Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Haunted Burial Ground

Tagline: Haunted…or tricked?

Summary: The Unicorn Club is throwing the best Halloween party Sweet Valley Middle School has ever seen! Lila Fowler’s dad has lent the girls a rundown shack in the woods—a perfectly spooky place for the party.

But as the Unicorns are fixing the shack, strange and scary things happen: Ellen Riteman discovers a human skull, Jessica Wakefield gets lost in a cave full of bats, and a mysterious girl appears out of nowhere to relay ghostly warnings.

Then the twins hear that the shack was built over an ancient Native American burial ground. Could the shack really be haunted? Or are the Unicorns the victims of a terrifying Halloween trick?

Initial Thoughts

Jesus fucking christ, that cover. That title. That summary. I know I went into The Unicorns Go Hawaiian expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised, but the haunted burial ground trope is even worse, and even if it turns out to be a terrifying Halloween trick (and, no lie, I expect it to be about 50/50 as to whether it is supernatural or mundane when it comes to the Super Chillers), the stereotypes are likely to be horrific and offensive.

There has been some interesting analysis as to why the trope came into existance in the 80s. Here are a couple of links to get this started: TvTropes’ Indian Burial Ground, Jana Schmieding’s Bury My Guilt in an Indian Burial Ground, AVClub’s Read This: Digging up the origins of the “Indian burial ground” trope}, Atlas Obscura’s Why Every Horror Film of the 1980s Was Built On “Indian Burial Grounds”, and Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Horror Older Than America: Whitewashing Native Tales For A Mass-Market Audience.

From Schmieding’s piece (Schmieding is a Lakota writer):

All I know, from the point of view of one Lakota Native who enjoyed The Shining as much as you did but with one eyebrow raised, is that the only “ghost stories” I’ve ever heard from my own people are that of ancestors who carry wisdom, who aim to protect, who are considered sacred and powerful, and whose manifestations as malevolent only occur when they’re not talked about. When their story isn’t told. There’s a moral here that I hope you’re grasping. When someone tells you that their house is built on an Indian Burial Ground and it makes the hair stand up on your arms, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of? Am I afraid of Indigenous people because of pop culture’s portrayal of them as unholy, spurned beasts of the underworld? Or am I afraid of my own willful ignorance of settler colonialism and modern Native issues? Am I afraid that Natives’ stories haven’t actually been told?” I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s a mix of all. But until Native filmmakers and television writers get a chance to scare the shit out of mainstream audiences with our own stories, we’re all stuck with supernatural microaggressions and embarrassingly coded displays of white guilt.

With all that in mind, here we go.

Super Chiller 7 – The Haunted Burial Ground (cover by Dove)

[Dove: My brain says that the Super Chillers went downhill after the covers changed, but in all honesty, maybe Christmas and Carnival Ghosts just set the bar and everything since has been hopelessly flailing at that bar ever since.

On another note, I don’t know if I’ve ever made it clear publicly, but god knows poor Wing has to patiently listen to me bitching about “the new covers” and “the geocities covers” like they’re the worst thing in the world. Every week. Every time we skype, I bring it up. So, in an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I will be creating badge-style covers for the books from now on. Well, after this we have Amy’s Secret Sister, but after that we are officially switched over to the new covers. So, without further ado, here’s my first cover creation.

I’ve done much better covers after this – this was a bitch to render and I kind of screamed and gave up at some point. Elizabeth’s hair kept pushing through her face (don’t ask), and my computer kept falling over under the weight of the background. So, while it’s not the greatest cover, stick with me, I fully intend to get much better.]

[Wing: A billion times better than the actual cover for so many reasons.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #75: Jessica and the Earthquake

Sweet Valley Twins 75: Jessica and the Earthquake
Sweet Valley Twins 75: Jessica and the Earthquake

Title: Jessica and the Earthquake

Tagline: A nightmare? Or an earthquake…

Summary: Jessica’s waiting for the big one…

When Jessica Wakefield wakes up in the middle of the night, her whole room is shaking. The next day at school, Jessica is a celebrity: she’s the only one who witnessed Sweet Valley’s own earthquake! [Wing: How is it even a little possible that no one else in the middle school woke up?]

When Jessica hears reports that another, bigger earthquake may hit, she quickly spreads the news. After all, Jessica is Sweet Valley’s earthquake expert! The more people she tells, the bigger and more dramatic the story becomes. Soon Jessica has everybody preparing for a real catastrophe!

