Posts Tagged ‘Christmas/Winter’

Sweet Valley High Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian

Monday, July 11th, 2016

SVTSE04The Moral of the Story: If you go to Hawaii, don’t talk to any natives. No, I don’t care how cute they are.

The Big Deal: Trip to Hawaii!

Synopsis:

One day, Jessica and Mandy Miller are hanging out and they see a contest in a magazine for “the most outrageous pineapple recipe.” Just for fun, they throw everything they can find in the kitchen into a bowl and enter the contest. A couple months go by and they forget all about the contest until Lila happens to be reading the latest issue of whatever magazine it was and sees Jessica’s name. They actually won, and the prize is a trip to Hawaii for Jessica and two friends. She chooses Mandy, of course, and Mary Wallace. She wants Liz to go, but the Wakefields already have a ski trip planned with the grandparents over Christmas break and Liz would feel too guilty if she and Jessica both bailed. The Wakefield parents say Jessica can’t go because there won’t be a chaperon, so Jessica’s life is over for a minute, but then Lila calls and says her father agreed to pay for Lila, Janet, and Ellen to go, and he’ll even go to chaperon. Hurray!

As soon as they all get to their hotel in Hawaii, Mr. Fowler runs off to a business meeting, leaving his girlfriend in charge of the girls. Her name is Bambi. She’s an aspiring actress. Lila hates her, but Jessica thinks she’s actually pretty cool. Over the course of the first day: Lila finds a strange ring in the sand and decides to keep it even though everyone tells her she should give it to the police or something; Janet meets a boy named Kenji who tells her she’s the reincarnation of a Hawaiian princess named Keiko, and the legend says that if Janet leaves Hawaii, Pele will erupt and kill everyone; Mandy and Mary overhear Mr. Fowler telling Bambi she’ll be a great mother and assume that means they’re getting married, but they decide not to tell Lila what they heard until they have more information.

The next morning, Jessica gets a call from the Pineapple People, the company that held the contest she won. She and her friends have been invited to a tour of the pineapple factory. When they get there, it becomes clear to Jessica and Mandy that there’s been a mistake. Everyone keeps calling her Ms. Wakely, and when the Pineapple People bring out her recipe for a tasting, it’s a cake, rather than the weird concoction Jessica and Mandy made. Once they realize what’s going on, Mandy and Jessica feel bad, but they’re afraid they’ll get sent home if they say anything. That night, Lila has a nightmare that she’s on trial for stealing an artifact, Janet dreams that there’s lava everywhere, and Jessica dreams she’s drowning in crushed pineapple.

The only pineapple people I care about.

The only pineapple people I care about.

Things just keep going badly for everyone. Mr. Fowler buys Bambi a nice ring (not an engagement ring), which makes Lila mad. Jessica falls out of a tour boat and thinks she’s drowning, but then realizes she can stand up because the water is only three feet deep. Janet keeps asking locals if she looks familiar and is disappointed nobody recognizes her as Princess Keiko. Kenji, the same boy who told Janet she was a princess, runs into Lila and tells her the ring she’s wearing is cursed. Lila tries to take it off but it’s stuck. Jessica also runs into Kenji at some point, and he tells her she’s having such bad luck because she told a lie.

Mandy and Mary let the rest of the girls in on the conversation they overheard. While Lila is off with her cursed ring, the rest of the girls sneak into Bambi’s room to look for evidence that an engagement is happening. They don’t find anything, but Bambi comes in. While the girls are hiding, they overhear Bambi on the phone talking about how she hopes she’ll be a beautiful bride, but there’s a lot of competition out there. It’s obvious she’s talking about an acting role she’s auditioning for, but the girls don’t get that and they think they have their evidence.

Jessica, Janet, and Lila continue to have terrible luck at everything, and they each seek out Kenji separately to find out what they can do about their fate. He tells Janet there’s nothing she can do. She has to stay in Hawaii forever. He tells Lila she has to go to the tomb of some Hawaiian king in the middle of the night and the ring will come off. He gives Jessica a recipe and says she has to make it at midnight while wearing a ponytail on top of her head. This guy is a dick.

Lila and Jessica both try to carry out their tasks that night in secret, but run into each other and end up waking everyone up. The girls all finally talk about their bad luck and realize that bastard Kenji has been having fun with them. They come up with a great plan to have Bambi dress as the goddess Pele and scare the crap out of him, but Lila wants nothing to do with Bambi. The girls decide it’s time to tell Lila she’s going to have a stepmother.

Lila confronts her father the next morning and AS I SUSPECTED, all Bambi’s talk about motherhood and weddings was for an acting role. She and Lila have a talk and Lila realizes Bambi really isn’t so bad after all. The girls carry out their plan, and Kenji is good and scared. He invites them all to a New Year’s luau the next day.

Jessica finally goes to the Pineapple People and tells them their mistake, but it turns out she actually did win. For fun, they decided to give the prize to the grossest recipe. And Bambi, who left Hawaii early for her audition, calls Lila to tell her she got the part.

Quotes:

“Mandy, do you realize it’s only October?”

HOW IN THE FUCK IS IT ONLY OCTOBER? And then three pages later…

“Can you believe it’s almost Christmas?” Elizabeth asked one Saturday afternoon in late December as the twins entered the Sweet Valley Mall.

I give up.

The Cover: So, from left to right, we have Ellen, Mary, Janet, Mandy, and Lila, with Jessica front and center. Janet is…not what I was expecting.

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #3: The Carnival Ghost

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

SVTSC03The Moral of the Story: Don’t befriend weird carnie kids.

The Big Deal: Carnival, party at Lila’s

Synopsis:

It’s the day after Christmas. The Wakefields have some Chinese food for lunch (I guess Ned isn’t allergic to Chinese food today), and the twins don’t like the fortunes in their fortune cookies. Jessica’s says vanity is her greatest weakness, and Liz’s suggests she avoids high places. Only one of those fortunes comes into play later in the book.

The Caldwell Carnival comes to town and the twins get there as soon as it opens. At the end of the haunted house, there are two paths. Jessica takes the Vampire door, leaving Liz to take the Ghost door. Liz is scared, but she meets a girl named Claire who tells her not to be afraid. Claire says her father owns the carnival and she’s been through the spook house a thousand times. She goes ahead of Liz and disappears. No big deal. Liz goes into the ghost room. At the end of the room is an open grave, and the haunted house’s exit is through it. There’s a tombstone with the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892. The whole experience makes Liz feel all creeped. Myself, I think that sounds like an awesome haunted house.

Jessica goes to the fortune teller, who tells her a happy event will happen to her soon. That night, the Wakefield parents announce they’re raising the kids’ allowances, and Jessica is amazed that Mademoiselle Z could really see the future. She goes back that night with the Unicorns, and Lila makes fun of the fortune teller. Mademoiselle Z tells her a great misfortune will fall upon her, and as soon as Lila’s outside the tent, she falls in the mud and ruins the Johnny Buck t-shirt she just won.

The next morning, Jessica wakes up to find Liz has already left for the carnival. She didn’t even make her bed, and that’s just bizarre. Amy comes by looking for her, and she tells Jessica she found out some strange stuff about the carnival and she wanted Liz’s help researching it. Liz is busy hanging out with Claire at the carnival. Claire’s weird. She can read Liz’s mind, which you’d think would make Liz freak out, but she just thinks it’s a neat trick. Mademoiselle Z sees Liz and Claire together and makes a face at them. When Jessica gets to the carnival later, she stops in to see Z, and Z (thinking she’s Liz) tells her she’ll have no future if she doesn’t stay away from the carnival. Jessica gets freaked out and runs away. That night, the twins see a man in a black hat and black raincoat standing across the street, staring right into Jessica’s window. Maybe call the cops, kids. That’s just inappropriate.

Liz goes off to the carnival again the next morning. She runs into Julie Porter at the gate and tells her all about Claire, and they go into the carnival hoping the three of them can spend the day together. But Julie suddenly gets freaked out and says she has to leave. As soon as she’s gone, Claire shows up. Claire takes Liz through a private entrance in the fun house, and they’re able to watch the people going through it. Then Claire turns Liz’s lemonade black. Liz is grossed out and thinks it’s a terrible magic trick. That night, Jessica wakes up to something tapping at her window, and a voice telling her to stay away. She figures it’s a nightmare.

