Evil triplets snarkily recap Sweet Valley Twins, High, University, Confidential & Sweet Life
character: Joe (aka "Sam") Howell
Janet’s brother. For some reason, he’s known as Sam in #37 (The War Between the Twins) but he’s actually known as Joe throughout the rest of the series. Why? Because the same reason that Melissa’s mum died, then picked her up from the Dairi Burger 12 books later.
Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield have been invited to the biggest, best Christmas party of the year. They can’t wait. Even high school kids will be there. They’ve already planned the perfect outfits when they hear the terrible news: their parents forbid them to go. Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield insist they’re too young.
The twins are absolutely furious. They go to bed that night, wishing more than anything that they were grown-ups with the freedom to do whatever they wanted.
The next morning, Jessica and Elizabeth wake up and discover that the most amazing thing has happened…
I love Big, it’s one of my feel-good movies – I especially like the story I heard that De Niro was up for the lead role, and actually spent some time with Jared Rushton (the kid who played Billy) to get into the role. Rushton apparently spent this time yelling, “Come on, De Niro, keep up!” and hounding him into rough-housing.
And I love – I guess? – Sweet Valley.
Among the things I also love? Christmas. I would watch Hallmark Christmas movies year round if it didn’t make them less special.
So this has to be a winner, right? I mean, look at how awesome The Christmas Ghost was.
PS: Fuck these stupid covers. Here, have mine instead. [Raven: Lovely cover!]
[Wing: Dove’s covers are always so wonderful. I’m looking forward to all the rest. As for the rest of the things, I’m not as big (ahem) a fan of Big as Dove, but I saw a stage show of it once and there was a scene with beautiful stars as a gift, and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen on stage, so I am inordinately fond of Big now.]
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?
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.
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.
[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.]
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!
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.]
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?
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.]
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.]
Tagline: Guilty until proven innocent? [Wing: So Ned is the lawyer involved in this, I see.]
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!
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.]
Title: Super Chiller #4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower
Summary: Midsummer nightmare…
When the Wakefield kids are invited to their aunt Helen’s country inn, Steven and Jessica are determined to use the eerie old mansion to scare their sister, Elizabeth, into believing in ghosts. But no matter what Steven and Jessica do, logical Elizabeth always works out their tricks.
Then things start happening that even Elizabeth can’t explain, and all the Wakefield kids are afraid that the inn really is haunted. Will they make it through the summer sharing their holiday with an unfriendly ghost?
Tagline: A holiday in a haunted house!
I’m not sure if I knew that Aunt Helen had a country inn, but I do love creepy old mansions and ghost stories and siblings teasing each other. HOWEVER. If the goal is to get Elizabeth into believing in ghosts I’M PRETTY SURE THAT THE CARNIVAL GHOST DID THAT FOR YOU ALREADY.
Oh, wait, that would suggest continuity. Never mind.
[Dove: Well, so far, so good. I was under the impression that Wing would either love or loathe this. So far she’s not mentioning fire. I’ll take that as a good sign. Me? I didn’t own this back in the day. Back then, I thought the only Super Chillers were the first three. Possibly I’d have more attachment to it if I had read it back then.]
Tagline: Jessica and Elizabeth have made the perfect match! [Wing: Considering that girl looks even more like a Wakefield than Steven does and that they are wearing weird matching outfits, I’m pretty sure Jessica and Steven are dating now.] [Dove: I had never noticed how much she looks like the twins.] [Raven: It’s been established before that the cover artist can olny draw two faces.]
Summary: Playing Cupid.
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield usually find their older brother, Steven, annoying, but now they feel sorry for him. He’s been wandering around the house in a daze because he’s in love with Jill Hale. His problem is that Jill likes Steven’s best friend, and it looks like Steven’s going to be lovesick forever! The twins decide to help Steven get over Jill. Maybe Cathy Connors is the solution…
The twins think Cathy and Steven make a perfect couple, but Steven only sees Cathy as his friend. Can the twins help turn a friendship into true love?
I don’t really like matchmaking stories, and I’m already annoyed by the mere premise of this book. This is going to be great.
[Dove: I hate Steven. But… I do actually like this book.]