We’re at the 25th book in the series, which seems like it should be monumental. Instead, I was bored almost to tears. The ghostwriter of this particular book has a clean, crisp style that is much better than the melodramatic proselytizing of some of the previous. Too bad he/she doesn’t have a better storyline to work with. This is the first time I was so utterly bored with a story that I seriously considered just not finishing it. At least you are guaranteed a shorter post to read either way!
Emily Mayer is the drummer for The Droids. She and her father have been pretty close ever since her mom up and left them when she was a little girl. This embarrasses Emily, because only perfect families are acceptable in Sweet Valley, so she lies and tells everyone that her mom died when she was young. But now her dad has remarried. His new wife Karen is very harsh on Emily, and her dad just steps back and takes it, revising all his old rules to let Karen rule the roost. Even worse, Emily has a new baby half-sister, Karrie, who’s always crying and screaming and shit. You know, like babies do. Lately, Karen has been pretty unfair to Emily, who’s a good kid, and she’s hinted strongly at sending Emily away to a boarding school.
Well, leave it to Elizabeth Wakefield to be in the perfect position to help somebody! Who else would Emily lean on? Certainly not Dana, who doesn’t get what Emily’s problem is, and not Dan, who Emily thinks would think less of her. Max and Guy don’t make any appearances here other than asking why she didn’t show up for band practice, and all that jazz. And it appears Emily has no other good friends outside of The Droids. But Liz is just so UNDERSTANDING! She gets that Emily doesn’t really want to write for the school paper and is only doing it because Karen thinks it’s what she SHOULD do rather than banging on her drums all day. Of course, she gets this by automatically assuming that a drummer couldn’t have any other interests *eye roll* In this case she’s right, but way to go, ghostwriter.
Since we can’t have a secondary character story without a love interest for them, the ghostwriter pairs Emily with Dan Scott, the bass player for The Droids. (Haha, their band name is especially funny now that I have a Motorola Droid smartphone.) Emily really likes Dan, but Karen keeps imposing a curfew that prevents her from getting to band practice or hanging out with him one-on-one. So Emily invites Dan over when she thinks Karen won’t be home, but of course Karen catches them (just playing drums) and makes a huge nasty scene. She implies Emily is acting like a “tramp” just like her mom, and she also exposes THE TRUTH about Emily’s mother to Dan, totally humiliating her.
Emily threatens to run away from home, her father threatens to put her drum kit (with its brand new cymbals) out on the street, and Emily relents and decides to act exactly like Karen expects in order to avoid being sent away to boarding school. She quits The Droids and pushes Dan away when he tries to help her. She asks Elizabeth to help her sell her drums through The Oracle, but then Dan gets his friend Jamie (a sophomore at Palisades High) to buy them off of her so she won’t lose them for good. To make a long story short, Elizabeth and all of the Wakefields get involved in Emily’s story, and they actually act like mature responsible people rather than just showing off how much better their family is.
Emily is at home with Karen when Karrie nearly chokes to death on a loose button (on a dumb doll Karen stupidly gave her) and Emily saves her with the Heimlich maneuver. But Mr. Mayer only appears just in time to see everyone crying afterwards, wrongly assumes Emily tried to hurt Karrie, and tells her to get out. Emily flees to the Wakefield clan and announces she’s running away to Chicago to find her mother, but when she tries to track her down, she finds her mom was remarried two years ago and is most likely in Mexico. Meanwhile, Elizabeth calls Mr. Mayer, the Mayers come over and say they know what really happened, and Karen cries and apologies to Emily with everyone watching. She explains that she felt threatened by Emily and wasn’t fair to her, and the Mayers make up while everyone watches. The Wakefields then have the Droids set up all the band equipment — including the drums, which “Jamie” (who I think we’re supposed to assume doesn’t exist) didn’t want after all — in the dining room to surprise Emily. She and Dan get together, but we’re cheated out of that first kiss. Oh darn.
The sub-plot is horrible. Ned’s parents come to visit and start taking the twins out to do all kinds of cool shit. Alice suddenly gets terrified she doesn’t spend enough time with them and that the twins don’t really need her anymore. So, Ned has the twins ask their mom to help them coordinate a big surprise party for their grandparents (which soon becomes Emily’s party as well). Liz also asks Alice for advice about Emily’s situation. This causes Alice to feel more loved and she gets out of her funk. And that’s the whole story.
