June 13, 2017

SVT Super Edition #6, The Twins Take Paris: What’s French for “These Girls Are Idiots”?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

Ick

Summary: In what’s supposed to be their first trip to France (of many throughout all the Sweet Valley books), the twins have been chosen to spend their spring break in Paris. By the way, they speak, like, ten words of French. They’re annoyed that their phrasebooks don’t include anything helpful. Oh, come on, girls, you don’t think you’ll ever have the opportunity to say “hail to the never-dying ancestors of long ago” or “we are not dead yet”? I mean, I do nothing BUT wish I knew the French for that. Jessica thinks she should write her own phrasebook.

At the last minute, the twins’ host family has to back out, and they’re told they’ll be staying with an older women named Madame du Noir. The host family says a bunch of stuff in their explanatory letter about what Madame du Noir is like, but their English is pretty bad, and the girls aren’t sure what they’re trying to say. They both get an ominous feeling about the change in plans. But whatever, do you want to go to France or not? You do? Then you’re staying with the possibly weird lady.

On the plane, Jessica reads a magazine article about some American girls who went missing in Paris. Before one of them disappeared, she was seen with an older woman who was wearing a polka-dotted scarf. Both twins have dreams about an old woman (Liz’s inspired by the villain in a mystery novel). When they land in Paris and go to meet Madame du Noir, they recognize her black and white polka-dotted scarf. Their host is a murderer!

The girls make one of the dumbest decisions of their lives (and that’s saying a lot) – they get in a cab and flee. While Madame du Noir calls the Wakefields back in Sweet Valley to tell them their foolish daughters have run off alone in Paris, the twins eat pastries and wonder if their host is really a murderer. After all, she may have said threatening things about them in French, but she may not have – Elizabeth can’t be sure. They decide to go to her place to make sure, but they run into her and hear her saying something about cooking the girls for dinner and putting them under glass. They dodge her and run away again.

Ned and Alice book a flight to Paris to find their daughters, dragging Steven along instead of leaving him behind with a family friend or something. Steven couldn’t care less that his sisters are on their own in a strange city; he’d much rather try to sell a bunch of his college T-shirts, which he’s heard are really popular in France. How did he get 86 college shirts in the first place? Those things are expensive! Steven happens to run into a flight attendant from the twins’ flight, and she tells him that they may believe that Madame du Noir is behind the disappearance of all the American girls.

The twins come across a baker whose assistant just quit, leaving him with no help in preparing for a big wedding. The girls offer to help out in exchange for being allowed to sleep in the backroom. The baker soon learns that two 12-year-old girls aren’t the best people to rely on for help with a big project that requires attention to detail and meticulous measurements. While they’re working, the Wakefields meet up with Madame du Noir, who takes them to…the same bakery. Sure. The girls hear her say something about their mother, and they think she’s lying to the baker about being their mom. They run off without realizing that their family is with her.

The twins go to the Louvre, because a) what else do you do in Paris, b) it’s basically the law that you have to go to the Louvre when you’re there, and c) they probably don’t know where else to go. They try calling home but just get the answering machine. Steven goes off alone, thinking he sees the twins, and learns from a Parisian that college shirts aren’t popular anymore. Sacre bleu! A little later, when the Wakefields go looking for the twins at the Louvre, Steven almost gets arrested for saying “j’ai sorry” (“I have sorry” instead of “I am sorry”) to a guard, who thinks he stole a sari from an exhibit. Thanks for tagging along on this trip, Steven.

Apparently security at the Louvre is pretty lax, other than when a 14-year-old boy may have stolen a piece of clothing, so the twins are able to hide under a bed until everyone leaves. When they leave the next day, they encounter an older woman named Madame Renault who has a scarf similar to Madame du Noir’s, only hers is blue with pink dots. The woman invites the twins to her apartment for tea and cookies, telling them how lonely she is. Jess is like, “You have a mustache but I’m hungry, so let’s go.”

Ned and Alice get separated from Steven and Madame du Noir, who run into the baker again. He offers to drive them around and help look for the twins. They happen to pass Madame Renault’s apartment, and Steven happens to see the twins through the window, even though the book makes a big deal out of how fast the baker drives. The three head to the apartment, but again, the twins hear Madame du Noir’s voice and run away. Madame du Noir senses that something weird is going on and calls the police, who suspect that Madame Renault is the serial kidnapper/killer. But Madame Renault escapes and follows the twins to the Eiffel Tower.

While running from Madame du Noir and the cops, the twins realize that Madame Renault is wearing a wig and carrying a knife. Also, she’s not Madame Renault – she’s Monsieur Renault. I guess dressing up as a harmless little old lady was a good way to get young American girls to trust him. Or maybe this is a Norman Bates situation. Either way, the twins realize that they were wrong not to trust Madame du Noir. Plus, they only thought the killer had a black-and-white scarf because the picture they saw of her was in black and white. Okay, I buy Jessica making that mistake but not Elizabeth.

There’s a lot of running around in the tower, which Steven gets stuck on top of, but eventually everything gets worked out and Monsieur Renault is captured. Ned and Alice cancel the rest of the twins’ trip and will have to occupy themselves for the rest of spring break by working in the garden and clearing out the attic. The twins don’t seem to get how serious the situation was, but then again, it’s not like their parents bar them from ever traveling alone again, so maybe no one learned a lesson here.

Thoughts: “She tossed aside From Wimp to Hunk Quarterly, reminding herself to buy Steven a copy for his birthday.” Hee hee.

“They have electricity in France, don’t they?” How did Jessica make it to the sixth grade?

I hope no kids try to read this book to learn about France. All I learned is that it has a lot of traffic and pastries.

