A 30-something's lovingly sarcastic journey through all of Sweet Valley High, and then some

Archive for March, 2019

#104 Love and Death in London

london foggy brain

Attack of the Nancy Drew knock-off

Hola! We’re back with a brand new mini-series, following the new formula Sweet Valley High has decided to follow. This mini-series is called “Sweet Valley Terror”… sound familiar? That was also what they called the Margo mini-series. And so far, this one has nothing to do with that one. Couldn’t they be more creative? I know they are (more creative) later on in the series, so I don’t get it. Oh well, on to the next nit-pick. Which is that this book is essentially the latest version of the old SVH detective story Super Thrillers, yet they wanted to keep it part of the regular series because they wanna drag it out for three books and pull in more Fear Street-fan readers. With that said, this book is super silly, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had with this series in a while. Seriously, I kind of love this.

So we left off a couple weeks after spring break #137 at Sweet Valley High, and now we’ve zoomed ahead to summer #137. Thanks to the previous two summers they spent interning at the Sweet Valley News, the twins were able to work connections to get a new summer internship at the London Journal. Imagine being a lucky 16-year-old for this many summers. Our story opens with the twins’ arrival in London. We learn that Lila threw the twins a going-away costume party. Damn, it is seriously canon that Lila Fowler loves her some costume parties. Lila showed the movie An American Werewolf in London and the book just goes ahead and spoils the whole plot for you. I know the assumption is that the readers have already watched all these old movies they mention, or that readers don’t give a crap, but fuck, people! The movie really gave Liz the heebie-jeebies and she will now bring it up periodically throughout this story as she’s suddenly got a crazy fear of werewolves. It doesn’t help that some creepy old lady growls at her on the street to “Beware the full moon”. Haha! I love how we’re supposed to think Liz is the smartest, most down-to-earth character in the whole book, and then they have her be all flighty and convinced that movies reflect real life. Seriously, after the whole The Boyfriend War sub-plot, this is starting to become an uncomfortable theme. Get some help girl.

Meanwhile, Jessica is busy acting like a moron and wheedling around thinking random dudes must be members of the royal family. This is where I should note that an entirely different royal family has been created for this book. The Queen is somebody other than Queen Elizabeth, and she has at least two sons, Prince Malcolm and Prince Douglas, and two daughters, Princesses Gloria and Eliana, all of whom are fairly young (20s and teens). Princess Eliana is missing and the newspapers are full of headlines about it with her face splashed all over everything. The twins wonder where on earth Princess Eliana could be.

The twins arrive at London’s Housing for International Students (HIS), which seems to be modeled after a real place in London called International Students House (ISH). Apparently, it’s not just for international students, as there are British kids staying there as well. The HIS house is run by a strict woman (well, strict compared to Alice Wakefield) named Mrs. Bates. The building is laid out with a main floor (where Mrs. Bates sleeps), the boys’ dorm floor, and then the girls’ dorm floor at the top. Jess and Liz sleep in bunk beds in a room with their two roommates, the snobby, wealthy, aspiring actress Portia Albert from Scotland, and the mysterious, poor, shelter worker from Liverpool, Lina Smith. Portia is the daughter of a Sir Montford Albert, and she roams around looking down on everyone (literally and figuratively), and everyone thinks she sucks at life. Lina seems cool, and she and Liz become friends. A guy named David Bartholomew who’s also from Liverpool, is staying at HIS to take summer classes at “London University”. He has a huge crush on Lina, but she doesn’t have much interest in talking to him and she definitely doesn’t want to talk about her life in Liverpool. Liz keeps thinking that Lina looks familiar, like someone she’s seen very recently, but can’t put her finger on who. Oh wow, I wonder who Lina could possibly be. Don’t worry, they’ll drop about 10,000 more hints before they tell us.

We meet some other HIS residents who become friends with the twins. There’s Emily  Cartwright, a friendly redhead from Sydney, who’s in London to intern at the BBC. She becomes fast friends with both twins. There’s Gabriello Moretti, an Italian university student and musician who’s “gorgeous”. And there’s freakin’ Rene Glize, the same one Liz was kinda-sorta involved with waaaaay back when in 1986 in Super Edition #3, Spring Break. My mouth fell open realizing they actually brought back a character that old. I had to go back and re-read my own damn recap to remember what happened because I’ve been dragging out this blog for too long. The backstory is that Rene was the mean son of the host mother the twins stayed with in Cannes. Rene got over his hatred of Americans, and then his fear of water to save Jessica from drowning. At the very end of the book, he and Liz developed feelings for each other but they kind of dropped it without telling what had happened. I think it was said they agreed to go on a date before Liz left. Now, Rene is in London to work at the French Embassy for the summer and he’s really happy to see Liz. We learn when they last saw each other they left off with a kiss. Now Liz is curious about him even though she’s long since gotten back together with Todd. Rene tells her that he’s made up with his father. Rene is also obviously still interested in Liz. By the way, the person writing this book does get a couple details wrong about the Spring Break story: They state that Liz was still seeing Todd when she had her barely-an-affair with Rene, which is not true as they had broken up in Super Edition #2 (Special Christmas), and Liz was between Todd and Jeffrey at the time. In fact, Jessica spent some time in that book chiding Liz about being single again for too long. They also misspell the name of Rene’s sister, Ferney, as Fernie.

That first night, Liz goes to bed looking at the waxing moon and shivering about what the old lady said earlier. You’re such a wimp, Liz!

