Sweet Valley High #21: Runaway

The moral of the story: If you feel your family doesn’t appreciate you, try running away from home. You will be welcomed back with open arms and may even get a new sweater out of the deal.

The Big Deal: Party at Cara’s


The twins have an unexplained week off school. Brother Steven is taking the rest of the term off from college because he’s having problems dealing with Tricia’s death (remember that, from six books ago?). Jessica asks him if he wants to come to Cara’s party and the whole family gives her grief about how insensitive she is. At the party, Jessica gets sick of hearing everyone talk about how awesome Liz is and goes out to the pool house to be alone. She runs into Nicky Shepard there. He’s a Sensitive Bad Boy. His parents don’t have time for him because his little brother has asthma, which I guess is a really big deal or something and requires a lot of attention. My brother has asthma and we just went ahead and got him an inhaler, but whatever. Nicky and Jessica make out and spend the rest of the night dancing. Liz disapproves. Jessica gets mad.

Liz and Steven go to Casey’s for ice cream and discover Ricky Capaldo working there. We find out later that Ricky’s dad has stopped paying child support and Ricky’s working to help his mother. I seem to remember that being a big scandal when it was happening to Roger Barrett, but I guess Ricky’s cooler than him or something so it doesn’t matter. Ned Wakefield is Ricky’s grandparents’ lawyer. Mrs. Capaldo won’t let them see her kids. Over dinner one night, Liz gives Ned some suggestions about the case. Ned takes them into consideration and ignores Jessica’s comments. Jessica leaves the house and runs into Nicky. He tells her he’s running away to San Francisco in a few weeks.

Liz tries to talk to her parents about how depressed Jessica seems, but they don’t see a problem. She tries to convince Ned to ask Jessica to come along with them to the Capaldos’ court hearing, but he refuses. He makes a good point, that he doesn’t want to give in to Jessica’s every whim, but it seems like now, when she’s feeling so crappy, is a bad time to suddenly grow a backbone about it. At the courthouse, Ricky asks Liz not to write the article she’s working on about the case. ‘Cause you know the Sweet Valley News wants a sixteen-year-old’s article for their paper.

Nicky and Jessica go to a party and he asks her to come with him to San Francisco. He’s leaving in a couple days now instead of a couple weeks. She declines because she can’t bear to leave her family, even if they don’t seem to like her anymore. They leave the party and get into a car accident because Nicky’s been drinking. His parents come to pick them up and we learn they’re big pieces of crap who care more about the car than they do about Nicky.

Jessica tries to talk to her family about how she’s been feeling, but Alice runs off to work, Ned keeps interrupting her, Steven would rather go jogging, and Liz has to get to the newspaper office to talk about her article. Jessica decides to join Nicky in San Francisco. She packs up her stuff and leaves a note for Liz, but when she closes her bedroom door the draft blows the note behind her dresser.

At the courthouse, Liz has a talk with Ricky and solves everything because that’s how she rolls.  At Ricky’s insistence, his mom decides her ex’s parents can go ahead and see her kids and the case is dropped. Yeah, after everyone has paid god knows how much money for lawyers and everything else, a heart to heart with Liz saves the day. When Liz and Ned get home, Liz discovers Jessica’s room is spotless and her clothes are gone. She and Ned go to Nicky’s house to see if he knows anything and Nicky’s mom tells them he ran off and they haven’t cared to try to find him. At the bus station, Jessica waits until the last minute to get on the bus because she’s hoping her note will make her family rush to the station and tell her how much they love her. They don’t come (take that, bitch) and she finally gets on the bus.

Steven finds out from a mutual friend that Nicky’s gone to San Francisco. He and Liz get to the bus station too late and follow the bus to its next stop. They find Jessica and bring her back home. They all have a long talk and everything is great. Jessica asks for a new sweater and Ned says she can have it. Because he’s just glad she’s home. Man, do you know what would have happened to me if I’d have pulled something like that when I was a kid? I for sure would not have gotten a new sweater.


“It’s so hard with school being out next week. There aren’t any dances or games or anything.”

“Cara’s having a party tomorrow night,” Jessica offered.

It must be devastating to not have any dances or games or parties at Lila’s house. I guess a party at Cara’s is the next best thing.

In one corner a group of people were playing Trivial Pursuit.

This is why we like Lila’s parties better. Seriously? Trivial Pursuit at a high school party? I mean, my friends and I would have done that in high school, but we were nerds, not popular and awesome like this crowd.

