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 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?

May 23, 2017

SVT #91, Deadly Voyage: It’s Like “Home Alone,” But on a Boat

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

This dude looks like a deranged monk with jaundice

Summary: The twins are about to head out on a day-long Saturday field trip with a bunch of other middle-schoolers. They’ll be exploring Santa Maria Island and observing wildlife for extra credit in science. Everyone’s excited to hang out on an island all day, and some of the students figure this will just be an easy extra-credit grab while they work on their tans. For once, Alice is getting involved in her kids’ lives, as she’s going along as a chaperone.

The kids are on a strict schedule, since a storm is coming that afternoon, and they need to be back before it hits. While the kids board the boat, the adults – teacher Mr. Siegel and chaperones Alice and Mr. Slater – stay on the dock, dealing with Kimberly, who doesn’t have a permission slip. Bruce gets all “I’m on boats all the time because my father has one, but it’s much better than this one.” He thinks he could run the boat, called the Island Dreamer, by himself. Nerd Donald Zwerdling disagrees, since the boat is old and probably doesn’t have the kind of technology Bruce is used to.

A man on the boat tells Aaron they’re ready to cast off, so Aaron undoes the rope tying the boat to the dock. After a couple minutes, the boat starts moving. The kids realize that the adults are all still on the dock (and Kimberly, but no one cares about her). Elizabeth and her smart friends (namely Amy, Maria, and Todd) panic about the lack of adult supervision, while the cool kids like the Unicorns think this means they get to hang out all day without doing schoolwork. They get annoyed when Liz says she’s going to tell the captain he needs to go back to the dock.

The captain isn’t as concerned as Elizabeth, telling her that the chaperones will join them on the island from another boat. He won’t open the door very wide or come out to talk to the kids, which Liz finds strange. The cool kids tell her to calm down. Janet even blasts her for always trying to run things, which is pretty rich coming from the bossy president of the Unicorns. Liz tries to relax and have fun with all the other kids, who are all enjoying themselves, except Donald. He brought a bunch of equipment with him for the island, and it’s telling him that they’re not going toward Santa Maria Island.

The kids foreshadow the next book by talking about getting shipwrecked on an island. The girls think it could be romantic. Bruce brings up Lord of the Flies, and suddenly the idea isn’t so appealing anymore. Then Jessica and Lila hear a banging noise from a supply closet and go to investigate. They’re shocked to find the real captain and a crewman tied up inside. They explain that the boat was hijacked, and two men knocked them out to use the boat as a getaway vehicle. The captain thinks they may be going to Mexico to get out of the country. This is a bigger problem than it seems: The trip to Mexico will take ten hours, so they won’t be able to dock before that big storm hits. The captain tells the kids to use a CB radio in his room to call for help.

Despite the fact that Janet was just mocking Elizabeth for always wanting to be in charge, this is the sort of situation where Liz shines. She quickly shifts into leader mode, assigning some kids to get the radio while the others pretend they don’t know anything’s up, in case the hijackers are watching them. Bruce tries to keep quiet about how he said before that he could handle the boat on his own.

While Liz, Amy, Maria, and Winston go find the CB, Jessica and Lila listen to a regular radio and hear that two men robbed a bank in Sweet Valley that morning. The police suspect that they’re on a boat. Good job, police! You’re so effective in this book! The other kids find the radio and Winston makes a mayday call, but the hijackers hear and get rid of the radio. They take the kids back to the rest of the group and tie everyone to the guardrail. Bruce and Jerry try to fight back with some karate moves, but they just embarrass themselves in front of everyone. This feels realistic – 13-year-old boys would probably think they can take on criminals, but would just end up looking ridiculous.

Back on shore, the chaperones have contacted authorities and are told that Winston made a mayday call. The adults start to realize that something really bad is going on. On the boat, the hijackers – who are dumb enough to use their real names, Jack and Gary – eat the kids’ lunches in front of them (just for funsies, I guess), then put the captain and crewman on a lifeboat and set them adrift in the water. Now the kids are completely on their own against the two hijackers.

Some of the kids start getting emotional, including Tamara Chase, one of the seldom-mentioned Unicorns. Janet’s like, “There’s no crying in Unicorns! Suck it up!” Ken thinks he sees dolphins, but they’re really sharks. So much for that sliver of happiness. Back on shore, the parents have all gathered and are told that the storm will make a rescue effort impossible. They’ll have to wait until it passes before they go looking for the kids.

