Jessica realizes she can make money off of writing letters for people when … oh God, this is almost too painful to type. She realizes this when AMY and LILA, of ALL PEOPLE, LEAVE A PARTY at the Wakefield home so they can GO HOME AND WRITE LETTERS TO STUPID RELATIVES. Whoa whoa what? Yes, you heard me! Lila Fowler! and Amy Sutton! Left! a Party! (okay, so it’s got like 10 people at it … a GATHERING) to GO HOME AND WRITE LETTERS to relatives they hate.
What’s worse, we’re supposed to believe that they did this voluntarily. Feed me another one, ghostwriter.
Jessica enlists Liz to help her start a letter-writing service, and since Liz is supposed to be the writer in the family, to write the letters for her. Jessica will handle everything else, like the publicity, the accounting, the envelope addressing, and telling Liz what to write. They will charge five dollars per letter and split the proceeds evenly. Jessica will use her half of the proceeds to help her pay for things like a room makeover (she’s tired of “The Hershey Bar” – which, since the early books, has been the name for her chocolate brown room) and the clothes she has on layaway at Lisette’s. Elizabeth will use her money to get Todd a starter jacket from U.S. Sports, which is her way of apologizing to him for being too busy working on the harassment article in the last book to spend any real time with him. Jessica logically points out that it kind of doesn’t make sense to: be too busy for your boyfriend, feel bad about it, then decide the best course of action is to make yourself too busy for him again so you can get him a present. Liz chirps that Todd is very understanding! I’ll just bet he is.
The twins make flyers advertising their business, which they call Letters ‘R Us, rent out a P.O. box, and resolve to stay anonymous so people they know won’t feel uncomfortable writing to them. Which brings me to the obvious point here: in order to get the business to write the letter for you, you must WRITE THEM A LETTER telling them everything that you want THEM to put in the letter … so why not just write it yourself? It takes just as much time … ohgod. I will not think about this too much. I will not think about this too much. I will not …
The twins start getting the letters and their business takes off and they make hundreds of dollars. When they receive a letter from someone, Liz types up the letter while Jess stands there and dictates what to say. Then they mail it back to the customer, and the customer can either hand copy the letter in their own handwriting, or just write the person’s name next to the “Dear” in the typed version, then sign it and send it off to their letter-receiver. Then one day, Jessica opens a customer’s letter and finds it’s from Shelley Novak. She wants the business to write the boy of her dreams and ask tell him how she feels. The issue is that he already has a serious girlfriend and Shelley herself, of course, has been dating Jim Roberts for some time. But Jim has been distant and Shelley’s eye has been a rovin’ and she has decided Todd is the most perfect man on earth. She wants to know if maybe he wants her too despite being quite obviously taken by Liz.
Although Shelley doesn’t name Todd in the letter, Jessica realizes that’s who she’s talking about, because she doesn’t exactly skimp on the details about what Todd is like or how he plays basketball. Normally we’d say that Jess is just jumping to conclusions again, but the ghostwriter has taken pains to set it up so that we can see that this is a fact. Shelley has been chatting with Todd, cooing over how great he is to Liz, and then bitching to anyone who will listen about how Jim doesn’t care about her anymore because he’s too busy with his stupid photography. Did we or did we not just have this dumbass problem with this same couple several books back? Meanwhile, Todd moons over how Liz is too busy with her paper and all that. Did we or did we not have this same problem with this same couple just a few books back? Like, two books ago? And then two or three books before that one? Hahaha. It’s not even really funny anymore, it’s just fucking annoying. GOD. And it’s making me hate Shelley Novak too. You’d hate her too if you always heard the same goddamn shit come out of her mouth any time she came near you. She’s like one big bag of mope, sloshing down the hallway and weeping silently to itself.
Jessica doesn’t know what to do about the letter and doesn’t think to just, you know, throw it in the damn trash or burn it or something. I don’t know. She feels like she can’t just throw it out because she already told Liz that there were 10 letters that day. So if she tosses it out, Liz will notice that there are suddenly only 9 letters. And the usually-inventive Jessica is suddenly too dumb to come up with a good excuse, like, oh, she must have miscounted them earlier. What the hell! Jessica talks to Steven on the phone (that’s right, he’s actually staying at school for a change) about what to do, and ultimately decides to write up a new letter with the same scenario but different details about the people and changing Shelley’s name to “Blythe”. Jess is sure she can get Liz to write a letter to the girl discouraging her from going after someone else’s boyfriend. Surprise! Liz winds up writing a perfectly good letter designed to find out if the girl’s secret crush is into her even if he already has a girlfriend. Liz’s reasoning is that maybe the guy’s girlfriend isn’t good for him and this letter should help him find out if he wants to break up with her. Liz is such a fucking hypocrite; of course if she knew the letter was really for Todd she’d feel differently. Jessica is unable to stop Liz from mailing off the letter.
