Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica's Animal Instincts by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica’s Animal Instincts by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s Animal Instincts

Tagline: Jessica has a new friend… a grizzly bear cub!

Summary: Furry new friends…

Taking care of animals is easy! That’s what identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends think when they volunteer at the Sweet Valley Zoo.

Until Elizabeth accidentally lets a mischievous monkey named Spanky out of his cage and Spanky begins showing up in the strangest places…

Until Bruce Patman, who is secretly scared of birds, takes care of a baby bird named Drumstick, and Drumstick just won’t leave Bruce alone…

Until Jessica falls in love with Gus, a grizzly bear cub who’s lost his mother. When the zookeeper tells Jessica they must return Gus to the wild, can Jessica say good-bye to her furry friend?

Initial Thoughts

Wing: *reads title of book*

Wing: HOLY SHIT, DOVE HAS PROMISED ME WEREWOLVES FOR YEARS AND THEY ARE FINALLY HERE.

[Dove: I have repeatedly pointed out they are in Sweet Valley High, not twins. I have done my best to manage expectations given how often you reach for the flamethrower in this series!]

Wing: *reads tagline*

Wing: GODDAMN IT.

Already hate this book. I’m sure this will go well. [Raven: I’m with you.]

Recap

It’s a Friday in June and we’re two weeks from summer vacation, at least for Jessica. Regular school year has ended, but the sixth and seventh grade at Sweet Valley Middle School can spend two weeks working at a business and Jessica signed up this year.

Jessica. Jessica Wakefield. Signed up for more school stuff.

Who the fuck do you think you’re writing, ghostie?

Steven eats like a pig (messy and all the time, you see, because he’s one-note), Jessica is doing the internship with a bunch of cool kids (Lila, Mandy, Tamara), there’s a pizza party at the end, and it’s going to give her a head start with her fashion career. You mean that career you already had? This bodes well.

They snark at each other but I’m still too annoyed at the bait and switch (I know, I know, it was really just me assuming wrong, shut up) to be entertained, and Jessica finally says that her job will be with Sweet Valley Makeovers (… seriously, use a different name, companies!) in the mall. She’s super excited about it.

Steven points out that if she’d already gotten the job, she would have done cartwheels down the stairs and told the entire world about it; she has to admit she hasn’t heard from them yet.

And then we learn that she applied the day before. Thursday. She applied on Thursday for a Monday start for a two-week internship open to two entire grades at SVMS. Not a shocking choice for her, but designed to fail. [Raven: Is this something that students would have to source themselves, in middle school? We did a week of Work Experience at the age of fifteen or so, and it was down to the school to source the employment, just in case we arranged to go experience work with a peadophile or something.] [Wing: That is a good point, and no, no they should not have sourced it themselves. And with all the others, it doesn’t sound like they did, it sounds like they went through the school and that’s how they ended up with the lottery. Maybe it’s an intentional sign of how badly Jessica fails right now.]

Elizabeth comes home all excited to tell Jessica that they won the lottery! Jessica barely has time to start dreaming about her new wardrobe and the trips she’ll take all over Europe (because that worked so well for her last time) before Elizabeth goes on to say that they won the school lottery, i.e., the one for internships, i.e., they’ve been chosen to work at the zoo, aren’t you excited, Jessica?!

No. No Jessica is not excited. Jessica doesn’t even like — but Elizabeth cuts her off before she can finish that sentence. Animals? People? Being outside? Not doing make-up? Letting people live?

Anyway, 50 kids wanted to work at the zoo so they held a lottery to find the 4 who got to. (Some of the people who wanted to do it: Team Boring, that kid in their homeroom who wants to be a lion tamer [… what?], and that girl who swam with dolphins when they were in second grade.) The Wakefield twins, Melissa McCormick (… who? [Dove: HOW. DARE. YOU?!] [Wing: Oh, right, she was pretty great in Poor Lila.] ), and Bruce Patman are the lucky winners.

Wait. Wait. Wait. BRUCE FUCKING PATMAN HAS SIGNED UP FOR MORE SCHOOLWORK? HE SIGNED UP TO POTENTIALLY WORK AT THE ZOO?

Ghostie, you clearly don’t know shit.

Elizabeth really wants to work with baby animals, Steven mocks her, and Jessica finally gets Elizabeth to admit that she put Jess’s name on that list. Wow, of all the times for you to do something that requires a spine, you save it for this.

Jessica starts shouting that the zoo is horrible, smell, disgusting, and she doesn’t even like animals, not dogs, not cats, not gerbils. There’s a baby seal who would beg to disagree, Jessica. [Dove: And a dog who would agree.]