As time passes on the boat, where everyone remains tied up, it soon becomes clear that the hijackers aren’t very bright. For one thing, they didn’t search the boat to make sure they’d secured all the hostages. Cammi Adams and Donald were able to hide during all the typing-up, and they use Winston’s pocketknife to start cutting kids free. Cammi proves her intelligence by deciding that they should only free a couple of people, to make it less likely that the hijackers will notice.

The freed kids, including Elizabeth, run off to hide. Lila and Bruce start fighting about which of their fathers will be first to offer up a reward for their return. Everyone is a little reassured that Elizabeth, Sweet Valley’s patron saint of good ideas, will come up with a plan to save everyone. Fortunately, they’re right. Liz uses Winston’s Walkman to make the hijackers think she’s found another CB. When they emerge to confront her, she scalds them with hot water and tries to flee through a porthole. She loses a shoe, but it’s a worthy sacrifice. The other kids then trap the men in a room, using brooms to keep the doors closed.

The good news is that now all the kids are untied. The bad news is that the storm is approaching. While the kids are trying to figure out how to get the boat to shore, the hijackers escape and recapture Elizabeth. Gary starts to push her overboard, but Jess channels her inner Liz and uses suntan oil to make Gary slip, then knocks him out with Bruce’s boogie board. One hijacker down, one to go. Elizabeth throws Gary’s gun overboard, wanting to decrease the odds of violence on the boat. I guess the ghostwriter didn’t want the book to end with one of the kids murdering someone.

Lila suddenly remembers that she has a cell phone with her (it’s 1995, so everyone calls it a cellular phone), so she starts to call her dad. Bruce is there to tell her she’s an idiot and call 911 instead. While they’re fighting with each other and trying to convince the 911 operator that they’re not pulling a prank, the phone goes flying into the water.

The kids move on to capturing Jack, which they pull off by having Winston drop a life preserver on him, then pulling it down to keep his arms immobilized. They knock him out with the boogie board and stash him with Gary. But before they can even celebrate the fact that they’ve now outsmarted two adults, they learn that Donald can’t figure out where they are, and the boat’s radio is broken. They’re lost at sea with a storm coming, and no way to call for help. Oh, and then the boat starts leaking.

Tamara loses it. This is seriously the only thing she contributes to the whole series – a meltdown. She goes out on deck, ranting about wanting to go home, and Liz has to go out in the middle of the storm to try to calm her down. It works, but a huge wave knocks Elizabeth overboard. The book ends with Liz just moments away from drowning. To be continued!

Thoughts: Re: Cammi: “She was a sixth-grader, and she looked it, Bruce thought dryly. Straight up and down.” Which I guess means he’s not going to try to rape her.

Jessica asks Elizabeth what she would pick if she could eat anything right now, and Liz chooses a salad. Girl, what’s wrong with you?

Lila, finding her cell phone: “I forgot that Daddy lent this to me this morning. He does that every now and then, you know. In case of an emergency.” Bruce: “Well, as soon as an emergency comes up, we’ll let you know! Then maybe you can use it!” Hee!

December 27, 2016

SVT #76, Yours for a Day: Indentured Servitude Has Never Been So Romantic

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

I can't believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

I can’t believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

Summary: Valentine’s Day is approaching, as is a Valentine’s Day dance at SVMS. The Unicorns (spurred on by Mandy) are organizing a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital (appropriately named Children’s Hospital) in which students can hire a personal servant for a day or two. Ellen wants to call it Yours for a Day, but the other girls say that’s dumb since the fundraiser takes place over two days. But that’s what the book is called, so I guess Ellen wins in the end. Anyway, for $5 you can hire someone for a day, and for $10 you get someone over two days. The “servants” don’t have to pay, but they also don’t get compensated, so servants are just volunteering out of the kindness of their hearts.

Mandy has a crush on a guy named Peter Jeffries, but she’s too nervous to ask him to the dance. When she calls to talk to him, she just hangs up the phone. Oh, Mandy, we’ve all been there. She also can barely speak to Peter when he comes by the Unicorns’ table to sign up to be a servant. Jessica realizes that if Peter and Mandy (who will be a master) get paired up, she can order him to take her to the dance. How romantic.

At the drawing, Mandy winds up as Jessica’s servant, which Jess is thrilled about. Not only is she paired with a friend (the other girls were worried about being paired with people they don’t like), but she can order Mandy to ask Peter to the dance. The drawback here is that the Unicorns are working as both servants and masters, and Jess winds up as Lloyd Benson’s servant. Lila’s working for Peter, and Janet’s working for Winston. Ha ha!

