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

Posts tagged ‘sweet valley high’

Sweet Valley High Fan Club: The Oracle newsletter, Volume I (circa 1993/4)

I want to thank reader Jen L. for very kindly sending me these awesome images of Volume I of The Oracle newsletter, along with some other photo goodies! Of course,¬†The Oracle was the name of the famous SVH school newspaper, where new staffers mysteriously appear whenever it’s convenient to the plot … and also became the name of the free newsletter that members of the Sweet Valley High Fan Club got back in the day. Let’s take a look at this first issue …

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The front page!

Okay, first of all, no surprise to see Elizabeth has written the welcome letter. She invites readers to submit their own writing for publication. Anyone ever gotten published in a future issue of The Oracle? Next, this newsletter directs readers to pick up Teacher Crush to see how Olivia D. handled crushing on her art teacher. Oh yeah, and Olivia handled it real well! Of course, if I were working at Bantam back in the day I would have suggested readers see how Suzanne Devlin “handled” it instead by picking up Too Good to Be True. Handled Mr. Collins, you know what I’m sayin’? LOL!

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Page 2 invites you to learn the twins’ secret language which involves sticking the letters “ithig” in the middle of each syllable of each word. You know something, I swear to god that Bantam promoted this funky language all over the place back in the day. It debuted in a Sweet Valley Twins book, Keeping Secrets, in the 1980s and then I think they talked about it again in the SVT Super Summer Book (which I have on a shelf in another room but am way too lazy to just go get up and pull out).

The “Personal Profiles” feature gives facts about Lila Fowler, with the pretty picture of her from her Super Star book. It doesn’t tell us anything about her that we don’t already know, including her favorite ice cream flavor, which we recently learned is Million Dollar Mocha, and that her answer to who her boyfriend is, is “I play the field!” (P.S. I just randomly googled Million Dollar Mocha. It is now the name of a CoverGirl lip shade.)

Next up, a recipe section called “Treats for the Sweet” (huh? random). This issue’s recipe is called “Crispy Dogs” and I’m betting that sounds kinda nasty to some of you! This is supposed to be a snack that Liz and Jess like to make for their friends. It’s basically cut-up hot dogs, coated in a mustard-water mixture and rolled in crushed tortilla chips and then baked in the oven. Is this how these girls keep their “perfect size 6 figures”? You know something, this recipe sounds fucking delicious and I am going to make it. I deserve Crispy Dogs. Don’t judge me.

Then we have this brilliant quote from Todd where he talks about what he likes in a girl, which is basically that the girl be herself. Oh, bullshit, Todd. He says that’s why he likes Liz so much. LOL. Only every time Liz stands up for herself, Todd gets mad! Makes sense!

This page closes with a little feature that looks to be Jessica W.’s monthly fashion column, Eye for Fashion. Jessica’s tip is for you to collect old earrings from your mom, big sister, etc. and use them to “jazz up” your boring clothes. She suggests that you put the clip-on earrings on the lapel of your jacket, wear the stud earrings as pins, and hang dangling earrings on the front of your jacket. Hmmmmm. This could be cute on a denim jacket if done carefully, or ya know, it could wind up looking like a horror show.

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On to page 3! It’s kicked off with a Sweet Valley pop quiz, which has questions from the SVT and Sweet Valley Kids series, too. If you get them all right, you’re voted “most intelligent.” If you only get one right, you’re a freshman who has “been spending too much time at the beach” and needs to “read as many Sweet Valley Books as you can.” Get out those wallets, kids!

Probably the longest article in the entire newsletter urges “Sweet Valley Fans Unite!” It tells you how to start your own SVH fan club and urges you to send in photos and details of your club. Get it going, y’all. I’ll bring the Jungle Prom Punch.

Finally, there’s the Super Silly Storyteller which is essentially SVH’s version of Mad Libs, only way more boring unless you want to make it Dirty Mad Libs and fill in filthy words like some of us may have when we were kids. ūüôā

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The newsletter closes with an interview with Francine Pascal, of course. She promotes the upcoming TV show, and talks about other books she wrote that her kids inspired.

Oh yes, and we have a Sweet Valley High products order form where you can order goodies like a fan club T-shirt, club stationery, club secret treasure box, and club pencil. I think these were all things that came with the original fan club shipments. Speaking of which … here’s the stationery and the treasure box!