The next day, Claire makes some game tickets appear in Liz’s pocket and then takes her to the shooting gallery. The attendant doesn’t seem to notice Claire at all. Liz is talking to her parents that night about Claire being the carnival owner’s daughter, and Ned says he thought the carnival was owned by a corporation or something. The parents tell Liz to invite Claire over for dinner on New Year’s Day. Jessica wakes up again that night and hears a weird moaning. It’s coming from Elizabeth’s room. Liz is having a nightmare. She’s in front of an open grave. The tombstone says C.C., but then it changes to E.W. A skeleton pops out and says, “I declare, declare, declare, clare, clare…” And then Jessica wakes Liz up.

So we’re pretty sure Claire’s a ghost, right?

At the carnival the next day, Liz is trying to remember what her mother told her to ask Claire, but she seems to forget a lot of things these days. Mademoiselle Z comes along and tells Claire to stop what she’s doing. She’s obviously afraid of Claire. Liz wants to know what’s going on, and Claire tells her Z is just a crazy old woman.

On New Year’s Eve, Lila has a carnival themed party. And it.is.awesome. She’s got tents and rides and games and everything. Liz is completely out of it all night. All she can think of is Claire and how she should really be at the carnival with her. Amy tries to talk to her about the article they’re supposed to be writing about the carnival, but Liz blows her off. For some reason, the haunted house (Lila’s pool house) really creeps Liz out. Jessica is the fortune teller. She and Lila wrote up a bunch of fortunes and put them in a couple of fishbowls, and Jessica reads one for each kid. When it’s Lila’s turn, the fortune Jessica reads for her tells Lila she’s going to go bald. Neither girl wrote that fortune and they don’t know how it could have gotten into the bowl.

Mrs. Wakefield asks Liz the next day if she remembered to ask Claire to dinner, but Liz has trouble remembering anything she and Claire talk about. She thinks Claire said she would come, and she’s disappointed when she doesn’t show up. The carnival is closed for the holiday and Liz has been acting weird all day about not being able to see Claire. The next morning, Alice tells Liz she has to clean her room before she goes to the carnival, and they have an argument. Then Amy comes over to try to talk to Liz about the Sixers article, and Liz snaps at her and tells Amy to leave her alone.

Jessica wants to know what’s happening to Liz, so she decides to help Amy with her research. They visit a man named Mr. Melman. He designed the haunted house. Mr. Melman tells them the original haunted house was burned down, possibly by a local kid who went crazy because of it. The story was never really clear. When Mr. Melman designed the new haunted house, the ghost room Liz went through was the last part he built. When he built it, the open grave had a wooden tombstone that said RIP, but when he went to work the next day, it was a solid granite tombstone with the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892.

The Wakefield parents tell Liz she can’t hang out with Claire anymore until they get to meet her, so Liz sneaks out. Jessica sees her leaving and follows her to the carnival. She gets there just as Patrick Morris comes running out the gate in a panic. He tells Jessica he was on the Ferris wheel and had a car to himself. His car got stopped at the very top, and he heard a girl’s voice asking him to come and play with him. He looked out and saw a white, wispy figure in midair.

Jessica is afraid to go inside the gates because of Mademoiselle Z’s fortune, but she doesn’t have to. It’s starting to storm and the carnival is closing. Liz comes out all upset that she hardly got to say hello to Claire. Jessica tries to tell Liz what Patrick said, but Liz thinks Jessica is just jealous of Claire and trying to scare her away from the carnival. Jessica says she doesn’t like the way Liz is sneaking around behind their parents’ backs, but Liz tells her Claire just today suggested Liz be nicer to her parents. Jessica thinks Claire is up to something.

The next morning, Liz kisses up and does a bunch of chores, so the parents tell her she’s allowed to go to the carnival as long as she’s home by five. The parents are out that evening, so Steven and Jessica are the only ones who notice that Liz still isn’t home at eight. Steven insists Liz is fine, but Jessica is freaking out. The phone rings, and someone tells Jessica to get the girl away from the carnival because the evil one is about to strike. Thanks for the vague threat.

Jessica gets to the carnival just as it’s about to close, and she goes running around the place looking for Liz. Finally, the last place to look is the haunted house. It’s shut down for the night, but unlocked. A voice tells her to leave through the ghost room, so she tries to go through the vampire room instead. It’s locked, and the front entrance is locked, so she has to go through the ghost room. She’s terrified at this point and she’s pretty sure one of the sheets hanging from the ceiling actually has a ghost inside it. She tries to leave, but the exit inside the grave won’t open. Suddenly, Mademoiselle Z is there with her assistant, and they take her back to Z’s tent.

Z says she knew Jessica was in terrible danger, and that’s why she sent her assistant, who’s also her fiancé, to Jessica’s house to tap on her window and scare her away from the carnival. Then she tells Jessica all about the little girl whose parents used to own the carnival. The girl decided to sneak out one night and ride the Ferris wheel, and she managed to fall from the very top and die. The little girl, of course, was Claire. When Z tells Jessica the girl she’s been spending all her time with has been dead for a century, Jessica finally figures out that Z thinks she’s Liz.

So Liz is still in danger, of course. Jessica, Z, and Nicolai the fiancé find her on the Ferris wheel. Jessica manages to jump into Liz’s car before it leaves the platform and she tries to talk to Liz, but Liz is staring into space and not responding. When they’re at the top, the wheel stops and Claire floats up to ask Liz to play. Liz tries to get up, but Jessica is holding onto her. She breaks free and starts putting a leg over the rail. Jessica superstrengths her away. Claire suddenly turns into a gross skeleton, and one of her eye sockets launches some kind of light at Jessica. Seeing that Claire hurt Jessica snaps Liz out of her trance and she tells Claire she’s not going to come play with her, dammit. Claire disappears and the twins go home.

By the way, it was brother Steven who slipped the fortune about Lila going bald into the fishbowl, so Lila retaliates by showing up at the house in a bald cap. Steven goes to his room and slams the door.

Quotes:

“I have you, Elizabeth. And you’ll be my friend forever and ever,” Claire said confidently.

Never trust someone who says you’ll be friends forever and ever.

The Cover: It looks like Liz is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and it gives this cover a ridiculous feel.

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #1: The Christmas Ghost

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

5010701ee2a63_25127nThe Moral of the Story: The best way to get Jessica to straighten up and fly right is to tell her she’ll be unpopular if she doesn’t clean up her act.

The Big Deal: Christmas party at Lila’s

Synopsis:

Okay, this is the first Super Chiller of the Twins series. Let’s see if it’s any better than the Super Thrillers the twins face in high school.

It’s Christmas again. The twins are window shopping at the mall, looking for more useless crap they can add to their Christmas lists. Elizabeth sees a porcelain carousel horse and tells Jessica she would love to have it for Christmas. Jessica thinks it’s pretty, too, and later Liz overhears Jessica telling their mother how much she wants it. When Mrs. Wakefield says it sounds more like something Liz would like, Jessica lies and says Liz didn’t like it at all. Liz can’t believe Jessica would lie because she clearly hasn’t been paying attention this whole time. But, you know, she figures if Jessica is willing to lie, she must want the horse extra bad.

The middle school is holding a bazaar to raise money for the children’s wing of the hospital. Liz is in charge of things, of course, along with Amy Sutton and Julie Porter. Liz and her mom decide to make cookies to sell at the bazaar, and Liz is upset when Jessica bails out on helping to go give Lila advice on how to plan her Christmas party.

I’m a little confused about when the bazaar actually is. Liz and her friends go to the mall on Saturday to sell cookies, and I thought that was going to be the bazaar, but it’s not. The girls don’t make as much money as they’d like, but they can’t think of any more ideas. Then Liz reads in the newspaper that Beau Dillon, a movie star, is coming to Sweet Valley to publicize his latest movie “about a teenager who gets cancer and almost dies.” Sounds lovely. Liz writes him a letter asking him to appear at a fundraiser. She gets a letter back a few days later. Beau’s just gonna go ahead and stop by the house after his interview on Christmas Eve, if it’s all right with Liz.

