Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader

Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader

Tagline: Elizabeth is getting ahead!

Summary: High expectations…

Elizabeth Wakefield is thrilled when she hears the news: her teachers want to skip her to seventh grade! Everyone is proud of her—except her identical twin, Jessica, who wants her sister back in sixth grade where she belongs.

But Elizabeth vows to prove that she can make it as a seventh-grader—even if it means staying up all night to finish her homework, or sneaking out to a seventh-grade party.

Trying to meet everyone’s high expectations is turning Elizabeth into a zombie. Maybe she can make it as a seventh-grader, but does she want to?

Initial Thoughts

I have so many questions. Where are we in the school year? Last book was Valentine’s Day, so we are at the earliest in the second half of February, which means well into spring semester. Elizabeth probably has about three months of school left for the year. And even if we stick to the main series books, the last one felt like a spring semester book. Flu season generally is the heaviest in the first part of the year, and Shakespeare makes me think of second semester English class for some reason. Why the fuck would they promote her now instead of waiting until next fall and having her skip seventh grade completely? Am I really supposed to believe that Elizabeth would be happy to leave her twin, her friends, and the Sixers? Am I supposed to believe that she’d be happy with all this extra pressure when at the end of the last main series book she was annoyed at how much pressure her parents put on her and how they expect too much and she can’t measure up to it? Are you trying to tell me that Elizabeth sneaks out to a seventh-grade party? Unless Jessica is egging her on (and from earlier in the blurb, it sounds like she won’t be), I will not believe this at all.

So many questions. I’m sure the answers will be just fine. Just. Fine.

Elizabeth the Seventh Grader (cover by Dove)

[Dove: I really looked forward to Wing either explaining how this could or could not happen based on US logic, since skipping a school year isn’t a thing here. And she’s irritated before she’s even started. A good sign. Also, since we universally hate these ugly covers, have mine instead:]

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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 #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 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 Magna Editions

Sweet Valley Twins Magna Edition #2: A Christmas Without Elizabeth

Magna Edition 2 - A Christmas Without Elizabeth
Magna Edition 2: A Christmas Without Elizabeth

Title: A Christmas Without Elizabeth

Tagline: What if Elizabeth had never been born? [Dove: The series would merely be called “Sweet Valley Kid?”]

Summary: The strangest gift of all…

Elizabeth Wakefield is in terrible trouble. She was in charge of keeping all the money that Sweet Valley Middle School raised for a Christmas party. But Elizabeth secretly lent the money to a homeless family so that they would have a home over Christmas. [Raven: Of COURSE she did.] Now Elizabeth has been caught without the money and without an excuse. Everyone is furious with her.

Elizabeth decides to run away. She thinks Sweet Valley would be better off if she’d never been born. On her way out of town in a terrible storm, Elizabeth meets a mysterious girl who claims to be her guardian angel—and shows her just how important she is after all.

Initial Thoughts:

This book is based on one of my favourite films: It’s a Wonderful Life. If you’ve not seen it, track it down and give it a watch. It’s from 1946, and likely available via number of streaming services. It’s one of only two films to make me cry*. The first was Watership Down when I was six, the second was this when I was twenty-two. [Wing: God, Watership Down, not an okay heartbreak in that one.]

(*Then I hit mid-thirties, and they released Up. Downhill from there. Nowadays? Shit, I well up if I can’t find my fucking socks.)

[Dove: The cover. Why does Elizabeth have a bob? Their hair is always long on all the other covers.]

A Sweet Valley book, based on its central premise? I’ve an open mind. I’ve no beef with such chicanery. Cows aren’t sacred. I present the following video link as Exhibit A… a song about my favourite film, by my favourite band, which is legitimately one of my favourite things ever.

Seriously, if you can’t spare 2 hours 10 minutes for the film, spare three minutes for the video.

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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 #72: The Love Potion

Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion

Summary: A magical solution…

Peter Burns has a huge crush on Mary Wallace. But Mary doesn’t think Peter is the boy for her—and Mary’s friends in the Unicorn Club are certain that Peter is the wrong kind of boyfriend for a Unicorn! No matter what Mary says, Peter won’t take the hint. Then Mary and the other Unicorns stir up a fake magical brew to sell at the Sweet Valley Middle School Carnival. Will this love potion work some real magic and change Mary’s mind about Peter? [Wing: Not that I necessarily think Mary will just go along with the Unicorns’ opinion of him because she’s got a backbone on her, but shouldn’t something be done about them, too?]