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OK, that stationery actually looks pretty rad. I wanna take that to a business meeting and just sit down and nonchalantly take notes on it.

Here are some more SVH items from Jen’s collection that you may recall …

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Dangerous Love jigsaw puzzle by Milton Bradley! You can pretend you’re reconstructing Liz’s brain!

 

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Promo tote from the short-lived SVH reboot

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Bookshelf of goodies – I so wish my collection looked this organized

Lastly, Jen sent these pictures of the SVH map with the SVH dolls prominently featured.

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Wow, so everything is literally just steps away from everything else, the ocean is in the twins’ backyard, and there’s a snowcapped mountain ski chalet overlooking the perfect little beach. Hmmmm … where’s the Shady Lady, and Betsy Martin’s trash-strewn neighborhood?

Notice that each area on the map has a corresponding set of doll outfits that are supposed to go with it … Born to Shop goes with the mall, etc.

Here are lots of close-ups of the map.

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I want to tell Jen thanks again for sending me all of these photos so I could post them for your enjoyment!

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Prom Perfect: Moonlight and Roses

What in the heeeeeelllll

Well, I’ve been slow as molasses in wintertime (a favorite expression! Maybe I picked it up from everybody’s favorite anything-not-California-smearing SVH Super Edition Spring Fever) getting up my next review! I promise I’ve been reading that next book (#101, The Boyfriend War), and it is a DOOZY and I hope to have that review up within the next week. In the meantime, here is something short and sweet to tide you over. I managed to get my hands on the last Sweet Valley High doll booklet, Moonlight and Roses, which came with the Prom Perfect boxed set of Elizabeth and Jessica Barbie-like toys, dressed in all their drink spikin’, Jeep wreckin’, boyfriend killin’ finery, OH NO SHE DIDN’TTTTTT. (I am not saying I have had anything to drink this evening, but I am also not saying I have NOT had anything to drink.) My Saturday nights are so weird sometimes. Anyway! For real y’all, did you see that booklet image above? Click on it if you need to enlarge the detail, but I am pretty sure that this booklet is supposed to show the same outfits that Jessica and Elizabeth were wearing in A Night to Remember. Forget what was on the cover of that book – I remember thinking at the time that the outfits on the outside didn’t really look like what was described on the pages inside. Well, the outfits on this booklet’s cover, especially Elizabeth’s, sound much closer! So, that means back in the day, kids could get doll versions of Elizabeth wearing the dress she killed Sam in and Jess in the dress she also killed Sam in! Kinda fucked up, amirite. Oh well, at least the dolls didn’t come with accessories, like a bloodied Prom Queen sash or a big bottle of Everclear with two mini red solo cups.

So, now that I see Liz’s …. get-up … on the cover of this booklet, I think I’m not a fan. I guess Liz’s drank was spiked too heavily and she thought this was an audition for the Swan Lake ballet instead of prom. Jessica looks like a 1990s cruise ship singer with those sequins. Or Dynasty if Dynasty had lasted into the ’90s. There is some kind of ruffly ass bow/flower thing on Jessica’s right shoulder that I am not digging. The skirt is supposed to be full, knee-length and layered with more sequins which I think doesn’t match what was in A Night to Remember, but I am too lazy to go back and look. I think it just said that dress was tight and off-shoulder. Nice touch with the twins sporting matching earrings, although for some reason Liz’s have one extra pearl.

The story in this one is far less interesting than the funky, Pepto Bismol-pink cover. Jessica comes home late for dinner from a prom committee meeting, and the whole family is at the table eating, including Steven. What else would he be doing with himself? It’s not like he’d rather be at college. Steven rags on Jessica a bit and we hear about how Liz made dinner and Jessica and the prom committee have been disorganized and having a hard time picking the prom theme, so they ultimately settled on something “classic” (AKA boring), Moonlight and Roses, where the theme is … candles and shit. Haha, this is way more formal than Jungle Prom. Maybe this prom story really does take place after the Jungle Prom, and the kids learned their lessons to the point they’re just having the most boring-ass prom ever to be safe!

Jessica is hoping to be Prom Queen in this story, of course, but she’s slightly worried Liz might win, even though Liz has shown no interest in the title. LOL, that’s what you think, Jessica.