The twins go to Lila’s party and Jessica tells everyone Beau Dillon is coming to her house. Liz is annoyed that Jessica is suddenly acting like she cares about the fundraiser, and she gets pissed when the Unicorns don’t believe that Beau is actually coming and Jessica doesn’t assure them that Liz is telling the truth. Jessica says she didn’t want to argue with Lila because Lila probably got her something good for Christmas. Liz tells Jessica if she keeps being so selfish she’ll end up with no friends at all.

It’s finally Christmas Eve and the twins get ready for Beau to come over. He’s supposed to be there at noon, but at two o’clock he still hasn’t shown up and Liz has to leave to go hand out presents at the hospital. Predictably, Beau gets there as soon as Liz and her mother have left. Jessica is stunned and shocked and really, can you imagine if you were twelve and, like, Jonathan Taylor Thomas came to your house? Point is, she doesn’t even think to introduce herself as Jessica, and when Beau says he’ll take her to lunch on the 27th to discuss the fundraiser, she just accepts. After he leaves, she realizes he thought she was Elizabeth, but she decides she’ll just go to lunch with him and Liz probably won’t mind all that much as long as the fundraiser gets planned.

For once, though, Jessica has a conscience, and she feels guilty all day and can’t even concentrate on singing carols with the family that night. She wants to come clean to Liz, but feels like it’s too late now. She can’t sleep that night and things are weird. The unicorn in her new poster from Lila seems to be looking at her all angry, and then her lamp transforms into a clown and calls her a liar. At this point I’d be running for the hills, but Jessica tries to go to sleep. Just as she’s drifting off, a little girl appears by her bed and smiles at her. And now, halfway through the book, we finally get to the chilling part of the story.

The little girl is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and she takes Jessica back to the good old days when she and Liz were the best of friends and would have done anything for each other. Jessica starts feeling really bad about how she’s been treating Liz here in the present. Then she wakes up and a unicorn comes along and introduces itself as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The unicorn takes her to Beau Dillon’s house, where he’s talking to someone about what a great kid Elizabeth is and how nice it is that she cares about sick kids and whatnot. Then it takes her back to the Wakefield house, where it’s Christmas morning. The unicorn lets Jessica see what Liz is thinking and feeling, and it turns out Liz is miserable about Beau not keeping his promise and she’s suspicious because Jessica is acting guilty. Then the unicorn takes her back to the beginning of sixth grade, when Liz was feeling sad about Jessica distancing herself from Liz and wanting to join the Unicorns.

Jessica wakes up in the woods and meets a creepy looking ghost that looks like a Dementor in a white robe. It’s the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and it takes her to Secca Lake, where a teenage Jessica is surrounded by friends. It’s some kind of sorority thing. Apparently, Liz is pledging and she has to make it out of the woods in a certain amount of time or something. When teenage Jessica walks away, the other kids start talking about her witch of a sister and say they made sure the markers in the woods were too high to see so Liz will never make it out in time. Young Jessica wonders what could have happened to make everyone hate Liz so much. You see where this is going, right? She hears someone crying in the woods so she goes running in to find the source. She finds Elizabeth sobbing and talking to herself. From the things she says, it’s clear that this miserable friendless twin is actually Jessica, and the girl with all the friends back at the lake is Elizabeth.

The ghost whisks Jessica away to a high school football game, where Jessica is conspicuously absent from the cheerleading squad. She finds her older self all alone at the top of the bleachers. Some kids nearby are talking about how hateful Jessica is, and they mention the time Jessica put shaving cream in Lois Waller’s sundae, and the time she tried to steal Todd Wilkins from Liz (which time?). They also mention the Beau Dillon incident. Jessica is horrified and vows to fix everything.

The spirit isn’t done yet. It takes Jessica to the Dairi Burger, where teenage Elizabeth is once again surrounded by adoring fans, and Jessica is at a table by herself. Lois Waller asks Jessica to sit with her, and Jessica calls her a loser. Liz and her friends leave, and young Jessica hears Lila telling Bruce it’s time to get even with Jessica for the way she treated Lila’s cousin last week. So Bruce goes and asks Jessica out. He says he’s taking her to the dog show and he’ll give her the number for the booth she’ll be in. ‘Cause she’s a dog. Get it?

And now we’re back at the Wakefield house, where teenage Elizabeth is writing in her journal about how unhappy she is that she and Jessica aren’t close anymore. She writes that she thinks it all started that Christmas when Jessica pretended to be her to meet Beau Dillon. Jessica is horrified and tells the spirit she’ll change. She grabs the ghost by its cloak, and the cloak comes to life and tries to choke her. Then she wakes up for real.

Jessica hurries to tell Liz that Beau Dillon actually did come by yesterday, and that Beau will be taking Liz to lunch in a couple days to talk about the fundraiser. Liz is overjoyed that Beau actually came through. They open presents, and Jessica ends up getting the carousel horse. She immediately gives is to Liz and reflects that this is the best Christmas ever.

Quotes:

Elizabeth broke four eggs carefully into a large bowl, and beat the eggs until they were light and fluffy. Then she measured the shortening, sugar, and vanilla extract, and added some orange peel. Mrs. Wakefield measured the milk, then Elizabeth added the rest of the ingredients and mixed everything carefully.

Every now and then it’s nice when the Wakefields put on a cooking show and I get to read about every single step that goes into making cookies.

It looked as if the party was already in full swing.

It has occurred to me many times over the years that I should have named this blog In Full Swing. Every single book contains a line like this.

In the next booth sat – no, not herself – Elizabeth again, looking cute and perky in a miniskirt and blue sweater. She was surrounded by friends – Olivia Davidson, Winston Egbert, and Todd Wilkins, plus a whole crowd of boys and girls Jessica didn’t recognize.

Has Olivia been around this whole time? I didn’t think she was in the SVT series.

The Cover: Yep, that would scare the crap out of me. Also, nice nightgown, Jess.

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #2: Holiday Mischief

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The Moral of the Story: It’s okay to sneak off into a strange city as long as you solve a crime while you’re at it.

The Big Deal: Choir competition in Washington, D.C.

Classmate with a Problem: Anna Barrett, can’t sing

Synopsis:

The Sweet Valley Middle School choral group is going to Washington, D.C. for a competition. Anna Barrett tells the twins she just HAS to go to Washington. Anna is adopted and she recently came across a letter to her adoptive parents from someone in Australia. The letter was about someone named Leslie. Anna thinks this must be her sister, and Leslie’s adoptive parents are in Washington with the Australian consulate. Rather than ask her parents about it, Anna decides she’ll just hop a plane to D.C. with the choir. The choir is looking for ten new members, but unfortunately, Anna can’t sing. Hey, no problem! Kids are being auditioned four at a time (why?) so Anna stands between the twins and mouths the words. Nobody can tell she’s not really singing, and she and the twins are on their way to Washington (even though we’ve been told numerous times that neither twin can carry a tune).

Everyone is excited on their first morning in Washington when they wake up and find it has snowed overnight. They go outside to play, and this bitch from another school hits Anna with a snowball. This is Sherrie Dunston from Grant Middle School in Columbus, Ohio. She’s such a good singer that Dana Larson has heard of her and is intimidated by the competition. Sherrie challenges the Sweet Valley kids to a sled race and everything is going well until Sherrie runs Jessica’s sled into a tree.

Sherrie really has it out for Anna. She says she knows Anna can’t sing and keeps trying to goad her into proving it, so Anna fakes laryngitis. To get back at Sherrie, Jessica gets a pack of fake bugs and puts them in a lozenge box. Sherrie is apparently addicted to throat lozenges and constantly has a box of them nearby. Jessica switches the boxes and Sherrie freaks out. (When I read this as a kid, I had no idea what the hell a lozenge was, which made a surprisingly large chunk of this book really confusing.)

Liz and Anna find out there’s going to be a big reception at the Australian embassy. Anna wants to sneak in but she’s hanging out with the wrong twin. Jessica decides to go instead. She and Anna get all dressed up and sneak out of the hotel. Sherrie sees them and tells Ms. McDonald, their chaperone. When the chaperones start talking about calling the police, Liz finally tells them about the party at the embassy.

Jessica and Anna manage to sneak into the reception by tagging along behind a couple, pretending to be their kids. They go upstairs and start snooping into bedrooms and find a secret office. The door starts opening so they hide behind a screen while some guy wearing a diamond ring rifles through the desk. The girls freak out a little when they discover a cute redheaded boy already in their hiding spot. He tells them to keep quiet and follow him through a panel in the wall. The bad guy hears them and starts chasing them through the secret passage. Along the way, CRB (cute redhead boy) says it was his father’s desk the spy was rummaging in. It doesn’t take long for the spy to fall behind, and the kids leave the secret passageway so CRB can tell his dad what’s going on.

