December 27, 2016
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
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
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
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
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
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.
March 3, 2015
Summary: Elizabeth is understandably upset that Jessica has snagged Ryan just minutes after Liz dumped him. She warns Jess not to get involved with him, but Jessica thinks she’s just jealous, and also thinks for some reason that Liz thinks she’s not smart enough to date Ryan. For some reason, Elizabeth doesn’t straight-out tell her that Ryan is an alcoholic and that their relationship is going to be a big mess. When she does eventually tell Jessica, Jess laughs, thinking it’s a last-ditch effort to break them up.
At first, Jessica thinks Ryan is just a big partier. Then he ticks her off by calling her Elizabeth when he’s drunk. Not long after, Jessica finds out firsthand how far gone he is. After he learns that Patti, his AA sponsor (who also relapsed), has put herself in the ICU by driving her car into a wall (possibly on purpose), Ryan goes on a bender, steals a boat, and takes Jess for a joyride. A bunch of lifeguards have to take another boat out and save them. Ben and Priya are there, and Priya and Jessica end up calling a truce.
But Jess and Ryan are definitely not on good terms, and he’s still a huge mess. Elizabeth babysits him that night, finally getting him to tell her that he’s gone off the deep end because of Patti (who, by the way, ends up dying). By the morning, Ryan has decided to quit drinking so he doesn’t end up like Patti. He doesn’t get back together with either twin, which is a little surprising. Jessica and Ben agree to be friends, and Jessica decides to try to move on with another lifeguard.
I was going to say that Nina has baby mama drama, but I’m really way too white to pull that off. While Rachel is over at Stu’s, telling him how excited she is that they’re going to be a family, Nina breaks into Rachel’s apartment to look for proof that she’s lying. She finds a bunch of negative pregnancy tests, plus a picture of a boy who looks a lot like Stu. The boy’s name is David, which is what Rachel wants to name the baby.
Nina and Stu confront Rachel, who’s fully nuts at this point, trying to kill Nina and all. In the middle of her psychotic break, she reveals that she saw her childhood best friend David get hit by a car and die. (David’s resemblance to Stu is never really explored; I think it’s just what put her over the edge to begin with.) This comes with Rachel reverting to being ten years old, so there is clearly something really, really wrong with her.
Nina wants to let the authorities handle Rachel, but Stu feels sorry for her and wants to pay for her to get some top-notch psychiatric treatment. Then there’s a random bit where Nina and Stu run into Paul, Nina’s love interest from the previous beach trilogy, who’s now a cop and knows a little about Rachel’s legal troubles. Then I guess Rachel gets committed and Stu forgives her for all her actions. Also, I don’t remember Rachel’s family being mentioned at all, so…what’s up with that? Shouldn’t Stu and Nina try to reach them?
With Pedro back in town, Winston is determined to get him and Wendy back together, partly because they still love each other and partly so Winston doesn’t have to deal with Wendy’s newfound crush on him. The two guys scheme to make Wendy think she’s visiting a psychic who can channel people’s feelings, or something like that. She’ll tell the psychic how she feels about Pedro, and the psychic will be able to tell her how Pedro feels. Except the psychic will really be Pedro. Wouldn’t marriage counseling be a lot more efficient?
Pedro puts on a great show as the fake psychic, and Wendy tells him that she still loves Pedro. He reveals himself to her by singing the song he wrote her. Suddenly everything is great between them, and Wendy will be going back on tour with Pedro for the rest of the summer. Pedro also hires Winston as a roadie. I guess it won’t be awkward that, five minutes ago, Wendy was all in love with Winston? Or that Winston will now be taking orders from a guy he considers a good friend? Are these people ever even mentioned again? How many alternate universes are there in Sweet Valley, anyway?
Thoughts: Pedro, trying on costumes to play the psychic: “I look like a deranged Pomeranian trying to pass itself off as Elvis!” If Wendy doesn’t want him, I’ll take him. I keep picturing him as Enrique Iglesias.
Rachel thinks the baby will be blond because Stu is and because she’s dyed her hair blond. So yeah, she’s definitely not playing with a full deck.
“Ryan had a few shots of whiskey last night and he was fine. How could only twice as many beers do him in this way?” Maybe because, assuming “a few” means three or more shots, twice as many would be t least six beers, which is a lot? I don’t drink and I’m bad at math, but even I get this.
Nina doesn’t like that Stu wants to finance Rachel’s stay in a “sanitarium.” First he’ll need to finance the construction of a time machine so they can travel back to when people still used that word.
