Author Archive

Sweet Valley Twins #41: The Twins Get Caught

Friday, April 18th, 2014

SVT041The Moral of the Story: Your grandparents are probably cooler than you think.

The Big Deal: Big Party

Synopsis:

Mrs. Wakefield’s parents are coming for a ten day visit, and Jessica is pissed that she has to move into Elizabeth’s room. She’s also concerned that she’s going to have to spend a lot of time with the old folks. There’s a ton of super fun Unicorn stuff coming up over the next week and Jessica doesn’t want to miss any of it. And Jessica is still angry that her parents won’t let her get her ears pierced because they think she’s too young. Which is just silly to me. In sixth grade I had three holes in each ear and a super cool pair of earrings that had three studs connected by a chain. The Wakefield parents are so uptight sometimes.

The grandparents get to town and everything they do and say makes the twins worry about how old and decrepit they’re getting. It’s stupid. Then brother Steven comes home from a party at the Hangout (super cool new teen club in town) and he’s got a black eye. Apparently a bunch of guys from Big Mesa were there and they were mad about a basketball game they lost to SVH a week ago. There was a big fight, and now Steven isn’t allowed to go to the Hangout anymore.

On Saturday morning, Liz gets up early to make a breakfast of oatmeal and soft boiled eggs for the grandparents (nobody else will eat it), and then the grandparents surprise her by asking her to go jogging around the block with them. And their frailty is never mentioned again. And in other news, Jessica hates Liz’s boring room, so she decides to decorate the walls with a bunch of purple ribbon and pictures cut out of magazines. Liz hates it. It’s never mentioned again and I don’t care.

Jessica goes to the mall with Ellen and Lila so Ellen can get her ears pierced. Jessica wants nothing to do with it so she wanders away by herself and runs into Todd Wilkins. I’m pretty sure this is Todd’s first appearance, but apparently Jessica has “always” thought he was cute, even though he never talks to girls. He asks if Liz is around, and then leaves in a hurry when Jessica says she’s not. Lila and Ellen are totally jealous that Todd talked to Jessica.

Aaron Dallas is going to have a party. It’s going to be the BIGGEST EVENT IN SWEET VALLEY HISTORY. Everyone is invited. Todd asks Jessica if she and Liz will be there, and seems happy when she says they will. Jessica assumes he’s in love with her. The problem with the party is that it’s going to be at the Hangout. As soon as the Wakefield parents find out, they forbid the twins from going.

Jessica is feeling horribly mistreated by her parents, so she gets her ears pierced. (I’m going to interject here just to ask if twelve-year-olds were really able to go to the mall and get their ears pierced without parental permission. Even back in 1990 when this book came out, I would think there would be rules about that sort of thing.) Her parents try to ground her, but Grandma saves the day when she says it was her fault for telling Jessica she thought twelve was old enough for earrings. Grandma also tries to get Mrs. Wakefield to let the twins go to the party, but Alice is being all parental for once and she won’t budge.

Lila goads Jessica into trying to sneak out to the party. While Jessica is trying to convince Liz to sneak out with her, the grandparents come in and overhear everything. And that’s them “getting caught.” Instead of getting them into trouble, the grandparents tell the parents that they should really let the twins go to the party. For some reason, the parents are more receptive this time and they let them go.

The party is marvelous. Todd asks Jessica to dance and now everyone thinks they’re going to be a couple. The grandparents finally go home and Jessica gets to move back into her room.

Quotes:

“Steven!” she cried. “Are you hurt?”

Steven was standing at the entry to the living room. The sleeve of his shirt was torn. There was a scratch on his face. And his left eye was beginning to turn several shades of purple.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say he’s hurt.

The Cover: I don’t even know what scene this is. I guess it’s Jessica on the phone with Lila. I wanted her hair so badly.

Sweet Valley Twins #40: Danny Means Trouble

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

SVT040The Moral of the Story: Celebrities fix everything.

The Big Deal: Big track meet, Parents’ Night

Classmate with a Problem: Danny Jackson, trouble

Synopsis:

Danny Jackson is the best runner on the track team, but he’s a pain in the ass who’s always getting in trouble. After cutting off some of Julie Porter’s hair in class one day, the principal tells him he won’t be able to run track if he keeps screwing around. The next day, Danny is assigned all new classes, and now he’s in the twins’ homeroom and almost all of Jessica’s classes. In social studies, he draws a picture of Mrs. Arnette on the chalkboard while she’s out of the room, and in science class he and Ken get into a big fight. Somehow, he does not get kicked off the track team.

There’s a big track meet against Pinecrest, “the best school in the area.” Danny manages to break a school record, and Liz asks him some questions for the Sixers. When she mentions that his parents must be proud of him, Danny gets all pissed off and tells her to mind her own business. Jim Sturbridge tells Liz that Danny’s parents are scientists and they don’t really like sports.

