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 #82: Steven’s Enemy

Sweet Valley Twins #82: Steven’s Enemy book cover
Sweet Valley Twins #82: Steven’s Enemy by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Steven’s Enemy

Tagline: Ben likes Jessica, Steven hates Ben…

Summary: Family feud…

Steven Wakefield can’t stand Ben Oliver. First Ben stole Steven’s starting position on the basketball team, then he beat Steven in the election for class treasurer. Now Ben has developed a crush on Jessica, Steven’s own sister. Worst of all, Jessica is falling for Ben!

When Steven sees Ben at his house, he’s furious. He forbids Jessica ever to go out with Ben. But Jessica says no way. She’s not taking any orders from her big brother.

Steven’s determined to get back at Jessica. And he’s already thought of the perfect plan for revenge!

Initial Thoughts:

I hate Steven. I really hate Steven.

I have never read this one. As has been long established, I read these back in the day, but began to taper off at the end of the Grapplegate run. I started to buy the missing books from eBay once I got it in my head that owning the whole collection was a life goal, and I started reading them in order as they arrived, starting from Poor Lila, because it’s the most awesome Lila book. (And I stopped around chapter 2 of Cammi’s Crush.)

This one I skipped. I hate Steven, so I put it at the bottom of my list, and it was one of the last cheap ones I bought. Some of this series, believe it or not, is very expensive. The Haunted Mansion quadrology set me back more money that I want to think about.

So, I’m dragging my feet. Also, we took a lot of months off, so I hope I still remember how to recap!

Warning from the future: I drop the c-bomb. Once censored, used in retelling a story. Once with venomous hatred towards a fictional character. [Raven: Wait, we’re warning for that?! Jees, best go hit the back catalogue.] [Wing: I think she’s giving the warning for me, because I hate it used as a pejorative but love it as a body part description.] [Dove: Correct.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #80: The Gossip War

Sweet Valley Twins #80: The Gossip War by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #80: The Gossip War by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Gossip War

Tagline: Three-way calls can be triple the trouble!

Summary: Making enemies and influencing people…

Jessica Wakefield and her twin sister, Elizabeth, have persuaded their parents to get three-way calling for their phone. Jessica is psyched – more gossiping, more matchmaking, more fun!

There’s just one problem. Jessica didn’t read the instructions carefully, [Wing: Is anyone surprised?] and when she thinks she’s dishing gossip to Lila Fowler, she’s also dishing it to Ellen Riteman. And the gossip is about Ellen. The gossip spreads until the entire Unicorn Club is in an all-out gossip war!

Can Jessica turn her telephone tricks around and win her friends back? [Raven: Ah, a comedy basic. Nice.]

Note: Thank you to @idecisivekepner who provided the last sentence of this book. More on that when we get there.

Initial Thoughts:

I read this a few years ago when it arrived from an eBay seller, but I honestly couldn’t remember much about it other than this was an Ellen book. And that she doesn’t get within 5 miles of a stable. This book is about Ellen, and not the shrill screaming harpy that she gets turned into when a Jamie gets confused by the brief of “write about Ellen”.

Let’s do this.

(For those of you who weren’t here for the past hundred books: I love Ellen. She is my favourite character. My love for her has infected Raven and Wing. So I suspect we’ve all set our hopes rather high.)

[Wing: Well I have now. Prior to this week, I didn’t know it was an Ellen book.]

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #6: The Curse of the Golden Heart

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #6: The Curse of the Golden Heart by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #6: The Curse of the Golden Heart by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Curse of the Golden Heart (or Curse Stories 2: Electric Boogaloo)

Tagline: Pirate treasure!

Summary: A broken heart…

It’s spring, and identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are taking a scuba diving course at Pirates Cove. On their first dive the twins discover the remains of an old pirate ship, and half a golden heart buried in the sand. [Wing: LIES. They’re only snorkeling at that point.]

Soon the twins receive spooky chain letters demanding that what was taken from the sea be returned. Jessica continues the chain; Elizabeth doesn’t. Suddenly terrible things start happening to Elizabeth. She finds threatening notes in her room and a live scorpion in her lunch bag.

