We’re at a point in the series where it seems they want to hit us over the head with loads of Super Thrillers on a regular basis. In other words, things are apparently going to get even MORE batshit.
So that you get an idea of what we’re in for with this one, let’s examine our cover …
It’s another special stepback cover! On the front flap, we have two girls just cracking the fuck up in a waterfall. The one on the right has to be Lila, but are we supposed to think the girl on the left is Jessica? She looks decades older! Does Alice wear bikinis? Maybe it’s Grace? At upper right, we have Liz Wakefield (or maybe THAT’S Alice), identifiable by her pulled back hair and obligatory tank bikini, looking down in horror at something … I mean, if this wasn’t a stepback I would’ve thought it was how much Jessica has aged. There’s a Sweet Valley timeline joke in here somewhere.
Open the flap and we see ….
Hahaha! Some random (naked?) dude springing from the undergrowth to grab Liz’s leg. I’m simultaneously creeped out and highly amused. Liz’s hair is super 90s layered. If she takes it out of that ponytail, is it going to look like “the Rachel” shag that everyone was into back then?
Alice Wakefield has been “picked at random from the phone book” and won a vacation to Paradise Spa, which is “the most luxurious spa in all of California.” Uh, I hope old Alice thoroughly vetted that shit first, but given her past decisions and how fucking gullible the Wakefields are in general, you know she didn’t. She’s allowed to bring six guests, so along with the twins, she’s invited Enid and Lila and their moms for a mother-daughter retreat. Enid’s mom can’t come, so the sixth guest spot is just a waste I guess. Now the ladies are riding a train up to wherever the hell the spa is. Everyone is gushing and cooing about their adventure, including the Fowlers, though I’m somehow doubting Grace and Lila Fowler are all that impressed since they probably go to spas in Paris and shit all the time. This spa is run by someone named Tatiana Mueller who promises she can make ugly people beautiful, or something like that.
Liz and Enid go to the club car for snacks and drinks, and Enid starts bawling because Hugh apparently dumped her recently because he didn’t want to be tied down. Enid is sure it’s because she’s not as pretty as, say, the Wakefield twins. Oh GAWD, we are going to have to listen to Enid mope all throughout this damn book, aren’t we? Liz tries to reassure Enid about her looks, but privately, she recalls how Hugh started dating a “cute” and “curvy” sophomore named Sabrina right after he dumped Enid and thinks that Enid is right. Doesn’t Hugh go to Big Mesa? How would Liz know who he’s dating now? Hugh is even more boring than Enid, so I’d really like to see Enid hook up with someone who can liven up her personality a little.
The train pulls into the Paradise train station after many hours of traveling “up the California coast”. So is this supposed to be in the real life Paradise, California? History lesson time! I looked up whether Paradise had a train station at some point, and it seems it did, but it closed in 1974. The train depot survives and houses a couple of museums, and was one of the few structures to survive the awful Camp Fire of 2018. Wondering if the ghost writer knew the train depot history at that time or was just pulling a cool town name out of a hat. Anyway, our mom-and-daughter group arrives and is met by a sexy porter/driver named Chris. Jessica gets all hot and bothered and Liz gives her a lecture about how she should be thinking about Ken, as Liz, everyone’s favorite hypocrite, simultaneously finds herself also hot and bothered by Chris.
Chris drops the ladies and their luggage off at the spa and everyone gawks at the tons of beautiful people they see, as the entire staff is supermodel-level gorgeous. They’re certain Tatiana must be the most beautiful of all, but when they meet her, she’s quite dumpy. Jessica calls her a “toad” to her friends, then feels ashamed when she sees Tatiana up close and realizes that half of her face is disfigured. Wait, Jessica can feel shame?
Tatiana, who I now think of as the female version of the Batman villain Two Face, takes the group to their lodgings at Tranquillity Cottage, which has three luxurious bedrooms, and a hot tub, but no mirrors, which just about ruins things for Jessica and Lila. The girls take a dip in a “mineral pool”, and then we get a humorous description of Liz plugging her new laptop into the phone line so she can send Todd an “E-mail” (with the E capitalized, yes). As it turns out, Todd has his own personal computer and modem! Woo hoo, it’s officially 1995 in this series. The group goes to dinner, where they all gawk at hot men everywhere and Jessica preens at Chris and gets him to agree to give her a golf lesson. He immediately tries to invite some of the others, but Jessica doesn’t get a clue. Enid picks at her food and thinks about how ugly she is and how she wants Tatiana to save her. I hope she gets food poisoning. Dinner consists of salad with “oil-free vinaigrette”, poached salmon with “light dill sauce”, haricots verts (uh, as in French green beans? FANCY), steamed potatoes, and fresh fruit. OK people, how the fuck do you make vinaigrette without oil? The ingredients are freakin’ oil, vinegar and lemon juice! Is it just lemon flavored vinegar? What the hell? I’m so confused.