Tagline: Will the Unicorns’ fake magic help Mary find a real romance? [Wing: Two things. (1) Wow, they’re actually admitting something they do is fake? (2) Thanks for the Bad Romance earworm, ghostie!]

Initial Thoughts

I love when the Unicorns have some sort of ridiculous school scheme (I’m betting some sort of fundraiser), and I love when Jessica tells fortunes and thinks she’s psychic, etc., so this should be a good combination. I hope.

[Dove: I have no nostalgia attached to this one. I never read it back in the day. Jessica and the Earthquake is the last one I remember reading, thought I may have read a later one, but I started missing books around here, because it was embarrassing being a teen, rather than a tween, and buying these books.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #65: Patty’s Last Dance

Sweet Valley Twins 65: Patty’s Last Dance by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Patty’s Last Dance

Tagline: Patty Gilbert doesn’t need friends — or does she?

Summary: Scared and alone…

Patty Gilbert has dreamed of being a ballerina since she was a little girl Following her dream has meant making sacrifices, and one thing Patty has never had time for is friends. But when she beats her biggest rival, Kerry Glenn, for the lead role in Swan Lake, Patty is sure it has all been worth it.

Then Patty learns that she has scoliosis, which means she’ll have to wear a back brace for several years. Patty feels as if all her dreams have been shattered, and the worst part is she has nowhere to turn for support. Kerry has always acted friendly—and she’s the only person who really seems to understand how Patty feels about ballet. But can Patty trust Kerry with her secret?

Initial Thoughts

Since Patty’s friends are probably going to be one or both the Wakefields, no, no she does not need friends. Though that summary makes me think that we might get very little Wakefields. Do I dare get my hopes up? Since we’re back to a regular series book after a special edition that I pretty much loved — I’m going to guess no, no I should not get my hopes up.

[Dove: Oh, it’s a retelling of Deenie by Judy Blume. Anyone who tries to tell a story that Judy Blume did already (I see you Jessica’s Secret – even if you are written by #BestJamie) won’t get it done as well as she did.]

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Posted in Super Editions

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition 4 The Unicorns Go Hawaiian by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition 4 The Unicorns Go Hawaiian by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian

Summary: Aloha, Unicorns!

Just when Jessica Wakefield becomes bored with Sweet Valley, [Wing: So every book then?] she wins a trip to Hawaii. [Wing: Wut. Already starting off with a Wakefields must win trope? Damn it.]  She takes five of her best friends from the exclusive Unicorn Club and they’re ready to have the time of their lives.

But things don’t turn out the way they had planned. Jessica has a streak of bad luck, Janet Howell is convinced she is a Hawaiian princess, [Wing: WUT. GOD DAMN IT.]  and Mandy Miller, Mary Wallace, and Ellen Riteman find out a secret they must keep from Lila Fowler.

The girls don’t understand why their trip to paradise is turning out to be the worst holiday ever… until they discover the curse of the Hawaiian volcano goddess! [Wing: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK ARE YOU SHITTING ME RIGHT NOW. I DON’T WANT TO RECAP THIS.]

Tagline: It’s the trip of a lifetime! [Wing: Considering how rich most of Sweet Valley is, I doubt that.]

Initial Thoughts

WHAT THE FUCK I WANT TO BURN EVERYTHING DOWN OH MY GOD.

Over on Twitter, Dove encouraged me to post a list of the things I rage-feared would happen in this book. I did that right before I read anything about the book.

Here is my list:

  • Some sort of bullshit Hawaiian princess storyline
  • Only white people live in Hawaii except for the SUPER SPECIAL magical native.
  • Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at surfing without even trying.
  • Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at hula, just as good as the “locals.”
  • People who live in Hawaii will be called Hawaiians indiscriminately from Hawaiians being actual native peoples.
  • Everyone will wear cheap tourist “Hawaiian” shirts and plastic leis.
  • All the food will be “Hawaiian” simply by adding pineapple to it. There will be no mac salad, loco moco, malasadas, or L&L (oh my god I’m so hungry right now).
  • WW2 references + American imperialism.
  • Fucking haoles the whole entire lot of them, in that terrible stereotypical loud, brash, rich white American tourist way.

CLEARLY I DID NOT SET MY EXPECTATIONS LOW ENOUGH VOLCANO GODDESS CURSE OH MY GOD I NEED STRONGER LIQUOR AND MORE FIRE. [Raven: This is gonna be AWESOME.] [Dove: Or she’s going to drink so hard she falls off her chair and doesn’t finish the recap.]

Shallow: The girls on that cover are not wearing nearly enough purple. 

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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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