kites as a hobby. Obviously this will be important later. The girls are so obnoxious that their parents and Tony throw them in the lake. The girls almost let go of their rivalry, seeing how dumb they’ve been acting, but they quickly realize that their parents’ relationship might be going somewhere serious, which means they could end up stepsisters.

The girls team up, for once, but not for anything good: They’re determined to split up their parents. They try to sabotage their parents’ dates, but they fail. They should have asked Lila for help. She’d rock this plan. Anyway, Sarah finds some pictures of Mr. Thomas and his ex, Annie, and the girls write notes on them telling Mrs. Rizzo that Annie and Mr. Thomas are engaged. Mrs. Rizzo falls for it and dumps Mr. Thomas, who’s completely clueless.

Both parents are miserable now, which doesn’t exactly make Sophia and Sarah happy about their plan being a success. Sarah finds a kite Mr. Thomas was making to give to Mrs. Rizzo, and she realizes how much her father really liked her. She confides in Elizabeth while Sophia confides in Tony. They’re advised to come clean so their parents can make up. The girls also start chatting with each other and slowly get over their rivalry. It’s time for them to team up again, this time for a good cause. Sophia and Tony take Mrs. Rizzo to Secca Lake, where they see Mr. Thomas flying the pink dragon kite. Suddenly everything is good again, and everyone’s happy. At least until Sarah and Sophia inevitably get into another fight and tear the families apart, or something.

B-plot: Jessica lies to Charlie Cashman that she’s related to a famous baseball player, Quake-Field Wakefield (what a horrible nickname). When some kids pressure her to get in touch with him so they can include him in their art project, she says their great-great-great-grandparents (she keeps forgetting how many “great”s she put in there) started a feud, and their sides of the family don’t speak anymore.

Some of the guys in the twins’ class write up a petition for Quake-Field to come to Sweet Valley so the two sides of the family can work things out. Jessica tries to avoid the whole situation, even refusing to answer the phone at home so she doesn’t have to answer any questions. But she also can’t let her parents answer the phone, since one of her classmates might bring up her lie.

The boys eventually send Quake-Field a letter begging him to set aside the feud. Quake-Field admits that his real name is something long and German; he’s not actually a Wakefield. The lie comes out, but Alice realizes that SHE is related to Wakefield, as some relative on her side of the family has the same German last name. She gets a hold of her long-lost eighth cousin (or whatever), and he ends up agreeing to come to SVMS and pose for a mural. So remember, kids: Sometimes lying pays off.

Thoughts: Somewhere between her last book and this one, Sarah became unbearable. I don’t blame Sophia for not wanting to hang out with her.

Sophia: “This is all your fault.” Sarah: “My fault. How do you figure it’s my fault?” Sophia: “Well, it’s somebody’s fault. It’s not mine – so it must be yours.” Uh…good one?

Quake-Field got his nickname in Little League. Who nicknames a kid Quake-Field? It would be dumb even if Wakefield were his real last name.

May 27, 2014

SVT #9, Against the Rules: But the Rules Are Stupid!

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 6:45 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth actually looks really cute, and is paying attention to the person the party's for. Amy just wants cake

Elizabeth actually looks really cute, and is paying attention to the person the party’s for. Amy just wants cake

Summary: Elizabeth has befriended classmate Sophia Rizzo, and Jessica isn’t happy about it. Sophia’s family is poor, and her brother is a juvenile delinquent (do people still use that phrase?). But Liz knows better than to judge someone on her class or her family’s troubles, and she admires Sophia’s writing talent. She’s pretty much the only person who doesn’t treat Sophia like dirt.

Elizabeth and Sophia are both invited to help write a school play, since they’re the two best English students in the sixth grade. They start hanging out at Sophia’s house, which, while small and not well-kept, is very welcoming, because Sophia’s mom is so nice. Liz admits to being worried about encountering Sophia’s brother, Tony, who has a bad reputation for fighting and stealing. She’s surprised when Sophia gushes over him – he’s always been like a father to her, and when they were younger, they would play together all the time. She would even get him to act out the fairy-tale plays she wrote.

Jessica’s furious that Sophia gets to help write the school play. She wants to be the star, of course, and refuses to act in anything Sophia’s connected to. Ned and Alice tell her to be nice, because Sophia is a lovely girl and shouldn’t be judged based on her social status or her clothing choices. Ha ha, no, they don’t! They’re horrible parents! Steven backs Jess up, since he and Tony are at the same school and Steven thinks he knows how horrible the guy is.

Elizabeth invites Sophia over to the Wakefields’, which horrifies Jessica, especially since Lila’s coming over at the same time. Jess pretends that Sophia’s there to take some of the twins’ old clothes. Jessica is the worst, but we knew that. Elizabeth’s friends start spending time with Sophia, and they really like her as well, because Liz chooses to surround herself with respectable people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a club named after a mythical animal that no middle-schooler would actually admit to liking.