Lloyd’s annoyed with Jessica for the earthquake stuff in the last book, so he makes her do lots of stuff for him. If Jess were really smart, she would have Mandy do it for her. Instead, she tells Mandy that her only task is to ask Peter to the dance. Mandy manages to pull herself together and do it…but Peter already has a date to the dance. Aw, Mandy. At least he’s nice about having to turn her down.

Still, Mandy feels humiliated and gets mad at Jessica. She gets a little pleasure out of watching Jessica do dumb things on Lloyd’s orders, like eat gross cafeteria food and help him with science experiments. Aaron feels bad for Jess and tries to think of a way to get her switched to him so Lloyd can’t mess with her anymore. Elizabeth correctly guesses that Lloyd won’t agree to a switch since he’s eager to get revenge on Jessica.

Jessica is also hoping to switch, and she even asks Elizabeth to be Lloyd’s servant. Liz balks, but since Jess rigged the drawing for her and Amy (see the B-plot), she eventually agrees. But Lila and Mandy, scheming against Jessica, pull their own switch. Jessica was supposed to work for Belinda, so the girls get Belinda to switch servants with Mandy, making Jessica serve Mandy instead. In the meantime, Aaron convinces Lloyd to switch with him, thinking he’d get Jessica. Now he has Elizabeth as a servant.

The usually-not-vindictive Mandy makes Jessica sing “Feelings” in the cafeteria so she’ll be humiliated like she inadvertently humiliated Mandy. The song makes Grace Oliver cry, but not from horribleness. She and Winston had been going out, or whatever the 12-year-old equivalent of that is, but they had a huge fight and aren’t speaking. Grace asked Peter to the dance, but now she wants to make up with Winston and go with him. Jessica realizes that she has the opportunity to make everyone happy.

She goes to Lloyd, who’s Grace’s master for the day, and gets him to switch servants with Winston. Winston thinks he’s getting Jessica as a servant, but he’s getting Grace. They quickly make up and will be going to the dance together. Half of Jess’ plan is a success, even though the switch means Lloyd will be Janet’s master.

Jessica tries to negotiate with Lila to get her to make Peter, her new servant, ask Mandy to the dance. Lila wants too much in return, so Jess just calls Peter on her own. But it turns out that her work is done, and Mandy and Peter have already decided to go to the dance together. Once Peter learned that Grace was going with Winston, he asked Mandy, the person he’d wanted to go with in the first place. He wasn’t sure Mandy liked him, but once Jessica made her ask him to the dance, he realized she did. So Jess’ meddling helped a couple get together!

The new couple has a great time at the dance, and the master/servant fundraiser makes $800 for the hospital. Jessica’s the only one who’s not happy at the end, since Janet makes Lloyd a certificate entitling him to another day of servitude from Jessica. I guess it’s a small price to pay for a successful fundraiser.

In the B-plot, Elizabeth and Amy are annoyed with Todd and Ken, who are just acting like typical preteen boys. They play a prank on the boys, getting them to eat mayo instead of vanilla pudding. They think this makes them even, especially when the guys send the girls on a scavenger hunt for what the girls think will be invitations to the dance. They get the invitations, but they also get drenched with cold water. The girls decide they need more revenge.

Elizabeth and Amy get Jessica to rig the master/servant drawing so Todd will be Liz’s servant and Ken will be Amy’s. Then they make the guys do things like wear embarrassing ties, walk on their hands in the cafeteria, and give the wrong answers in class. The guys handle things well, and still want to take the girls to the dance. They’re even going to get them corsages. The girls think they’ve learned their lesson and are going to be gentlemen from now on.

On Valentine’s Day, the girls spend most of the dance sneezing. They figure out that the guys got one last revenge by putting sneezing powder in their corsages. The girls get revenge right back by making them sing “Feelings” in front of everyone. I guess this evens things up, as the pranks stop. The girls were definitely winning that war anyway.

Thoughts: Grace is in a lot more books than I remembered. I really didn’t think she was ever mentioned again after The Big Camp Secret.

I can’t believe Amy and Elizabeth didn’t think the guys might try to get them back after everything they had to do as servants. I would expect Elizabeth to be smarter than that.

“Daddy would give more, but he already donated a whole wing to the hospital, and he didn’t want to overdo it.” Oh, of course not. There’s such a thing as helping too many sick children.

April 19, 2016

SVT #52, Booster Boycott: Male Cheerleaders? Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?