February 24, 2015
Summary: The last book kicked off the series’ trend of having a monthly Friend In Need for the twins to help. This book’s is Patrick Morris, who has strict parents who make him do tons of homework, never let him go anywhere fun, cut his allowance and won’t let him talk on the phone after 6. Sounds like Richard Spier. He goes over to the Wakefields’ one day after school, then runs home as soon as his mom calls looking for him. She’s mad that he went to hang out with friends and do actual kid stuff instead of coming straight home to do homework and chores and other boring stuff.
The next day, the twins take Patrick his homework since he stayed home sick. He’s reluctant to let them in the house, since he’s only allowed to have one friend over at a time. When his mom gets home, Jessica leaves, and Mrs. Morris meets Elizabeth. She asks Liz and Patrick to help bring in some groceries. Then she runs into Jessica outside and thinks she’s Elizabeth. I bet the twins could keep this up for a long time if they ever wanted to visit Patrick at the same time.
Patrick tells his friends that he wants to try out for the school band; he’d like to learn to play the saxophone. But he’s not sure his parents will be okay with that. Spoiler alert: They’re not. They want him to focus on his schoolwork, and they’re worried that the lessons and the instrument will be expensive. Even when Patrick assures him that the lessons are through the school and that he can borrow a sax, they say no to the band. I can’t really argue with their rules about having friends over and setting a curfew, but this? Makes no sense. Let the kid have a hobby.
Patrick decides to try out for the band anyway. He’ll demonstrate that he can do band while keeping his grades up; then his parents won’t have an excuse not to let him join. He hides his sax in the Wakefields’ shed and practices there. Ned and Alice are like, “Oh, the neighbor’s practicing with the windows open again.” Elizabeth is reluctant to go along with this plan, but Jessica reminds her that she’s always yapping about doing the right thing and helping people. Like, the one time Jess wants to meddle for the right reasons, Liz is against it.
The practicing pays off and Patrick makes the band. Mr. and Mrs. Morris are furious that he disobeyed them. Patrick disappears, and everyone thinks he’s been kidnapped. Someone delivers a note to the Wakefields’ ordering everyone to stop searching or something bad will happen to Patrick. For once, the twins do the reasonable thing, giving the note to their parents. The police are smart enough to figure out that the note is fake, since it doesn’t demand a ransom.
Winston confesses to the twins that Patrick is hiding out in his basement. He wrote the note and made Winston deliver it (though why would he take it to the Wakefields? Why not the Morrises?). Jessica wants to give Patrick money so he can stay hidden, but Elizabeth thinks that’s a stupid idea.
The twins go home, where the Morrises are freaking out about Patrick. Elizabeth announces that he’s at Winston’s, and her parents are like, “Why didn’t you say something two minutes ago?” Yeah, like you’re going to punish her. You may not be as strict as the Morrises, but you still suck as parents, Ned and Alice. Everyone goes to Winston’s, but Patrick has taken off again, having predicted that Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut. Heh. He’s now hiding out in an abandoned church.
So everyone gathers at the church, which is structurally unsafe, and the Morrises beg Patrick to come out. He won’t, so someone calls the fire department to get him out. At this point, if I were the Morrises, I’d be mentally composing a list of chores for my son to do until the end of time, because it’s one thing to run away, but it’s another to throw a tantrum and practically barricade yourself someplace unsafe instead of trying to talk things over. Anyway, the floor collapses and Patrick gets trapped and has to be rescued by his father. The Morrises are so happy that Patrick’s okay that they don’t even punish him. I would not be so lenient.
The Morrises reveal that they’ve been stricter than usual lately because Mr. Morris lost his job. The Morrises were against Patrick taking sax lessons because they were worried about the added expense, and they wanted him to focus on his schoolwork because he might need a college scholarship someday. Okay, but…he’s in sixth grade. Did Mr. Morris think he’d be out of work for seven years? It doesn’t matter anyway, since he has another job now, and the Morrises have learned their lesson about not being honest with their kids, and about taking it easy on Patrick. I still hope he gets grounded for a really long time, though.
The B-plot is about how Jessica has a crush on Bruce but for some reason isn’t assertive enough to either ask him out or find reasons to spend time with him. She gets paired with Winston for a science project and worries that her friends (and Bruce) will see her as dorky for hanging around with someone who’s actually dorky. I think they understand assigned partners, Jess. They do a project on mold, and their teacher asks them to display it on Science Day at the library. Jess wants to go to a football game that same day, since Bruce will be there, so she makes a deal with Winston to go to the library after halftime.