In social studies one day, Danny tries to tell Mrs. Arnette that a good way to learn about the judicial system is the watch The Citizens’ Court, which sounds like a Judge Judy kind of show. Mrs. Arnette says television isn’t a good way to learn and she and Danny have a heated discussion that ends in a detention threat. And when he’s called on to read in English class, he suggests to a substitute teacher that they discuss what they’ve already read. When Mrs. Winderhoven (lol) doesn’t agree with him, he pretends there’s a mouse under his desk and makes everyone freak out. So, Danny is smart and cares about learning, he’s just got an issue with authority? Principal Clark says if Danny gets in trouble one more time, he’s off the track team. The next meet is three weeks away, and the twins are sure he won’t be able to stay out of trouble that long.

Meanwhile, Jessica notices that Bruce Patman is interested in one of the girls on the track team, so she decides she’ll be more appealing to him if she starts doing aerobics. She spends all weekend working out and by Monday morning she can barely move. And in other news, Lila is getting her ears pierced, so Jessica asks her parents if she can get hers pierced, too. Her parents decide she and Liz can both get their ears pierced when they’re fourteen. Jessica is not happy. Liz couldn’t care less.

And now it’s Parents’ Night at the middle school. It seems to consist of students and their parents roaming aimlessly around the school and stopping into whatever classroom they feel like visiting. The Wakefields go to their math classroom and overhear Ms. Wyler talking to Danny and his parents about his B grade. His parents are disappointed he’s not getting an A, and Ms. Wyler says he’s just having some trouble with the word problems. And then Liz hears them telling Mr. Bowman they think Danny should quit track so he’ll have more time for studying.

Liz asks Danny to look over her track article for the Sixers so he can make sure she’s got all his facts straight. It becomes immediately obvious that Danny doesn’t read very well. Liz tries to talk to him about it because she just can’t help herself, and Danny starts freaking out and ripping pages out of books and generally being a weirdo. Mr. Clark comes out of nowhere and takes him away to the principal’s office. Liz feels like it’s all her fault. She goes to Mr. Clark after school to tell him there’s a reason for Danny’s behavior, but she doesn’t want to tell him what it is so it’s kind of out of Mr. Clark’s hands. Danny is suspended from the track team.

Elizabeth has never felt more guilty about anything in her life, and she just has to tell someone Danny’s secret, so she chooses Jessica. Seems like a bad plan, but maybe Jessica won’t tell anyone. Liz also tells her father. Both Jessica and Mr. Wakefield tell her to let Danny sort it out on his own because it’s not her place to tell his teachers.

The twins read an article about Greg Voynow (lol), an Olympic runner who couldn’t read until he was nineteen. Liz writes him a letter and of course he calls right away and offers to come to Sweet Valley the next day and talk to Danny. So this grown man comes to meet Danny at school, talks to him for a minute about running, and then lures him away in his car to get some ice cream so they can talk. Seems legit. They go to Casey’s Place and eat sundaes while Greg tells Danny all about his own learning disability. Danny agrees to talk to Mr. Bowman the next day. Meanwhile, Liz is upset that Jessica got to meet Greg and she couldn’t because there was a Sixers emergency. Greg is gorgeous and Liz has her first crush.

Danny tells Mr. Bowman about his troubles and starts getting tutored. Mr. Clark lets him back on the track team and they win the next big meet. Greg Voynow comes to school to give a lecture about education and learning disabilities, and he calls Liz on stage to thank her for getting in touch with him. He kisses her on the cheek and Jessica is furious.

Update on Jessica’s workout obsession: She runs through the park one day in her super cool purple aerobic tights. Bruce Patman and Jake Hamilton are there and they make fun of her clothes and of how slow she’s running. Another day, she runs to the beach and discovers she has a blister. Jake Hamilton happens to be there and he offers to have his mom drive her home. Jessica is embarrassed, and when she gets home she weighs herself and discovers she’s gained three pounds. She decides to give up on working out.

Quotes:

“That’s funny. You don’t look like you gained any weight,” Lila remarked.

“I didn’t!” Jessica said.

“Then why would you want to exercise?” Lila asked.

My thoughts exactly.

 

“Do you have trouble reading?” she asked. “Because if you do, I—“

Danny scowled. “Just leave me alone, will you?” he almost yelled. “Stop being such a pain!”

For real, just leave everyone alone.

The Cover: That kid looks ANGRY! And he looks like he’s about five, which is weird. Loving Liz’s floodpants.

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #2: The Ghost in the Graveyard

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

SVTSC02The Moral of the Story: In trouble? You can always rely on your twin to know you’re in danger and come save you. Also, ghosts are real. This is a weird book.

