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

Archive for April, 2017

New at Sweet Valley High: Graphic Novel Series

I can’t remember if I shared this news with you guys or not, so here goes. In October 2016, Dynamite Entertainment announced the 2017 debut of a new Sweet Valley High graphic novel! It is being put together with the input of Francine Pascal. I for one am honestly pretty excited to have more SVH. I can only hope it’s going include gratuitous illustrations of Todd punches, crazy Dana Larson outfits, and Bruce and Jessica rolling around in the leaves making out like in Playing with Fire. You can read the official press release about that here. (In case you aren’t aware, the pictures at the bottom are from the 2008 Sweet Valley High re-launch, which only lasted for six books.) I haven’t heard anything about a release date, but if I do I will update everyone!

Campus Cool: Jessica’s Story

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Girl you know it’s true, oooh oooh oooh, you look like doo doo

I’m back with the second of the two Campus Cool booklets, released with the Sweet Valley High dolls sometime in 1993! This booklet came with Jessica’s doll (duh), and the ugly outfit on this cover is the same as what the doll wore. I’m just not feeling it. This cover is the same as that found on Elizabeth’s Story, only with the twins’ faces reversed, and it’s purple (like Jessica’s bedroom) rather than bright blue. Their outfits are still fugly as fuck. Something in me almost wants to like the purple and neon green of Jessica’s top, but something in me just can’t. I think it’s the color blocking.

This story starts in the summer, with Jessica and Liz shopping at Valley Mall. Liz is stunned when Jessica says she can’t wait for school to start soon. (They are still juniors.) Jessica spies a new outfit in the window of Lisette’s and flips out. It’s the same outfit on this cover. Liz is just like, “I like the hat.” I feel like that’s Liz’s way of saying, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that fool getup.” Not that Liz’s fashion sense is any better, as shown by this cover and every other cover she’s been on. Jessica tries on the outfit and falls in love. It’s the top and hat shown on the cover, plus a green mini skirt. Jess plans to wear it with a black vest she bought at a flea market, so that explains that part. Jessica is sure she’ll be hit of the school with this outfit. Yeah, maybe in 1989 you would have been. I swear to God this feels way too late for something like this to be a hit.

Anyway, Jessica sees the price tag on the outfit and realizes she can’t possibly afford it. She has three days to earn the money. She rushes home from the mall and sets the table super fancy-like to impress her parents, using their best china and crystal, complete with fanned napkins and fresh lemon slices in the water glasses. Alice sees it and thinks it must be Liz who set the table. The book notes that this is a “natural” reaction. Steven says Jessica must want something, which is another perfectly natural reaction but gets him scolded by his mother.

At dinner, Jessica wastes no time asking her parents for money. Ned actually gives a flat-out “no” and Jessica is sad because I guess she usually just gets whatever she wants. Then Liz asks Jess if she will help her wash sand out of the Jeep. Jessica immediately refuses for obvious reasons (nothing in it for her; she’s messy and doesn’t care about a bunch of beach sand). But the question gives her the bright idea to create a car wash business. She makes up business cards advertising the car wash at the Wakefield house and goes out to distribute them. She plans to charge $5 a wash, and to run the car wash just over the next two days. On day 3, which is the Sunday before the school year starts, she’ll stop and go to the mall. I sure hope she made this schedule clear on the cards. I don’t think we can trust her to have thought about it.

Jessica waits for her customers the next day while Liz takes off with Todd. They tell her she should probably change out of her outfit before washing cars, but Jess doesn’t see the problem. After the first car, she’s exhausted, dirty and messy and has wax and soap all over her clothes. Then Bruce Patman pulls up in his Porsche, saying he has a date with “a beautiful girl” that night and he wants his car to look extra nice. He mocks Jessica’s looks, throws his money on the hood and yells at Jessica that she better not scratch 1BRUCE1 or he’ll demand his money back. He rides off with his cousin Roger while Jess angrily does a half-assed job at washing the car. Bruce is her last customer of that day and she vows she’ll get back at him when she shows up at school in her hot outfit. She’s sure he’ll take one look at her and want to bang her, and she’ll just ignore him and laugh.

The next day, Jessica gets way more customers. She accidentally leaves the windows down in one car and gets water all in the inside; that customer yells at her and demands double his money back, so Jess loses $10. She eventually washes just enough cars to make all the money she needs for the outfit. Liz congratulates her and offers to take Jessica out to Casey’s Place for an ice cream sundae, but Jessica says she’s too exhausted, prompting Liz to pout she doesn’t get to see Jessica much lately. Calm down girl, you just went shopping with her two days ago!

Sunday morning arrives and Jessica rushes straight to the mall to buy the uglyass DayGlo nightmare outfit of her dreams. What do you know, the last one has been sold. Jessica rushes home upset and scoffs at her parents’ attempts to talk about what she learned washing all those cars. She quite literally CRIES herself to sleep. When she wakes up a little bit later, the outfit is lying next to her. It turns out Liz just went ahead and bought it for her the other day. Awwww, that Liz! This is Jessica’s reward for refusing to help wash the Jeep. Hehe, Jessica is such a spoiled little brat, and Liz is such an enabler, awwww, it’s sooooo cute. I wonder why she thought she could get away with spiking her sister’s drink and killing her boyfriend! Hmmmm. Jessica agrees to go get that sundae with her poor deprived sister after she tries on her new eye-burner of an outfit.

