When Are We? A five-day period when the Wakefield parents are in Mexico without their children. At the end of The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley they were discussing maybe having a party while their parents were away, so yay, continuity!
Recap: Jessica thinks they’re going to have five days of freedom, so at school she starts inviting people to a party on the weekend. Steven is doing the same thing, so they agree to combine parties.
Elizabeth asks if their parents have any chores for them to tackle while they’re gone. They suggest the kids clean out the garage and have a yard sale, which they agree to because they need money for party supplies.
They night before they leave the Wakefield parents reveal that someone called Mrs. Brown will be staying with the kids.
I don’t object to having someone stay in the house while the parents are out of the country, but Mrs. Brown is so awful I could barely finish this book. I don’t know, maybe target-age readers are able to enjoy wallowing in the fantasy of being sorely mistreated by an adult, but reading this AS an adult was horrible. How could they leave without setting ground rules like, “Do not make up a bunch of house rules that aren’t ordinarily in place, and here are the usual things we eat”?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Jessica makes Liz promise not to tell everyone at school that they aren’t having a parent-free bash after all, because she’s embarrassed.
At home, May (Mrs. Brown, the babysitter) has set a new bedtime, a new limit on time spent watching television, and won’t allow after-school snacks. Because that is a totally reasonable way to approach a babysitting job: change all the house rules, and then yell at the kids for “having no manners” when they object.
Jessica puts purple dye in May’s shampoo, and I don’t actually blame her. I mean, it’s horrible, but so is cooking stuff people hate and forcing them to eat it. Bodily integrity: it’s a thing. She’s also waking them up at 5:30. I’d run her over with a truck.
Elizabeth sets May’s clock radio for 3:30, and tunes it to “the station that played the loudest and most obnoxious heavy metal music.” I can’t believe this ghostwriter has written an adult so awful I’m siding with the kids on this. Well done, ghostwriter. Or Francine, if this was in an outline that she wrote.
Steven makes her coffee undrinkable by adding garlic powder and stuff. May won’t let them use the phone.
On Thursday afternoon they have their garage sale, and they earn a lot of money but Jessica accidentally sells a carved wooden rose that belonged to their mother’s great-great-grandmother, so Elizabeth starts trying to track it down through antique dealers.
Meanwhile in the background of all this, Amy has been warping her personality out of shape over some guy she likes named Rob.
Jessica has a plan for getting rid of May on the night of their party, and Steven goes along with it. At dinner Elizabeth is confused that her siblings are trying to be polite and agreeable.
Elizabeth has a “setting up the next book” conversation with someone named Brooke who has divorced parents; her mother might be coming to visit, all the way from Paris.
Amy talks Elizabeth into bringing Todd along to Casey’s so he can meet Rob. They do, and he’s obnoxious.
Elizabeth talks to a man named Martin Hannaford at Valley Antiques; he hasn’t seen the wooden rose, but offers to call her if it turns up. She has to tell him not to call until after Sunday (because she’s not allowed to answer the phone in her own house while May’s in charge). Later she has a conversation in which May obviously doesn’t believe she stayed after school to work on the newspaper; it’s patently obvious to the reader that May has seen her at the antique shop. She sends Elizabeth to her room, and Elizabeth tells Steven and Jessica that she wants in on whatever plan they have for getting rid of May.
The night of the party Steven takes a backpack and pretends to run away, and a few hours later calls, saying that he’s at a convenience store near a friend’s house in Palilla Canyon. May leaves to pick him up, and apparently this will keep her away from the house for long enough to have a party.
The party is a disaster: people they don’t even know show up, there are food fights, the house and pool get trashed, Rob is obnoxious and tries to steal CDs, and May shows up before it’s over.
She’s so mad at the kids she packs to leave, which is a completely sane adult reaction! No, I’m kidding: it’s nuts and wildly irresponsible, and she could probably be charged with something (child abandonment?) for walking out of a house before the parents have returned from another country.
They apologize, she blows her whistle and drives all the horrible party guests out of the house, and then she has a heart-to-heart with the Wakefields and confesses she’s never looked after older kids before so she thought she had to “keep them on their toes” right from the start. Because “make the children hate you” shows up in so many guides to childcare, I guess.
May offers to help them clean the house, but the children insist on doing it themselves. Well, Elizabeth insists, but the others agree.
The next day after they’ve cleaned May shows up with the antique wooden rose. The guy from Valley Antiques called, having seen the rose at an auction, and after he told her the whole story May drove up and bought it back for fifty dollars (Jessica had originally sold it for seventy-five). I think we’re supposed to applaud her “toughness” now that it’s being used for good, but honestly I haven’t forgiven her yet for being the least responsible, self-controlled adult I’ve yet encountered in Sweet Valley. And that’s saying something, I know.
Jessica threw up her hands. “Those rules are unbelievable! Why did Mom and Dad pick this woman for us? Do you think they’re mad at us about something?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m sure they didn’t know she was like this. When they met her, she was probably nice. She just forgot to tell them that she hates kids!” (p. 31)
Super adulting from both the Wakefields and this woman, there.
May frowned. “Honestly, I don’t know why you have to look so much alike.” (p. 55)
“That depends. What music do you like?” Elizabeth asked.
“Everything except the Emerald Girls, or whatever they’re called,” Rob said, naming one of Amy’s favorite groups.
Any giggled. “Oh, I hate them, too.” (p. 59)
“It worked on ‘Days of Turmoil,'” Jessica said. (p. 70)
Words to live by.