The Big Deal: Spring break, sixth grade boat ride, pool party at the Wakefields’ house, birthday party

Classmate with a Problem: Sam Sloane, telepathic

Synopsis:

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.

Quotes:

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.

Sweet Valley Twins #39: Jessica and the Money Mix-Up

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

SVT039The Moral of the Story: Your parents totally won’t mind if you lose five hundred dollars.

The Big Deal: Just some roller-skating. Nothing to see here.

Classmate with a Problem: Jessica, stupid.

Synopsis:

The first thing that happens here is Jessica spends an hour trying to decide what to wear roller-skating, and after all that time she comes up with a yellow t-shirt and jeans. Crisis averted. She had to call Lila for her input, and Mr. Wakefield is pissed that the phone was tied up for so long. He was expecting important business calls. The man is an idiot, so in order to let Jessica make it up to him, he asks her to take an envelope with five hundred dollars in it to the home of one of his associates. So stupid.

Jessica gets stopped by Caroline Pearce on her way to the guy’s house, and she spends half an hour talking to Caroline about the possibility of Bruce bringing a date roller skating that night. When Jessica finally gets to Mr. Hopper’s house, the next door neighbor tells her Mr. Hopper has gone out for the evening and he’s leaving town at six the next morning. Jessica figures she’ll get up early and bring the money then. In the meantime, she decides to hide the money in a tennis racket case in the utility closet.

Unfortunately, Mr. Wakefield goes on a cleaning kick that night, and Steven takes the tennis racket back to his friend Peter Moore, from whom he borrowed it. When Jessica finds out the next morning, she ropes Liz into going to Peter’s house with her. But the racket actually belongs to Peter’s dad and he’s out using it right now.

The twins go to the country club, and after Jessica is caught under a table groping in the racket case, Mr. Moore tells her he never saw the money. The twins go home in defeat. They decide to do some odd jobs around the neighborhood and make up the money before Mr. Hopper gets back from vacation next week.

The odd jobs go badly, of course. Jessica clearly has ADD and can’t concentrate on anything for more than a minute, so Liz ends up doing all the work, as we all could have predicted. Jessica’s only real hope is to win some radio contest she’s entered. The prize is a thousand dollars. The contest involves writing to the radio station and telling them who your favorite artist is. If the radio station announces Jessica’s name, she’ll have to call and identify five Johnny Buck songs based on a few seconds of music.

Jessica’s name actually does get announced on the radio, and she gets four songs right, but fucks up on the last one. Naturally. She goes downstairs to finally tell her father what happened, and gets down there just in time to see an envelope fall out of his pocket as he’s walking out the door. When he gets home that night, Jessica tells him she lost the money. He looks all smug for a minute and reaches into his pocket and looks worried when the envelope isn’t there. Jessica gives him the envelope and they both apologize to each other and all is right with the world again. Jessica agrees to always go to her parents when something like this happens. Yeah, right.

Also in this book: Ellen tries to change the official color of the Unicorns from purple to red. What is she thinking? Also noteworthy, Alice is out of town for most of this book. You’d never know. She’s not much of a presence in the twins’ lives even when she’s around.

Setup for the next book: Some kid named Danny Jackson keeps getting into trouble at school.

The Cover: High-waisted elastic-band shorts. How awesome was 1990?

Sweet Valley Twins #38: Lois Strikes Back

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

SVT038The Moral of the Story: Fat people can win bike-a-thons! (But only if skinny people drop out.)

The Big Deal: Bike-a-thon

Classmate with a Problem: Lois Waller, fat

Synopsis:

The school is doing a bike-a-thon to raise money for something or other. When Lois Waller says she’s excited to enter, Liz and Amy are surprised because Lois is usually too fat to do shit like that. Jessica is in a crisis because she thinks nobody will sponsor both her and Liz, and she really wants the super cool bike that’s being given away as a prize to the person who raises the most money. Lila and the other Unicorns decide they don’t really want to bike for thirty sweaty miles, so they drop out of the bike-a-thon. Jessica drops out, too, because she figures she’ll never win the bike anyway. She knows her parents will be disappointed in her, so she promises herself they’ll never find out.

One day at lunch, Bruce Patman accidentally trips over Lois’ backpack, and the whole lunchroom watches him clean up his fallen tray. Humiliated, Bruce vows to get revenge on Lois for having such an offensive backpack. Lois gets way more sponsors for the bike-a-thon than anyone else. Bruce realizes this contest must be really important to her, so naturally, this is the perfect means of getting back at her. He gets his parents to pledge twenty dollars a mile, and tells Lois the next day that there’s no way she’ll make more money than him. So Lois goes and gets a few more sponsors, and she’s up to twenty-one dollars a mile.