The booklet ends much like the other booklet, by saying “YOU DECIDE” whether or not Jessica was a hit with her outfit and got back at Bruce Patman. I decide Jessica looks hideous and is booed out of the school within seconds of entering. Liz too, with that ugly set of rags she’s wearing. Bye girl! Bruce is too busy carrying out Regina’s last wish of death to Amy Sutton (and then himself) and doesn’t even notice.

Yeah, this story was way more boring than Liz’s.

Coming up next: Jessica and Lila are headed on a fabulous vacation now that everyone can forget about Margo and Sam and James and death and mayhem, you know, all that pesky shit that doesn’t really matter!

Campus Cool: Elizabeth’s Story

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Bust out some Milli Vanilli songs in this bitch

What the hell is this?! Let me explain: Sometime around the time of A Night to Remember, Bandai toy company released a series of Sweet Valley High dolls, including “Campus Cool” versions of Elizabeth and Jessica (each sold separately!). Each doll was similar to Barbie, with interchangeable fashions you could purchase. Each doll also came with a special Sweet Valley High booklet featuring her own little story, in the style of the full-length novels. This is my review of the Elizabeth doll booklet; I also have the Jessica doll booklet.

Although the doll boxes are copyright 1992, the booklets are copyright 1993 (the same year as the infamous Jungle Prom “change” in the series). Each booklet is basically the same size as a “real” SVH book, but only 14 pages long with no chapters and (very slightly) toned down for younger kids. The booklets also kept the original classic SVH circle cover design, which SVH mostly retired (in the U.S., anyway) back in 1991.

(There was also a separate Prom Perfect gift set released with both dolls in full A Night to Remember prom night regalia – seems kinda fucked up! – and another booklet called Moonlight and Roses that came in that set. I sadly do not have that booklet in any form at this time.)

So let’s talk about this booklet’s cover, shall we? Look at those fucking outfits! I know that these are the same outfits that are on the dolls themselves, so I guess they’re wilder than usual to sell toys to Barbie fashion plate lovin’ kids, but seriously? Did these girls just leave the rejection line at the In Living Color Fly Girl auditions? And I wanna play some Candy Crush or Bejeweled or some shit on that hat Jessica’s wearing. And Liz? Honey, no. She looks fucking doofy and we all know she would never expose her midriff normally. I guess she raided her mom’s outfits from the last four decades and just threw some old bullshit together and Jess let her parade out of the house looking like that because we all know she secretly hates her anyway.

This story begins with Liz tiptoeing back into the house at midnight, wanting to dance and sing with joy, following a “special date” with Todd. She heads right to Jessica’s room because she has “something wonderful to show her.” Uh, to me this comes off like Liz and Todd finally did it and I don’t even want to say what I thought Liz was going to “show” her sister. What the fuck is wrong with me?! Back to this innocent story. It turns out Liz is talking about Todd’s letter jacket. Oh. Jessica proclaims it’s no big deal and then tries to talk Liz out of dating just one boy seriously (for the millionth time). Liz realizes Jessica is just jealous. She puts her Oracle pin on the jacket proudly while Jessica watches.

The next day after school, Jessica comes home from the Dairi Burger in a huff and stomps around bitching about how all anyone could talk about all day was Todd giving Liz his letter jacket. Well Jess, it sure beats everyone talking about how you killed your own boyfriend by spiking your sister’s drink, Miss Thing! OHHHHHHHHH no I did not!

The next morning, Jessica takes off for school in the Jeep for an early cheerleading meeting. Yeah fucking right! Jessica is the captain and she would never allow an “early” anything! Liz is too dumb to be suspicious, not even after she finds Todd’s jacket is missing. She rides to school with Enid who makes some smart ass remark about Liz not wearing the jacket Todd gave her. Liz tells her to shut up in a joking manner, and Enid salutes her and shuts up, and it kinda comes off like Peppermint Patty and Marcy from Peanuts.

Liz races into school two minutes before the final bell rings. Seriously, Jess getting up early and Liz running late? Liz runs into Julie Porter and Olivia Davidson, who say they just saw her 15 minutes ago. Liz is confused. Hurrrr, who could they have thought was her? Then when Liz gets to class in the nick of time, Mr. Collins says he thought she was going to be late because he just saw her run the other way past the classroom. Liz realizes Jessica took her jacket and is wearing it and everyone thinks Jess is her. Well, slap me silly and call me Chrome Dome Cooper! Never woulda thunk it.

Liz doesn’t see Jessica for the remainder of the day, and then Todd stands Liz up for their usual lunch date. Hmm, Jessica is impersonating Liz, and she and Todd have disappeared. If this story is supposed to take place after Jungle Prom, Liz should be flipping out!

