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

Archive for the ‘Magna Editions’ Category

#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 …

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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:

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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.

Magna Edition #3 A Night to Remember

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ONE NIGHT ….

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…WOULD RESULT IN SOME UGLY PHOTOS FOR POSTERITY.

Here we go, kids. This is it. The “original” SVH format is officially over, and now, here we are in June 1993, the time when the highly hyped A Night to Remember was released and the series took a major soap opera turn. I have never read this book or any of the ones that followed, so this is truly a brand new journey for me. I’m trying to act like I’m not excited about this, but am already failing miserably! Hey, I’m currently stuck indoors with a bad cold. I take my joys where I can find ’em, and right now that’s in the pages of this 345-page book! Let’s get into the winding plot of SVH’s third Magna Edition and the one that changed it all …

Elizabeth and Jessica are getting ready for a big Sweet Valley High beach party and talking about how it’s been a while since Sweet Valley had any big fun dances going on (or fun at all, if you ask me). Liz suggests the twins put together a “Jungle Prom”, and the idea comes off as cheesy in the book as it sounds on your screen. Jess loves the idea and adds that they can get the new environmental group Liz has been talking about, Environmental Alert, to sponsor it and then donate the proceeds from the tickets. The twins are thrilled with themselves. What’s interesting to me is this doesn’t sound like the prom will be the high school’s “real” prom. “Jungle Prom” is just the name the girls came up with.

The twins hit up the beach party, which sounds like it came straight out of the 1950s with kids doing the twist around a bonfire. I have to say that these kids are some of the most well-behaved teenagers on planet Earth, even just drinking plain old soda. Liz and Jess waste no time snuggling up to their respective significant others, Todd and Sam. Lila is at the party, too, with Tony Alimenti, the guy she was flirting with back in She’s Not What She Seems. But her attitude has changed; she’s having a hard time letting go and having fun, and she is worried all the guys around her have ulterior motives like John Pfeifer did. She’s kind of an ass to Tony, to be honest, and every time he moves (at all) she flips out. Amy and Jessica talk about how Lila is still suffering from being nearly date-raped by John Pfeifer. The book actually says “date-raped” so I kind of want to give whoever this ghostwriter is kudos for coming out and saying it, since I’m pretty sure they didn’t in the actual book where this occurred. Thankfully, Tony is patient and kind to Lila, although when he tries to kiss her on the cheek at the end of the night, she runs inside and slams the door in his face.

In book 94, we saw Bruce beginning to hook up with Andrea Slade. He’s at the party with her, making out with her in a sand dune and snapping at her for hinting at any kind of commitment from him. He thinks about how bored he is because Andrea was too easy of a conquest. He’s so bored, in fact, that he dares Jessica to swim out to a buoy and back. Liz has flashbacks to the Club X days and begs Jess not to do it. Then she runs around on shore like a panicked puppy dog flipping out while everyone tries to calm her down. She’s about to grab Bill Chase’s surfboard out of his car and swim out to rescue Jessica (no joke) when Jessica swims back to shore. Everyone acts like Liz is bonkers for worrying so much. Liz is humiliated and decides she’s officially done watching out for Jessica. Normally, I would say that will probably last about 20 pages, but who knows where this is going now …

The party gets broken up a bit by a Big Mesa High School “raid.” A bunch of Big Mesa kids show up wearing their school colors and bull masks. They throw food everywhere, toss a cassette in the ocean, spray shaving cream, and drag around the girls, then run back out. Everyone is horrified but just kind of stands there going “Oh my god!” I am really disappointed that no Todd punches go down. Instead, Jessica slaps some guy who tries to drag her off. The Sweet Valley kids are left to clean up the mess. They later reconvene at the Dairi Burger, where Jessica and Liz excitedly tell their boyfriends, Amy Sutton, and Barry Roark about their Jungle Prom idea. Outside the Dairi Burger, Bruce is mad that no one at Sweet Valley seems interested in paying Big Mesa back. It turns out Big Mesa has been playing loads of pranks on Sweet Valley lately, to include putting super glue on the cheerleaders’ pom poms. (Liz finds this hilarious – so do I, Liz.) Bruce gathers old members of Club X in the Dairi Burger parking lot and gets them to pledge revenge on the rival school, which Winston and Roger back out of. Bruce calls them “pacifists.” Yeah, this guy is definitely going to run for political office someday. By the way, Bruce’s “team” includes racist bullies Charlie Cashman and Jim Sturbridge. Oh, I’m sure whatever Bruce has in mind is going to go real well.

A guy from Environmental Alert contacts Liz to talk to her about the upcoming Jungle Prom. (Seriously, every time someone mentions it in this book, they call it just that – “Jungle Prom”. It is cracking me the hell up.) Liz explains that the Jungle Prom committee has decided they will elect a Jungle Prom King and Queen. The Alert dude then tells her their group has decided to add a special contest to the Jungle Prom. They will choose one student to be an Environmental Alert ambassador for their organization, and this person will also receive an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil. The group wanted to just make Liz this ambassador since she’s so into the group, but since there’s going to be a King and Queen contest, they might as well say the Queen will win it. The last teen ambassador they had was a guy, so this time they want a girl. Liz thinks it’s a great idea though, because the entire prom committee has already decided she’s going to be the Queen. Of course, Liz is all into pulling some modest shit and acting like she can’t believe anyone would want HER to be the Queen, while secretly daydreaming about being crowned the winner.

Speaking of prom committee, Jessica is supposed to be the co-chair with Liz, but you might be surprised to learn Jess has been skipping out on the meetings! I know, shocking, I say. Liz is essentially single-handedly running things, although she does fill Jessica in about what’s going on – this, despite still vowing she’s done helping Jessica out. Jessica repays the favor by getting royally pissed that Liz called a vote for the prom dress code without her (because Jessica didn’t attend the related committee meeting, of cousre, so it’s her own damn fault). And, everyone voted for Liz’s view that attendees should wear formal outfits instead of jungle-themed costumes, which is what Jessica wanted.

And, because Liz is just a complete dumbass when it comes to her sister, always and fuckin’ forever, she can’t believe it when Jessica hears about the Jungle Prom Queen election that will be held and starts declaring herself a sure shoo-in for Queen. The girls have a nasty argument over it in which Jessica insists she’s always the Queen while Liz runs things from the background. Liz is really upset because it’s true, although she claims it’s just because she knows Jessica just wants the crown and the trip to Brazil, and won’t do a thing for the Environmental Alert ambassadorship that goes along with it. I mean, yeah, you’re right Liz, but what are you going to do about that if you want this so bad? Rather than launch her own candidacy, Liz sits around bitching to anyone who will listen while Jessica does more pro-active things, like give Caroline an exclusive Jungle Prom interview in which she takes all the credit, give a speech at a pep rally implying the student body should vote for her, and hand out Save the Rain Forest buttons in the cafeteria to promote the Jungle Prom (without involving the prom committee – Jessica pays for all those buttons herself). Liz fumes and fumes. No one understands what Liz’s problem is. Liz bitches the prom was HER idea. She’s right that the initial idea of the Jungle Prom was her idea, but the Environmental Alert part was ALL Jessica’s – an unusually generous one, at that. So, even though Jessica is being a little um, Jessica-ish, haha, Liz is getting on my damn nerves. I mean, if you want to be prom queen so badly, quit the shrinking violet act and just come out and say so already! Sitting there acting all shy, lowering your eyes and fluttering those lashes demurely like you’re Scarlett O’Hara … bitch please.

Meanwhile, the rivalry with Big Mesa is really heating up. Some kids from Big Mesa cover all the Sweet Valley kids’ cars in shaving cream one day after school, then drive through the parking lot taunting them through a bull horn about it. Haha! That’s actually kind of funny. Sweet Valley retaliates by sneaking the Big Mesa cheerleaders trick gum that turns their teeth green at a track meet between the two schools (which Sweet Valley wins). Then someone keeps anonymously sending The Oracle student newspaper office copies of the Big Mesa Bull’s Eye, where the writers keep publishing inflammatory and false articles about Sweet Valley kids, like saying they cheated at the track meet. Liz is outraged, but she and all the other writers keep deciding to take the high road. Mr. Collins is all, ehhhh, you kids decide what you want to do. Seriously, no adults give a crap about what is going on. I feel like a West Side Story gang fight must be on the horizon.

Lila has been going to counseling sessions at Project Youth to help her heal from her near rape at the hands of John Pfeifer. Her counselor is a guy named Nathan Pritchard. He chats with Lila about her progress and about the date with Tony, but when he gently suggests Lila might have made assumptions about Tony Alimenti’s intentions toward her and that it’s incorrect to assume all guys are as bad as John, Lila bristles. In another session, John notices that Lila seems to be having a hard time opening up to him, and wonders if she might do better with a female counselor. Lila immediately gets upset and tears up at the thought of yet another person abandoning her – like her mothre has! and her father! and all her friends! – and Nathan apologizes and says they can continue to meet. Lila is really having a hard time, but she does seem to be making the effort to continue to get out more with her friends the way Nathan has suggested. When she’s by herself, she thinks about how her mom deserted her at a young age and her dad is never there for her and gets depressed. Jessica is no help – she’s such a bitch that she thoughtlessly says something to Lila like “Aren’t moms the greatest, Li?” in the midst of babbling about her dumb prom queen campaign. Another day, Lila’s walking on the beach with Jessica when they run into Nathan and his black lab, J.D. Lila doesn’t want to waste time talking with Nathan and is surprised when Jessica points out that Nathan is cute – she hadn’t noticed, but now that Jessica mentions it …

Someone else who isn’t doing well is Bruce Patman. He’s been having anger issues ever since Regina Morrow died, and in private, he stares at her picture and cries about what he did to her. Running into Nicholas Morrow only makes things worse. Old Nicholas seems like he’s not holding anything against Bruce, but when Nicholas tries to relate, Bruce shrugs him off because he can’t handle the pain. Damn, this book is really laying it on thick. At least we’re finally getting some of the realism I have been bitching about not receiving for 94+ books. Ha ha! Bruce is a total asshole to Andrea, though, and she seems like she’s just going to sit there and take it. Bruce thinks about how he enjoys seeing how much Andrea will let him use her. So, business as usual there, basically.

Sam is prepping for a big dirt bike race soon, but Jessica seriously doesn’t give a crap because all she can think about is the prom queen contest and how she’s not getting along with Liz lately because of it. She goes to Lisette’s to try on gowns for the Jungle Prom; unbeknownst to her, Enid has also dragged Liz there for the same purpose. Hilarity ensues when the sisters step out of the dressing rooms at the same time wearing the exact same dress. (Neither twin buys the dress – Liz says the dress was much too provocative, Jess says it was much too conservative. Hah!)