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

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

Summary: Apparently Winston is a really good gymnast, and he wants to showcase his talents by joining the Boosters. The Boosters – well, the Boosters who are also Unicorns, which is all of them except Amy and Grace – are less than pleased. I mean, they already lowered themselves to socialize with Amy. What more can we expect from them? But Winston, Amy, and Grace think they could do a lot more stunts with a guy on the squad, and they need that boost since the Southern California Middle School Cheering Championship is coming up in three weeks.

The Unicorns put their feet down, following Janet’s lead, and Winston complains about discrimination. The girls deny the possibility of discriminating against a boy. The idea of these girls thinking they know anything about gender discrimination makes me roll my eyes so hard they fall out of my head. Elizabeth thinks a lot of other SVMS students will be on Winston’s side, so he starts a petition to get support. Grace wants to sign, but the Unicorns keep her in line.

Annoyed that anyone in the school would want to be on Winston’s side, the Unicorns get to work trying to get him to back off. Lila and Jessica tell a girl named Leslie that they’ll be friends with her if she doesn’t sign the petition, because that’s supposed to be a reward. Leslie’s not interested, and points out that at SVMS, nerds outnumber Unicorns, so Winston’s petition will be a success.

She’s right, as Winston gets more than 100 signatures, including Mandy, Belinda, and Grace’s. Uh-oh, there’s dissention in the Unicorn ranks! Janet gets her hands on the petition and tears it up, but Winston was smart enough to make a copy, which he’s already given to Mrs. Langberg, the Boosters’ completely useless faculty supervisor. Mrs. Langberg tells the girls that they have to let Winston try out. She should have said something before the petition, since I doubt they could have kept him out anyway.

A bunch of people show up to Winston’s tryout, because this is the only interesting thing going on at SVMS right now. I can’t believe Elizabeth isn’t dedicating an entire Sixers edition to it. The Unicorns basically turn the tryout into Missy’s audition from Bring It On, asking Winston to do all sorts of stunts that I doubt they themselves can even do. Winston aces everything, even throwing in an unrehearsed partner move with Grace.

The Unicorns have no choice but to let Winston on the squad…but that doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it. They try to get him to quit by decorating his locker all girly-like, because being a cheerleader means being a girl, of course. Winston ends up with a black eye from bully Charlie Cashman, but he’s able to laugh off everyone else’s teasing. At Winston’s first practice, Ellen puts glue on his seat in the bleachers, Kimberly puts a doll in his bag (not sure what that was supposed to accomplish), and Lila puts peanut butter in his shoes. These girls need some better dirty tricks.

Winston becomes a much better leader than Janet, whipping the girls into pyramid-formation shape and resolving disputes about how much they should practice. Grace is smitten and wants Elizabeth to put a cartoon she drew of Winston as a cheerleader in the paper. Since the cartoon depicts Winston wearing a cheerleading skirt, he’s embarrassed, thinking Grace only sees him as a joke. He decides he should quit the squad, telling Elizabeth the main reason he joined in the first place was because he has a crush on Grace.

After Elizabeth assures Winston that Grace doesn’t think he’s a joke – and, in fact, likes him back – Winston tries to rejoin the squad. Janet says no, since they’re finally rid of him. But when the cheerleading competition comes around, the girls can barely keep it together. They admit that they miss Winston, whose absence means they can’t do their best stunts. Winston happens to be hanging around the school during the competition, so the girls invite him to cheer with them. Of course, he helps them do a perfect routine and come in second in the competition. And then I guess Winston and Grace go kiss chastely behind the bleachers, though I don’t remember her popping up more than once or twice in the rest of the series.

The B-plot sees Todd getting jealous of the time Elizabeth has been spending with Winston. Ah, yes, this is the Todd we know and…well, not love. Tolerate. Elizabeth teaches Todd a lesson by setting him up to be caught helping Amy with a science project, so she can pretend to be jealous and Todd will get a taste of his own medicine. It works. Yawn.

Thoughts: Trivia: Winston’s middle name is Xavier.

Do the Boosters really think a guy who can do a no-handed cartwheel can’t do a handspring?

But really, I don’t get the point of the girls putting a doll in Winston’s bag.

Has Grace always been a Unicorn? I don’t remember that being mentioned in The Big Camp Secret. I thought Jessica, Lila, and Ellen were the only sixth-grade Unicorns before Belinda and Mandy joined.

September 29, 2015

SVU #44, Love Me Always: Jessica’s Status as a Black Widow Is Solidified

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:03 pm by Jenn

One of the worst covers of the series

One of the worst covers of the series

Summary: Clay’s trial for killing Officer Riviera is approaching, and Jessica is reluctantly staying away from Nick, who’s hiding out in case Clay wants to have him offed. Jessica’s been ordered to stay away from the trial, and I think it’s really cute that Nick believes she’ll listen to him. She shows up at the courthouse in disguise, pretending to be an old woman. Nick, however, is a trained detective, not to mention her boyfriend, so the disguise doesn’t fool him.