Shelley gets the letter back from Letters R Us, signs it, and sends it on to Todd. Before he gets it, he calls Liz one Saturday to tell her all about the awesome evening he has planned for them. He got Liz’s favorite movie (Romancing the Stone – is that a good movie? I might Netflix that shit) along with her favorite Howard’s Deli cheesecake, AND two bottles of “sparkling apple cider” (because you know these two won’t be gettin’ tipsy on real champagne). But Liz is all, Oh sorry, I’m just so busy, but I can’t say why. Honestly, in my mind, everything she had to do could’ve easily been done later. Todd gets mad at her for breaking their date, which they had planned for some time, and Liz tries to whine that the surprise she has planned (the jacket) will make it all worth it. I’m sure! Shelley goes over to Todd’s house that same day for no real reason other than she’s kinda sorta hoping to cheat on Jim with him, and he invites her inside and they have the special evening he had planned for Liz and have a great time, but no handjobs or anything like that occur. They do seem like they’re about to kiss for a moment there, though. I think they only wrote that in there just to give the Liz-Todd fans a heart attack, because it’s seriously really awkward.
When Todd does get Shelley’s letter in the mail, he writes to Letters R Us to respond for him. Why the fuck can’t these people write their own letters? I mean, they can take the time to write out what they want to say to some anonymous people, right? Anyway, Todd’s letter says that he wants Letters R Us to write him one letter for his girlfriend to break up with her for being so unavailable lately, and one to another chick to ask her out. It’s up to Jessica to intercept Todd’s request the same way she did Shelley’s and “fix” things.
Jessica rewrites Todd’s letter for Letters R Us so that it will look like it’s from someone else when Liz sees it, but she makes a new plan. This time, after Liz writes the requested letters, Jessica will just intercept the outgoing mail, take both letters out of the envelope, and put a new letter in – one written directly to Todd, encouraging him to give his girlfriend a chance to fix things. So Liz writes the letters – a really mean one for the girlfriend, and a really sweet one to the new chick – and sends them off. Jessica fails to intercept the letters in time because the mailman shows up to their house early and Liz gives the stack directly to him. Later, she goes to see Todd at the Dairi Burger and they have a big fight over how unavailable she is and how demanding he is. Liz walks out and gets a ride home with Enid.
Jessica frantically goes to Todd’s house on the day the letter is to arrive – dressed as Liz, natch – to try and keep the mailman from delivering the Letters R Us package to Todd! This is hysterical! The mailman lectures, “I’m sorry, Elizabeth. I’m quite surprised, actually, that you would ask me to do such a thing. Tampering with the mail is against the law.” Ha ha! You know you’re hopeless when even the MAILMAN knows you are a goody-goody.
So Todd gets the Letters R Us letters and Jessica panics and has a heartfelt talk with Sam about what to do; he urges her to tell Liz the truth and she decides she will. But before she can, Liz gets a letter – the one she wrote and sent to Todd, the one Todd has now decided to send to her, suggesting they “cool it”. Liz quickly figures everything out and she’s so PISSED she starts overeating. Hurrr! That’s how you know a Sweet Valley female is really upset! She stuffs her face which is normally only something the Lois Wallers and Robin Wilsons of the world do. I wish Robin would show up to make the same shitty comments to Liz that Liz once made to her when she saw Robin doing some emotional eating. Oh, but it’s okay if Liz eats half a chocolate cake, ’cause we all know she can eat whatever she wants and not gain a pound, right?
When Jessica gets home to try and intercept the letters, she instead finds Liz covered in chocolate cake and fuming. Liz gets the truth out of Jess and learns that Todd’s almost-other-woman is Shelley. She goes to Todd’s house and they have it out and he insists he “didn’t want to, but you left me no choice.” OHHHHHHHH. Holy shit. Liz freaks out and they have a huge fight about how she’s too busy and won’t tell him what she’s doing and it’s not fair and so instead of telling her how he feels, it’s better that he just cheat on her. Liz is tempted to tell him she’s been trying to buy him a stupid starter jacket, to make up for the LAST time she was too busy, but instead lords her secret over him. They break up, I guess, and she leaves. Can they please just STAY broken up? This relationship is so fucking dysfunctional.