The twins head to work at the Journal the next morning, and it just seems like a total shit show from day 1. They are sent back to the office of the editor, Henry Reeves, and he couldn’t give a fuck less that they’re there. He throws them at Tony Frank, the Society page editor, who quickly realizes the twins don’t care about the Society pages. Dude, Jessica Wakefield doesn’t care about covering fashionable parties and the London aristocracy? Is Jessica on something?  Tony throws them at Lucy Friday, Crime page editor. Haha! Her last name is Friday. Totally not contrived at all. Also, I think they’re trying to imply that Lucy and Tony have something going on because they can’t have male and female coworkers just be coworkers without a little somethin’ somethin’ happening.

Lucy tries to find something to make the twins do, and assigns them to the beat of Sergeant Bumpo, Scotland Yard’s hottest investigator. Haha, just kidding, he gets all the lame cases. Liz and Jess have to go with him to Knightsbridge to talk to one Lady Wimpole about her missing Yorkie, Poo-Poo. Christ, that name. Jessica jokingly suggests Sergent Bumpo investigate Cruella de Ville and Sergeant Bumpo has her spell it out for him so he can follow up, while Jess and Liz stand there giggling that he doesn’t know who that is. What the fuck on too many levels to name. The twins then decide to steal away from Bumpo and go check Lucy’s beat because she’s investigating the murder of a Dr. Cameron Neville and they’re disappointed they, the teenage interns, didn’t get to help cover this story. So they just sneak on over to this Dr. Neville’s house and spy on the investigation through the window, where they see Lucy standing next to his dead bloody body with two men, one of whom looks familiar. The dead body has a silver cigarette case in one hand. Lucy states into her recorder that Dr. Neville’s throat was ripped out “as if by a wild beast.” I can’t get over that Liz is voluntarily going along with all of this shit without so much as a mock scold at Jessica. My theory is that Margo really did manage to switch with Liz back in The Evil Twin. It’s Liz who got knocked through the window to her death at Lila’s; we just were led to believe otherwise.

Back at the news office, Liz is typing up the Poo-Poo story for publication when a boy she ran into earlier that day pops up and apologizes for not speaking to her. His name is Luke Shepherd and it seems he sometimes likes to fart around at work and write poetry instead of doing any actual work. Of course, that type of talk makes Liz hot so she enthusiastically agrees to go out with him for tea and scones. They go to a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb. God, I just Googled that pub name and guess what movie they took that from, hahahaa. American Werewolf in Paris, full moon, Shepherd, Slaughtered Lamb, it’s almost like there is a theme here but they’re hitting me over the head too hard with it for me to be certain.

Anyway, Luke spends tea time gushing over how perfect Sweet Valley sounds, moping about his deceased mother, and looking strangely angry about his pharmacist father, which is seriously the perfect combo for Liz. You know she’s bound to hop up on that dick sooner or later.

Meanwhile, Jessica is sent back out on Bumpo’s beat. They go to the house of Lady Pembroke, who called the fucking police because she had tea at Brown’s Hotel and the coat check girl gave her back a chinchilla when Lady Pembroke knows she checked a MINK. Just then, Lady Pembroke’s husband, Lord Robert, and his son, Lord Robert Jr.  show up. Jessica is instantly melting off her chair over younger Lord Robert. He takes her out to tea (at Brown’s, natch, just to irritate his mother), where he basically talks about what a rake he is and how he’s missing his cigarette case. Gee, maybe he dropped it at Dr. Neville’s. He also brags about how his father owns the London Journal. Jessica is too busy drooling in her tea at the latest hot rich dude to care that he is a total drag. I’m glad she, at least, he hasn’t had a total lobotomy recently unlike that other twin. Later on at dinner, the other HIS kids laugh about Robert’s reputation. Lina suddenly cuts in and insists that “Rob” isn’t so bad, then catches herself. LOL, worst imposter ever. Lina, please see Portia about some acting lessons.

Back in their room that night, the girls fawn over their new love interests. Liz tells Jessica that Luke took her on a literary tour of London after their tea, and Jessica yawns in her face. Liz privately feels guilty that she’s developing feelings for Luke behind Todd’s back even though she’s been down this same road too many times to count at this point. Then Jessica notices that there’s a note and a rose on Liz’s pillow. It’s from Rene, asking Liz out on a dinner date for the next night. Liz writes back and accepts. Then the girls go grab a copy of the evening newspaper so they can see their stories in the Crime section. To their surprise, there’s a story about missing Princess Eliana on the front page again, instead of anything about Dr. Neville’s brutal murder. They find Lucy Friday’s story about Dr. Neville’s death shoved into the back of the paper, and there’s no indication that it was a murder at all. The twins are disturbed. They also figure out who the two men were that they saw at the scene with Lucy: one was the elder Lord Robert, and the other was Andrew Thatcher, London chief of police. They decide Lord Robert, as owner of the paper, must be in cahoots with Chief Thatcher to cover up the truth about Dr. Neville.

Gabriello’s friend Basil’s band Lunar Landscape is playing at the hot club Mondo in London that night, but the 11 PM curfew at HIS means everyone will have to sneak out past Mrs. Bates if they want to see the show. So, they get a group together and do just that. After making sure Portia won’t tattle on them (they ask her to go, but she says she doesn’t want to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi), the group has Lina go to Mrs. Bates in her room asking for headache medicine. Lina then manages to switch her room key with Mrs. Bates’ front door key. Jessica, Liz, Lina, David, Gabriello, and Emily then all slip out together, and meet Gabriello’s girlfriend Sophie at the club. Jessica can’t wait to meet Basil the bassist, because he’s cute. Haha, at least Jess is still herself in that she’s boy crazy and admits it, unlike Liz who’s boy crazy but tries to act holier than thou. Everyone’s head is spinning at club Mondo looking at all the London aristocracy just waltzing by right in front of the commoners. Jessica and Emily spot Lady Anne Binghamton and Emily starts talking about how she used to date Prince Malcolm, then Lina corrects her and says she actually dated Prince Douglas. Then Emily thinks she spies the prime minister’s son, Percy Camden, and Lina is all, “No, that’s his nephew Harry.” Of course, everyone wants to know how she could possibly know who these fucking people are better than gossip rag-hound Emily, and so Lina makes some obvious shit up. Liz suggests Lina and David dance and Lina keeps making excuses. Then Princess Gloria walks by and the group is stunned and they all start gossiping, but Lina freaks the fuck out when she sees Gloria. Lina says she is sick, and leaves the club. Liz tears after her after telling Jess they’ll leave the key under the flowerpot for the group so they can stay later. Lina tells Liz she was just getting overheated. The pair get slightly lost in the fog strolling home, and then they come across the body of Poo-Poo the Yorkie with his throat ripped out. Lovely evening. The police are called and just kind of yawn like, “Oh we’ll come get the body in the morning.” Liz takes lots of pictures of the dead dog because she thinks she’s Miss Marple.