When Jessica is supposed to pick Sam up at Sweet Valley High one day to drive him back to Bridgewater (remember he’s not a Sweet Valley kid), she totally forgets and Liz has to come to his rescue. Then Lila deliberately freaks Jess out even more by casually mentioning everyone considers Liz a shoo-in to win. Hahaha! I see the old Lila is starting to reappear. Then Sam takes Jessica out for a nice Italian dinner at Oggi restaurant, and Jessica interrupts him chatting about his dirt bike race to go on and on about her stupid drama. This is feeling like serious deja vu. Wasn’t there a similar scene just a few books back?

Lila thinks back to how Jessica said Nathan was cute. She realizes it’s true. She also thinks about how Nathan has actually helped her more than she’s been wanting to admit. She decides to go to the Jungle Prom by herself and wear a smashing outfit that she’s sure Nathan will love. (He’s going to be there as a chaperone – he also works at the school part-time as a guidance counselor.) Uh, oh. Her crush on Nathan starts to grow and Lila feels her depression dropping away, or thinks she does. Nathan is oblivious and continues what Lila considers his “psychobabble” in their sessions while Lila surreptitiously tries to find out if he has a girlfriend.

Convinced that Elizabeth is deliberately trying to take over the prom so that she can manipulate things to win Prom Queen, Jessica makes Robin, Amy and Lila go to a prom committee meeting with her. Gee, it’s about time. Jessica immediately acts like she’s been in charge all along, making a big deal out of passing a sign-up sheet around the group so everybody can choose a shift for getting the gym ready for prom on Saturday. (Jess deliberately chooses the last shift because there won’t be much left to do by that point.) Just to antagonize her sister, Jessica then suggests that everyone vote on whether or not any Big Mesa kids should be allowed at their prom. Apparently, Sweet Valley has always had an open door policy about who can just show up at their dances uninvited. (Wait, for real?) If no Big Mesa kids can come, that means Enid’s boyfriend Hugh can’t come. Who cares, Hugh’s a drag anyway. Half the group (including Jess) votes no to Big Mesa, and the other half (including Liz) votes they should be able to come if they want. Liz reluctantly agrees to take the issue to Principal Chrome Dome to break the tie, then angrily leaves the meeting without looking at Jessica while Jessica laughs to herself. Later that afternoon, Penny Ayala (who’s on the committee) catches up with them and tells them she forgot to mention something important: Sweet Sixteen magazine heard about the Jungle Prom benefit for Environmental Action and is really excited to interview the two twin sisters who came up with the idea. In fact, they want to do a photo shoot to go with the interview! To prepare, the twins toss their hair and glare at each other. Oh, boy. This is gonna be good.

Chrome Dome holds an assembly that afternoon at which the majority of students vote to have the Jungle Prom be open to whomever wants to attend. Yep, great idea. I’m sure there won’t be any fighting at all, or anything like that. Seriously, the adults in these books are mega clueless.

Liz goes outside the school after the assembly to meet the magazine people, who are thrilled with her looks and talk about how she is a natural model and how great her “real” golden blonde hair is. Yeah, yeah, we know, the twins are the most beautiful girls in the world. They wait around for Jessica, who is late (what? no way). Liz searches the school for her, but can’t find her. Ah, the days before everybody had a cell phone. The magazine people are getting antsy, and say it’s now so late that either they go do the interview and shoot with just Liz or not at all. Liz goes by herself whereas normally she’d probably pull a  “I’m NOT going without my sister!” For once, Liz also thinks about the fact that Jessica definitely wouldn’t wait for her if the tables were turned. Meanwhile, Jessica finally takes her ass outside (45 minutes late!), waltzing out the door doing a comical modeling pose in her “sand-washed” green silk shorts. When she doesn’t see Liz or the magazine people, she’s all, “Oh, at least I’m earlier than they are.” Yes, she’s for real, folks. Eventually Jessica goes off looking for them, and she is told by Lois Waller, of all people, that they left without her and she doesn’t know where they went. Jessica decides this must mean Liz definitely wants to sabotage Jessica; Liz must have either lied and said Jessica couldn’t come, or maybe she even said Penny got it wrong and there’s no twin sister! Um, no, those are all things YOU would have done, Jessica! But Jessica is furious and the twins have a huge fight at home about it later. Oh please Jess. I’m with Liz on this one, frankly. She tried to find Jess, and she stalled the magazine people as long as she could. And Jessica finally got her just desserts and it’s long overdue. And, if Liz HAD refused to do the interview and shoot without Jess? Well, the magazine people would’ve just left, meaning no photo shoot at all, and then Jess probably would’ve found a way to blame her sister for that! Don’t worry, there are no lessons learned here.

Liz spends the rest of the week obsessing over the prom queen crown. It puts her in one shitty mood as she continues to become “the new Elizabeth” (or whatever you wanna call it, since The New Elizabeth was already tried on for size once and it just resulted in Liz deliberately losing a surfing contest … damn, no wonder Liz is screwed up trying to become somebody new again NOW). Liz suddenly changes direction with the Big Mesa rivalry, and writes a “hostile” editorial for the Oracle that becomes the subject of a minor lunchtime spat with Todd when he points out she’s definitely not taking the high road now. Aw, did someone call you on your shit too, Liz? It’s not just Jessica who should have to face facts, you know.

Speaking of Jessica, she doesn’t show to the last prom committee meeting, but she’s the only one who hasn’t said she can’t go pick up the art supplies. Penny has to go ask her if she can do it because Liz refuses to. Enid tries to talk to Liz about her attitude, but Liz brushes her off. Then the Friday night basketball game between Sweet Valley and Big Mesa arrives. Jessica shows off her cheerleading skills, sure that her ardent school spirit will win her the Jungle Prom Queen crown and the trip to Brazil. Bruce causes trouble with his old Club X mates by tossing water balloons all over the floor. Really, Bruce, is that all you got? This is so cheesy, but if it wasn’t, you know I’d be disappointed. Meanwhile, Liz is in the stands with a big Sweet Valley sign. She also shows her school spirit by nastily trashing Enid’s man, Hugh, for not coming to the game because he didn’t want to get caught up in a brawl afterwards. Seriously, Liz is a real bitch about it. She calls Hugh a “wimpy” and then sarcastically relents that he’s a “hero”. Damn, Liz, you really are going crazy. Enid says something back but it gets drowned out by the crowd, and Liz never apologizes. Enid is the real wimp here, so I’m sure she was over it in about two seconds anyway. God forbid the goddess Liz do anything to turn off her biggest fan. Anyway, Sweet Valley wins the game, and Todd is the hero of the night. As everyone cheers him at the Dairi Queen that night (while Liz and Jess very obviously and conspicuously ignore one another), Jessica suddenly realizes this could mean that Todd wins Prom King easily … and that would make Elizabeth the natural vote for Prom Queen. Jessica angrily thinks about how it’s not fair that her boyfriend is just a “dumb old dirt biker” from another school who hasn’t done anything to help her campaign. You so don’t deserve Sam, Jessica.

The day of the prom arrives. Liz shows up to admire the handiwork all the prom committee members have done (except Jessica) over their shifts. She thinks sadly about how she wishes she could share this with the person who helped her come up with the idea – oh, now you admit it wasn’t just your idea, Liz? – and then leaves. Shortly afterward, Jessica shows up for her shift to find all the work has been done (nailed it, Jess) and then discovers Liz has accidentally left her personal datebook behind a potted palm tree. Jessica pages through it, thinks about all the work Liz has done, and then considers that maybe Liz deserves to win Prom Queen, after all. Just then, she hears a door slam somewhere and gets a chill! “It sounded so desolate, so final …” Shit’s about to go dowwwwwn (and I don’t just mean in some cars at the Point).

Back at home, the twins tiptoe around each other, going out of their way to avoid speaking to one another and being overly formal when they do have to speak. Liz finds her misplaced datebook on her dresser and figures she must have left it there, even though we the readers know Jessica actually just did the right thing and put it there for her. Liz puts on an ice blue dress that sounds kinda ugly, even though I love ice blue. Jessica wears a sleek red strapless gown. Jessica freaks out when Todd tells Liz she looks beautiful, and secretly thinks maybe Liz really does look better than her even as Sam is exclaiming over Jessica’s looks in turn. The twins are rude to their dates who present them with corsages, and to their parents who get them to take pictures together before they leave. Old Ned and Alice seem completely oblivious to the fact that the girls have been fighting. Damn man, they’re almost as bad as Lila’s dear old dad. Speaking of which, Lila is so happy lately that she’s practically bouncing off the walls on the way to the gym to see Nathan. When she sees him, he acts mostly like, well, like a chaperone. He’s also wearing a rainbow-striped tie. Um, I wonder if he’s trying to tell Lila something.

Todd reassures Elizabeth at the dance that she will win prom queen, so she starts the night off happy. But when Jessica frets about her own chances to Sam, he starts to get tired of her shit. He makes a couple of comments about Liz’s hard work that don’t sit well with her and she bitches him out and stomps off, telling him he’ll have to find his own dance partner for a while. She slinks around the floor trying to slyly brag about how much work she’s done for the prom so people will vote for her. I’m not sure people are going to fall for it, Ms. Thing.

A bunch of Big Mesa kids show up to the prom causing a momentary ruckus as Winston lets them in, per the policy, and then Bruce pulls some SV kids together to try and throw them out. A big fight almost goes down, but then Todd stands up for letting it go and letting them stay, and Bruce finally relents. Todd is once again the hero of the hour, and an obvious shoo-in for Prom King. Sure enough, at 9:00 the votes are tallied and he’s crowned King. The ballots for Queen are then passed out and the winner will be announced an hour later, at 10. Liz and Jess are both on edge. Jessica is pouting and being a baby – now that Todd’s been crowned King, it’s almost certain Liz will be crowned Queen. Jess, you really need to get over it already. Just then, Jessica spots Liz dance by, “shaking it” with Sam, who looks super happy about it. Jessica is stunned. Hey, you told him to find his own dance partner, ya ass. A moment later, a drunk Big Mesa boy sidles up to her and starts hitting on her. Jessica sees the cup in his hand and gets an idea. She gets the drunk boy to pour some “clear liquid” (vodka? Everclear?) from his flask into her cup, then some more, till the cup is full. Jessica then leaves … to dump the alcohol into Liz’s cup, which is sitting on a nearby table next to Sam’s. Damn girl, you cold!

