Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #51: Elizabeth the Impossible

Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Impossible

Tagline: Has Jessica created a monster? [Dove: Well, evil begets evil, I suppose.]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield is convinced that her sister, Elizabeth, is perfect. Who else is as smart, friendly, and creative as her identical twin? So when Sweet Valley Middle School announces it will be choosing a Model Student, Jessica launches a secret campaign to make sure Elizabeth wins.

But Jessica doesn’t count on what happens. As soon as word gets out about the contest, Elizabeth takes becoming a Model Student a bit too seriously. She starts telling everyone what to wear, what to eat, and how to act. Elizabeth’s become positively bossy! Jessica would do anything to get the old Elizabeth back. What will it take to turn Elizabeth the Impossible back into the girl everyone knows and loves.

Initial Thoughts:

I deliberately swapped for this one. This is a book I love. I think it’s a joy to poke fun at Elizabeth, and this book really delivers.

Also, if you read it with a cynical eye, it’s actually a story of dysfunctional relationships, and someone with no power socially using one single pressure point to take over another person entirely, to the point where they drop their friends and change their life to appease this one person. Basically, Elizabeth/Pamela is one fucked up ship. And it’s hella interesting. And once I get to a certain point in the story, I will go into that a bit more in depth.

Warning: As above, I’m going to liken the Pamela/Elizabeth friendship to an abusive relationship. While it’s going to be light, I will use phrases used by emotional abusers that may act as triggers. It’s light, but exercise good judgement.

Note: I’m going to quote a metric fucktonne of this book.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica’s New Look

Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica's New Look by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica’s New Look by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s New Look

Tagline: Jessica’s got a new secret – will the whole school find out?

Summary: It’s the most exciting day of Jessica’s life—Aaron Dallas has asked her out! Nothing could ruin Jessica’s wonderful mood—except the fact that she has to start wearing glasses. Jessica is convinced that the Unicorns will drop her the second they see her. And Aaron is sure to change his mind about their date.

For Jessica there is just one solution—she’ll never leave her room again! How can Elizabeth help her sister realize that wearing glasses is definitely not a tragedy?

Initial Thoughts:

I’m going to be 100% honest here. I can’t get behind Jessica’s thinking at all. I actually misread the final line on an eye test deliberately when I was 11 because I was so desperate to wear glasses. I think they’re cool. So I just want to hoof Jess in the face because this is a major comedown from the #BestJess who ruined a billion outfits to save a baby seal.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Lucy Takes the Reins

Tagline: Can Elizabeth help Lucy face her toughest challenge? [Dove: Obv. Nothing is too hard for Saint Elizabeth.]

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield’s friend Ted Rogers is in big trouble. He’s fallen behind with his payments to Carson Stables for the care of his horse, Thunder. Unless he wins the prize money in a regional jumping championship, he’ll have to sell the magnificent animal.

With everything riding on this competition, Elizabeth offers to help Ted train. Soon they’re spending most afternoons at the stables. That’s where they meet a mysterious new girl named Lucy Benson. Lucy seems to know a lot about horses. And when Ted has a bad fall, only weeks before the competition, Elizabeth is convinced that Lucy can take his place. Elizabeth doesn’t know that a secret fear has kept Lucy off a horse for the past two years. But she does know that Lucy needs to compete – and to win – for Ted’s sake… and her own.

Initial Thoughts:

I was under the impression that I’d never read this before – the story seemed unfamiliar to me, but then Jessica referred to currycombs as “hairycombs” and I knew I had read it before. It just didn’t stick. So that’s a really good sign. [Wing: HAIRYCOMBS OH MY GOD.]

Note: As someone who generally adores Ellen, the only way I can get through this is to pretend that the Ellen in any horse book is a completely different Ellen to the one we see at school. This isn’t me being a Malfoy apologist (“Jason Isaacs is hot, so Malfoy racism is excusable…” thinking), it’s just that the Ellen who rides horses is shrill, spiteful, vindictive and violent, whereas the one we see in school tends to be vague in her meanness. Absolutely she’s in the mean girls clique, but she has a strong follower stance. Yes, she’s mean, but she appears to take her cues from Lila and co. In this, she has no leader and she’s a real alpha bitch, not a beta one. If you look at Holiday Mischief, when Ellen is away from the rest of the Unicorns, it doesn’t occur to her to keep being mean, and she actually helps Anna hide her lack of singing ability. That’s why an Ellen sans Unicorns who leads two terror crusades against other horse riders seems so strange.

[Wing: This is the Ellen I love. She’s horrible and holds her own with Jessica and Lila.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #42: Jessica’s Secret

Sweet Valley Twins 42: Jessica’s Secret by Jamie Suzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)
Sweet Valley Twins 42: Jessica’s Secret by Jamie Suzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)

Title: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Jessica’s Secret

Tagline: Something has come between the twins!

Summary: Jessica Wakefield has always prided herself on being the more sophisticated twin, but suddenly it’s her sister, Elizabeth, who is blossoming. Overnight, something wonderful has happened to turn Elizabeth into a young woman. And now Jessica’s sure that if anyone—especially her sister—finds out that it hasn’t happened to her, she’ll die of humiliation.