If I were Ned and Alice, I would abandon the kids in Paris and go home without them.

May 16, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #9, Evil Elizabeth: Can’t Fight the Moonlight

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:56 pm by Jenn

So no one finds it weird that Elizabeth is just walking around with this on her face all the time? Really?

Summary: Elizabeth is really excited about Halloween, and wants to do a paired costume with her twin. Jessica thinks that’s immature, when everyone knows Halloween is the chance to dress up fancy and be really sophisticated. Whatever you say, Jess. Fortunately for Liz, Amy and Maria are up for figuring out a three-part costume. Jessica decides to go as a figure skater but has to reconsider when Lila announces that as her costume – and she’s even going to wear an outfit worn by an actual famous skater.

On the way to the Wakefields’ for a big sleepover, the twins and some of their friends pass a rundown house everyone calls the “Luna place.” Jess makes up a story about a witch who lives there, which annoys Liz. She sees a full moon over the house and points it out to her friends, but Amy and Maria don’t see it as full.

The girls have a séance at their sleepover, and Mandy seems to channel someone who speaks through her. The channeled voice warns the “sisters” (and Liz and Jess are the only sisters present) to “watch the rising of the moon, and watch your sister.” If they’re not careful, someone tragic will happen. Jessica sees the shape of a full moon in a candle flame, but no one else notices it.

Liz learns that “luna” means moon, and that there will be a full moon on Halloween. Those two things combined with the full moon she thought she saw make her a little creeped out. She comes across a black dog with an orange face carrying a grotesque mask in its mouth. When Liz takes the mask, she sees another moon. She puts on the mask and starts taunting Jessica. Jess tries to brush off her nastiness, thinking Elizabeth is just messing with her.

Elizabeth starts wearing the mask more and more often, acting meaner and meaner every time, both to Jessica and to Amy and Maria. When she’s not wearing the mask, she claims not to have any idea that she acted out of character. Jess is worried that the warning from the séance is the real deal, and that something horrible is happening. When she and Steven both see the moon turn red one night, Jess gets even more spooked.

Jessica tries to get Elizabeth interested in sisterly bonding by carving pumpkins together. Liz is back in the mask, though, and thinks carving pumpkins is immature. Later, maskless, Elizabeth is really hurt that Jess carved a pumpkin without her. Jess realizes that the mask is causing Liz’s strange behavior, so she steals it, but Liz easily finds it again and puts it back on.

Jess runs into the dog Liz got the mask from and follows it to the Luna place. There, she meets Corinna Black, the alleged witch who lives there. Jess tells her about the mask, which Corinna says was buried for decades. I guess the dog dug it up? She warns that the mask will make Elizabeth worse the more she wears it, and eventually Liz will be a horrible person even without it. Jess needs to make sure Liz doesn’t wear it when the moon rises, or the process will speed up.

Jessica tries to steal the mask again, but Elizabeth is obsessed with it and won’t let it go. She has a nightmare about feeling like everything is changing. Is this all just a metaphor for puberty? I guess it’s possible. Liz’s behavior keeps getting worse, and she’s reached the point where she doesn’t have to wear the mask to be awful. She starts hanging out with the SVH series’ reformed bad girl Betsy Martin, and everyone at school wonders why she’s suddenly changed so much.

When Jess tries to go back to the Luna place to talk to Corinna, there’s no door to the house. Jess doesn’t seem as freaked out by this as she should be. Elizabeth and Betsy get ready for Halloween mischief by egging houses, including the Luna place. Ned and Alice are their usual clueless selves about Elizabeth’s sudden shift – they think she’s just moody, and they don’t see anything wrong with her hanging out with different people.

Steven asks his astronomy teacher if the moon could appear red, but she says no. Again, mass hallucinations should be freaking these people out. Jess finally reconnects with Corinna, who insists that she make Elizabeth destroy the mask during the lunar eclipse that is conveniently happening on Halloween. Corinna reveals that the last person who wore the mask burned down her house, killing her entire family…except Corinna. So…maybe she should have done a better job of getting rid of the mask, eh?

Once Jess has filled Steven in on everything going on, the two of them come up with a plan. They know they need to stick close to Elizabeth on Halloween, but they also know she’s not going to let them. So Jessica dresses as Liz and tells Betsy that they should crash a Halloween party on Courage Mountain. She leaves Liz a note about the party, pretending it’s from Betsy. They plan to meet up with Liz on the mountain and force her to destroy the mask.

Jess goes out trick-or-treating with the Unicorns (she ran out of time to come up with a costume, so she goes with the classic sheet-ghost look) while Elizabeth and Betsy terrorize little kids by stealing their candy. An hour before midnight, Jessica pretends to go to bed while Steven tells their parents he’s going to a party. Jess sneaks out and the two ride their bikes up Courage Mountain. Jessica has a vision of the moon on fire, dropping flames onto the Wakefields’ house.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Betsy aren’t on their way up the mountain – they’re at the Wakefields’, where Betsy wants Liz to smash the pumpkin Jessica carved. Liz hesitates, because even in her possessed state, she doesn’t want to hurt Jess. But she gives in to peer pressure and chucks the pumpkin on the ground, accidentally lighting some leaves on fire with the candle inside.

As the eclipse begins, Jessica has a bad feeling and tells Steven she needs to go back home. Elizabeth is unable to break her trance as she watches the leaves catch fire, putting the house at risk. Jess arrives pretty quickly and starts to put on the fire before anyone even notices it. Liz throws the mask in, finally destroying it. The twins are extremely grateful to Corinna for helping them out, though Jess can’t help but wonder if Corinna was an innocent victim when someone else was cursed by the mask, or if she was the one who burned down her own house and killed her family. That’s…messed up for a book for preteens.