Lila and Jessica are disappointed with breakfast the following morning, which only consists of fruit, plain yogurt, muffins or toast, and grapefruit and orange juice. In fact, the waitress casts shade in Jess’s direction when she wants to try one of each bread item on order. After breakfast, Lila and Grace are gonna go get their nails did, while Alice shocks Liz by announcing she will be attending a yoga class. Shut the fuck up Liz. Then Tatiana Mueller comes by the table and coos over everybody. She introduces them to her young, lovely assistant Marguerite, then creepily pats Enid’s hair, calls her “my little sparrow” and assures her they’ll definitely take care of her since her mother couldn’t come. At the sight of this, Lila and Jessica are reduced to hysterics behind their breakfast napkins. Jessica asks Tatiana if she can have some mirrors put in their rooms, and Tatiana suddenly gets all moody and says they don’t have any at the spa because it’s inner beauty that counts. Alice thinks this is so admirable while everyone else rightly thinks that is fucking weird to not have mirrors at a beauty spa.
Nosy Liz takes note of a shy young waitress named Katya who hides her face behind her hair, and wonders why she isn’t upbeat like everyone else. Liz decides Katya obviously just needs a friend, like herself. We’re gonna get a scene of Katya pouring her heart and soul out to Liz while Liz does a reassuring shoulder pat, aren’t we? Fuck. BTW, I’m fresh off drinking wine and shit on a late night Zoom party as I write this, so I’m just sitting here sleepily laughing my ass off at the mere thought.
As the group exits the “alfresco dining room” after breakfast so they can skip about looking for opportunities to cheat on their significant others, a new family is coming in. It consists of a “portly man” named Kurt Spencer, his wife Joanne, daughter Chelsea (13) and son Randall (16), who is also portly. Jessica and Lila run away as soon as they see that Randall is a little heavy, and Liz is off in the clouds daydreaming about her latest hot Oracle story about a sad chick she met at the other end of the state ’cause that’s real riveting and all. I mean who am I kidding though, it’s Liz, she’ll probably win a Pulitzer. Anyway, Enid chats up Randall and feels sad that no one wants to talk to him but her and thinks everyone is so mean and she is so kind. Enid is a sad sack of protoplasm that has slowly absorbed Liz’s self-righteousness via osmosis.
Our sighing protoplasm sack glides out into the main lobby where Tatiana catches her just wandering dopily around the lobby staring at everything and trying to figure out where the fuck she’s going. Man, this place doesn’t have any staffers to help anybody? Tatiana hears sad sack Enid moaning that she wishes she had beautiful blond hair like her friend Liz, and tells her to shut the fuck up because red hair is beautiful. She takes Enid to the hair salon where she administers a special conditioning treatment for redheads while Enid pours her heart about how her mom doesn’t have as much time for her anymore because she’s a busy divorced woman. Tatiana seems very interested in convincing Enid her mother doesn’t treat her right. She also, like every other fucking person in this series seems overly interested in talking about the twins and their mom because why not, they’re obviously the most beautiful and alluring people on the planet and can’t help attracting all kinds of psychos. It’s a hard knock life!
While Enid is getting her hairdo therapy or whatever the fuck that was, Liz is approaching Katya to ask her about her life because she is a nosy ass bitch who can’t mind her own business. She actually walks up on Katya while she’s trying to change uniforms or something. Katya is nice to her because, you know, Liz is a customer and she has to be. She offers to take Liz on a tour of the property so she knows where everything is. No one else has done that yet which I find bizarre. These people won a contest at this resort and they were just dumped off at their rooms like, Okay have fun wandering around and figuring out what the fuck is going on here. Sounds like a cheap ass spa that doesn’t want them to actually take advantage of any services since they won’t be paying. Oh yeah, Liz is grossed out by the mud baths. I hope there’s a scene where Katya drowns her in them. Katya makes some wistful comments about her mom and hints at how sad she is, and of course Liz and her “reporter’s instinct” are intrigued GAWD I HATE YOUR BITCH ASS REPORTER’S INSTINCT.
