Sweet Valley Twins #54: The Big Party Weekend

big party weekendWhere Are We? The Wakefields’ house, mostly.

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.

Quotes:

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)

Idk, genetics?

“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)

Sigh.

“It worked on ‘Days of Turmoil,'” Jessica said. (p. 70)

Words to live by.

Advertisements

Sweet Valley Twins #113: The Boyfriend Game

Where are we? Sweet Valley Middle School; the set of Young Love

When are we? The lead up to Valentine’s Day.

boyfriend game

Recap: Elizabeth and other people involved with The Sixers are bemoaning the boring edition they’re about to put out, when they get exciting news. While in detention, Jessica eavesdropped on the vice principal, Mr. Edwards, and found out the school might get to be on Young Love, a teen dating show.

Mr. Bowman, the faculty advisor for The Sixers, shows up and confirms the rumour. Actually he amplifies it, providing additional details: the school will have to submit an essay explaining why they should be chosen, the winning couple will get a “dream date” at Dizzy Planet (an amusement park), and the show will throw a Valentine’s Day dance for the entire school.

Janet decides that the Unicorns should write the essay, because they’re known for their literacy. Ha, no, I made that up. She just thinks that no one else can make the school sound as unique and interesting. Having a private club that gets to act like an official school organization is pretty damned unique, all right; no actual school I’ve ever heard of would allow it.

The Science Club and the school athletes are also going to contribute essays. Elizabeth, meanwhile, offers to take the photograph of the entire student body that the Young Love people have requested. Jessica and Lila spoil the first two attempts, and Janet has to separate them in the third photo to get them to behave. Irritating.

Sophia Rizzo meets Patrick Morris for ice cream, and hatches a plot to win if they’re chosen as two of the contestants (who ask a series of inane question) and candidates (who answer the questions; the contestant then picks one of three candidates as their date). We don’t actually get to hear her plan the first time it’s introduced, because I guess the page count needs dragging out.

Elizabeth, Cammi Adams, Denny Jacobson, Mandy, and Tom McKay have to read all the student-submitted essays and choose which one represents their school. As well as the jocks, Unicorns, and science club, there are entries from the Foreign Exchange Students Association, the chess club, and the drama club. In the end Elizabeth constructs a poster from the school photo, with all the essays surrounding it.

So of course Sweet Valley Middle School is selected. Elizabeth gets a letter informing her she’s a contestant, and Jessica gets one saying she’s a candidate, and no one is allowed to talk about getting selected on pain of death or something (okay, on pain of having the dance cancelled). But Elizabeth works out that Jessica must be a candidate because she was looking for tips on how to lie about being honest and sincere. Ha. So Elizabeth suggests a twin switch.

Now we have two sets of cheaters, because aside from the twins lying about their identities, Sophia has come up with a pre-planned question-and-answer that will allow her and Patrick to pick each other.

Only on the night of the actual show, Patrick fumbles his question and doesn’t recognize Sophia’s answer, so he picks Maria as his dream date. Jessica-as-Elizabeth gets dazzled and manages to sound like an idiot, and then picks Todd as her dream date; Elizabeth-as-Jessica comes across as even stupider, hoping Aaron (whom Jessica likes) won’t pick her. He doesn’t–he picks Amy–and too late, Elizabeth realizes that if she’d gotten him to pick her, she and Jessica could have switched back on the day of their dates. Oops.

So at the end of the book everyone’s mad at everyone else, and they have horrible dates to look forward to, which is presumably what the next book is about.

Quotations:

She noticed that Todd was listening to the conversation from his desk nearby. He gave her a sympathetic smile. Elizabeth smiled back, relieved that someone else seemed to be avoiding taking sides on the issue. It reminded her once again of how wonderful Todd really was. She certainly didn’t need a TV show to tell her who her dream guy was! (p. 19)

Jessica shrugged. “He only makes fun of the losers,” she said. “As long as you’re cool and witty enough, he treats you just fine. And he’s such a total babe that he makes even the cute guys who come on the show look like dorks.” (p. 54)

“…so I guess if I could only do one thing to make the world a cooler place, I would donate all the makeup I never use to people who don’t have any.” Ellen Riteman smiled and tossed her head. “Then the world would at least look a lot better.