Sophia usually has no one to eat lunch with, so Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke (oh, hey, Brooke!) invite her to join them. They decide to make it a special occasion, planning a potluck picnic outside. They even write out an invitation for Sophia, letting her know how much they like her and want to be friends with her. Poor Sophia has never had friends, and she’s touched by their kindness.

The play committee discusses possibilities, and everyone agrees that they need to put on something that middle-schoolers can relate to. Since Sophia is such a great writer, Elizabeth suggests that she handle the story. The other students are so impressed with her talent that they immediately agree. Sophia is suddenly liked, and she has friends, so of course things are only going to go well from now on! Yeah, not so much. Tony gives Steven a black eye at school, though Steven claims that he was trying to get his friends to leave Tony alone.

Liz learns that Sophia has never had a birthday party (no friends + poor = the saddest birthdays ever, I imagine), and since her birthday’s coming up, Elizabeth decides to throw her a party. Unfortunately, Alice and Ned choose that evening to start parenting – just not in a good way. They decree that Elizabeth is no longer allowed to socialize with Sophia outside of school, and she’s especially not allowed to go to the Rizzos’ house anymore. After all, since Tony’s such a bad kid, Sophia is clearly also a bad influence. Parents of the year, those Wakefields.

Throughout this story, the Wakefields have been talking about the twins being invited to spend the weekend in L.A. with some friends of Ned’s. Originally they thought both girls were invited, but the friends are either jerks or don’t know that twins means two people, because they only have room for one girl. Jessica desperately wants to go, since they’ll be seeing her favorite musical. Elizabeth is willing to let her go – the trip is the weekend of the play, and later, the weekend she’s going to host Sophia’s party.

But the Wakefields think that Liz gives in to Jessica too much, and that the decision of who goes should be fair. They have the girls draw straws, and Elizabeth gets the trip. She’s not even that excited about it, but her parents insist that she go. Fair, schmair – if one of my kids really wanted to do something the other didn’t seem to care about, I’d send the one who was actually interested. Plus, sending Jessica would involve a lot less whining.

Anyway, Steven suggests that the twins pull a switch. Ned and Alice will be away all day, so Ned’s friends won’t know they’re picking up the wrong girl. This way Elizabeth still gets to throw Sophia’s party, and Jessica shuts up. Well, about that, at least. She’s still upset about Sophia writing the play, and she warns Elizabeth that the Unicorns are going to arrange a boycott so no one auditions.

At school, Lila humiliates Sophia by melodramatically reading part of her play. Elizabeth decides that she’d rather comfort Sophia than obey her parents, so she goes to the Rizzos’ after school. She continues to work on the play with Sophia, not telling Ned and Alice where she’s spending her time. Though the Unicorns’ boycott is mostly successful, there are still some people at the auditions, and the other roles are filled by people from the writing committee. Liz thinks this works out well anyway, since the same people tend to get cast in every show, and now other people have a chance to perform. Since Bruce is in the play, the Unicorns decide to attend, though Elizabeth has to threaten to tell Ned and Alice about the switch in order to get Jessica to come.

The play goes off without a hitch, and everyone’s so great that there’s thunderous applause, bouquets of flowers, money being thrown, etc. Though Ned and Alice realize that Sophia isn’t a monster after all, Elizabeth is still afraid to tell them about throwing her a party. She puts that all together while her parents are out of town and Jessica’s off in L.A. The party is very well attended; people were so impressed with Sophia’s writing that they like her now. There are even Unicorns there, and everyone seems to genuinely want to hang out with Sophia.

Unfortunately, Ned and Alice accidentally crash the party. They come back to town to get Jessica (because they think Elizabeth is in L.A.) and take her to a different party, and instead stumble across the good twin acting like the bad twin. Fortunately, instead of ruining things, they make Sophia think that they were in on the whole thing. Ned even brings Sophia’s mom to the party. Alice offers her a job, and Ned puts Tony in contact with a counselor. See, the Wakefields aren’t so bad after all! It only took common sense and a disobedient 12-year-old to make them see the light.

Thoughts: The Patmans have a canning factory?

“My life is in shambles, my dreams are shattered, and now you’re going to bring that ragtag misfit into our living room!” Jessica is more melodramatic than any soap character I’ve ever come across. Also, “ragtag misfit”?

Elizabeth, Amy, Julie, and Brooke inviting Sophia to have a picnic with them is so sweet. I mean, these are middle-school girls. Middle-school girls are hardly ever sweet. They went above and beyond.

Sophia tells Elizabeth about something her family calls the Rizzo raffle. The Rizzos put their spare change in a jar, and every week they use it to do something fun. That’s a cool idea for a family that can’t spend a lot of money on one thing, or that wants to let their kids take turns picking out family activities.