Meanwhile, Jessica is having her private golf lesson with Chris the generic-named hottie. No disrespect to any Chrises, but Jessica has already mounted a few of those and they need to throw a Glenn or something out there. However, this Chris is more interested in talking about Liz. Why not? It’s the same plot we have at least once in every new SVH arc, Jess wants some dude and he wants Liz. Chris dreamily talks about how enchanting it is that Liz is a writer and tries to set up a double date with the twins plus him and his friend Alex, but Jessica is mad she had to pretend to like golf for a whole 7 minutes for someone who’s mooning over her twin, flings her golf club on the ground and stomps away.
Chris finds Liz and blushes and stammers his way through an invitation to play tennis with him. Liz is like, oh yes, another dude to cheat with, so hot. Her fantasies about the things they can do with tennis racket handles are rudely interrupted as she remembers there’s a sack of protoplasm named Enid next to her that can’t shut the fuck up about its lost boyfriend and how ugly and fat it is because it’s not a Wakefield sack, so she insists the sack join them and play doubles with the mysterious friend of Chris’s, Alex. (Remember Alex from that Spring Fever Super Edition from hell? Unpleasant flashbacks …) Enid is a little pissed that Liz is apparently pitying her and trying to find her ugly best friend a boy.
Tatiana drops by the dinner table to coo about how “ravishing” the twins and their mother are. Shit is getting disturbing, but the Wakefields are used to people acting like they’re the collective second coming of Christ and just brush it off. Enid gets called Tatiana’s “lost little redbird” and invited for more personalized beauty treatments. Alice is super disturbed by how familiar Tatiana Mueller seems to her. She goes so far as to call Ned to ask him if they knew anyone in college by that name, but he’s no help, so Alice is like, eh well. I’m sure this fucking annoying ass creepy woman isn’t of any concern.
It’s time for the Liz/Enid/Chris/Alex doubles tennis game / “double date”. Alex turns out to be just as gorgeous as Chris, and Enid is interested. But then Lila and Jessica spot their game while out for a walk and crash it, and Jessica goes all out doing stupid cheers to catch Alex’s eye. It works – Alex fucks up the whole tennis game because he can’t stop staring at Jessica. Enid is very upset. Jessica suggests the group go out to Paradise Station (where the train station is) to get some ice cream, and the guys suddenly get all weird and say they can’t leave the grounds. Apparently they have a hidden stash of ice cream and a blender squirreled away in their staff cottage, so they offer to make the girls milkshakes there. At the cottage, Enid and Lila are stuck talking to one another while the boys fawn all over the twins. (Chris and Liz are talking about writing – of course. You know that seals the deal where Liz is concerned. She learned jack shit from her Lucas / werewolf experience.) To make matters worse, Enid thinks the milkshake tastes like mud. She feels uglier than ever, and she tells Liz all about it that night while Liz unsuccessfully tries to convince her that she is also beautiful, just in a different way. For all my ragging on Enid, these scenes seem like a decent reflection of teenage angst. You know, minus the fact it’s happening at a glamour spa with spooky employees.
On Monday morning, Katya the staffer takes the Sweet Valley group, plus Randall and Chelsea for a run up the mountain. Liz is the only one who can keep up with her and gets praised effusively. They reach a waterfall and have a swim, then walk back down where Liz starts nosing into Katya’s life again. Katya suddenly admits out of nowhere that she’s a runaway and that she’ll never see her mother again, then takes off bawling and disappears. Meanwhile, Enid hangs out with Randall all walk long, who the book keeps reminding us is pudgy and out of shape. Then Enid bashes her looks some more to Liz. Enid is sad that she doesn’t have a “peaches and cream” complexion like Liz. Liz tries to reassure her but only does a half hearted job, so off Enid goes for her freckle-fixing appointment with Tatiana’s skincare consultant, Wilhelmina.
Jessica and Lila take therapeutic mud baths and whine about how much the mud stinks. Afterward, Lila spots some man she’s been stalking going into the men’s mud bath area and flips the fuck out. You see, Lila has been sticking her nose up at the twins ogling the gorgeous spa employees because she doesn’t believe in banging the “hired help.” On the first night at dinner, she spied some man in sunglasses, presumably a guest, sitting at one of the tables and started swooning. She saw him again yesterday in the woods around the tennis court as she and Jessica were about to crash the doubles tennis game. He disappeared, but left a rose on the ground which Lila is sure was for her. Now, Lila is literally sneaking into the men’s mud room to see if she can catch him naked and she’s dragging Jessica in there with her for some reason. Uh, that’s super disturbing. Unfortunately, the only naked men she sees are Randall and his father, whom the book once again reminds us are totally fat. The girls shriek with laughter at how fat they are. Can someone arrest these bitches for sexual harassment?