Elizabeth did her best not to groan. It wasn’t easy to sound less interesting than Ellen. (p. 115)

Sweet Valley Twins #68: The Middle School Gets Married

Where are we? Sweet Valley Middle School: multidisciplinary project

When are we? It starts with a Monday morning assembly. I have no idea what time of year it is. middle school gets married

Recap: Mr. Seigel, science teacher, has called a special assembly to announce that the entire middle school will be doing a multidisciplinary project (math, home economics, social studies, and science, apparently) that involves him choosing pairs of names out of a hat, and then those students will be “married” for the duration of the project. Jessica and Lila think it’s “totally romantic.” Elizabeth and Todd exchange meaningful smiles and she drops her pencil from the sheer intensity of it all. Sophia, someone I’ve never heard of, thinks couples fight all the time and hopes she gets paired with Patrick Morris, the only boy she gets along with.

Sophia does get paired with Patrick, except they’re too busy being polite and accommodating toward each other to make any decisions. Elizabeth gets paired with Bruce, who initially is inclined to ignore the whole thing and let her do the work. Todd gets Lila, and Jessica gets Rick Hunter, an older boy she bickers with constantly.

Lila thinks it’s ridiculous she has to work on a budget, since she’s never going to have to live on a budget, because she has a trust fund. Ha.

At the next assembly each couple has to go on stage, where they’re given a name and instantly asked a question for points. Jessica and Rick get asked what they’ll name the egg, fight over it, and Jessica breaks their egg. She names the second egg Steven Fido the second (Steven was her choice, and Fido was Rick’s). Sophia and Patrick are asked where their egg-daughter should go to nursery school. They do the “what do you think? I don’t know, what do you think?” thing for so long they run out of time and lose points on their project.

eggs2

While working on their budget Jessica gets exasperated with Rick, because he wants to be a rock star and is goading her constantly, so she takes a swing at him and breaks their second egg (it was in his pocket).

Elizabeth invites Bruce over to work on their project. He shows up for dinner, and is dazzled by Mr. Wakefield’s ability (and willingness) to cook dinner and help them with their schoolwork. Bruce immediately develops a sort of man-crush and throws himself over-enthusiastically into being a better father and husband than his own. It’s amusingly written but also unexpectedly touching. Aww, Bruce. You idiot. Elizabeth starts to feel crowded out of her own project, and resents him for implying she can’t take care of their egg.

Jessica sits on, and breaks, their third egg. Meanwhile Sophia doubles down on her efforts never to express her own opinions, because she doesn’t want to sound bossy like Janet Howell.

Elizabeth points out to Jessica that what Jess is experiencing (having to be the responsible one because Rick won’t take anything seriously) is exactly what Elizabeth goes through with Jessica all the time. When Bruce is out of the room Elizabeth accidentally breaks their egg, and substitutes one from a bowl in the fridge. (Later he will discover it’s hardboiled and get mad at her.)

Sophia and Patrick go grocery shopping and are completely unable to decide what they should cook (each couple has to prepare dinner). Jessica and Rick go shopping, fight, and break another egg-child, and Bruce’s over-parenting is starting to drive Elizabeth to slam groceries around in irritation.

On their third unsuccessful trip to the grocery store Patrick and Sophia have an enormous fight. Jessica and Rick get told off for wasting time during their cooking session, break another egg, fight, and then Rick kisses her. Elizabeth has a tantrum and throws her plate on the floor because Bruce wouldn’t listen to her about hating spinach, and he responds by calmly telling her perhaps she hasn’t been getting enough sleep. She silently vows never to get married.

Sophia finds out her mother is getting remarried to the man she’s been dating (Sarah’s father–Sarah and Sophia are friends), and she tells them marriage ruins everything. Based on, you know, her extensive experience pretending to be married to Patrick.

Rick is now being polite and friendly to Jessica, instead of telling her to lay off the pasta or she’ll get fat, or telling her she has no brains. So now she starts to lose interest in him. Jessica is like a case study of bad romantic choices.

In the end the students (all of them, not just the ones getting page time) rebel during assembly, yelling that the project is impossible. Mr. Seigel is pleased, because apparently the point of the project was to demonstrate that marriage isn’t just romantic, and it can’t work unless both partners know each other well and are clear about what they expect to get out of the relationship. Wow, that is both manipulative and futile, since you just know Elizabeth (for instance) will walk away thinking the whole thing would have worked perfectly if only she’d been paired with Todd…

The tragic outcome when you get your sex education from Sweet Valley Middle School.
The tragic outcome when you get your sex education from Sweet Valley Middle School.