Then Jessica learns that Bruce is having a big party after the game, with an appearance by a band everyone loves. Jess decides to skip Science Day, but karma comes around to bite her. The party is basically just a bunch of people hanging out. There’s no band or food, and Bruce barely acknowledges most of the guests. I find it hard to believe that Bruce wouldn’t throw a big bash with fancy food and at least a DJ, but then again, middle-school boys are pretty clueless about hosting stuff. The plot fizzles out, except Jessica gets in trouble for telling her parents she was going to Science Day and then skipping it. Ha, she went to a bad party and got punished for it. Serves her right.
Thoughts: Winston is described as shy. In what universe?
Usually I’m against Elizabeth’s endless “I always know the right thing to do” behavior, but in this book, she was right to tell the Morrises where Patrick was. Once the police get involved in something, it’s time to quit screwing around.
(J. Walter Weatherman voice) And that’s why you tell your kids the truth.
February 17, 2015
Summary: Ryan’s ticked because Elizabeth missed their date due to car trouble and wasn’t able to get in touch to let him know. Ryan is now officially off the wagon, which makes him a huge jerk. Like, so jerky that even Elizabeth deserves better. They fight a bunch, and it’s kind of annoying because Elizabeth is totally right but can’t present her argument in a way that doesn’t make me roll my eyes. I think Ryan’s in the same boat there.
Ryan decides he can’t be a lifeguard anymore, since it doesn’t leave him with enough time for drinking. This is actually a good move because a drunk lifeguard is a really, really, really bad lifeguard. He gives his job to Nina, who’s understandably mad because it means a huge increase in responsibility, and she won’t be able to spend as much time with Stu. Elizabeth tries to whine to Nina about Ryan quitting, but Nina awesomely tells her to shut up about how it affects her, since it’s had a much bigger impact on the squad as a whole, and Nina in particular.
Jessica’s been dealing with Ben and Priya’s relationship, and by the way, Ben is a huge jerk. I get Priya being annoying to Jessica, but Ben keeps egging her on and teasing Jessica, and I don’t get why Jess would still want to be with him. Eventually she decides that she wants Ryan instead, which makes much more sense, but she’s hesitant to make a move since he and Liz just broke up. She goes to see him, wearing some of Elizabeth’s clothes, and at first he’s so drunk that he thinks she’s Liz. When he realizes she’s Jess, he’s like, “Awesome, she’s the fun twin anyway.” Elizabeth picks this time to try to talk to Ryan once again, and she finds him making out with her sister.
Nina wants to keep her relationship with Stu a secret, since she made such a big deal about hating all men, but they run into Winston and Wendy at some New Age-y coal-walking event, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re romantically involved. There’s a whole big deal about Nina walking on the coals that goes on way too long. The point is that there’s a woman stalking her because she thinks she and Stu belong together. She shoves Nina, who almost falls on the coals. It’s too dark for anyone to see who she was.
Later, Nina finds her bathing suits shredded, then gets hit over the head and knocked unconscious. She doesn’t remember getting knocked out, so she thinks she just fainted. Then she thinks she sees a baby in the water, but when she jumps in it save it, she can’t find it. When she gets home, someone has left a doll in her room, and she realizes that’s what she saw in the water.
Nina catches Stu trying to hide a letter, and she learns that this mystery woman slept with him once and became obsessed. He couldn’t deal, so he took off on a trip and only came back to the shore just before he met Nina. Her name was Rachel, and Nina thinks he’s talking about troublemaker Rachel Max, but the description Stu gives of his mystery woman doesn’t match that Rachel. It doesn’t matter, though – Nina’s just ticked that he slept with a woman, then ditched her.
After some time apart, Nina decides to talk things over with Stu, who promises that he loves her and hasn’t had anything to do with Rachel since their night together. Then Rachel shows up, and of course it’s Rachel Max. Nina and Stu tell her to go away, but Rachel announces that there’s something that will keep her and Stu connected forever: She’s pregnant.
Wendy wants to divorce Pedro, and Winston’s determined to help them fix things, so he takes Wendy to psychic healers, like a crystal reader, to try to get her to see that she’s making a mistake. But spending all that time with Winston makes Wendy think he’s the one for her. Oops!
Thoughts: In case you were wondering, the twins are still size sixes in college.
Elizabeth makes a brie and tomato sandwich. What kind of college student eats brie? I mean besides Lila and Bruce.
Ryan to Elizabeth: “Your voice hurts my brain.” If these were audiobooks, I would probably say the same thing.