Enid has her freckle appointment, which leaves her face stinging, then heads to Tatiana’s office for her red hair treatment appointment. Enid starts whining about how jealous she is of Liz’s looks and how the twins get all the boys, once AGAIN. Then you know, Tatiana just goes ahead and hypnotizes her and plants the idea in her head that her mom doesn’t love her and resents having her around. Then it’s back to the present, and Enid has no memory of this session. Ooookay. I’m reminded of that mom in Get Out. Ding ding ding goes the tea cup. Tatiana promises she will make Enid super beautiful and that Hugh will regret dumping her.
Chris takes Liz on a special picnic in the woods and I can’t stop thinking about all the ticks they must be getting on themselves. They eat their meager rations in a cave, and Liz starts asking him about Katya, but he doesn’t know very much about her. Chris says he’s 18 and he hopes Liz doesn’t mind that he’s so much older which is hilarious that this would suddenly be an issue in these books. Liz embraces Chris and starts kissing him and thinks it’s “magic.” I wonder if she’ll send herself on a huge guilt trip later like she did following the last trip where she had a side piece. You know, they went out of their way to show us how bad she felt about that stuff, but I guess she is over it now.
Katya finds Liz by one of the pools on the property and apologizes that she reacted the way she did to Liz minding Katya’s business. Then all the teens, minus Enid, join Katya for a frisbee golf game in the woods. Liz and Chris take advantage to do some more smooching behind some trees. Things go sour when Katya accidentally leads the group through the woods to a clearing with a big, windowless white building. Everyone stands there staring at it in awe, and Katya starts panicking and quickly leads them away. Later, Liz overhears Katya getting reamed out by Tatiana. Katya seems afraid and nervous at dinner again, and a different server (Sierra) waits on the Wakefield & Co. table. Liz encourages her mother to take Katya under her wing and solve all her problems, and Alice agrees.
Enid starts talking shit about her mom Adele, and Liz doesn’t understand what is going on but also doesn’t give much of a fuck because she’s ready to get dicked down by the hired help. She meets up with Chris later that evening and tries to ask him about Katya and the building, but he doesn’t seem to know anything. Then Liz thinks to herself that she’s got to push Todd out of her mind so she can have a hot make-out session with Chris guilt-free, which she does. When she gets back to the cottage, Jessica points out the grass in her hair and Liz is very mildly ashamed. Jessica happily announces that she and Alex are falling in love. Yay, the twins are finally bonding over the fact that they are both coo coo for cock! Now that Liz is finally letting her true colors shine through, she and Jess can be closer as sisters.
Alice takes a walk in the garden the next morning and runs into Katya. How convenient. Katya readily confesses that after her father died, she spent many years living happily with her mother and brother, but then her mother remarried and her brother went off to college, and Katya is convinced her stepfather doesn’t like her, even though she doesn’t really have a solid reason to feel that way. So she just took off and ran away. Now, she keeps insisting she can’t leave the spa and won’t see her mom again or something. Alice finally convinces Katya to consider giving her mom a call. As Katya leaves, Alice sees her run into Tatiana the creeper. Tatiana then comes over to the pool as Alice is about to swim some laps and starts cooing over Alice’s good looks again and saying it’s too bad she can’t stay there forever. Alice quizzes Tatiana on if she’s seen her before, and Tatiana is as weird about it as you would expect and insists she doesn’t know her.
Enid goes to her latest freckle cream appointment and Tatiana substitutes for Wilhelmina and applies the cream herself, then hypnotizes Enid again. This time, she drones on about it’s not fair that Liz and Jessica get all the boys, and then she inserts a false memory in Enid’s brain that when she was 13, her mom told her no boys liked her because she was ugly. Post-hypnosis session, Enid tells Tatiana she wants to look like a new person and Tatiana tells her she knows a surgical procedure that can help her. Yikes.
Liz sees Katya in the lobby and runs over to loudly say she’s glad Katya talked to Alice, and to ask Katya if she called her mother yet, without even noticing that Tatiana is standing nearby listening until it’s too late. Some detective you are. Katya reacts like a robot and starts giving a rehearsed speech about how Paradise Spa gives her everything she needs.