Jessica reminds Liz that they need to shop for prom dresses, and Liz surprises Jess by saying she already got one when she went shopping with Enid. Later, Liz shows Jess her dress, which is the “deep rose” dress we see on the cover. Jess loves the dress, but Liz says she doesn’t really feel like herself in it. Gee, I wonder where this is going. The next day, Jessica hurries to the mall and shops by herself. Unable to find a dress she likes, she settles on the blue one Liz is wearing on the cover. The night of prom arrives, and the girls are hurriedly getting dressed when they realize they’d each rather be wearing the other’s dress, and they switch! Wooooooooo. The girls get their dates and head off to prom. Of course Todd is Liz’s date, but who is Jessica’s? Oh, it can’t be Sam! We can’t go THERE. In this alternate universe, Jessica’s date is Aaron Dallas. Why do I feel like Aaron is always Jessica’s backup date for everything? (Maybe it’s just ’cause they put those two together in Sweet Valley Twins.) When they get to the prom, Liz proclaims the prom “magical” and says, “We’ll always remember this night.” OH YOU BETCHA YOU WILL, LIZZIE. Better put that Dixie cup down! I guess in this alternate universe, Sam doesn’t exist so this is the nicey-nice prom they should’ve had, in the world where Jessica isn’t a narcissist wreaking destruction everywhere she goes and Liz isn’t the doormat who will always forgive her eventually (even if takes a knife-wielding clone of herself to make her do it).

The book ends with another one of those cop-out questions for the reader: “Will Jessica be voted Prom Queen? Or will Elizabeth win? Maybe both of the twins will be elected … YOU DECIDE!” Oh, we know how this one really ended. I’m not going to decide a different ending than that one, because to be honest it would probably be even worse!

So yeah, that’s that! I gotta get going. Thank you for reading my bizarre musings, and I’ll see you guys in a few days for my review of the next story, which is a good one for summer. ūüôā

New at Sweet Valley High: Graphic Novel Series

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

Campus Cool: Jessica’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campus Cool: Elizabeth’s Story

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Bust out some Milli Vanilli songs in this bitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#100/Magna Edition #4 The Evil Twin

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“Merry Christmas, bitches!” Love, Margo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stepback

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

full stepback

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

Other crap: Talk about a blast from the past! In the first SVH book, Double Love¬†(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.

#99 Beware the Baby-Sitter

BWTBS

How dare you have to take a piss, you little brat!!!

I have to get this off my chest: This is the dumbest title ever. Ugh! The whole book revolves around babies. I’m decidedly not a fan of stories that are all about babies, so this spelled hell for me from the start. Maybe that is why I finished this book approximately 2 months ago and have been sitting on a half-finished review for nearly as long. I’m ready to read the last “Margo” book (for a while).

This cover is dumb, too. We have Margo as “Marla” (her newest alter-ego), working at the daycare center and taunting some kid who has sad eyes and a bowl cut, but it’s never explained who this kid is. Also, the kid looks like he totally has to take a piss. In the upper right corner, SPOILER ALERT! That’s Liz and Todd, who don’t look anything like themselves if you ask me, but as you’ll see, there really isn’t anyone else it could be. I’m going to have to these kids no longer looking like themselves on these new covers. :/

So, the main plot here has to do with a baby named Daisy Zvonchenko that Winston is stuck caring for when Daisy’s mother has to leave suddenly in order to bring her journalist husband some papers at an airport or some shit, in a Central American country that’s in the middle of a coup, because he had to leave his passport behind in the hotel when it was taken over by terrorists, and I can’t believe I cared enough to go back through the book just now and make sure I was giving you the accurate story. But that is what I did! Anyway, Mrs. Z. just rings the doorbell, and then gleefully flings Daisy and some baby-care items into Winston’s arms, asks if his parents can look after her real quick and disappears acting like it ain’t no thang. What the fuck, lady? She runs off saying she’ll probably be back the next day, and Winston doesn’t get a chance/doesn’t care enough to run after her and tell her that his parents just left for a week’s vacation, and he was planning to sit around at home and do nothing but eat peanut butter and sardine sandwiches by himself. LMFAO, I am serious – that’s really the only thing he envisions with a house all to himself. Boy, I had different ideas at 16. Well, now Winston is stuck caring for this kid – let the hijinks ensue, am i rite!!! And guess what, Mrs. Z doesn’t come back the next day, like she said she would … or the next day … or the next. She just vanishes. So instead of asking an adult or, I don’t know, another neighbor or something for help, Winston spends the week caring for the baby in secret.

