The Big Deal: Spring break, sixth grade boat ride, pool party at the Wakefields’ house, birthday party
Classmate with a Problem: Sam Sloane, telepathic
Sam Sloane has just moved into the Wakefields’ neighborhood and he’s weirded out because everything in town seems familiar to him. He wonders if it’s because he was born in Sweet Valley, but he hasn’t been back since being adopted as a baby. His first day in town, he rides his bike to a crumbling old mansion on McClarendon Street that feels important to him. He stands there getting creeped out for a minute and then goes home. That night he has a nightmare about being at sea during a storm and an old man trying to talk to him. He’s been having the same dream for years.
The next day is the sixth grade boat ride. The twins met Sam the day before and invited him along because it’s a real shame he moved to town during spring break. If he doesn’t go on the boat trip he’ll have to wait until school starts again to meet other kids. He rides to the marina with the Wakefields, and starts to feel better because nothing seems familiar. But at the marina the feeling comes back. An old fisherman says hello to Sam and acts like he knows him, but Sam has never seen the man before. Sam tells Liz what’s going on but she’s got nothing helpful to say because, you know, she’s twelve. Sam excuses himself from the girls once they’re all on the boat, but none of the boys seem interested in talking to him. He annoys Lila by sitting on the Unicorns’ bench, and Jessica is irritated when Lila makes fun of him.
It’s the twins’ turn to cook the next night and Elizabeth is making a dinner of broiled flounder. Because twelve-year-olds can totally do that. Jessica doesn’t help with the cooking and promises to do all the cleaning up, but she skips off after dinner to watch a Kent Kellerman movie about reincarnation. Then she has to call Lila to discuss who they were in their past lives. Lila is convinced she was Cleopatra, and she’s really snobby about it and it pisses Jessica off. Jessica wants to get back at her for being such a pain in the ass all the time. The next time Lila spends the night, Jessica pretends to talk in her sleep. She starts talking about gold and says her name is Lillian Barnes. Lila is all freaked out when Jessica pretends to wake up. They look in a history book and Lila finds out Lillian Barnes hid some gold somewhere in Sweet Valley and some guys shot her but never found it. Lila is convinced Jessica is the reincarnation of Lillian and she wants to find the hidden gold. Jessica is delighted her plan to trick Lila is working out so well.
The twins host a pool party Tuesday afternoon. It seems every kid in town watched that Kent Kellerman movie and they’re all talking about reincarnation. Sam tells Liz he believes he was reincarnated and thinks he lived in the mansion on McClarendon Street. The twins go with him the next day to see the house. On the way there, Sam tells the twins he was born in Sweet Valley and his birth name is Sam Burroughs. When they get to the house, Sam insists he sees someone at an upstairs window, but the twins don’t see anything. They talk to the next door neighbor and find out an old man named Jeremiah Seever lived in the house until he died a few months ago. Apparently old man Seever was a miserly jerk.
Sam tells the twins he wants to be alone, and then he starts wandering toward the cemetery. He knows how to get there even though he’s never been there before, and he finds his parents’ graves the same way. Buried near them is a Michael Burroughs, who died thirty years ago at the age of eleven. While he’s looking at the grave, Sam hears footsteps. It’s getting dark and he’s freaked out. He looks up and sees a kid who looks just like him, so he gets the fuck out of the cemetery. Sam finds Liz and tells her he saw the ghost of Michael Burroughs, and the twins agree to go with him to the cemetery the next day.
Meanwhile, Jessica is still letting Lila believe in the Lillian Barnes/hidden gold story. She pretends to let Lila hypnotize her, and in a flash of inspiration she tells Lila she used to live on McClarendon Street. Lila drags her over there to look at the house, but Jessica starts to feel scared and they leave. More on this story later.
At the cemetery the next day, the ghost makes an appearance. Liz is the only one who notices he’s wearing a Johnny Buck t-shirt and is therefore probably not a ghost, so she goes chasing after him when he runs away. She catches up with him and our gang finds out the ghost is really just a kid named David Barton. Sam and David find out they have the same birthday and the same parents, and so conclude they must be twins. Excellent detective work, everyone.
Sam takes David back to his house, and his parents are shocked. The lawyers never told them Sam was a twin. Then the boys go to David’s house, and they’re surprised when his parents know all about Sam. They tell the boys that after their parents died, their great-aunt Bea took them in, but she was too old for two babies. She gave Sam up for adoption and then realized she was also too old for one baby, so she gave David up, too. David’s adoptive parents wanted Sam as well, but it was a closed adoption and there was no way to find him. So here we are.
Sam spends the night at David’s, and before going to sleep Sam tells David about his recurring nightmare. David’s been having the same dream, and they have it again that night. The next morning, David shows Sam a picture he has of their birth parents, and Sam is all excited that the picture was taken in front of the house on McClarendon Street. And in the picture there’s someone standing in the same window where Sam thought he saw someone the other day.