Elizabeth introduced the couple to Steven. “Bill’s a champion surfer,” Elizabeth said. “And DeeDee is a terrific artist.”

And that’s all they’ll ever be…

She could see herself coming back to Sweet Valley a few years in the future. She would be independent, sure of herself, someone who had made it on her own without anybody’s help. Then her family would see. Then they’d be sorry they had liked Elizabeth.

Now people aren’t even allowed to like Elizabeth? I think you’re asking a little much, Jess.

“Please, Your Honor.” He paused. “Think of the children. The children,” he repeated quietly.

Oh, sweet melodrama.

Jessica and the Number 137:

“I have a date with Neil, and he’s seen everything in my closet at least a hundred and thirty-seven times.”

The Cover: Oh, what a great cover. I don’t think I even have to say anything about it.

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  • Whitney G April 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    OMG, somebody really said “Think of the children” without a hint of irony? Only in Sweet Valley!


  • Sadako April 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Oh my god, that’s horribly wonderful. “Won’t somebody pleeaaaase think of the children.” Heh.

    And, man, I can’t believe people were okay with Jessica running away and actually rewarded her. Not even Michelle Tanner got rewarded for running way. (I don’t think.)


  • HelenB April 6, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Liz is pretty much the poor man’s Dr Phil, isn’t she? Or… since this is Sweet Valley, I guess she’s the rich man’s Dr Phil.

    I love how everyone who drinks in Sweet Valley automatically is a drink-driver. Like drinking is so completely terrible, but cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend? Totally OK! (as long as you’re a Wakefield, or a friend of a Wakefield, or are prepared to unburden yourself to a Wakefield.)


  • Shannon April 7, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Ha ha, the part about “the children” was so amazingly awful.

    Helen, I know! Also, every time we see someone driving drunk, they get into an accident.


  • nugirl77 May 5, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I’m honestly not trying to make enemies here, but, truly, I felt sorry for Jess in this book. Sure, she gave everyone food poisoning when she pried open those unopened mussels in #20 (Crash Landing!) for her disastrous seafood pasta salad, but that was a genuine mistake! 🙂 Ned and Alice acting like they were going to be poisoned again every time Jess offered to cook dinner was very insensitive, and I say this as someone who (like Jess) doesn’t naturally enjoy cooking! So when you make the effort (and, yes, also the mistake) a little kindness, a little compassion and maybe even gratitude, can go a long way.

    I also thought Liz would be a little more ‘share and care’ with the person who’s supposed to be closer to her than anyone else in the world and ask Jess to go halves with her when paying for her parents’ anniversary dinner and tickets to a show. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood and to fall for Sensitive (confused, clueless) Bad Boys! 🙂 [That’s why these days I’m happily married to a nerd.] I’m glad Jess got a sweater for her sufferings. If it had been me, I would have tried for more Lego.


  • Anonymous January 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    What genre is this book?


    Shannon Reply:

    This is a genre I call Cheesy Teen Crap.


  • dirtywingsgirl January 31, 2010 at 2:06 am

    “She runs into Nicky Shepard there. He’s a Sensitive Bad Boy.”
    Did anyone else immediately picture Luke Perry/Dylan from 90210?

    “His parents don’t have time for him because his little brother has asthma.”
    Oh my GOD, that’s a lame excuse. It’s not like asthma is fucking autism or something. It’s a pretty common condition. I’m sure it can be worrying, but I doubt it would take up parent’s time 24/7. Lol, just imagining Luke Perry coolly smoking a cigarette by a dilapidated industrial site. “My parents don’t have time for me…my brother’s got asthma”, he would say broodingly, looking off into the distance and wrinkling his forehead in pain.


    Shannon Reply:

    “My parents don’t have time for me…my brother’s got asthma”, he would say broodingly, looking off into the distance and wrinkling his forehead in pain.



    Darren Reply:

    Nicky to me reminds me of RIchard Grieco, think it was, from 21 Jump Street and on Rags to Riches when he was NIck Malone’s godson I think it was that fell for 2 of his girls, Rose and DIane that led to a fight between the girls! That to me would be a great guest star, him or Johnny depp with slick hair, telling Jessica they understand her feelings.
    I seriously thought Ned, Alice, Steven, and Elizabeth all took turns wanting to be the biggest asshole of the story the way they just ignored Jessica. They should’ve had me in the story giving Elizabeth dirty looks ot ignoring her sister in the worse way. I’m glad Jessica almost ran away, they sure knocked them into reality didn’t it?