Finally, it’s bike-a-thon day. Lois and Bruce are the frontrunners, so Liz and Amy shadow them so they can report to the Sixers. Liz sticks by Lois as she rides twenty-two miles. Amy loses Bruce after only eight miles, and nobody has any idea whether or not he went the whole thirty. At school on Monday, he shows off the check his parents have written and brags about how he finished the race faster than anyone else. But when someone mentions the Casey’s gift certificates that were given out to everyone who finished, Bruce looks confused. Liz’s reporter’s instincts kick into high gear and she spends all day wondering whether or not Bruce actually finished the marathon.

By the way, Jessica only rode four miles and then she headed over to Lila’s to listen to the new Johnny Buck album. When Liz starts asking around about Bruce, Jessica mentions he was at Lila’s too, and showed up not long after she did. However, she thinks Liz is being unnecessarily mean to Bruce, so she makes a bet with Liz that he really did finish. Loser has to do the winner’s chores for a week.

OMG, this is so boring. Long story short, Liz gets Bruce to admit that he crashed his bike after eight miles, and then she has a great time watching Jessica do her chores.

Quotes:

Elizabeth looked at her. This was the first time she had ever seen Lois out of her school clothes, and she was surprised to note that in a T-shirt and shorts, Lois didn’t look so heavy.

Well, what the hell has she been wearing to school? A muumuu?

“I’m trying to stick to a diet,” Lois said shyly.

Elizabeth turned and looked at her friend. “That’s wonderful.”

That’s wonderful? I mean, you don’t have to pretend your friend isn’t overweight if she really is, but don’t act like you’ve been sitting around wishing she’d go on a diet.

Since she was going to be the center of attention, Lois had taken care to dress nicely. She and her mother had gone shopping, and because she had lost a few more pounds, she was able to fit into a pretty blue dress.

Because they don’t make pretty blue dresses for fat folks.

The Cover: I thought Lois was supposed to be fat…

Sweet Valley Twins #37: The War Between the Twins

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

SVT037The Moral of the Story: Things always work out for Wakefields.

The Big Deal: School dance

Classmate with a Problem: Twins, fighting

Synopsis:

The Unicorns have been getting pissy with Liz because she never prints anything about the Unicorns and their shopping trips in the school paper. Liz tells Jessica she can write an article and she promises it will appear in the next issue, but apparently there’s just too much news going on right now and she has to leave the article out. Jessica is spending the night at Lila’s that night, so Liz has to wait until school the next morning to tell her the bad news. She thinks this conversation is much too important to have over the phone. So of course she isn’t able to get to Jessica before Jessica sees that her article is missing from the paper. Jessica is furious. She says the Unicorns are going to start their own newspaper. God, that’s going to be so awful. Can you imagine?

The Unicorns have a meeting to discuss newspaper business. Janet appoints herself editor-in-chief and lays out all the other decisions they’ll have to make, like who the other editors are and how many pages the paper will be. At the end of the day, the only thing they’ve decided on is that it should be printed on purple paper. At the next meeting, Janet, sick of the indecision, just assigns positions and tasks to everyone and decides on the name The Unicorn News, which everyone hates. Janet appoints Jessica as news editor, her second-in-command. Jessica is really happy about it until Janet starts giving her everyone’s articles and telling her to correct their spelling. Janet has a super important dance to plan, so she can’t be bothered with newspaper stuff right now.

Mary and Jessica are the only ones really taking things seriously, and they spend all weekend putting the paper together while the rest of the Unicorns go shopping and whatnot. And then they’re told they can’t use the ditto machine on Monday, which sucks because they wanted their paper to come out on Tuesday, the day before the Sixers. They aren’t able to use the machine until Thursday, and that’s when they discover the purple paper Lila bought is almost the same color as the ink and the paper is impossible to read. Still, the girls are sure everyone will want to read their paper, and they’re flabbergasted when almost nobody takes a copy.

Most of the Unicorns want to give up on the paper, but Jessica convinces them not to. Janet reluctantly agrees, but appoints Jessica as editor-in-chief because Janet herself is much too busy with the dance committee. Jessica actually seems to have a grasp of how things should be going. She decides to change the name to The Middle School News, print it on white paper, and make it four pages instead of eight. She also decides they won’t post just Unicorn stuff (they printed the minutes from their last meeting in the first paper, complete with a ten minute argument about what the Unicorns’ least favorite color is), but nobody can think of what they actually should print. Then Lila comes up with the idea of a fake interview with Donny Diamond, some famous rock star.