After school, Liz sees Jess at home and demands she give back the jacket. Jessica first tries to say she doesn’t have it, then admits she borrowed it because she thought it would look cute with her new jeans. What the hell, she didn’t think that would make everyone think she was dating Todd? Or, you know, was Liz? This bitch doesn’t care about shit. Jessica goes on to admit that earlier, Todd walked up just as Aaron Dallas gave her a kiss. Todd freaked out and demanded the jacket back from “Liz” while Jessica tried to explain, in vain. As per usual, Todd is ready to believe the worst about his girl when there’s an obvious explanation to the contrary. Hypocrite from hell! Liz makes Jessica call Todd up and explain to him that it was Jessica wearing the jacket. Todd believes her over the phone, but not in person. What in the flying fuck? Todd then asks to speak to Liz, and he tells Liz that he’s sorry for the way he acted, but that Jessica didn’t even explain that morning – she just handed over the jacket without a word while Todd was in one of his Todd rages. Ohhh I see – I guess. Of course Liz hears this and thinks Jessica lied because she wanted Todd to be mad with Liz, but I’m honestly wondering if Todd might be the one who is lying. Whatever. After Liz hangs up, Jessica sweetly says she’s glad they got everything worked out and Liz can’t believe Jess is “acting so innocent.” Of course you can’t, you freakin’ dumbass. Liz decides she is going to come up with a way to get back at Jessica. Then the booklet pulls this on me:

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So, what do YOU DECIDE? I DECIDE that Elizabeth gets back at Jessica by giving her an extra stern glare, causing Jessica to burst into tears, at which point Elizabeth forgives her, apologizes, and makes it up to her by doing the dishes and making dinner for her for the next two weeks. Oh, and by offering to let Jessica borrow her flowery church hat, but Jessica is so nice she tells Liz that’s okay, she doesn’t have to take it THAT far. Yay! The End.

Actually, if I’m being honest the real ending is complete murder and mayhem with Liz pulling a reverse Jungle Prom and spiking Todd and Jessica’s drinks – with poison.

Also included with the Elizabeth Campus Cool doll was this little ad for SVH lavalier necklaces and a map poster:

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Yeah, those are not the SV lavalieres we know! I guess fake gold bar necklaces are a lot less exciting than a big gaudy SVH pendant, for the kids.

Anything else interesting? Yeah, the copyright page was obviously copied from the SVH books, because they had to partially cover up “Printed in the United States of America” with a little “Hong Kong” sticker. (The same is true of the Jessica booklet.)

Coming up next … It’s time for Jessica’s own little story, before we return to the main series.

#100/Magna Edition #4 The Evil Twin

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“Merry Christmas, bitches!” Love, Margo

Here we are! At long last, we’ve reached book number 100 in the series, which Francine or the publisher or somebody decided to combine with a “Magna Edition” to give us a 339-page wonder full of Margo and crying, screaming twins! I’m definitely ready for this “Sweet Valley Terror” six book mini-series to be over and done with. In this tome, Margo is narrowing down the date by which she’ll murder Elizabeth “Golden Child” Wakefield and take over her life. Thrills! Chills! A yawn or two!

As you can see by this cover, this particular story takes place on the twins’ 187th freaking Christmas! If you think too hard about how the entire Sweet Valley High series is technically supposed to have taken place over the course of about four months, you’ll drive yourself absolutely batshit, so don’t do that. (I know, who would think too hard about that, right … uhhhhh…. *hides face*) We’ll get more into the cover a little later on. For now, I’ll just say that I’m disappointed the artists didn’t reflect Margo’s evil face cackling in the smashed Christmas ornament shown here!

Our story opens with Liz and Jessica getting ready for the last day of school at Sweet Valley High before winter break. I keep waiting for these kids to get major deja vu, but nobody does. They have plenty of premonitions about the evil to come, however! Ned and Alice are preparing to fly to San Francisco for their mysterious trip arranged by some environmental engineering firm via a letter .. no phone call or anything, just one single letter signed by some lady named Michelle De Voice that nobody ever heard of. And in the last book it sounded like they wanted both Wakefield parents to work for them, but in this book it seems like Alice is just coming along to make Ned feel good about himself and keep him warm at night. Steven wisely points out that it might be a good idea to call this firm in order to verify the details and confirm they’re coming, but Ned pooh-poohs that idea. Why, this mysterious lady who set it up has already said she’s taken care of all the details! What could go wrong? Of course this firm is so desperate for the expertise of a Wakefield that they just went ahead and set up a limo transfer from the airport, a hotel room, and a series of meetings without even requesting any confirmation from Ned at all! Makes perfect sense!