Quotations:

Bruce shook his head regretfully. “I’m going to make a copy of that article on spinach for Mr. Seigel. Maybe he doesn’t know how hard it is to get enough iron. You know what else? The manual said most people don’t get enough calcium, either.”

He chewed thoughtfully and swallowed. “Come to think of it, Elizabeth, I haven’t seen you drink any milk lately. But don’t worry. I’m going to start reminding you to drink some every day at lunch.” (p. 89)

I’m sorry, that is adorable.

“So listen,” Bruce said, trying hard to keep his voice casual. “This husband and fatherhood thing was cool and all, but I’m afraid its time to go back to my bachelor ways.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth said agreeably.

He studied her for a moment. “But, uh, even though we’re not married anymore, remember what I said. OK?”

“About what?”

“Calcium and iron,” he answered. (p. 130)

Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley

Where Are We? Sweet Valley Middle School: Mr. Bowman’s English class

When Are We? Some indeterminate point during the school year. This book starts on the Monday after a “big social studies project” and a “big science project.”

Recap: Jessica tells Mr. Bowman that they’ve been doing too much reading and slimewriting in English class and they should do something fun. Instead of laughing uproariously or turning to drink he entertains suggestions from the class, and shy Leslie Forsythe suggests they make a movie. Elizabeth suggests they use a camcorder and the VCR from the school library.

After school Elizabeth, Leslie, Amy, Brooke and Sophia go to Sweet Valley Video to talk to the manager, Leslie’s friend Deirdre, who studied acting at UCLA. Nice to see that career choice worked out for her. They look at movies to get an idea what kind they want to make.

Ultimately Elizabeth talks the class into combining “a love story and a horror story in a comedy.” Okay then. They’re having auditions, and naturally both Jessica and Lila want the lead. Elizabeth wants to be the scriptwriter. Leslie secretly wants to audition as well, but is nervous.

Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield reveal that sometime soon (but not until after the movie) they’re going to Mexico without the children. Steven thinks he’s old enough to look after Elizabeth and Jessica without help. I wouldn’t agree to look after Jessica without a stun gun, even now that I’m an adult.

Pete has been playing pranks in English class. He made a cricket noise one day, and on the day the students are all listing their three job choices (for the movie) in order of preference, he uses a string to make an easel fall over.

Amy suggests the title while she and Elizabeth are brainstorming on the phone. They both agree it’s perfect because the Unicorns will hate it.

Jessica and Lila both volunteer their parents’ camcorders because Mr. Bowman says the school library one is old and doesn’t record sound very well. Mr. Bowman has the class watch Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so they can discuss camera techniques. Pete makes the VCR turn itself off and on again several times. Afterwards the students brainstorm ideas for their slime movie. Mr. Bowman suggests he and the principal take part as victims of the slime monster.

At the auditions Lila is wooden, Jessica and Randy are great, and Dierdre is too shy to try out (plus she secretly really likes Randy) so she sneaks away and cries. Awww. Poor kid. I was that shy once too.

Jessica feels so confident after the audition that she goes home and makes a salad without being asked. Then she peels potatoes. Maybe this is why everyone always gives her whatever she wants. Which happens again: at school the next day Mr. Bowman announces Jessica is playing the female lead.

But all is not perfect. Randy Mason gets the male lead, even though Jessica thinks he’s a “first-class nerd.” Lila gets offered the part of the Slime Monster, but turns it down (boo, hiss: a real diva would have run with that role, Lila), so Winston Egbert gets it. So Jessica gets to act with two boys she can’t stand.

Elizabeth, Amy, Leslie and Maria are the scriptwriters. Lila is in charge of clean-up. Bet that Slime Monster’s looking pretty good now, huh? But she refuses, saying she’s going to operate her father’s camcorder. WHY is she allowed to get away with that? She’s still stuck on the clean-up crew as well, though, just not in charge of it.

When Jessica’s in the lunch line on Friday Janet Howell comes over and pompously congratulates her, telling her she’s sure Jessica will make the Unicorns proud. On Saturday Lila drags the camcorder around everywhere, filming her friends at awkward moments in the name of “practice.”

Elizabeth, Amy, Maria and Leslie work on the script. Elizabeth and Amy are determined to solve the “mystery” of why Leslie didn’t audition, since she loves movies and all. Shyness must be so rare in Sweet Valley that they literally cannot identify it.