Jessica watches as Liz gulps about half of her punch without even tasting whatever it was Jessica added, then offers the other half to Sam. (Note: The book doesn’t say what it was either. I initially assumed it was vodka, but then I thought back to my college days and remembered Everclear. Given how completely wasted these two are about to get, and how they somehow had no idea something was amiss with their punch, that seems far more likely.) A few minutes later, Liz and Sam are totally trashed and cutting a damn rug on the dance floor. Kids are standing around staring in shock while Liz and Sam go totally nuts. They tango, they Charleston, Sam swings Liz over his head in a complete circle. This sounds HILARIOUS. Enid and Hugh come to check on them, and Liz slurs an apology at them for the way she acted at the game. Nathan and Lila overhear some girls tittering about how Liz is totally drunk and running around with her own sister’s date, and he considers intervening, but Lila is sure there’s no way Liz Wakefield of all people is drunk, although she admits that would be “hilarious.” Just then, more Big Mesa kids show up and Nathan walks off to help a trembling Winston decide if they’re allowed in without tickets. Moments later, Liz stumbles over to the ticket table and she and Sam slur at Patti and Andrea that they’ve decided Jessica deserves to be prom queen. Even if Liz wins, she wants to forfeit so that Jessica gets it. She is making a total spectacle of herself and everyone is talking about it. Jessica thinks it’s really funny, but is stunned when the prom queen is announced … and it’s her. She overhears some girls saying that maybe she just won because Liz dropped out. What! No way! Jessica is so shocked that she can’t even be happy about her win. Damn these girls are so fucking wishy washy, I can’t even. Just then, from his bamboo throne on the stage, Todd spots what looks like Sam and Liz making out in the corner. Now, just a second ago, Sam was just doing some babbling (out of Todd’s earshot) about how much he loves Jessica, so I really don’t think so, but Jessica sees the same thing and thinks the same thing and both are horrified. As they’re about to make their way over to them to see what is going on, Big Mesa kids suddenly rush the floor, randomly punching people and making a break for the football field. Half the SV crowd runs after them and the other half goes for the other exit toward the parking lot. That’s also where Sam and Liz are heading. Todd and Jessica try to follow them, but the crowd is too thick. Everyone is caught up in the crush, and murmuring about the fight outside. Jessica’s crown falls out of her hand and she just barely saves it from being destroyed under someone’s foot. The symbolism! The symbolism! She finally gets outside just in time to see Liz DRIVE off in the Jeep with Sam in the passenger seat! Jess has one last chance to stop them, but she trips over her heels and goes flying onto the pavement. She gets up in time to watch them helplessly ride off. At the same time, the big fight is raging on the football field. Not in Sweet Valley!

In the last few pages of the book, a few key things happen that effectively end this Magna Edition on a hell of a cliffhanger:

  1. Bruce and his Club X friends rush to the field, where they find a line of Big Mesa guys just standing there waiting to fight .Hahaha, it’s straight out of The Outsiders or something. Bruce beats the shit out of a couple of kids and relishes in the feel of blood running through his fingers. No, really, it says that. Just then, some giant kid starts beating on Bruce with a baseball bat and I have a Ramones song running through my head. As the giant kid prepares to bash his head in, a girl who looks a bit like Regina appears in Bruce’s vision to beg “Craig” to back off. Bruce thinks she looks like an angel. Just then, the police arrive. The Craig kid kicks Bruce in the head and disappears in a flash with the mysterious angel girl, and Bruce goes unconscious.
  2. Nathan pulls Lila to safety from the crushing crowd outside the dance, pulling her into an empty classroom which is really the only safe place outside the crowd, since they can’t get outside. He closes the door and walks toward Lila. As he nears her, Lila suddenly has a horrible flashback to John looming over her and starts screaming bloody murder as Nathan reaches out to give her a reassuring pat on the arm. The arriving cops hear it and kick in the door. Lila screams Nathan was attacking her. The cops drag away a stunned, “ashen” Nathan as he yells at Lila to please tell them it’s not true. A cop asks Lila if she’ll come give a statement and she – truthfully believing Nathan was just looking for a way to get her alone and was about to attack her – resolutely says yes. You know, I would say What the fuck? but I have seen the effects of PTSD on people in real life. So while this is Sweet Valley’s funky attempt at it, and while this particular example is pretty damn dramatic, it’s also just really sad! I somehow think it’ll end up okay for everybody in the end. Meanwhile …
  3. Jessica begs Todd to take her to find her sister and Sam. Todd is stunned to hear Jessica say they were drunk. Really, Liz’s goody goody rep is that solid? Come on, man. Jessica doesn’t admit she was the one who gave Liz the alcohol. Of course not. She also hangs on to her crown for dear life as they drive. That’s deep. They finally find the Jeep … overturned and crumpled near Secca Lake. Jessica manages to get past the police line and as she rushes toward the bloody, broken glass, she hears a police officer says it’s a shame and that there was no way anyone could have survived that. She screams dramatically as we’re lead to believe both Sam and Liz are now dead. No, Sam, noooo!

Okay, y’all, and that’s it until we reach the next book. Heavy, huh? Did you read this when it first came out and what was your reaction then compared to right now? Am I the only person who never read this book before? I have to say, that’s quite a denouement for what started out as a crazy cheesy story. It seems Sweet Valley wanted to go back to its dramatic roots, and then some.

Can I also say, this book was better than I was expecting. When the book got cheesy, it went over the top. And, the character development had been lacking for some of these kids, and now the writers are kind of, well, overdoing it, but it’s definitely better. Bruce and Lila are traumatized in a way that wasn’t shown before, and we get to hear their inner thoughts and what they’re REALLY thinking for a change. Will that last? Doubtful!

Liz and Jessica’s usual twin rivalry flares to the forefront in a predictable way, but then it heads in a refreshing direction when Liz actually stands up for herself. And then, you know, it fucking goes to hell in a hand basket. Although, come on, you know there’s no way they would have even considered truly killing Liz’s ass off. That’s Francine’s girl.

Random notes: At the beach party, Tony Alimenti pulls a big no-no and tells Lila “you look tired”. OH HELL NO. As someone who always has dark undereye circles no matter how much sleep she gets (and I get plenty), that is one of the WORST “innocent” things you can say to a lady. Why don’t you just come out and say “You look like shit!”

When Jessica removes her T-shirt and shorts to swim out to the buoy, boys hoot and holler and the book says she’s kicking her clothes off “like a striptease.” I can’t help but feel like this book is going back to the series’ roots, before it tried to get all pure and mega boring. Bravo!

Nicholas says Andrea dumped him because she decided he was getting boring. Well, I agree, Andrea, but Bruce isn’t exactly gonna be the kinda thrill that satisfies in the end.

Sam and Jessica snuggle on his couch and kinda/sorta joke about spending the whole night together after the prom. Damn, are they actually talking about having sex?

Oggi means “today” in Italian! Well, that’s kinda a boring name for a restaurant.

Roger takes Rosa to the prom. I guess she’s not seeing Eddie anymore.

Bruce: “I’ve had everyone at Sweet Valley High I wanted to have.” Ummmm….damn. He went ahead and put it that way. Wondering if the ghostwriters meant for it to sound the way that sounded.

Here’s Jessica moping around at home waiting for Liz to come back to the house from the photo shoot: “Through the gloom, Jessica saw the knob turn.” What perfect, overly dramatic writing for Jessica’s way of thinking!

The reggae band that plays at the prom is called Island Sunsplash. Sounds like a Sunny D knock-off drink!

This prom is such a big deal that each attendee gets a Sweet Valley Jungle Prom souvenir YEARBOOK to go with it. Not the regular yearbook, a special book just for Prom.

Jessica compliments Sally Larson’s prom dress. Sally confides it’s actually one of Dana’s. Jessica thinks, Like I couldn’t have guessed that. You usually dress like someone who works at a morgue. Burn. I wish she had said it out loud.

This book does a ton of foreshadowing, like when Liz and Jess seem to have premonitions that something awful is going to happen at the Jungle Prom. I think they really wanted you to believe one of the twins was going to bite the dust.

Bruce taunts Lila and jokingly warns her not to run into any Big Mesa guys, because some of them make John Pfeifer look tame. What an asshole.

I still cannot believe that Liz and Sam could not realize that something was off with their damned jungle juice at the prom, especially since they never drink. They don’t even seem to realize that they might be drunk. Like, not even for a second. That must have been some sugaryass punch. Although I kind of assume half the reason Liz gave Sam the other half of her punch wasn’t because his own cup ran out, but because she thought “Hmmm, tastes a little off. You want the rest?”

When Liz and Sam are dancing the Charleston, Liz starts trying to reminisce about a movie where some kids are doing the Charleston and the floor opens up under them and they fall into a swimming pool beneath them. Are they talking about It’s a Wonderful Life?

From the mouth of Lila Fowler: “For your information, I chose to come to the dance alone. What’s your excuse, Bruce? Andrea finally get fed up with your macho behavior? Or did your inflatable blow-up doll pop when you pinned on her corsage?” I. Am. DYING.

The cover: This cover was done by Keith Birdsong, not Jimmy Mathewuse. The cover flap shows the corsages, with the full cover showing three of the photos the Wakefield parents took that fateful night (when the twins were acting like bitches about it). There’s a picture of Jessica and Liz (ripped almost in half, with both girls doing a bitch face), Liz smiling up at Todd (seriously, that does not look like Todd), and Sam and Jess (Jess looks exactly the same as in the other pic!!!, and Sam is pretty cute). The girls’ dresses do not look the way they were described in the book. Here, Liz’s dress is bright blue, has puffy sleeves, and is fucking hideous. Jessica’s looks like a scaly pink getup instead of bright red, and her hair looks like a goddamn rat’s nest. Looks like a horse walked up and vomited a bale of hay up on her skull.

In the back of the book: There is a promo for the next Sweet Valley “mini-series”, books 95-100, which will be “explosive”! It says “someone evil” is coming to Sweet Valley. Wait, someone worse than Jessica just was? What the fuck is going on here?

Seriously…what in hell just happened? I guess I’ll find out!

Coming up next: It’s THE MORNING AFTER!

Magna Edition #2/Sweet Valley Saga #2 The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story

The second Sweet Valley Saga which is also the second Magna Edition ... is that confusing?

Here we are with the second Sweet Valley Saga, at long last. I feel like I’ve waded through an ocean of shitty stories to get to this one. This time, we’ll be following Ned Wakefield’s ancestors as part of the glorious story of the most important and perfect family on planet Earth. We’ve already met some of the Wakefield men who appear here in the previous Saga, because as we know, Ned and Alice were fated to be together!

1866. In Wakefield, England (yes, you read that correctly – Wakefield, England!), Theodore, the 16th Earl of Wakefield, and wife Lady Sarah Quinlan, Countess of Wakefield, live in Wakefield Manor with their two sons. Older son and heir James, the 15th Viscount Leslie, is 26 and set to marry a 16-year-old German girl he doesn’t love, Katerina von Alber, who is staying with the family up until the wedding. Younger son Lord Theodore “Theo” Wakefield resents the way James is openly disdainful to Katerina and ignores her, but also feels sad that James is being forced into the marriage. He is relieved he isn’t the heir. Theo and Katerina have a casual friendship that is her only source of comfort. Katerina has fallen kinda hard for Theo but he doesn’t appear to return her feelings beyond caring for her deeply as a friend. So, neither the brother Katerina has to marry, nor the one she wishes she could marry, love her. Well that’s gotta suck.