Yeah, so this plot is supposed to be so cute or something, but it’s horrendous. Maria comes over to visit and get some hot sexy times I guess, although that appears to be the last thing on either her or Winston’s mind. Winston hurriedly shoves Daisy¬†in a closet, but then Maria hears her making baby noises and shit, and he has to let the secret out. Winston has been freaking out over how to change a diaper, so he’s secretly kind of glad Maria knows now. Later, Winston’s mom calls, and she keeps hearing Daisy in the background and he keeps lying about what is going on. I don’t get it. It’s not his fault, so why can’t he just say something? Does he want the baby off his hands or not? Then, Maria brings a bunch of her friends over – Amy, Lila, Annie, Pamela, Cheryl, and Jean (who’s now regularly referred to as Jeanie) – to meet the baby the next night, and they all coo and shriek over her. Okay, except for Lila, who’s more concerned that the ¬†baby’s clothes look out of fashion. Maria gets the idea to go to Olivia’s boyfriend’s upcoming costume party with the baby and that they should all wear costumes. Gee, I thought they wanted to be inconspicuous about this! Winston starts seeing a future taking care of babies with Maria and gets sick and has to sit down, or something. I would get sick and have to sit down thinking of raising babies with anyone in this freaking universe.Kind of wish Ned and Alice had gotten sick and had to sit down at some point.

The ladies keep coming over to the Egbert house to help Winston with Daisy, because he’s totally incompetent and oh my god, it’s so funny! LOLLLLLLLLZZZ! When Amy makes fun of Winston for being utterly hopeless with diapers, Winston bets her that he’ll be a master at it by “Friday”. If he is, he gets to choose Amy’s costume for the costume party. If he isn’t, then Amy gets to choose Winston’s costume. I’ll just relieve you of the suspense: Winston wins, and Amy has to go to the costume party as a nun! HAH! Now that shit is funny. Good one, Francine.

Winston has been skipping school to take care of Daisy, but he finally realizes he can’t fake it anymore (why not?) and so he comes to school carrying the baby inside a duffel bag. Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper almost catches him, and then Mr. Collins nearly does as well, and it’s just really silly. The baby gets passed around from student to student. When it’s Lila’s turn to care for Daisy (outside in a school courtyard/park), Lila successfully teaches her to say “Porsche.” Then the principal appears, and Lila has to make up some shit about why she’s hanging around outside while keeping old Chrome Dome from noticing there’s a fucking baby hanging around. Meanwhile, Daisy crawls away without either Lila (or the principal) noticing. When Chrome Dome finally leaves, Lila chases after Daisy and finds her under a bench untying Bruce Patman’s shoelaces. He has no idea, because he’s busy listening to his CD player and singing/drumming along. And after Lila carries Daisy away, he stands up and trips over his shoelaces. Ha ha! OK, I gotta give this scene some credit for the genuine laugh it gave me.

Mrs. Z is still missing in action, so Winston ultimately realizes he needs help, so he, Liz, and Todd take the baby to … the local daycare center. The fuck? They’re going to go in there and ask what to do. Damn, y’all really don’t want to talk to your parents! Not even Ms. Perfect Liz wants to ask her perfect parents for their fucking advice? Probably because she can’t find their absentee asses or is too tired from making their fucking dinner every night. Or you know, you can just call the police … The baby’s mother is overdue to come back and you haven’t heard shit from her and for all you know she is dead. I guess I have to give these kids a break because they’re 16, right? Ughh.

Unbeknownst to the gang, the daycare center is the worst place they could have taken little Daisy. Margo is working there as “Marla” and she gives Winston “advice” from time to time, and she silently flips the fuck out when she sees the Scooby Gang show up with this baby. She starts seething (to herself) about how unfair it is that Liz has Todd, and that Liz loves the baby and the baby has parents who love her too, or something, and starts thinking about how she’ll get revenge on Liz by hurting the baby. What?

