The Big Deal: Horse jumping or whatever competition
Classmate with a Problem: Lucy Benson, secretive and weird
Liz has suddenly remembered that she likes horses, so she goes to the stable to hang out with Ted’s horse, Thunder. She finds out Ted is behind on his payments to the stables and he’ll have to sell Thunder if he doesn’t come up with some money soon. His only real hope is to win a riding competition, and pay off the stable with the prize money. One day, Liz and Ted meet a girl named Lucy Benson. She’s just lurking around the stables, as one does. She says she’s been riding since she was seven and used to have an awesome horse. Liz wants to ask what happened to the horse, but Lucy seems sad. When Ted offers to let her ride Thunder, Lucy gets skittish and runs away.
Jessica and Lila go to the beach to discover there’s been an oil spill. Jessica rescues a baby seal that’s stuck in a hole. A cute boy named Adam Scott (lol) comes along and says he’s with a group called Ecology Now, and they’ll be working on cleaning up the beach. Lila thinks it sounds gross, but Jessica decides to volunteer. She starts rethinking this decision the next day when she realizes she doesn’t want to get all dirty, and besides, Aaron Dallas is way cuter than Adam Scott.
Um, excuse me. Nobody is cuter than Adam Scott.
The sixth grade tours the aquarium the next day, and Jessica is happy to see the seal she rescued. She’s named him Whiskers. Unfortunately, Whiskers isn’t looking so good and Jessica is worried he won’t pull through. She runs into Adam Scott, who asks her why she wasn’t at the beach the day before. Jessica, now remembering how cute Adam is, assures him she’ll be there after school today. Elsewhere at the aquarium, Liz tries to say hi to Lucy and ask her if she’ll be at the stable later, but Lucy is weird and doesn’t seem interested in talking to her.
Ellen Riteman comes to the stable after school to practice riding her horse, Snow White. Lucy tries to offer her some advice, but Ellen is snobby and won’t listen. She tries to goad Lucy into riding Snow White to prove she knows about horses, but Lucy gets weird and runs off again. She tells Liz she wants to ride, but she won’t say why she won’t do it. Very mysterious. Meanwhile, Jessica is at the beach helping clean up the oil spill and hating her life. She’s ruined her outfit and she’s thinking again that Aaron Dallas really is much cuter than Adam Scott.
At the stable the next day, Lucy and Ellen flash their claws at each other again. Lucy gets fed up and tells Ted she’d like to borrow Thunder for a minute. Liz asks if she’s trying to prove something to Ellen, but Lucy says she has to prove something to herself, y’all. She gets on the horse and gets him to jump over all the things with ease, though Liz thinks she looks scared. Ellen still isn’t impressed and she asks why Lucy doesn’t have her own horse. Lucy continues to be very mysterious on the subject of her erstwhile horse.
Liz calls Lucy later that night to invite her over for dinner sometime. Lucy’s dad answers the phone and says Liz must be one of Lucy’s friends from glee club, which is weird, and then Lucy seems totally uninterested in having dinner at the Wakefields’ house. Which, I mean, it does sound kind of lame.
Lucy doesn’t mention Liz’s dinner invitation the next day at the stable, so Liz decides not to bother her about it. It’s starting to storm and the horses are getting antsy. There’s a flash of lightning and Thunder throws Ted. The girls call an ambulance and everyone ends up at the hospital, where Lucy starts acting pretty damned weird. She mutters about how much she hates hospitals, and is totally rude when a nurse recognizes her and asks how she’s feeling. Lucy insists to Liz (who hasn’t said a word) that the nurse is a friend of her mom’s and she hardly even knows her. I’m kind of hoping we find out Lucy was in the psych ward at some point.
Ted’s leg is broken and there’s no way he’ll be able to compete, which means he’ll have to sell Thunder. Liz asks Lucy to compete in his place, but she just can’t, you guys. Then she looks at a list of the other people who are competing. When she sees there’s a girl named Alison Thatcher on the list, she decides she’s going to do it after all. What is going on with this girl?
Adam and Jessica go to the aquarium on Saturday to visit Whiskers. Jessica is super happy to feed Whiskers and doesn’t even mind getting her outfit dirty. Now that she cares so much about animals, she feels way better about getting all grossified while cleaning up the beach. Ellen stops by the beach and tells Jessica how weird this Lucy chick is. She wants Jessica to nose around and find out what Lucy’s secret is.
You know, I just have to say I have never liked books about animals and I don’t like this one, either. I’m bored.
Anyway. Lucy finally accepts Liz’s invitation to dinner. Jessica asks her a thousand probing questions, and Lucy excuses herself to take some aspirin. She pulls a medicine bottle out of her backpack that doesn’t look anything like aspirin. Hmmm. Later that evening, Dr. Robinson from the aquarium calls Jessica to tell her Whiskers might be dying. It’s a rough day for everyone.
Jessica can’t deal with school the next day, so she goes to the nurse’s office and pretends to be sick. While she’s there, she overhears Lucy come in and talk to the nurse. Apparently, there was some kind of accident before Lucy’s family moved to Sweet Valley. Lucy has to take pills now and her parents won’t let her ride a horse. That’s why she had to sell hers. That same day, Liz is doing research for an article about the competition and she finds a thing about Lucy’s accident. She fell off her horse during a competition. She was taken to the hospital and Alison Thatcher won the blue ribbon. Liz gently confronts Lucy about it and Lucy tells her the reason she fell that day is because she has epilepsy. End of chapter. Very dramatic.
Lucy swears Liz to secrecy. She wants to ride in the competition to prove to herself and her parents that she can still live a normal life. If her parents find out before the competition, they’ll never let her do it. Unfortunately, Jessica has already told Ellen everything she found out, and Ellen is planning to call Lucy’s parents. Ellen is convinced Lucy is going to beat her in the competition, so she wants to make sure Lucy can’t compete. When Liz finds out Ellen’s plan, she frantically tries calling Lucy to warn her.
Luckily, nobody is home at the Bensons’ house that night, and Lucy shows up early for the competition the next day. Liz tells her about Ellen’s plan. Ellen is acting awfully smug when she gets there, and Lucy is afraid she got through to her parents after all. And sure enough, just as Lucy is about to take a difficult jump, her mother comes out of nowhere shouting her name and waving her arms. Because that surely won’t make someone fuck up and fall off a horse. Lucy manages to keep her wits about her and she rides through the course with no mistakes. Her parents are obnoxious, but after a single paragraph speech from Lucy about not letting epilepsy beat her, the parents come around and tell her she can keep riding.
Lucy wins, naturally. And Whiskers the seal is just fine. Jessica cries when he’s finally released back into the ocean a month later, and that’s pretty sad. Oh, and Adam Scott’s cuteness hasn’t been mentioned in like sixty pages, so I guess we don’t care about him anymore.
“Well, it’s probably a dumb theory—“ Lucy began.
“Probably,” Ellen interrupted.
I hate Ellen, but this was such a Lila thing to say. I dig it.
“I’m so afraid I might let Ted down. Or worse.”
“Worse? What do you mean?”
Lucy shrugged. “Oh, nothing,” she said quickly.
She kept saying weirdly ominous things like this. I don’t think she’d be much fun to hang out with.
The Cover: Blah, blah, horses and stuff. I wonder if the reason I never cared about horses is because I didn’t want to wear stupid riding gear.