By Monday everyone is sick of Lila filming them in embarrassing situations. Also, the script is finished. Elizabeth lets Jessica read it that night, and Jessica freaks out because she discovers she’ll have to kiss Randy and Winston.

Later she confides to Mandy that part of the reason she’s so upset is that she’ll have to have her first kisses on-camera. Although in the middle of that explanation she also says she was kissed by a high school freshman,  but that doesn’t count somehow because she didn’t kiss him back.

At rehearsal she deliberately keeps interrupting with stupid requests for water and to have the lights turned down, and they don’t make it all the way to the kiss scene. At the second rehearsal she fakes a coughing fit. Mr. Bowman (probably guessing what’s going on) says they’ll just rehearse the lines, not the action, for the kissing scenes.

Lila pretends to be nice, and gets Jessica to come over to her house and practice fake-kissing a pillow. Which Lila films. And then she offers to keep the film at her house so Steven can’t see it. Oh, Jessica. How can you not know this is a set-up?

Leslie stops by the video store, and admits to Dierdre that she was too scared to audition. Dierdre explains to her that she gave up acting because she was too afraid to audition, and has regretted it ever since.

The four scriptwriters get together to watch what there is of the movie so far, and also a real movie, which Leslie recites big pieces of, making them all realize she can really act. She admits to the others that she was there during auditions but got scared and left, and also tells them about her crush on Randy. Maria (who has actual acting experience) tells her that even real actresses lose their cool when they get near somebody they like a lot. They all bemoan the fact that it’s too late for Leslie to try out.

Lila invites everyone over to her house and shows off her videos of everyone’s embarrassing moments, including Jessica’s kissing practice with the pillow. Jessica is so humiliated that on Monday she quits the movie (and ends up being assigned to work on the costumes). That afternoon Leslie tries out and gets the part. She also enlists Pete’s help to get back at Lila.

That weekend the Unicorns have a sleepover to celebrate the end of filming, and everyone talks about how special it is to be in front of the camera until they’ve convinced Lila she needs to try it. So she does the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, passionately, using a dust mop as Romeo.

On the night of the screening of The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley, which the entire school attends, Pete has made the video of Lila into a “coming soon” ad at the start of the film.

Quotes:

The Unicorns seriously over-estimate their importance to other people:

Leslie giggled. “Did you know that Lila and Jessica tried to bribe me not to sign Winston’s petition? They promised they’d wave at me when they saw me in the hallway if I didn’t.” (p. 9)

Elizabeth seriously over-estimates the abilities of a sixth-grade English class:

“Hey, I’ve got the perfect solution to the argument,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll make a comic spoof of a horror-story plot with a love-story ending!” (p. 17)

I sort of love Jessica, though:

As Jessica started out the door, Lila caught up with her. “Did you hear?” she asked, smiling sweetly. There’ll be bit parts, as well as the lead. I’m sure you’ll get some kind of role, Jessica.”

“Yes,” Jessica said coolly. “I’m sure I’ll get the lead role. And I hope you’ll enjoy your bit part, Lila.” (p. 28)

Way harsh, Mr. Bowman:

“How do you audition for the part of a Slime victim?” Caroline asked.

“Just be yourself, Caroline,” Mr. Bowman said as the bell rang.

I’m side-eyeing Elizabeth so hard right now:

“Brian kisses Sherri?” Jessica shrieked. “You mean, I’ve got to kiss Randy Mason, on top of Winston Egbert?”

“Not on top of Winston, exactly,” Elizabeth said, this time not able to control her grin. “More like beside him.” (p. 87)

Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion

I will probably never again succeed in doing two of these in order, so I think we should all pause for a moment to celebrate.

Where are we? Sweet Valley Middle School’s annual charity carnival

When are we? Whenever they hold the damned charity carnival.love potion

Recap: The ghostwriter either noticed that there’s no way the Unicorns could “always have the coolest booth” if they’re in sixth grade, or this is a different, more logical, ghostwriter. Because the book starts out by pointing out that now that they’re in sixth grade the Unicorns finally get to participate in the school carnival, which raises money for charity. If this is a school thing, I don’t get why the Unicorns even get to have a booth. They’re hardly a school club or anything.