Elizabeth apologises to Jessica for messing it up, but when Jessica tells her to take her name off the list, Elizabeth gets grumpy because if she hadn’t, Jessica wouldn’t have had an internship at all. Jess argues that she had the makeover job, but admits that she hadn’t heard about it for sure when Elizabeth pushes. Again, you were saving up your spine for this?

There’s some back and forth from each of their POVs about how Elizabeth feels bad, Jessica’s mad, Steven’s mocking, and I’m bored. [Dove: This is so Liz. “Great news, Jess! That thing you loved seven years ago! We’re doing that! OMG, WHY DON’T YOU LOVE THAT THING FROM YEARS AGO? WHY DO YOU HATE ME?!]

This does drive Jessica to call Sweet Valley Makeovers (that name, good grief), but the woman she needs to speak to has left already and won’t be back until Monday morning, so Jessica gives up and agrees that she’ll be at the zoo — but only for about half a second before she decides to call the woman Monday morning, right at 9 a.m. No, make it 9:01, give her time to get settled at her desk.

Okay, legit laugh there. That’s the Jessica I love. [Raven: I can’t get past the fact that Jess has to organise this herself. Why? The school held a lottery to assign the zoo placements, why aren’t they a little more hands-on with the rest of the internships?]

Monday, Jessica’s still in bed when Elizabeth is ready to leave. The only thing that gets her up is that Elizabeth threatens to tell everyone she still sleeps with her teddy bear even though she hasn’t slept with Gus in 8 years.… this sounds familiar. Didn’t we have at least a brief subplot about this before?

We did! Back when Amy stayed with the Wakefields after the house fire, she gossips about Elizabeth sleeping with her stuffed koala bear (not actually a bear) in order to get in good with the Unicorns. My how things have changed, Liz. [Dove: Also in Poor Lila, Jessica remembers that she had a teddy bear called Fuzzy (or maybe Fluffy), but he didn’t survive a trip through the washing machine.]

Oh, good, we skip over to a Bruce POV. I do love those.

He’s glad to work at the zoo because of Jessica and Elizabeth being in the group, and then he’s even happier to see Melissa McCormick. (Who?) He wasn’t happy about being the only guy until he figured it would be Bruce and the Three Babes.

Bruce, I hope a bear eats your face.

The head zookeeper is Mrs Tomlinson and she lays out the rules for them Bruce ignores her to think about how the Wakefield twins are “… OK. If you like that sort of thing.”

Okay, I would pay good money for Jessica to hear that thought and then bury him in the Mercandy backyard.

Melissa, though, she’s super hot. He’s always admired her (… you really have no clue about the characterisations, do you, ghostie, which is interesting because you actually make references to earlier books — or maybe those are all unintentional) but lately his stomach does cartwheels when he sees her.

Bruce. Describes his crush as his stomach doing cartwheels.

Who the fuck do you think you’re writing, ghostie? [Dove: Also. His crush? Super poor. Nerdy. Awkward. Doesn’t care how she looks or where her clothes comes from. That’s who he’s crushing on.] [Wing: Damn it, that makes me like him a little more. A very little.]

While they’re waiting for Tomlinson to tell them their assignments, Jessica does have a delightful bit of inner dialog: Even at the entrance to the zoo, the smell was already overpowering, and in the distance she was sure she could hear loud screams. Probably keepers being dragged off by huge meat eaters.

This book would be greatly improved by maneaters, I have to say.

Jessica’s with the bears (shocking), and she hates it because they’re worse than anything else she can think of. Except bats. And lions. And pythons. And poisonous iguanas. Would nonpoisonous iguanas be okay then? Also, I think you mean venomous unless you plan to eat the iguanas.

She tells Tomlinson that she can’t possibly work with the bears because they kill people, they knock them over with their paws, they dig their claws in, they bite, they’re deadly.

Honestly, they sound like just the animal for you, Jess.

Tomlinson holds firm and says that Justin Marx, head of the bear habitat, will keep her safe. Jessica decides it’s a good thing Ned’s a lawyer because if she gets eaten (before she can call Sweet Valley Makeovers again) he’ll sue for seven gazillion dollars.

Again, legit laugh.

Elizabeth is going to work with the monkeys and she is thrilled, which, of course, pleases Tomlinson. After all, they want their interns to be excited. Apparently Liz used to watch the monkeys all the time when she was a kid. (Did they remind you of Steven?) Madeleine Turner is the head of the monkey house, and Elizabeth is thrilled despite Jessica’s bad mood.

Bruce is also thrilled because that means he’s working with Melissa in the aviary. She looks confused when he throws her a look that he hopes is “man-of-the-world” and again, I would pay good money for someone to bury him in the Mercandy backyard, but first I want to see what, exactly, he thinks that look is.