At dinner, Enid barely touches her food and takes some special “redhead vitamins” that Tatiana gave her. Lila spies her mystery man across the room and gets up to go talk to him, only to crash head on into Katya and cause a huge wreck. Katya collects her dishes and runs away crying.
That night, Liz and Enid have an argument in their room because Liz doesn’t like how Enid keeps calling herself ugly and is determined to change her entire appearance. Enid goes on and on about how she wants to be just as beautiful as Elizabeth and weigh the same. Even though these books have continuously preached to us that the twins have “perfect” figures, Liz is suddenly on some body acceptance trip and starts preaching at Enid that the size that works for Liz doesn’t work for everyone. Enid gets mad that Liz doesn’t want her to be as beautiful as she is and stalks off, then Liz leaves the cabin to go meet her side piece.
Jessica sneaks out to go meet Alex in the sauna room, and for some reason, she drags Lila along claiming they can swim first. Instead, Jessica goes straight to the sauna where she finds Katya’s dead body slumped over a bench. Jessica starts screaming and everyone who matters in this book comes running. Liz wants to call the cops, but Tatiana insists that Katya had a heart condition and clearly just died from taking too long in the sauna. Everyone blindly accepts what Tatiana is saying immediately, even Liz. But then Tatiana goes to get a tissue out of her pocket to give Lulu (Katya’s devastated fellow waitress friend) – and a paper falls out on the ground. Before Tatiana snatches it away, Liz manages to see that the paper is a note from Katya asking Alice to meet her in the sauna. When she asks Alice about it later, Alice knows nothing about it. Liz deduces that Tatiana must have intercepted the note and knew Katya would be in the sauna, and she goes to get a flashlight so she can snoop around in Katya’s (conveniently unlocked) room.
Meanwhile, Jess is holed up with Alex in his room, making out and sobbing about Katya. Alex doesn’t seem very disturbed by Katya’s death, and he finally suggests Jess go back to her own room and get some rest.
Liz enters Katya’s room and prowls around to see what her little reporter’s brain can find. There’s nothing earth-shattering in there. Liz sees a framed photo of someone who must be Katya’s mother, and a Help Wanted ad for Paradise Spa falls out of a book. Liz takes note of the publication the ad was posted in, something called Manford House, and tucks it in her pocket. She vows to get to the bottom of Katya’s death. She seems overdue for confiding in Chris and teaming up to accuse Jessica’s man or something.
Enid is hanging out in the cottage by herself, checking out her reflection (in a compact she brought) and contemplating the surgery Tatiana offered her. She thinks about how her own mother doesn’t care about her, and that Tatiana is like a mother to her now.
Liz gets back to the cottage and logs onto the internet with her modem and starts “dialing Olivia Davidson’s E-mail address”. Dialing an email address, what the fuck? I don’t remember that shit working like that. You logged onto the Internet by dialing into a local provider or maybe a bulletin board service (BBS). (The book glossed that over as well and acted like Liz was just automatically connected when she plugged into the phone line, like it was ethernet, in which case I would think she wouldn’t need a modem.) Then you used your email client or your web browser. You definitely didn’t “dial” an email address. Right? Or maybe it depended on what service you were using and this was in fact the way Prodigy or AOL or Compuserve worked back in the day? Oh my god, my head hurts. I have no idea if this was the way the shit actually worked as described in this book and my memory is bad, or if Bantam didn’t give a fuck about how it worked at the time and never fact checked whatever the ghost writer came up with.
Anyway, after Liz emails Olivia, Olivia responds right away and looks up Manford House for Liz via that INFOMAX service this series keeps pimping out, the one that played a big roll in felling Jeremy Randall in our last book. O. reports back that Manford House is a chain of shelters for runaways, with its own magazine published for the teens who reside there. Olivia then advises Liz she can just dial into her own Oracle account number and use INFOMAX herself. I’m so confused. This book is suddenly reading like a valuable historical artifact holding the keys to mid-1990s American humanity. Anthropologists need to study this.
Liz finds Chris and straight up asks him if he and Alex are runaways. He’s like, well, yeah. He says they ran away to escape abuse at their respective homes and that Tatiana is like a parent to them now, but he doesn’t want to discuss it any further. Back at the cottage, Mrs. Rollins calls for Enid, but when Liz tries to pass the phone to her Enid refuses and starts smiling oddly.
