Where are we? Sweet Valley Middle School: soccer field
When are we? Hell if I know. It’s during the school year, and the boys’ soccer team has just made Division A because they were undefeated last year, and Aaron Dallas makes the team after the scrimmage in chapter one. So…whenever that happens?
Recap: Soccer is happening, and the boys get to “dedicate” their goals; Aaron scores three and dedicates them all to Jessica. He also becomes the first sixth grader to make the school team, apparently.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, gets chewed out by Mr. Bowman for not being impartial when she reported only one side of a story: Dennis and Alex told her they were unfairly kicked out of a candy shop, and she reported their side without checking with the shop owner, who has shown up at the school to complain. Wow.
Elizabeth corrects her story to include the shop owner’s side, but it still isn’t right, because it turns out the “food fight” that precipitated the whole fuss was two other boys from an entirely different school. Also, a rough draft gets printed by accident, and it includes Amy’s description of Dennis and Alex as “a pair of low-down, lying, slimy, food-fighting finks.” So this time it’s a parent who complains, and Liz gets hauled in and scolded again. They take the middle school paper REALLY seriously in Sweet Valley, apparently.
Some actress called Lois Lattimer appears on television to extol the virtues of activism, and since Jessica admires her she decides she needs a cause. Luckily for Jess, the boys’ soccer team might lose out on playing A Division games, whatever the crap those are, because their soccer field is slightly too small. Really? This is a thing in middle school sports? Anyway, she throws herself into fund-raising so the field can be expanded.
Led by Jess, the students raise $1767. Unluckily for Jess, Lila steals her spotlight by getting her father to donate the rest of the needed $5000. Jessica goes off to sit under the trees and cry, and feels a moment of kinship with a small brown bird.
Elizabeth drags Jessica along with her to interview the engineer who’ll be enlarging the field, and the girls learn that some of the trees are going to be bulldozed. At dinner Mr. Wakefield blithers on about old trees, and Elizabeth decides they need to find out how old the trees around the school are, so Mrs. Wakefield suggests she try the Nature Society.
The guy at the Nature Society tells them that some trees in the area are four hundred years old. He DOESN’T say that the trees around their school are that old, but since that’s what they ASKED him, I can’t entirely blame them for thinking that’s what he meant.
Naturally Jessica starts up a “Save the Trees” movement, and somehow the entire student body cares enough about this issue that they are all polarized, with the Soccer people and the Tree people flinging insults at each other. Janet throws a bitchfit and says anyone on the Save the Trees side can’t be a Unicorn. It’s a good thing Jessica, as a baby sociopath, is well capable of looking after herself.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, is agonizing over her efforts to stay neutral and report both sides fairly, which gets her precisely ZERO praise since everyone, even the teachers, has taken a side. People are coming up to her in the halls and telling her the newspaper needs to make a stand, and it’s cowardice not to, and other insane stuff that would maybe be understandable if they were debating war crimes but is completely nuts when applied to adding/not adding three yards to a childrens’ play space.
On the morning the demolition is scheduled to happen Jessica and her supporters bolt out of the school and chain themselves to the trees. Classic.
In the end Elizabeth borrows a stack of books from the Nature Society and stays up all night looking for that one crucial piece of information that will sway everyone to one side or the other. This is Sweet Valley, so she finds it: a picture of trees infested with bugs. The trees around their school have the same spongy patches at the base, so Elizabeth makes the Nature Society guy come out and look. He confirms that the trees will have to come down or else all the trees in Sweet Valley will end up infected, and also informs them that the school trees are only sixty years old. Oops.
So Jessica looks like an idiot, and it also looks like the school will have to spend the soccer-field-expansion money on cutting down ALL the trees. But then overnight Jessica realizes that, since the school is doing that to save the town’s trees, surely the school shouldn’t have to foot the bill. The city council agrees with her, and she gets acknowledged at a school assembly.
Also the Unicorns make up and start planning the next event: the annual school charity carnival, at which they “always” have the coolest booth, which makes precisely no sense because they are in sixth grade so surely they have only been at middle school for, like, less than a year.
Elizabeth on journalism:
“No, its not,” Elizabeth said with a frown. “That’s not being objective. That’s being emotional. We have to write the facts and let people decide for themselves that Dennis and Alex are a pair of low-down, lying, slimy, food-fighting finks.” (p.13)
The inside of Jessica’s head is an unhealthy place:
Two eighth-grade girls walked by with players from the soccer team. They were holding on to the guys’ arms, and it looked incredibly cool in a retro, nineteen-fifties kind of way. (p.21)
A Sociopath is Born:
“I’m through with causes that help people,” Jessica shouted back. “People are mean and selfish. But trees and animals are helpless and nice.” (p.65)
That is perfect 12-year-old philosophy, but I can’t make too much fun of it because some days I still feel that way myself.