CRB’s dad happens to be Mr. Linwood, the ambassador, and he lets the children lead the way while they search the embassy for this horrible spy. They don’t find him in any of the bedrooms, so they go to the kitchen. The chef walks in and Jessica recognizes his diamond ring. She makes a fuss until the guards catch him, and the real chef is found tied up and gagged in a pantry.

Once things calm down a little, Anna asks CRB if he has a sister named Leslie. CRB says he’s Leslie. He and the girls tell the ambassador everything. The Sweet Valley teachers come barging into the embassy to find their missing students, and the ambassador then explains everything to them. Nobody gets into any trouble, of course, and Jessica and Anna get their picture in the paper.

The ambassador calls Anna’s parents that night, and they flight out to D.C. the next morning so they can all have a family discussion. The parents explain that Leslie and Anna were kept secret from each other because Mr. Linwood was involved in some top secret government stuff at the time of the adoption and it was safer…or something. Anyway, Sweet Valley wins the choir competition and all is right with the world.

Quotes:

“Remember when Ms. McDonald told us we had great soprano voices and we should be in choir?” said Jessica.

No, but I remember in multiple other books that both twins are described as being utterly unable to sing.

[Jessica] sighed. “I could get used to this,” she said. “Dressing up every day and being waited on constantly. I want to stay here forever!”

“Jess, what’re you saying?” cried Elizabeth, feeling a little hurt. “You love Sweet Valley!”

Shut up, Liz.

Just as he pushed the bolt into place, they heard the man enter the nursery and curse. “Where are you? You can’t get away from me, you rotten kids!”

This entire book reads like a Scooby Doo episode.

“You mean you got into the choral group and you can’t sing?” Mrs. Isaacs practically screeched. Her face had turned beet red.

That’s this chaperone’s first reaction to hearing about Anna’s long lost brother and the fact that she just caught a spy.

The Cover: Anna kind of looks like Enid.

Sweet Valley High Senior Year #32: Road Trip

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The Moral of the Story: A trip to the Elvis Chapel can loosen anyone up.

The Big Deal: Winter break

Synopsis:

It’s winter break. Jeremy’s family has moved to Arizona and he wants to drive there to help them get settled, but his parents say someone has to go with him. His friends can’t make it, and Jessica has to go to a family reunion up north (in a convenient plot contrivance that makes this an almost entirely Wakefield-free book). Jessica suggests Jeremy take Evan. I guess she doesn’t think there’s anything weird about forcing a guy she dated onto her current boyfriend. Jeremy hardly knows the guy, but he can’t think of anyone else to go with him so he says he’ll ask him. Evan jumps at the chance to take a road trip and asks if Conner can go, too. Jeremy isn’t so sure about that, but Evan convinces him Conner’s not as bad as the Wakefield sisters would have him believe.

Melissa makes Will tell her what he knows about Mr. Matthews and the Michigan scholarship scandal. He’s no match for her unblinking Psycho Gaze of Death, so he has no choice but to tell her everything. Then he asks her not to tell anyone. Yeah, right. Will doesn’t want to ruin Ken’s life, because that will in turn ruin his own internship with Ken’s dad, but he does want to tell Mr. Matthews what he knows. However, when he gets to work, Mr. Matthews sends him on assignment with another reporter to interview some of the Forty Niners. That’s much too awesome an assignment for Will to pass up.

Tia and Trent have been hanging out lately, and Andy convinces Tia that Trent is interested in being more than just friends. I guess he must be over the whole this-chick-cheated-on-her-boyfriend-with-me thing. So Tia thinks maybe she should pursue it, but then Angel shows up on her doorstep. He’s come home for winter break and he wants to get together and catch up. Tia immediately emails Andy and tells him she won’t be calling Trent because she and Angel are getting back together. Andy thinks she’s being a little presumptuous and tells her she might be jumping the gun, but Tia insists she has a feeling that things are going to work out with her and Angel this time. So they go out and it’s like nothing ever changed, but when they start talking about the future they remember why they broke up in the first place: long distance relationships suck. They have a mutual and drama-less breakup, and then Tia calls Trent.

The road trip isn’t really much fun. By mid afternoon, Jeremy has talked Evan’s ear off about how guilty he feels about staying in Big Mesa, and Conner has fallen asleep in the backseat. When Evan takes the wheel, Jeremy falls asleep, too. Evan sees a sign for Las Vegas and decides to say to hell with Jeremy’s anal itinerary. He heads for Vegas. Jeremy’s pissed when he wakes up, but Evan convinces him he might have fun. Jeremy is doubtful. All three boys are surprised when places like the Luxor are way out of their price range, and they end up at some old crappy hotel that isn’t on the strip.

Melissa and her friends are hanging out at House of Java when Ken and Maria come in. Because she just can’t help but be a bitch, Melissa starts making fun of them. Ken tells her to shut up and they start arguing. Melissa wins the fight by telling Ken he didn’t actually earn his scholarship, that his father bribed the scout. Ken goes to the newspaper office, but Will is there and his father isn’t. Ken tells Will what Melissa said, and Will looks sheepish and says Ken should talk to his father about it. So Ken goes home and confronts his dad, and Mr. Matthews tells him this is the way the world works and he’s waiting for Ken to thank him for getting him into such a good school. Ken is bewildered.

The boys meet a girl named Laney at a coffee shop, and she offers to give them an “insider’s tour” of Vegas. Evan’s the only one who feels up to it, so off he goes. Conner takes off to go have a look around town while Jeremy drinks coffee and wrings his hands all night while he waits for them to come back. He wants them to come back soon because, as he keeps repeating, he wants to get an early start in the morning. Evan goes on roller coasters and has a great time with Laney. Conner meets a Wise Bartender who tells him he needs to cut out the drinkers in his life (Alanna). Jeremy calls his mom and tells her he’s in Vegas. She thinks it’s good for him to have a little fun, and Jeremy is upset because he thinks she should be worried. How is it possible that Jeremy is only a fun guy when he’s with Jessica? Get him away from Jessica and he’s a damned stick in the mud.

The waitress at the diner tells Jeremy that Laney called. She and Evan want him to get over to the Elvis Chapel to be a witness. Jeremy rushes over there to stop them from getting married. Laney and Evan start laughing when they see how panicked he is. They’re all going to be witnesses at the next wedding, that’s all. Jeremy is mad at first, but he finds the whole wedding so absurd that he ends up laughing uncontrollably and having a good time. He and Evan get back to the hotel at the same time as Conner, and Jeremy surprises them both when he says they should all sleep in the next morning.

Quotes:

Evan threw his head back and laughed.

In every single one of these books, someone throws his or her head back and laughs. It’s usually Tia, but if it’s not her it’s someone else. And whenever I picture someone laughing that way, it looks evil and menacing.

The Cover: Well, I guess that’s what Evan looks like. Too bad we can only see half his face.

Sweet Valley High Super Edition #8: Jessica Takes Manhattan

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

SVHSE08 - OuterThe Moral of the Story: If you pretend to be a princess, you’ll get kidnapped for ransom money.

The Big Deal: New York City! Woohoo!

Synopsis:

There’s been an earthquake in Sweet Valley (don’t worry, no refrigerators have fallen on anyone) and the school is going to be closed for a week while the roof is repaired. Lila will be spending the week in New York City and she’s invited Jessica to come along. Lila somehow misses the flight, so Jessica goes alone. She ends up sitting next to Ryder Mitchell, a teen rock star. During the course of the plane ride, Ryder and Jessica fall in love. Of course they do. The plane has to land in New Orleans because of some sort of mechanical difficulties, and Jessica and Ryder go out on the town. Ryder tells Jessica his manager is making him go to New York to announce his engagement to Deirdra La Monde, some other teen sensation. Ryder has only met the chick once and doesn’t even hardly like her, and now that he’s met Jessica he’s decided to call the whole thing off. When they get to New York, Ryder tells Jessica to give him a couple days to let things blow over, and he’ll meet her on Valentine’s Day at the top of the Empire State Building.