The Donny Diamond interview is a huge success. The Unicorns have to print more copies of their paper, while almost nobody is reading the stupid Sixers with its article about the cafeteria staff. Liz and Amy are feeling pretty crappy about it, and then Nora tells them the Unicorns are hanging posters advertising their next issue, in which Donny Diamond will be answering students’ questions. Liz is surprised Jessica never mentioned an interview with Donny Diamond, but she knows Lila works in the music industry and figures it’s all above board.

While going through questions for Donny’s column, the Unicorns find a letter that says the sender doesn’t think Donny actually knows the Unicorns and they should print a picture of them and Donny together in the next issue to prove it. Jessica manages to find a picture of all the Unicorns posing with Janet’s brother, Sam, and she pastes a picture of Donny’s head over Sam’s head. The Unicorns charge fifteen cents for the paper and end up making forty-five dollars. Meanwhile, Lila is in charge of the music for the upcoming dance, and she’s been advertising a mystery guest because she hasn’t come up with any ideas for music yet. Ticket sales are going crazy, and I’m guessing it’s because everyone thinks the mystery guest will be Donny Diamond, seeing as how he’s an honorary Unicorn now.

Letters keep coming in with questions for Donny. Even Ms. Langberg, the gym teacher, asks Jessica all kinds of uncomfortable questions about how they met Donny and what he’s like. But the Unicorns have already answered all the easy ones and these questions are harder. They also get another letter from the person who doesn’t believe Donny knows the Unicorns. This person says he/she knows the photo was a fake. Jessica is convinced it’s the Sixers staff sending the letters. I think it’s probably Ms. Langberg.

Liz starts hearing rumors that Donny Diamond will be at the dance. She knows that ain’t never gonna happen, and she tries to tell Jessica how disappointed people are going to be when Donny isn’t there, but Jessica just accuses her of writing those letters and runs off to find Lila. She tells Lila about the rumors and Lila freaks out because she still hasn’t found a mystery guest for the dance. Jessica and Lila try to talk to Janet, but she just says rumors are good for business. That’s not helpful, especially since brother Steven tells Jessica the news is all over the high school and the students there are getting their younger siblings to buy tickets to the dance so they can hear Donny Diamond. Then Lila tells Jessica her music industry uncle just called. He completely forgot he was supposed to be looking for someone for Lila’s dance, and it’s too late now to get anyone.

Ms. Langberg pulls Jessica and Lila aside the next morning and asks them point blank if they know Donny Diamond. Since they’re being asked by a teacher, they have no choice but to tell her the truth. Ms. Langberg tells them she understands how things got carried away and aggressively suggests that the dance is the perfect place to apologize to the whole school for lying. When she asks Lila who the mystery guest actually is and Lila tells her there isn’t one, Ms. Langberg says she’ll get her accordion-playing cousin and his band, Donald Kaminsky and the Polka Dots, to play and everything will be fine. The girls feel like they have to agree. I’m taking bets now on what Donny Diamond’s real name is.

At the dance, Lila and Jessica get up on stage and explain everything. It does not go over well. The crowd is booing and hissing, so the girls run off stage. Then the curtains sweep back and there’s a weird looking guy with crazy red hair and nerdy glasses playing the accordion. The crowd starts chanting, “WE WANT DONNY.” So Donald Kaminsky takes off his wig and glasses, grabs a guitar and starts playing. He was Donny Diamond all along, guys.

After Donny’s set, Ms. Langberg calls Jessica and Lila backstage and introduces them to Donny. He chastises them for telling lies about him and says he was the one who sent the letters. He showed up tonight because Ms. Langberg told him lots of people were expecting him and he didn’t want people to be disappointed. He approves when the girls tell him they’ll use the money they made from the newspapers for something the whole school can use and that they won’t be printing anymore newspapers. Then he tells them to round up the rest of the Unicorns so they can get a real picture taken with him. What a really nice guy.

Oh, the twins have made up at some point during all this, and Liz offers to let Jessica write an article about Donny’s appearance at the dance for the next issue of the Sixers.

Quotes:

How did all this begin? And where is it going to end? Elizabeth wondered.

Melodramatic tween is melodramatic.

“This list is much too long,” Janet said authoritatively. “The editors can come up with a shorter one.” Since there were no editors, it was not clear just when there would be a shorter list. Nobody seemed to mind.

This cracked me up because it reads like Douglas Adams. I’m sure that was unintentional.

“Editor-in-chief, huh?” asked the twins’ fourteen-year-old brother, Steven. “I guess we’ll have to call you Big Chief Jessie.” He put his hand to his mouth and did an Indian war-whoop. “Woo-woo-woo-woo.”

You’re hilarious, Steven. No, really. Super funny.

The Cover: I always loved the way Jessica looked on this cover. High-waisted jeans notwithstanding.

Sweet Valley Twins #36: Mary is Missing

Monday, October 28th, 2013

SVT036The Moral of the Story: Breaking and entering is all right. You’ll probably solve a kidnapping case.