January 20, 2015
Summary: Jessica, Elizabeth, Nina, and Winston are back to the Sweet Valley Shore for another summer. The girls are going to be lifeguards again, and Winston is going to stay with old pal Wendy and look for a dignity-sapping food-service job. The twins have lost touch with their previous summer loves, Ryan and Ben, and aren’t sure what their relationships will be like this time around. Nina is still dating Bryan, but is currently mad at all men who have ever existed because she thinks Bryan’s cheating on her.
Elizabeth quickly reunites with Ryan, but he’s acting a little distant. This doesn’t keep her from making out with him all the time, though. Why let something like talking get in the way of kissing? They go to dinner at Ryan’s AA sponsor’s house, and Liz learns that said sponsor, Patti, has fallen off the wagon in a big way. She’s upset that Ryan didn’t tell her. Ryan explains that he thought Patti would behave herself at dinner. He’s also wondering if she’s not right that alcoholics can have a few drinks in moderation without really harming their sobriety.
Ryan’s cranky a lot, yelling at Elizabeth for not doing her job correctly and being mean to beachgoers. When the anniversary of Ryan’s sobriety comes around, Elizabeth wants to go to dinner to celebrate. There’s this big deal made about how Elizabeth spends too long getting her hair done, and then the Jeep breaks down, and she can’t call the restaurant because she can’t get to a working phone, and she’s freaking out the whole time because she thinks Ryan will believe she doesn’t care about him. Apparently this is true, because Ryan thinks he’s been stood up, and he consoles himself with whiskey.
Ben is, indeed, back for another summer at the shore, and Jessica thinks they’ll go right back to their summer fling. She’s wrong, as she usually is. Ben is dating a girl named Priya, who is a horrible, snobby brat even Lila would call over-the-top. Priya thinks Jessica is dumb (which…okay, point Priya) and mocks her for not having read Dostoyevsky. Jessica goes out and gets Crime and Punishment, but she struggles to get through it. Priya calls her out for not remembering all the details, but Jessica gets her back later for not remembering all the details of Dangerous Liaisons.
Back on the beach, Jessica spots some people in trouble and starts to go save them. Priya trips her and rushes out to make the save in her place. So mature, that Priya. Jessica accuses her, but Ryan thinks she just screwed up and is embarrassed. The whole thing is dumb, and I hope Ben is worth all this madness.
Man-hating Nina goes for a float in an inner tube and ends up on a private beach. She seems to have heat stroke, and a guy named Stu tends to her. He’s a hippie surfer, with all the stereotypes that come with that – you know, New Agey, save-the-dolphins, surfer lingo stuff. He’s very sweet to Nina, calling her “mermaid” and making sure she’s okay. Nina is a jerk to him, because that’s who she is in this book.
Stu shows up at the beach while Nina’s on duty, and she tries to ignore him because she thinks he’ll just ditch her for another girl. But when another girl flirts with him, he tells her he already has someone in mind to be with. Nina soon realizes that not all guys are jerks, and that Stu is her ideal man. She goes to see him on his private beach, which is actually an island, because he made a ton of money designing some super-popular surfboard. She realizes that her bike tires are flat, and Stu tells her they’ll fix them in the morning. Nina has no instincts and doesn’t think there’s anything fishy about this.
Winston is hired at an ice cream place that may or may not be a front for the mob. He has a hard time dealing with all the little kids around, which is weird, because I always thought Winston was good with kids. At one point he asks himself WWJD, but the J is for Jessica. I would think Jessica would take a job that didn’t involve annoying children, but that’s just me.
After a bunch of kids complain about their ice cream, Winston takes off in his truck, then gets pulled over for driving recklessly. The police officer discovers that he doesn’t have a commercial license, which he told his boss he had, so he shouldn’t be driving an ice cream truck in the first place. Winston ends up getting arrested, and calls Wendy to bail him out. She reveals that things aren’t working out with Pedro, who’s now her husband, and she’s filing for divorce. What a happy summer everyone’s having!
Thoughts: I hate when they do these mini-series and ignore the regular series. Todd and Nick don’t seem to exist in this universe.
Nina is unbelievably annoying in this book. I told her to shut up many times while I was reading.
“My perfect guy wouldn’t dream of being an activist.” Check. Only selfish jerks for Nina.
Priya, re: Dostoyevsky: “Surely you’ve heard of his classics – Notes from the Underground, The Devils?” Those are the two you’re going with? Not Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov? No one’s heard of The Devils. You shut up, too, Priya.
Priya again: “I’ve read Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the original French, so don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong.” Jessica, channeling Cher Horowitz: “Well, I’ve seen Dangerous Liaisons starring the original Keanu Reeves.” Heh. Point Jessica.