Also, of all the places to volunteer at the zoo, the aviary would be my penultimate choice. (Last choice would be anything where spiders were on display, and by last choice I mean I would burn the zoo down before volunteering in that spot.) [Raven: I like an aviary, but for me it’d be any fish exhibit at the top of the list. Giraffes at the bottom… long-necked sauntering fuckwits.] [Wing: Your hatred of giraffes will never cease to delight me. My first choice would be wolves or some of the big cats if there were no wolves. Or maybe hyenas as second choice.]

Bruce doesn’t know what aviary means, which, okay, I guess that’s not too surprising. I guess. He’s not much of a reader and I suppose it doesn’t come up in conversation too often at his age. The head of the aviary is Pamela Moreland.

Melissa doesn’t know what an aviary is either, but she flat out asks Tomlinson, which is cool of her. It’s better to ask than to try to fake it, Bruce. Which immediately becomes clear when Tomlinson asks him to tell Melissa what it means because he’s a smart boy.

… I can’t tell if she’s being sincere or not. God, I hope the answer is no.

He says that avians live in the aviary which makes Elizabeth and Melissa laugh at him. Now wait a fucking minute here, Elizabeth is supposed to be so smart and she doesn’t know that avian works there?

Tomlinson defends him, so I guess that she was sincere earlier. Gross.

The second Bruce’s brain catches up with his ego, he nearly falls down and has to steady himself against a brick wall. He’s terrified of birds. Oh, damn, I actually feel for him, being put in a place with something he fears like that. Of course, his ego won’t let him back out of it, whereas I would 100% be telling them hell no, I will not be working with something that scares me.

Bruce keeps thinking about an enormous hawk carrying him off into the air with its razor-sharp claws, and the image is ridiculous but I still feel bad for him. I get fears that don’t actually make much sense.

He actually thinks, for a second, that he should ask to work with another animal, but pretty much immediately talks himself out of it.

Things get even worse for Jessica when she learns she has to wear a uniform: shapeless coveralls with a zipper from the collar to the belt and the Sweet Valley Zoo logo (a cartoon penguin riding an elephant), and it is, she says, puke green.

Never change.

They’re also one size fits all, which is a bullshit size because no, it doesn’t. Obviously Jessica will have no trouble fitting in it, though.

Melissa loves the uniform enough she asks if she can keep it. What.

Bruce tries to flirt with Melissa, is awkward as hell, and I’m annoyed with this subplot already, bye.

Justin takes Jessica on a tour of the bears. He really loves them and is thrilled to show her the Kodiak bears and the black bears. Which, uh, seem to be the only bears.

Oh never mind, he sends her to observe the polar bears, so there’s at least 3 breeds. Also, when they are active, polar bears are wonderful to watch.

Elizabeth immediately makes friends with zookeeper Madeleine and falls in love with the monkeys. There’s about 63, though no one’s counted for a month.

Wait. Wait wait wait. Are you trying to tell me that zookeepers don’t know how many animals they have in their care? Really, ghostie? REALLY? [Dove: Even Jurassic Park counted their animals. Admittedly, they only set it to count for what they expected to find, but they counted. Why is Sweet Valley Zoo worse than Jurassic Park?] [Raven: Yep, that fucked me off quite royally. The entire zoo is populated with idiots. I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, given the middle school teaching staff.]

Anyway, we get a bunch of monkey names but not any information on what kind of monkeys are there, because apparently there’s only one breed, just plain monkey. Okay then. (We also learn that Howler [and I do love that name] is very musical and loves classical music and Johnny Buck. DYING.) [Raven: I presume Howler is a Howler Monkey, and Capuchin is a Capuchin Monkey, and so on.] [Wing: Then why are there only one of each? I still have questions.]

Justin asks Jessica for her observations on the polar bears and she gives him absolutely nothing. Goddamn, Jessica, you’re a jackass, but this is a lot even for you. I feel for Justin, so enthusiastic and stuck with this annoying kid. He keeps trying to get her interested in polar bear movements (and we learn that polar bears have been found 25 miles away from the nearest land, which I’m not going to confirm because (a) I’m tired and (b) I think it is very cool, so I’m letting it sit there). [Raven: I know that this “don’t give a fuck about animals” attitude is for a full-on Whiskers-style face turn, but I really hate Jessica at this point. So entitled.]

Melissa tries to talk to Bruce about his favourite birds, but he’s too busy daydreaming about dating her that he doesn’t really hear the question, so when she says the Cardinals are her favourite, he thinks she’s talking about baseball teams. (I don’t like baseball, but if I did, the Cardinals would be my nearest MLB team.) He likes the Dodgers best, but says the Cardinals are “a pretty radical team”. Okay then.