At school, we learn that SVH has some kind of incredibly dumb Secret Santa tradition where kids can send anonymous candy canes and notes to one another, like a candygram. That’s not the dumb part. The dumb part is that this stuff gets delivered by students dressed in goofy red and green elf costumes. They sound like what Lila had to wear in the Christmas parade in the Special Christmas Super Edition! Speaking of Lila, she hates this tradition because she always gets candy canes from “dorks.” Liz gets a candy cane from Todd, delivered by Winston as elf courier, on the auditorium stage after making a speech about the Oracle student newspaper. The whole school hoots and hollers like Todd wasn’t just openly cheating on Liz with her sister the other week. Jessica gets an anonymous candy cane in the middle of math class, delivered by Ken, who makes her sit on his lap and bounces her on his knee. Haha, okay, so a Christmas-themed re-enactment of something that’s already happened a million other times at Miller’s Point?  The Secret Santa note for Jess reads “Happy Horrordays” and freaks Jessica out. Finally, Elf Dana (with her hair dyed red and green) delivers another Secret Santa candy cane to Liz in the cafeteria. Liz’s note reads: “I’m dreaming of a red Christmas. Wreck the halls with bloody bodies.” Ya’ll don’t EVEN know how fucking hard I am laughing right now! Oh my god, when I first read this I almost spit out my tea all over the book.

Of course, we all know who sent these creepy notes – Margo! She’s spending her days skulking around the halls of SVH, hoping to fool people into thinking she’s Liz. She goes into the library and tries to fool Enid, but Enid looks right at her and can tell she isn’t Liz. She thinks Margo is Jessica trying to fuck with her, and she stomps out of the library in a huff. Enid finds the real Liz and tells her about what happened, and Liz is weirded out and says she hasn’t been able to trust Jess ever since she hid Todd’s makeup letter from Liz. Wait, THIS is what caused you to not be able to trust Jessica?

Meanwhile, Josh Smith, sworn to avenge the death of his little bro, is still busy running around pretending to be a reporter so he can interview all the dimwitted detectives that apparently get assigned to the Sweet Valley area after they flunk out of the police academy. He learns that the woman Margo ran over in Ramsbury was a young single mother newly employed by a catering business. (Somehow, it makes perfect sense to me that this series would decide to have something horrendous happen to a single mother.) When he talks to the Mrs. D’Angelo lady who owns the catering business, the lady just goes ahead and helps him figure out who he’s looking for and gives her name and info. It’s only after she does this that she begins to get suspicious of the man she just handed over her former employee’s info to! What a fucking asshat! Armed with the info Asshat D’Angelo has given him, Josh soon realizes that Margo was indeed the one who killed the lady and that it was likely so she could have her job at the Fowler wedding and spy on the twins. Nice work, Sherlock. He also has her assumed name, Margaret Wake, and her address, which he saw on an envelope Mrs. D’Asshat just left out for him to see.

James has one final meeting with Margo at Kelly’s bar. That’s right, final – along with essentially giving up drinking and smoking cigarettes, he tells Margo he doesn’t want any part of her “job” anymore, not even for the $2,000 she promised. Margo correctly guesses he’s fallen in love with Jessica. She tells him he can get out of the job, but he can’t ever see Jessica again, or she’ll kill him AND Jessica. Terrified, James calls Jessica and breaks their date, then later he calls again and coldly dumps her over the phone. Jess is devastated and falls back into her depression, spending most of her time in bed. At the same time, James starts getting threatening notes at home indicating Margo is watching him, and begins freaking out that Margo is plotting to whack him anyway.

Meanwhile, Margo is continuing to spend plenty of time in the Wakefield house on Calico Drive. She leaves a window open in the basement and unlocks the basement door so she can wander about any time she pleases. She waltzes in one day and gives Alice a hug, and THIS time Alice realizes she doesn’t feel any motherly love for Liz and thinks she’s going nuts. Then Margo goes upstairs to Liz’s room, where she spends a good hour reading Liz’s journal. Man, somebody is always reading Liz’s journal. Put that shit in a safe or something, Elizabeth, damn! Margo is so enthralled with reading about Liz’s boring ass life that she almost gets caught by the real Liz. Margo tosses the journal in a drawer and darts into Liz’s closet just in time. Liz then sees the disarray in her room and her journal out of place and thinks Jessica did it, which is a pretty reasonable thing for her to think. When Jessica innocently sashays into her sister’s room later, planning to have a nice chat to reveal “the big secret” (that Jessica spiked Liz’s punch and caused the Sam-killing accident on prom night), Liz bitches her out for snooping and going through her stuff and yells at her to get out, and Jessica flees in tears.