Jessica’s barely able to keep her mouth shut during the trial, since Nick’s testimony doesn’t go well. This is doubly depressing for Nick, since he goes through with his plan to commit perjury, lying that he (not Jessica) heard Clay admitting to killing Riviera. With things looking bleak for the police, Nick convinces the prosecutor to offer Clay a deal if he turns on the head of the mob organization he works for. This almost succeeds, until Clay hears Nick sneeze behind a two-way mirror and refuses to cooperate in anything he’s involved in. I don’t know how Clay knew it was Nick, but whatever. Also, he threatens to kill Nick.

Jessica tries to find out where Nick’s hiding out, so she can visit him. The police chief tells her a story about how he and his then-girlfriend were separated because they witnessed a crime, and it was super-difficult and blah blah blah, I thought it would end with the girlfriend being murdered, and a lesson for Jess that you don’t mess around when it comes to dangerous situations. But the chief and his girlfriend are now married and have been happy for decades, so I guess the lesson is that Jessica should get what she wants because what’s better than two people in love, even if they’d be risking their lives to see each other?

The police chief has Jessica followed so someone can slip her the address of the safehouse where Nick’s been hiding out. Jessica thinks she’s being followed by a hitman sent by Clay. It’s really dumb. Nick and Jessica are allowed to spend some time together, and she decides she can’t live without him, so they should get married, and then she can go with him into witness protection. Nick’s like, “But your codependence with your twin!” Jess is willing to leave Liz forever if it means she gets to stay with Nick. He doesn’t really respond, just telling her not to come to court when the verdict’s read.

Of course, Jessica doesn’t listen. This time she disguises herself as an old man. I kind of wish she’d resurrected Perdita del Mar for this. The chief tells Nick, in so many words, that he needs to break up with Jessica so she won’t want to come with him to witness protection. Jessica gets kicked out of the courtroom, but Nick manages to sneak away for one last makeout session. Then he’s dragged back to the courtroom, just like in a nightmare Jessica had, and she freaks out about never seeing him again.

She’s right to freak out: The verdict is read and Clay is sent to prison, but a masked gunman appears and shoots Clay. Jessica is back on campus at this point, so she and Elizabeth rush to the courthouse. Unfortunately, it’s too late: Nick’s dead. Now I’m sad. I liked him, and Jessica’s going to be devastated. Plus, this is, like, her fifth boyfriend who’s died. You suck, ghostwriter.

Hey, remember Todd? He still exists. Elizabeth runs into him and they chat about nothing for a little while before he heads to a session with a school therapist. Finally, someone in this town is getting well-needed counseling! Todd is still struggling with Gin-Yung’s death. He’s not as interested in basketball anymore, so his counselor advises him to find a new activity. How about music? When Todd heads to the music building to see what’s available for him to try out, he sees Dana. He thinks she’s hot. We don’t care, Todd.

The writers have suddenly decided that Dana needs our sympathy, so they let us know that all her friends hate her (because she ditched them when she was dating Tom). Also, she’s struggling with cello lessons, and everyone thinks she’s a jerk because she kept Tom and Elizabeth apart. Apparently everyone at SVU ships Tom and Elizabeth. Ugh.

At least one person has sympathy for Dana: Elizabeth. She tries to chat with her, but things go south when she brings up Tom. Liz gushes about how Tom is such a great guy for not just wanting to have sex with girls – he wants real relationships with them. Dana’s confused, so Elizabeth tells her that Tom said they never slept together. Dana gets offended, because why would a guy she was completely in love with deny having sex with her? She makes it clear that they humped like bunnies.

Elizabeth is humiliated that Tom lied to her. Now she can never trust another guy! Wow, Liz. She feels like he betrayed her. Not to go all Ross Geller on anyone, but they were on a break. But Elizabeth never let a little thing like facts get in the way of indignation, so she dumps Tom. Buddy, she probably did you a favor. But don’t think this means Elizabeth’s going to run back to Todd – after she bombs a recital and risks her scholarship, Dana runs into Todd, who asks her to get coffee. Todd, no! This is a bad idea!