Initial Thoughts:

As I’ve said previously, this is around the time when I stopped reading the books as they came out. I did read this one back in the day, but it was towards the end of the run, so it didn’t get a re-read back then. I remember that I enjoyed it then. I don’t know if that’s true now.

Also, this book becomes hilarious in hindsight (or maybe harsher), when you realise that the last two books of Sweet Valley High are called Earthquake and Aftershock, and do not have the happy-go-lucky vibe of this book.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #70: Psychic Sisters

Sweet Valley Twins #70: Psychic Sisters by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #70: Psychic Sisters by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Psychic Sisters

Tagline: Can Jessica and Elizabeth really read each other’s minds? [Raven: Nope!]

Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are so different, it’s sometimes hard to believe they are twins—until the day they discover that they can read each other’s minds! When their friends hear about the twins’ special talent, they convince them to be the star performers in the forthcoming school talent show.

But one morning the twins wake up to discover that their gift is gone. Now Jessica and Elizabeth must work out how to convince people that they are still psychic. Otherwise, they’ll be the laughing-stocks of the entire school!

Initial Thoughts:

From the above synopsis, I did not expect great things.

“Oooh! Mind reading! How exciting! SPECIAL TWIN POWERS! That’s so cool!” Meh. I’ve no truck with such mumbo-jumbo, which I’ll get into later in the recap. Either way, nothing here smacked me on the ass with the Excitement Kipper.

Also, this cover? All very Big Train Staring Contest.

[Dove: I wasn’t excited about the premise of this book. But honestly, that might be because the spine of the book is silver (like the Super Editions) but the cover is pink (like the regular series) and little things like that really piss me off (as evidenced by the anger I have towards the cover of Jessica’s Bad Idea). It’s not the book’s fault the outside is imperfect, but I have issues.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #68: The Middle School Gets Married

Sweet Valley Twins #68: The Middle School Gets Married by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #68: The Middle School Gets Married by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Middle School Gets Married

Tagline: Wedding bells in Sweet Valley?

Summary: Married, with children… [Wing: This is not a reference I expected to see here. Is it an actual reference to the show? No idea, but I like it.]

As part of a health-class project, all the students at Sweet Valley Middle School are pairing up into simulated marriages. Their assignment is to manage a make believe household and care for an egg that represents a baby.

The only problem is, their teacher. Mr. Siegel, is picking the couples Elizabeth Wakefield finds herself paired with snobby Bruce Patman, who refuses to help out. Jessica Wakefield’s pretend husband, Rick Hunter, teases her mercilessly and refuses to stop. And Todd Wilkins gets stuck with Lila Fowler, who only wants to eat out! [Dove: Lies, Lila/Todd get two lines of screen time and the subject of eating doesn’t even come up.] Can the middle-schoolers survive two whole weeks of married life?

Initial Thoughts:

I love-love-love this book. This is one of my favourite tropes, and I love to see it popping up in media I enjoy, and this book started my love of it. Dawson’s Creek did a marriage project episode, and it was pretty good. But, y’know, the downside of Dawson’s Creek is that Joey’s in it.

I wish there were pictures of all the couples. I always assume the couple on the right/back of the cover is Lila/Todd, but maybe it’s Sophia/Patrick, since they get more screen time. Sophia has black hair on both her previous book covers, and the boy doesn’t look like Patrick or Todd particularly, but I will concede that he has Patrick’s hair. [Raven: How do you know this? They are all literally the same, especially the boys.] [Dove: … I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was a tween. Shut up.] [Wing: I sort of want Dove to annotate every cover with the character names and what is wrong with the depiction.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #67: Jessica the Thief

Sweet Valley Twins 67: Jessica the Thief by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 67: Jessica the Thief by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica the Thief

Tagline: Guilty until proven innocent? [Wing: So Ned is the lawyer involved in this, I see.]

Summary: Framed…

Is there a thief at Sweet Valley Middle School? Things have started disappearing, and the whole school is searching for the culprit. But everyone is shocked when some of the stolen goods turn up in Jessica Wakefield’s locker!

Jessica insists that she’s been framed, but the only one who believes her is her twin sister. Elizabeth. When Jessica and Elizabeth team up to find the real thief, they can hardly believe what they find out!

Initial Thoughts

I kind of hate stories about people being falsely accused, so I can’t see this going well for me.