Thoughts: Clearly, the ghostwriter saw The Mask and wanted to adapt it for middle-schoolers.

I actually feel bad for Jessica in this book. No one wants a mean sibling.

Looks like Jess learned nothing from the Nora situation about not assuming people are witches. Why am I not surprised?

Ned, parent of the year, re: Elizabeth’s behavioral changes and horrible new friends: “She’s just going through a phase. It’s nothing to worry about.” Again, why am I not surprised?

What DOES surprise me is that Janet and Lila don’t consider themselves too told to go trick-or-treating.

April 25, 2017

SVT #88, Steven Gets Even: Pranks a Lot

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I’m so glad I don’t have to live next door to these people

Summary: Even though it’s not Halloween, Mr. Bowman wants his class to study scary books, starting with Frankenstein. Each student also has to pick a scary story that’s at least 20 years old and write a report about it. All the kids think this will be a piece of cake – nothing more than 20 years old is going to scare them. These kids are the reason slasher movies have gotten so grotesque. Mr. Bowman suggests that Elizabeth read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is dumb – it’s not a horror story.

The kids slowly realize that the stories Mr. Bowman wants them to read are scarier than they expected. Jessica gets spooked when he reads Dracula in class, and afterward, none of the girls wants to go to the bathroom alone. I’d make fun of them but I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and there’s definitely safety in numbers where vampires are concerned. Some spooky stuff happens in the bathroom, and Jessica hears glass breaking and sees a hand turning off the lights. It turns out Bruce, Aaron, Brian, and Charlie Cashman were just pulling a prank. Now Jess wants revenge.

Inspired by a trick Steven pulls with a knife, pretending he cut off his finger (and he probably shouldn’t pull that with his parents around, because Ned practically has a heart attack), Jessica pulls the old gross-finger-in-the-candy-box prank on Charlie while Mr. Bowman is reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the class. Elizabeth finds a Barbie hanging in her locker, dripping with fake blood, and the kids officially kick off a “scare war,” boys vs. girls. It’s mainly the twins, Lila, Janet, Amy, Maria, and Mandy against the four boys.

Since the girls are unsure what will actually scare the boys, they decide to use Steven to test out some pranks. Steven is a lot more gullible and prankable than you’d expect, considering he’s the one who’s usually pulling tricks. The girls become savvier and less scareable, to the boys’ dismay. However, they’re also getting spooked by Edgar Allan Poe stories and other stuff they said wouldn’t frighten them.

By the end of the week, Steven is scared to be in his own house because his sisters have been pulling so many pranks on him. They’re having a sleepover on Friday, and Ned and Alice will be out for a while, so he figures this is a good time to get revenge. The four boys show up to scare the girls, who quickly come up with a plan to spook them back, using glow-in-the-dark paint and sleeping bags to fool them into thinking there are weird floating faces outside the house. When Elizabeth realizes Charlie is dressed as a mummy, she drenches him with the hose. The boys admit defeat in the scare war, so the girls make them cluck like chickens and call the girls “Your Awesomeness” for a week.

Steven gets his revenge by making scary noises in the basement, where he’s been hiding the whole night, having made the girls think he was out somewhere. Jessica hides in the pantry, thinking there’s some sort of monster in the basement. The other girls have to face off with the “monster,” but Steven can’t keep from laughing, so he gets busted pretty easily. He tells the younger kids that they’re all wimps, so the girls’ win in the scare war doesn’t really mean anything. Then Ned and Alice scare everyone with masks. I don’t know. This book was probably fun to read when I was younger, but now it’s pretty weak.

Thoughts: “Kids today are too sophisticated to be frightened by a story like Frankenstein.” Are you sure, Amy? Are you sure you’re sophisticated? (I hope Mr. Bowman heard about all the scaring afterward and teased the kids about thinking they were unscareable.)

Why is Aaron still hanging out with Brian?

Here it is, the greatest sentence to appear in any Sweet Valley book: “‘I want to go home!’ Bruce sobbed.”

April 11, 2017

SVT #87, The Mother-Daughter Switch: Freaky Friday (and Saturday and Sunday)

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

I just realized that I’m almost as old as Alice, and now I have to go lie down

Summary: Jessica’s getting ready for a rollerblading fundraiser (creatively called the Rollerblade-a-thon) when she almost flattens a neighbor’s flowers and gets yelled at for being irresponsible. I imagine that the neighbor, Mrs. Wolsky, screams at kids to get off her lawn no fewer than six times a day. Jessica’s offended at the implication that she’s irresponsible… then proceeds to prove how irresponsible she is by throwing together a barbecue with Liz in 20 minutes because neither did what she was supposed to do to get ready.

Alice is also irresponsible, though, as she hasn’t done her part. She blames all the time she’s spent working on a design for Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch. They’re supposed to be hosting a mother-daughter event for friends, but neither mother nor daughters has bought anything. Instead of hamburgers, they serve bologna and tomato sandwiches with weak lemonade. They couldn’t at least order a bunch of pizzas?

After the disastrous event, Alice blasts the twins for thinking they’re busier than her when all they have to deal with is school and homework, while she works full-time and parents three kids. Ha ha, like Alice actually does any parenting. Jessica thinks being a preteen is way harder than being an adult. She suggests that she and Elizabeth switch places with Alice for the weekend. Alice will do Elizabeth’s project for her media class (reviewing some TV shows – what kind of easy homework is that?) and collect Jessica’s pledges for the Rollerblade-a-thon. In exchange, the twins will decorate Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch.