Liz marches into Tatiana’s office and starts asking what Katya’s autopsy revealed and is shocked when Tatiana says they didn’t do one because one isn’t needed. I’m just wondering why it’s up to Tatiana whether Katya gets an autopsy.
Jessica and Lila are sunbathing at the pool. Lila is complaining about how bored she’s getting when her mystery man walks up, and she stops being bored real fast and begins flirting wildly with him. The man, whose name is Michael, is clearly interested in her and happily brags about how he works in Hollywood casting. There’s just one problem: His voice is squeaky like he just inhaled helium from a balloon. It’s an instant turn off for Li, who (quite literally) takes off running.
That afternoon, Elizabeth organizes a waterfall hike in remembrance of Katya. Enid doesn’t go because she’s in Tatiana’s office agreeing to some surgery or whatever the fuck Tatiana has been talking about. Liz of course takes the opportunity of this memorial hike to sidle up to Katya’s fellow servers and friends, Lulu and Terry, and confirms that they are also runaways. What’s more, they don’t get paid. They work in exchange for room and board, and “mothering” or whatever. Liz is horrified by this probable violation of labor laws, but Lulu and Ter just stare blankly at her and smile like a pair of Stepford wives. When the group reaches the waterfall, Liz tells Jessica that Alex is a runaway. Jessica knew something was off. Jessica doesn’t believe Liz’s theory that Katya was murdered and Tatiana knows who did it, though. Then Alice abruptly vanishes while testing the water in the waterfall or something, I don’t know. One second she’s there, the next she isn’t and Grace is flipping out. Everyone searches for Alice, but she’s nowhere to be found. The group races back to Tatiana’s office, but old Tati is not concerned and insists Alice probably just wanted to go off on her own for some privacy. And I’m going to keep calling her Tati because I’m getting tired of typing out Tatiana. Liz goes back to the cottage to call her dad for advice, but the line is dead. It would’ve been a useless call anyway. Old Ned is probably losing his mind right about now from having to cook his own meals for a whole half a week.
Jessica overhears Tati talking on the phone in her office and waits to enter until she hears her hang up so she can ask to use her phone. But when Jessica enters, Tati claims none of the phone lines on the spa campus are working. I’m finding it really hard to believe that Grace and Lila wouldn’t have an early version of a cell phone on them. Even Zack Morris had one and that was years earlier! Jessica waits until Tati leaves, then sneaks back into her locked office through a window to use the phone and leave her father a voice mail at his law office asking for help and telling him to call the police if he can’t get through to the spa. She notices a copy of her mother’s Sweet Valley University yearbook, just sitting right there in plain sight on Tati’s shelves. It has Alice’s photo cut out of it (from a superlative page where Alice was voted “Most Popular”). Then Jessica digs through some file cabinets and discovers that all of the staffers at Paradise have had plastic surgery. There are Before and After files for Chris, Alex, and Katya and they all look totally different. Afraid of needing to escape quickly, Jessica unlocks the office door (why? couldn’t she just go back out the window? it’s not like the person entering would be coming in through the window) which makes it convenient for Enid to walk into the office just as Jessica has found Enid’s “Before” file. Jessica shows it to Enid, certain that Enid will be horrified, but Enid is all brainwashed and talking about how she can’t wait to look like a supermodel and become an aerobics instructor (presumably for Paradise Spa).
Meanwhile, Liz approaches Chris and asks to use his phone, but he claims it’s not working either and encourages Liz to trust that Tati is right and Alice just went off somewhere. Liz takes off to her cottage and sees that the phone lines there are all cut. So she plugs her computer’s wire directly into the phone jack and that works. Wouldn’t that just be the same as a regular phone line? So why doesn’t she plug the phone in and call the police? Jesus, I never wanted to refresh my knowledge of 90s internet so bad, what the hell is wrong with me. Why can’t I just accept this series makes no sense! So anyway, Liz sends a couple of E-mail messages to her dad and sits there waiting for him to answer, but he doesn’t, so he must be doing some actual work. Then Liz remembers what Olivia told her about INFOMAX, so she dials into that and starts picking through news articles. INFOMAX has some kind of search engine where you can enter multiple terms or elements and the tool will tell you what they all have in common. Uh, okay? Liz enters the treatments Enid has been telling her about and the tool tells her this means Enid is going to have plastic surgery. Then Lila and Grace come back into the cottage. Liz gives them a quick rundown, then grabs a flashlight and takes off to search for Alice herself. The Fowlers are supposed to just … sit there and wait to see if Alice comes back.
