August 22, 2017

SVT #102, The Mysterious Dr. Q: As Usual, Bruce Screws Everything Up

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:15 pm by Jenn

I hope Jess hypnotizes Liz into developing a better fashion sense

Summary: Jessica’s excited because a hypnotist is coming to SVMS for an assembly. Elizabeth will be writing a story for The Sixers debunking hypnotism. Meanwhile, Bruce urges Todd to ask her out after Todd admits that he has a crush on her. Also meanwhile, Amy’s mom is doing a news story on female pilots and gives Amy the opportunity to interview a pilot’s daughter. Amy’s thrilled until she learns that the interviews will take place on a helicopter – she’s scared of flying. To her credit, she decides to suck it up and face her fears.

At school, Todd writes Elizabeth a note asking her to a movie. She’s thrilled and immediately finds him and accepts. Everyone goes to the assembly, where the hypnotist, Dr. Q, brings the twins and some other kids on stage for a demonstration. Elizabeth plays along with the hypnosis and wonders if the other volunteers are faking as well, or if Dr. Q really hypnotized them.

Since Lila didn’t get chosen, Jessica suggests that she hypnotize her. She thinks she knows how to do it since she’s seen it done. Yes, and since I’ve watched multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ER, I’m confident that I could remove a ruptured spleen if necessary. Jess tries it out, but it doesn’t work. Wow, what a surprise! Amy’s also disappointed not to be picked, since she was hoping to have Dr. Q hypnotize her to overcome her fear of flying. Throughout the book, Amy is the only person who truly grasps the point of hypnotism.

Bruce asks Elizabeth to a movie, and, of course, she turns him down. She goes to interview Dr. Q for The Sixers, and Amy and Jessica crash the meeting, Jess so she can learn about hypnosis and Amy so she can be hypnotized. Dr. Q warns Jessica that she shouldn’t mess around with hypnosis. She explains the practice to Elizabeth, who still thinks it’s a scam.

Jessica decides to prove Liz wrong by hypnotizing her and some of their friends – Lila, Amy, Janet, and Bruce. Bruce disrupts the process by listening to a baseball game and talking out loud about the Twins and certain plays. Jess tries to ignore him as she hypnotizes Janet and Amy to overcome their fear of spiders, and makes Lila quack whenever she sees the principal, Mr. Clark. As she’s trying to hypnotize Elizabeth into adoring her, someone yells at Bruce.

Thanks to the distractions and Bruce’s comments about the game, Amy and Janet end up thinking they’re identical twins, Elizabeth falls in love with Bruce, and Lila starts calling the principal Mr. Quack. Jessica’s thrilled. Todd, not so much – now Elizabeth wants to go to a movie with Bruce instead. Todd gets Jess to go to the movie with him so they can spy on the new couple. They end up getting kicked out when Todd dumps food on Bruce just as he’s about to kiss Liz.

Amy and Janet are suddenly BFFs, constantly talking about how much they love being twins and the awesome parts of their shared childhood. I don’t know how that’s possible, since it’s not like Jessica planted false memories in them, but okay. Lila and Jessica both get in trouble when Lila keeps quacking at Mr. Clark. Elizabeth isn’t sure why she’s suddenly into Bruce, or why she even wants to hang out with him, but she just goes with it.

Jessica realizes that everything’s backfired and she needs to fix it. She calls Dr. Q and begs for her help, then gathers everyone for another hypnosis session. This time Steven’s watching baseball, and the game again interferes with Jessica’s efforts. Everyone hears her yelling at Steven to turn the volume back to normal, then telling him to forget all about baseball. When her hypnosis subjects awaken, they’re back to their usual selves, but they don’t know what baseball is.

Dr. Q arrives and saves the day. She restores everyone’s memories of baseball and hypnotizes Amy to not be afraid of flying. Elizabeth is now over Bruce (and even dumps a milkshake on him to prove it) and back with Todd. Janet and Amy hate each other again. And Amy’s able to do her interview without any fear. Thanks, Dr. Q! Sorry Jessica is such an idiot!

Thoughts: Who approved an assembly with a hypnotist? No parents had objections?

Todd gets 5 points for deciding that “cad” is the best word to describe Bruce, but he loses them for shouting at him that he hopes Liz turns into a pumpkin, which makes no sense.

Ellen, to Amy and Janet when they won’t shut up about being twins: “Hey, guys, like, nobody cares.” Turns out Ellen’s good for something after all.

I wish it had turned out that no one was really hypnotized and everyone was just messing with Jessica.

August 15, 2017

SVT #101, Twins in Love: Putting the “Dude” in Dude Ranch

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

Purple jeans, everyone. Purple. Jeans

Summary: The Wakefields are going on vacation to a dude ranch. Has anyone ever been to a dude ranch in real life? All my knowledge of them comes from books and Hey Dude. Hilariously, the ranch is called the Triple Z, but no one ever makes the obvious comment that that means ZZZ, as in snoring. The owners should have run that by a marketing team. Anyway, Elizabeth is excited to ride horses, while Jessica is excited to…I was going to say ride boys, but this is Sweet Valley. She wants to find a cute guy and get a peck on the cheek.

When the Wakefields arrive at the ranch, everyone makes a big deal out of the fact that the girls are twins. I can imagine that that gets old really fast for identical twins. The family gets right to horseback-riding, and Jessica gets right to boy-watching. Elizabeth is, surprisingly, the twin who meets a cute guy first, but Jess follows shortly after. They soon realize that they’ve fallen for the same guy. They fight about it, then decide to let the guy pick which one of them he likes more. (Please note that at this point, neither of them even knows the guy’s name.)

The twins both run into their dream guy, Nick, and basically have a shoving match right in front of him. Nick does not immediately peace out and avoid them for the rest of his vacation. Instead, he introduces them to his brother Chris. His identical twin brother. In fact, the girls didn’t even fall for the same guy at the same time – Jess fell for Chris and Liz fell for Nick.

The two sets of twins go riding together, and both pairs hit it off. We learn that the boys always wear different brands of shoes, and Chris is right-handed while Nick is left-handed. The new lovebirds all have dinner together. Elizabeth tells them that she and Jess can be told apart by different hairstyles and the fact that Liz wears a watch while Jess doesn’t. Jess snarks that, in addition, she has fashion sense while Liz doesn’t. (This reminds me of The Parent Trap: “I have class and you don’t.”)