Then the twins get permission to travel to San Diego by themselves to visit their cousin Robin. It’s the perfect opportunity for Jessica to prove just how grown-up she really is. But will acting older than her age get Jessica into more trouble than she can handle?

Initial Thoughts:

This, for me, is where the series kicks into gear. The fact that Team Grapplegate are at the helm and have probably just shrugged off the editors’ rulings? Not a coincidence. There are so many fun books coming our way, and I’m so glad we’re finally getting to that point.

And yes, I am aware that Wing is going to kick me so hard if she doesn’t enjoy this slew of books as much as I do. [Wing: You promised me Sweet Valley werewolf fic if I don’t like this book. I won’t kick you, I’ll hold you to that.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #40: Danny Means Trouble

Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Danny Means Trouble

Tagline: How do you help a friend who doesn’t want to be helped? [Dove: I dunno, Elizabeth, maybe don’t? He’s not your friend and he doesn’t want your help, so how about you back the fuck off?]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield can’t wait to get to school to see what Danny Jackson will do next. He’s only been at Sweet Valley Middle School for a couple of months but he’s already well known as the best runner on the athletics team and as a major troublemaker. While Jessica is enjoying the effect Danny’s bad behavior is having on her classes, her sister Elizabeth is worried. Doesn’t Danny realize that his pranks are going to get him thrown off the team for good?

When Elizabeth writes a story on Danny and the team for the school paper, she discovers the real reason he’s been getting into trouble. It’s something he’s been hiding from everyone. Can Elizabeth help Danny without betraying him? [Raven: Is it drugs? It’s drugs. It’s drugs, isn’t it. Or, he’s actually a cauliflower!]

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t like this book. It’s not so much that I think Danny should wallow in his issues without help, I just want to stab Elizabeth for butting in. She’s such a busy-body I want to staple her to a wall and have people walk past, muttering about their issues, leaving her impotently unable to act. I think the stress of being incapable of interfering might be the only true way to kill her.

Also, Danny Jackson is not Denny Jacobson. Denny Jacobson is Pamela’s brother and Janet Howell’s love interest. This kid? No fucking clue. And this comes from someone who’s read almost every book in the Twins series. [Raven: Oh, I thought the book title was actually his name. “Hello, nice to meet you. the name’s Trouble. Danny Means Trouble.”]

[Wing: The only initial thought I had was that of course the girl on the cover is Elizabeth. Look at that outfit. JESSICA WOULD NEVER.]

The cover

Two things:

At work, someone once said to me, “Go see, $person. You know who she is, she’s the one with the proper twattable face.” And the thing was, even though I’d only been there for three weeks, I knew exactly who she meant. Elizabeth too has a “proper twattable face”.

Love the white socks/ankle-swinger trousers/brown loafers combo, Elizabeth. Could you look like more of a bell?

[Wing: I see I should have saved my comment for here.]

[Wing: NOTE: This recap contains vague references to abuse, including child abuse (within the text and in real world) as well as scientific violence to animals.]

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Posted in Fanfiction

Fanfic: Five Days to Change the World

Title: Five Days to Change the World

Summary: The Unicorns say Ellen can’t talk to Amy at their party. Ellen can only talk to her date. The solution is obvious. To Ellen, at least.

Notes: (because I don’t see these as warnings) girl/girl tween slash, hand-holding.

Dedication: for Wing, who begged for this in her recap.

Timeline: All over the place, just like the books. It’s set straight after Mary is Missing, but I borrow pairings that happen later, and reference “sort-of boyfriends”. So, um… I’m feeling very Jamie Suzanne today.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #37: The War Between the Twins

Sweet Valley Twins 37: The War Between the Twins by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 37: The War Between the Twins by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The War Between the Twins

Tagline: The twins are fighting mad… at each other!

Summary: Bitter rivals…

Jessica Wakefield has written an article about the Unicorn Club for the class newspaper The Sweet Valley Sixers. As its editor, her twin sister Elizabeth has promised to run the article in the very next issue. But when Elizabeth has to take Jessica’s article out at the last minute, Jessica is furious!

Jessica and her fellow Unicorns decide to teach Elizabeth a lesson by starting their own paper, The Unicorn News. Before long, it’s clear that Sweet Valley Middle School isn’t big enough for two newspapers, and Jessica’s begins to take the lead. Will Elizabeth’s beloved Sixers be able to hold its own against the sensational news that the Unicorns print?

Initial Thoughts:

This always sticks in my head as being yet another rehash of the student council story, which I hated both times they did it already. However, each time I read it, I remember that I actually like this story, because we have #BestJess and Sulky!Liz and forgery and pre-photoshop MY HED IZ PASTEDE ON YAY.