James, Theo, and Katerina are out riding one day when Theo confronts his brother about the way he treats Katerina and how he should just stand up to their parents and tell them he won’t be forced into marriage. James tells him off and then leaps onto Theo’s horse, Raven, and gallops away wildly. Raven throws James and he smashes against a stone wall and dies. After the funeral, the Earl announces that now Theo is the heir and as such, he must marry Katerina in James’s place. Theo refuses because he doesn’t love her and it’s wrong. Katerina secretly wishes Theo would marry her, but she knows his heart isn’t in it, so she encourages him to leave his family and go out to the plains of America, which he’s babbling about for weeks. So Theo disowns his family while Lady Sarah cries and begs him not to go. He takes off on Raven for London and Katerina presumably goes back to her family (in the Prussian part of Germany).

Theo sells Raven to get the money for a steamer for New York. While on board the steamer, he rescues Alice Larson from drowning after she falls overboard, and they fall in love, bla bla, just like we read about in the first Saga. We learn that Theo carved that famous Wakefield wooden rose for Alice because it was Wakefield tradition to propose to a woman by giving her a diamond-encrusted gold rose, but now this is the best he can do. Well isn’t that special. God, diamond-encrusted gold rose … are these the Wakefields or the Patmans? What in hell.

After they’re separated in NYC due to Theo’s suspected typhus and subsequent quarantine on Ward’s Island, Theo vows he will never rest until he’s found her. Good luck with that, Theo.

1884. Theo is now an animal trainer and member of the traveling Bellamy Brothers Circus and friend to Dancing Wind, a 16-year-old part Awaswan Indian girl. Theo has named a new foal Raven after his beloved lost horse. When the circus is stopped in Pine Bluff, Illinois, the two get closer and began sharing more details of their lives with each other. Dancing Wind explains how she became a Montecatini, which she usually doesn’t share with people. She was adopted by the Flying Montecatinis Italian acrobat family at age 12. Her mother Owl Feather died of smallpox when she was very little, and her father was killed four years ago after being shot to death in a saloon brawl. Now Dancing Wind is an acrobat herself. She stays in a cabin on the circus train with her adopted sister Isabella, also 16, who has a huge crush on some circus muscle man named Henrik and is always cooing about him. Theo decides to trust his new friend as well, and he tells Dancing Wind about his long-lost love, Alice. Dancing Wind realizes she has major feelings for Theo. She decides not to tell Isabella about her crush because Isabella has a big mouth and will tell everyone else.

When the circus is stopped in Blackberry Hollow, Iowa, Theo almost kisses Dancing Wind after she tells him he should stop living in the past. But they are interrupted by Isabella calling for her. You know, at this point Theo has to be in his 40s or at the very youngest his late 30s. It’s been 18 years since he left England. It didn’t say how old he was there, but his brother was 26 and Theo was close to him, so he couldn’t have been THAT much younger.

When the circus stops in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota, little 7-year-old Jessamyn Johnson sneaks in to see the horses and ride one of them. When Theo learns that Jessamyn’s mother is Swedish, he becomes convinced that her mother must be Alice. Of course, he’s right, but he doesn’t know for sure. He becomes preoccupied with finding Alice. Dancing Wind’s heart is broken. Determined to get Theo’s attention back on her during the acrobats’ segment of the show, she performs a daring triple-somersault in the air, when she was only supposed to do a double-flip. Her adopted father Guillermo isn’t prepared for this and can’t catch her in time. Dancing Wind crashes through the safety net and badly breaks her hip. Theo rushes to her and thinks he sees Alice in the crowd, but is too busy looking after Dancing Wind to really look hard. He realizes he doesn’t really love Alice anymore, and even if he did, it’s too late. As Dancing Wind lies in bed recovering from her injury, he confesses he loves her, not Alice.

When the circus stops in Cottonwood Creek, Nebraska, some time later, we learn that Dancing Wind is still crippled. She will never be able to perform stunts again. Deciding she’s holding Theo back, she takes her stuff off the train and gets ready to leave. Theo catches her and throws his own bag off the train. He asks Dancing Wind to marry him and she happily accepts.

1888. Theo and Dancing Wind have settled in Cottonwood Creek and live on a farm, where she announces she’s pregnant. Theo is concerned because his wife is still so weak. On their fourth wedding anniversary, Dancing Wind has a very painful childbirth experience and has twins. (Of course!) She tells Theo to name them Sarah and James after his lost family members, and dies immediately afterwards. This is right after the doctor, Dr. Baker, and the midwife, Felicity, have packed up and left. What the hell? It seemed like as soon as the babies were born, they were all, “Okay, we’re out of here. Good luck with your wife, she might die.”

1905. Theo and the twins now live in Vista, California, in the Napa Valley, where Theo has made a fortune in the wine business. Their home is called Manor Farm in memory of Wakefield Manor, Theo’s original homestead in England.

James is the older twin and he’s supposed to be serious and responsible (like Liz) while Sarah is supposed to be the irresponsible, wild twin who’s always in trouble (like Jess). Yet Sarah likes to write and hates the thought of lying to her father; she just has occasional mishaps and is a little more free-spirited than James, so she’s not much like her future great-great-granddaughter Jessica (but she’s much more likable than Elizabeth). When Sarah falls in love with one of her father’s employees – a boy in her class named Edward Brooke – she brings him to the house to meet Theo and James so that she can formally introduce him as a suitor. But while James already thinks Edward is awesome, her father doesn’t approve and barely speaks to Edward. Theo thinks Edward’s lower class status makes him beneath his daughter. He wants Sarah to try to get snobby rich George LeMaitre to court her instead. But Sarah keeps on seeing Edward behind Theo’s back, and soon Edward gives her a promise ring with the idea that they will marry after they graduate from high school. James is the only person Sarah trusts with their secret. Inspired by the journal of her deceased mother, Dancing Wind, Sarah has been writing a lot of fiction in her own journal, but now that she’s fallen for Edward, she eagerly writes all about their romance and plans for the future. Mega-foreshadowing here …

That autumn, influenza comes to the town, and both James and Sarah are stricken with it. But while Sarah recovers in a few days, James’s condition worsens and turns into pneumonia, and he soon dies in front of Sarah. What’s with all the deaths so far this early in the novel? I don’t remember the last book being quite this bad. Theo has already lost his brother, his wife, and his son, damn.

1906. It’s now April, and Sarah and Theo have been recovering from their grief over James’s death. One day Sarah comes home from school to find Theo sitting with her journal, and he looks furious. Gasp! He’s read it! HE KNOWS! And he tells Sarah if she won’t stop seeing Edward Brooke, she’ll have to leave his house. Damn! Sarah reminds her father that he once left his own family so he wouldn’t have to marry a girl he didn’t love, but Theo isn’t swayed. He even implies Sarah might have been sleeping with Edward, which hasn’t happened. Theo has turned into his dad. And that night, after he’s gone to bed, Sarah packs a bag and heads to Edward’s house. When he hears what’s happened, they take off on a train for San Francisco to elope. They get there around 4 in the morning and check into a fancy hotel so that they have a place to stay for the wedding night. As they’re preparing to wash up and get ready to go see a justice of the peace as soon as daylight comes, the Great San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906 strikes. The hotel falls down around Edward and Sarah and when it’s over, they’re trapped in a small area of the rubble. Sarah cries that they will die without ever having been married and Edward “marries” them in their own ceremony to make up for it. They even write their vows down on a piece of paper. Then they start kissing and he asks her if they should stop. She says no. We get a skip-ahead where Sarah is thankful they at least had “this moment” and then rescuers arrive and save them. Sarah and Edward are taken to a nearby park where Edward insists on leaving her to help the rescuers. Edward saves a baby from the collapsed hotel, but then an aftershock sends him tumbling down from the rubble onto his head. The baby is fine, but Edward is dead. Sarah cries as her husband’s body is lead away. What the hell is up with this book! It’s so sad!

Edward’s parents come to get his body and take Sarah back with them. They are totally understanding of what happened and accept Sarah as Edward’s widow. When Sarah heads back to her home at Manor Farm, Theo even appears not to hold their elopement against Sarah, although he doesn’t apologize for essentially kicking his daughter out of his house.

Two months later, Sarah is still feeling sick and dizzy and having nightmares of the earthquake. Her father takes her to see Dr. Daly, who informs Sarah she’s pregnant with her late husband’s child. When Sarah tells Theo, he’s delighted and says Sarah will have to try and get the marriage certificate from San Francisco if it wasn’t destroyed in the quake. But then she confesses that she and Edward were never legally married, only by their own little “ceremony.” Theo flies into a rage. He says now the child will have neither the Brooke name nor the Wakefield name because of this. He seriously implies she is some kind of slut. What the fuck Theo! The next day, he orders his daughter to pack her bags and sends her off to a maternity home for unwed mothers in the town of Mendocino. There she will pick up a key for a house he has rented for her overlooking the cliffs. A doctor will tend to Sarah until after her baby is born. Theo will tell everyone at home that Sarah went away to get rest and therapy for her earthquake trauma. He will explain to the ladies at the maternity home that Sarah is a young traumatized widow. It’s too shameful for Sarah to have the baby at home in Vista. I don’t get it. Hey Theo, here’s an idea – why not just tell everyone that the baby is the child of Sarah’s deceased husband if you’re so worried about it? What in hell? Tell them the marriage certificate was in fact lost in the fucking earthquake! You big asshole! God, it’s too bad Dancing Wind isn’t still around. I bet she wouldn’t stand for this.

1907. Sarah gives birth to her son, Edward “Teddy” Wakefield, on New Year’s Day. She writes to Theo and tells him, and he shows up and isn’t happy that Teddy is short for Edward and not Theodore. Cry me a fucking river dude. Theo won’t look at or acknowledge the baby, and he announces that he will take Sarah home with him, but she’ll have to leave Teddy behind. Theo will arrange to have Teddy adopted. Sarah refuses, and he says that’s fine but she can never set foot in Manor Farm again, and he will just make sure they have all the money they need for the rest of their lives. Sarah tells him she doesn’t want his stinkin’ money if he won’t accept either of them into his life. Theo walks away and that’s the last they ever see of him. That’s right, he basically learned nothing from his past. He wants nothing to do with his daughter and grandson, the last remaining pieces of his family, after all the other family members he had are all dead. Holy crap. Theo is such a fucking jackass. So Sarah resolves to raise her baby under the lie that she is his Aunt Sarah, in order to spare him the pain of being an illegitimate child. I don’t get it. Can’t you just tell him the truth, that your “husband” was killed in the earthquake? You can leave out the whole “not legally binding” part if you’re so worried about it. It’s not like the people he meets later in life will go rummaging around for his parents’ marriage certificate before they agree to hang out with him.