In the morning, everyone who snuck out is yawning all over the place. Rene finds Liz and tells her how much he’s looking forward to their date that evening. The twins get to work and find Lucy screaming and yelling at Henry Reeves for fucking up her Dr. Neville story. She quits in a huff – Tony Frank tries to change her mind, but she yells about a cover-up and how she won’t work for a dishonest newspaper and storms out.

Liz gets the afternoon off so she can go on a sightseeing tour of London with Luke. He takes her to Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and the Wax Museum. At the Wax Museum, they see figures of the royal family and Liz wonders where on earth Princess Eliana is. The papers are now saying she’s been kidnapped, but it’s just a sensationalist theory seemed made to distract from the truth about Dr. Neville. Then Liz and Luke look at a wax figure of a werewolf and Liz is seriously about to pee herself with fright. Get a fuckin’ grip, Liz, you wilted daffodil! Luke starts giving her werewolf facts and she’s so impressed. Turns out Luke’s mother was a werewolf aficionado. Haha, this shit is so goofy, I love it.

That night, Luke takes Liz for a meal at the Gloucester Arms pub, which is real (and yes I keep Googling this shit). Liz fills Luke in on the cover-up of Dr. Neville’s death and they get all hot and bothered over their amateur detective status. When Luke drops Liz off at HIS, he kisses her on the cheek and then she looks up to see Rene standing there glowering at them from the front door. Liz totally forgot about her date with her OTHER side piece. Rene doesn’t forgive her and stomps off. Haha, pimpin’ ain’t easy Liz.

Meanwhile, Jessica is back in the dorm room looking for something to wear for a date with Lord Robert that evening. She and Emily find a fancy dress in the closet that isn’t theirs and wouldn’t fit Portia. They realize it must be Lina’s, and are stunned that a poor girl like Lina can afford a dress like that. They figure she must’ve stolen it because there’s just no other explanation. Bitches. Jess finally gets dressed and gets Mrs. Bates to give her an extension on her curfew because Mrs. Bates is totally nuts about the royal family and is impressed by who Jessica’s date is. Give me a fucking break! Robert takes Jessica to dinner at La Mouton Noir French restaurant and then out to Club U.S.A. Hahahahahaa, Club U.S.A.! That’s what it’s freakin’ called. Sounds kinda gauche. They see Princess Gloria there toying with some guy named Burton and Robert explains that Gloria is quite the player. He then starts talking about how he’s been expelled from numerous schools. How romantic. He starts naming off members of the aristocracy he can introduce Jessica to, and offers Jessica an invitation for her, Liz, and Liz’s “beau” to join him at Pembroke Manor in the country that weekend. Jessica accepts and starts daydreaming about marrying Robert. BARF.

Todd calls Liz on the HIS house phone, and she feels guilty about all her little budding affairs. Wah. After finishing her conversation with Todd, Liz comes upstairs where Portia starts asking her questions about her family and seems wistful or something. Liz thinks about how she overheard Portia on the phone earlier, assuring her father she’d be getting a part soon, even though she’s already bragging to people she has roles. Liz is surprised Portia isn’t being snotty to her for a change. Portia goes back to the snob act two minutes later, so that’s the end of that. Lina happens to be in the shower at the time, and Liz sees her glasses lying out. Liz puts them on for no apparent reason, and is surprised to find they’re clear glass. That night, Jessica, Liz, and Lina sneak downstairs to raid the kitchen and gossip. Jess and Liz later whisper about how Lina is so strange, wearing non-corrective glasses, owning a fancy dress when she’s poor, and wearing an expensive nightgown to bed, and how she must be hiding something. WHAT COULD IT BE????

The next day, the twins root through the London Journal’s microfiche files looking for other suspicious deaths. They find an article from a few weeks ago about a Nurse Handley’s death, though there aren’t many details. It seems glossed over like the Dr. Neville article so they decide it must be another cover-up. They and Luke fill Tony Frank in on their suspicions and he takes them to see Lucy. Lucy confirms that Nurse Handley’s throat was ripped out just like Dr. Neville’s and Poo-Poo’s. She also says that the cigarette case found at Dr. Neville’s house had the initials RHP, which match both older and younger Lord Robert Pembroke’s initials. Lucy is certain that there is a serial killer on the loose and that Henry Reeves wants to cover it up for some reason. Tony Frank starts chiding her about speculation and she bitches him out and accuses him of plotting to take over her Crime editor job all along, so everyone leaves. Liz then goes on a picnic with Lina, Emily, David, and Gabriello and watches David mope around after Lina, who continues to seem somewhat interested in him, but shies away whenever he gets too close or wants to talk about Liverpool life. Liz promises to help get Lina and David together because her own love life doesn’t have enough drama.