Danny spends the whole book feeling horrible for the way he treated Isabella, and worrying that he’ll never get to talk to her again. Her parents consider moving her to Switzerland, but Mrs. Ricci decides that she should stay in Sweet Valley so Danny can visit her. Danny makes it his mission to bring Isabella out of her coma, so he plays her favorite Elvis songs and sprays her favorite perfume in her room. It’s actually kind of sweet. And somehow, it works! Except Isabella has total amnesia and can’t remember who Danny or anyone else is! GASP!

Denise is still furious with Winston for kissing visiting prep-schooler Brenda, though Winston maintains that she kissed him and he didn’t reciprocate. He’s desperate to make things up to Denise, so he goes to Bruce for advice. Yeah, read that sentence again. I wonder why this plan doesn’t work? Bruce tells Winston that Lila always responds to expensive jewelry, so Winston should win Denise back with something shiny. Winston gives this a try, not realizing that the ivory figuring he bought her was made possible by the death of an elephant. Wow, romantic.

Winston gets some advice from some random girl in his dorm, who tells him to think about Denise specifically, not women in general. He needs to do something to remind her why she fell in love with him in the first place. Winston’s brain interprets this as “buy her a cheeseburger and use that as a metaphor.” Denise finds this ridiculous, but when she sees how sad her reaction makes him, she feels bad. She decides to drag out her anger a little longer, but eventually forgives him after he serenades her with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It’s a kind of funny moment where all the girls in the dorm hear him singing outside Denise’s window and chant for her to take him back. So at least one couple in Sweet Valley is happy.

Thoughts: Brenda is described as a “brunette ringer for Jessica.” Does that mean there’s yet another Wakefield lookalike in Sweet Valley?

Nina (who has one unremarkable scene in the book) eats cottage cheese on toast. Is that a thing?

Isabella studied aikido. Sure, she did.

Why have Winston get relationship advice from someone we’ve never met before? Why not, say, Nina?

Elizabeth goes to the movies in a “short gold summer dress.” Wrong twin, ghostwriter.

“I mean, what does my sex life have to do with you, Elizabeth?” This might be the first thing Dana’s ever said that I agree with.

September 15, 2015

SVU #43, The Price of Love: Nick of Time

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:19 pm by Jenn

What...what is happening here? Is this supposed to be Nick? There's no way that's Nick

What…what is happening here? Is this supposed to be Nick? There’s no way that’s Nick

Summary: The book starts just where the last one ended, with Jessica and an unconscious Nick in the house where he tried to sting Clay. Nick regains consciousness, and Jessica tells him some of the things Clay said while he was out – namely, that he killed another cop, Riviera. Nick swears her to secrecy, deciding that he’ll pretend he heard the confession so Jess doesn’t have to testify and get involved in the whole mess. Unfortunately, until then, Nick and Jess will have to pretend they’ve broken up.

Jessica decides to make the fake split look more realistic by flirting with Clay. This seems like a foolproof plan. Lila thinks Jessica’s insane, considering what Clay did to Isabella. She tells Nick about Jess and Clay’s possible new relationship, which makes Nick go all Todd on Clay. Nick then covers up his jealousy by screaming at Jessica – in public – that she’s a slut for hooking up with another guy so soon after their breakup.

This doesn’t convince Clay of anything, or if it does, it doesn’t really matter. After all, Clay almost killed Nick, and with Nick…you know, not dead, Clay has a problem on his hands. He tries to have Nick kidnapped off the street, but Nick manages to get the attention of some nearby cops. Clay gets away, but Nick passes along the information that he killed Riviera, so the police are now on the lookout.

Since Jessica is a potential target, Nick enlists a young cop named Graham to be her bodyguard while posing as her new boyfriend. Jessica objects, even when Graham turns out to be cute. She’s pretty awful to him, making it clear that Nick is much more awesome than he is. I don’t think Graham really cares. Graham is a pushover, actually; he helps Nick and Jessica get together for a date when they’re not supposed to see each other. Thanks, Graham.

Despite the fact that Nick is staying in a hotel and using a “light disguise,” Clay is able to track him down. He brings along Nelson “The Nose” Karl, the head of the whole Sweet Valley drug empire. I’m curious whether he’s called “The Nose” because he has a large one or because he does a lot of cocaine. Nick escapes and leads Clay and Karl straight to where a bunch of cops are waiting for them. They’re not the smartest criminals, are they? Also, there’s an appearance by a helicopter, which supposedly takes the criminals by surprise, because bad books and movies always forget that helicopters are loud and can’t exactly sneak up on people.