1924. It’s the 1920s and Prohibition is in full effect. Ted Wakefield is now in high school and living with his “Aunt Sarah” in Chicago. He’s a successful writer for his school paper and college-bound. He believes that his grandfather is dead, and that his parents were named James and Edwina Wakefield, and that they died in a train crash and James’s sister Sarah decided to raise him. Sarah works really hard to make ends meet, so Ted takes on a job as a waiter at the Black Cat Cafe, a jazz club, to pay his way into college. Sarah has reservations about the job, but lets him take it.

At the club, Ted makes friends with jazz saxophonist Emmet “Slim” Stark and his daughter, vocalist Tina Stark. Ted and Tina are soon hopping all over town together, but there isn’t anything romantic between them. They make good friends and Tina teaches Ted all about the jazz scene. Ted loves it. Tina is African American, but there is no mention of the pair encountering any trouble or discrimination in the segregated 1920s when they go out in public together. Tina encourages Ted to write articles about the jazz world and submit them to the Chicago Post, and the paper accepts one of his pieces for publication. Ted decides to blow off his acceptance into Rosse College in Ohio and become a jazz writer instead, living the clubbin’ life. His “Aunt Sarah” is not pleased. Ted snaps at her that she isn’t his mother and shouldn’t act like it. WHOA DAMN.

Ted comes home from a jazz club one night to find Aunt Sarah holding a letter and obviously upset. She explains to Ted that his grandfather has died, and he’s left the two of them all his money in his will. Ted is confused because he thought his grandfather was already dead. Sarah is forced to confess the truth. She gives stunned Ted Theo’s family crest ring, which he’d saved from his days at Wakefield Manor, and Dancing Wind’s journal. Ted is furious and blames Sarah for keeping his grandfather from him all his life. He decides to leave for college after all, packs his things, and leaves.

1925. One year later, Ted has forgiven his mother, pledged into a fraternity, pen pals with his old friend Tina, and best friends with wealthy, friendly Harry Watson. He still hides the truth of his birth from everyone to avoid being ostracized. Harry’s girlfriend Stella wants to know why Harry is still single since he’s such a big man on campus, and Harry thinks about how he just doesn’t want anyone to get too close and find out the truth. In Detroit, Ted meets Harry’s twin sisters Amanda and Samantha, and falls in love with Amanda even though everyone thinks it’s Sam Ted wants, including Sam herself. If you’ve read the first Saga or my recap of it, then you know how this goes down. The book skims over most of it but reminds us how Amanda told Ted she’d finally let Sam know about their secret love when she hadn’t. Then we get treated to the final showdown in which Sam, posing as Amanda, sets Ted up to get arrested by the Feds for bootlegging liquor, which he wasn’t really doing, of course. (Sam just wanted to get back at Ted for rejecting her and secretly seeing her sister instead.) Ted goes to jail and gets out thinking his true love Amanda planted the liquor because she thought Ted tried to seduce Sam, and when the Feds let him go because they figured out it was a setup, he leaves town thinking Amanda is the worst person ever. I can’t believe he never put two and two together. He drops out of school and takes off on a “find myself” kind of journey.

1926. Near the end of a lengthy road trip across the U.S., Ted arrives in Swift River, Oregon, where he crashes at a little run-down place called the Last Chance Lodge. He tells the owner, Dick Dawson, and some of his friends all about his journey to find his grandmother’s Awaswan family. He drinks some illegal beer that Dick offers him, although of course the book assures us that he hesitates before doing so, so that we won’t think Ted is in the habit of breaking the law or something. You’d think maybe he wouldn’t even want to look at it after that scare the Feds gave him. Anyway, Dick loans Ted his mule, Pete, and Ted takes off for the Awaswan reservation, where he meets the Chief, Ten Horses. Ten Horses is in the middle of an interview with a pretty blond journalist named Julia Marks. Ted asks Ten Horses for information on Dancing Wind’s mother, Owl Feather. It turns out that Ten Horses knows all about Owl Feather – in fact, the whole tribe does. She was born sometime in the 1840s to the Awaswan medicine man, Red Spirit. It was believed that if Red Spirit’s prettiest daughter married Chief Fist-of-Thunder, great luck would come to the Awaswan, who were at the time first starting to lose their land to whites. So Owl Feather was supposed to save her people, but then she fell in love with a white prospector named Jake Webster instead, and she ran away and married him and had Dancing Wind and the Awaswan lost most of their land and were forced onto a reservation. Ted is like, “Oh shit, sorry.”

Ten Horses tells Ted that maybe they can reverse their luck again now that Owl Feather’s descendant has come, along with the help of “Paper Voices” which is the name he’s given Julia. It turns out Julia is on a mission to find a missing treaty that shows the land does belong to the Awaswan and the neighboring Yakima Indians. Iron ore has been found in the land, and a company just went ahead and started mining for it. Ten Horses and the Yakima Chief, Bear Paw, protested this. But the representative for the U.S. Government, Frank Foster, claimed he couldn’t find the treaty even though there are supposed to be two copies, and therefore it never existed. Of course, that is bullshit. Ted and Julia go see Frank and bluff that they have a third copy and freak Frank out. He dumbly takes out a folder and says they can look at what’s in there if he can look at the third copy that they have. Instead, Ted and Julia run off with the real treaty. Frank and another crony chase them and try to run their car off of a cliff, but the bad guys wind up going over instead. Ted pulls them out of the car just before it explodes, showing his good nature. Julia realizes she is in love with him and vows to win his heart.

Julia invites Ted to ride the train with her to D.C., where they will stay with friends of Julia’s rich family and go sightseeing. They have a good time, but when Ted realizes Julia has feelings for him, he tells her the story of stupid Amanda, who made him decide love’s not worth it or something. Oh, for fuck’s sake! The Vaughns have a dance and Ted and Julia wind up kissing in the backyard, but he kind of freaks out. Julia isn’t having it. She yells at him and tells him she would make the perfect wife and he knows it, and that it’s time for him to get over Amanda and stop giving up on life. You tell ‘im Jules! Ted realizes he loves her.

1927. Ted and Julia are married and they buy a brownstone in New York City, where Julia is employed as the “Citywatch” columnist for the New York Chronicle newspaper and Ted writes for the New Yorker magazine. While they’re looking at the house, Julia tells Ted she’s pregnant. Later that same year, she gives birth to their son, Robert. Julia shows Ted an article that says Samantha Watson, the up-and-coming Hollywood actress, has died in childbirth. Ted feels grateful that Julia’s birthing experience went just fine. He also feels terrible because he knew Sam, but he doesn’t “see any reason” to tell Julia that Samantha was Amanda’s twin and that he knew her. Why not? Is that not weird? Well, whatever.

1937. Robert “Bob” Wakefield is now nine and has a happy home life with his mother and father. Then Julia gets a major assignment to cover the rise of Nazi Germany from Berlin. Ted and Bob don’t want her to go and have bad feelings about it. I guess we can see where this is going. Julia thinks this will be her major big break. She starts sending Ted and Bob letters from Germany about some of the atrocities she has witnessed. Soon she writes that she can’t say much more because her letters are likely being read by government censors. Sure enough, her last letter that says she’s coming home has several areas blacked out. Ted and Bob go to meet Julia’s airship the Hindenberg coming in and watch as it explodes and disintegrates with Julia inside. Whoa, dude.

Julia’s journal survives the fire, and Ted reads it and learns about the horrors being committed against Jews and how Hitler has plans to take over Europe and build his “perfect Aryan race.” Not long after, Kristallnacht occurs and the world learns the truth. Ted realizes that Julia “would indeed have broken the big one.”

This book is so sad!

1943. Bob is now 16 and he lies about his age to enlist in the Navy and get shipped off to World War II. When he breaks the news to his dad, Ted is furious, but ultimately decides to let his son go because his stubbornness is “in the blood.”

Later that year, Bob is on the aircraft carrier Richmond in the South Pacific as a communications specialist. He’s assigned to communicate back and forth over the radio as “Sea Eagle” with an anonymous spy with alias “Pacific Star”. The spy is currently being held captive on the island of Mindanao.

The spy’s real name is Hannah Weiss, an American, Jewish nurse whose family was originally from Austria. When she was 16, she lied about her age to join the Army as a nurse. Sound familiar? Now she’s actually 18, and she lives in the POW camp with her fellow nurses, Debbie Houghton, Joan Madden, Pam Baird, and Nettie MacAllister. Hannah keeps her radio buried under some reeds near a stream that the nurses are allowed to swim in on washday, which is once a week. Debbie, who’s one flirty girl, distracts the Japanese guard while Hannah gets her radio and broadcasts to Robert. It’s his first day as her new contact. Hannah introduces herself and explains that she’s been a POW since May 1942.

I love war stories, especially WWII stories, which is odd because I hate war.

1944. The Richmond begins a liberation mission against another Japanese-occupied island. Japanese pilots kamikaze the Richmond and sister ship the Springfield, which sinks. After a pilot hits the Richmond, shrapnel flies everywhere and Bob’s best friend, Jason Carter, is killed. Bob’s spirits sink low, but he is later revived by the news that the liberation of Nazi-occupied France has begun.

Hannah hears the Japanese guards talking about how they plan to leave the Philippines less guarded while they beef up enforcements at Mindanao, because they think the U.S. is going to strike there first. This time on wash day, it’s Pam’s turn to distract the guards. She does so by falling flat on her face in the water and having the other girls run around screaming that she’s drowning. Hannah rushes to relay the information to Sea Eagle and she almost gets caught with the radio before she can rebury it. The guard tells her she’s “too much trouble” and “no more walks by the stream.”

It is interesting that this book talks about how the nurses were treated so well by the Japanese soldiers. In reality, Japan treated its POWs absolutely horrid during World War II. I’m not a WWII expert (so if you are, please weigh in), but the Palawan Massacre and the Bataan Death March are just a few of the more famous examples. Japan (at the time) was also notorious for starvation and horrendous forced labor conditions. These atrocities were well-known. But who knows, maybe women were treated differently …? I can only hope so. Today, of course, Japan and the United States are allies and friends.

1945. The Allies attack Mindanao and the Japanese guards drag Hannah and her fellow nurses into the jungle on an exhausting journey. A firefight and shelling breaks out all around them and Hannah sees Marines coming at her and her friends and thinks they’re going to shoot her. The Marines save the nurses and take them back to the ship where Hannah finally meets Bob in person. They are already in love from having chatted over the airwaves. They get engaged on the same day that the war ends.

Some years later. It’s the holidays in Sweet Valley. Hannah and Bob are now married and have a son, Edward, whom they call Ned for short. They live in Sweet Valley near Hannah’s parents, Larry and Lise Weiss, and Hannah’s older brother, Sam, and his wife Ruth, who have a daughter Ned’s age, named Rachel. Sarah, Ted’s mother, still lives in Chicago and has married a man named Joe Mayne. Ted has never remarried and is still in New York.