Classmate with a Problem: Mary, missing (didn’t see that coming, did you?)

Synopsis:

Mary Wallace hasn’t been at school the last couple of days. That doesn’t worry Jessica. What worries Jessica is that Mary also didn’t go to Lila’s after-school ice cream party and she missed a Unicorn meeting where she was supposed to give an important treasury report. Jessica calls Mary’s house, but Mary’s mom is weird and abrupt and tells her Mary isn’t home. Jessica tries to get Liz to freak out, too, but Liz tells her Mary’s probably just sick or something. But then dumb brother Steven tells Liz a girl called for one of the twins (he can’t remember which one) a couple of days ago. He can’t remember the message except that it had something to do with money and getting away. The twins know Mary and her mom have been arguing and they start to worry she’s run away.

Jessica goes to Mary’s house after school the next day and tells Mary’s mom she needs to get a library book from Mary’s room. She snoops around for the Unicorn money (Lila and Ellen told her to find it) but it’s not there. Mary’s room is really messy, and most confusing is her teddy bear still on the bed. Mary sleeps with the bear every night, so it would be weird if she ran away and didn’t take it with her. The twins go to the mall and decide to see a movie. They grab a newspaper that’s sitting on a bench and start to look for movie times, but there are words and letters clipped out. Liz takes the paper, thinking she might hone her mystery-solving skills later by trying to figure out which words are missing.

Jessica calls Mary’s house again and Mrs. Wallace is rude and tells her not to call again. Then Liz finds out the missing words from the newspaper can be arranged into a sentence that reads “YOUR DAUGHTER IS SAFE WILL BE IN TOUCH SOON DON’T CALL POLICE.” The twins start to panic. Then Amy comes over and the twins tell her everything. Amy suggests it was probably Annie DeSalvo who kidnapped Mary. I mean, she’d done it before, so it makes sense. Liz calls Officer Carey, who helped the twins with the Mrs. Harrington debacle a while back. Officer Carey is kind of a doofus. He calls Mary’s mom, who tells him Mary is on a trip with friends and will be back soon, and Officer Carey takes her word for it. Amy and the twins don’t know what to do with that so they agree to drop it for now and go swimming.

Jessica decides to tell Lila and Ellen her suspicions. All they care about is the missing Unicorn money and they’re convinced Jessica is hiding something from them. I don’t know why they think that, but Jessica says she can prove Mary was kidnapped and suggests they stake out Mary’s house. From the vacant lot next door, they hear Mrs. Wallace take a phone call. She says she’s on her way with “all small stuff” that’s “not marked.” Then she walks out the front door with a suitcase, a bundle of clothes, and Mary’s teddy bear.

Liz and Amy go to the library and see a woman tearing an article out of a newspaper. After she leaves, the girls look up the issue on microfilm. It’s a Los Angeles paper from a few weeks ago, and the article the woman tore out was about an unsolved kidnapping. At school the next day, Mrs. Arnette tells everyone that Mary was so excited about their research project on Mexico that her mother decided Mary should take a trip there. Sounds…unrealistic. After school that day, Amy and Liz see the woman from the library at the grocery store. When she leaves, they get on their bikes and follow her to a crappy old house. They decide to come back after dinner and stake the place out.

Jessica tags along, and she insists Lila and Ellen come, too. They want to wait until Annie DeSalvo leaves and then sneak into the house to find Mary, but Annie seems to be staying put. So they go back the next night. Jessica and Lila are running late, and Liz, Amy, and Ellen stand around arguing for a while. Annie comes out of the house and drives away, and the girls argue over who’s going to sneak in and who’s going to stand watch outside. After Amy calls Ellen a chicken a few times, Ellen decides to sneak in through the basement window to prove Amy wrong. Amy feels kind of bad for goading her, so she follows her in, leaving Liz to wait for Lila and Jessica.

Once inside, Amy can’t find Ellen in the basement. She creeps upstairs and into the living room, and just then Annie comes back. Amy hides behind the sofa, then sneaks up the stairs while Annie is doing dishes. Ellen is in one of the bedrooms. There was a chair across the door, and Ellen tripped over it and hit her head when she entered the room. Amy hears footsteps on the stairs and tries to get Ellen to hide in the closet with her, but Ellen is moving too slowly and Annie opens the door to find her standing there. Annie knocks Ellen over, they crash into a table, and the light goes out.