Can Elizabeth discover the secret of the golden heart before the curse destroys her?

Initial Thoughts

Please, ghostie, please don’t resort to pirate speak in this book. Please. I beg of you.

[Wing: Note from the future. Positive: no pirate speak. Negative: we’re rehashing old stories all over the place.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie

Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Steven the Zombie

Tagline: Steven’s in for it now!

Summary: Has Jessica’s joke backfired?

While reading a book about old New Orleans, Jessica Wakefield learns all about voodoo and decides to try it out herself, She knows exactly who she’ll make a voodoo doll of—her brother, Steven, of course.

Incredibly, the doll works. Poor Steven is lurching and leaping and writhing for days. Jessica is exhilarated by her powers… until she loses control of them. Steven’s still moaning in pain, but Jessica’s not doing voodoo anymore. Now Steven’s a zombie, and it’s all her fault!

Initial Thoughts:

Sweet Valley is known for its sensitive approach to everything, so I’m certain that this won’t be 130 pages of exploitation. Right? *wide grin*

Also, if anyone’s been creeped out by the way Wing’s been all “OMG! I LOVE THIS SERIES! IT GIVES ME THE FEELS! I LOVE THIS CHARACTER! THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD!” etc., fingers crossed that this is the book that returns her to form. I have my explosion gif at the ready. [Raven: Marshmallows on sticks are go, people!] [Wing: Oh, god, the pressure. THE PRESSURE.]

Important Note: For anyone who wasn’t here for One of the Gang or skipped my lengthy intro there, I have a mobility disability. This means I use words that are off-limits to able-bodied people.

[Wing: I’m going to share a couple links here before any Wing Goes Boom moments may or may not happen. These talk about Halloween, because that’s when a lot of these conversations happen, but the application is broader.

On Halloween, Insensitivity Goes Beyond Kimonos And Black Face by Leah Donnella over on NPR’s Code Switch.

African Voodoo Should Not be Fodder for Halloween by Shantrelle Lewis over on The Root.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #76: Yours for a Day

Sweet Valley Twins #76: Yours for a Day by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #76: Yours for a Day by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #76: Yours for a Day

Tagline: What if he says no?

Summary: A matchmaking disaster…

The members of the Unicorn Club are donating themselves to charity! For a price, they’ll obey a classmate’s wishes for an entire day. But with the big Valentine’s Day dance coming up, Jessica Wakefield can’t resist turning the fund-raiser into a matchmaking plan.

Jessica knows that Mandy Miller has a huge crush on Peter Jeffries. She orders Mandy, as her servant for a day, to ask Peter to the dance.

But Peter turns Mandy down! And then Jessica ends up as Mandy’s servant for the day. Can Jessica repair her matchmaking fiasco before Mandy takes her revenge?

Initial Thoughts

That’s some adorable purple going on there. Also, Mandy’s facial expression is a delight. Damn it, why is Peter (one of them at least) back? I find it nearly impossible to tell them all apart, which makes for boring reading.

[Dove: Don’t hate yourself over all the Peters, Wing. I can’t tell them apart either. I wonder why Mandy’s hair is suddenly black? It could be a wig, but I was sure they bought one that matched her original hair colour (brown) when she lost her hair to chemo?]

[Raven: “I find it nearly impossible to tell them all apart, which makes for boring reading.” … Way to go, Wing. You’ve just given the ghosties explicit justification for their repeated “the twins look identical, but are so very different” schtick.]

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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 #74: Elizabeth the Hero

Sweet Valley Twins #74: Elizabeth the Hero by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #74: Elizabeth the Hero by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Hero

Tagline: Elizabeth saves Denny’s life!

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield and her friends are walking on the beach one stormy afternoon when they witness a terrible surfing accident. Denny Jacobson is drowning! Elizabeth dives into the water and saves him.

Now Elizabeth is a hero. Her picture is in the newspaper and Denny showers her with presents and attention. But Janet Howell, president of the Unicorns, is angry! She’s got a big crush on Denny and is determined to make Elizabeth’s life a misery.

Elizabeth decides that being a hero is awful. How can she possibly get Denny—and now Janet—to leave her alone? Finally she and Jessica cook up a brilliant plan to get rid of them both, but it might mean putting Elizabeth in danger!