We learn Hannah’s family lost her cousins in the concentration camps in Austria during the war. The cousins’ parents, Hannah’s Uncle Karl and Aunt Berthe, survived the camps and still live in Austria.

Early 1960s. Ned and Rachel are 16 and students at Sweet Valley High along with Hank Patman, whom nobody can stand. Hank keeps harassing Rachel and trying to get her to go out with him. He’s just like his future son Bruce. Rachel hangs out with her cousin Ned and his friend Seth. Both boys love to surf and listen to the Beach Boys. On their way home from the beach, Ned meets a migrant worker his age named Salvador who says he doesn’t go to school. Ned is horrified and soon learns that migrant workers’ children are in fact not allowed to attend public school alongside the year-round residents’ students. Ned and Rachel are both on the student council, so they try to get the other student council members – Hank Patman, Mary Baker, Shirley, Kent, and Stan – to agree with them so they can present something formal to the Board of Education asking to change the law. Mary agrees with them, but Hank doesn’t, and he sways the rest of the group to his side. Ned is enraged and inspired to continue to fight injustice, encouraged by his dad Bob.

Rachel, Seth, Hank, and Ned all graduate and head off to the College of Southern California later on in the 60s. I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t just all go to Sweet Valley College, haha. Rachel rooms with two girls named Barbara and Judy her freshman year. They have a nice suite in the dorms. What is up with all these kids getting nice suites and giant dorm rooms in books and on TV shows? I definitely didn’t have that! Is this some norm I just don’t know about? Luxurious dormitory conditions?

A snotty judge’s daughter named Becky Foster used to be friends with Rachel, but she dropped her early in the semester when she realized Rachel wasn’t going to help her go out with Ned. Suddenly Becky reappears calling herself “Rainbow”, dressing as a flower child, and caring about social issues. She organizes protests and leads students in a group called SPAN, and whatnot and catches Ned’s eye easily. Oh, and it turns out she’s also got Awaswan Indian blood. Ned and Rainbow start dating seriously and he helps her with her difficult pre-law homework. Rachel is sure Rainbow is a big fake, but Ned won’t listen and gives her the whole “I’m disappointed in you” speech for daring to question Rainbow’s integrity. That’s so annoying.

But then the day comes when SPAN holds a huge protest outside the president’s office at the school, demanding that he formally denounce the developing war in Vietnam. Ned takes Rainbow to the protest but she seems less than enthused. Fights break out between cops and students and the cops tear gas the crowd. As Ned and Rainbow are coughing and hacking, police officers randomly arrest them and throw them in a van. Rainbow bitches him out and blames him for getting them arrested. She exposes her true self – she only wanted to date Ned because she was hoping he’d help her become an honors student or some bullshit – and Ned is devastated. When they arrive at the police station, Rainbow yells that she’s Judge Foster’s daughter and the police immediately apologize and take her to a phone to call her dad, who comes and takes her home. Ned vows never to trust love again. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Why don’t you time-travel to the ’00s and listen to some emo music?

Can you tell I’m not feeling particularly sympathetic this week?

A few years later, Ned still hasn’t given anyone else a chance as far as romance is concerned, and Rachel is worried. It turns out Rachel spent her junior year in Austria studying abroad and learning about the family’s Austrian background, and she met a college kid named Paul there and they are in love. So now she thinks everyone else should be too. Sounds like Liz.

Ned lives in an off-campus house with Seth and their friends Vince and Danny. From here, the story gets boring fast. Ned rescues Alice from drowning, tries to date her, learns she’s marrying Hank Patman, and finally gets the girl when she shows up at his house one day after having run off from her wedding. It’s the exact same story as before and it’s not suddenly more interesting because it’s being told from Ned’s point of view.

Ned and Alice marry in the Robertsons’ backyard. Later on, Ned and Alice share a little about their family history and note the similarity of the rose on the Wakefield family crest ring and the carved wooden rose passed down through Alice’s family. They wonder if it might be a coincidence … Wait, they really don’t know by now that their families have met repeatedly through the ages? How is that not possible? I guess it kind of makes sense, I don’t know. I’m too lazy to think about it that hard.

Ned and Alice have their son Steven. When he is a toddler, Alice tells Ned she’s pregnant again and they talk about whether they’ll have another son or a daughter, and what a daughter might be like. Ned hopes she’s just like Alice!

Verdict: This book wasn’t as good as the first Saga. I still liked it, but it could’ve been better. It also seemed like it had more deaths and despair than the first one. I hate the parts that are just rehashes of what we already learned in the first Saga. I know what happened already; you don’t need to tell me all over again. I also don’t care what Ned’s view is of the Alice story because well … it’s not any different!

(I also hated all those various TV show episodes that were just flashback episodes … you know the type, every sitcom and mainstream drama seemed to have one back in the day, with the characters reminiscing about stuff that already happened. I mean, who cares? We already watched it once; bring us something new and exciting.)

WTF? Katerina tells Theo about how she read Wuthering Heights and wants to know about the ghosts that roam the moors. Theo basically laughs in her face and admonishes her that she shouldn’t read romantic novels. He then starts babbling about how she needs to read about the American prairie landscape instead. He also makes a remark about how the Indians in America would probably scare her. Is this where Liz gets her condescension from?

Each Saga edition has a Wakefield family tree in the front of the book. The family tree in this one shows that Theodore’s father’s name is also Theodore, yet in the very first chapter, Theo’s mother calls his father “George”. Man, come on, get it right.

When the little boy falls overboard on the steamer, and Alice Larson goes to save him, it’s said the rocking of the ship tears him out of his mother’s arms and flings him overboard. But in the first Saga, he ran from his mother of his own free will, and was looking over the railing when he fell.

I tried to find some information about the Awaswan Indians online, but it looks like the author made them up.

As with the last book in the Saga series, we can’t have a history of the Wakefield twins without a reassurance that their ancestors were perfect, too, and that California is absolutely the best place on Earth. Here, Dancing Wind thinks about how Isabella has always been jealous of her perfect figure, and Sarah thinks to herself about how there’s no better place in the world than California (despite never having been anywhere else).

Theo is said to be only middle-aged when Sarah is 16, but how old was he when he was married to Dancing Wind? I’m so confused!

During the Prohibition days, Ted and his friends drink “near-beer”. That’s a type of nearly zero alcohol “beer” made by the big brewing companies to stay alive after alcohol was outlawed. Everything I read about it seemed to emphasize how terrible it tasted and how people would spike it under the table! Ha ha ha!

In book 25, Nowhere to Run, Grandma Wakefield (who I guess is Hannah) told Emily Mayer that Ned has a half-brother named Louis from Bob’s first marriage and that Bob’s first wife was killed in a train accident. Louis is 11.5 years older than Ned. Obviously that isn’t the case so far as this book is concerned. I guess Grandma just made that up to try and make Emily feel better. (Unless Bob married before he joined the service at 16, haha)

Ned also told his son Steven in an earlier SVH book that he is named after his college best friend who was killed in a car accident. Obviously that’s also bullshit.

Let’s look at this cover.

Here it is again so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top.

Nice satiny blue sheen … is that pink rose supposed to be the wooden Alice Larson rose? But it’s pink! The book says it’s made of white wood. On the right side, we have Theodore Wakefield at the top. Damn, he looks cold and menacing! Next comes his daughter Sarah, who is very pretty. Then of course Elizabeth and Jessica take up the bottom two tiers there. I kind of wish we had Ted and Bob there instead. I guess the twins are supposed to look like they do on the cover of Double Love, but there’s something off about it. It seems to have a liberal use of white paint around their eyes and hair. Maybe I’m just picky.

As with the previous Saga, this cover wasn’t done by veteran Sweet Valley cover artist James Mathewuse for some reason. This one was done by someone named Bruce Emmett.

Here’s the full stepback:

There’s the Hindenberg disaster with Ted in the foreground screaming at it … God, how traumatizing. To the right, Theodore cries out in horror and reaches out to Dancing Wind as she does her crazy flip and falls, with Guillermo trying to catch her. The picture makes it look like she just slipped and fell off the trapeze without doing the flip, however. Below that, we have Bob frantically shouting into the radio and it looks like the battle is raging behind him. Finally, there’s the protest at the College of Southern California with Ted casually holding onto .. Rainbow? Rainbow’s supposed to have black hair, but this girl’s hair is blond. But Ned hadn’t met Alice yet and he wasn’t with her at the protest. I’m fucking confused.

In the back of the book is a really unimaginative ad, telling you to pick up some other books in the series. It has a list of the Super Editions, Super Stars, Super Thrillers, Magna Editions, and a list of the upcoming six-book miniseries that occurs after A Night to Remember. Obviously, this edition was printed a while after the original release date, since at the time it originally came out, none of that post-Jungle Prom business was out yet.

No Reader of the Month this time. Wah.

Coming up next, it’s back to the original series with Jessica and Bruce having some kind of fight over something.

Magna Edition #1/Sweet Valley Saga #1 The Wakefields of Sweet Valley

I want you guys to know that I wondered how to post the title of this entry for way too long. Hurrrrrrr

So hey, I’m back! And this is the very first of two new Sweet Valley “series.” It’s the first of the Magna Editions, these big-ass books that typically had well over 300 pages and fancy stepback cover illustrations and shit like that. But it’s also the first of a brand new set called Sweet Valley Saga, which I originally thought was a whole new series a la Sweet Valley Twins or Sweet Valley Kids. Instead, the Saga series is meant to tie-in to the regularly scheduled SVH books. The Sagas track the family lineage of the Wakefield twins and that of the Patman and Fowler families.

Wow, so now that I feel like one of those old hosts on the classic movie channel, I’ll swivel back around to the fire in my upholstered chair, and let the story begin.

1866. Alice Larson, an orphan, travels to New York from Sweden at 16. Everything important happens at 16, right? When the ship hits rough waters “somewhere in the Atlantic”, a little boy runs from his mother to look and falls overboard. Alice dives in after him with a life preserver, and then a young Englishman named Theodore Wakefield rescues both of them. Alice and Theodore spend the rest of the voyage falling in love. Theodore whittles Alice a rose out of a piece of lumber he found onboard. (The rose shows up again in a Sweet Valley Twins story!) They have a “date” at the dining hall, for which Alice’s friends dress her up. Theodore takes them to eat outside and imagines out loud that their gross porridge and hard tack are seafood bisque and steak. He makes Alice laugh even though she can barely understand him, and she slowly improves her English. When they dock in NY, Theodore wants to have the ship’s captain marry them, but Alice says they should wait to marry once they’ve gotten settled in the New World. They set a place to meet up after they are finished going through immigration. Apart from Alice, Theodore is told he might have typhus and is packed off to quarantine. From a distance, he sees Alice waiting for him at their spot, but can’t catch her attention before he’s sent away to the hospital. So Alice waits and waits. Her Uncle Par and Aunt Elisabeth come to pick her up and they all return every day for a week to check for Theodore. Finally her family tells her he has clearly deserted her, and refuse to keep waiting around. Alice and her broken heart head for St. Paul, Minnesota with her aunt, uncle, and two little cousins, Helga and Anika.

