The Big Deal: Big track meet, Parents’ Night
Classmate with a Problem: Danny Jackson, trouble
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.
“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.