WTF? Let’s start with the word “tramp”! I think that’s a new “bad” word for SVH, but I’m not sure. I feel like Jessica used it at one point. Regardless, it was nasty of Karen to say, but Emily seems to think Karen might be right about her mom. I guess the ghostwriter left some backstory out here, because I didn’t get the impression the first Mrs. Mayer ran around on Em’s dad or anything.
In book 24, both the stepmother and the baby were named Karen. In this book, baby Karen has been changed to Karrie with no mention of her being called Karen before.
Emily says Karrie is her stepsister, but she’s actually her half-sister.
When Emily first comes over to the house, she winds up telling all of the Wakefields, including the grandparents, her story. I found it a pretty touching scene in spite of myself. Also, when the Mayers come over to the Wakefield house and Karen apologizes to Emily and everyone, I thought it was a sweet scene, probably because it’s doubtful this would happen in real life. Karen was just too nasty to do an about-face like that without some serious therapy. Maybe almost losing her baby made her think about it a little harder. I do wonder why Mr. Mayer didn’t apologize to Emily though. He definitely should have.
We meet another brand new secondary character named Eddie Strong, who’s a sophomore like
Regina (and like the mysterious “Jamie”). Sometimes I think Francine just wants to go out of her way to prove the school has more than one grade. Eddie works at the supermarket and tells Liz about how he saw Regina back in town. I guess that’s his sole purpose.
Grandma Wakefield gives us some Wakefield history when she tells Emily that she married Ned’s dad, Bob, after his first wife died in a train accident. Bob had a son named Louis from this first marriage, who is Ned’s older half-brother. Ned’s real first name is Edward and he’s at least 11 years younger, most likely more. And Grandma Wakefield admits she has never told this story to the twins before. (I’m detailing this in particular because when I get to the Sweet Valley Saga series, I’m going to see if all of this is still in there!)
When Liz decides that telling Mr. Mayer Emily is over at the Wakefield house is the right thing to do (following the blowup where he told her to get out), Jessica calls her a “rat” and runs out of the room. I’m surprised to see Jessica standing up for Emily after she blackmailed her in book 3. Also, Jessica should know better than anybody the consequences of running away.
Emily saves Karrie by slapping Karen “as hard as she could” across the face to force Karen to give her the baby. This is explained as something Emily was taught in her CPR class – to slap someone out of shock – but I have a feeling it was very cathartic for her as well.
I already noted that Emily saves Karrie by performing the Heimlich. I had always been taught babies were too small to get the Heimlich and you were supposed whack them on the back … that’s how my mom stopped me from choking to death on a marble once. Maybe the rules were different when this book was written.
There’s a funny scene near the end where Bruce brings out a cordless phone and shows it to Liz, calling it his dad’s “latest toy” and explaining to her that you can carry it with you anywhere. Liz jokes that they’ve got to make sure Jess doesn’t find out about it. That’s January 1986 for you. 🙂
The cover is appropriate, but Emily doesn’t look like a drummer for a hot rock band. She looks twelve. Liz is wearing her dumb barrettes again, like she does on every cover where she’s doing the condescending “let me help you” shoulder grab. She looks so much like this girl I went to high school with, only blonde instead of brunette. Neither she nor Emily have any boobs. Also, I distinctly recall reading early on in the book that Emily is at least a couple of inches shorter than Liz, who’s 5’6″. Yet here Emily looks taller. Also, as usual no one’s eye color matches what it’s supposed to be, but I’m so not getting into that.
Next book will be way more exciting … as Eddie told Liz, Regina is back in town with her aunt, but no one knew she was coming back from her ear treatments so early. Liz goes to see her, but the Morrows’ gate is padlocked. Liz informs Bruce and they call the Morrow mansion, where a strange lady answers the phone and says she’s Regina’s aunt and Regina isn’t there. But Regina doesn’t have any aunts. Something’s definitely up! Time for Detective Liz to get to work!