As dinner progresses, the girls start to think they’ve fallen for the wrong guys. For instance, Nick keeps doing a Jim Carrey impression. Liz, I feel your pain. The girls separately wonder if they should swap guys. The next day, when Jessica encounters Nick, she tells him she’s Elizabeth. Liz does the same with Chris, then flips out when she learns that Jess impersonated her. Then the girls realize the situation is actually kind of funny, and they agree to pull a twin switch with the guys.

On the kids’ next double date, the girls aren’t any more interested in their new guys than they were in their old ones. Liz sees Chris – or the guy she thinks is Chris – waving with his left hand and thinks that the boys also pulled a twin switch. The girls switch back to themselves, but the guys seem to also switch back as well. The girls keep running to the bathroom to switch outfits, eventually ending up wearing the wrong shoes, though the guys don’t seem to notice.

For their next double date, Jess suggests that she and Liz dress the same to make switching easier. This works well enough to fool Alice, which doesn’t surprise me at all. A problem arises when the girls go on a ride and are given each other’s horses. Liz’s horse isn’t a big Jessica fan and ends up throwing her off. The guys figure out that the girls lied to them and huff off, claiming they never pulled a switch. Which I guess just means that neither guy is that interesting and the girls shouldn’t be with them.

Before the Wakefields leave the ranch, the guys come to make up with the girls…and reveal that they did, in fact, switch. So their anger at the girls is unfounded, since they pulled the same stunt. But it turns out that the twins pulled one last swap for their final meeting. Too bad they’ve wound up with the guys they don’t like, so they didn’t really accomplish anything.

The B-plot is boring and dumb, though I guess that’s not much different from the rest of the book. Steven wants to win a horse race at the end of the week, so he asks to spend the week riding a horse named Rocket that used to compete in derbies. He realizes too late that Rocket hasn’t competed in a long time and is nowhere near as fast as she used to be. Steven decides not to bother with the race, but then Rocket gets stung by a bee and takes off, accidentally winning the race. The prize is a hat. Yeehaw.

Thoughts: The ghostwriter severely overestimates any preteen girl’s interest in any plotline involving Steven.

Chris slices his Jell-o into 16ths and eats it with a fork. I think that’s a sign that he’s a future serial killer.

Jessica’s favorite color is pink, not purple. What would Janet say??

Speaking of purple, I don’t buy that Elizabeth has purple jeans. Maybe I’m just in denial that purple jeans exist.

August 8, 2017

SVT #100, If I Die Before I Wake: Deliver Us from Eva

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:07 pm by Jenn

Well, they should have known something was wrong with the house when they saw that there were giant eyes inside

Summary: Eva is ready to finish off the twins, Amy, Winston, and Todd on the Riccolis’ widow’s walk. Even though they have the advantage of five people against one, and Todd is ready to fight, the kids resign themselves to death. Eva attacks Elizabeth, who falls from the widow’s walk, but Eva grabs her arm to save her, I guess so she can kill Liz herself. Come on, Eva, let gravity help! She loses her grip and Liz falls again, then suddenly wakes up inside the house. The other babysitters are also alive and well, though confused about how all five of them could have had the same dream. Liz also has cuts from where Eva scratched her in the “dream.”

It’s pretty early in the morning, but the sitters keep themselves awake until the kids get up. Amy, Todd, and Winston leave, and the twins fall asleep for about an hour while the kids are watching TV. They don’t have any dreams, so they figure they’ve somehow defeated Eva. When the twins get back home, Andrew calls to tell them that the kids’ nightmares have also ended. The twins think the horrible stuff is behind them and start looking forward to Halloween, which is the next week.

Fast-forward a few days, and everyone’s getting costumes. Steven wishes he could find something super-scary, but the store everyone’s shopping in doesn’t have anything he likes. Since his sisters have been talking about Eva a lot, he decides to dress up as her and scare the crap out of the twins. This means he’ll have to wear a nightgown with daisies on it and carry a teddy bear, but it’s a sacrifice Steven is willing to make.

The twins visit the Riccolis, who are all happy now, partly because their nightmares are gone and partly because Mr. Riccoli has finally joined them. He and Mrs. Riccoli ask the twins to babysit the kids on Halloween while they go to a party, and since they figure Eva’s out of the picture, the girls say yes. (Jess will have to miss a Unicorn party, and Lila bugs her about it, so Jess makes her fall out of a canoe at Secca Lake.) At home, Jessica gives Alice a Halloween costume she bought her, but Alice is apparently anti-Halloween (how have we never heard about this on any of the series’ past Halloweens?) and won’t even consider wearing it.

Jessica hears scratching noises at her window one night and thinks she sees Eva outside. The next night, Liz thinks she sees her, too. When the twins start talking about Eva at breakfast, Steven takes advantage of the conversation to ask a few questions about what Eva looks like, so he can put the finishing touches on his costume. The twins think they see Eva again that night and wonder if she somehow left their dreams and became real.

While doing some landscaping at the Riccolis’, Steven finds a piece of cloth with daisies on it under a boulder. Even though he was just thinking about Eva, he doesn’t put it together that this must be from her nightgown. Meanwhile, the twins pay a visit to a cemetery and find Eva and her parents’ graves. They’re shocked to see that Eva has followed them there and run from her. Eva loses her bunny slipper, and Elizabeth picks it up, for some reason. The twins barely get away.

Halloween is the next day, and the twins ask Amy, Todd, and Winston to join them at the Riccolis’ that night. Steven is just about ready to put his costume to scarifying use when he decides he’s missing something. He remembers that Jessica has a teddy bear (which is actually Eva’s) and goes to get it from her closet. He spots the bunny slipper, too, and decides to take it as well. Jessica sees him heading back to his room and thinks he’s really Eva, freaking out the twins. Steven pretends he was asleep and didn’t see anyone in his room.

While trick-or-treating that night, Steven comes across the real Eva, who’s not happy that he has her bear and her slipper. Steven’s so shocked and scared that all he can think to do is give them to her. Eva isn’t appropriately grateful, telling Steven that he and his sisters will die that night. Steven rushes home, where Alice has received a picture and letter from Eva, leading her to remember the last night she babysat Eva: Halloween exactly 25 years ago. Eva’s parents got to a party, and Alice puts Eva to bed with her teddy bear and one bunny slipper. She makes sure to lock the balcony door so Eva won’t fall if she sleepwalks.

Alice’s friends Dyan, Jim, and Walter (Amy’s mom, Todd’s dad, and Winston’s dad, remember) surprise her by sneaking into the house through Eva’s window. Alice realizes too late that they didn’t lock the balcony door after they came in. By the time she gets up to Eva’s room on the third floor, Eva’s on the balcony. Alice doesn’t finish her flashback until later, but it’s pretty obvious what happens: Eva falls over the railing.