Alice immediately slips into lazy-and-flighty-kid mode, while the twins relish getting to boss around both their mother and their brother. Really, at this point, Alice has already won this little experiment – as a working mom, she basically has two jobs, so she’s automatically busier than the twins. Alice gets to eat junk food and lounge around while the twins have to do grown-up things like cook dinner and clean.

Alice does struggle to get sponsors for the Rollerblade-a-thon (and she ends up just giving the money herself), but that’s nothing compared to her normal life. She also has trouble getting the VCR to work, because it’s supposed to be funny when people over the age of 18 have trouble with modern electronic devices, though in this case, either Alice has some actual cognitive problems or the VCR is needlessly complicated. She tries to get Steven to help her figure it out, but the twins get him to agree not to.

The twins get to work on Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch but immediately hit a snag when they discover how much furniture costs. They also never talk to her about what she wants. It’s a good thing the twins are still kids because they wouldn’t last five minutes as adults (despite their experiences in BIG for Christmas). They spend a few minutes back as their kid selves by helping Steven, who’s now a budding filmmaker, create fake blood by microwaving tomatoes. The kid in me thinks that sounds awesome. The adult in me just cries, “Who’s going to clean that up?”

Alice solves her VCR problem by reviewing episodes of Days of Turmoil that Jessica had already taped. She’s having fun with the switch again, so when the twins come to her admitting defeat and asking to switch back, she says no. After all, when you’re an adult, you can’t just…stop being an adult. Okay, but a) when you’re an adult and you’re struggling to do something, you can ask for help, and b) if Alice had agreed to stop the experiment, she would have proven that being an adult is harder than being a kid. I think she just wants to have an excuse to keep sleeping in and eating donuts.

The twins have to cook dinner again, even though we know Alice doesn’t usually cook every night, so they shouldn’t have to do it this much. They try to pass off Dairi Burgers as their own, but Steven busts them. Whatever – the family got fed, so who cares? The twins then go back to their design job, and Jessica comes up with the “brilliant” idea of just moving the Wakefields’ sunporch furniture over to Mrs. Wolsky’s house. They don’t think anyone will notice that their own furniture is missing for a few days. No word on what they plan to do to replace it.

Apparently Alice is now participating in the Rollerblade-a-thon instead of Jessica, but she’s never rollerbladed before, and it soon becomes clear that she’s horrible at it. Steven tries to help her, but she doesn’t have much time to learn. Now she wants to end the switch, but the twins are doing well and say no. While Alice is off making a fool of herself on rollerblades, the twins sneak the sunporch furniture over to Mrs. Wolsky’s house. Steven promises to keep quiet if they dress up as burglars and let him film it.

The twins find a collage Alice made them all about how awesome they are and how much she loves having them as daughters. She was going to give it to them after the barbecue, but everyone ended up mad at each other, so she must have forgotten about it. The twins hurry to the Rollerblade-a-thon and see how hard she’s trying to finish. They realize that being a working mom is a lot harder than being a kid, and that Alice now sees how they sometimes have it rough, too.

Alice comes home from the Rollerblade-a-thon to find a redo of the mother-daughter barbecue (this time with food and napkins and stuff). Everyone’s happy and they all sympathize with each other now. Even Mrs. Wolsky is happy and thinks the twins are responsible after all. Alice lets them know that she had a backup plan in place – she bought furniture on the sly and was ready to swap it in for whatever monstrosities the twins put in Mrs. Wolsky’s sunporch. Since Mrs. Wolsky is so happy with what the twins did (she must not realize it’s all used furniture), the Wakefields will keep the new stuff. I hope Mrs. Wolsky also got a discount for letting 12-year-olds make decisions about her décor.

Thoughts: How do you “accidentally put all the cheese on one side of the pizza”?

But wait, that’s not the dumbest thing Elizabeth does in this book. She has no idea how interior decorators work. She and Jess think they have to pay for all the furniture themselves. How do they think their mother makes money, anyway?

When the girls come up with a plan to serve the family burgers from Dairi Burger and pretend they cooked, they hope no one finds all the hamburger patties in the freezer that they’re going to pretend they made. So why didn’t they…cook the burgers in the freezer? We know they know how to cook. They’re just so incredibly dumb in this book.

March 27, 2017

SVT #85, Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader: What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:03 pm by Jenn

Same, Liz

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

SVT Magna Edition #3, BIG for Christmas: Don’t Grow Up! They Make You Do Stuff!

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

I’m not sure what they’re looking at. Santa?

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.

February 14, 2017

SVT #82, Steven’s Enemy: Oh, Brother

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

With his stance and the vibe he's giving off, it looks like Steven's upset because he wants Ben for himself

With his stance and the vibe he’s giving off, it looks like Steven’s upset because he wants Ben for himself

Summary: Having not learned her lesson from the last time she decided to trade in Denny for a better model, Janet has her eye on an SVH freshman named Doug. The other Unicorns decide to go to the next SVH JV basketball practice to check him out and let her know whether they approve. (I doubt any of them would say no. It’s not like Janet’s looking for an honest opinion here.)

Speaking of basketball players, Steven has recently been switched from starting center to guard in favor of a new kid named Ben Oliver. Steven hates Ben, even though he seems like a perfectly nice guy. But Steven isn’t going to be overshadowed by a kid who always knows the answer in class and probably thinks he’s smarter than everyone just because he’s a year younger than the other freshmen, having skipped seventh grade. To make matters worse, Ben is running against Steven for class treasurer.

Steven’s campaign goes negative against Ben, though Cathy objects, insisting that Ben is a great guy. Steven’s furious that she would find even one good thing about his arch-nemesis. He thinks he’s a shoo-in for treasurer. The Unicorns attend the next basketball practice, and Jessica immediately develops a crush on Ben. She has no idea that he’s her brother’s enemy, and he has no idea that getting involved with her would make Steven mad.