The costume party night arrives, and Winston and Maria goes as Ricky and Lucy, and Daisy is Little Ricky. God, does that sound like a trainwreck straight out of hell or what. They hang out on the loud-ass dance floor with the baby and Daisy doesn’t seem bothered by this at all. Maybe I really do know nothing about babies.

Back to Margo/Marla/WTF: Winston is totally freaked out by “Marla’s” weird behavior at the daycare center and thinks she is strange. Then Marla/Margo just randomly appears at his house one day despite Winston never giving her his full name or address, and she says she wants to watch the baby so Winston can catch a break and go out and run errands for a long time. Seems legit. Winston decides it’s cool for her to hang out alone with the baby one day at his house, because everyone in these books is stupid as all fuck, and so he leaves. And then Margo is just about to smother Daisy with a pillow when the doorbell rings, and it’s Liz, showing up unexpectedly. Margo is completely star-struck by coming face-to-face with Liz, who doesn’t recognize her in her “Marla” disguise (remember Margo was just hanging all around Liz at the wedding the previous week). Marla/Margo freezes and she doesn’t know what to do, so she just tears out of the house and Liz is all “Gee, how strange! Huh.” She doesn’t say anything to anyone about this, of course. Of course! Margo has been urging Winston to leave Daisy at the daycare center so she can take her to Social Services, because I guess the gang can’t do that themselves, and so Winston drops Daisy off and waves goodbye. When he gets home, hey! There’s Mrs. Z. And she’s just all, “Oh sorry I couldn’t call, tee hee! I’m sure my baby’s fine.” Winston tears back to the daycare center to pick up Daisy, and gets her as, once again, Margo is clearly about to kill her because all happy babies with good homes and loving parents must die, plus this will teach Liz a lesson somehow. Daisy is saved! Thank god, fuck this dumb ass story.

Major spooky bitch moment: Enid and Liz are hanging out on the beach when Enid suddenly spies Margo standing way down the way just staring at Liz in her maillot. In a blink of an eye, Margo vanishes and Enid freaks the fuck out that there was a dark-haired girl who looked a lot like Liz, just standing there staring at Liz. And then Enid goes back to staring at Liz herself and the moment is forgotten.

What’s going on with everyone else:¬†Let’s start with the twins and their fucking drama. Liz is sad because even though she and Todd danced together at Lila’s parents’ wedding, he still hasn’t tried to talk to her any. Why would he talk to you Liz? That would totally break with the normal post-breakup pattern that you guys have. Liz’s relationship with Jessica, however, is slowly getting patched up. By that I mean that one twin will occasionally act like she remembers the other twin exists. Then, they suddenly start talking more. Jessica asks Liz if she can borrow her sweater and they banter about old times. Jessica invites Liz to come to an “ice cream bash” at Lila’s house and Liz says she already heard about it through Enid (LOL) but she wasn’t going to go because she didn’t think Jessica would want her there. Jessica tells her she would, actually, and then the twins laugh about how funny it is that Lila even invited Enid or something, and everything seems hunky dory again …

BUT there’s still the little matter of that heartfelt letter from Todd that Jessica hid from Liz. Liz goes into Jessica’s room to do her laundry for her (hah! it really is back to normal!) and she finds the letter under Jessica’s bed. For once, Liz isn’t a doormat- she confronts Jessica about it the next morning, and when Jessica starts crying and tries to explain, Liz tells her to shut up and that they won’t ever be friends again. Damn! Then Liz drives herself over to Todd’s house and throws herself into his arms and kisses him, and they are back together again. I don’t get it. Todd is still a complete asshole for everything he did. This letter does not make up for it. He’s an emotionally abusive prick¬†who has already shown himself not averse to giving Liz the silent treatment and yes, sometimes taking off with another woman at the tiniest slight (real or imagined) from his long-time girlfriend. We’ve been seeing this since book 1, and this book is just the latest example (and the worst one). Why do you put up with this, Liz? WHY? (WHY do you write this shit this way, Francine and co.? WHY?) Even worse, Margo spies on Todd and Liz kissing and making up and thinks about how she’ll be the one doing that soon.