That night, Portia stuns everyone by leaving tickets to see her on opening night in a West End play, A Common Man, for the next night. At the last minute, Lina refuses to go and confesses to Liz that she’s Princess Eliana. You see, Eliana was tired of being a princess and wanted to see what it was like being a real, unsheltered girl who could give back to the world without paparazzi all in her face, so she ran away, cut and dyed her hair, and put on some fake glasses and that was enough to fool people because apparently everyone else needs real glasses. And she doesn’t want someone to recognize her at the play and blow her secret so she can’t go. Dude, if Liz is stupid enough to not be able to recognize her … Eliana claims she told her family she was safe, so I’m not sure why she was so afraid of being seen by Gloria the other night at club Mondo. Liz promises to keep Lina’s secret, and to find a way to get Lina and David together.

Liz and the rest of the HIS gang goes to see the play without Lina and is surprised to see Portia’s name is listed as Penelope Abbott in the program. After the show, Portia explains her famous actor father, Lord Albert, is an asshole who always told her that her acting sucked, so she has been auditioning for roles under a different name because she doesn’t want to be accused of only succeeding because she’s her father’s daughter. Liz realizes Portia’s snobby act was just her preparing for her role in the play (as a snobby daughter) and explains that to everyone else and now they’re all cool with Portia. I’m not sure I buy it, but I’m supposed to also buy that werewolves exist, so I guess I sort of have to.

Prior to going out to see Portia in the play, the twins go out with Bumpo again to solve a case of some exploding produce. It seems a farmer was sneaking explosives into a rival farmer’s vegetables. Bumpo solves it after getting some food blown up half an inch from his face and surviving! Hurrah for our man Bumpo! The twins then tour Piccadilly Circus with Luke, where Jessica has her fortune told while Liz sneers about how Jessica believes in that stuff. Shut up, werewolf wench. The fortune teller only says to beware of the full moon. Jessica thinks it’s a rip off, but Liz is super skeeeered for someone who doesn’t believe in fortune telling.

That Friday, the twins take the day off to take the train to Pembroke Manor with Luke. Man, they just started this internship and they’re already getting all this flippin’ time off! I feel like the newspaper office just wants their annoying asses out of the way.

Present at the manor besides Robert, his parents, the twins, and Luke are Andrew Thatcher (the police chief) and his blond fiancee, Joy Singleton. Everyone introduces themselves and the elder Lord Pembroke seems to have some kind of problem with Luke’s last name being Shepherd.  I would have a problem with his stuck-up ass in general. Everyone goes out horseback riding and Liz and Luke decide to take a separate trail because they think they’re too good to ride with the others. They come to a clearing where Luke gives Liz a pendant to protect her against werewolves and starts in on his full moon bullshit again, then they start making out. I feel like Luke is real slick.

I should mention that Luke and Liz don’t even want to be at the manor; they’re only going because their little Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy asses want to investigate the cover-up at the newspaper. Liz can’t stop sticking her nose up at everyone. When Jessica ogles Joy’s clothes, Liz starts haughtily snarking about how snotty she’s sure Joy is, even though she literally just met her. Fuck you Liz, you ungrateful bitch, sitting there having lobster bisque served to you at the home you’re only visiting under false pretenses, while you think about how much better you are than everyone else as you cheat on your boyfriend and poop in your divine underwear over werewolves.

At dinner that night, the Constable comes by to inform Lord Robert the elder that four of his sheep have had their throats torn out. Jessica almost faints into her lobster bisque. The dinner party is now a downer so it breaks up real quick. Jessica and Robert take a walk in the garden and make out while Liz and Luke hang out indoors talking about werewolves and also making out. Luke is pulling a lot of that “I’ll protect you Liz” and positioning himself as the ultimate authority on werewolves. I’m telling you, this guy is laughing it up behind her back. That night, Liz has a nightmare about Robert and Luke, or maybe it was Robert and Rene, chasing after her yelling to beware the full moon. She wakes up in a panic and goes to check on Jessica. She finds Jessica face down in her bed, dead, with her throat torn out and starts screaming. Luke busts in and declares Jessica dead. Yeah fucking right, you know when they roll that body over in the next book, it’s going to be Joy.

The cover: Nice shot of Big Ben in the background. Nice trenchcoats on Liz and Jess as they roam around in the summer. I have no idea which twin is which since Liz isn’t wearing her barrettes. The girl on the left looks almost brunette though. The scene at the left is hilarious. Look at Liz cowering behind Luke while he mansplains about werewolves. She looks pathetic! Oh no, a creepy wax figure. Luke ain’t all that.

Other stuff: Jessica didn’t know that drivers in England use the left lane and flips out on her drive to HIS, thinking the taxi driver is using the wrong side of the road. Hurrrr! Didn’t she just watch a freakin’ movie set in London? And did she not notice the taxi driver was seated on the “wrong” side of the front seat? How did she survive her drive from the airport to the resort in Jamaica since they use the left lane there too? Why do I ask these questions?

Robert laments that his father packed him off to “Eaton” as a boy and I felt like I was supposed to know what that was so I started Googling shit again. I think they were trying to reference Eton College boarding school and failed miserably.

David tells the other HIS kids that he had two American college classmates named Zack and Kelly who didn’t know shit about Liverpool other than The Beatles were from there, and they excitedly asked him if he knew the Beatles. I’m laughing because when this book came out, it was during the first (and only) season of Saved by the Bell: The College Years, featuring Zack and Kelly. Nice reference ghostwriter especially because I could see Zack and Kelly asking just that question.

Jessica calls Liz “such a reverse snob” for making all kinds of snotty assumptions about Joy’s wealth & I’m dying. It’s funny ’cause it’s true!

Tony calls the twins “the children” at one point. I know they technically are children, but that seems like an odd thing to call two 16-year-olds, especially when they’ve been 16 for 11 years.

Fun fact: The Clash’s “London Calling” was in my head the whole time I was reading this.