Meanwhile, stupid Shelley gets a call from Jim – you know, Jim? The guy she’s SUPPOSED to be dating, but forgot about once she started panting all over her friend’s boyfriend? – saying he’s sorry but his parents are making him babysit his sister tonight and he can’t go out on their date. Shelley is all waaaaah, I have the worst life ever, boo hoo, and I fucking hate Shelley Novak. She irritates the SHIT out of me. Then Shelley opens a letter from Todd and it’s the one Liz wrote about how he’d love to go out with her. “Oh, no!” Shelley cries out loud. “I never expected this!” That’s because you’re a moron, Shelley my dear. What did you think would happen when you wrote someone a letter telling him you’d like to jump his bones while his absentee girlfriend is too busy squinting her eyes at her word processor? I suppose if he’d written you to say he doesn’t ever want to speak with you again because you’re the worst friend Liz has ever had, you’d be lying around crying your eyes out about that. But Shelley is stupid, so she calls herself a wah-mbulance and goes over to Box Tree Cafe to meet Todd. WAAAAH! “Well, I’ve gone this far. I might as well go further,” she thinks. Great logic, I agree. Just give Todd a blowjob under the table so this book will at least be interesting. Instead Shelley orders a wah burger and French cries and she and Todd have the most awkward, horrible dinner conversation ever. Just kidding, they both order chicken or some shit and mumble about how much they both like chicken. But it is awkward. Shelley finally can’t stand it any longer and she admits she sent Todd through the letter through Letters R Us and Todd admits the same and then they both admit THAT NEITHER OF THEM ACTUALLY READ THE LETTER when they got it back from Letters R Us, they each just signed their names and threw it in the mail. Because they’re so upset over the lack of attention from their precious significant others they lost all basic sense. Hur hur! It’s knee-slappin’ funny!
They decide they can help fix things by figuring out who the anonymous Letters R Us writers are. How is that going to fix things with Jim and Liz?! I don’t know; I’m so confused. They just think the letter writer might spread their business all over school. Hello? This is Sweet Valley. Your business is ALREADY ALL OVER SCHOOL.
Todd and Shelley take turns watching for the Letters R Us writer to come pick up the mail from the P.O. Box at the post office and Todd catches Jess. She explains Liz helps write the letters and his first thought is Liz knew about him and Shelley the whole time and she WANTED them to date because she secretly WANTED to break up with Todd. You don’t know your (ex?) girlfriend very well, do you Todd? Jessica calms him down and explains the whole deal and then she offers the only bit of logic in this whole POS book: “You didn’t have to send [the letters]. You could have trusted Elizabeth in the first place.” Todd is blown away by this earth-shattering revelation. Well, I guess he would be if he didn’t keep trying to defend himself and sounding like a total asswipe.
Shelley goes and sees Jim and he does what he always does to bring them back together, shows her beautiful pictures that he took of her playing basketball. Woooo. She confesses she thought about dropping him for Todd and he’s offended but forgives her and they make plans to play mini-golf to keep things exciting.
Todd tries to speak to Liz and she runs off bawling. Jessica encourages him to write a new letter to Letters R Us explaining how he feels. When it comes in the mail, Liz won’t look at it so Jessica reads it to her and then leaves Liz to write back. Liz apologies for shutting him out but THEN – THEN! – she adds this sentence I do not agree with at all: “It was wrong of me not to tell you the truth about what I was doing. So what if it would have spoiled your surprise?” I thought she was being sarcastic. Look, your boyfriend doesn’t have to know EVERYTHING you’re doing, Liz! Just try and see him every now and again!
So how does this end? Oh, you guys are going to LOVE this. Liz gives Todd his stupid sports jacket, and he then orders a matching one for her! So everyone will know how much they love together! Because matching clothes are the way to show your love! HOLY SHIT. This is like something out of the Lillian Vernon catalog … his and hers sports jackets. I’m gonna puke. Everyone in the Oracle office at school thinks it’s the coolest thing ever and Olivia makes stupid jokes about it being a fad. I hate these people.
The cover is HYSTERICAL. Look at old lady Liz there toddling towards Jessica, all hunched over and prissy in her boobless drapey turtleneck and omnipresent matching barrettes. She actually looks like she’s about to smack Jessica with that newspaper. Jessica is wearing some professional working woman’s outfit or something, and doing the classic “I don’t know what’s going on” look.
A bunch of bullshit: Rod Sullivan, Olivia’s boyfriend who vanished into thin air long enough for her to date someone else in her Super Star book, has reappeared!