The vote for treasurer is too close to call, so the freshmen vote again. This time, Ben wins. Steven acts like a jerk about it even though Ben is gracious. His day gets worse when he comes home to find Ben there, about to take Jessica to Casey’s for ice cream. Steven goes all overprotective brother, refusing to let Jess leave with Ben. I can’t believe he thinks that’ll work. Jessica ignores him and goes off with Ben. Then Cathy and Joe are friendly toward Ben at school, just making Steven madder.

Jessica and Ben plan a double date with Janet and Doug, which Steven tries to get Ned and Alice to cancel. Even though their 12-year-old daughter will be going out with a high-schooler, Ned and Alice are fine with the situation (I think they made Ben 13 so the age gap wouldn’t be so big. But still, a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader?). Steven practically threatens to get violent with Ben, which gets him sent to his room. Hey, an attempt at effective Wakefield parenting for once!

Elizabeth has already started to suspect that Jess is only with Ben to bug Steven, and after the double date, it seems like Jess might only stick with the relationship for that reason. Ben and Doug are both kind of annoying, and Jessica and Janet are starting to realize that dating a high-schooler isn’t as glamorous as they’d expected. Still, Jess isn’t going to pass up the chance to talk up the date so Steven gets even madder. She plays it off like they’re just friends, so Ned and Alice can’t really object. After Steven overhears the Unicorns talking about Veronica, he decides to handle the Jess/Ben situation (JessBen is an awful couple name; let’s hope that, say, Jessica Chastain and Ben Affleck never get together) on his own.

Steven asks Veronica out, I guess not worrying about what Cathy will say if she finds out. Jess is as furious as Steven is every time he sees her with Ben. Though he’s pleased with his plan, Steven gets upset again when he hears a rumor that Cathy voted for Ben in the election. He immediately believes this, which is dumb, but that’s par for the course for Steven in this book. However, Cathy then confirms this, claiming she has a good reason. Steven’s too angry to listen to her.

Now at the side of a high-schooler, Veronica is suddenly popular. Even the Unicorns want to spend time with her, despite the tricks she’s pulled on Jessica in the past. Steven is happy with his revenge plot, but clearly still wants to be with Cathy, as he gets jealous when he hears that she’s been spending time with a guy named Howie. Later, Steven hears Ben telling Doug that Howie lost a bunch of the class’ money for a class trip while he was serving as treasurer. Ben has to do a lot of work to make it back. He knows Cathy voted for him, but only because she didn’t want Steven to have to be stuck with the debt (which she found out about while tutoring Howie in math). Okay, but couldn’t she have told him that?

Steven suddenly gets that Ben isn’t a bad guy after all, and his jealousy comes from…well, nowhere, really. He tries to make up with Cathy, but she’s understandably tired of dealing with him. Steven takes Veronica to Casey’s, and Cathy shows up with Howie. Jessica spots Steven and flings a cherry at him. Steven fires back, innocents are dragged into the fight, and the whole restaurant gets trashed in a food fight. Mr. Casey kicks everyone out, surprisingly not banning them all for life.

The tension has been cut, and all the people who have been fighting make up. Ben and Veronica end up together, because why not? Then Ben has to quit basketball because being treasurer requires too much work, so Steven gets his position back. Everything is awesome again! At least until Steven dumps Cathy for a dumb reason and this whole thing starts over again!

The B-plot is really just setting up a future book: Amy’s suspicious of her parents, who keep having secret conversations and arguing. She thinks they’re going to split up, possibly because of a woman named Jane, as Mr. Sutton wrote a letter to her but hasn’t sent it yet. Liz finds a picture of Mr. Sutton with his arm around a woman, and the words “love, Jane” on the back.

She keeps this from Amy for a while, and when she finally tells her what she saw, Amy blows up at her. She accuses Liz of not wanting Amy to have a family as perfect as the Wakefields. What? Okay, Amy. They make up later, but things between Mr. and Mrs. Sutton don’t get any better. We get a cliffhanger when Jane calls the house and the Suttons ask Elizabeth to leave so they can discuss something in private. If you know the title of book #83, you can guess what the discussion’s about.

There’s also a teeny C-plot where Elizabeth learns that Bruce is going to release a pig in Mrs. Arnette’s class, so she publishes a story about it in the Sixers ahead of time. She and her friends are amused by how angry Bruce gets. I wish they’d done more with this plot; I thought it was funny.

Thoughts: Normally I would call Elizabeth a killjoy for ruining someone’s prank, but doing it to mess with Bruce makes me root for her.

Jessica considers wearing leggings with an Oxford shirt. Ick.

If the freshmen elected someone who’s bad at math to be their treasurer, they kind of deserve whatever happens.

January 24, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #6, The Curse of the Golden Heart: Half-Hearted

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

This isn't in any way, shape, or form what happened, but okay

This isn’t in any way, shape, or form what happened, but okay

Summary: Once again, it’s spring break in Sweet Valley, so the twins, Steven, and a couple friends are spending time at the beach. The twins decide to go snorkeling, and Jessica suggests that they explore a part of the beach they’re supposed to stay away from. Elizabeth comes across what looks like a shipwreck and takes a couple of keepsakes from the bottom of the ocean. Back on land, they run into a man who’s staring out at the water and generally being a little creepy.

The twins want to keep up their ocean exploration, so they decide to take scuba lessons. They find a teacher and get Steven, Joe, Amy, Lila, and Janet interested in his class. The teacher happens to be the man the twins saw on the beach, Joshua Farrell. He’s Scottish and talks like a stereotypical Scotsman (“aye,” “lass,” etc.). Some of the kids who signed up for lessons are unsure about hanging out with Joshua, but Steven thinks his experience will give them a better…well, experience.