Steven interrupts Alice, babbling about “she” and the twins being in danger. She tells him the twins are trick-or-treating, since she doesn’t know they’re babysitting. Steven runs around town looking for them, learning from Lila that they’re at the Riccolis’. As he’s on his way over there, Jessica is lured to Eva’s room by a voice she thinks is Elizabeth’s. She passes out, and the others start getting worried when she doesn’t come back, but they don’t bother going to look for her. When they hear a scream, they run up to Eva’s room, where Liz sees that the picture of Eva and Alice that used to be there is gone.

As Eva locks the sitters in a room together, Steven shows up. His costume is so good that the sitters think there are somehow two Evas now. Steven is able to slow Eva down while the sitters go get the kids out of the house. They realize that the house is on fire and they can’t make it outside by going downstairs. They’re able to get the kids out through a window, since the roof slopes low enough that they don’t have to jump too far to the ground. But Eva’s still coming for them…

At home, Alice finishes the rest of her flashback, then reads Eva’s letter, which reveals that she didn’t die after her fall. She was somehow able to keep coming back to the house without her parents knowing. She blames Alice for her fall, since Alice scared her when she was on the balcony. She admits to using makeup to make herself look like a monster so she can scare the sitters. Now she plans to go even further and kill Alice’s daughters as revenge. Alice realizes this is all real, and that her kids are in danger. She rounds up her old friends and tells them to meet her at the Riccolis’ house. Just then, the Riccoli kids arrive to confirm that Eva is about to kill the sitters.

Back at the house, the sitters head to Eva’s bedroom, since they have no other place to hide. The house starts falling apart due to the fire, but the sitters and Steven are able to escape through a window. Eva isn’t so lucky, as the house collapses her around her, apparently killing her for real this time.

Sometime later, Alice and the twins go to the cemetery to visit Eva’s grave, which actually contains her body now. They’ve figured out that Eva, like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, was never able to let go of what happened to her. They think the gardener who died in Too Scared to Sleep may have been helping her stay hidden. Though they can’t explain the shared nightmares, they think Eva was hurting them in real life, and they just thought she was harming them in their dreams. But who cares about details – Eva is gone, and everyone is safe. Let’s just hope the Riccolis had excellent insurance.

Thoughts: If you ask me, this whole thing is Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan’s fault. They should have moved Eva to a different bedroom or made the railing on the balcony higher when she started sleepwalking. And it wasn’t Alice’s fault that the balcony door was unlocked – it was Jim, Dyan, and Walter’s fault. Eva spent 25 years being mad at the wrong person.

So did Eva never grow? She should have been in her 30s during this miniseries, but apparently she was the same size as when she was a kid.

The ghostwriter needs to make up her mind whether Alice was 12 or a sophomore when she sat for Eva.

Winston: “I’m too nice to die!” Okay, Winnie.

August 1, 2017

SVT #99, The Beast Must Die: I’ll See You in My Dreams

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

Two girls, two awful outfits

Summary: We pick up right where The Beast is Watching You left off, with the twins trapped in Eva’s bedroom while a fire is burning downstairs. The Riccoli kids are all asleep and somehow don’t hear the girls yelling and pounding on the door. Fortunately, Steven happens to be on his way over to scare his sisters, and he rescues the kids. Eva’s ticked and adds Steven to her kill list. The twins manage to break down the door, and Steven’s plan to scare them succeeds as they’re terrified to see what they think is a monster with the kids. (He’s wearing a mask.) When Mrs. Riccoli comes home, she figures Andrew, who has a history of playing with matches, started the fire, but he insists he was asleep. Steven backs that up.

Jessica already wasn’t that thrilled to be babysitting so much, and after this latest scare, she announces she’s done going to the Riccolis’ house. Alice is relieved, as she’s never liked how much time the twins have been spending at the old Sullivan house. Alice flashback time! Eva hates going to sleep because she has horrible nightmares, but Alice assures her that nothing will happen to her while Alice is around.

One afternoon when the twins are enjoying their free time, Mrs. Riccoli calls to beg them to come over. Her mother has been hospitalized, and Mrs. Riccoli has to fly out to Florida to see her right away. She apparently doesn’t know anyone else in town, so she asks two 12-year-olds to watch her kids for the weekend. (Remember that Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor, which means she must know a few dozen 20-somethings who would be much more responsible, and would probably appreciate the money. But whatever.) Jessica reluctantly accepts the job once Mrs. Riccoli offers to pay her and Liz triple their usual rate.

Elizabeth isn’t happy to have to cancel her plans with friends, but she can’t in good conscience leave the Riccolis in the lurch, so she and Jess go over for their marathon sitting job. (Todd will be joining them later.) Liz falls asleep and dreams about going back to Eva’s room, where a doll comes to life. The monster girl from the kids’ dreams attacks, trying to strangle her. Jessica wakes up her sister when she screams in her sleep, and both realize that Liz now has red marks on her neck.

Alice calls to check on her daughters, then has another flashback: One night when she was sitting for Eva, her friends Dyan, Jim, and Walter came by to visit. These would be Amy’s mother, and Todd and Winston’s fathers. Alice and Jim appear to have crushes on each other, which we’ve never heard about before and never will again. Nothing happens in this scene, really; it’s just setting up the kids’ friendship.

Over at the Riccolis’ house, Elizabeth asks Jess to wake her up after she’s been asleep for five minutes. She dreams about Eva’s room again, and the monster girl threatens her. Jess falls asleep as well and winds up in Liz’s dream. They hide from Eva, but she finds them and tries to strangle both twins. Fortunately, Todd arrives and wakes them up before Eva can finish them off. But somehow, Eva’s teddy bear makes it to the real world with them. Spooky…

The babysitters decide to try to stay awake the rest of the night, but Todd nods off for a little while and also dreams about Eva. Amy and Winston come over the next morning to relieve the overnight sitters and learn about the weird goings-on in the house. Wait…the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston – the children of Alice, Dyan, Jim, and Walter? No way! What a strange coincidence! When the twins get home, they ask Alice about Eva, but Alice won’t tell them anything.

All five sitters go back to the house for a second night of sitting, and the sitters decide they need to stay awake all night. (By the way, the kids have stopped having nightmares, so at least the job is a lot easier now.) Jess tries to make coffee, but she screws it all up. Winston realizes it was decaf anyway, so it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d made it right. The sitters play board games for a while, but that’s not exactly a thrill a minute.