Gossip train! John Pfeifer and Jennifer Mitchell are not getting along because she said he tried to “boss” her! Foreshadowing!
Annie Whitman and Tony Esteban break up in this book, or at least that’s gossip Liz overhears.
The Wakefield family takes Steven out to eat at his favorite San Fernando restaurant, Pedro’s, to try and help him get over his depression at losing Cara. Wait, Steven is actually still depressed that Cara moved away? I hadn’t noticed.
The photography club from Regina’s Legacy still exists! So does Olivia’s literary magazine Visions! Continuity! It’s a great thing!
Cathy Ulrich is still Shelley’s best friend, but she’s never around and Shelley can’t talk to her. Jeez Louise
Jeffrey French is also still around; Shelley briefly mentions he got some pictures for the Oracle or something.
Lila has a cousin named Pete. (That’s who she had to write her letter to in the beginning of the book.)
Jessica gets tickets to a Shining Steel concert for her and Sam from her “rockstar friend” Bill Lacey from the Soap Star fiasco. You know, Shining Steel makes me think of a big penis for some reason. I bet there’s a porno somewhere called Shining Steel.
This book claims Liz was instrumental in getting Sam and Jessica back together in Soap Star. No she wasn’t! It was Jessica who made the big speech on air about how she’ll always love Sam. Why does Liz always seem to get credit for things she didn’t do? This isn’t the first time this has happened.
Shelley and Jim are almost as cheesily romantic as Liz and Todd. Listen to this:
JIM: “I’d like you to direct a kiss right here. Just plow through all of my defenses.” (He’s pointing at his lips not his cock, sorry readers)
SHELLEY: “Clear a path!”
JIM: “Go for it, Novak! Aim and shoot!”
OK, let’s get to the good stuff. I know you all want to know what other kinds of letters Liz and Jess got at Letters R Us. Here they are:
*A woman asking for a letter to her neighbor demanding the neighbor return her stolen cat Fluffy … wtf
*A kid whose parents just divorced, and he wants a letter to his dad wishing him Happy Birthday because he’s too mad to write it himself. Um, how about just saying “Happy Birthday” in a card and saving yourself five dollars, dummy?
*A boy whose girlfriend is mad he didn’t remember the anniversary of the first day they met in science class … bwa haha wtf again
*A woman who is leaving her husband for another man, and wants a letter telling him not to go looking for her. Another letter that would be super easy for the woman to write herself
*A man who quit his job suddenly, and wanted a nasty letter telling his boss why – the twins sent him two letters, one nasty and one a little more reasonable, so he could choose. Ah, the days before the recession, when you could just up and quit if you felt like it
*A teenager requesting a letter asking a girl to go out with him. (“Silly boy,” Jessica thinks. “Just call her up!” YES)
*A birthday greeting for a mother-in-law (again, just BUY A CARD)
*An executive asking for a thank you note for the clerks in her office
*A boss looking for a recommendation letter for a former mechanic of his
*A chef looking to answer a personal ad from a vegetarian in the newspaper. She specifically indicates she doesn’t want to sound like “a total bozo.” So THIS is how Liz writes the reply letter: “If it’s vegetarian cooking you’re hooked on, you’ve come to the right place. Zucchini is my middle name. I’m a gourmet vegetarian chef with a penchant for organ music. I’d like to get together for a friendly date – mushrooms included.” First of all, I’d demand my money back. Second of all, what is that organ music shit all about? Nowhere in the letter did the lady say she likes organ music. Is that some kind of weird joke that’s going over my head? Third of all, “friendly date”? HORRIBLE WORDING.
*A freshman in college looking for a letter to tell his mom to get out his biznaz in a nice way. Um, just don’t answer the phone? you’re at school right? And there’s no email?
So yeah, the girls rake in the effing BUCKS with this business. Jessica gets a CD player for the Jeep, a dress from Lisette’s, racing gloves for Sam, AND she completely redecorates her famous dark brown “Hershey Bar” bedroom. Now it’s purple all over instead, and Liz calls it a “grape explosion.” All of Liz’s friends are like, “Oh my God Liz, how can you stand it?” Are these kids for real? You’re teenagers … why do they take everything so seriously? WHY DO I TAKE THESE BOOKS SO SERIOUSLY? OH GOD
Coming up next: Penny Ayala is temporarily leaving for a two-week Government in Action senior program or something. That means someone has to take over as Editor-in-Chief while she’s gone! GASP? WHO WILL IT POSSIBLY BE?!…No, really, it’s left as a cliffhanger because we’re really not supposed to have any idea. Thanks for insulting our intelligence, Ghostwriter!