What’s going on: Well, we have, once again, a book focused on Elizabeth in peril! And it’s far more ridiculous than I remembered. Our favorite little goody-goody was gagged with chloroform and dragged away by Carl, the disturbed orderly, outside Fowler Memorial Hospital at the end of our last book. She was supposed to go tutor punker Max Dellon, who’s flunking English, before heading off to rich new boy Nicholas Morrow’s party, which it sounds like Max wasn’t invited to. Burrrrn! Jessica, who apparently ditched Aaron Dallas after one date in the last book, is too busy flirting with Nicholas (and being fascinated by his gorgeous, deaf sister, Regina), who adores her right off the bat, to be concerned that Liz is late for the party. Or, at least, that’s what this book would have you believe, but it also has Jessica wondering where Liz is at 7:30 … when she’s not supposed to be there until 8. Oooookay. Max is worrying, however, so he takes off on his own to find Liz. Todd is worrying, too, so he gets Jessica’s attention by shoving her into the Morrows’ indoor pool. Nice work, Todd.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth wakes up gagged and bound to a chair in a windowless little shack with Carl. He buys her some food, a blue cardigan, and some random books, and he lets her go to the bathroom once. He spends most of his time with her creepily stroking her hair, telling her he loves her and sharing his plan to move them way up in the mountains where no one can find them. Yes, that Carl is damned creepy. Liz engineers what she thinks is a clever plan to escape the shack by convincing him to untie her, then making a mad break for the door while screaming and yelling. Carl recaptures her before she makes it outside and she immediately loses all resolve. I’m serious. She immediately decides she’s just doomed to stay here forever, even though Carl takes off for 8 hours two days in a row to go to work. She doesn’t make any sort of plan to hop for the door, chew through her ropes, anything! She needs to take a clue from Erica Pratt! (Google that name.) Instead she tries to “keep going” by thinking about how much she loves her sister and her boyfriend. She figures poor Jessica never even made it to the Morrows’ party because she was supposed to wait for Liz to come by the house so they could ride over together. Uh … Liz, how well do you really know your twin?
While Liz just sits and mopes in her chair, everyone else in Sweet Valley is freaking out. Liz is gone for a total of two days, and the complete hackjob SV police squad are like something out of an SNL skit. They catch Max rooting around in Liz’s abandoned car trying to find out what happened to her, and instead of even checking out the scene, they just haul Max off to the station for questioning and threaten him with buttrape in juvy hall the whole time. They’re way harsher to him than they ever were to Rick Andover. Plus, I don’t think if Max actually killed a girl he’d just be headed to juvy. Then, when the cops realize they don’t have anything to hold Max on, they let him go and announce that Liz must be a runaway. Yep. Their reasoning for this? If someone had kidnapped Liz, they would’ve sent a ransom note by now! Because A) a ransomer would nab LIZ, not Lila or Regina, and B) apparently SV cops aren’t familiar with the classic 80s faces on the milk cartons! And because runaways leave their purse and all that shit in their car. That makes lots of sense! What in the fuck!
Jessica cries miserably and blames herself for Liz’s disappearance while Todd shows off his true asshole self by punching Max Dellon in the face at school when Max insists he hasn’t seen Liz. Unlike many readers, I’ve never been charmed by Todd. He just acts like a complete toolbag. Now maybe you can see why. Nicholas comes to see Jess to comfort her, and she thinks to herself that normally having him in her bedroom would be fodder for all kinds of fantasies. Uhhhh … like what, chastely kissing? Or is this supposed to be a masturbation reference?
Elizabeth is finally saved when Jessica, Todd and Max do some investigating of their own by heading to the hospital. They run into Carl, who freaks out thinking Jessica is Elizabeth. He must be truly crazy not to realize Liz has a twin after all the time Jessica spent on that same hall wooing Jeremy Frank. He starts yelling at Jessica for escaping and she pulls some weird shit that’s supposed to be clever, but isn’t. She pretends to be Liz, and I guess it’s so Carl won’t try to make a break for it, or something, even though he’s already surrounded by ten people who have already jumped his ass. I thought she was going to trick him into saying where he was keeping Liz. That would have been the intelligent thing to do. Instead, Carl confesses to the cops where Liz is. Uh, again, A) how did the hospital not have the address of someone who works there? Is that shack not his home? Because he acts like it is, and B) what if he never confessed? Everyone just assumes he’s going to let it out when he’s captured.
I think I’ve been watching too much Law & Order.
Everyone cheers and goes to rescue Liz without stopping to think that she could’ve been raped or beaten or half-starved. They just assume she’s all right and don’t bother to ask her when they find her. The Wakefields throw a big reunion party and Todd and Liz make out in the den. Mrs. Wakefield sees and we learn that she’s bothered that the two are so serious, implying she worries they might have sex, and that she secretly wishes Liz would be more like Jessica and date around! You mean, making out with random boys in cars and almost getting date-raped every other book? Sounds great! But then Liz meets Nicholas … and it’s immediately apparent that he wants a piece of her … hell, the ghostwriter makes it sound like he practically undresses her with his eyes!
The cover: Lord have mercy, I forgot to snark on the cover when I first posted this. Well, the cover doesn’t represent what actually happened. Liz isn’t kidnapped in front of a plain white wall, but outside the hospital in the dark! Carl doesn’t sneak up on her out of nowhere while she holds her hand to her face in a melodramatic pose, either. He comes up and talks to her, then abruptly grabs her. And, that’s supposed to be her candy striper’s uniform? When I think candy striper, I think bright red with candy cane stripes and a little hat … but I probably got that from Saved by the Bell.
The sub-plot: The whole book revolves around Liz and her disappearance. I guess you could count the blurb about Max Dellon passing his English test on his own, but since he’s thinking the whole time about Liz and getting upset, I’d say not.
Back of the book: The usual, plus an order form for some Paul Zindel YA novels like My Darling, My Hamburger (I think that’s the one about abortion), The Pigman, and I Never Loved Your Mind. Did anybody ever read these? I haven’t (I don’t think), but I know I got a couple off Ebay with a big book lot …
Next time …. Nicholas Morrow makes a move on Liz and she doesn’t exactly run the other way!