1877. Alice is now married to a George Johnson and living in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota. She gives birth to twin girls, Elisabeth and Jessamyn. Elisabeth has a mole on her left shoulder which is how you can tell the twins apart. Oh, lord, hereditary moles. We learn Alice and George previously had a son named Steven who died of scarlet fever as a baby. Alice thinks of Theodore Wakefield and hopes he’s as happy as she is.

1884. Elisabeth and Jessamyn are now seven years old. Jessamyn is a “headstrong frontier tomboy” who dreams of joining the circus, while Elisabeth is a boring pushover who does all the chores Jessamyn leaves her with. Gee, does that sound familiar? Jessamyn disappears at yearly family circus outing for a while to hang out with the bareback riding lady and momentarily scares the shit out of her family. After they find her, Jessamyn tells her mother that there’s an animal “talker” there who goes by “the Magnificent Theo W.” Alice flips out thinking it might be her first love and steals away to the circus to find out, only to see it has already packed up and left town.

1893. Now 16, the twins attend a corn-husking bee with their family and friends. There’s a set of bully brothers named Billy and Bobby Tyrus and Bobby makes fun of Jessamyn for liking “boyish” stuff like bicycles and baseball. She tells him off. Elisabeth gets jealous when she thinks Jessamyn is flirting with her crush, Tom Wilkens. Tom Wilkens? Really? You mean to tell me the twins’ love stories are hereditary too? What? Jessamyn also pisses off Alycia Germond by flirting with her love interest Tad Schmidt. Then Tom finds a red ear of corn; the tradition is that he can kiss the girl of his choice. He chooses Elisabeth and she floats on air. Jessamyn is momentarily annoyed but goes back to flashing her ankles at Carl Bergen and Tad, or however people flirted back then, I don’t know.

Jessamyn has also been taking bareback riding lessons from an old Native American named Peter Blue Cloud, on his horse Smoke Signal. Peter Blue Cloud shares a lot of his people’s history and legends with Jessamyn and she genuinely likes hearing them. She is the one person who seems to bring him any sunshine in life; they make great friends. I think it’s pretty cool that Jessamyn’s character is a lot less shallow than modern-day Jessica. In fact, she’s my favorite character in this whole book. But don’t worry, we can’t have Elisabeth not looking like a do-gooder. She has her own elderly man friend, a former slave named Matthew whom ‘Lis is teaching to read.

When the circus comes back that summer, Jessamyn dresses as a boy so she can either access the circus more easily or volunteer to work in exchange for free daily tickets. The new bareback riding lady tells Jessamyn she is a natural and offers to get her a job, so Jessamyn runs away with the circus, leaving a note behind. Elisabeth is devastated; Matthew says that this is Jessamyn’s chance to make a new life for herself. Tom continues to court Elisabeth and comfort her. Elisabeth slowly starts acting a bit more like Jess to feel closer to her, taking horsey lessons from Peter and sneaking rancid old cheese into Bobby Tyrus’ dinner pail to fuck with him the way Jess used to.

When Elisabeth hears that Peter Blue Cloud is dying, she asks her parents if she can find Jessamyn and bring her back, because Peter really wants to see her one last time. Her parents refuse, so Elisabeth sneaks off herself. She stows away on trains until she finds Jessamyn’s compartment. Jess is doing great and is the star of the show now and caught between twin trapeze artists, Mario and Dario Morrelli. The twins decide to return to Prairie Lakes after Jessamyn’s next performance so that Jessamyn can tell Peter goodbye. Elisabeth is wowed by the flips Jess does on the horse, Goldilocks, and Jessamyn agrees to let her try out a ride. But Elisabeth gets reckless and goes too fast, and Goldilocks throws her. Elisabeth is killed instantly. Damn you horse!

Needless to say, Jessamyn is devastated. She quits the circus and returns home. She’s too late for Peter Blue Cloud; he died the same day Elisabeth did. 😦

1900. Jessamyn is now a hostess at a hotel in San Francisco, California and actively courted by hordes of wealthy male guests, none of whom she really gives a damn about. She turns down tons of marriage proposals and thinks sadly about how she hasn’t known any real joy since her sister died.

1905. Taylor Watson of Watson Motor Company is the first man Jessamyn has ever been serious about. She feels comfortable with him, but isn’t sure she loves him. He asks her to marry him and she holds off on an answer, but wears the ring anyway. Then Taylor introduces her to his top Watson Motors race car driver Bruce Farber, and lust blossoms!

1906. Jessamyn is now having a passionate affair with Bruce Farber while still “engaged” to Taylor. On a hilltop overlooking San Fran, Bruce and Jessamyn are having a picnic and Bruce is pressuring Jessamyn to take off her ring. He wants Jess to finally tell Taylor that she’s going to marry Bruce instead, but Jessamyn is still hesitating. She knows that if Elisabeth were here, she’d tell Jess she should stop stalling and marry Taylor and tell Bruce to fuck off. But instead, Bruce seduces Jessamyn on the hilltop. No, for real, it’s definitely implied that they have sex up there. It’s always a Bruce that inspires the closest we get to sex scenes in Sweet Valley, isn’t it?

Then the San Francisco Earthquake hits and wakes our lovers up from their post-coital slumber on the picnic blanket. Jessamyn sees the city on fire and insists that Bruce drive her back down there in his Model E (get it? Like Model T? haha) so that she can check on her hotel guests and Taylor. Bruce refuses, because he is a big asshole and doesn’t want to help his rival. What a dick! Jessamyn promises to be his forever in order to get him to help her guests. They find the hotel split open and fire rapidly approaching, and an elderly lady guest named Mrs. Burnham trapped inside. Jessamyn begs Bruce to rescue the woman, but it takes her insinuating he is a coward to make him do it. When he heads in, Taylor Watson shows up and is saddened to see that Jessamyn was with Bruce, but he rushes to help Bruce pull a bed off the trapped woman without hesitation. The old woman is saved, but Bruce doesn’t make it out of the burning building with them. Taylor rushes back to save him, almost losing his own life in the process. Taylor and Bruce make it out alive thanks to Taylor. Jessamyn realizes she’s in love with Taylor and rushes to tell him so, much to Bruce’s utter shock and disapproval.

1908. Jessamyn and Taylor live in Detroit, where they have a one-year-old son named Harry and infant twin girls, Amanda and Samantha. More twins!

1920. Amanda is like Elizabeth Wakefield and Samantha is like Jessica Wakefield. One wants to be a writer and the other wants to be a movie star. Prohibition is in full effect and the twins argue over whether or not people are “supposed” to drink. Amanda gets mad at Samantha for gossiping their neighbor Elise DeCecco drank every day while waiting for her boyfriend to return from the Great War. Wow, Amanda is definitely exactly what a 1920s Liz would be like.

1925-26. Amanda is seriously dating the popular Geoffrey Aiken. (Geoffrey = Jeffrey?) Samantha has fallen in love with a hot picture of Harry’s college buddy, Ted Wakefield and can’t wait to meet him and make him hers when he visits at Christmas. The girls go to a local club where Samantha dances with Scott Turner while her ex-boy toy, sleazy speakeasy-goin’ boy Kevin Hughes, mopes around that she doesn’t want him anymore. Then Ted comes to visit with Harry. He’s a writer and needless to say, that’s all the excuse Amanda needs to fall for him. Ted fascinates everyone with his manly manliness and stories of how his grandfather, Theo W. (yes that one) struck gold in Colorado after he left the circus. One night, Ted finds Amanda writing poetry after everyone else is asleep. He gets her to read him some of her poetry, they make out, and Amanda feels horribly guilty because she knows Samantha is still after Ted, so she doesn’t tell her. So Sam continues to make a fool out of herself pursuing Ted, and doesn’t seem to realize he isn’t returning her feelings.

After Ted and Harry go back to school, Amanda breaks up with Geoffrey and returns his ring. Ted starts writing to Amanda every day. Amanda always grabs the letters before anyone else in the family can see them, and keeps telling herself that she’ll let Samantha know the truth, but squanders every opportunity she has to do so. She lies and tells Ted that she has told Samantha. Can you tell how this is ultimately going to go down?

Yes, Samantha one day gets home from school unexpectedly early, sees one of Ted’s letters to Amanda, and steams it open and reads it. Then she finds the rest of the letters where Amanda has hidden them under the mattress. Man, is she PISSED. Sam starts burning future Ted letters that Amanda receives, including ones that mention he’s going to visit again with Harry for spring break. Ted thinks Amanda doesn’t love him anymore or something, but goes ahead and shows up for the visit anyway. He is confused to find Samantha, not Amanda, waiting for him. Samantha has already taken the liberty of trashing the school newspaper office so that Amanda has to stay behind and clean it, so that Sam can get to Ted first. Samantha gets Ted to take her out in his car by saying she’ll show him the way to the high school so they can pick up Amanda; instead she redirects him to a secluded bluff and throws herself at him. Ted pushes her away and Samantha stalks out of the car and off down the road by herself. She heads straight to a speakeasy called the Cellar Door where she convinces her sleazy ex Kevin to help her bring down Ted and get back at Amanda. And what a nasty plan it is: Kevin plants a shitload of bathtub gin or whatever in the trunk of Ted’s car. Then Samantha goes and gets Ted out of bed in the middle of the night, posing as Amanda, and telling him a friend of his is in trouble and needs him down at the Cafe Car. So Ted and Samantha drive over there and the police pull them over as Samantha has advised them Ted is planning to make an illegal delivery. The police tell Ted that Amanda told them he was coming, Ted thinks she planted the liquor, and the fake “Amanda” says she did it because she thinks Ted made a pass at Samantha.

Wow, Samantha is kind of a loon.

Ted is hauled off to jail thinking that the girl he loves is a horrible double-crossing bitch. I can’t believe the idea that it might’ve been his true love’s twin sister plotting all this never once crossed his mind, especially after the erratic way she behaved just the day before!

The next day, Amanda hears what happened to Ted and goes to the police office, where she’s told he was released for “lack of evidence” (what? how is liquor in the trunk not evidence enough?) and that he complained his girlfriend had tricked him. Amanda realizes what happened and she and Sam have a horrible fight about it. Sam tries to get Amanda to forgive her, but Amanda is not as wimpy as Liz, and she refuses. The twins stop talking to each other and then Sam takes off for Hollywood after they graduate from high school. A few months later, she’s married to a Jack Lewis and starring in a new movie. Amanda refuses to go to the wedding or speak to her sister ever again. She’s also unable to track down Ted and tell him the truth.

1927. Amanda races back to Hollywood to finally reconcile with her sister after she hears she’s about to die from childbirth complications. Amanda promises Samantha that she will look after her daughter, Marjorie, with Jack. Samantha dies a minute or two later.