Next, Margo moves back in on Todd. Sure, Todd has been with both twins over and over by now, so why not have him get with the fake one too. Posing as Liz, Margo calls Todd and says she wants to go out and see some art house flick. Todd is surprised because he thought Liz had a Christmas caroling date with Enid that night, so Margo says Enid had to cancel. With the date set, Margo poses as Jessica and calls Lila, saying she wants to go shopping for a new outfit for a date with James. Lila hasn’t heard about the break-up yet from Real Jessica, so she says cool because she’s going to Paris with her parents for Christmas (for like, three days) and needs cool new clothes as well. The girls visit Lisette’s and Lytton & Brown’s in the mall, and Lila is stunned by how uncharacteristically nice and non-competitive “Jessica” is. For example, when Lila sees a bronze top she wants, Jessica just lets her have it, even telling Lila it looks better on her. (Fake Jess is too used to pretending to be nice while she plays Fake Liz.) Fake Jessica buys a slinky blue dress, which is really for Fake Liz’s date with Todd later that night. The date, of course, is really … interesting. Todd and Fake Liz eat at the Box Tree Cafe, where Fake Liz startles Todd by suggesting they go see some heavy metal concerts later that month instead of a boring play they’d planned to watch with Enid and Hugh. Fake Liz covers up for it as best she can. Then they go see the art flick, and Liz suggests they sit in the back row, where she snuggles close to Todd all through the movie. That of course sets off his radar because I guess Liz normally barely touches him. After the show, Liz tells Todd to go to Miller’s Point. They make out for a bit and Todd is freaked out by how eager she is and decides this must be Jessica playing one of her tricks. He makes excuses to leave in a hurry, drops Liz off and then goes back and forth trying to figure out if that was truly Jessica pretending to be Liz or if he is just “ready for the nuthouse.” As Todd speeds off, the real Liz, home from caroling with Enid, hears his motor and peers through her window to see his black BMW driving away. She’s confused and figures that can’t really be Todd and that she’s seeing things.

The next day is Christmas Eve. The real Jessica goes over to Lila’s to help her finish packing for Paris, and when Lila mentions James, Jessica busts into hysterical tears and blubbers about the break-up. Lila momentarily confuses her by telling Jessica not to return the special dress she bought. It doesn’t really get cleared up because Lila is distracted by where her hair mousse went. When Lila hugs Jessica goodbye, she has a terrible premonition that Jessica is in terrible danger. What’s with all the ESP in these books all of a sudden?

Meanwhile, Liz is over at Olivia’s house. When she comes home, Alice insists she couldn’t have been at Olivia’s because she saw Liz sneaking some freshly-baked Christmas cookies off the rack. Haha, nice. Not only that, but Fake Liz was apparently also helping Alice clean the house! Okay, this is pushing it a little. I can’t see Margo doing that shit, no matter how badly she wants to be Elizabeth. We’ve already seeing her re-considering her choice of twin a few times as she is definitely just a more psycho version of Jessica. Real Liz is freaked out – not good since she’s already having nightmares (about Jungle Prom) and can’t stand the sound of “Deck the Halls” ever since she got that creepy Secret Santa note at school. Then Todd shows up to join the family for Christmas Eve dinner. More confusion reigns when Todd starts to mention that he went out with Liz last night just as Liz starts to talk about being out with Enid last night. Todd awkwardly covers for himself by saying he meant to say something else. Now he’s sure he was out with Jessica, but he never says a fucking word about it to Liz. That night, Jessica unintentionally scares the living shit out of Liz when she tries to creep into her room again to tell her the truth about Jungle Prom, and once again, Liz yells at her to get out. I think this is Real Liz yelling, but it’s sometimes hard to keep track.

Man, Christmas Day fucking sucks. It’s just as depressing as it was built up to be. Liz and Jess can’t muster any enthusiasm for the presents or the festivities, and Margo is busy slinking around outside the window (and Steven nearly catches her). Back in his motel room, Josh Smith makes a Christmas Day call home to his mother, who can barely talk while she sobs about how much she misses her younger son. The only one who’s really happy is Margo, who’s gleefully skipping around in the rain. Man, you know it’s a dark day in Sweet Valley when it’s raining!

After Christmas, Ned and Alice the dumbasses take off for San Fran, leaving Steven to look after the twins (after he drops his parents off at the airport). Another storm rages as Steven and Liz leave the house, leaving Jessica all by her depressed self. But then James calls. Margo’s notes are freaking him out more than ever, and he’s decided he’s going to flee Sweet Valley and take Jessica with him. He doesn’t tell Jess all of this when he talks to her, he just begs her to meet him at an old pier at the marina at 7 PM. After Jess agrees and hangs up, the power goes out at the Wakefield house. Jess wanders out into the hallway to find a flashlight and smacks into “a body”! It’s Margo, pretending to be Liz and slinking around the house. Okay, +100 for the ghostwriter for the creepy ass ambiance in this scene. It’s genuinely spooky. Jessica screams in fear at the “body” and Fake Liz gives her a hug and tells her it’s okay. Of course, real Liz is still pissed at Jess and doesn’t give a fuck if she’s scared, but Margo isn’t the best at paying attention to that shit. The lights come back on, and Fake Liz goes into real Liz’s room, where she was a moment ago, eavesdropping on Jessica’s conversation with James. Oh shit, y’all are in trouble. Before she steals back out of the house through the basement window, Fake Liz steals the real Liz’s precious golden lavaliere.

While Margo is out at the Wakefields’, Josh Smith is anxiously driving up and down her street looking for her address. He finally sees the boarding house and sees “Margaret Wake’s” name next to the door. He goes right inside and jimmies the lock to Margo’s room, and enters to find something out of a horror movie. No bodies, but the place is a wreck, and along with a bunch of knives piled on a table, Margo has also been collecting loads of newspaper article and pictures of the twins. She’s pinned these up on the walls along with papers on which she’s practiced writing in Elizabeth’s handwriting. Creepiest of all, on the mirror she’s written “I am Elizabeth” in lipstick! Josh decides to wait in the room and whack Margo when she comes back. Unfortunately for him, Margo notices her door lock has been fucked with and realizes he’s in there before she goes in. She stands near the end of the hallway and loudly holds a fake conversation about going to the marina, all for Josh’s benefit. Heading back outside, she hides in her car and watches Josh speed off for the marina with glee, then follows after him.