[Dove: I remember getting into a conversation with someone on Twitter (I think it was@_sunshinebooks) about how tiny Jessica looks in comparison to the rest of the girls on the cover. There’s something not quite right about the proportions there. Also, who is the girl in the peach dress? Is that Veronica?

Also, when I first read this, Watchmans (handheld TVs) hadn’t hit the UK, mostly, I think, because they were completely expensive and rarely worked. I misread the branding and spent the entire book wondering why Lila was so braggy about a Walkman, which pretty much everyone I knew owned.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #66: The Great Boyfriend Switch

Sweet Valley Twins 66: The Great Boyfriend Switch by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 66: The Great Boyfriend Switch by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Great Boyfriend Switch

Tagline: The Valentine’s Day dance isn’t what anyone was expecting…

Summary: Mixed-up romance…

As Valentine’s Day approaches, everyone at Sweet Valley Middle School is pairing up for the first dance of the year. Elizabeth Wakefield has been asked by sweet and serious Todd Wilkins, and her twin sister, Jessica, is going with wild and funny Aaron Dallas. The twins and all their friends are sure it’s going to be the most romantic night out ever.

But when they get to the dance, everyone seems to go a little crazy. Jessica abandons Aaron to dance song after song with Bruce Patman. And devious Veronica Brooks goes after Todd, leaving Elizabeth with no one to dance with—except Aaron! Romance is in the air all right, but will these mixed-up couples ever get straightened out again?

Initial Thoughts:

Now THIS is what Twin Magic is all about! Clandestine sexual misdirection. A Valentine’s Day dance, boyfriends and girlfriends and relationship woes. Wonderful.

The cover? A bunch of girls. Presumably all the Unicorns. Fair enough. The composition is a bit weird, it’s pretty lopsided.

Nothing else to say about it, really.

[Raven: Hello! As you can see, this recap is a day late. That’s all on me. Apologies! However, yesterday (Monday) was my birthday, so I’m going to claim Birthday Boy Privileges. Bosh. Done.]

[Dove: I actually love the cover of this. I’m slightly envious of the American covers, which show the entire picture with a banner across with the title – although I prefer the UK layout overall. I like it when the picture clearly references something that happens in the book, and this is a picture of the photo Ned took of all the girls before their first date. Adorable. Everyone looks so pretty. Except for Janet. Janet always looks terrible. And why isn’t Ellen on the front cover. I’m guessing the cover goes (back to front, left to right): Janet, (Belinda or Mandy, maybe?), Lila; Mary, (Belinda or Mandy?), Amy; Elizabeth, Jessica. Commenters, feel free to correct me. I’m really confused about the two brunettes in the middle, they don’t actually look like anyone we’ve seen before on the covers. Amy’s hair is way darker than usual too.]

[Wing: Surprisingly cute cover. Haven’t at least some of them already had first dates? Also, busy week, haven’t had a chance to comment until Wednesday, 21 November, but here I go.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley!

Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley! by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley! by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Ciao, Sweet Valley!

Tagline: Just how welcome is Giovanna in Sweet Valley? [Dove: Well, given how well they usually take outsiders, I reckon it will go: 1) excited and welcoming; 2) cool and snooty as soon as she doesn’t bow down and worship the perfection of Sweet Valley; and then 3) EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield and her twin sister, Elizabeth, are looking forward to having an exchange student named Giovanna come and live with them for three weeks, Jessica can’t wait to show the Italian country girl all the great things about Sweet Valley. But when the Wakefields finally meet Giovanna, Jessica is in for a shock. Giovanna is gorgeous and sophisticated—and Sweet Valley bores her to death!

When Giovanna arrives at Sweet Valley Middle School, she’s rude to Jessica’s friends in the Unicorn Club, she talks constantly about how great Italy is, and she flirts with the cutest boys in school. As far as Jessica is concerned, Giovanna has worn out her welcome. How will she ever get through the next three weeks?

Initial Thoughts:

I hate this book. I don’t want to read it. There’s a reason I never bothered to buy it back in the day. I borrowed it from a friend and decided I didn’t need a copy. It was one of the last ones I bought when I was filling in the gaps in my collection.

I utterly loathe this book. The only reason I didn’t swap with someone is because: 1) Raven knows better than to swap with me after he got burned by The Class Trip; and 2) despite my deep desire to not recap this, I thought Wing would like The Ghost in the Bell Tower (and I thought she’d probably burn our servers to the ground on this one), also; 3) I was pretty sure that Wing wouldn’t swap with me unless I made a very good case for it. My co-recappers are (rightly) very suspicious when I try to swap.