Eventually they decide that they can sleep for ten minutes at a time, setting an alarm to wake them up before Eva can attack them in their dreams. I’m sure sleeping in ten-minute increments all night will make them feel refreshed and ready to take care of five kids the next day! Winston accidentally unplugs the alarm clock, which Eva was about to unplug anyway, and all five sitters end up in the same dream. They’re all on the house’s widow’s walk, and Eva is thrilled to have them all in one place.

In the B-plot, Steven and Joe, who have just started a landscaping business, get a job from a man named Mr. Morgan. He needs them to spiff up his yard over the weekend, to get it ready for a dinner party on Sunday. Steven takes one look at Mr. Morgan’s daughter, Karen, and falls instantly in love. Joe proposes a bet: Whichever of them can’t get a date with Karen for Saturday night has to take one of the twins’ jobs at the Riccolis’ house.

Steven is completely oblivious to the fact that Karen clearly has no interest in him, and that’s even before Joe charms her a little. Then it turns out that Karen already has a boyfriend, which will make winning the bet even harder. But Joe manages to pull it off, getting a date with Karen while Steven does most of the landscaping work. Then Steven gets pulled over for riding his lawn mower in the street. Womp womp. At least he has a chance to make some money at the Riccolis’ house. You know, if Eva doesn’t murder everyone there first.

Thoughts: If I ever decide it’s a good idea for 12-year-olds to watch my five kids for an entire weekend, I authorize someone to call Child Protective Services on me.

Steven, who’s 14, doesn’t know what a cul-de-sac is. I’m so sad.

“He’d never even thought of feet as having looks before – but hers were amazing.” That’s a side of Steven I never wanted to know about.

July 25, 2017

SVT #98, The Beast is Watching You: Sweet Dreams, Sweet Valley

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

The scariest thing about this is Jessica’s outfit

Summary: The girl from Too Scared to Sleep is still keeping an eye on the twins when they come to the old Sullivan house, ready to do something terrible to them if they ever fall asleep there. They’re none the wiser, and are even trying to explain away the weird stuff from their last sitting job with the Riccolis. They figure that Juliana was scratched by the cat and only thought a girl was responsible because of her nightmares. Jessica has also convinced herself that the Alice in the picture she saw in the hidden room isn’t her mother.

After the kids go to bed, the twins try to stay calm in the big, dark, possibly haunted house. Steven and Joe show up to scare them, traumatizing the kids in the process. Ned and Alice do some actual parenting, telling Steven not to go anywhere near the twins when they’re babysitting. Jessica mentions that Steven would have less time on his hands if he got a job like the twins did. Her parents think this is a wonderful idea. Steven does not. More on that in the B-plot.

Alice has a flashback to sitting at the old Sullivan house for a girl named Eva. Eva has night terrors and often sleepwalks, which is a big problem because her room’s on the third floor and there’s a balcony off of it. Alice has to make sure to lock the balcony whenever she puts Eva to bed. Eva likes to wear bunny slippers, but Alice only lets her wear one to bed because both would muffle her footsteps and prevent Alice from knowing where she is when she sleepwalks. It’s pretty obvious by this point that Eva is the girl watching the twins, and something horrible happened while Alice was babysitting her as a preteen.

Juliana seems to have gotten past her nightmares, but they’ve been passed on to her sister Gretchen. She dreams about a “monster girl” in a nightgown with yellow flowers on it – the same nightgown Eva wore as a child. The girl tries to push Gretchen down the stairs, but Gretchen wakes up. On another night, when Elizabeth and Todd are babysitting together, they smell smoke in Andrew’s bedroom but don’t find any signs of a fire. The boy tells them that he dreamed about a girl with a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper who set the room on fire.

Jessica sits with Elizabeth again and falls asleep while putting Gretchen to bed. She dreams about the house back when the Sullivans lived there and is horrified at the sight of a grotesque figure wearing a yellow-flowered nightgown and one bunny slipper. The girl tries to push Jessica off the balcony, but Jess wakes up. She realizes that her shirt is ripped, just as it was ripped in her dream. At first the twins think that Jess just dreamed what Gretchen’s been dreaming because she’s heard all about it, but Elizabeth realizes that Jess never knew about the single bunny slipper, since only Andrew has mentioned it.

Things get worse when Gretchen sleepwalks and falls down the stairs while Jessica and Winston are watching the kids. She tells them she was dreaming about the monster girl. At this point, I would be taking all the kids to a psychiatrist, because clearly something is wrong, and it can’t just be about the move and the fact that their father hasn’t yet joined them permanently. I might also consider moving out, if my kids are all having the same dream about some monster who hasn’t been in a movie or TV show they all saw.

One night when the twins are sitting again, they decide to check out the third-floor room. They find a single bunny slipper in the closet and start freaking out. Then the door shuts and they can’t get it open. They smell smoke as Eva sets a fire to try to get rid of her unwelcome housemates once and for all.

In the B-plot, Ned gets a riding mower, and Steven and Joe decide to use it to start a landscaping business. Guys, it’s not landscaping if you’re just mowing lawns. Ned tells Steven he needs to read the user’s manual before he even turns on the mower. Steven is a moron and ignores him. He and Joe wreck the Wakefields’ yard, run over the neighbor’s fence, and almost drive the mower into the pool. For some reason, Ned doesn’t take the keys away and tell them to go get jobs at the mall.

While competing to see who can do a better job with the mower (the winner gets to name their business), Steven and Joe can’t get it to turn off. They ride it in circles around the yard, one behind the wheel and one on the hood. There’s an actual funny moment where the twins watch from the house, wondering if they should videotape the boys or place bets on how many laps they’ll end up taking. The boys take the mower out on the road and finally get it to stop at the Riccolis’ house. Mrs. Riccoli sees them and hires them to take care of the property, since the gardener died in the last book. Mrs. Riccoli, I’m going to tell you right now that this is a horrible idea.

Thoughts: Steven mentions a book called Dog Walking for Fun and Profit. That must be a short book. Step 1: Walk dogs. Step 2: Profit.

Jessica notes that Mrs. Riccoli is messy and leaves things like scissors on the floor of her study. Mrs. R., you have a two-year-old. Get it together.

“For safety reasons, the emergency shutoff may only be used once every ten minutes.” How is that safe? How is that mower manufacturer still in business?