Todd and Liz (real Liz) arrive back at the Wakefield house, confusing Jessica, who doesn’t understand why Liz is suddenly wearing different clothes and being cold to her. Jessica begs Todd to give her a ride to the marina in his BMW because Steven has used the Jeep to take the Wakefields to the airport, and Jessica can’t find her parents’ car keys anywhere. Todd and Liz finally agree, but they’re all running late. Jessica begins flipping out because she’s having one of those ubiquitous Sweet Valley Terror premonitions again. At the marina, Margo has already arrived, wearing a denim jacket and baseball cap. She fools James into thinking she’s Jessica, and he pours out his heart to her about Margo and telling her he loves her and wants to run away with her. Just then, he tips her face up and realizes he’s actually looking at Margo. Margo says “Hello, James” all creepily, then pushes him off the marina onto the rocks below to his doom – just as Todd and the twins arrive and witness this. As everyone screams and wails, Margo slips away and Josh, wearing the same outfit Margo just was, pops out from a hiding place nearby to try and get her. Of course, you can see where this is going. Everyone thinks Josh is the one who killed James, and Todd helps apprehend him with a good Todd punch or two. Josh tries to tell everyone about how Margo is a psycho who is after the twins and looks just like them, but nobody believes him. Liz and Jessica cry in each other’s arms. Damn, Jessica’s second boyfriend in a row has been killed, right in front of her eyes. They really want to make you feel sorry for her ass so you’ll forgive her for all she’s done to Liz so far.

The next several chapters add up to just one intersecting comedy of bullshit errors. I’ll just talk about stupid Ned and Alice first. They arrive in San Fran to find the limo that was supposed to pick them up is nowhere to be found, and so they have to take a taxi from the airport to their hotel – where all the rooms are booked up and nothing was ever reserved for them. Alice’s mother’s intuition starts going crazy and she’s ready to get the hell out of dodge, but Ned is being a stubborn ass and refuses. He marches over to the engineering firm the next day for the first of several meetings he’s been told he should attend, and is just shocked to find that no one there has ever heard of him. In fact, the employee who sent him the letter doesn’t exist. Time to go home, right? Nope, Ned and Alice decide to stay a second night so that they can speak to the head of the legal department when he returns the next day, and get all this straightened out! There’s got to be a reasonable explanation! The worst part is that Alice really wants to go back home and get to her children and is just breaking down, and Ned keeps telling her there’s nothing to worry about. He’s sure there is a reasonable explanation. He keeps being condescending and cutting her off when she tries to point out how odd all of this is. Oh, no worries honey, we’ll get this figured out! This is the stupidest shit ever and I hate him. Oh yeah, and whenever Alice calls home, Fake Liz or Fake Jess picks up and tells her everything’s fine. *womp womp* I know Margo is just always around the Wakefield house now, but these turns of events are really starting to be a stretch even for Sweet Valley.

In reality, everyone is falling the fuck apart, of course, so at least that part is realistic. Liz and Jess both have nightmares the night they witness James die. Liz’s nightmares are magically getting her closer and closer to finding out how she got totally wasted the night of the Jungle Prom. Jessica’s post-James nightmare is essentially the same as the one she had about Margo way at the beginning of the mini-series. Both nightmares end with the twins screaming and then finding one another to hug and cry. Steven finds them like this and is bewildered. Nobody thinks to suggest the twins might greatly benefit from some counseling, because counseling doesn’t exist in this world unless it’s at the stupid Teen Center doled out by unqualified twat-wagons like Amy Sutton.

Margo spends another night at the Wakefield house, where she is unexpectedly spotted by a sniffling, mopy Jessica, but Jessica just thinks it’s Liz again. Margo briefly considers murdering Jessica and taking over her life instead. Todd shows up, and Fake Liz takes off with him on a dinner date at Guido’s pizza. Once again Todd is weirded out and he drops Fake Liz off without so much as a goodnight kiss afterwards, pissing her off.

Lila comes back from Paris, and Margo / Fake Jessica sets up a date to hang out and prepare for the upcoming New Year’s Ball at Fowler Crest. Margo prowls around the mansion scoping out a place to kill Liz on the night of the ball (in the pool house) and a place to bury Liz’s body (in the woods behind the pool house).

It’s New Year’s Eve and Josh Smith is locked up in jail where nobody gives a shit about his Margo story, even though there is in fact a wanted woman named Margo on the East Coast and Josh’s brother was in fact murdered by a woman matching that description. Josh tricks a jail guard into thinking he’s ill, then stands up and knocks him out, steals his outfit, and escapes the jail. He’s headed for Fowler Crest and Lila’s big New Year’s Eve ball.