Liz and Jessica meet David and Sam at the mansion later that day. They wander into the backyard where there’s an old man doing some gardening. Sam thinks it’s the guy from his dreams, but David isn’t so sure. The man introduces himself as PJ the caretaker and tells the kids that the Burroughs family used to own the house. The last Burroughs to live there was Sam and David’s great-grandfather, Peter. He and Jeremiah Seever were friends and business partners, but things went wrong, the partnership was dissolved, and through some assholery, Jeremiah wound up with the house. Sam asks about the eleven-year-old boy who died, Michael Burroughs, but PJ gets all angry and walks away. When Sam tries to follow him around the side of the house, PJ is gone.
The next morning Jessica wakes up thinking about her plan to get even with Lila. She digs an old wooden box out of her closet, puts a “Fooled you, Lila!” note in it, and takes the box to the McClarendon house to hide it under a tree in the backyard. While she’s there, she feels like she’s being watched.
Sam asks Liz to help him look up some stuff about his family. He finds Michael Burroughs’s death certificate, and it turns out Michael had the same birthday as David and Sam. Also, he died the day before his twelfth birthday. Tomorrow is the day before David and Sam’s twelfth birthday, so he’s convinced either he or David is gonna die. The cause of death on the certificate is illegible, so Liz and Sam go to the library to look up old newspapers. Unfortunately, the library is closed.
While that’s going on, Jessica is luring Lila to the McClarendon house. Lila finds the box, and is super pissed when there’s just a snarky note and no gold inside. She storms off, leaving Jessica alone in the spooky backyard of this spooky old house. Jessica runs to the gate, but it’s locked and she can’t get out. Meanwhile, Liz is on her way home from the library when she gets a weird feeling. She turns her bike around and lets herself be pulled to wherever her ESP is telling her to go, and she ends up at the McClarendon house. She lets Jessica out of the backyard and they go home.
At the library the next morning, Sam finds an article about Michael Burroughs’s death. Peter J. Burroughs took his grandson Michael sailing and they both drowned in a sudden squall. There’s a picture attached to the article; Peter J. Burroughs looks exactly like PJ the caretaker. Sam tries to call David, but Mrs. Barton says David and his dad are out sailing. That’s a problem.
Sam goes to the Wakefields’ house and tells the twins what’s going on. They call the marina, but David and his dad are already out on the water. The kids hop on their bikes. By the time they get to the marina, the storm is ridiculous. They see Mr. Barton’s boat get totally fucked by a huge wave, and Sam passes out. When he wakes up, the sky is clear and David’s father is there, but the Coast Guard hasn’t found David yet. The Sloanes and the Bartons hang out for a few hours while the search goes on, and eventually Sam falls asleep. He has the nightmare again, except this time he gets to finish it.
In the dream, the old man is walking against the rain as usual, but this time his hat blows back and Sam can see it’s PJ. You know, the caretaker? PJ makes his way into the ocean and starts swimming. He eventually finds David and carries him to shore, but it’s not the Sweet Valley beach Sam recognizes. PJ carries David into a boathouse and Sam wakes up. He describes the boathouse and manages to get the Coast Guard guys to believe he knows what he’s talking about, and Sam sets off with them and the Wakefield twins, who are still hanging around because this is a series about them, remember? They find David safe and sound in a boathouse just like Sam described.
Sam stays at David’s that night and they look again at the old picture of their parents in front of the McClarendon house. The person that was in the upstairs window is gone. They figure it must have been their great-grandfather, aka PJ, who is finally at peace after saving David like he failed to save Michael. The boys also notice a door that wasn’t there before. They go to the house the next day and find the door, which has been hidden by ivy all this time. They find a room filled with junk, and the Wakefield twins show up while the boys are looking through it all. Because this is a series about them.
Inside a desk, Liz finds some legal documents. She remembers PJ’s story about how old man Seever used phony papers to get ownership of the house, and the kids take the papers to David’s lawyer parents. They prove that the house really belongs to the Burroughs family, and Sam and David have a joint birthday party there the next day. Which seems fast, right? Anyway, it’s a great party, and Lila gets Sam, David, and Liz to help her scare Jessica to get back at her. Fun times.
The twins had given their mother four No-Cooking Mondays for her birthday. They were supposed to do all the cooking and cleaning up so that Mrs. Wakefield could take it easy. Everyone in the family agreed that it was a wonderful present. Mrs. Wakefield worked part-time as an interior decorator and she was frequently tired in the evenings.
I absolutely can’t ever stand that Ned and Steven are always incapable of cooking. It’s always Alice or the twins. I also can’t ever stand that Alice is always so exhausted from her PART-TIME job.
“Sam! Telephone for you!” Mrs. Sloane called.
Sam’s heart sank. He was just about to leave the house. It’s probably Elizabeth, he thought, backing out of coming with me.
Sam isn’t really a whole lot of fun.
How can there be another person in the world who looks just like me? he wondered.
Sam asks this question even after days of hanging out with a pair of identical twins.
“You must go to the other school. That must be why we never met,” Elizabeth remarked.
What the fuck, there’s another school? What’s it called? We never find out. The only other time it’s mentioned, it’s just called “David’s school.”
The Cover: When I was a kid, I always thought Sam looked kind of like the Karate Kid. I loved this cover because it looked spooky. But I hate Liz’s face.
In conclusion: This was my absolute favorite book for a while when I was a kid. I read this book more than any other in the entire series, and I’ve been looking forward to blogging it. Which might explain why this recap is wayyyy too long.