July 18, 2017

SVT #97, Too Scared to Sleep: Don’t Close Your Eyes

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:08 pm by Jenn

I kind of like Liz’s shirt

Summary: This book is bookended (…heh) by scenes with a little girl angry that people are in her house. Though it’s not confirmed until the end, that house is the “old Sullivan house,” a mansion in Sweet Valley that’s been empty for a while. The twins are riding their bikes past it one day when they see that a family is moving in. The mother, Mrs. Riccoli, introduces herself and asks if the twins know anyone who can babysit her five kids. (Her husband is still back at their old hometown and won’t be joining them for a while. Mrs. Riccoli is a college professor who’s arranged to only teach at night so she can be with the kids during the day.)

Elizabeth is eager to help, of course, but Jessica isn’t as thrilled about the idea of babysitting. However, when the twins, Amy, Todd, and Winston go to Casey’s and don’t have enough money to pay for their ice cream, they realize they really need money. (By the way, Joe is now managing the place, and he’s nice enough to let them start a tab.) Elizabeth comes up with the idea of the five of them starting a babysitting service. The Riccolis become their first regular customers, and the twins take the first job.

Right away, things get off to a spooky start – the kids scare the twins before they’ve even met. Fortunately, the kids are pretty well-behaved and like the twins, which means the sitting job isn’t too difficult for them. The only real trouble is that five-year-old Juliana is scared to go to bed because she’s been having nightmares about a “monster girl.” Then, as the twins are leaving, they run into the gardener, Mr. Brangwen, who’s creepy. He advises them to never close their eyes in the house.

Since the Riccolis have a mishmash of furniture that Jessica thinks is ugly, she suggests that Mrs. Riccoli hire Alice to redecorate. There’s a funny moment where Mrs. Riccoli admits that she’d like to get rid of her husband’s beanbag furniture from college, and she decides to tell him it got lost in the move. Alice is happy to take the job.

Elizabeth and Amy watch the Riccoli kids together, and Juliana has another nightmare about the monster girl. Later, Elizabeth runs into Mr. Brangwen downtown, and he’s creepy some more, telling her someone will get her in her sleep. While sitting for the kids again, Todd and Elizabeth start to wonder if Mr. Brangwen’s spooky warnings are making Juliana’s nightmares worse. Liz mentions the dreams to Mrs. Riccoli, who, while obviously worried for her daughter, thinks they’re just due to the changes in Juliana’s life and will end soon.

Jessica takes Alice to the Riccolis’ house to meet Mrs. Riccoli, but as soon as Alice realizes where they’re going, she flips out. She completely refuses to go into the house. Her excuse is that she’s too busy to take the job, which Jessica finds strange since she wasn’t too busy when she first accepted it.

Mr. Brangwen dies, so now Elizabeth is spooked. Amy doesn’t see any connection to the Sullivan house, since he was in his 80s and died at home. Still, Liz can’t help but think that his warning not to close your eyes in the house is tied to his death. On the plus side, she thinks that with him gone, no one will put scary thoughts in Juliana’s head anymore, and her nightmares will end.

Wrong! The twins babysit again, and Juliana has a nightmare, saying that the monster girl scratched her. And just like someone in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, she has actual scratch marks all over her back. While Liz is tending to this craziness, Jessica finds a hidden room that belonged to a little girl decades ago. There’s a picture of the little girl with a teenager, and it’s labeled “Alice and Eva.” And yes, that’s Alice as in Alice Wakefield. What Jess doesn’t know is that the little girl is watching her, and she’s very unhappy that someone is touching her things…

In the B-plot, Winston runs into Charlie Cashman (who I once called “a huge waste of DNA”) while leaving a music lesson. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the instrument Winston plays is the uber-dorky accordion. Charlie threatens to tell everyone at school unless Winston gives him $25. Good thing Winston’s part of this new babysitting service, and easily gets a job sitting for the eight-month-old Karsten twins. Too bad he has no idea how to take care of children and feeds them soda and Jell-o.

Winston makes $15 and offers to pay Charlie in installments, but Charlie ups the price to $30. So Winston takes another job with the Karstens. For some reason, he doesn’t think to ask Elizabeth if he can help sit for the Riccolis, who need a sitter a lot more often, and don’t have any babies whose health Winston can ruin. Anyway, Winston microwaves a Tiffany bowl with metal in it, ruining both the bowl and the Karstens’ microwave. They fire him and refuse to pay him his $15.

Charlie comes to Winston’s house to collect his money, so Winston traps him in the dark garage while he tries to think of a way to get out of the blackmail. Charlie starts freaking out and admits that he’s afraid of the dark. With his own blackmail material in hand, Winston calls things even with Charlie and even gets his original $15 back. Then the Karstens ask Winston to sit for the twins again, since they apparently liked him a lot. I’m guessing what they really liked was the soda he gave them.

Thoughts: For once in his life, Todd makes an excellent point: No way would a college student take a class on a Friday night.

Mrs. Karsten is officially concerned about paying for a new microwave, considering she could afford a Tiffany bowl.

“My own mother, afraid of a haunted house – not that it’s haunted now, because the Riccolis live there.” So according to Jessica, a house can’t be haunted if people move in. Hasn’t she ever seen a horror movie about a haunted house?

July 11, 2017

SVT Super Edition #7, Jessica’s Animal Instincts: In Case You Were Wondering, No, Elizabeth Is Not Smarter Than a Monkey

Posted in books tagged , , at 4:55 pm by Jenn

Bruce doesn’t look nearly scared enough

Summary: For the first two weeks of their summer vacation, kids from SVMS can do internships around town, either organized through the school or arranged on their own. SVMS probably should have restricted them to just ones on an approved list, because Jessica thinks working for Sweet Valley Makeovers is appropriate. But then Elizabeth surprises her with the news that she entered both of their names in a lottery to get internships at the zoo, and both of them have been chosen. Jess is justifiably angry that Liz didn’t tell her she was entered in the lottery, but unjustifiably angry about working at the zoo, because who hates the zoo?

Jessica is sent to the bear habitat, and acts like a jerk to her “boss,” Justin. He’s too nice/wimpy to call her on her behavior, whereas I would have sent her straight back to school and asked for an intern who actually wanted to be there. Jess tries to get an internship at Sweet Valley Makeovers; when that doesn’t come through, she goes to any interesting-looking store at the mall that might have her. None of them extends an offer. To add insult to injury, Lila is interning at the posh Briana Taylor’s, where she gets to be around nice clothes all day. Yeah, I’d still rather be at the zoo. I mean, retail. Shudder.