So this means things get to go back to normal for Nick and Jessica, right? Wrong. There isn’t enough evidence to put Clay away without Nick having to testify, and Nick can’t be protected even after Clay’s in prison. He’s decided he needs to enter witness protection. Jessica wants to go with him, but Nick refuses to make her leave her life. They won’t be able to see each other ever again. There’s a super-dramatic scene where they say goodbye to each other. I would be more interested if I didn’t know what happens in the next book.

Elizabeth and Tom spend the entire book not talking about whether he slept with Dana. Elizabeth is freaking out about the idea but won’t bring it up. Tom notices that Elizabeth is upset about something but can’t get her to tell him what it is. This goes on FOREVER. Elizabeth finally asks the question…and Tom lies. Freaking A, Tom. I can’t take this plot anymore.

Winston gets a ridiculous plot involving a bunch of prep-school girls who visit SVU. They’re all in love with him (though I think it’s mostly because they go to an all-girls’ school and are so desperate for any kind of male interaction that they’d take anything). The girls act like rowdy six-year-olds. They have an actual food fight. And one of them, Brenda, kisses Winston while Denise is watching. This plot is exhausting.

Danny should have the most interesting storyline in the book, what with Isabella still being unconscious in the hospital, but it goes nowhere. Remember how Danny was accused of stealing a test he accidentally picked up? He’s supposed to meet with the professor about the incident and whatever kind of punishment he faces for it, but instead, she realizes that he didn’t do anything wrong. The professor’s suddenly so nice to Danny that I was sure she was going to try to seduce him and kick off a completely different plot. But no, she just lets the whole thing go. And then Danny realizes that he’s not mad at Isabella after all, and he wants her back. She’ll have to wake up first, of course.

Thoughts: The girls on Winston’s hall only get a few hours’ notice that they’re all expected to house overnight guests. I would walk out and spend the weekend somewhere else.

Winston tells the prep-school girls that he has a degree in sexual chemistry. First of all, that’s so weak. Second of all, THEY’RE UNDERAGE, EGBERT.

Jessica wears black velvet jeans. Why do I feel like Lila tricked her into buying those, making her think they were fashionable?

June 9, 2015

SVU #38, Good-bye, Elizabeth: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 6:17 pm by Jenn

I'm really getting tired of the generic covers that don't show anything that actually happened in the book

I’m really getting tired of the generic covers that don’t show anything that actually happened in the book

Summary: It’s the morning after Elizabeth’s disastrous goodbye party, and Tom is thinking about how he finally got to make out with her again…or so he thought. After a few minutes of kissing, he realized that he was with the wrong twin. By the time he’d figured it out, Elizabeth had left. Jessica, for her part, tells Nick that Tom kissed her. Nick buys it and never bothers to mention it to Tom, so it’s just another lie Jess gets away with.

Scott is ridiculously pleased that he’s about to get what he wants – namely, his obsession with him in Denver, away from Tom. He finds Dana, butters her up, and reminds her that they have the same goal: Keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. He warns her not to let Tom and Liz be alone together or Liz might change her mind about Denver.

Dana becomes a stereotypical crazed girlfriend, obsessed with keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. Tom isn’t amused. She cries, pretending to be upset because he kissed “Elizabeth” at the party, then kisses him, making sure Liz sees. Tom is pretty much done with Dana but doesn’t actually tell her that, which I don’t get. Maybe Tom is an any-port-in-a-story kind of guy.

Jessica tells Elizabeth that she pulled a twin switch and learned that Tom still loves Elizabeth. Liz is mad that she meddled. She’s still going to Denver, even though Jess begs her to stay. Scott talks Elizabeth into taking a leave of absence for the rest of the semester and going to Denver early. Like, tomorrow. He takes control of all the arrangements, like Elizabeth is some ’50s housewife who can’t pick up a phone to make a plane reservation. Elizabeth needs better instincts, like, now.

Jess buys flowers to make up with Liz. She runs into Tom, who talks her into letting him take the flowers to Liz. He writes an apology note, declaring his love. Later, Jess learns that Elizabeth’s leaving early, and she leaves Tom a message letting him know. She runs into Dana and tells her, so Dana knows that she only has to keep Tom and Liz separate for 24 more hours. Liz gets the flowers but gives them away to someone at the paper before she can read the note she thinks is from Jessica. Tom tries to talk to Elizabeth, but she’s annoyed with him and tells him to leave her alone.

Bruce invites Tom to his parents’ party. Dana decides she needs to go, too, even though Tom clearly doesn’t want to take her. While packing her things, Elizabeth finds a locket Tom gave her and decides to keep it. Tom finds a silly tie Liz once gave him and decides to wear it to the party. This is, by the way, the third or fourth party in this miniseries. How do these people ever get any studying done?