Jessica and James start the book by going on a hiking date, where James tries to shove Jessica off the side of the cliff, then “saves’ her. Haha! Jessica believes she just fell or stumbled, but at the same time she cannot shake the feeling that James pushed her, because I mean, he did. Jess decides that’s a crazy thing to think, that this guy she just met and knows zip about, but who’s already obsessed with her, would possibly try to do a thing like that. James later meets up at Kelly’s bar with “Mandy” (Margo’s alter-ego where James is concerned), and he tells her that he pushed Jess to see if she trusts him. Truthfully, James is starting to get weirded out by how much Mandy wants to know about these kids. There are some hints that maybe he’s falling in love with Jessica. One of these hints is that he’s being slightly cagey with Margo about Jessica now. And, you know, he could have killed Jess earlier, but he didn’t! He saved her! Aw, that’s so sweet, James! He still wants that cool $2K Margo promised him, so note he isn’t dropping their arrangement or anything. He wants that cash money more than he wants Jessica to live.

Josh Smith or whatever his name is has arrived in Sweet Valley to find Margo and avenge the death of his little brother. He attempts to get some information out of the crackpot Sweet Valley police force by posing as a reporter. The officer he talks to is just like, “Well son, this is Sweet Valley, it’s a wonderful and amazingly peaceful place.” Who the fuck is he kidding? The officer mentions Liz and Sam’s accident and then brushes it aside like, “Welp, the dude who caused that came forward though.” What? Man, I still can’t believe how Liz just got off scot-free for driving wasted. Though I gotta be honest, this mini-series has made me feel genuinely sorry for old prissy Liz. If this is karma biting her in the ass, it’s leaving scars on that booty.

Margo has continued running around Sweet Valley stealing shit so that she can look just like the twins. Her hair is dyed blonde and she is wearing blue-green contact lenses. One day, she dresses up like Liz and heads to Calico Drive. She briefly considers strangling the Wakefields’ four year old neighbor before waltzing on into the Wakefield house. Alice sees her and fake Liz gives her a hug. Alice is totally fooled. Liz steals a knife from the house and takes off. Real Liz comes in later in totally different clothes and Alice is baffled at her daughter’s sudden reappearance and change of clothes. Liz thinks old mom is losing her fucking mind again. No big deal!

Olivia’s stupid boyfriend Harry’s costume party is coming up, and it promises to be a most douchey evening. Liz and Todd decide to go as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Liz picks out the perfect dress and shawl and heels. What neither she nor Jessica nor Margo realize is that Jessica is putting together the exact same outfit for herself. Margo gets James to give her all the details on Jessica’s outfit, and then she goes out and buys, I mean steals, herself a very similar outfit. It actually sounds kind of pretty – pink dress, silver filmy shawl, silver heels, white glittery pantyhose (whuh?), and hair put up with gold combs and a pink scarf draped over the back like a veil. Jessica plans to wear her rhinestone earrings, which James gave her – but at the last minute, she puts on some pearl drop earrings that Sam had given her instead so that she can feel close to him. On the night of the costume party, Jessica reluctantly tromps downstairs to meet James just as Liz is leaving with Todd. The twins are blown away to find that they are dressed almost exactly alike. The only major difference is that Liz is wearing a pair of crystal earrings. Pay attention kids, this little detail is crucial to the plot.

The party at snooty Harry’s house is on! It’s being held outside at his artsy-fartsy mansion. There’s a dance floor set up on the back lawn next to Harry’s sprawling gardens … the perfect place for a killer like Margo and a pseudo-private detective like Josh to hide! That’s right, Josh Smith has learned about the party by following Lila and Amy at the mall, and he shows up as well to spy on everybody and find Margo. This dude is not right in the head.