Back on Calico Drive, Margo is pretending to be both twins with dizzying speed and nobody is catching the fuck on, already. Margo carefully arranges things so that Liz wears a “slinky” fuschia dress that belongs to Jessica to the ball, then goes out to get the same dress for herself. The sales clerk is taking too long on a personal phone call, so Margo just runs out of the store with the dress without paying for it. Then she stops by the saleslady’s car in the parking lot and slashes her back tires. (Margo heard the lady describing the car over the phone to her friend – see what I’m saying? This shit is too convenient.) The real Liz falls asleep while hanging out in her room preparing to get ready for the ball, and has her final revealing nightmare, in which she realizes Jessica was the one to spike the punch. I guess her memories of the evening were slowly coming back to her in dreams … or something. Liz wakes up crying and thinking to herself that Jessica is a complete monster.

Back in San Fran, everyone’s favorite stubborn horse’s ass, Ned Wakefield, finally gives up on his dream environmental engineering law consulting job when he meets with the chief legal dude and is told there seriously is no meeting. Good, get the fuck out of here! Ned finally tells his timid wife they’ll catch the next flight home, but of course it’s canceled. They wind up on a train … which gets stuck in a raging thunderstorm or some old bullshit like that. The train lets them off at the next stop and they rent a car … and the car is a fucking junker. Yeah, yeah, we know what’s coming … a breakdown, on all fronts. Well, a flat tire, to be exact. The rest of the breakdown is just my sanity, and everyone else’s. Ned struggles to change the tire in the storm on a hill right above Sweet Valley while Alice stands next to him, dutifully watching and doing her silly wifely fretting or whatever Ned thinks it is.

At Fowler Crest, Lila’s ball is in full swing. Jessica shows up wearing a spaghetti strap cobalt blue dress that she borrowed from Amy. I can’t believe she’s even at the fucking ball mere days from the night she witnessed her latest boyfriend’s death, but there she is. Maybe she feels better this way, I don’t know. Liz shows up in her daring low-cut fuschia gown, as does Margo, who is prowling around Fowler Crest wearing the exact same outfit plus Liz’s missing lavaliere. Josh Smith hides in the bushes and spies through the windows, looking for Margo. Steve and his girlfriend Billie are at home watching movies and making out on the couch. Alerts are going out on the TV and radio for “escaped killer Josh Smith” and everyone is kinda freaked out, but not that much … y’all know how this goes. Okay, Steve is freaked out enough to dash off to Fowler Crest, leaving his girlfriend to fend for herself at the Wakefield house until she begs to go with him. You’re a horrible boyfriend, Steven.

Liz is talking to Enid at the party, who’s being a wallflower by herself by the punch bowl because what else would she do with her life, when Jessica shows up and walks toward Liz. Liz freaks out and runs upstairs, confusing everybody since no one knows what happened with Jess spiking dranks and shit.

Todd goes upstairs to look for Liz and finds Margo instead, hiding in a guest room. They start making out and Fake Liz suggests they stay up there and “have our own party” which of course just makes Todd go limp as a dead dick again. Staring into Fake Liz’s eyes, Todd slowly comes to realize that what Josh was hollerin’ about was true. He confronts Fake Liz and demands to know who she is, and Fake Liz knocks his ass out with a miniature gold statue and Todd drops to the ground faster than Amy Sutton at a blowjob party.

Margo steals away thinking that she can just tell people that Todd hit his head or something and doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he tries to say she isn’t Elizabeth. Man, didn’t they have DNA testing in 1993? I can’t imagine this charade can be kept up for long. Anyway, Margo finds out where Real Liz is hiding (in another bathroom, thinking about how horrible things must have been for Jessica). Fake Liz pretends to be Jessica and calls through the door to Real Liz that she needs to talk to her and that they should meet in the pool house. Josh and Jessica separately notice Liz running off to the pool house and chase after her, but not before Margo gets to Liz and corners her with a knife, taunting her about having made out with Todd and how she’s going to take over Liz’s life, and how she’s already dug Liz’s grave in the Fowler woods while Liz whimpers and just stands there. Jessica busts in and dives in front of Margo’s slashing knife twice, taking a cut to the arm. Then Josh rushes to the shed only to be tackled by Steve, who’s just showed up with Billie. Oh God, it’s always Steve in the way, isn’t it!  Todd shows up and convinces Steve to listen to Josh and Steve lets him up just in time for Josh to run into the pool house and tackle Margo as she’s about to stab the twins a second time, sending her crashing through a window and dying from a giant shard of glass to the jugular. Josh looks down and watches as the blood burbles out of that dead bitch’s neck onto the Fowler Crest pavement. Ew, gnarly! Ned and Alice show up right afterward, and the Wakefields unite and cry and everyone’s back together and not traumatized at all, and Liz forgives Jessica in the blink of an eye for all the shit she did. Ah, jeez.