Jessica finally warms up to her internship when two grizzly bears, a mother and cub, are brought to the zoo. They were tranquilized after being captured outside a mall, but the mother was given too much of the drug and winds up dying. Jessica notices that she’s in distress and tries to find Justin, but she wasn’t listening when he told her where he was going, so she can’t get in touch with him. He assures her that there was nothing she could do anyway. Jessica tries to make up for her failure by comforting the cub. She names him Gus after her own teddy bear and spends all her time with him, since he’s traumatized and clingy.

The internship at Sweet Valley Makeovers comes through after all, and Jessica ditches the zoo for it. Unfortunately, she hates it. When she learns that Gus is heartbroken without her, she quits and goes back to the zoo. What a wonderful employee Jessica will make someday. She becomes obsessed with Gus, talking about him all the time and spending as much time as possible with him. Ned and Alice do nothing, of course.

Justin breaks it to Jessica that the zoo isn’t equipped to keep Gus full-time, so he’s going to be released back into whatever kind of wild is near Sweet Valley. Jess responds in the only reasonable way: She sneaks Gus out of the zoo in her backpack and takes him home with her. I’m not at all surprised that Ned and Alice are too clueless to notice an actual wild animal in their house.

The news comes out when Gus sneaks out of her room and invades the kitchen. There’s also a monkey (more on that in the B-plot). Alice’s demanding new clients, who happen to be over, are pretty distressed. Jessica has to ‘fess up to what she did (is grand theft bear a crime?), and Gus is ultimately released into the wild anyway, so it was a pretty pointless stunt. I guess the storyline was meant to make Jessica seem more compassionate, since she looked after a poor little orphaned bear, but in my eyes, it just made her look stupid. I mean, a bear in the house. Freaking A.

Elizabeth is much more into the internship than Jessica, and when she’s assigned to work with the monkeys, she thinks she’ll end up like Jane Goodall, like they’ll make her their queen or something. She laughs off her boss, Madeleine, when she says monkeys are just as smart as humans. We’re led to believe that a monkey named Spanky overhears her and escapes just to teach her a lesson. I like to think that’s true – a monkey was offended when Elizabeth called it dumb, and decided to make her look dumb in turn.

Liz spends the whole book looking around town for Spanky, spotting him, and failing to capture him. The zoo doesn’t seem too concerned with the fact that one of its animals has escaped, and it doesn’t sound like the public has been informed. I’m starting to think this zoo isn’t on the up-and-up. I mean, they let a 12-year-old cuddle a bear. Or maybe there were insurance and permission forms involved, and Ned and Alice were just like, “Eh, whatever. If something happens to Jessica, we have another kid who looks just like her.”

Since Spanky keeps showing up wherever Elizabeth goes, I imagine he’s following her around town and taunting her by popping up, then running off before she can catch him. Good job, Spanky. You’re a good monkey. Elizabeth finally tells Madeleine that she was right – monkeys are smart. Not long after, Spanky goes back to the zoo, I guess have decided that Elizabeth learned her lesson. But since Spanky willingly returned himself to captivity, can he really be that smart? He should have joined Gus in the wild.

The other two lucky zoo interns are Bruce and Melissa McCormick. Bruce is thrilled because he has a big crush on Melissa, and this internship gives him the chance to spend two full weeks with her. Then he’s less thrilled, because they’re working in the aviary, and Bruce’s secret shame is that he’s terrified of birds. He spends the two weeks trying not to show how scared he is, but embarrassing himself over and over in front of Melissa. The funniest part is that eventually she tells him she figured out his fear, so I imagine she spends the whole time secretly laughing at him.

A baby bird imprints on Bruce and starts following him everywhere. I guess we should be glad the bird (Bruce names it Drumstick) doesn’t escape like Spanky and follow Bruce around town. Bruce keeps rejecting Drumstick until a bunch of raptors pick him out for a meal, and Bruce has to climb some sort of pole (in his underwear, for reasons known only to the ghostwriter) to rescue the bird. Melissa sees everything and declares that the crush she already had on Bruce has now grown. They end up going on a date to Casey’s, but I can’t imagine that relationship lasts long, since Melissa seems like a nice person, while Bruce is…Bruce. Who’s afraid of birds. Don’t forget that.

Thoughts: Madeleine doesn’t know the exact number of monkeys in the zoo, which seems like a recipe for disaster.

Releasing a baby bear into the wild before it can take care of itself also seems like a recipe for disaster. Why didn’t they find a mama bear in the zoo to look after Gus? Or send him too a different zoo? He doesn’t even know how to find food!

Melissa: “Girls can always tell when animals are girls.” Huh?

July 4, 2017

SVT #96, Elizabeth the Spy: Elizabeth Commits Perjury, But It’s for a Good Cause, So It’s Okay

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:06 pm by Jenn

Did he stop to pose while he was fleeing the scene of the crime?

Summary: The SVMS girls’ favorite employee at Casey’s is Joe Carrey, a college student who gives them extra ice cream and treats them like regular people instead of little kids. He also likes to give them brainteasers, though Elizabeth might be the only girl who’s actually interested in them. He’s definitely nicer than Jeff Casey, nephew of the owner, who doesn’t care about good customer service and thinks Joe is a nuisance. He’s probably happy when Elizabeth accidentally kicks Joe in the shin, though Joe insists that he’s fine.

That night, Elizabeth is trying to enjoy the latest Amanda Howard mystery when Jessica comes to her, frantic because she’s just started her period and there are no pads in the house. Jess throws on one of Liz’s sweaters and insists that her twin accompany her to the drugstore. She’s embarrassed to have to buy pads (12-year-old me can relate), and I guess she thinks she’ll be less embarrassed if Elizabeth is with her. Or she just plans to make Liz get them and be embarrassed on her own.

While waiting in line to pay, the twins encounter a clown. Jess accidentally kicks him in the shin (what’s with the twins kicking people?), and he throws a fit. He then proceeds to pull out a gun and rob the cashier. After he runs off, the police are called, and the twins give their statements. Jessica is horrified that they were buying pads, and she tries to avoid telling the police why they were at the drugstore.

Joe is arrested for the robbery, since the clown suit was his (he has a side gig performing at parties and daycare centers). Jeff is pleased not to have to work with a criminal anymore, but Elizabeth thinks there was a mistake. No way is a nice guy like Joe actually a criminal. Lila thinks that if he was arrested, he must be guilty. If Lila keeps up that attitude until she’s an adult (and let’s face it, she will), she’ll never have to serve jury duty.