Note from the future: When I rage at Giovanna’s attitude, I am aware that the rage should be (and is) directed at the current Jamie Suzanne’s lack of knowledge about Italy and apparent xenophobia. But for shorthand, I rage at Giovanna.

Note from even further into the future: I completely forgot the Rizzo family is Italian. It’s ok, so did the author. You’d have thought Giovanna might have approved of them, especially with Mrs Rizzo speaking Italian as her first language, but yeah, no, that never happens. Giovanna never even meets Sophia.

Apology to any Italian readers: Hi. I’m really sorry that this Jamie Suzanne is being so offensive about your country with pretty much every sentence Giovanna utters.

[Wing: Why are we doing yet another foreign exchange student story? Why are we doing yet another New Girl story? Why are we doing — huh, I guess the next question is why are we doing the recapping at all, but I have an answer for that one.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott

Sweet Valley Twins 52: Booster Boycott by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 52: Booster Boycott by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott

Summary: No boys allowed.

Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters, Sweet Valley Middle School’s cheering squad. No way, the girls say! A boy as a cheerleader? So what if Winston happens to be a terrific gymnast? So what if he makes up fantastic cheers? Jessica Wakefield and the other Boosters vow they’ll do anything to keep Winston off the squad.

At first Winston endures the girls’ nasty pranks, Charlie Cashman’s bullying, and his classmates’ giggles. But something happens to make Winston give up for good!

When the state cheering competition arrives, the Boosters are surprised to see that almost every other squad has a boy as a member. Without Winston, they’re sure to lose! Is there any way the Boosters can get Winston back?

Tagline: Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters! [Wing: We get it, book. WE GET IT.]

Initial Thoughts

Oh, good, I bet this book is filled with gender essentialism. Y’all know how much I love that. BOYS? In CHEERLEADING? Heaven forbid.

[Dove: I really enjoy this book. It’s good fun, and the Unicorns are hilariously ridiculous.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #49: The Twins’ Little Sister

Sweet Valley Twins 49: The Twins’ Little Sister

Title: The Twins’ Little Sister

Summary: Baby-sitting blues…

Since they were seven, Elizabeth and Jessica have wanted a little sister. Now that they’re twelve, the twins know they’re responsible enough to help out with a new baby, and they’re determined to prove it to their parents.

The twins get their chance when neighbors go on holiday and leave their five-year-old daughter with the Wakefields. Chrissy is so cute and sweet that Jessica and Elizabeth think it’s going to be easy to take care of her.

But from the moment Chrissy arrives, it’s clear that she’s spoiled. Before long the twins begin to wish she would just disappear!

When they get their wish and Chrissy does disappear, the twins are faced with their biggest problem yet .They’ve got to find Chrissy before her parents come back! [Wing: Why does anyone ever trust the Wakefield twins with any living creature? WHY?]

Tagline: Are Jessica and Elizabeth ready to be big sisters? [Wing: NOPE.]

Initial Thoughts

We already know that Jessica hates to baby-sit and isn’t all that great at it. Why are we having yet another story where she tries? What is her obsession with having a little sister? Why does this book even exist?

[Dove: *applauds*]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #44: Amy Moves In

Sweet Valley Twins 44: Amy Moves In by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 44: Amy Moves In by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Amy Moves In

Tagline: Has Elizabeth’s best friend become her worst enemy?

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield is shocked and upset when she hears that her best friend, Amy Sutton’s, house has burned down But she’s happy to learn that Amy will be staying with the Wakefields while Amy’s parents look for a new home It will be just like having another sister around!

But living with Amy isn’t as much fun as Elizabeth thought Amy treats Elizabeth like her personal maid And every time Amy talks about the fire, she stretches the truth a bit more Even worse, Amy is spending all her time with Elizabeth’s twin sister, Jessica, and the snobby Unicorn Club. Elizabeth is puzzled and hurt When Amy tells her new friends one of Elizabeth’s biggest secrets, it’s the last straw Now the whole school is laughing at Elizabeth’ Can she ever trust Amy again?

Initial Thoughts:

This book is in a tricky spot.

The previous book in the series, The Carnival Ghost, was a legitimate all-star, a true Hall of Famer. These words have some clown shoes to fill. How can you follow Hendrix?

Truth is, you can’t.

This book is boring.

[Dove: Agreed. Also, I loathe Amy, so there’s little hope for me enjoying this book.]

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