Liz throws away something she got from the ocean, unable to tell what it is, since it’s covered in barnacles. The next day, the twins get chain letters talking about a curse from someone named Carlotta. If they don’t forward letters to six people, they’ll be punished for taking half of something that’s not theirs. Any reader over the age of five can figure out what that means, but Liz doesn’t put 2 and 2 together that the thing she took from the ocean and then threw away is the “half of something.” Jess quickly writes the letters, but Elizabeth dismisses the threat of a “curse.”

Lila receives one of Jessica’s letters, but she can’t forward her own because her dad’s secretary is out of town, and she does all of Lila’s correspondence for her. Lila doesn’t even write her own thank-you notes. So Elizabeth and Lila are both facing a curse. Liz is rewarded with a nightmare about being on a pirate ship during a storm. Two men swordfight, and she realizes one of them looks like Joshua.

The kids head to the beach to meet Joshua for their first scuba lesson. At first they can’t find him, and Liz gets spooked by an empty wetsuit that seems to be moving on its own. But the lesson starts and everything goes fine, except for Lila, who loses a watch. Her day gets worse as she falls down the stairs at home, rips her robe, and breaks a nail. She figures she’s suffering from the curse and needs to get her letters written right away. She uses her father’s computer without his permission, but she’s so unfamiliar with modern (well, modern in the ’90s) technology that she basically breaks it.

At the next scuba lesson, it’s Elizabeth’s turn to have a bad day. When she looks at Joshua underwater, it seems like there’s no face behind his diving mask. Liz is so stunned that she passes out and almost drowns. Everyone tells Liz (very nicely) that she doesn’t have to continue the lessons if she doesn’t want to, and no one will think any less of her. Liz, to her credit, wants to keep going with them.

Lila’s still having a rough week, as she accidentally emailed her chain letter to everyone at her father’s company. I’m impressed that they all have email. On the bright side, she’s sent more than her requisite six letters, so she’s no longer in danger of being cursed. Liz, however, still is. She has another dream about the ship, this time featuring Joshua’s swordfighting opponent, a man with a red beard. He seems to be in love with a woman on the ship. Joshua’s supposed to be manning a post on deck, but he leaves it.

A scorpion winds up in Elizabeth’s lunch bag one day, so everyone thinks she’s cursed. She still won’t write the letters, because she’s Elizabeth. One of Lila’s letters was received by a man named John Filber, who tracks down the twins (totally not cool, guy), having gotten their address from the Fowlers’ cook (TOTALLY not cool, cook). He wants them to come to the beach with him so he can show them something. Surprisingly, Jessica’s the one who immediately says no, but the twins do agree to meet him there the next day.

John shows them something shiny caught in some coral under a pier, and tells them his father brought him to see it as a child. He was warned to never touch it or he’d be a victim of Carlotta’s curse. He’s had dreams just like the ones Liz has been having, where he’s on a sinking ship and sees a couple being separated. Okay, fine, but why are you getting 12-year-olds involved in your problems?

The scuba students have a cookout on the beach, and Joshua tells them a story about a pirate named Red Beard. He was in love with a woman named Carlotta, and they were going to travel to America together. Her uncle, a governor, gave them a gold heart-shaped locket, and they split it in half. Their ship wrecked, thanks to the bosun, who left his post to look for a treasure map Red Beard supposedly had. Joshua tells the kids that the bosun’s ghost is restless because he’s never been able to find the pieces of the heart and get the couple back together.

Elizabeth finally realizes that she might have half of the locket, but she can’t find it. She gets another chain letter, which offers her a reward. She just has to deposit $100,000 in a bank account so Carlotta can pay for her child’s medical treatments. It’s totally not a scam at all. Steven finds the thing Liz threw away, and yes, of course, it’s half of the locket. It has part of a treasure map on the back, which means the bosun wouldn’t have found it in Red Beard’s quarters, and he caused a shipwreck for nothing.

The twins and Steven figure out that the thing Filber showed them at the pier has to be the other half of the heart. Before they go confirm this, Liz does some library research and finds out that the bosun was…dun dun DUN…Joshua. That’s right, the kids have been taking scuba lessons from a ghost. She thinks Filber is one of his descendants. Liz soon has another dream, this one of Carlotta confirming that the bosun is still around – in fact, he sent the chain letter. Liz knows she needs to get the other half of the heart and put the pieces together to end the curse.

Steven accompanies the twins back to the beach, and they get the second half of the heart. Then Filber shows up, demanding the pieces so he can follow the treasure map. Liz puts the pieces together to end the curse, then hands the reunited locket over to Filber, not wanting to put herself or her siblings in danger over a piece of jewelry. Then, awesomely, Filber drops the locket in the water as he’s running off. Joshua’s watching from nearby, and Elizabeth sees him disappear. Way to get a 12-year-old to do all the work so you can be at peace, dude.

Elizabeth tells Jessica and Steven that Joshua was the bosun, and he sent the chain letter so Elizabeth would get the second half of the heart. Since they believe in curses but not ghosts, Jess and Steven decide that Elizabeth was behind the whole thing and doesn’t want to admit that she sent the letters. Liz just lets it go. That night, she dreams of Red Beard and Carlotta being reunited. Aww, some dead people got a happy ending. How sweet.

Thoughts: The story of Carlotta is supposed to be well-known, but none of the kids has heard it. And how has no one ever noticed the remains of the ship or searched them?

Why would Lila’s driver take the girls to a bus stop so they can catch a bus to the beach? He can’t just drive them to the beach? Because – and I know I’ve said this before – no way would Lila take public transportation if she didn’t have to.

