Sweet Valley High #82: Kidnapped by the Cult!
The Big Deal: Nothing, really.
Poor Jessica has been grounded for three weeks because of a failing math grade. Her friends have been doing fun things without her the whole time and Sam has been too into dirt biking to come over much. On her very first day of freedom, Jessica wants to spend the whole day with Sam. They go out to breakfast, and then Sam mentions that day’s race. Jessica is appalled that he actually plans to race that day, and he says he’s told her all about it and has been preparing for it all week. Jessica is super pissed. She storms out of the restaurant and drives to the mall, thinking she’ll feel better if she does some shopping. She sees a boy who looks like Sam and a group of girls who remind her of her friends who have “abandoned” her, and she starts to cry. A ginger kid sits down next to her. He introduces himself as Ted and says he knows exactly how Jessica feels. He used to be down in the dumps all the time, too. He even ran away from home, but then he met Adam Marvel. Adam befriended Ted and introduced him to a group of people who never criticize or judge. They call themselves the Good Friends. Ted lives with them now, and he invites Jessica over for dinner.
The address Ted gives her is in the bad part of town, the part where nobody Jessica has ever talked to has ever set foot, except Tricia Martin. She stops the car in front of the crappiest house ever and is dismayed when Ted runs out of the house and tells her everyone is dying to meet her. Ted introduces her to everyone, and over dinner, Jessica tells the Good Friends her whole sad story. When she’s finished talking, one of the other kids says she’s never met a cheerleader, and another says he didn’t think cheerleaders actually had problems like regular people. I can’t make this stuff up, folks. With the exception of a sulky girl named Susan, everyone is in awe of Jessica and they want to know when she’ll be moving in. Jessica is taken aback and says thanks, but no thanks. For the rest of dinner, the Good Friends lament that Adam isn’t home yet and talk about how awesome he is. Just as Jessica is leaving later, Adam Marvel comes home. He’s about thirty and gorgeous, so of course Jessica stays longer to talk to him. She’s fascinated with the man, so when he asks her to come back the next day to help the group with yard work, Jessica agrees.
When she goes back the next day, Adam personally asks her to help him clean out the garage. Jessica is totally excited that she’ll spend the whole day alone with him. Susan comes into the garage and says she thought Adam wanted her to help him. Adam tells her he changed his mind. Susan gets pissed and stalks off. Adam explains to Jessica that Susan is new to the group and hasn’t quite learned how to be a Good Friend yet. She’s still hanging on to her old selfish ways. Jessica deduces that Susan has a crush on him. Adam is delighted at Jessica’s intelligence and gives her a hug.
Jessica starts spending all her time with the Good Friends. Adam doesn’t like flashy clothes, so Jessica starts wearing weird shit like tweed skirts with white blouses. One of the things the group does is collect money for charities, and the first time Jessica goes with them, she collects more than anyone else. On the way back, Adam stops the van at the grocery store and takes some of the collected money to buy food. Jessica says he can’t use the charity money for that, but Adam assures her it’s okay.
After a few weeks of Jessica brushing him off, Sam gets fed up and shows up at her house. He demands to know what her problem is and what she’s been doing lately. Adam has told her to keep the Good Friends a secret, so Jessica avoids the question and accuses Sam of checking up on her. She really wants him to leave so she can daydream about Adam, so she tells him to go home and watch television with his bike, then goes inside.
If you’re wondering why Liz hasn’t noticed what’s been going on with Jessica, it’s because she’s having a problem of her own. She and Todd have joined the new bowling club. Justin Silver, the kid coaching the team, has a crush on Liz and she doesn’t know what to do about it. She thinks he’s handsome and funny and all that jazz, but she loves Todd. When Justin asks her out, she says he only likes her because she’s pretty, but Todd knows her well and they love each other. She wants to tell Todd Justin asked her out, but the opportunity doesn’t present itself and she feels guilty. Anyway…
One night at dinner, Ned tells Alice and Liz about the Good Friends, a new group in town that claims to raise money for charities. Unfortunately, some of the charities the group says it works for don’t exist, and others say they’ve never heard of Good Friends. And apparently, Adam Marvel, the group’s leader, may be setting up groups like this all over the country. Maybe he’s starting a cult! When Alice, Ned and Liz have finished talking about Adam Marvel, they all gossip about Jessica for a while and make fun of her clothes.