You know, I actually think the idea behind this book was really clever. The ghostwriters wanted to stir up some crazy twin drama to turn this series around and gain readership, starting with A Night to Remember. But they knew that Jessica was a POS who could only be forgiven if there was someone even crazier than her present in the story – someone so over the top, so batshit insane that Jessica would just look like an innocent teenager in comparison, a mostly sweet girl who made a couple of stupid mistakes. Compared to that bitch, Jessica would be easy for Elizabeth to forgive and everyone could just move on. So they decided to change things up further by introducing the TERROR of Margo and intertwining it with the truth behind what Jessica did, how Liz finds out, and how Liz decides to forgive Jess (because hey! they all could’ve died!). That’s my theory, anyway.

Jess is still an awful person in her own right. I’M not forgiving her for shit!

Oh oh oh, and I don’t get one (more) thing. No one could tell that Margo wasn’t Liz or Jess right off the bat except for Enid. Everyone else was fooled for a good long while, if not the whole time. How is that possible? Twins, if someone pretended to be you, would your “other twin half” be fooled? Would your family and closest friends?

And DAMN are there REALLY that many people out there who look just like Liz and Jess? Don’t answer that … I’m well aware there’s something else coming NEXT Christmas … 🙂

Let’s take a look at the cover’s stepback art! That’s right, there’s more cover to examine …

stepback

So the main illustration here is of Liz entering the pool house – nice lightning bolt in the background – to find Fake Liz standing there with the knife. Okay, are these supposed to be the “daring” fuschia dresses that are so unusual for Elizabeth? They look like something out of a 1950s Sweet Sixteen party! To the right is the illustration of the depressing Christmas morning, with the twins sitting there moping and Margo peering in the window at them. In the lower left corner, we have Todd knocked out on the ground with the statue and a mysterious hand grabbing at him. The stupid fucking barcode blocks out what’s going on here, so I looked around online until I found the full illustration on the Norwegian cover of this book:

full stepback

You can’t really see that image too well, but it looks like Jessica trying to wake Todd up or something in the blue dress she wore to the ball. Yeah, this scene never happened. By the way, the Norwegian title of the book apparently translates to The False Twin in English. I actually like that title better!

Other crap: Talk about a blast from the past! In the first SVH book, Double Lov(October 1983), there was a mention of an outfit Liz had with a tuxedo shirt, vest, black pants and a little bow tie. Jessica begged to borrow it for a school dance. In the opening chapter of THIS book (December 1993), Liz sees that same outfit in her closet and thinks sadly about how much Jessica used to love to borrow it “in the old days.” Hah! Nice fan shout-out, Francine.

Elizabeth’s Oracle column is apparently now called “Personal Profiles”. How boring compared to “Eyes and Ears”.

Mrs. Wakefield tells the twins that she has asked the Egberts and the Beckwiths to look after them while she and Ned are in San Fran First of all, I am positive the Beckwiths moved away just a few books ago and that the Thomases (Annie and Cheryl) are living in their old house. We know for certain the Beckwiths aren’t around because nosy old asshole Mr. Beckwith would definitely have caught Margo peering in some windows if they were! Second of all, since when do the Egberts live anywhere near the Wakefields? It’s Caroline Pearce that lives on their same street.

Margo hates Enid’s guts. She decides that Liz is dead and Margo has officially taken her place, she will kill Enid next and then ensure Lila becomes “Liz’s’ new best friend. I find myself oddly delighted by this.

Lila’s “signature flavor” of ice cream is Million Dollar Mocha, from Casey’s Place. I now realize that a signature ice cream flavor of my very own has been sorely missing from my own life.

Liz thinks about how everyone always knew someone had spiked her and Sam’s punch, they just didn’t know who did it. That is such bullshit. Everyone was such a douchebrain right from the start. “Huhhhhhh, if you weren’t drinking Liz, how could you possibly have gotten drunk?”

Margo thinks about how hot Steven is and basically how she wishes she could bang him, but that might be weird since she’s supposed to be Elizabeth. Blehhhhhhh!

Jessica and Lila talk about Paris like Jessica has never been there before, despite the Spring Break Super Edition that’s set in France (and which I could swear has the twins dropping by Paris).

After she gets back from Paris, Lila has a dream about a sexy Frenchman named Jean-Claude. It’s not clear if this is a guy she invented in her dreams, or a dude she actually met in Paris. (Liz’s guy in the France Super Edition was also named Jean-Claude.)

At Lila’s ball, Bruce smooches Lila on the cheek and goes on and on about how hot she looks right in front of Pamela. I think we’re supposed to think this is cute and funny banter between friends, but considering that Bruce and Lila hate each others’ guts, and that this is Bruce we’re talking about, it’s really just creepy and shitty. Run, Pamela, run!

In the back of the book: There’s an ad for the next mini-series, which is called Sweet Valley Passion, is “sizzling” and is mercifully just three books long. I’m not sure I want to read another story that’s drawn out over a total of seven books. There are also two different ads for the “brand new” Sweet Valley University series. It tells us which books to look out for in 1994, so keep an eye out you guys.

Coming up next: Jessica is going to work off her dead boyfriend blues at some lush resort! Maybe it’s in Brazil and she’s finally claiming that Jungle Prom Queen prize she sacrificed so much for? Zing! Before I post that review, I’ll have a little write-up of an SVH read that’s much, much, MUCH shorter than The Evil Twin.

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