Anyway, while they’re trying to come up with an idea, Mary shows up late to the meeting with exciting news: Johnny Buck is coming to Sweet Valley. Everyone wants to go, but especially Mary and Jessica because they’re huge fans.

Also going on in the background: someone named Peter Burns has a huge crush on Mary. She likes him as a friend, but because he’s a “geek” and won second place in the science fair the Unicorns make fun of him, and try to convince Mary to be mean to him so he’ll stop talking to her.

It turns out there will be only two thousand tickets for the Johnny Buck concert, so the Tribune is holding a contest. One thousand randomly selected (I presume) winners will get two tickets each. Every entry has to include a form from the paper, so Steven Wakefield buys thirty copies, and Jessica buys six (all she can afford). Elizabeth was awake first, so she just sent in the one entry from the Wakefields’ copy of the paper. (Mary, it turns out, bought seventy-five copies.) Steven and the twins make a bet that whoever doesn’t get to go has to do the others’ Sunday chores for a month.

Jessica starts sucking up to all the other Unicorns so that if one of them wins she’ll get invited along. Nice.

Steven wins two tickets, and plans to take his girlfriend, Cathy Connors. Neither Elizabeth nor Jessica win, but Amy does, and she invites Elizabeth along.

Steven is a dork, so he loses his tickets. After making Jessica swear (in front of their parents) that she didn’t hide them, he agrees to her deal: if she helps him find the tickets, she gets to go with Cathy. I don’t even know who Cathy is, but she’d probably have more fun dating Jess than Steven. No, wait: that’s not what Jessica meant. She just wants to go, and convinces Steven that Cathy will only be even more impressed with him for giving his ticket to his kid sister. Uh, whatever.

Meanwhile Jessica has come up with the perfect idea for the Unicorns’ booth: they can concoct a purple drink and sell tiny bottles of “love potion.” That is actually cute. Nowadays some idiot would sue them because it didn’t work, or the city would shut them down for not having a food service license. Lila’s father pays for four hundred glass bottles to sell the stuff in, and Mary finds a recipe for pineapple punch (they use food colouring to make it purple).

The Unicorns have also convinced Mary to go out with a basketball player named Tim Davis, because he’s cute and on the basketball team. Janet tells Tim that Mary likes him, so he calls Mary and invites her to a picnic, and she agrees. The closer they get to the date the less she likes him, because all he talks about is how well he plays basketball. He’s a conceited blowhard, but she convinces herself he’s just made a bad first impression and deserves a chance, so she still agrees to go to the picnic (the day after the carnival) with him.

Peter, meanwhile, has been being adorable: helping with the stupid special edition of the Sixers (that’s what the Sixers‘ booth is going to do, sell an edition that profiles all the charities that will benefit from the carnival), bringing Mary a not-yet-on-the-shelves edition of a magazine his uncle works at because Johnny Buck is on the cover, and just generally being thoughtful. I am entirely Team Peter.

Steven finds his tickets inside his geometry book, which he hasn’t looked at for a week. So he gets to take Cathy to the concert, but otherwise he’s grounded.

Mr.  Bowman, the English teacher, was one of the ticket winners, but in order to raise money for the carnival he holds a raffle. Everyone can only enter once, for fifty cents.

At the carnival Jessica attempts to poison Peter by convincing him to buy a bottle of love potion, only because they’d sold all four hundred bottles of the punch she makes up something hideous with hot sauce and sugar and other crap. He turns pale and then green, and the Unicorns all laugh merrily over what a sucker he is.

Elizabeth, Amy, and Mr. Bowman go into the school alone. Elizabeth draws the ticket stub, and I guess Amy is there as a witness or chaperone or something, and it turns out Peter has won Mr. Bowman’s tickets. This is supposed to be kept secret until the picnic. Liz is an idiot, so when Jessica tries to “read her mind” she actually agrees to write the winner’s name on a napkin to help Jessica “visualize.” Jessica steals the napkin and promptly tells all the Unicorns that Peter won, except she can’t reach Mary because Mary has already left her house to go to that picnic with Tim.

Mary’s date with Tim is a disaster. His father is too selfish to pick her up, so she gets dropped at Tim’s house only to find out they don’t have a ride to the picnic after all. They have to ride bikes, and Tim lends her his mother’s, which is so big Mary has to stand up to ride it. Then it gets a flat tire, and ruins her dress, and she ends up walking. When she gets to the picnic she dumps Tim and apologizes to Peter.

