A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some (with lots of swears)

#32 The New Jessica


Ah, we’re up to that famous tale of Jessica becoming somebody brand new, or trying to, anyway. Is there anyone  who hasn’t read this book? It seemed like it was everywhere when I was a kid. Jessica is moody because everyone  keeps joking about how much she and Liz look alike. Well, um, you do. The final straw is a day in which she chooses  to wear Liz’s dress to school and is then shocked when people naturally think she is Liz. To be fair, I don’t get how  people get the two confused since Liz is always wearing those stupidass barrettes. Jessica is furious nonetheless,  and so here comes a complete transformation. Man, she hasn’t been this angsty since she ran away from home in  book 21.

Jessica starts by spending a whole weekend with Lila Fowler so she can get made over and come home Sunday  looking like a European model she saw in Vogue magazine. She also thinks she needs to change her personality, so she starts acting really ridiculous.

-Lila dyes Jessica’s hair black, with some temporary stuff that washes out in two shampoos. Why not just do permanent? It would save Jess a lot of upkeep.

-She starts wearing heavier makeup. She wears red lipstick and lines her eyes with kohl pencil all the time.

-Lila’s dad just got back from Paris and brought her a whole new wardrobe, which Lila goes ahead and loans to Jessica. I have a hard time     believing Lila would be that generous to her number one competition. We’ll just go with it.

-She starts carrying around European magazines and flashing them at her classmates.

-She develops a fake British accent, a la Madonna, and calls people “darling” and shit.

-She goes to see a foreign movie, but privately notes she can’t read half of the subtitles because she sat too far back in the theatre.

-She tries to impress Lila by ordering some espresso at a little coffee shop called L’autre Chose (doesn’t that mean “The Other Thing”?), but thinks to herself that it’s disgusting. She even tries to make sophisticated expressions and Lila makes fun of her.

-She puts a ridiculous outfit from Lisette’s on her parents’ charge account. It’s a long white skirt, white sweater with sequins, and a white beret. Gnarly. She also wears a lot of jumpsuits. Were those really in fashion in the mid-80s? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of those in real life, but I’m always reading about them in this series.

-She decides she wants to look “gaunt” like a fashion model she sees in a magazine, so she goes on a crash diet of only yogurt and carrots, and loses three pounds. Her parents don’t even seem to notice she is starving herself. How fucked up. When she finally gets too hungry to keep up this charade, she eats a ton of fries and ice cream in front of Jeffrey who is weirded out.

-At DeeDee Gordon’s suggestion, she goes to see a fashion photographer named Simon Avery about becoming a model. He mentions that she can do junior fashion modeling at Lytton and Brown department store. First of all, what the fuck is DeeDee doing helping Jessica after Jess was a dick to her in books 8 AND 22? Here she’s practically falling all over Jessica and her new look.

-She talks about how juvenile cheerleading is and misses a few practices. Why don’t they kick her off the team? First she missed practices for Bruce Patman in book 3, now she’s acting like she’s too important for it.

-She tells Liz that a fair they go to every year in a town called Ramsbury is silly and she’s not going this year, breaking Liz’s heart.

-And the real kicker … she privately thinks to herself that when she becomes  a rich and famous model/actress, she’ll use “Jessa Fields” as her professional name. Thankfully, she never voices that sentiment out loud to anyone in this book.

Seriously, Jessica is beyond ridiculous in this book, yet everyone is oohing and aahing over her like they have never seen anyone so glamorous. That includes kids to whom she’s an ass on a regular basis, like DeeDee, Olivia, and Winston. Only Enid doesn’t seem that impressed, and I have to give her credit for that! Liz, meanwhile, is totally heartbroken. She starts crying the second she sees the new Jessica, and runs away upstairs which I think is just a wee tad melodramatic.  We get lots of scenes of her writing in her journal about how upset she is about Jessica’s transformation. That I can understand, crying and running away from Jessica I can’t. I remember when my dad shaved off his mustache and I bawled at his new look. The difference is I was six years old at the time.

In order to meet with Simon Avery’s Lytton and Brown connection, Mr. Mahler, Jessica has to get a portfolio of pictures made for something like a hundred fifty bucks, which is typical for people who want to get into modeling. Although honestly, even by 1986 standards, I think that’s way cheaper than a typical portfolio. Whatever, this is fiction. If Jessica wins the modeling job, she will do a runway show for Lytton and Brown and will get paid five hundred bucks, enough for her to pay her parents back for the portfolio and the Lisette’s charge. That’s right, Ned and Alice lent her the money for the portfolio, and they didn’t even get that mad about the Lisette’s charge. So I guess she’s just freely allowed to use their credit account. Wow, I was pretty spoiled, but my parents would so not be having that.

Before Jessica can meet with Mr. Mahler, the Wakefields watch some home videos of the twins because they are trying to splice together a series for Grandma and Grandpa Wakefield. Jessica is moved by the images and decides she’s going to the Ramsbury Fair after all. Then Penny Ayala shows up at their house with Elizabeth’s lost journal (see the sub-plot), and Jessica of course reads it in the hallway. When she sees Elizabeth’s feelings about her transformation, she feels really sad. NOSY!