Because of Jessica’s plane troubles, Lila gets to the Plaza Hotel first. When she walks in, she’s a little surprised to have a bunch of photographers take her picture, but she really doesn’t think anything of it and chalks it up to people knowing how important she really is. Man, I love Lila, ego and all. The hotel staff keeps calling her “princess” and they give her the penthouse suite. She thinks this is all just as it should be, but she can’t figure out why the desk staff can’t get her messages right. She goes to the hotel restaurant to have dinner and is shocked to see Bo there. He flew in to New York to surprise her, but he’s upset that she blew him off that morning. Lila has no idea what he’s talking about until the next morning when she goes downstairs to the lobby and sees Bo being threatened by a bunch of bodyguards. The bodyguards are surrounding a girl who looks just like Lila. Lila looks at a newspaper and sees a picture of herself arriving at the hotel, but the article is about Princess Charlotte from some nonsense country.

When Jessica arrives, she, Lila and Bo take full advantage of the mix-up. They get excellent treatment everywhere they go. Meanwhile, the real Princess is also taking advantage of this opportunity to hang out in New York without anybody bothering her. She meets a guy named Allan and they work at a soup kitchen together. Hmm, she sounds an awful lot like Princess Eliana. All princesses really have hearts of gold and all they really want is to work in soup kitchens.

On Valentine’s Day, Jessica and Lila spend all day getting ready for their dates and then hop into a cab. The cab is unfortunately being driven by a couple of bad guys who think they’ve kidnapped Princess Charlotte. Bo knows something is wrong when Lila doesn’t show for their date, but the police just think he’s been stood up. Bo, rich as he is, decides to call a television station and buy some ad time. Ryder is in his hotel room feeling sorry for himself when he sees Jessica’s face on TV. He learns that she’s missing and calls the number on the television. Bo tells him to come on over to his hotel room.

The bad guys, Vincent and Mr. G, finally figure out they fucked up and Lila’s not really a princess. They’re all set to kill the girls when Lila tells them she’s the daughter of a wealthy man. The bad guys can’t get a hold of Mr. or Mrs. Fowler, so they think Lila’s lying. Lila tells them about Bo and says he’d pay anything to get her and Jessica back. So they call Bo’s hotel room and tell him to bring a million dollars to Yankee stadium.

Jessica and Lila manage to get themselves untied and then lock the kidnappers in the room. They escape the stadium in the bad guys’ cab, and just miss Bo and Ryder coming in. The boys find the room the kidnappers are locked in, go inside and get clubbed over the head and locked in. Ugh, this is annoying. Jessica and Lila, instead of calling the police, go back to their hotel. Bo isn’t in his room and they run around searching for him. Lila runs into Princess Charlotte. The princess, grateful to Lila for inadvertently giving her a few days of freedom, listens to the girls’ story about their kidnapping and how they now think their boyfriends are being held prisoner. Charlotte sends her very own bodyguards to the stadium and they burst into the storage room just as Vincent and Mr. G are about to kill Ryder and Bo.

A day or two later, Ryder puts on a spontaneous concert at the Empire State Building. Jessica gets to kiss him on stage. It’s all very exciting.

Quotes:

The moment Lila stepped onto the red carpet in front of the hotel, the cameras of dozens of paparazzi started flashing…Lila tossed back her brown hair and waved regally, gracing the photographers with a dazzling smile. This is the kind of welcome I deserve! she thought.

I absolutely love that this is Lila’s reaction to unexpected paparazzi.

The Cover: What a boring cover, especially the inside. I don’t see any reason this one had to be a stepback.

SVHSE08 - Inner

Sweet Valley High Magna Edition #2: Return of the Evil Twin

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

MAGNA-ReturnEvilTwin-OuterThe Moral of the Story: Christmas is a bad time to be a Wakefield twin.

The Big Deal: Party at Secca Lake, “Welcome Back from the Dead” party for Jessica

Synopsis:

UGH.

The prologue takes us back to “last year” when Margo died at Fowler Crest on New Year’s Eve. But apparently, nobody noticed the ambulance suddenly stop and then start again after leaving the house. I guess this is a suggestion that Margo is not actually dead and somehow managed to overpower the EMS guys and steal their ambulance.

It’s gonna be a long recap, I can already tell.

A couple weeks before Christmas, a girl named Nora Chappelle is at her father’s wake in Savannah, Georgia. Nora hates her stepmother, Blanche. She overhears Blanche’s cousins talking about Nora’s real mother being insane. After the funeral, Blanche gives Nora a check for fifty thousand dollars and tells her to get lost. Then she says Nora has a twin sister somewhere named Margo. Blanche made Nora’s father put Margo up for adoption when they got married. Nora vows to find her sister. Nora just ain’t right. You can tell because she thinks she can see smells. Also, she suddenly starts talking to mirrors as though her reflection is Margo.

There’s a party up at Secca Lake and Todd is running late. He’s driving way too fast on the winding roads and ends up crashing through the guard rail. Jessica, who is of course also running late, sees Todd’s car about to go over the cliff. She manages to pull him out just before the car falls and explodes. Up at the lake, Liz sees the big fiery ball and calls 911 on Lila’s cellular phone before racing to the scene. She sees Jessica climbing into the ambulance with Todd’s stretcher and gets upset when nobody will tell her anything. At the hospital, Jessica and Todd make googly eyes at each other. The doctor refers to Jessica as Todd’s girlfriend and neither of them corrects him.

When Liz finally gets to the hospital, she’s totally jealous that Jessica was the one who saved Todd, not her. Todd staring at Jessica with “a look he usually reserved for Elizabeth” doesn’t help matters. Jessica can tell Liz is jealous and it irritates her. That night, Liz has the same dream she had last year about a girl who she thinks is Jessica but who has black hair trying to kill her. The next morning, the newspaper runs a picture of Jessica and Todd at the hospital. The headline is, “Local Girl Saves Her Boyfriend’s Life.” Liz goes to the hospital to visit Todd. He tries to reassure her when she says she’s jealous. It works until she gets home and finds Jessica telling all her friends that Todd pledged his undying gratitude to her the night before.

Meanwhile, Nora’s gotten hold of a bunch of documents pertaining to Margo. She learns all about the Wakefield twins and how Margo tried to kill Liz to impersonate her. The article Nora has says Margo was pronounced dead, but on the way to the hospital, the ambulance went off the Palisades bridge and Margo’s body was never recovered. I guess nobody ever thought to inform the Wakefields. Nora is distraught and decides the Wakefield twins should die. Because she’s crazy.

Todd and Liz go to the Dairi Burger for a nice intimate date, but Todd wants to sit with Jessica and her friends. Amy and Lila start hounding Todd for details about Jessica’s rescue and Todd is more than happy to oblige. Liz and Ken are sick of the whole thing so they leave to go to a movie. When Liz gets home that night, Jessica is furious. She accuses Liz of ruining her date with Ken, and Liz accuses her of ruining her date with Todd. On Christmas Eve, Todd and Ken are at the Wakefields’ house for dinner, and Todd stands up and gives a toast to Jessica. Liz runs up to her room and starts crying. The twins, not wanting to have another Christmas like last year’s, make up the next morning.

Nora, who has arrived in Sweet Valley, puts on a blond wig and goes to spend Christmas with Margo’s ghost at the cemetery. A hand closes around her throat and Nora turns around to find Margo trying to kill her. Then Nora’s wig falls off and Margo is super confused. Nora introduces herself and takes Margo back to the hotel with her. Margo says she’s been spying on the twins for the past year. She teaches Nora everything she knows about them. They decide to kill both Wakefield twins and become them. But first, they have to make sure the twins hate each other again.

Nora pretends to be Liz and calls Todd and asks him to a movie, then makes out with him the whole night where Liz, who is at the theater with Enid, can see them. When Jessica gets home that night, Liz starts screaming at her and won’t listen to Jessica’s claims that she was with Ken all night. Nora’s proud of herself for impersonating Liz so well and she’s all psyched to try Jessica, but Margo says Nora has to be Liz. Yeah, Margo and Nora fight over who gets to be Jessica when they kill the twins and take over their lives.