Inspired by her Amanda Howard book, Elizabeth calls the SVPD to try to talk to an officer about Joe’s case. I guess she plans to try to talk him into releasing Joe because he’s too nice to rob anyone. No one wants to talk to a 12-year-old, though, so she doesn’t actually talk to anyone. After talking to Mr. Casey, the owner of the ice cream parlor, who always liked Joe, Liz decides to learn more about the accused criminal. She goes to SVU and chats with a student named Wendy who has known Joe for a few years. She tells Liz that Joe used to run track, but he disappeared for a while, and when he came back, he left the team.

Liz makes Jessica go with her to visit Joe in lockup, because apparently 12-year-olds are allowed to do that in Sweet Valley. Joe doesn’t give Elizabeth anything that can help, so she turns her attention to Jeff, thinking he’s connected to the crime. She stalks him, but he doesn’t do anything suspicious. She goes back to Casey’s with Amy, and Amy accidentally knocks over her ice cream, so Liz goes to get a mop. She sees a set of Joe’s apartment keys there and steals them. Now who’s the criminal, Liz?

Elizabeth goes to Joe’s apartment and has to hide in a closet when a couple of police officers show up. She finds something in the closet that she thinks is a robot leg. The police find the gun from the robbery in Joe’s freezer (which makes me think of this exchange from Veronica Mars), so things are looking pretty bleak for poor Joe. But Liz is still convinced that he’s innocent, and if there’s one thing Elizabeth can do, it’s obsess about something until everyone does the right thing.

Thanks to all the brainteasers she’s been doing and all the Amanda Howard mysteries she’s read, Liz’s brain has started working a little differently. A brainteaser about a woman having a tooth pulled somehow directs her toward what Joe’s been hiding – the “robot leg” in his closet is really a prosthetic leg. She and Wendy do some digging in the library’s newspaper archives and discover that he was injured in a car accident and must have had his leg amputated. This explains why he left the track team, and why he didn’t even blink when Liz kicked him. This means the clown, who did react when Jess kicked him, couldn’t have been Joe.

Elizabeth shares all this with Jessica, but Jess is more worried about public humiliation than an innocent man’s freedom, and she refuses to testify. No way is she going to tell people that she was buying pads! Elizabeth decides to take her place in an after-the-fact twin switch – Jess was wearing her sweater, and no one can tell from surveillance footage which of them is which anyway. So Liz gets on the stand and testifies, pretending to be Jess, which means saintly Elizabeth Wakefield has now committed an actual crime.

But never mind that – Liz’s plan works, and when the jury finds out that Joe has a prosthetic leg and couldn’t have been the clown, they find him not guilty. Sometime later, Jeff is arrested for robbery, having framed Joe to get him out of the way so Mr. Casey wouldn’t leave him the ice cream parlor upon his retirement. Elizabeth tells Jessica that the maxi-pad company wants her to be their spokesperson because she inadvertently gave them such good publicity. I thought she was teasing Jess, but apparently this is for real. Jess could have been on TV if she hadn’t been so worried about embarrassing herself. Ha ha! Also, I hope Liz gives some of the money she gets from the company to Joe.

Thoughts: This book is basically that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob frames Krusty for robbery. In other words, The Simpsons already did it.

I guess the police in Sweet Valley aren’t familiar with DNA testing, or they would have figured out that a second person’s DNA was on Joe’s clown costume.

Elizabeth: “I wonder who they arrested.” Jessica: “I hope it’s somebody we hate.” Okay, that was funny.

Sweet Valley has a daycare center called the Cute Little Kids Day-Care Center. Way to be creative, ghostwriter.

But it has to be a robot foot, Elizabeth thought. I mean, they don’t make metal chickens nowadays – do they?Actually…

June 27, 2017

SVT #95, The Battle of the Cheerleaders: This Is Why the Clovers Thought They Should Be Called Inspiration Leaders

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

This is kind of excellent

Summary: The title of this book should really be The Battle of the Basketball Players, since The Battle of the Cheerleaders implies a battle between two squads. In actuality, the plot is about how the girls decide to start a basketball team but have trouble finding support. The twins have recently developed an interest in the sport (I could have sworn Jessica used to play on a team, but according to this book, no such team exists), and some of their friends show off their skills during a pick-up game. Since SVMS has no girls’ team, they decide to start one.

The season is almost over, and there’s no one available to coach them, and no place to practice even if they had a coach. The girls – the twins, Lila, Janet, Ellen, Maria, Amy, Julie, and a couple other Unicorns no one cares about – are really into their new idea, though, and decide to keep moving forward. Jessica comes up with their team name, the Honeybees.

Without a coach, the girls’ first practice doesn’t go well. They decide to ask Steven to help them out, but he laughs them off – he’s not going to waste his time helping middle-school girls who aren’t going to win any games. He’s right, as they play horribly in their first game. But Steven is trying to get a job coaching at a basketball camp that summer, and he needs experience, so he changes his mind about coaching the Honeybees.

Steven runs his practices like any other coach would, making the girls run and do calisthenics. They hate him for it, but it works. Meanwhile, the middle-school boys’ team, the Wolverines, are on their way to the finals. They’ve had a ton of fans at their games, and the Boosters are always on hand to cheer them on and drum up crowd support. The Honeybees think that, in exchange, the Wolverines should come to their games. The guys laugh them off – girls? Playing sports? How ridiculous!

Thanks to their coaching and the improvements they’ve made in their practices, the Honeybees play much better in their next game and only lose by two points. They still wish the Wolverines would come to see them, but the Wolverines still refuse. The girls decide to make a threat: If the guys don’t come to their games, the Boosters won’t cheer at the Wolverines’ games anymore. Plus, Elizabeth won’t mention their next game in the Sixers, so they won’t have the big crowd they usually do.

The boys ignore the threat, and the Boosters follow through, leaving the Wolverines without a cheering section at their next game. They lose, but Bruce refuses to back down. Meanwhile, the Honeybees win a game, and the Boosters who aren’t on the team (Winston, Grace, and Kimberly) agree to form a mini-squad with Mary to cheer at the girls’ games. With the Boosters all busy either playing or cheering at the girls’ games, the guys are really left on their own.

The guys finally talk Bruce into giving in and trying to get the Boosters to come back to their games. Awesomely, the girls don’t consider their non-apologies and passive-aggressiveness as enough of an olive branch. The Wolverines have to agree to come to the Honeybees’ games and cheer them on from the stands. They show up reluctantly, late and in disguise so no one will recognize them. I guess it’s a fate worse than death to be seen at a girls’ basketball game? The guys also leave early, missing the end of the game, which the girls win.