Initial Thoughts:

So, Elizabeth is a hero in this one? She saves someone’s life, apparently. I thought she saved the lives of every New Girl that moves to Sweet Valley.

Also, one of my classmates at school had Denny as a surname, so I can’t take Denny seriously. It doesn’t help that he looks a bit like a young Hugh Grant on the cover. Actually, on second thoughts, could he be any more like a young Chandler from Friends?

Finally, the offscreen guy with the microphone is wearing a white suit. I’d say something cutting, but I had a cream suit in University. Although I only wore it for comedic purposes, so don’t judge me.

[Dove: I think Denny looks much older than Elizabeth. But you’re right about Chandler.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #73: Lila’s Music Video

Sweet Valley Twins #73: Lila's Music Video by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #73: Lila’s Music Video by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Lila’s Music Video

Tagline: Lila’s going to be a star!

Summary: Lila’s in way over her head…

The Unicorns are making a music video! Lila Fowler insists on being the singer, since it’s her video camera. But there’s one catch: Lila has a terrible voice, and she’ll be humiliated if anyone finds out.

As hard as Johanna Porter tries to coach her, Lila is hopeless. Johanna is shy, but she has a fabulous voice—which gives Lila a great idea: Johanna will do the real singing from backstage, while Lila lip-synchs on camera!

Their plan works perfectly. The video is so fantastic that the Unicorns submit it to a competition on RockTV, and Lila wins the chance to perform—live! Lila is terrified.

How will she ever get away with this one? [Raven: Is this summary just 75% of the damn book?!] [Wing: That means for once the summary isn’t a lie, though!]

Initial Thoughts:

Sweet Valley Twins #73: Lila's Music Video (v2 cover) by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #73: Lila’s Music Video (v2 cover) by Jamie Suzanne

This book bugs me. It’s available in two covers, as you can see. I ordered it multiple times, deliberately seeking out the pink badge cover, and always ended up with the ugly “it’s the 90s, this is our version of grown up” cover. Raven sensed my frustration (read: came home to find me raging about how it was unfair that people didn’t check their listings on eBay/didn’t clarify that the cover may be different to the image shown), and bought me a copy. It only took him one attempt to get the pink badge cover.

Or there are 73 of the 90s covers hidden somewhere in our house. Failing to spark joy. [Raven: Don’t look under the bed.]

After much seeking of this cover, I do love it. Lila looks fabulous and sparkly, she even has a smug little smirk, because she knows she’s better than… well, everyone. Jessica is displaying her double-jointed abilities/overlarge hand. And there are two other girls even I don’t recognise. One looks like bad fanart of Willow from Buffy (and either doesn’t have a left arm or is lightly caressing Lila’s buttocks). The other looks like Ruby from Supernatural. (The Ruby that married Sam in real life, not the other one.)

Maybe they’re Tamara Chase and Kimberley Haver, and that’s why I have no idea who they are. If so, Raven hates one of them with the fire of a thousand suns.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #71: Jessica Saves the Trees

Sweet Valley Twins #71: Jessica Saves the Trees by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #71: Jessica Saves the Trees by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica Saves the Trees

Tagline: Will Jessica risk losing her friends for the sake of some trees? [Wing: Are they as cute as a baby seal? Because Jessica will get her clothes dirty for that.]

Summary: Jessica goes green…

Soccer fever has hit Sweet Valley Middle School! Everyone is excited about the forthcoming season, including identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. But Jessica’s happiness quickly fades when she learns that the school plans to tear down some beautiful old trees to make room for a bigger soccer field. Jessica risks her popularity, and possibly the soccer team’s chance at a big championship, by starting an environmental crusade to save the trees. But can she hold her ground against all her new enemies—including the boy she likes?

Initial Thoughts:

I remember enjoying this as a tween. This isn’t my original copy – someone borrowed it and I never got it back, so there’s a big ugly CEX sticker on one of the better cover pictures. Look! You can pretend that someone’s going to burn Jessica as a witch!

I suppose we’ll find out if this is going to be as good as I remember (Poor Lila!) or utterly rubbish (The Bully).

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