Sam tells Liz he’s worried about Jessica and that she’s been lying about going to the library every night. Liz realizes she needs to try to talk to Jessica, and she decides a good, neutral subject would be Ned’s news about the Good Friends. Jessica is furious when Liz accuses them of being a cult. She throws Liz out of her room. Liz thinks about Jessica’s reaction and puts it together with Sam’s complaints and Todd’s assertion that he saw someone who looked like Jessica collecting money at the mall. Liz is sure it all fits together somehow, but she just can’t…quite…figure…it…out.
The next day, Sam comes over to the Wakefields’ house and drags Liz and Todd to his car, saying he followed Jessica that morning and he knows where she’s been going. They drive to the worst part of town and see the twins’ Fiat parked outside a house with a sign hanging on the door that says “The Good Friends.” Liz explains to Sam that she thinks Jessica has joined the cult, all while Todd sits there telling her she’s jumping to conclusions. Liz waits until Jessica gets home that night and tells her she knows where she’s been going. Jessica is mad at first, but then she tells Liz all about Adam and the things he does to help others. She promises she’ll leave the group immediately if it turns out there is any truth to Ned’s claims.
Liz is still worried, so she decides to be Jessica and infiltrate the cult. She forces Jessica to go to a movie with Sam, then she and Todd go to the house, where Todd will wait outside just in case Liz needs help. The Friends are having a “discussion night,” which basically consists of everyone saying they agree with Adam. Liz thinks Adam is totally creepy. A group of Friends comes in all worked up about something. They were collecting at the mall when one of them, Brian, disappeared. Adam sends everyone to the mall to look for him, except Liz and Susan, the sulky girl. Adam sees the other kids out, and while he’s gone, Susan whispers to Liz to get out while she can. Liz is confused, and then Adam comes back so they can’t talk any more. Liz talks to Todd that night and tells him how scared she was. Todd tries to convince her to tell her parents what’s going on, but Liz is sure that’s a bad idea.
That Justin guy keeps bothering Liz, so she finally agrees to go out with him. They go to the mall, where they see one of the cult members collecting money. Liz freaks out and pulls Justin in the other direction. She doesn’t feel like she can tell him what’s going on, and this makes her really wish she was with Todd instead of him. Blargh.
At dinner one night, Ned starts talking about the Good Friends investigation. Liz and Jessica find out Brian’s parents snatched him back, and once he’s had time to recover, he’ll testify against Adam Marvel. Liz and Jessica argue later, and Jessica finally lies and says she’ll stay away from the group. She goes to the house the next night and tells Adam everything. They talk about Brian, and Adam says it was horrible of his parents to kidnap their own son. He’s upset that he has no way of contacting Brian, and manipulates Jessica into thinking it’s her idea to get Brian’s address and phone number from Ned’s files.
She meets Adam the next day and gives him Brian’s address. Jessica asks him what’s to stop Brian’s parents from taking him back again, and Adam says they’re going to move on and set up house in another town. He tells Jessica the group needs her more than ever, especially now that Susan has gone home. The next night, she packs a bag and heads for the house. She hesitates when Adam tells her to get into the van, and then Liz, Sam and Todd show up. Sam runs inside while Liz pleads with Jessica to come home with her. Jessica is torn, but keeps defending Adam. Then Sam comes out of the house carrying Susan in his arms. He found her bound and gagged upstairs.
Todd has called the police, and they arrest Adam. Susan explains that she’s a reporter, and everything is back to normal by the next page. Sam apologizes to Jessica for not realizing how depressed she was from being grounded. Steve says he’s upset that Cara is going to London for a week, and then the book ends.
There was only one blonde in the room, and she didn’t even have a tan.
This pretty much sums up Jessica’s first impression of the Good Friends.
Sam knew she didn’t like popcorn, but did he care? No. He liked popcorn, so every time they went to a movie, he bought popcorn. And every time, he ate it himself!
That’s because he likes it, Jessica.
“A cult!” Elizabeth gasped. “Here? In Sweet Valley? But that’s impossible!”
I love that Liz’s reaction to stuff like this is never “That’s awful!” or “That’s scary!” Her first reaction is always to say it’s impossible.
The Cover: She really must be brainwashed if she left the house looking like that. The cover art is really bad lately. She looks about twelve. Sam is pretty cute. Ted looks dirty somehow.