Dana is so determined to keep Tom from seeing Elizabeth before she leaves that she gets him angry before the Patmans’ party, knowing he’ll speed and possibly get pulled over for it. She also breaks his taillights to cause even more trouble. Unfortunately, her plan works a little too well – Tom is so angry that he talks back to the cop who pulls him over, and when he figures out that Dana broke his lights, he snaps at her. The cop sees him as a violent threat and makes him spend the night in lock-up.

By the time Tom gets out, Elizabeth is about to leave for the airport with Scott. Nick and Jessica rush Tom to the dorm, where Scott basically kidnaps Liz to get her away from anyone who might change her mind about leaving. Dana finds Tom, sees how upset he is, and realizes that she’s gone insane and screwed up his life. She confesses everything she did, including taking the letter he wrote Elizabeth a long time ago in an attempt to apologize for not believing her when she told him what his father did to her. Dana adds that Scott is a nutter, so Tom should try to get Elizabeth away from him.

Tom, Jessica, and Nick race to the airport while Scott continues freaking out about getting out of California. He tries to rush Elizabeth through airport security, acting more and more like a controlling, abusive boyfriend. Liz is wearing Tom’s locket under her shirt, and it keeps setting off the metal detectors. When she finally realizes what’s happening, she gives the locket to a kind security guard, who offers to return it if Elizabeth ever changes her mind.

Like a good little romantic movie cliché, Tom tries to get through security to stop Elizabeth from getting on the plane. He seems to think there’s a special pass they’ll give you when you just want to get to a gate without getting on a plane. He’s lucky this takes place pre-9/11, or he’d land himself back in jail. Airport security finds out that he was arrested recently and thinks he’s a threat. Tom’s mental state at this point isn’t really helping matters.

Liz finally calls Scott on his behavior, as he’s been throwing little tantrums all morning. He finally loses it completely, saying he’s wasted his money on her, and she wouldn’t have gotten into the DCIR without him. They fight, and she finally accepts what she’s been feeling for a while: She doesn’t want to go to Denver anymore. But it’s too late – the plane is leaving.

Tom finally gets to the gate and sees the security guard with the locket Elizabeth gave her. Somehow, he manages to get the plane stopped. Again, it’s like a movie, with the hero getting to his girl at the very last minute and convincing her to stay with him. Not that she needs much convincing. Elizabeth gets off the plane and announces that she’s not leaving Sweet Valley. Not seen: Scott screaming for the entire flight to Denver. So we have a semi-happy ending: Elizabeth is away from Scott, but she’s back with Tom, and I’m not looking forward to returning to that mess.

In other, even less interesting stories, Denise has been hired to cater the Patmans’ party, but it means she has to fool another group of people with lobster that isn’t really lobster. She’s terrified that she’ll be found out and sent to jail. I don’t think you can be sent to jail for serving tofu in place of lobster. But Denise has become dumber with each book, so I’m not surprised she thinks this way. It doesn’t help when she learns that one of the party guests is a reporter well-known for busting frauds.

But luck is on Denise’s side, and when the reporter finds out she’s serving lobster, he announces that a bunch of places in the area were shipped tainted lobster. The Patmans agree that the lobster shouldn’t be served. So you see, kids, if you lie long enough, eventually someone will get you off the hook and you’ll get away with everything!

There’s also a tiny bit about Nick taking college-entrance exams so he can go pre-law, and how his new taste in clothes makes Jessica think of Steven. The two of them fight because Jess doesn’t like the person Nick is turning into (a polite, productive member of society? Sounds about right). With Elizabeth leaving, Jessica decides there’s no reason to stay at SVU, so she makes the impulsive decision to follow through on something she thought about a couple books ago: going to the police academy. We’ll see if that lasts longer than five minutes.

Thoughts: I can’t believe Tom has so much trouble telling Dana that he’s through with her. It’s not like he’s ever had trouble speaking his mind before. Though maybe he’s smart for not coming right out and dumping her. She could react violently, since SHE’S A PSYCHOPATH.

“You must be Scott’s little girlfriend!” Do not work for that man, Elizabeth.

When Lila sees Nick dressed up for the party, she says he looks like “that cute guy in that new lawyer movie…based on that John Grisham book.” A Google search tells me that was The Gingerbread Man, and she’s either talking about Kenneth Branagh or Robert Downey, Jr. (unless Lila has a thing for Tom Berenger or Robert Duvall). I doubt it’s Branagh, so from now on, I’m going to imagine that Nick looks like a young RDJ. Nick “Iron Man” Fox.

May 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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