I was actually worried that Peter would have guessed (from the way the Unicorns were fawning over him) that he’d won and people knew, and that he’d reject Mary out of suspicion she was after a ticket. But strangely, even though he shares a town with the sociopathic Jessica and her manipulative friends, he’s a nice, non-suspicious boy. He tells her he was willing to try anything, even the horrible love potion. Then Mr. Bowman announces that Peter has won the tickets, and he walks back to Mary and hands her one and gives the other to Jessica.

I took a bunch of deep breaths at this point, and managed to remind myself to view Jessica as an Id-fulfillment fantasy rather than as a “character” in the normal sense. Because she never learns anything for longer than a chapter, and never grows or changes or develops, yet she gets absolutely everything she wants all the time.

Quotes:

Janet was Lila’s cousin, and an eighth-grader. She was also president of the Unicorn Club, which made her just about the most important person in the middle school. (pp. 2-3)

The Sociopath at Home:

If Steven won the contest and she didn’t…well, there was really only one solution. She’d have to kill him and take the tickets. He left her no other choice. (p. 16)

“Do you still think that?” Jessica asked. “Steven, I’m not that dumb. If I had stolen them, I’d be keeping both of them, not turning one over to you.” (p. 73)

It Runs in the Family:

He knitted his eyebrows thoughtfully. “I guess I could search Cathy’s room when she’s not looking.” (p. 89)

That last bit is Steven. He doesn’t want to call his girlfriend and ask if he left the tickets at her house, because that will make him look dumb, but he’s willing to search her room without permission.

reading: Sweet Valley Twins “Frightening Four”

I have stumbled across the most amazing of all the Sweet Valley things: this mini-series. It actually has a name (“The Frightening Four”) and consists of four titles: too scared to sleep

Too Scared to Sleep

The Beast is Watching You

The Beast Must Die

If I Die Before I Wake

The best part about this (well, aside from the only-vaguely-related-to-the-story Beast titles) is that somehow Francine Pascal pulled off the never before attempted feat of capitalizing on the popularity of Goosebumps and The Babysitters Club simultaneously. It’s glorious. Also probably dangerous; I’m amazed the fabric of the universe withstood this, to be honest.

A new family move to Sweet Valley. Mrs. Riccoli has five children, and her husband won’t be joining them for a few months, so she needs babysitters. Elizabeth, Jessica, Winston, Todd and Amy decide they can take turns sitting for her and split the money, and maybe put up signs around town advertising their services. (No mention is made of whose phone will be used on the posters. Alas.)

But the Riccolis’ new house is “the old Sullivan House,” which is apparently “creepy” and which causes Alice to act weird and bolt when she drops in to give decorating advice. All through these books its increasingly obvious that Alice knows somethe beast is watching youthing about the house, and eventually it unfolds that each member of the babysitting group has one parent who knows what happened at the house.

Sweet Valley is nobody’s idea of the go-to place to learn parenting skills, but this is a new low. Five teens were involved in a child’s death, and when their own offspring start babysitting at the house none of them mention this, or notice their kids are having nightmares, or…anything. Hasn’t anyone in Sweet Valley ever watched a horror movie?

Continuing the actual Babysitters Club tradition of twelve-year-olds somehow knowing more about childcare than I do, we get this wonderful scene of Winston babysitting a set of twins:

Actually, it wasn’t the first time he’d changed diapers in his life. He had done some babysitting before, and he had seen lots of diaper commercials on TV. It didn’t take him long to whisk the twins into new diapers. In fact, as he fastened the tabs, pulling them tightly so there’d be no gaps, he thought he’d done an even better job than the Karstens themselves. (TSTS, p. 73)

That conveys…precisely none of what it’s like to change diapers, particularly for two children at once. Maybe I didn’t watch enough commercials as a child, but my learning curve was a bit steeper than Winston’s.the beast must die

Anyway, so the gang continue to sit in pairs for the Riccoli children, who are having nightmares and sleepwalking and generally telegraphing as clearly as possible that we’re in horror-movie territory. When any of the babysitters fall asleep in the house they have the same nightmares, with a scary “faceless” girl wearing only one slipper and clutching an old teddy bear. This culminates in the entire group of babysitters staying there at the same time, trying to stay awake all night, because I guess the Nightmare on Elm Street movies also looked ripe for borrowing.