In the back of the book: There’s an ad for the new series The Unicorn Club, which chronicles the twins’ lives as 7th graders, post-Sweet Valley Twins series. I felt a little old for Unicorn Club when it came out but I bought two of the books at the time, and I liked them. I still have them. I’ll have to review them much later on. 🙂

Coming up next … I guess we’ll find out if Jessica is really dead and who killed her. My money is on Liz; she finally snapped and, in a fit of rage, took her anger out on Jess for all the misery she’s put her entire family through since 1983. RRRRRrrrip!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m looking forward to the second werewolf book! This is so much better than Bruce raging about his parents for three straight books!

#103 Operation Love Match

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Operation “Suddenly everyone cares about Bruce”

So we’re on the last book of the “Sweet Valley Passion” mini-series and, to recap, Bruce’s parents are splitting up and Bruce is acting like a fool to pretty much everyone in the state of California over it. Also, there was a Bruce/Liz thing going on that ended with Pamela and Bruce breaking up. Liz and Todd are still together even though Todd caught Liz and Bruce making out wildly in the kitchen, because I guess Todd realizes he still owes Liz one for that whole thing with her twin sister a few books back. Oh, and the thing with Suzanne Devlin, the thing with Courtney what’s-her-face from that one Super Edition, and so on and so forth.

I’m not liking this cover at all. Jessica and Liz both look nothing like Liz and Jess are supposed to look other than being blonde. Liz is doing the exact same face on this cover that she was doing on the last cover. If she wasn’t, I wouldn’t even be sure that’s Liz, since her barrettes haven’t been seen since pre-A Night to Remember. Jessica is sorta doing the exact same face, except it’s not the same girl. And what the hell is Liz wearing? I think it’s supposed to be a plaid schoolgirl-style skirt because at the time this came out, those types of skirts were starting to come back in style for teens. It kinda looks like Bermuda shorts though. I think they got the rest of the look totally off. Lawd, things I never thought I’d be doing at this age #4027: critiquing 1990s Sweet Valley fashion looks. Bruce is not getting off the hook. What is up with that shirt? Is it a mock turtleneck with imitation cap sleeves? Who styled him, the reject pile in Dana Larson’s closet? And look at that fake-ass sad expression. I think he’s doing his best Steven Wakefield impression.

Our story begins with Jessica hanging out at Casey’s Place having ice cream “to beat the heat” with Lila, Amy, Winston, and Maria because she forgot she’s supposed to be meeting Liz and Bruce to talk about how Jessica will magically reunite Bruce’s parents. Lila has gotten Jessica on an astrology kick and Jessica is reading what happens to be a real book, Linda Goodman’s Love Signs. I had this same book when I wasn’t much older than Jessica, hahaha. We learn that the twins are Geminis (how convenient) and Lila is a Leo, though I think they’ve mentioned these were their signs before. Lila reads Jessica’s horoscope out of Sweet Sixteen magazine and informs her that because Mercury is in retrograde, and Mercury rules Jessica’s sign, Jess is in for a hell of a month. Doesn’t this mean that Liz is also in for a hell of a month? Nobody talks about that. However, Lila is once again talking about throwing yet another costume party. I swear to God I have never heard of so many damn costume parties in my life. But Lila and Jessica are momentarily distracted by some hot new rich dude named Michael Hampton, a senior at SVH, who’s moved to town from Boston, because his dad is directing a Hollywood movie or something. So they sit there and salivate over him and then Jessica remembers she’s supposed to be meeting Bruce and Liz and takes off running.

She shows up well over half an hour late at their meeting spot on the athletic fields and those two dumbasses actually waited for her to show up – in a heat wave. At least she has the decency to trip and fall flat on her face on her way over to them, because Mercury’s in retrograde and all that. Then Liz and Bruce want to know what Jessica’s big plan is, so she quickly decides they will use the power of the zodiac to reconcile the Patmans, starting with a fake love letter. Oh boy. Oh yeah, and Bruce is thinking about how much he misses Pamela but how he really was “a little in love” with Liz and felt “humiliated” watching Todd and Liz’s “tender reconciliation.” Gross!

The twins have dinner with their parents, now both home from their respective business trips, and Alice starts spilling the beans to Ned about the twins’ little pool party and says they have to discuss it and come up with an appropriate punishment. She’s actually going to punish them this time? She says nothing about Liz having Todd over all week and I’m just wondering why she doesn’t at least want to give her daughter a birth control talk or something. Alice also suddenly remembers her younger twin is a psychopath and says she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for Jessica to try and get the Patmans back together after all. She demands they back off their plans that she just helped them come up with at the end of the last book! Yeah right. Ned even goes, “As a family, we’ve never believed in meddling in other people’s private affairs …” WHO THE FUCK IS HE KIDDING? That statement is a huge lie and obviously grounds for disbarment.

Anyway, Liz is obviously now just a slightly less wild Jessica (as Jessica keeps pointing out) so she says F the rules, and she and Jessica agree they have to mail the fake love letter to Mrs. Marie Patman, just because they promised Bruce they would. They compose a letter on Liz’s brand new laptop, Jessica smears her dad’s cologne all over it (why though?) and then goes outside to mail it. Just as she drops it in, she remembers that she forgot to put a goddamn stamp on it. So she reaches in hoping to be able to grab it, but of course she can’t, and then her bracelets are stuck. At that very moment, both hot Michael and a cop happen to come by. The cop yells at Jessica over his loudspeaker to stop breaking into the mailbox, then he starts threatening her and she starts sassing him. I’m waiting for him to say, “Aren’t you that girl that spiked her sister’s punch and killed her own boyfriend?” but of course he doesn’t. And then *of course* Michael waltzes up and frees Jessica from the mailbox. Jessica is embarrassed and lies and tells Michael her name is Elizabeth Wakefield, then the cop takes Jessica to the station to have her arrested where I guess she gave her real name, and then Ned comes down there and since he’s the hotshot lawyer in town he’s able to talk them into letting his daughter go. I’m about to WTF all over the place except I already know that as the hot, white, blonde twin daughters of everyone’s favorite lawyer who specializes in every field, that these twins can get away with whatever the hell they want. I mean, both of them are walking around scot-free from Sam’s death and all. Also, this scene is a little throwback to that time in the very first book when Jessica lied and told a cop she was Liz so her “reputation” wouldn’t be ruined. Although no one really seems concerned about that reputation shit now … ‘cuz those reputations are straight GARBAGE at this point!