Lila and Jessica have finally arrived, and the girls outside hear Ellen’s scream. They climb in through the basement window, Lila complaining about cobwebs the whole time, and up the stairs into the pitch black living room. Apparently, Ellen knocking a lamp over upstairs made all the lights in the house go out because that’s how electricity works. They make their way upstairs and into the bedroom, where Amy is sitting on top of the unconscious kidnapper. Amy knocked her out with a chair leg and now Ellen is Amy’s new biggest fan. Ellen turns the light back on and they all finally notice there’s a girl tied to a chair in the corner. It’s not Mary. When Liz takes the gag out of the girl’s mouth, she tells them her name is Becky Kern from Los Angeles, and the kidnapper is Rita Partman. Lila calls the police. Reporters show up and take pictures of Amy and Liz because they’re the ones who solved the mystery, and Lila is pissed that nobody is taking her picture.

So, it turns out Mary really was in Mexico. She went with her former foster parents. The business with the ransom and the teddy bear was just Mrs. Wallace taking a bunch of stuff to give away at a church bazaar, and she got Max the teddy bear all spiffed up at a cleaners. And the message Mary left with Steven was her trying to tell him how much was in the Unicorn treasury. Why the fuck Mrs. Wallace wouldn’t just tell Jessica where Mary was this whole time instead of being a bitch is still a mystery.

Setup for the next book: The Unicorns think the school newspaper is discriminating against them because Liz never prints anything about their parties and stuff.

Quotes:

“I know it seems impossible,” Ellen said, throwing down her paper, “but there isn’t a word about your ice cream party in this whole newspaper. I’ve read every page twice, just to make sure.” She frowned across the table at Jessica. “Why didn’t Elizabeth put something in the paper about Lila’s party, Jessica?”

The Unicorns think everything they do is newsworthy. It’s not like Lila has a party every week, you guys. This is important news.

The Cover: That’s a really bad angle for both twins’ faces.

Sweet Valley Twins #35: Amy’s Pen Pal

Monday, September 30th, 2013

SVT035The Moral of the Story: If you keep on lying, you could end up on a radio show and your sister will be miraculously cured of a vague unnamed disease.

The Big Deal: Party at Lila’s, barbecue at the Wakefields’, radio show at the mall

Friend with a Problem: Samantha Williams, pathological liar

Synopsis:

It’s a big holiday weekend in Sweet Valley. What holiday? No idea. But the twins have a full weekend coming up. Lila’s having a party Saturday night, the Wakefields are having a barbecue on Monday, and on Monday night some high school senior named Dave Carlquist is broadcasting his radio show from the mall and everyone is very excited for some reason. Dave is holding a contest to see who comes up with the best name for his show. Both twins entered, but only Jessica cares about the prize, a party at a “teen dance club” called Jupiter. Dave has a velvety radio voice so Jessica is convinced he must be gorgeous, so I predict he’ll be ugly. Brother Steven is in the radio club or whatever, so he goes to the mall to check out the broadcast booth they’re building. He tries to introduce Jessica to his friend Buddy, but Buddy looks nerdy so Jessica doesn’t care. Taking bets now that Buddy is actually Dave Carlquist.

In other news, Amy Sutton has been worried about her pen pal, Samantha Williams. Sam used to send at least a letter a month, but it’s been a while since Amy’s heard from her. But then Sam shows up on Amy’s doorstep with a suitcase in her hand. She claims she wrote Amy to tell her she was going to visit, but Amy never got such a letter. Amy’s mom says she wants to call Sam’s parents, but Sam tells her they’re camping that weekend and are unreachable, and of course Amy’s mom takes Sam’s word for it because she’s super good at parenting. Amy takes Sam to Lila’s party, and is surprised when Sam seems to actually enjoy talking to the Unicorns. Sam tells them all about San Francisco, and about her boyfriend, who is the son of an actress the Unicorns like. Sam spends the entire party ignoring Amy and she dances with Ken three times, even though she knows Amy likes him. Amy gets upset and calls her mother to come pick them up, but Sam decides to stay when Lila assures her she can get a ride home later from someone else.

Predictably, Jessica is the only Unicorn who doesn’t like Sam. You know how she feels about the spotlight being on someone other than her. Lila wants to put Sam up for honorary Unicorn membership. Jessica hates the idea, but she doesn’t like to argue with Lila. The Unicorns decide to get together at the Dairi Burger to discuss it. Lila calls Amy’s house to invite Sam, but Amy’s mother has insisted Amy and Sam stick together that day, so Amy reluctantly agrees to go along.

Jessica and Amy are equally miserable at lunch, but only Jessica seems to be picking up on the fact that Sam is lying to them about pretty much every aspect of her fabulous life. She claims her family just bought a house in Hawaii but seems confused when someone asks her what island it’s on. She says she wins all the spelling bees at school, but at the party last night she was talking about how bad a speller she is. Jessica is suspicious. She’s sure she read in a magazine that the actress’s son Sam claims to be dating is much younger than Sam, so she and Liz set out to find the magazine and prove Sam’s been lying about everything. By the time the Wakefields’ barbecue rolls around, most of the Unicorns are pretty well convinced Sam’s been lying. Jessica finds the magazine, which says the actress’s son is only nine, and shows it to the Unicorns.