Jessica returns to the cottage and she and the Fowlers exchange discoveries. They hear Liz’s laptop ping with a message – it’s an E-mail from Ned. He doesn’t seem too terribly concerned about Liz’s message and I guess he didn’t get Jessica’s frantic voice mail. With the number of times his daughters have nearly died in their 16th year alone, I’d be a lot more panicked if I were him, but maybe he’s sick of them and knowing in the real world, one of these serial killers would be able to take care of that for him eventually. Ned mentions in his message that he realized he and Alice did know Tati after all. She lived on Alice’s dorm room floor junior year and followed Alice around “like a puppy dog.” Ned very nonchalantly mentions that everyone called Tatiana “Tatty Mule” because she was so “homely and pathetic.” Damn Ned, you were a bully! This explains a bit about how your daughters turned out. Love how Alice remembers nothing of this person that idolized her and followed her around. But I suppose this is just following the classic horror trope of the wronged individual coming back for revenge. Also love how Tatiana goes by her real name and just somehow knew that Alice wouldn’t have a clue who she is. The last thing Ned remembers is that Tatty Mule went to medical school. Suddenly Jessica and the Fowlers realize that this must mean that Tatty plans to operate on Alice and steal her face for her own. Happy Mother’s Day bitch!
Meanwhile, Liz has found the waterfall where Alice disappeared. As she’s poking around, a hand suddenly grabs her ankle and pulls her through the waterfall into a hidden cave. It’s Chris! Liz is happy to see him because she’s a moron and also because she tends to forget that both she and Jess have a thing for falling in love with killers and shit like that. Chris is unsympathetic to Liz this time and he roughly drags her through a secret passageway to the windowless white building everyone saw earlier. Turns out it’s the spa’s clinic.
Grace goes to Tatty Mule’s office to call the cops. Tatty Mule sounds like a groove band or a rapper’s name or like a frat boy nickname for a weak ass beer. Enid shows up and is acting fucking weird like she always is now, so Jessica grabs her and shakes some sense into her, literally. Jessica and Liz want to go back to the waterfall where Alice disappeared and look to see if they can figure out where she went from there, but Enid suddenly speaks up to say they should look for Alice by going to the clinic. Then she falls silent and becomes useless again as Jessica and Lila tramp through the woods trying to find the clearing Katya accidentally brought them to, where they first saw the clinic building. Enid follows but has nothing useful to say. So they all get lost, argue and finally figure out where they’re supposed to be going.
Inside the clinic, Alice has woken up inside an operating room and doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. Tatty Mule looms over her cackling about how she’s going to become an Alice clone and then kill off Alice and take her place. I’m a little unclear if she’s going to actually take Alice’s face like in the movie “Face/Off” or if the surgeon will just mimic Alice’s looks, but I think it’s the latter. Tatty explains she had her face operated on before but the surgeon botched it, hence her scars. So Tatty deliberately went to med school and worked on becoming the best plastic surgeon in the world so she could train others, all so she can have her face operated on to look just like Alice’s. That operation will be done by Marguerite, hopefully you remember her since we haven’t seen hide nor hare of her since the very beginning of the fucking book. Marguerite and Tatty have worked on all the other staff to make them gorgeous; now Marguerite will complete the imitation-Alice surgery on Tatty. Chris and Alex are their assistants, and so is the spa’s aerobics instructor, Candace who also hasn’t been mentioned before. A gas mask or something is lowered over Alice’s face and she passes out.
Chris drags Liz up to a secret clinic building entrance and on up to Tatty’s clinic office, and Tatty gives her a tour of the facilities and cackles about how evil she is. There’s an operating theater which has giant blown-up photos of Alice Wakefield all over it, and of course, Alice lying knocked out on her stretcher or whatever. Liz starts freaking out and nobody cares. Tatty indicates she will kill Liz so that she only has to be mother to one twin post-surgery. Then Jessica and Lila finally break in to the building with Enid and are confronted by Alex and Chris, who chase after them as they flee to the operating theater, which they guessed the location of because Alex is a moron and looked right over at it when Liz asked. There, Liz tries to get Chris to let her go and call the police, telling him he doesn’t have to be a slave to Tatty anymore, while Tatty menaces Liz with a scalpel and reminds Chris of all she’s done for him. Liz can’t get through to Chris, but she apparently gets through to Enid who leaps forward and snatches the scalpel from Tatty like it’s nothing. Chris and Alex then suddenly snap out of the brainwashing they’ve been under for YEARS, and they jump on Marguerite and Tatty and restrain them. That’s it? Enid proclaims that everyone is now free. Is this for real?