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #1: The Christmas Ghost

Super Chiller 1: The Christmas Ghost by Jamie Suzanne
Super Chiller 1: The Christmas Ghost by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Christmas Ghost

Tagline: This year Jessica is in for a very scary Christmas

Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are looking forward to the most glorious Christmas ever. The tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, and movie star Beau Dillon is coming to town! The actor, who’ll be in Sweet Valley to publicize his new movie, has agreed to help Elizabeth raise money for the children’s wing of the local hospital. But when the teen star arrives at the Wakefields’ house, it’s Jessica, not Elizabeth, he meets.

What’s the harm in pretending to be your twin? No harm, Jessica thinks – until strange things start happening and three ghostly visitors appear. Is Jessica’s imagination working overtime or have the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future come to teach Jessica the lesson of a lifetime?

Initial Thoughts:

Ok, first of all, I think if you’ve listened to the podcast you may know this, but I don’t assume that everyone does: I LOVE THE SUPER CHILLERS. Actual ghosts are here.

Before I was confident enough to ask Wing to take on this gigantic recapping project, I used the “mentionitus” method of testing the waters. While we sat on PointHorror.com, griping about how rarely the bad guy (known on that site as the “Muffin Man”) was supernatural, I would say lightly-casually-oh-I’m-not-hinting, “It’s funny, Sweet Valley Twins has a much younger audience, but they always had real ghosts in their ghost stories.” Wing would raise a scathing eyebrow and say that she’d never read Sweet Valley. Ever. And she was sort of proud of that.

Then curiosity would overcome her. “Really? Because in Babysitters’ Club, it was always the Scooby Doo villain – a human pretending to be a ghost. So you have actual ghosts?”

“Actual ghosts,” I would say. “And it’s odd, they seem to act up the most over Christmas.”

And that is the groundwork of how you get someone who clearly is going to hate something, to do it anyway. [Raven: I have such an inappropriate comment here.] Mention that one thing they like. (Also, there will be werewolves in Sweet Valley High.) [Wing: I feel like I should be more upset that my BFF so blatantly exploits my weaknesses, and yet.] [Dove: I do realise that the above is basically “how to brainwash your friends”. But I had an agenda. And here we are.]

Second of all, I adore A Christmas Carol. I know most people do, but I feel like I might go the extra mile. I feel like I’ve seen every fandom-variation of this story – heck, I’ve even written one. I adore this story.

I’ll admit The Carnival Ghost is a better story on its own merits, because it’s not fanfic of an iconic tale, but this one holds a special place in my heart.

The Cover: Why is the ghost awkwardly pointing to the left? Jessica looks great, but the ghost looks like it wasn’t happy to be modelling for the cover.

[Wing: Tis truly the season for Christmas Carol retellings. We did a few over at the Devil’s Elbow (Fright Christmas and The Fright Before Christmas), and yet somehow this has the best versions of the ghosts. I mean, come on: an angry flying unicorn? Clearly this was going to win.]

[Dove: … seriously? I win?]

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Posted in Ghost Writers

Q&A Session with Michael Grant

I plucked up my courage and finally sent Michael Grant (@MichaelGrantBks) a private message to ask him about his experience writing Sweet Valley with his wife Katherine Applegate (@Kaaauthor).

Shortly after, I got a response, answering my questions in full. I’m just going to be bouncing off the walls a bit here.

If you are not familiar with these lovely writers (known on this site collectively as #BestJamieSuzanne), I suggest you run out and buy all 28 of the Making Out series released under Katherine Applegate’s name, but co-written between them (or at least the first eight, thereafter ghosties happen) and the Gone series by Michael Grant, together with the new book, Monster.

So, would you like some insight on the Sweet Valley process?

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Posted in General

Coming Soon: Nostalgic Bookshelf

NostalgicBookshelf.com
NostalgicBookshelf.com

In January 2018, Devil’s Elbow celebrates its 5th anniversary and Sweet Valley Online its 1st. We’ve had a blast recapping, podcasting, and connecting with all of you over the years. We’ve had readers tell us it’s like one big, opinionated book club, and that’s part of the joy for us too.

Devil’s Elbow and Sweet Valley Online will be holding their own celebrations in January, but we want to announce our next big venture: Nostalgic Bookshelf (www.nostalgicbookshelf.com). We’re expanding the recap empire, and boy do we have some fun things in store for you.

Both Devil’s Elbow and Sweet Valley Online will continue with their current schedules, but we’re adding additional content and new recappers. In January 2018, Nostalgic Bookshelf will launch. In addition to the ongoing content at Devil’s Elbow and Sweet Valley Online, we will be recapping and discussing the Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, the Making Out series by Katherine Applegate, the world of Enid Blyton, and the Game Box, which will include Choose Your Own Adventure books and games, tabletop games, and classic console and computer games.

There will be many more surprises to come, and more information as we get closer to our January launch.

We’ll introduce the new recappers with their first recaps, and we know you’re going to love them.

(If you have ever wanted to be a part of this nostalgic recapping, podcasting, and discussions, or if you have any comments or questions, email us at management@nostalgicbookshelf.com. We’re open to nostalgic media from at least 10 years ago or earlier.)

We’ve had a great time building this community with you, and we hope you’ll enjoy the additional content and new areas of nostalgia. Be sure to tell your friends!