Liz comes back from a hot date with Todd, because apparently her parents don’t care that much yet that he was just “living with” their daughter last week, and finds Jessica back home and in serious trouble, although Jessica apparently lied and said she was trying to get back a letter she wrote to Cara Walker in London, so her parents aren’t really all that mad about her digging around in the mailbox. But now Liz and Jess have to hear what their punishment is for their shenanigans last week. For throwing the party with no parents, they get grounded for a week. OMG, A WHOLE WEEK?? NO WAY! And for having Todd stay over, Liz has to do the chores for a whole week … isn’t that what she always winds up doing anyway? Some punishment! After the twins learn about their “punishments”, Jessica whines at Liz and tries to wheedle out of helping Bruce any further. But Liz must still have the secret hots for Bruce, because she manipulates Jess into doing it by implying Michael Hampton is likely friends with Bruce since they’re both wealthy and live in the same neighborhood, and Bruce might put in a good word with Michael if Jessica helps him. Man, you know something, as much as I ragged on Liz in the past, I’m kind of missing her old stodgy, goody-two-shoes self. I hope this trend of her turning into Jessica-lite-lite is over soon.

At school, Liz is hanging out with Bruce because they’re best friends now, which Todd is still struggling with, and Liz is upset he can’t handle that she keeps hanging out with the same dude that she nearly let bend her over a kitchen counter last week. Bruce mopes around after Pamela a tad, but she wants nothing to do with him because she’s smart. At lunch, Liz tells Bruce what happened with the letter while they wait for Jessica to show up to work out their next steps, but Jessica never shows and they actually give up this time. As they walk down the hall, they hear Jessica shouting for help from inside her locker. Yes, she’s stuck in there because she tried to get her history paper out, and then some football guys accidentally closed the door on her and didn’t notice. Sounds ridiculous, but, Mercury in retrograde everyone! Todd gets her out of there and Bruce grumbles because he has to help put a bunch of shit back in Jessica’s locker that she dropped when she fell in or something. Michael Hampton apparently witnesses this whole thing and Jessica is once again humiliated and starts loudly calling Liz “Jessica’ so that Mike will think Liz is the one who keeps getting stuck in mailboxes and lockers.

Liz and Jessica decide to meet up with Bruce at the Dairi Burger after school. Yes, they’re supposed to be grounded, but don’t worry, they always find some way to get around that crazy fact. And, they are STUNNED, stunned I say, that the major after-school hangout for all of Sweet Valley High is, guess what, packed with Sweet Valley High students, when they need to have a private conversation. I hope they all get a bad batch of the clam special and shit themselves in front of everyone. Instead, Jessica and Bruce bicker with one another before Jessica accidentally knocks her strawberry milkshake and Bruce’s water over, because Mercury’s in retrograde. Bruce gets milkshake on his khaki pants and I guess that’s sort of funny. He tells the twins that his parents are meeting with their divorce lawyers, the Traceys, the next day to finalize things. (The Traceys are a couple and each Patman has a different Tracey as their lawyer. How … twee.) Jessica quickly comes up with some wild plan that isn’t immediately explained and they all agree to meet up at 5 AM the next morning to carry out part A.

On the way out of the Dairi Burger, Bruce sees Pamela and tries to talk to her, but Pamela sees he’s with Liz and is pissed off, so he goes home and tosses and turns thinking about her. Wah, wah, Bruce. Jessica plunks herself down at a table where Michael Hampton is sitting by himself, introduces herself (as Jessica this time), and starts babbling, but he seems disinterested, probably because she’s putting on some weird accent, and he gets up and abruptly leaves. We then get Michael’s point of view and learn he’s a poor little rich boy that feels out of place all the time and secretly thinks Jessica’s clumsy antics are adorable, although he of course thinks it’s Liz doing those. I think Michael is kind of creepy. He’s always standing around staring mopily at people.

5 AM arrives and Bruce picks the twins up and takes them to the Traceys’ house where they proceed to put super glue into the ignition of both Traceys’ Saabs. We’re supposed to just believe the Traceys leave their nice cars sitting unlocked in their driveway, because no crime ever happens in Sweet Valley. What I really can’t believe is that Liz is voluntarily committing vandalism. Oh yeah, and it’s raining in Sweet Valley! Like, pouring down rain to the point Liz has to put on a coat and Jessica puts her mom’s pink scarf over her head (which has “Alice” written all over it … remember that detail). Of course, mercury’s in retrograde so I guess that explains these highly unusual weather conditions. And it’s also supposed to explain why Jessica does stuff like accidentally lean on the horn of the Saab she’s doctoring and make a noise loud enough to wake the dead (watch out, Sam’s gonna come shuffling out!). Bruce peels off with the girls before the Traceys wake up and catch them, and they see a cop and think they’re going to get arrested, but he’s not interested in them (probably because he saw who they were and didn’t want to get stuck listening to Ned Wakefield doing his pseudo-lawyer babble again).