Liz and Jess are both still kind of sad from their recent fight. Liz is feeling freaked out in general and having premonitions of awfulness. Oh, and there’s a creepy mime walking around who freaks Liz out briefly, but then, she spends the whole evening being creeped out. She wanders away from the party by herself to take a walk down a garden path and “think” or something, and Jessica steps into her path and then wordlessly disappears. Liz sees that Jessica is wearing the rhinestone earrings instead of the pearl earrings and gets even more spooked. Of course, it’s not really Jessica … it’s Margo. Liz goes back to the dance floor and finds Todd, then leaves for a second. Suddenly, Liz reappears and grabs Todd. He quickly realizes by the way the twin is dancing on him and feeling up his back that this can’t be Liz, because she don’t play like that, so it must be Jessica. He thinks to himself that he’s never seen Jessica hit on anyone like that. ARE YOU KIDDING ME FOOL? She’s spent the past month or so doing more than that to you and throwing herself on your dick ALL.THE.TIME!!! Todd pulls himself away from Jessica and literally runs from her while Jessica stares after him with eyes like “ice picks.” Of course, it wasn’t really Jessica. We know who it was. It’s Margo, and she spends a good amount of the evening standing casually at the edge of the dance floor chatting with Jessica’s friends like she’s Jess, and eating up the attention. Suddenly, she looks up and sees Josh staring at her. She takes off and Josh pursues her but loses sight of her. He has no idea there are twin sisters who look just like Margo tonight, and I’m sure you can see where this is going. When he spies Jessica standing by the punch bowl, he runs up and grabs her and I’m not sure what he’s trying to do with her. Winston knocks Josh out with his bongo drums, and Josh wakes up to see two Margos … a nightmare! He realizes these are twin girls who like Margo as he is being thrown out of the party by douchey old Harry. He puts two and two together and realizes Margo is trying to look like the twins and that they are in serious danger. Way to go, Sherlock. I’m for real; you probably should actually join the Sweet Valley police force and smarten those assholes up a little.

So that’s that. Margo leaves this book without having killed any twins or any babies. Poor Margo, she’s probably hurting for the lack of carnage lately. She’s definitely ready to get rid of Liz now, though. She types up a letter to Ned and Alice from a lady in San Francisco claiming she wants to talk to them about a lucrative hotel remodeling deal and will host them at her hotel for two nights for dinner and an interview. Ned and Alice fall for it and prepare to take off and leave the twins alone. Good, because I’m really ready to finish this mini-series and move on.

Other stuff: LMFAO: Maria, talking about who she, Winston, and Daisy can dress as for the costume party: “Who could we be?” Lila responds: “Lizzie Borden’s parents?”

To no one’s surprise, Lila does NOT change diapers.

Jessica has a pair of “psychedelic stirrup pants” in her room.

There is a lot of reminiscing about the last costume party at SVH, which I think took place in Bitter Rivals. Actually, no, there was one in Don’t Go Home with John! But the costumes everyone is remembering are definitely from Bitter Rivals. That means they want to forget the horrible Jon Pfeifer-centric party with Lila confronting him ever happened. Oh, and there was also a costume party in Who’s to Blame. These kids and their damn costume parties!

Lila shows up at the costume party dressed as a Southern belle, with Tony Alimenti as her date. Steven and Billie are there as Mickey and Minnie Mouse … gag me. Enid is an aviator. Bruce and Pamela are a sultan and his harem girl …. why am I not surprised!

Lila has lots of awesome lines in this book. Here’s another one: Maria says, “You’re a great humanitarian, Lila.” Lila replies, “Don’t say things like that in public. Somebody might hear you.”

Elizabeth thinks aloud that she should really stop helping everyone in town with their problems. Shut the front door, the NO SHIT SHERLOCK Award goes to this one right here.

I’m not sure why the series is suddenly bringing back the old forgotten “lost in a black hole” one-off characters, but they really are. In this book, Paul Jeffries is mentioned as a member of the Oracle staff that Mr. Collins is looking for. Paul was last seen in Who’s to Blame? (#66) as a guy with a “bad reputation” that Liz went on a date with.

There’s all sorts of Enid worshiping Liz in this book. I mean, here’s how the fucking book opens: “Enid Rollins lay on her stomach on a beach and watched as her best friend, Elizabeth Wakefield, emerged, dripping, from the surf.” LOL!!! She then openly ogles Liz in her bathing suit and offers to be her date to Winston’s costume party.

In the back of the book…¬†Another ad for the Sweet Valley High fan club. The person who had this book before me cut out the form and sent away for it. There is also another add for 1-800-I LUV BKS.

Coming up next … It’s another Magna Edition and it had better be good, because that’s an awful lot of pages if it sucks. I think it’s also Christmas-themed, which makes me annoyed I didn’t get to it a few months sooner! ūüôā I’m desperate for it to be fun and crrrrrrazy.

 

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