The librarian at Sweet Valley’s public library is probably the only person in town who can tell the twins apart without thinking about it. Jessica’s probably never even been there.

Sweet Valley has no benches downtown. What’s up with that, S.V.?

Of course Elizabeth took a calligraphy course last summer. That’s one of the least surprising things I’ve ever read.

January 10, 2017

SVT #78, Steven the Zombie: Steven Voodoo Dolls, Now from Mattel!

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

Calm down, Jess

Calm down, Jess

Summary: The kids at SVMS are studying the Civil War-era south in Social Studies, and they each have to do some sort of project. Lila’s somehow allowed to throw a party and call it a project. Everyone will dress up in period costume and eat food from the era. Jessica’s stuck for an idea until she reads about voodoo and decides to try it out on Steven. He’s been bugging her more than usual lately, and messing with her Johnny Buck poster (using a marker to make him cross-eyed) is the last straw. She decides to make a Steven voodoo doll and torture it, getting revenge on him while also completing her project.

Jess turns an old G.I. Joe into a mini-Steven, using pieces of her brother’s lucky shirt as clothes. She tells Elizabeth what she’s up to and swears her to secrecy. She starts doing things like poking and tickling the doll, and is surprised when she gets a reaction out of the real Steven. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has befriended a kid named Benjamin from the homeless shelter. He has some mysterious pain in his leg that doctors can’t figure out. Jessica wonders if she can use voodoo to heal as well as harm. She makes a doll for Benjamin and mixes up some ingredients that she thinks will be healing.

Steven isn’t feeling well, and Jessica gives herself the credit. She’s convinced that her voodoo doll is working. She makes him twitch around while he’s with Joe, who mentions to Jess that her brother has been acting strange lately, kind of zombie-like. Later, Jessica makes Steven randomly do a headstand in front of Cathy. He starts being really nice to Jess, which makes her wonder exactly what’s going on with the voodoo.

The night of Lila’s party, Jessica is ready to wow with her costume. Most of the girls are going as Scarlett O’Hara, and Janet has decided that whoever has the best costume gets to be acting president for a week when she goes on vacation. Lila has told all the guys coming that whoever has the best Rhett Butler costume gets to dance with her. Jess schemes to get Janet to announce that the best Rhett gets to dance with the best Scarlett, hoping that she and Aaron will win.

Since she didn’t have time to get a good costume, Jess (with a hint from Amy) decides to make a dress out of the family’s curtains. She also uses temporary brown hair dye, but her hair turns out orange. She briefly wonders if she’s somehow brought on a punishment for using voodoo. Elizabeth saves the day with a hat and encourages Jess to be confident that she can pull off her costume. It works, and Jessica is named the best Scarlett, with Aaron as her Rhett. She manages to get the curtains back home and her hair back to blond before Ned and Alice notice anything.

In other Jess success, Benjamin’s leg is doing better for no apparent reason. She’s sure that her voodoo is working on both him and Steven. Elizabeth is skeptical. Steven gets weirder and weirder, being especially nice to Jessica even while he doesn’t feel well. He also keeps twitching after she stops using the doll on him. Jess starts worrying that she’s gone too far. She even has a nightmare that Steven drowns trying to save her from drowning.

She decides to try to heal Steven the way she (allegedly) healed Benjamin. She plays easy-listening music for the doll and makes sure it’s comfortable. She gets spooked when she later hears Steven humming a song she played for the doll. He’s still sick, and Jess is afraid that she didn’t stop her voodoo in time. She wakes up from another nightmare and discovers that the doll is lying in some water. She runs to Steven’s room to make sure he’s okay, but she can’t wake him up.

Jessica freaks out and wakes up the rest of the house. In response, Steven cracks up and reveals that he was faking. Later, the truth comes out: Elizabeth told him what Jessica was up to, so he made sure he could always see what she was doing with the doll, then acted it out to mess with her. None of the voodoo actually worked. Steven really is sick, but it’s just the flu. (Of course, this doesn’t explain how Benjamin miraculously got better…)

Jessica still has a project to complete, so she gets Steven to agree to come to her class and demonstrate how the “voodoo” works. The two of them and Elizabeth work out a system of coughs so Liz can signal to a blindfolded Steven what Jess is doing to the doll. The demonstration goes perfectly, though Mrs. Arnette doesn’t like the implications. She gives Jess a C+ and tells her never to talk about or practice voodoo again. Jess caps off the experience by buying Steven a replacement for his lucky shirt and asking him to stop being so nice to her, since it’s weird.

In the B-plot, Todd volunteers himself and Elizabeth to cook a southern meal for their class. Todd is a horrible cook and can’t even follow directions properly, so every practice meal they cook turns out terrible. Todd apparently never bothers to taste what he’s cooked, so he thinks everything’s great. He’s even thinking about becoming a chef someday. Instead of telling him that he’s screwing up and needs to pay attention, since they’re doing this for a grade, Liz just pretends everything’s fine.

Jessica suggests that Elizabeth change markings on measuring cups and labels on measuring spoons so Todd’s mistakes will actually be the right steps. Elizabeth does, but the meal still turns out awful. People in the class even get sick, including Mrs. Arnette. Everyone thinks Liz and Todd just pulled a prank, which I don’t get, because there’s no way Liz would do something like that, especially with a grade on the line.

Elizabeth confesses her actions to Todd, who isn’t upset. He’s just glad that he didn’t screw things up, and still has a future as a chef. Later, in exchange for helping Jess with her project, Liz makes her tell Todd that she had the idea to sabotage everything, so Liz is off the hook. Todd doesn’t care. That was pretty pointless.