At school, Jessica changes into an Alice Wakefield business skirt suit for phase 2 of their plan. Bruce is waiting for her outside, where he runs into Pamela and starts telling her the sob story of his parents splitting up. Pamela is starting to fall for it when Jessica runs up. Based on how she’s dressed, Pamela assumes she’s Liz, gets upset and leaves, so then Bruce starts getting grouchy at Jessica. Bruce and Jessica prepare to drive to the Traceys’ office building, where Jessica is supposed to totter in and leave the Patmans’ wedding photo album lying around for them to find while they wait for the Traceys, who should be late since their ignitions are totally fucked. What the fuck kind of plan is this? Before Bruce and Jessica can leave, though, Jessica drops the photo album on the ground, falls and sends a shoe flying, and then the wind blows her skirt up and shows off her “MONDAY” day of the week underwear to Michael Hampton, who’s watching them from across the parking lot because of course he is. Is this fool related to Mr. Beckwith?

Jessica starts demanding that Bruce call her Liz again so that Michael won’t suspect it’s her, and then they speed off. Jessica’s luck doesn’t improve at the Traceys’ office building. On her way in, the security guards stop her to see her building pass, although they just hand over a guest pass without any hassle whatsoever when she acts official. The elevator gets stuck with Jessica in it and so the whole wedding album plan doesn’t work because there’s apparently no emergency call button in there, so she just yanks on the doors freaking out, and hitting all the other buttons or some shit. The Patmans show up but the guards don’t ask them for their building passes, of course, and when the Patmans notice the elevator is broken the guards are just like, “Oh yeah, whatever.” So the Patmans take the stairs up to the Traceys’ office and wait and wait and wait … the receptionist explains they’re having “car trouble” which means they’re trying to get some goddamn glue out of their fucking cars. I wonder how much that shit would cost to fix? These twins suck. Then Marie and Henry start reminiscing about their honeymoon in Paris on their own, no wedding album needed! We learn that the whole reason they are getting divorced is because Marie seriously thought Henry was cheating on her with Alice Wakefield. And Henry just didn’t bother to correct her and let her go through with filing a divorce. Seriously, that’s the whole reason? Okay, so Henry has been kind of absent for a long time but damn, you’d think they could work that shit out. Instead Henry just refused to let Marie know that he hasn’t touched Alice because I guess that would be too easy. This is a weird fucking couple. Now Henry starts telling Marie that there’s nothing between him and Alice and she’s all, “Aw, really?” They make up and agree to call off the divorce and leave before the Traceys get there. They’re on their way to The Ocean Terrace restaurant when Henry suddenly pulls Alice’s scarf out of his pocket. We later learn, once I’m far past the point of caring, that Henry put on Bruce’s coat by mistake because it looks just like a coat he has. You see, Marie once bought Henry and Bruce special matching coats and scarves. And since Jessica was wearing the scarf and Bruce’s coat earlier while in the rain trying to doctor the Traceys’ cars, she must have left Alice’s scarf in there. Mr. Patman pulled the scarf out because he thought it was his coat and that he was pulling out a scarf Marie gave him. Instead he’s standing there waving a scarf with “Alice” on it all around like a big jackass. He insists he has no idea how it got there, but Marie flips out and storms out of the building. The elevator starts working again and delivers Jessica to the lobby just in time for her to witness this.

Jessica and Liz are late to school the next day because Jessica’s alarm clock didn’t go off for the third time this week, because mercury’s in retrograde. I call bullshit; this one is typical Jessica. But Liz actually waited for her to get up because she wanted to spend the time writing a heartfelt letter to her journal about that whole Bruce and Todd thing. Jesus, that makes me want to go back to bed myself ’cause BOR-ING.

When the girls show up to school, Jessica thinks she’s looking fug with baggy eyes and funky hair, and flips out when they run into Michael, who was probably hanging around behind a corner waiting for them to walk by anyway! So she starts acting like she’s Liz again. Liz keeps catching Michael staring at her because he’s crushing on fake Liz and apparently didn’t notice that Fake Liz had on a totally different outfit that same morning when they were together. The fuck? He knows they’re twins. I can’t with this mess. And at lunch time, Jessica sits with Michael uninvited, announces herself as Jessica even though he already saw her in that same outfit as “Liz” earlier, and keeps making a big deal out of how clumsy her sister is. She doesn’t think anything of it when Michael keeps wanting to talk about that same clumsy sister.

The next day is Friday, and Michael leaves flowers at Liz’s locker, with a card with a poem in it about how Liz is the clumsy girl of his dreams and asking her to let him drive her home that day. Liz puts two and two together and realizes it’s Jessica that Michael wants. Instead of just straightening things out, she accepts Michael’s offer as herself, then proceeds to act totally boring and weird so that he’ll realize Jessica’s ruse on his own. What the fuck, I fail to see how that makes any sense. But the plan works and Michael realizes he’s actually crushing on Jessica without Liz having to come out and say so because nobody can just talk to each other in these fucking books.

Winston and Maria decide to throw a “bring your own burger” barbecue party on the beach Friday night. Jessica and Liz are still grounded and despite their begging and pleading and attempts at negotiating, Alice stuns me by refusing to budge and let them to go to the party. Wow, amazing. Lila takes advantage of the situation by asking Michael to the Bring Your Own Burger party, but they don’t bring their own damn burgers so that’s bullshit. After they eat, Michael feels awkward and weird and out of place trying to get along with everyone, and he winds up just darting out of the party early. Lila is outraged and declares Jessica can have him. Well, I just want to eat a burger.

Meanwhile, people at the party gossip about how Bruce and Liz seem to be a thing since they’re always together. I really hate this Bruce-Liz storyline; it’s just so dumb and Liz is so full of herself about it with Todd. Any sympathy I had for Liz during the whole drawn-out Jungle Prom/Margo storyline is rapidly evaporating.