Bruce throws a victory party for the Wolverines, even though they haven’t won finals yet (I imagine there’s a “mission accomplished” banner on the wall). The girls show up and are upset that their accomplishments are barely acknowledged. Bruce just puts their name on the corner of a cake, but he puts “Bumblebees” instead of “Honeybees.” Jessica’s so mad that she throws cake at him.

Since the boys barely stuck to their end of the deal, the Boosters skip the Wolverines’ next game. Aaron and Todd tell Bruce that he needs to apologize to the Honeybees for real, or they’ll have no chance in the rest of the tournament. The girls happen to be practicing during the Wolverines’ game, so Bruce finds them, literally gets down on his knees, and tries to make himself look pathetic so they’ll have pity on them. It doesn’t work, because the girls really are awesome in this book.

Finally, the girls decide to take advantage of the boys’ desperation and make a new deal: They’ll cheer at the Wolverines’ game if the boys dress up and cheer at their next game. The boys win their game and stick to the deal, actually getting into it as the Honeybees’ game goes on. The Honeybees win, of course, despite having only been a team for a few weeks. Steven gets the summer job, thanks to his excellent coaching. And I hope the girls take lots of pictures of the boys so they can always have the memory of the time they were so awesome.

Thoughts: Maybe it’s just from being on a power trip but Steven is actually a good coach.

Dear girls from Johnson Middle School: The Violets is a bad team name. A very bad one. The Honeybees isn’t that great either, but it’s not as bad as the Violets.

Jessica to a girl she’s guarding during a game: “I’m all over you like ugly on an ape.” That’s a new one.

June 20, 2017

SVT #94, Don’t Talk to Brian: This Is Really Taking Victim-Blaming Too Far

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

This looks nothing like how I pictured Brian. Also, I don’t think he’d eat anything pink

Summary: Brian Boyd is still causing trouble at SVMS, only things have gotten worse as he’s now disrupting classes and generally being a tiresome jerk. He comes to school with a black eye and says he got in a fight with some other kid, a story no one doubts because that’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen to him. Mr. Bowman tells the twins’ English class that they’ll be studying families, and everyone will need to write an essay about parenting. The person with the best essay gets to read it at a reception for everyone’s parents. Brian finds this assignment ridiculous and heckles everyone throughout the class. He lands in detention for his behavior.

When Brian gets home, we learn why his attitude is so bad: His mother is an alcoholic and his father is abusive. Elizabeth hears him crying after his father hits him – apparently the Wakefields’ and the Boyds’ houses share an alley – and Liz tries to show Brian some compassion. He brushes her off, so she decides he got in another fight and doesn’t deserve her sympathy.

Mr. Bowman picks Liz, Brian, and Maria to do some role-playing in class; Liz is Brian and Maria’s daughter, and she’s just been caught sneaking in after curfew. Brian laughs off the assignment, then gives Liz a harsh punishment. Mr. Bowman should probably just not call on Brian anymore. On the way home from school, Elizabeth sees police cars outside Brian’s house and guesses that he’s finally gotten in trouble for fighting. Later, she reads an article in the local paper about a 12-year-old boy being removed from his home by Child Protective Services while they investigate possible abuse. She realizes it’s Brian and accidentally alerts Jessica to what’s going on with him.

Jess, of course, can’t keep her mouth shut, and she tells Lila and Janet that Brian has had to move out of his house (though she doesn’t tell them about the abuse). By Monday morning, the news is all over SVMS. Everyone thinks Brian got kicked out for fighting, and Maria, among others, has no sympathy. (I can’t really blame her, considering how he treated her in It Can’t Happen Here.) Some kids, however, try to be nicer to Brian – Ken, Todd, and Aaron invite him to play video games with them. When Todd says that everyone knows what’s happening with Brian, Brian takes off, accidentally flipping over a table Real Housewives-style. This lands him on Principal Clark’s radar.

The news about Brian spreads to people’s parents, and Elizabeth overhears some of them complaining to Mr. Clark about their kids having to attend school with a bully. We learn that Brian’s family life was fine until just the past few years, when Mr. Boyd’s problems at work made him mean and violent. His mother dealt with it by drinking and didn’t bother trying to protect her son. Brian’s staying in a group home until a foster family is found, but he doesn’t think anyone will want him. He also thinks Mr. Bowman knew he was being abused and did nothing, which is a whole other issue that never gets addressed.)

Brian’s situation starts to really affect Liz, who has a nightmare about being the next target of abuse. She and Maria attend a PTA meeting as student representatives, and learn that a number of parents want Brian to leave Sweet Valley. Apparently a kid who comes from an unstable home is too much for their delicate angels to handle. They have no sympathy for Brian and want to see him punished when he’s done nothing wrong. Liz is shocked that Maria agrees – she hates Brian and wants him out of the school.

Mr. Clark tells everyone that Brian will be placed with a foster family in Big Mesa, but since he’s going through so much upheaval, they’d like to keep him at SVMS. He has a petition for parents to sign to allow Brian to stay. The parents are completely divided, and to Elizabeth’s surprise (and dismay), Ned and Alice want him to go. She wonders who will look out for Brian if so many adults are going to just turn their backs on him.

SVMS has a special assembly addressing child abuse and how the victim is never to blame. The students learn that Brian is being sent to Big Mesa Middle School, and Maria still doesn’t care. Mr. Bowman reads Brian’s family essay in class; it’s about how his life started out great and then slowly fell apart, and he didn’t know how to stop it. He started to lose hope that his life would ever get better. Jessica feels horrible because she’s spent the whole book complaining about her parents and how they won’t increase her allowance or let her go to a sleepover on a school night. She’d much rather have love and security than money and popularity.

Liz wants to fight to let Brian stay at SVMS, so she takes a page out of Mr. Clark’s book and writes a petition. She reads it at the family reception and asks the parents to help Brian instead of letting him be sent away for someone else to deal with his problems. She emphasizes the fact that Brian isn’t to blame for the abuse, so he shouldn’t be punished. The parents change their minds and help Brian find a foster family in Sweet Valley. Brian is grateful, and suddenly a much more pleasant person. Even Maria makes an effort to be friendly to him. Yay, all his problems are solved! Sweet Valley is such a magical place that he probably won’t suffer any psychological damage or have any problems in the future!

Thoughts: Brian’s family is supposed to be rich, but considering their house is next to an alley that’s also next to the Wakefields’ house, I don’t know.

Fun fact: In the Sweet Valley-verse, there’s a TV show called Snob Hill 90214.

I assume Brian has a 180-degree personality change after this, because if he’s ever mean again, someone can just say, “Remember when we didn’t get you kicked out of our school? We can undo that.”

Next page