Thoughts: So has everyone at SVMS seen Gone With the Wind? Seems unlikely.

Jessica knows what the Spanish Inquisition is but not who Patrick Henry is. Sure, okay.

Dear ghostwriter, no 14-year-old boy says “blouse.”

Jessica: “Mom! Dad! Wake up! I’ve killed Steven! Come quick!” Ned: “What time is it?” Priorities, Ned.

I thought it was working, so in theory, it did kind of work.” With logic like that, Jessica has a future as a politician.

December 20, 2016

SVT #75, Jessica and the Earthquake: (Not a) Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:48 pm by Jenn

I thought Jessica's walls were brown

I thought Jessica’s walls were brown

Summary: Jessica wakes up in the middle of the night during what she later finds out is an earthquake. It’s minor – only a 3.2 – but it’s Sweet Valley’s first in 20 years, so it’s kind of a big deal. It becomes an even bigger deal for Jessica when she learns that she was the only person at school who woke up. I don’t know why anyone cares, but they do. Jessica uses her overactive imagination to spice up the story a little. She tells people that she woke up before the earthquake, and must have sensed that it was coming. Super-nerd Lloyd Benson is intrigued and starts following her around, wanting her help with a project on earthquakes.

With news of an aftershock possibly coming, Lila and Janet, who are sick of Jessica’s embellishments, decide to get some revenge. They urge her to predict when the aftershock will come, then plan a big part at the Fowlers’ so everyone can experience it together. At first Jess loves all the attention, but when Lila and Janet try to call her bluff, she gets worried. If she predicts an earthquake and nothing happens, she’ll be humiliated. She’s already humiliated enough by Lloyd’s sudden obsession with her.

Everyone is really excited about the possibility of Jessica proving her earthquake-sensing powers. A ton of people are invited to Lila’s party, and Bruce even has souvenir T-shirts made. Since the date of the party is on them, Jessica’s prediction better be right or no one will want a shirt, and she’ll have to deal with Bruce’s anger on top of everything else. Jess tries to put a stop to the party, but everyone wants earthcake, a cake Lila and Janet will decorate to look like Sweet Valley, then cut in half like it’s been split by an earthquake. I have to admit, that’s pretty clever.

Desperate for her prediction to come true, Jessica does an earthquake dance (a variation on a rain dance) before the party. This involves her hopping around her room, chanting, “Earthquake, earthquake, please come soon. If you don’t come, I’ll be ruined.” I have a feeling that if Lila and Janet saw this, they’d be satisfied with their revenge. Elizabeth sees Jess dancing and tries to cheer her up, noting that there’s a chance the aftershock will come just when she said.

At the party, Jessica frets that she’s going to be embarrassed in front of everyone. People are making a huge deal out of the aftershock – Aaron is even taking bets from people on what time it will occur. Jessica says it’ll happen at 8:30, so everyone spends the party checking the time. Bruce warns that if the aftershock doesn’t happen that night, Jess will have to pay for all his unsold shirts. Hey, Bruce, no one asked you to make shirts. That’s your own problem.

8:30 rolls around, and guess what? No earthquake. Jessica pretends that the vibes she was getting before were just off a little, but everyone’s lost interest. Jessica sulks off somewhere in the basement and takes a nap. As Lila brings the earthquake down to the party, the aftershock hits. Lila takes a header into the cake. Oh, sweet justice for Jess. Too bad she slept through the whole thing. (Fortunately, Amy takes a picture.)

In the B-plot, Steven’s new favorite band, the Katybugs, comes out with a video about animal cruelty and why people should be vegetarians. Steven’s so disturbed by the images and ideas that he reacts like Lisa in that Simpsons episode where she can’t eat lamb chops after seeing a lamb at a petting zoo. He gets very Dawn Schafer about the whole thing, annoying his family and friends with his self-righteousness.

In what I think might be an attempt to shove him out of his new habits by overloading him, Ned and Alice have the whole family adopt Steven’s new diet. The twins aren’t happy, though Elizabeth at least puts forth an effort. Steven quickly grows tired of his new self-imposed restrictions (the boy loves a bacon cheeseburger), but he knows he can’t back down, because his family and friends will call him out for being a hypocrite. Cathy tells him she understands his convictions, and she does what she can, but she’s not going to change her whole lifestyle just because some animals are cute.

Steven finally breaks down and decides to have some spaghetti and meatballs. But the earthquake hits and he drops the jar holding the sauce, ruining the last bit of non-healthy food in the house. The twins figure out what happened and follow him to Hughie’s Burger Shack (competition for the Dairi Burger? Oh, no!) after school. They catch him about to eat a burger and tease him about it. At this point he doesn’t really care anymore, and he agrees to stop trying to push his beliefs on other people if it means he can eat some meat.

The C-plot is connected to the A-plot: Elizabeth and Amy think they can only be true reporters if they experience something themselves, so they decide to stay up all night for a few nights in case the aftershock comes. That way, at least one of them will be able to write about it from first-hand experience. This leads to the girls falling asleep in school and even struggling to stay awake at Lila’s party. Of course, they’re awake for the aftershock, so they end up able to write their article without learning a lesson about responsible journalist procedures, or something.

Thoughts: These kids act like they’ve never experienced an earthquake before, but even if there hasn’t been one in Sweet Valley in 20 years, they can’t all have lived in S.V. their whole lives. None of them has ever been to L.A.? San Francisco? Any other freaking place in Southern California?

Alice has nothing to say about Elizabeth and Amy trying to stay up all night multiple nights in a row. I mean, of course.

Lloyd talks about “the magical terror of earthquakes.” Please get a life, Lloyd.

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