When Are We? Immediately after the weekend when they had to clean the house because of their disastrous party.
Recap: Elizabeth and Jessica go to Casey’s to avoid having to clean the house again, and see Steven staring longingly at some blonde girl named Jill. Janet informs them Steven doesn’t stand a chance with her because Janet’s brother Joe also likes her, and Jessica is displeased. I love Jessica’s insane competitive streak over things that are none of her business.
Jessica has to borrow two dollars from Lila to pay for her food, and when Lila tells her she needs to learn to manage her money Jess argues that if she had money, she’d be more generous to her friends.
Great-Aunt Helen arrives for a visit; she has a broken arm, but is vague about how it happened. She gives Jessica, Elizabeth, and Steven $100 each to spend however they want.Liz wants to put some of hers towards the camera she’s been saving up for.
Jessica also brags that they met Coco, the “best singer in the world” who also happens to be Brooke Dennis’ mom. That makes one mention of Brooke prior to book #55, and one after it, so my guess is we’ll never hear of her again.
Elizabeth and Amy go bookstore shopping. I am still such an Elizabeth at heart. She buys herself the latest detective novel by Amanda Howard, and buys Amy a biography of Johnny Buck.
Jessica, meanwhile, treats her friends to food at Casey’s and then buys them lots of little things (bracelets, posters), basically blowing rapidly but generously through her money. Lila warns her not to, but Jessica’s enjoying herself, and I sympathize. I like spending money on people, too. She’s also consciously not making people pay her back because she wants to be more generous than Lila, so I suspect she’s basking in the unaccustomed sensation of being kinder than someone else.
Steven goes into a jewelry store and after being shown some expensive earrings settles on a pair of simple gold ones for $28. They sound pretty, but that’s still a chunk of money to spend on a girl who barely speaks to you. The salesman snarkily says if he wants anything cheaper he’ll have to go to the five-and-dime (that’s archaic for “dollar store”), and you know, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SMARTER. Lots of fourteen year old girls love costume jewelry.
Elizabeth invites Aunt Helen to go with her to the bookstore, where Amanda Howard will be appearing in person and autographing books. Aunt Helen declines, and dodges further questions about how she broke her arm.
Jessica tries to make Steven tell her and Elizabeth what he bought for Jill Hale. She also suggests he buy her flowers and take her on a date to a really fancy restaurant.
Elizabeth overhears her father assuring Aunt Helen that if she can’t retain a good lawyer from his list of suggestions hell fly out there and handle her case himself, and that she needs to be protected from “those sharks,” and can’t let them bully her.
Jessica leaves Steven a magazine with an article called “My Dream Date,” along with a note telling him to read it. It’s the same dinner-and-jewelry-and-flowers-and-dancing kind of overblown date she was suggesting earlier, and I honestly can’t think of anything two fourteen year olds would be less likely to enjoy. It would bore me rigid, and I’m ancient.
He asks Jill out, despite her having shown no interest in him whatsoever and she responds, “I guess that would be okay.” Wow. Cancel, Steven, and give the earrings to someone else. Anyone else.
Aunt Helen gets an envelope in the mail but won’t open it in front of everyone. That is not suspicious, Elizabeth, that is fairly reasonable. (Elizabeth does not hear me and would not agree even if she could.)
At the book signing Amanda Howard tells Elizabeth there are mysteries going on “right under our noses,” which is all the additional encouragement Liz needs to decide Aunt Helen is in trouble and she should investigate. Then she catches Aunt Helen crying over an episode of Days of Turmoil, and has trouble believing that’s the whole reason for her tears. So Liz confides in Amy, who in turn decides they have to STEAL AUNT HELEN’S LETTER and find out what is going on.
At the Dairi Burger Jill is more or less ignoring Steven and laughing at Joe’s jokes, while Cathy is being friendly and laughing at Steven’s jokes. Joe buys Jill fries. Steven accidentally squirts ketchup on her. I don’t know why he even likes her, other than that she’s pretty, because she’s downright unfriendly to him most of the time.
Jessica’s down to fifteen dollars. She’s bought stuff for all her friends, even earrings for Lila (and a matching pair for herself, which she doesn’t actually even like).
Elizabeth finds out Aunt Helen is having trouble sleeping. She and Amy elaborately coax her to help her choose an outfit while they go through her purse, and they find a picture of a man they decide looks unfriendly.
Jessica talks Steven into giving her ten dollars, since she helped him plan his date and pick out what to wear. Ha.
Elizabeth and Amy watch an old movie called Don’t Talk and decide Aunt Helen witnessed a crime and that’s what’s going on. They think the “mean man” in the picture broke her arm. Oh, Liz. At what point do you imagine him giving her a photograph? Do you think thugs hand them out to all their victims?
Steven’s date is both boring and awful, and he runs out of money (the cab cost forty dollars because Jill wasn’t even ready when he got there to pick her up) and has to ask her to chip in.
Aunt Helen finally explains to Elizabeth that she broke her arm in a car accident. The insurance company are trying to say she hadn’t paid up on her claim, so she has to hire a lawyer to help her prove that she’d made all her payments. They guy in the picture is her boyfriend, Thomas. Elizabeth offers to give back the seventy dollars she has left, which is sweet. Aunt Helen refuses, of course.
Elizabeth buys her camera. She and Jessica chip in on a gift for Aunt Helen (a card and a picture frame), and Liz agrees to buy Jessica the shirt she likes but now can’t afford (it costs $40) if Jessica will give her a blue sweatshirt she bought when they visited their father’s college.
“Lila, you are not going to believe what happened,” Jessica said when her friend picked up the phone.
“You found some more change on the way home?” Lila said. (p. 16)
I am sensitive about money but that still made me laugh. So did this:
“I could spend a hundred dollars in an hour,” Lila said.
“Yeah, but that’s because you practice,” Jessica replied. (p. 25)
It’s such a perfect 80s/90s portrayal of a rich girl. I love it.
“I’m just trying to give you some good advice,” Lila said. “I know what I’m talking about. No one will remember that you bought them stuff.” (p. 64)
It’s sad that she’s so cynical at such a young age, but she’s not wrong, exactly.
“What about Jill? How did she get home?” Elizabeth asked.
“Her father came and picked her up at the restaurant. After he told me what an irresponsible jerk I was,” Steven said. (p. 120)
Wow, imagine going off on a fourteen year old after he’s spent a bunch of money on your brat of a daughter. No wonder Jill’s such a raging bitch: she learned it at home.