She still doesn’t switch back to her old self, however. That’s going to take the disastrous meeting with Mr. Mahler, in which he tells her her look isn’t right for the runway and she bawls in front of him and Simon. But then the dudes walk out and see Liz and jizz in their pants over how she is just what they need. They want to use Liz so badly that they up the payout to SIX hundred dollars. Jessica is hysterical and decides to pose as Liz and so she can model in the show. She goes home and washes the dye out of her hair. I’m having a hard time believing it would come out that easily – black dye from blond hair? I also don’t see why she couldn’t just show up as herself. I mean, all they care about is THE LOOK, right?

The Wakefields and a bunch of people who don’t like Jessica show up to watch her walk the runway as Liz. Liz wears a fugly black wig to the show to try to pose as Jessica. Hur hur, hijinks! But since Jessica didn’t try to get her parents in on this dumb scheme, Mr. Mahler figures out from Ned and Alice that it’s really Jessica doing the modeling. Then Winston pulls off Liz’s wig in front of Mr. Mahler, and he just laughs and then he puts both Liz and Jessica in the show, even though Liz didn’t have any modeling training or experience whatsoever and didn’t have to pay for a portfolio. They’re twins, you see, and it’s just amazing. Gag me.

The sub-plot is really just part of the main storyline. Liz has the worst two weeks at school ever, but she brings a lot of it on herself. First Jeffrey makes a remark about how he likes Jessica’s new look and Liz flips the fuck out. She thinks Jeffrey really likes Jessica now, but instead of asking him about it, she walks around brooding. Then she loses her journal in the Oracle office and can’t find it and freaks out with fear, which as a lifelong personal journalist (since the age of 6, anyway), I totally understand. Then Jeffrey wants to go to the Ramsbury Fair and Liz makes a pissy remark about how Jessica doesn’t want to go this year. Jeffrey is annoyed because Liz seems like she doesn’t want to go unless Jessica goes, but Liz twists it around and makes it out like JEFFREY doesn’t want to go unless Jessica goes. She breaks their dates and then tells Jessica that she thinks Jeffrey likes her now. Horrible Jessica is all about that even though Liz hasn’t really broken up with Jeffrey, and so she tries to come on to him at lunch, but all Jeffrey wants to talk about is Liz. Jessica *eventually* tells Liz what Jeffrey said and the couple make up. And, Penny finds and returns Liz’s journal. Jessica changes her mind about the Ramsbury Fair. All is right with the world. I gotta give Jeffrey props though. He is a pretty straightforward dude. I like him way better than Todd – much less of a tool.

This cover cracks me up. First of all, a few tweaks and Jessica’s look would be back in fashion today. Secondly, is Liz wearing jodhpurs? I’m not even going to remark on her dumb barrettes that are inflicted on us pretty much every cover.

Stuff and things: We get to read several of Liz’s journal entries. I wonder if these will be repeated verbatim in the Secret Diary Magna Editions later?

Steven is nowhere to be found in this book. HALLELUJAH. He is mentioned as being a student at the “state college”. Since when is Sweet Valley College the “state college”?

Lila is still kind of pissed about losing Jeffrey to Elizabeth.

1986-tastic: Enid compares Jessica to Joan Collins in Dynasty. Jessica tells Lila they can watch movies on “the VCR”.

Lila asks some dude named Gregg McGinnis to dance with her at the Beach Disco.

Jeffrey tells Liz his cousin Bryce is visiting from Oregon, but we never meet this Bryce (unless he’s going to show up in the next book).

Penny is mentioned as being a senior. I really thought she was a junior.

Ms. Dalton hates the scene Jessica makes with her new appearance in homeroom and tells everyone to sit down. Tell ’em Nora!

The department store modeling show reminds me of modeling classes that were offered at our mall when I was a kid. I felt too awkward and ugly to go, but my parents bought me the two beauty/confidence textbooks that went along with them.

Finally –  I really don’t get why Elizabeth carries her journal around with her everywhere at school. I would never, ever do that. Of course, my high school didn’t have its own student lounge and office for the newspaper – we didn’t even have a newspaper – but seriously? I would DIE if someone read my journal or if I lost it like Liz did. Hell, I would die if someone even read my tawdry high school secrets today! And I think even someone as nice as Penny Ayala would probably take a peek before returning it to Liz, which Liz of course does not consider.

Set-up for the next book: We get another Droids-centered storyline. I don’t know why The Droids annoy me so much, but they do. The Larsons’ cousin, Sally, is coming to live with them following a string of stays at foster homes. Dana is excited about it, but her older brother Jeremy hates the idea. And of course Dana just goes ahead and confides in Liz about it during class, so I guess Liz is going to get involved. Ugh. Why does everyone tell Liz everything? Thankfully, before we can get into that, we have another Super Edition! (Unfortunately, I read this one when I was younger and I can already tell you that it’s not very good.)

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Comments on: "#32 The New Jessica" (1)

  1. I almost peed my pants laughing so hard at the cover. Jess looks like a 50 year old drag queen.

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