The best bits are, as always, the Jessica bits.

But whatever Steven was up to, it couldn’t be half as interesting as what was going on in Granville, the setting for The Guilty and the Glamorous. Jessica had been so busy baby-sitting, she’d missed an entire two weeks of her new favorite TV soap opera, which came on right after her old favorite, Days of Turmoil, which was extremely convenient.

Fortunately the plot hadn’t changed much in the two weeks since she’d last seen it. Everyone was still at the same fancy ball they’d been at the last time she watched. Only they seemed to be leaving the giant, fancy party, or at least starting to think about leaving. Coats were being discussed, anyway. (TBMD, p.41)

There is a ridiculous subplot in which Steven tries to earn money by mowing lawns with the Wakefields’ new ride-on mower. I’m sure it was meant to be page-filling hilarity, but it annoyed me so much I can barely even summarize it. If I had had a series of expensive accidents (shredding in-line skates and other people’s hedges and so forth), no one in my family would have just kept giving me further chances to cost them money. We couldn’t have afforded to have me playing around with the lawn mower, basically, and I kept wanting to reach into the book and shake Steven for being careless and Mr. Wakefield for continually enabling him.

I know: applying any kind of real life standard to Sweet Valley is pointless. I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief high enough to get passed Steven failing to read the instructions (more than once) and still being allowed to drive the mower.

Yet I had no problem whatsoever with a vengeful ghost showing up in people’s dreams and then turning out to be (spoilers ahead) Continue reading

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers, OMG

Wow, February was pretty much a total write-off for me. All I did was shovel snow and read children’s books. For a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with (they boil down to stress and busyness) I couldn’t concentrate on anything any more demanding than Sweet Valley Twins.

They are SO CUTE. Okay, I never actually read any of these before now, but I recently binge-purchased a whole stack of them, and February being what it was (dreariness and suckage, though also thankfulness for my family and my neighbours) I finally tackled them. So far I’ve read five Super Chillers. (Eventually I will track down the four I’m missing, but right now I’m sticking to reading the stuff I own already.)

ghost in the graveyard

In The Ghost in the Graveyard a second set of twins–separated as babies–are haunted by the ghost of their grandfather, and eventually they prove their ownership of a huge old house. I’m making that sound boring, I know, but that’s because it was. The actual haunting all happened to Sam and David, not to the Wakefields, so though it was a comfortable “let’s escape reality for an afternoon” read it wasn’t terribly compelling.

sweet_valley_twins_chiller_04_the_ghost_in_the_bell_tower

The Ghost in the Bell Tower was much more fun, possibly because it felt like such a classic “children and ghosts and summer vacation” kind of story. I would have loved this to bits when I was a kid. I kind of still did.

The Curse of the Ruby Necklace was actually the one I read first, because even when I have five clearly-numbered paperbacks in my hand I can somehow manage to read them out of order. Oops. It featured the twins acting in a movie, a thing I feel like I have read a thousand times. The movie is based on an old murder curse of the ruby necklaceso of course the Wakefields solve it, finding the true killer with the help of a ruby necklace that Jessica finds on the beach, because if you’re a perfect, perfect Wakefield twin haunted jewellery just washes up out of the ocean for you.

sweet_valley_twins_chiller_07_the_haunted_burial_ground

The Haunted Burial Ground annoyed me at first, with its conveniently-visiting Native American girl who gets befriended by Elizabeth just in time to be part of events surrounding an obviously-this-will-turn-out-to-be-a-Native-burial-site. But it was as respectful as it could be, given the time and the age range of the intended readers, and Mr. Fowler gets a chance to be unexpectedly awesome.

Evil Elizabeth was like Dear Sister, only instead of a head injury there’s an evil sweet_valley_twins_chiller_09_evil_elizabethmask, and instead of glomming onto rapetastic Bruce Patman she starts hanging out with Betsy Martin. Jessica gets to look on in horror as her twin turns into a living embodiment of her own worst impulses. I guess this was kind of a practice session for later.

Which brings me to a very important question: why don’t the Wakefields remember any of this stuff? I mean, why don’t they ever reflect on how, when they were kids, they encountered ghosts? How come they never discuss that time Liz was evil? (Okay, I know the Doylist explanation is “because the SVH books were written first, so the ghostwriters had no way of knowing what would be in the spin-off series that didn’t even exist yet,” but what’s the Watsonian answer?)