On New Year’s Eve, the twins go to a carnival with their friends. Jessica goes into the House of Mirrors and gets totally creeped out. Then we don’t see her again until she shows up two hours later and Lila asks her where her earrings went. Hmm. Later that night, Nora sneaks into the Wakefield house and kills Jessica, Margo be damned. Liz is in the next room having a nightmare and she screams. Nora freaks out and starts climbing out the window. Liz runs to Jessica’s room and sees her, but thinks she’s Margo. The she sees Jessica’s dead body and starts screaming.

While the Wakefields are at the hospital, friends of the twins gather on the front lawn. It’s three-thirty in the morning, so I don’t know how any of them heard about what happened, but whatever. At the police station, Liz tries to tell the police that she saw Margo climbing out the window, but the detective is a bitch and just shows her Margo’s death certificate. Liz points out that Margo’s body was never found, but the detective is an idiot. Meanwhile, Nora hasn’t seen Margo all night. She gets it into her head that Margo is going to kill her, so she plans to kill her first. Then she’ll kill Liz and become her, since she fucked up on becoming Jessica.

Ned and Alice try to talk to Liz about funeral arrangements for Jessica, but Liz doesn’t think a funeral parlor is appropriate. She insists the memorial should be held at the school since it was Jessica’s favorite place in the world. Except for all those times she wanted to skip school and shit. But anyway. Two thousand people show up for the service. Liz reads a poem for Jessica and then runs off stage crying. Todd hugs her and says he’s sorry for whatever Liz thinks he did. Liz says she knows he wasn’t with Jessica that night and that Margo was tricking him. Todd acts like she’s crazy (“Margo’s dead. Remember?”) and Liz is all cryptic instead of just explaining that she was at the movies with Enid that night and saw Todd kissing someone who looked just like her.

After the memorial, Liz “feels Jessica’s presence” and is suddenly sure she’s alive. She tries to tell Steve, but he just thinks she’s losing her mind. She has a dream that night that there are two Margos trying to kill her. Now Liz is pretty sure Margo had a twin, that Jessica is still alive and that Margo is the one who got stabbed on New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of information to glean from a nightmare. The police come over the next day to question her some more and the detective for some reason puts her gun on a table in the dining room. Liz makes an excuse and sneaks out through the dining room, picking up the gun on her way to the Jeep.

Liz goes to the school and sees the furnace room door open. She goes in and sees Jessica and Nora struggling. She holds up the gun, but can’t tell which one is really her twin, even though Jessica is the one who’s tied up. She makes what looks to me to be a random choice and aims the gun at Nora, telling Jessica to pick up Nora’s knife and cut herself free. She explains to Jessica that Margo had a twin, and tells Nora she killed her own twin sister that night, not Jessica.

The cops show up and arrest Nora and the world sits comfortably on its axis for another day. A few days later, Lila, Liz and Steve throw Jessica a “Welcome Back from the Dead” party. Seriously.

Quotes:

Margo shook her head. “This is my show,” she said. Nora detected a hint of menace in her voice. “The cast includes me in the role of Jessica, and you as Elizabeth. There are no understudies.” … [Nora] hated going against Margo’s wishes. But she wasn’t ready to give up her dream. Not by a long shot.

I can’t believe they seriously have a falling out because they can’t agree on who gets to be Jessica.

The Cover: I guess there’s not really much to snark at here. It’s kind of a boring cover.

MAGNA-ReturnEvilTwin-Inner

Sweet Valley High #111: A Deadly Christmas

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

SVH111 - OuterRead the rest of this miniseries: Part one, part two, part three, part four.

The Moral of the Story: If he’ll cheat on you, he’ll also steal your money.

The Big Deal: There’s a Mistletoe Madness dance (because it’s Christmas now) but nobody goes.

Synopsis:

So, Jessica doesn’t tell anyone that she just saw Jeremy on the video of the ransom dropoff, and after a few minutes she manages to convince herself it couldn’t possibly have been him anyway. When Jeremy finally shows up around midnight, Jessica gives him a big kiss and they go off to make out somewhere. Later, Liz goes downstairs and finds Jeremy in the kitchen. He asks her why she doesn’t like him and they end up having an argument because the guy is a total jackass.

The next night, Jeremy and Jessica are making out. Jeremy says he doesn’t think he can wait until they’re married to “belong to each other, body and soul.” He says they’ll “go all the way” Friday night, and he’ll scout around for a romantic place for the occasion. While Jessica lays awake that night wondering if she’s ready for that, Jeremy makes out with Sue. She tells him the inheritance money will be in her bank account in ten days. Jeremy figures he can hack into the bank’s computers or something and get his hands on the money, and then he can disappear for good. In the mean time, I guess he’s going to have fun trying to get Jessica to sleep with him.

When Sue overhears a conversation and finds out what Jeremy and Jessica are planning, she realizes Jeremy is doing more than just keeping up appearances with Jessica. She goes to Jessica one night and tells her the truth about everything, including the kidnapping. Jessica is really pissed off at Sue and wants to believe she’s lying, but in the end she cancels her date with Jeremy and tells Liz everything Sue told her. The twins decide to tell detective Sam Diamond the whole story. They can’t get Sam on the phone and don’t want to ask Ned for her home number (because then they’d have to tell him what they know), so they actually for once in their lives decide to go to the police. And you know what happens? The bitch lady cop tells them to stop wasting her time and get the fuck out. And this is how it comes to pass that the Super Twins have to bring Jeremy to justice themselves.

Sue goes to Jeremy’s room at the boardinghouse and for some reason Jeremy decides it’s time to take a shower. While he’s in there, Sue starts kind of going through his stuff. She finds a plane ticket for a flight to Hawaii the following Saturday, which is the same day Jeremy and Sue were supposed to fly to New York together. Then she finds a newspaper clipping. It’s a wedding announcement. It’s a few years old and the groom’s name is Matt Thorn, but it’s clearly a picture of Jeremy. I guess he just carries this proof of his secret identities around with him everywhere? Sue goes home and tells the twins she needs their help taking Jeremy down.

You guys, I can’t tell you how sick I am of Jeremy and Sue. I’m going to finish this book if it kills me.

The Oracle office now has the internet, but it’s just hooked up to some kind of newspaper database. Sue and the twins go up to the school and do a search for Matt Thorn. The only thing that comes up is the wedding announcement. Because I’m sure there’s only ever been one newspaper article about someone named Matt Thorn. They call the woman in the wedding announcement and find out “Matt” stole all her money and disappeared. Liz tells Jessica and Sue that they have to keep up the charade that they both still love Jeremy. I don’t know why they don’t just go to the police now that they have Sue to actually give testimony, but whatever.

Sue’s money is not in her account on the day it’s supposed to be deposited, so she’s sure Jeremy has already stolen it. She and the twins come up with an awesome plan. On Friday, Jessica calls Jeremy and tells him she knows everything but wants to be with him anyway. He tells her he’ll pick her up at eight and they’ll go to the cabin. The twins call Sam Diamond and tell her their plan. Sam shows up in time to wire Jessica and get everyone into her car. They all follow Jeremy and Jessica to the cabin. Oh, and it’s raining. You know, like it does whenever something really momentous is about to happen.

By the time Jeremy and Jessica get to the cabin, the rain has turned to snow. I didn’t realize the cabin was that far away. Sam, Liz, Sue and Todd get lost and then crash Sam’s car, so they’re no longer on Jeremy’s trail. Useless people. At the cabin, Jessica gets Jeremy to confess to all his crimes. He leaves the room for a minute, and when he comes back he catches Jessica trying to use the phone. He assumes she’s going to turn him in, so they have a little scuffle that results in the Christmas tree being knocked into the fireplace and the whole place going up in flames while Jessica lies unconscious on the floor. The funniest part of this is that this apparently abandoned cabin is all decorated for Christmas. Liz and the others finally show up and save Jessica, but Jeremy manages to get away. Not to worry, though. The cops find him and he confesses. I hope we’re done with Sue and Jeremy now.

While all this has been going on, there’s also been a subplot involving Lila and her artist boyfriend. Robby has an art show coming up but hasn’t done any paintings for it yet. Lila is worried so she does a bunch of horrible paintings and hangs them up at the gallery. When Robby shows up with his real paintings, he gets mad but realizes Lila was just being Lila.

Also, Ken Matthews has recently broken up with Terri Adams and has lately been showing a lot of interest in Jessica.

Quotes:

Elizabeth slapped her textbook shut. “Sorry, but I just can’t seem to stop thinking about Sue and Jeremy and the kidnapping.”

