As with the original series, the Sweet Valley Kids books seem to have gotten less realistic the longer the series went on. Plus there are spin-offs where the “Super Snoopers” solve mysteries, and while I personally have read about a gazillion junior mysteries, as an adult the concept always makes me laugh. (See also: The Babysitters Club Mysteries.)
In this one Jessica and Elizabeth go to “Fantasy Forest,” along with their parents and Steven and his friend Joe. I was hoping for something really way out there, with unicorns and stuff, but it’s just a theme park. Not the same theme park they get all excited about when they’re twelve, though.
I was almost ready to give the Wakefield parents credit for actualy parenting, as dragging two seven-year-olds and two nine-year-olds to a theme park is a serious investment of energy. But the Wakefields were not doing it the way you or I might do it, with the “keeping an eye on the kids” part:
Then Dad gave us a wink. “Since both groups want to do different things, we think it’s OK if we split up,” he announced. “After all, Fantasy Forest is supposed to be the safest amusement park around. Steven and Joe, you can explore the park by yourself.”
“Us too?” Jessica demanded.
“Yes,” Mom said. (p. 12)
You’d think since there are two adults there, each one would stick with one set of children, but no: they just arrange for the children to meet them for meals. Awesome. The parents are going to shop for souvenirs.
I briefly held on to the hope that maybe this was a really small, local theme park, but when Jessica and ELizabeth line up to see the Enchanted Castle they’re next to the ONE HOUR FROM THIS POINT sign, and later on Steven and Joe say they’ve spent two hours and forty-six minutes in line for a ride. So I think the Wakefields are just basically letting seven year old twin girls roam a Disneyland knock-off alone. It’s amazing Elizabeth wasn’t kidnapped more often.
Anyway, Elizabeth and Jessica befriend a mysterious boy named Billy, who has a red day pass that allows him to cut to the front of lines and play games for free. He gives the girls red passes for the day as well. They notice a muscular guy follows them everywhere, watching them. He’s clearly Billy’s bodyguard, because this is Sweet Valley and not any place even a little bit like the real world.
I thought (or hoped) Billy would turn out to be royalty, but alas, he’s only theme-park royalty: his parents own Fantasy Forest and their home is inside the Enchanted Castle (in the parts off-limits to visitors, of course). At the end the entire Wakefield family (and Joe) get invited to dinner there, and Elizabeth solves everyone’s problems by talking Billy’s parents into shifting Butch the Bodyguard to running the Screaming Squall, so that Billy can wander the park without a bodyguard while still not having to worry that Butch is out of a job. Awww.
I would say this is the most unrealistic of the non-supernatural kids’ books I’ve read, but I just remembered that when I was eight I not only read The Bobbsey Twins and the Doodlebug Mystery but completely, unquestioningly believed that it could happen, because naturally there are such things as private collections of clockwork whatever-those-were and six year olds absolutely solve mysteries, why wouldn’t they? So I don’t think I have a leg to stand on, criticism-wise.