1935. Amanda is now a high school teacher in Sweet Valley. Jack, meanwhile, moves to France after he lands a good job there, allowing him to escape the Great Depression. He takes Marjorie with him.

1939. Marjorie misses her aunt, but is loving life in Val-le-Doux, France. Val-le-Doux? That roughly translates to Sweet Valley. Come on, let’s get a bit more creative here. Also, we learn that back home, one of Amanda’s students is a class clown named Walter Egbert.

1940. Marjorie and her father navigate Val-le-Doux around all the Nazi Germany soldiers who have occupied it. Marjorie doesn’t approve of the close friendship of her father and beautiful Frenchwoman Mademoiselle Pinget, even though her dad assures her they are just friends.

1941. Jack decides it’s too dangerous for Marjorie to continue living in France and makes arrangements to send her back to the U.S. to live with Amanda. Marjorie tearfully bids her best friend Marthe Giradoux goodbye. But then the United States enters World War II and Marjorie and her father, as Americans, are now enemies of the German-occupied France. The Nazis come and arrest her father while Marjorie is out one day. Mlle. Pinget and her friend, Monsieur Bourget, put Marjorie into hiding; it turns out they are members of the French Resistance. Marjorie stays in a wine cellar with a younger, Jewish girl, Sophy Berg, who tells her about her handsome older brother, Jacques. Marjorie realizes her father is also a member of the Resistance and that’s why he and Mlle. Pinget were so close. (They couldn’t also be lovers?) She feels proud of him.

1942. Jacques reunites with Sophy in the girls’ farmhouse hideaway, and invites Marjorie to become a member of the Resistance by transmitting Morse code messages in English and French to help their mission. Marjorie is excited to take up the task, but it means she must leave Sophy behind and constantly be on the move. Jacques helps her out, and it’s not long before he and Marjorie fall in love. While operating the radio, Marjorie receives an incoming message which says Sophy has been discovered and arrested by the Nazis, who are actively looking for Marjorie as well in the hopes that her capture will force her father to cooperate. The messages state that Marjorie’s dad is believed to have deliberately been turned over to the POW camp in order to work from the inside. That knowledge inspires Marjorie to draft a drastic plan to save Sophy. Jacques talks to a former classmate of his, Pierre Trichet, who collaborates with the Germans sometimes. Jacques convinces Pierre to offer the Germans Marjorie in exchange for Sophy. Jacques will bring Marjorie to a nearby train station and hand her over after Pierre releases Sophy. Sophy will not be allowed to stay in France, but will be given false papers and put on the train to Spain to start a new life. After Sophy gets on the train, Marjorie will flee from Pierre after a disguised Resistance fighter “accidentally” rams a cart into Pierre and knocks him over. Marjorie and Jacques will dash onto the train as it pulls away and leap off at a pre-arranged point to meet with more Resistance fighters and continue their work.

The plan appears to go well at first until the part where Marjorie and Jacques flee from Pierre. Swarms of Nazis fill the station and a gunbattle erupts between them and hordes of hidden French Resistance fighters. As the train carries Marjorie away to safety, she sees Jacques gunned down.

Damn, is no one allowed to find happiness with their first true love in this book?

On board the train, Marjorie meets with Sophy and they embrace and cry. Marjorie plans to leap off the train at a pre-arranged point to meet with more Resistance fighters and continue her mission, but Sophy thinks it’s time for her to fulfill Marjorie’s work while Marjorie returns to her home country. Marjorie insists that Sophy be the one to find freedom with the papers, but Sophy locks her inside their compartment, slides her papers under the door for Marjorie to use to find freedom, and then throws herself off the train to stay and fight in her home country.

1949. Home in Sweet Valley, Sophy marries Charles Robertson, an airman shot down over Val-le-Doux whom the Resistance helped rescue. At the wedding, Uncle Harry is there with his wife Stephanie and their sons, Peter and Stevie. No sign of old Ted though!

1962. Marjorie’s daughters Nancy, Alice, and Laura watch the first moon landing and make family trees.

Late 1960s. Alice Robertson attends the College of Southern California where she dresses like a hippie and joins in protests. Rich Hank Patman pursues her but she thinks he’s a ridiculous snob. But then the students hold a sit-in to protest the firing of a professor who was “too vocal” about the cause of civil rights. The administration attempts to starve the students out by cutting off deliveries from the building, but Hank saves the day by flying his helicopter over top the building and dropping food onto the roof while making an announcement over a bullhorn. The students eat and stay and the professor’s job is reinstated, and Alice falls for Hank. They date pretty seriously and eventually get engaged later that semester. At a beach party, Alice catches Hank walking off with a girl named Brenda and they have a fight. Alice swims off in the ocean in a rage, gets caught in an undertow, and is saved from drowning by handsome law student Ned Wakefield. It’s literally a re-do of Theo Wakefield saving Alice Larson after she fell off the ship. No, for real: even the text of the two incidents is the exact same with perhaps an extra sentence thrown in. It’s fate! Alice and Ned aren’t sure why, but they are instantly drawn to one another. Still, Alice turns Ned down when he eventually asks her out, explaining that she’s engaged. The day of the wedding, Alice and her sisters overhear Hank and his friends making fun of the causes Alice values and the hippie clothes Hank had to wear to convince her he was serious. Alice tells Hank she’s leaving him and he only seems to be upset about it because it will shame his family. He kicks her off the Patman property in a rage. She walks all the way to a pay phone, finds Ned’s home address in the attached phone book, and walks to his house where they embrace. At long last, the spirit of Alice Larson can rest as the Larson line and the Wakefield line are finally united … I guess. It’s destiny, or something.

“A number of years later.” The Wakefield twins are born with golden halos over their heads and an operatic chorus singing arias in the background

This cover is awesome. It is the first one that wasn’t done by the usual cover artist, James Mathewuse. I don’t know why. Franco Accornero did this one. So let’s check it out … here’s the full stepback …. (click to enlarge)

Voila!

To the left, we have Theodore and Alice embracing on the dock, with Alice and Hank zooming around in his Mustang right below them. Then there’s a mountain range with a steam locomotive, and Jessamyn on a horse in front of it. The horse matches the description of Smoke Signal, not Goldilocks, but Jess is not riding him bareback, so I’m confused. Also, I don’t know if the train is supposed to be the one that Elisabeth catches to find Jessamyn or the one that Marjorie and Sophy escape on, but I’m guessing the former since it looks like the horse bit is supposed to be part of it. And then finally we have Samantha sashaying around in her flapper outfit while Ted looks on.

The identities of the ladies going down the righthand side has always confused me a bit. I think the top lady is Alice Larson, all dressed up by her friends on the boat with pearls and makeup for her first date with Theodore Wakefield. Then we have Elisabeth all prim and proper in her bonnet. Next, well, I guess that’s Alice Robertson, looking all feisty and protest-ready. I would say that’s Liz, but I don’t see any barrettes! And lastly, we have Jessica with the Aqua Net going on. Seriously, no Marjorie anywhere on this cover?

WTF? So yes, I genuinely liked this book. I do like historical sagas, but I thought this one was very well-done. (Of course, I did read it right after Sweet Valley Confidential, so consider the post-recovery factor from that piece of shit.) It was a super easy read, but it didn’t bore me at all. Okay, maybe Alice’s story started to make me nod off after a while. Can you blame me? It was hard to go from tales of war bravery and crazy speakeasy schemes to Alice fucking fretting over Ned.

I like the title; The Wakefields of Sweet Valley sounds appropriate for a saga. Yet it’s not really about the Wakefields until the last chapter, and the two Wakefield men that appear prior to Ned aren’t in Sweet Valley.

The font in this book is HUGE. If they made it the regular-sized font, they probably could’ve shaved off at least a good 50 pages.

Continuity police: I believe there are now three different versions of how Ned and Alice met – the one in this book, one in an earlier Sweet Valley High book, and one in a Sweet Valley Twins book (Jumping to Conclusions).

So, we learned about Alice’s sisters. We know that Laura went on to marry shitty Greg Bates and have Kelly Bates. So the other cousin, Jenny Townsend (in Taking Sides) must be Nancy’s daughter.

The Super Edition Spring Fever said that Uncle Herman and Aunt Shirley were Alice’s aunt and uncle. Okay, so due to the last name situation, we can guess that Shirley is either Marjorie’s half-sister (if Jack remarried), or Charles’ sister, who married a Herman Walker.

That leaves us with Cousin Rexy (who died) and Cousin Robin (from Sweet Valley Twins), neither of whom is mentioned; I can only assume these are children of Ned’s siblings. I know he has a half-brother named Louis.

Is Mr. Patman’s name Hank or Henry? I know Hank is short for Henry but I thought he generally went by Henry. Whatever.

Speaking of Hank/Henry, let’s talk about why Alice’s engagement to Hank is “a painful romantic choice she will hide forever – even from her twin daughters”, as the back cover tells us. Why? The whole town knew Alice and Hank were engaged and that she walked out on their wedding day. So why is it such a secret? Are their daughters really never going to hear about this growing up in the same small town? I know this is talked about a little later on in the SVH series, but I don’t get it.

The redundancy of names and connections got a bit annoying after a while. Is Bruce Farber supposed to be an ancestor of Bruce Patman? Is Tom Wilkens an ancestor of Todd Wilkins? It’s fate, right? And I guess Walter Egbert is Winston’s grandfather.

Of course the left shoulder moles get passed down for each Elizabeth-like twin, and the size six gets passed down as well! Seriously, isn’t that fucking pushing it just a little!

Whatever happened to Ted Wakefield, the one Amanda fell in love with who thinks she betrayed him? Did he die or just not show up at Alice and Ned Wakefield’s wedding? ‘Cause man, I’d love to see THAT showdown.

It’s entirely possible that I missed it, but I never saw where the Nazis were looking for Jacques Berg, only Sophy, nor did I get why Pierre didn’t want to turn Jacques over to the Nazis if he was such a collaborator.

The first names of Wakefield/Robertson family members are clearly passed down from generation to generation. I guess that whole bit in the SVH series where Ned claimed he named Steven after his dead college friend was something he made up to fuck with him.

I would love to hear more about what happened to Sophy Berg after she left the train to join the Resistance. Maybe she will reappear in the next Saga, but I doubt it. This isn’t THAT big of a series. Even characters randomly mentioned throughout this book intrigued me as to what their fates were, such as Alice’s friends on the ship: Angelique Stone, Birgitta Svensen, Sarah Thurber, and Jane McCarty, who come from different countries and help her look good for Ted.

Reading and enjoying this book left me with a whole new disdain for Sweet Valley Confidential. It also made some of the things that happened in SVC seem that much weirder.

Coming up next … We’re back to the boring original SVH books, in which two supposedly smart girls fight over that douchey Scott Trost.

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