Argh, you don’t have to solve every mystery in Sweet Valley.

Jogging over to the house next door, she leaned hard on the bell. Mrs. Beckwith answered the door.

I seem to remember the Beckwiths moving away and the Whitman/Thomas family moving in.

The Cover: Looking at Jeremy running away makes me crack up every time. He looks like he’s doing some kind of traveling version of the Elaine dance. And what the hell is Jessica wearing?

SVH111 - Inner

Sweet Valley High #100: The Evil Twin

Monday, August 31st, 2009

SVH100Synopsis:

It’s Christmastime again. The last day of school before the break, the twins each get Secret Santa candy canes. Jessica’s says, “Happy horrordays, Jessica.” Liz’s says, “I’m dreaming of a red Christmas. Wreck the halls with bloody bodies.” Gross. Liz shows hers to Todd, but Jessica keeps hers to herself. This is Margo’s work, of course. She’s hanging around school, spying on Liz, preparing to take over her life. Liz is supposed to meet Enid in the library at four o’clock, but Margo gets there early with plans to go out with Enid in Liz’s place. Enid, however, recognizes that Margo is not Liz, which is cool, but she thinks she’s Jessica instead, which is not very helpful. It does go to show that Alice is a terrible mother because she totally thinks Margo is Liz when Margo walks into the Wakefield house later and hugs her. Margo then goes upstairs to snoop around in Liz’s room. She finds Liz’s diary and spends the next hour reading. Then Liz comes home and Margo hides in the closet. Liz is pissed that her room has been disarranged. She thinks Jessica did it. She goes into the bathroom and Margo makes her escape. Later that night, Jessica goes to Liz to try to make up again, but Liz just yells at her for snooping through her things and tells her to get out.

Jessica’s boyfriend, James, is tired of spying for Margo. He tells Margo he doesn’t want to do it anymore. She says that’s fine, but that she’ll kill James if he ever speaks to Jessica again. This sucks, because James has fallen in love with Jessica. He hates to do it, but he calls Jessica and breaks up with her. Jessica’s having a rotten week.

The day before Christmas Eve, Margo-as-Liz makes a date with Todd, and then Margo-as-Jessica goes shopping with Lila to get something to wear on her date. Lila thinks Jessica is nicer than usual, and Todd thinks Liz is acting strange. At Miller’s Point, he becomes convinced that it’s really Jessica he’s with, so he ends the date early and takes her home. By the time he gets to the Wakefields’ house, he’s changed his mind and thinks he’s with Liz. He goes home all confused.

Christmas Eve dinner the next night is depressing and confusing for Todd when Liz says she was caroling with Enid the night before, and Jessica morosely says she stayed home all night. Christmas morning at the Wakefields’ is equally depressing, I guess just because the twins aren’t getting along. I can’t really figure out what everyone else’s problem is. A few days later, Ned and Alice leave for San Francisco for the fake meeting Margo set up to get them out of the house.

Margo has been breaking into James’ house and leaving him death threats. He’s worried enough to call Jessica to warn her about Margo and then get the hell out of Sweet Valley, but not worried enough to go to the police or anything. He asks Jessica to meet him at the marina and then he packs a bag. Jessica hangs up the phone, and then the storm raging outside makes the lights go out. She stumbles out into the hall and runs into Margo, who’s hanging around being creepy and listening in on phone calls. She’s super pissed that James betrayed her. She goes back to the boardinghouse to change before she heads to the marina to kill James. When she gets to her room, though, she can tell her lock has been picked. She looks through the keyhole and sees Josh, the brother of the kid she killed in Ohio. He’s found her and has not gone to the police. These fucking kids. Instead of going in her room, Margo pretends to loudly tell someone she’s going to the marina. She runs outside, hides and watches Josh get in his car and head in the direction of the marina.

Liz and Todd are out, but Liz wants to stop at home for a sweater. She walks in and finds Jessica in a tizzy because she can’t find her keys and she’s already late to meet James. She begs Liz and Todd to give her a ride. Liz relents in a bitchy way, and the three of them go to the marina.

James is hanging out on the old pier at the marina when Jessica runs up and hugs him. He tells her everything, and then realizes he’s talking to Margo. She pushes him off the pier just as Todd and the twins come running up, and then I guess she disappears and Josh shows up and it looks for all the world like Josh killed James. I don’t really get the logistics of that, but Todd tackles Josh, who suddenly starts spouting off craziness about a murderer who looks just like the twins.

That night, Jessica has the same dream Liz has been having about a twin with black hair trying to kill her. She wakes up screaming and goes to Liz’s room. Liz is dreaming about the Jungle Prom. She’s been having this dream every night, and she’s getting closer and closer to figuring out what happened. Jessica wakes her up, Liz screams, Steven comes in and Margo spies from the hallway as the three siblings calm each other down. Jessica tells Liz her dream, and Liz says she’s been having the same one.

The next morning, Margo pretends to be Jessica and hangs out with Lila for a while. Lila is having a New Year’s Eve ball and that’s when Margo will kill Liz. While Lila is in the shower, Margo walks around the house. She decides the pool house will be the best place to do it. Later, she hangs around outside the Wakefield house until Steve and Liz leave. She figures Jessica is still asleep, so she goes inside, planning to read Liz’s latest diary entry and then leave. Jessica is awake and Margo is thrown off guard, so she’s kind of rude. Jessica is hurt and goes off to the living room. A few minutes later, Todd shows up and leaves with “Liz.”

Poor Josh has been in jail for a few days and he decides he needs to get out there and take care of Margo, law be damned. He pulls the sick prisoner gag and punches out the guard who comes to take a look at him, and then he escapes.

On New Year’s Eve, Liz is taking a nap before getting ready for Lila’s party. She has a dream about the Jungle Prom and wakes up knowing that Jessica spiked her punch that night. She does not question the fact that this knowledge came to her in a dream, she just goes ahead and decides she hates Jessica. Meanwhile, Jessica suddenly can’t live with the guilt of having spiked Liz’s drink and she wants to confess.

At Lila’s, Liz is talking to Enid when she sees Jessica heading in her direction. Liz makes an excuse and runs off, losing Jessica in the crowd. Enid tells Todd Liz went upstairs to the bathroom, but Todd finds both bathrooms empty. He finally finds Liz in one of the guest bedrooms. He wants to go back down to the party, but when Liz says, “We can have our own party right here,” Todd knows something is wrong. It’s clearly not Liz, but “even Jessica wouldn’t go this far.” He demands to know who he’s talking to. Margo hits him with some statue or something and knocks him out. Then she knocks on the door of Lila’s bathroom, where she somehow knows Liz is hiding out, and pretends to be Jessica. Through the door, she says that she wants to talk and will meet Liz at the pool house.

After finding out their whole trip was a hoax, Ned and Alice decided to go home early, but have been having one hell of a time getting back to Sweet Valley due to canceled plane rides, delayed train rides and a crappy rental car. When they finally get into town, Alice’s mother’s intuition tells her they need to go to Fowler Crest. At about the same time, Steve and Billie are watching the news at the Wakefield house and find out Josh escaped from jail. They think they need to go to Fowler Crest. Josh himself is already there, spying.

Liz goes to the pool house and Margo comes out of the shadows. Liz knows it’s not Jessica because Margo is 1.) wearing the same dress Liz is and 2.) holding a very large butcher knife. She does an Evil Villain speech and tells Liz all about her plan. Just as she’s about to bring the knife down, Jessica runs in and puts herself in front of the blade. All three girls wrestle for the knife. Jessica gets it and gets ready to strike, but suddenly can’t tell which one is her real twin. Then Margo leaps forward and gets the knife again. Jessica once more throws herself on top of Liz to protect her.

Outside, Steven tackles Josh and tells Billie to call the police. Then Todd comes outside and says Josh isn’t the killer, it’s a girl who looks like the twins. Everyone goes into the pool house and Josh slams into Margo and knocks her into the window. Margo goes through the window, taking a shard of glass to the jugular while she’s at it. A few hours later, Margo’s body is gone, the cops are listening to Josh’s story and believing it, the twins are friends again and Alice is happy to be with her girls and probably feeling a little smug that her mother’s intuition was correct.

Quotes:

“Now, I’ve told the Beckwiths and the Egberts that we’re going out of town, and if you need anything, you can call them.”