Janet Howell’s presidential plan is to come up with a crazy story and see if Sam goes along with it. If she does, they’ll know for sure she’s been a big fat liar about everything. They tell her they heard Melody Power was making a movie in San Francisco and got hurt, and Sam takes it from there and says she knows all about it and even went to see Melody in the hospital. Sam and Amy leave the barbecue, and the Unicorns discuss how to proceed. They have Lila call Sam to tell her Dave Carlquist wants her to come on his show that night and talk about meeting Melody Power. The idea is that Sam will go introduce herself as the famous DJ from San Francisco (she’s been telling everyone she’s a DJ) and then Dave will laugh her off the stage and she’ll be humiliated. After Sam hangs up with Lila, she and Amy have a fight about how unpleasant Sam has been, and then Sam wonders how the hell she’s going to get through the interview.

The Unicorns come pick Sam up to take her to the mall, and then Liz comes over so she and Amy can go together. Liz is conflicted about the Unicorns’ plan for Sam, so she confides in Amy and is horrified when Amy says she thinks they should laugh right along with the Unicorns. Then Mrs. Sutton FINALLY decides to call Sam’s parents so she can arrange Sam’s trip home, and Sam’s mother tells her Sam ran away and they had no idea where she was all weekend. Apparently, Sam’s little sister has been sick so nobody was paying any attention to Sam and she decided to run away to a place where people would notice her. Mrs. Sutton tells the girls Sam’s parents are on their way and to just go to the radio show and not tell Sam anything or else she might run away again. Now Amy and Liz feel really sorry for Sam and they want to keep her from being embarrassed at the show, but they don’t want to tell the Unicorns anything because one of them might say something to Sam. They go to the mall and talk to Steven, who comes up with a plan.

Steve arranges for Dave to call Sam up and interview her about what it’s like visiting Sweet Valley. Sam does the interview and goes back to the Unicorns, who can’t believe their plan was foiled. They tell Sam they found out about her lies and wanted her to be humiliated. Sam runs away from them in tears, and Amy and Liz do the arm-around-the-shoulder routine and make her feel better. Then Dave announces the winner of the contest to name the show. Liz wins with “The Awesome Hour.” Huh. Awesome. Liz gets to be interviewed by Dave, and she tells him she and her sister will host the Jupiter party together. Isn’t that nice.

Amy’s mom comes to pick up Amy and Sam, and Sam’s parents are waiting when they get home. They hug Sam and tell her how much they love her. Her sister is coming home from the hospital so things will be different now, blah blah blah. Sam apologizes to Amy for the way she’s been acting and they agree to keep being pen pals. And by the way, yes, “Buddy” turns out to be Dave Carlquist’s nickname, and Jessica is horrified to find out she’s been so rude to him this whole time.

Setup for the next book: Mary Wallace wants to run away now. Ugh.

Quotes:

“I made sure the gardeners worked extra hard to make the patio look nice.”

Picture this: Twelve-year-old Lila bossing around some sweaty landscape guys, telling them her patio better be damned gorgeous for her party that night. I love it.

Lila: I’m really surprised you and Sam are such good friends.

Amy: Why is that?

Lila: She’s wonderful. It doesn’t seem like you two would have much in common.

Daily dose of Lila awesomeness.

It would have been terrible if it had rained on their barbecue.

Don’t worry, Liz. Rain is only a plot device in Sweet Valley.

Mrs. Sutton seemed to be trying to put the pieces together. “I thought Sam’s story was a little odd, but I was so busy this weekend…” Her voice trailed off.

Best parents in the world, right here in Sweet Valley.

The Cover: Dead mackerel eyes. God, she looks like she’s come to devour Amy’s soul.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Guys, I’m gonna do some shameless self-promotion here. A big part of the reason the blog has been so sporadically updated lately is because my brother and I started a band. We’ve been working super hard to record a demo and we just got the mastered tracks back and put this video together. Check it out, and if you like it, please consider liking our Facebook page here.

You can also find us at www.typhoonjackson.com and on twitter at twitter.com/typhoonjackson. AND THIS JUST IN! The demo is now available for download here. Three songs for $3. It’s a steal.

This project has been incredibly fun and special and important to us. I hope you guys like it!

(If the embedded video above doesn’t show up, you can see it here.)

Four Minutes Older’s Interview with Francine Pascal

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

As you all know, I’ve been kind of absent from the blogging world for a while, and that’s why I JUST noticed one of my favorite bloggers did an interview last summer with Francine Pascal. Read it here.