The cops bust in and arrest Tatty and she just sits there and explains her whole sad sob life story to everyone because that’s what the criminals always do in these books. Now you caught me, so let me tell you how I became a bad person so you can feel sorry for me. In this case, Tatty became who she is because her mom was gorgeous and dragged her to European beauty spas and talked about how homely Tatty was her whole life, or something. Who cares. Ned calls and offers to come up to Paradise and retrieve everyone so they can go home now, but they DECLINE. They just had the shit traumatized out of them and have been harassed by brainwashed staff, but they would rather go ahead and stay another night in this creepy ass place with the same staff and just trust that they’re all magically back to normal and won’t try to hurt them.
Breakfast the next morning is the cheesiest affair I have ever seen, sadly not literally. Lulu and Terri and the rest of the staff mill around not knowing what the fuck to do with themselves because they don’t know how to make breakfast without someone to tell them how to do it. Suddenly, they realize they can do whatever they want because Tatty no longer controls them! THEY’RE FREE! HOOOOOORAY! Seriously, everyone crams into the dining room, all the guests and everything, and cheers, even though these kids probably need some serious therapy pronto. With the love of the twins, Chris and Alex are now back to normal and talking about how they’re free. Chris wants to see Liz again, and she sheepishly admits she already has someone else. Chris isn’t even mad because he just took one look at Liz and knew she was a cheater, pretty much.
The freshly free-minded guys drive all the guests back to the train station. Everyone realizes with shock that in the space of under one week, Randall has slimmed down and gotten tan and suddenly looks cute. He and Enid are gonna stay in touch. Michael is there, but Lila ignores him because she’s still traumatized by his voice, and I don’t get what the point of that whole plot line was. And did he drop the rose on the trail on purpose or not? Why do these writers insist on hooking Lila up with the stupidest men?
Liz and Jessica smooch the boyfriends that were gonna have them killed just last night goodbye. All the runaway kids are gonna call their parents and go back home, except I guess the ones who were being abused, not sure what the fuck they’re gonna do since they don’t have any income, but they’re not worried about it! And, someone is gonna figure out how to get in touch with Katya’s mom and let her know her daughter is dead. Yay!
Liz somehow gets her dial-up internet working on the train and sends Todd a goddamned E-mail to tell him everything … except, she thinks with a little smile, about Chris! Tee hee! Cheaters are so cute. Although by now, I’ve decided they actually have an open relationship and just occasionally get mad at each other about it. Maybe they decided on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Hope they use condoms.
I didn’t set it up this way, but this was certainly a well-timed book for Mother’s Day weekend, huh?
Seriously, what a shit show.
Other shit I noticed: Ned Wakefield is said to have “a brain like a computer.” Too bad they never programmed any common sense into it.
The ghostwriter remembered that Enid’s mom’s name is Adele and that Enid is an only child.
When Jessica reacts in horror at Lila trying to sneak into the men’s room to see Michael’s dick, Lila reminds her that the cheerleading team once spied on the boys’ locker room and implies it was in order to see everyone naked. What in the FUCK. Were they trying to show equality by showing women can be harassers too? Besides, it’s not realistic they would spy because half of those girls have already seen all those dudes naked at Miller’s Point at one time or another.
Stupid fucking moment: When Liz is playing tennis with Chris, Alex, and Enid, Chris announces the score as “Fifteen love”. Liz’s reaction: “Elizabeth sensed that in addition to announcing the score, he was sending her a special message. A message about love …”
Alice tells the group that she got stuck in a pose called the Serene Swan while taking a yoga class with Grace, and Grace had to unbend her.
Chris tells Liz he’s 18, but then later on, he says he’s been at the spa for three years, “since I was sixteen” making him 19.
Great typo on page 184: Alice is missing and Grace, Lila and Liz are talking about how to find her, when suddenly “Alice stood up” and offers to accompany the group to find … herself. Book’s over, Alice found herself.
Mrs. Mueller’s maiden name is apparently Mueller, but she goes by “Mrs.” Did she maybe keep her maiden name when she married, and then kill off her husband?
In the back of the book: Nothing new or interesting.
Coming up next: These dumbasses are gonna scrounge around in Death Valley looking for buried treasure! It better be at least as silly as this one.