In Bruce parents drama, Jessica came up with a new plan to have an entire flower shop’s worth of goldenrod sent to Marie’s new house, because it seems gold is one of Marie’s favorite colors. Only Marie is actually allergic to goldenrod and so now she’s in the hospital. We haven’t had a major health scare since the last book so it was about time for something like that to happen. Henry shows up in Marie’s hospital room, and he tries to make up with her, and explain he doesn’t know why Alice’s scarf was in his coat pocket, but Marie doesn’t believe him and yells she wants to finalize the divorce, because we still have 48 pages left in the book and so they gotta drag it out a little longer. Also, Henry figures out it was Bruce who ordered the flowers but just doesn’t say anything. I hope Marie shows up at the Patman manse and shoves goldenrod flowers down her son’s throat. Oh yeah, speaking of flowers, I don’t think Liz ever told Jessica that Michael sent her flowers either. I hope the ghost of Margo appears and shoves flowers down Liz’s throat.

Jessica comes up with another scheme to keep this bullshit toodling along. Liz will secretly tape record Alice explaining her history with Henry yet again, and then drop it off at Marie Patman’s mailbox so she can hear the truth and hear Alice say that there’s nothing between her and Henry once Alice is done revamping the whole “almost married” story (which Marie already knows about). Only Jessica accidentally puts another tape that she made as a test in the mailbox instead, and that tape just has her and Lila gossiping on it. They realize this right after dropping off the tape but I guess it’s too late for them to just go back over there and fucking put in the correct tape. Lord have mercy I’m tired of this storyline.

so Jessica comes up with her last big scheme. Bruce will ask each parent (separately) to meet him in the screening room at the Patman estate at the same time, and then when they show up, if they don’t automatically kill each other, Bruce and the twins will do some kind of surprise special presentation on their love with some memorabilia from the Patman wedding lying around, or something. Only Bruce has to go rent a projector from a shop in Bridgewater – yeah fucking right, these rich business people don’t own their own projector, OKAY.  Bruce gets a flat tire on his way back, and his spare tire is also flat so he’s late, and then Jessica gets her toe stuck in the bathtub faucet and she and Liz then get trapped in their bathroom, so they’re late. I was hoping the ghost of Sam would materialize in the mirror and drown both of them but no luck.

So Marie and Henry show up  to this meeting with Bruce and he’s not there, and they weren’t expecting to see each other so they wonder what the fuck is going on, then they notice some of the wedding memorabilia Bruce had left out, and then they realize Henry wrote Bruce’s coat by mistake and find Jessica’s keys in there and figure everything out or something. Congratulations. They make up in two seconds. Then Bruce and twins rush in late and catch them making out on the couch while watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s. How precious.

To wrap up the whole dumb Michael-Jessica storyline that’s been woven in, Michael calls Jessica and asks her out, but then he takes her to the Dairi Burger, spills a milkshake on her, gets a fender bender, and steps on a “jellyfish … a poisonous jellyfish!” on the beach because I guess there are non-poisonous jellyfish that you can step on. Jessica is disillusioned and I hope we never hear of Michael ever again. Oh yeah, and Bruce finds Pamela on the tennis court and tells her he never loved Liz (you liar! you were just thinking to yourself that you did!). She shoves a tennis racket down his throat. Just kidding, they make up! THUMBS DOWN.

Other stuff: Liz refers to Alice and Hank’s romance as “her mother’s ancient love story.” DAMN! She basically just said her mom is old as fuck!

Jessica reads another astrology book called The Sun, the Stars, and You but this one seems to be fake.

The way this book presents the story of Pamela-Bruce-Liz seems off from what actually happened. Pamela says Bruce left her for Liz instead of Pamela dumping him, and then Bruce says that Liz “dumped” him for Todd which isn’t really true either.

Liz’s Oracle newspaper column is back to being called “Personal Profiles” again! What is up with this back and forth? Why am I even asking?

The ghostwriter totally forgot that Scott Trost is Jean’s boyfriend, not her best friend Sandy’s, as Jean happily tells everyone that Scott brought Sandy roses as a romantic gesture and everyone acts like there’s nothing off-the-wall about that. Or maybe there really isn’t, ’cause I always said Scott was a jerk anyway.

Barry Rork disappeared off the face of the earth in the first half of the book, and Amy kept scoping out dudes like crazy, but then he magically reappeared at the barbecue.

This book didn’t manage to forget that Liz once had a word processor. They say that she gave it to Jessica once she got her new laptop. Then the paper that Jessica typed up on it vanishes … because, say it with me boys and girls, MERCURY’S IN RETROGRADE!

Liz thinks about how all of Jessica’s crazy, spur-of-the-moment schemes never end well and recounts a few, but conveniently leaves out the Jungle Prom shit.

There’s a dude named Jason Wynter, a senior at Bridgewater High who for some reason belongs to the Sweet Valley Country Club, and Lila and Amy are salivating over him (along with Michael Hampton). Lila goes on a date with him, but finds him totally boring.

New town: San Farando, where Jason takes Lila on a date to Pedro’s Mexican restaurant.

Return of a random character: Jason Mann hoots and hollers at Liz and Todd as they make out in the cafeteria. Jason was a basketball player who I think was last mentioned all the way back in Slam Book Fever. I wonder if the same ghostwriter did both books.

Along with the Linda Goodman book, there are some other real life name drops, which are highly unusual for this series: Coke gets a mention as Bruce Patman’s morning beverage of choice, plus Burberry of London is discussed a lot as the wool coat-maker of choice for the Patmans. Did they pay Bantam Books to shill their shit?

In the back of the book: The usual shill for Sweet Valley fan club, the Sweet Valley University series, and “A Night to Remember” + Sweet Valley Terror mini-series.

Coming up next: Some shit about a werewolf?

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