  • dirtywingsgirl January 31, 2010 at 2:09 am

    “At the courthouse, Liz has a talk with Ricky and solves everything because that’s how she rolls.”
    And how come Liz can solve everything for characters we’ve practically never heard of, but can’t stop her own twin sister from leaving home?


  • Kylie90210 August 3, 2010 at 12:08 am

    I too felt bad for Jess in this book! I wonder whatever happened to Nicky. Also, great cover! Just the right amoutn of pout!


  • Carol November 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

    I liked this book! I was so into it that I cried a little when Liz & Steven find Jessica on the bus! The poor girl had been crying and had her head down and even thought when Liz called her name that it was just her imagination. 🙁

    I did feel bad for Jessica… her family really was ignoring her and sure I laughed when Jessica first poisoned them but for them to give her a hard time about it every time Jessica offered to cook for them was not cool.


  • Wendy October 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The typos were in full force in this one.


  • Nikki July 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I know Jessica’s the “bad/evil twin”, but I’m not gonna lie, in the early books, when I first started reading SVH, Jessica was my favorite. I always rooted for her because she was the underdog and the black sheep, especially when it came to her family. It seemed like she was always in her sister’s shadow. The author always wrote Elizabeth as the heroine and Liz was always saving the day. Case and point: “At the courthouse, Liz has a talk with Ricky and solves everything because that’s how she rolls. At Ricky’s insistence, his mom decides her ex’s parents can go ahead and see her kids and the case is dropped. Yeah, after everyone has paid god knows how much money for lawyers and everything else, a heart to heart with Liz saves the day.” It basically played out like this in every book. Of course, the new series SVC is the total opposite with Jessica getting her happy ending and riding off into the sunset w/ Todd, and Liz getting the short end of the stick. Naturally, I’m now #TeamElizabeth. I always root for the underdog.


  • Selena June 9, 2015 at 11:14 am

    “Over dinner one night, Liz gives Ned some suggestions about the case. Ned takes them into consideration…”

    Yeah, because not only do lawyers always share details about their cases with their teenagers, they totally take advice from them, too!


  • Alex Kennedy July 9, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I did feel a bit sorry for Jessica in this book. For example, she tries to make dinner for her family and she is teased for it. Her comments to Steven are initially frowned upon, but all is better when Elizabeth explains it all.

    Furthermore, I was disappointed (for some reason) that for the majority of the book, Jessica was not a runaway. Before I read it, I thought that Jessica would have spent more time as a runaway. Liz would blame herself. Prince Albert would spend every night on Jessica’s bed.


  • Anonymous July 10, 2016 at 5:39 am

    Impossible Ned breaks every confidentiality clause known to mankind and discusses case WITH NAMES outside work ?


  • Alex Kennedy July 11, 2016 at 4:13 am

    ^^^ Liz is also quite guilty of a breach of confidentiality. Why would she think that it is a good idea to write about the court case? It is something which is hugely personal to that of her classmate. Lastly, it is not as if it is a ground breaking case.


  • Sweet Valley Forever April 21, 2017 at 7:45 am

    What on Earth possessed Liz to think it was appropriate to write about the details of somebody’s life in her silly newspaper? I thought that she was supposed to be the smart twin. I guess Mr Collins gives it the okay as he has crossed many boundaries.


  • Jessica W is an a Bad Person August 4, 2017 at 8:11 am

    The title implies that JW actually did run away for a prolonger period of time. It focussed upon how her family mistreated her, which to an extent, they did. For example, when she encourages SW to attend a party everyone moans at her until Liz admits that it was her idea. If I had authored the novel, I would have focussed on JW thinking that she was an adult and running off with Nick. In “real life” (and if the Internet had been around in SV time) Jessica would have “made on line friends” with a female. Then she would have been lured into a shady underworld where vulnerable young people get violated. I digress – it would have been better if she ran away with Nick and she gets a harsh dose of a reality check. I know that as a result of reading about Regina’s experience with cocaine, many people chose not to try this drug because of what happened to Regina. If Francine had elected to depict Runaway Jessica and make the plot revolve around what it is like to be a runaway teen as well as the despair her family would have felt not knowing where she was would have made he book more interesting and the plotline more harrowing.


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