I thought the Beckwiths moved away. It was, like, last week. Annie and Cheryl moved into their old house.

[James] had no hard evidence that she’d committed any crimes or that she intended to commit any…

You mean aside from the note she left (the one where she threatens to kill you) when she broke into your house?

The Cover: This image comes from The Closet*.

SVH100-Inner

Okay, up there is a sad Christmas morning with depressed twins, and Margo looking in the window like mother-in-law deer. Down there, mostly covered up by the bar code, must be Todd getting knocked the fuck out. And then there’s Liz and Margo. Margo’s all, “I have to spit,” and Liz is all, “Hey, don’t I know you?” The expression on Liz’s face and her body language really take away from the vibe I imagine I’m supposed to be getting from the creepy lightning in the background.

*The Closet is apparently no longer active.

Sweet Valley High Super Star #4: Olivia’s Story

Friday, July 24th, 2009

SS04The moral of the story: You don’t need money as long as you have love and oil paint.

The Big Deal: Party with Robert’s country club friends, a party at Lila’s is mentioned

Synopsis:

Olivia is looking at some paintings on display at the Forester Art School where she takes a painting class. One painting in particular catches her eye, and a handsome young man asks her what she thinks about it. Then he tells her he painted it and is glad he got her unbiased opinion. His name is James Yates and I think he’s a pretentious know-it-all art snob, but Olivia is fascinated and takes him out to dinner because he focuses so much on art that little things like money and carrying a wallet escape him. The next morning, Olivia wakes up thinking of James and his “I don’t care what people think” attitude, and decides she will continue to dress the way she wants, haters be damned. She puts her hair up in a ponytail and holds it in place with an Elvis record. Because she is just that awesome. Her conservative parents don’t really approve, but they don’t try to change her.

Jessica decides she and Liz need to get jobs to make money for Christmas presents (this book starts just after Thanksgiving). They apply at a department store called Simpson’s, which, incidentally, is where Olivia’s mother works as a manager. One of the upsides to the job is Robert Simpson, the owner’s son. Jessica has heard Robert is gorgeous and not much older than she is. She intends to meet him, but gets assigned to the completely boring and isolated children’s department stockroom. Liz will be in gift-wrapping.

Olivia hangs out with James again. They meet in a crappy coffee shop and then go to his crappy apartment, which is a one room deal located above a television repair shop. It has a kitchenette and a fire escape and probably came out of the ghostwriter’s imagination after she watched Fame or Rent or something. Olivia tells James she likes him, but he says he can’t get involved in a relationship because his art is too important. Olivia says she’s content to just be friends.

Olivia’s aunt June and cousin Emily are coming from Connecticut for a visit so Emily can look at schools in California. When they arrive, Olivia has been working so she’s covered in paint. June and Emily are nonplussed. They are super conservative, and Emily already has her whole life planned out. Mrs. Davidson convinces Olivia to take Emily with her when she goes to meet James. Emily and James have nothing to say to each other. Olivia and James act like Emily’s an idiot for not understanding anything about art, and James is offended when he says he’s dedicated to his work and Emily says, “Oh, you have a job, too?” On the way home, Emily expresses her concern, saying it’s not very practical for James to be living the way he does. Olivia sort of agrees and starts to worry about her own future. She eventually asks her mother to get her a job at Simpson’s. Olivia is easily influenced, remember.

Olivia meets Robert Simpson on her first day, and he lets her redo the Christmas display. He observes that she’s very artistic and she says he can come see some of her paintings over the weekend. When he shows up, he totally doesn’t get her abstract style, but really digs her cabinet of “rejects,” which is mostly crappy landscapes and still lifes. Olivia is depressed that nobody understands her art, and she puts the half-finished painting she’s been working on so passionately in the cabinet with all the other rejects. Nobody “normal” would ever like it anyway. A few days later, Robert asks Olivia to a party, but she has plans with James to go see a foreign film or something.

Emily gets lost while driving around one day and finally recognizes the coffee shop where she and Olivia met James. She sees James, so she sits down with him and tries to talk with him, but he just makes her feel stupid. She decides she really likes him, though, so a few days later, she dresses in Olivia’s clothes and goes back to the coffee shop. He doesn’t notice her clothes, but he does take her back to his apartment to show off his paintings, none of which she understands.

Olivia calls James to make sure they’re still going to see that film, but he says he’s much too busy with his painting right now and can’t make it. So Olivia calls Robert to see if she can still go to that party with him. He’s happy to take her with him, but warns her that it’s being given by one of his country club friends, and sort of asks her to dress “normal.” Olivia decides to go ahead and change her whole image. At work the next day, she asks Robert to help her pick something out for the party, and he comes up with some horrible dark green velvet thing. Olivia buys it.

The party goes pretty much as expected. Olivia feels out of place with a bunch of preppy types who have all figured out what their whole lives are going to be about. She looks around the house and mentally compares it to James’ crappy apartment. She asks herself if she really wants to live like James does, and the answer is no. The next morning, she sits down and reads the business section in the paper, then asks to look at Emily’s college brochures. She decides to ask Robert to help her pick out some more clothes, then she cuts all her hair off because wearing it long made her look like a hippie. Oh, Olivia. I can only imagine what her “springy” curls look like short. The next day, she doesn’t have anything to wear to work, so she puts on one of Emily’s suits. Robert says he told his father about Olivia’s still life and landscape paintings, and Mr. Simpson has said she can display and sell them in the store.

Jessica finally meets Robert Simpson, but it’s pretty clear he’s not interested. He blows her off so he can continue his conversation with Olivia. But Jessica is determined, and finds him again one day and invites him to a party at Lila’s house. Robert says he has plans with Olivia. Jessica has noticed that Olivia has changed recently, but she’s sure it’s only temporary. When Olivia goes back to being the kind of girl Robert wouldn’t look at twice, Jessica will be ready to swoop in. Nothing ever actually comes of this and, truthfully, the twins could have been kept out of this book entirely without anyone being the wiser.

James calls and invites Olivia over. She hasn’t really thought about James lately, what with being so busy becoming a proper lady and all, and she isn’t sure she wants to go to his apartment, but agrees anyway. He doesn’t like her new clothes and he really doesn’t like hearing that she’ll be selling her still lifes at Simpson’s. Olivia tries to give him his Christmas present, a paperweight in the shape of a J, and he gives it back to her, saying it’s the “emptiest, most meaningless present” he’s ever received. Olivia has finally had enough and walks out.

Olivia’s mother is worried about her and finally takes her up to the attic to show Olivia the paintings she did as a teenager. Mrs. Davidson had a real talent, but she gave it up for the security of a business degree. Now Olivia is more confused than ever. James calls a few days later and apologizes. He’d like to see her again and give her a Christmas present.

Emily has decided to go to school in California, and she’d like to carry on a relationship with James. She’s sure she can convince him to live in a better house in a better part of town, and maybe get him to shave every once in a while. She wants to solidify things, so she goes to his apartment and tells him she’d like to be “friends.” He tells her they’re already friends, and from this, Emily somehow understands that James is in love with Olivia.

That same afternoon, Olivia goes to Robert’s house. She gives him one of her still life paintings and he gives her an address book. After she opens it, she knows exactly how James must have felt when she gave him the paperweight. She leaves Robert’s and gets home at the same time as Emily. They look at each other’s clothes and both decide to stop trying to be something they aren’t. Olivia finishes her abstract masterpiece and brings it to James and tells him it’s his real present. He says they have to go out for hers, and he takes her to the alley behind the coffee shop, where he’s painted two portraits of Olivia on the shop’s back wall. She’s free and artistic in one portrait, and closed and restrained in the other. James asks her which one she wants to be. Of course she picks the artist, and James tells her he loves her.

Quotes:

“I have a job interview.”

“A what?” Lila gasped.

Gotta love the Lila.

She knew she was becoming much more the kind of girl he liked to be with, and she appreciated that. It meant that she was becoming more adult, more in charge of her life.

How does changing your image to please someone else make you more mature?

The Cover: Now, this is Olivia. I don’t know what they were thinking on her other cover, but I always thought she looked great on this one. I, um, kind of wanted to be her. Oh, and sorry for the quality of this cover. I really should have taken that sticker off, and it already looked like a dog tried to eat it when I received it.