When she thinks he’s weird for not realising she’s talking about bird, he rushes to say that the hummingbird is his favourite because it’s the smallest, least dangerous bird he can think of. Oh, Bruce. I hate you still, but I also have some sympathy for you right now.

Melissa then bursts his bubble about them being safe because she tells him that they’re incredibly strong and have sharp little beaks and fly super fast.

How exciting for him.

Jessica won’t even go with Justin to feed the bears. You’d think that vicious, bloodthirsty Jessica would be down for that, but she’s not. Damn it, Jess, you suck. [Dove: I really hate Jessica during this phase of her story. I just want to shake her. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a kid that doesn’t want to be there that you cannot fire.] [Raven: Heh. Same.]

Bruce sees a giant hawk and then other huge birds sitting above him and they are all staring at him and internally he’s freaking out. He rushes off to the bathroom, not daring to take his eyes off the birds while he moves. I have more sympathy for him.

Justin is finally showing his annoyance with Jessica (and we learn they also have sun bears); she won’t tell him why she’s there, so he finally asks her if she could do anything at all in the bear habitat, what would she do — including things in the office.

She leaps at that, though she tries to sound calm about it. Of course she thinks this is her chance to call and get that internship doing makeovers. Oh, Wakefield, you don’t deserve to be at the zoo, get the hell out. [Raven: I’m sure one of the other 46 kids that didn’t win the Zoo Lottery would gladly swap with you, you self-absorbed asshat.]

Unfortunately for both of us, and unsurprisingly, there is no opening at the makeover company and they never even received an application.

Jessica doesn’t let this get to her, though, because now she has serious plans for after 3 p.m. when her time at the zoo is done.

Elizabeth tries to get Jessica to wait for her when they leave, but she’s also still wearing her uniform and Jessica refuses to be seen with her.

Jessica’s plan is to find some sort of internship at a store at the mall. Nothing really works out, in part because she’s expecting to start, you know, the next day and most of them would have needed to know at least 2-3 weeks ago. Also she’s too young to actually work at some of the places.

Even worse, she runs into Lila at Briana Taylor’s, the most exclusive clothing store in the mall. She’s holding ball gowns. Apparently she, too, had to win a lottery to get it. She then goes on to act like they chose her out of all those potential interns, but no, kid, you won a name drawing, basically. Her dad is going to let her buy a ton of the ball gowns because her dad likes to spoil her.

Lila asks where Jessica’s interning and says it had better not be something stupid like the toy store or the zoo. After all, the Unicorns have an image to keep up. [Raven: I never thought I’d say this, but the Unicorns can fuck off.]

At home that night, Elizabeth is thrilled to be interning at the zoo, Steven is an ass and inhaling all the food and drink in sight, and Jessica is grumpy. This book is both annoying and boring at the same damn time, and I’m not even halfway through it. I’m never going to finish.

Oh, and there’s this:

“She’s in the bear habitat,” Elizabeth put in when Jessica didn’t say anything.

“Bare?” Steven snapped in mock surprise. “My sister’s taking off all her clothes so she’ll be bare?” He made a face.

“Steven,” Mr. Wakefield said reprovingly, sewing Jessica some food.

Yes, yes, that mild reprimand will stop his incestuous dreams. [Dove: Typo there? Sewing? Maybe serving? That’s a scanning/converting issue, not the book.] [Raven: I bet I know what face Steven made]

Alice tells them that she will be bringing around some clients, the Tweeds, who are difficult to deal with and so the kids have to be on their best behaviour and they have to keep the house clean.

Jessica jumps on this and asks her mother if she can intern for her on the design project. Alice is surprised that Jessica would want to do that, but I don’t know why. She likes styling things and yes, it’s not cool to work with her mother, necessarily, but it’s better than a lot of other options (i.e., she has no other options but the zoo). Alice shoots this down, though, and says that if she wants to help for fun, that’d be great, but not for extra credit because that would be bad for their relationship. [Dove: Also, the twins already proved they can do Alice’s boring as fuck stylings.]

I’m not entirely sure why, but I also have a loose rule that I won’t work with my family at certain jobs (smaller projects or our own ventures, yes, someone else’s company, no), so I’m not going to judge.

Tuesday, Melissa asks if Bruce is feeling okay and how his stomach is doing because he went to the bathroom like 12 times the day before. He’s embarrassed by this, of course, and despite my sympathy over his terror, I’m laughing. [Dove: This is the single line of sass that gave me a vague smirk.]

Ugh, I can’t keep going like this. Nothing happens in these scenes but they keep jumping around. Let’s shorten the rest of this recap.

Tuesday: Jessica

Justin is beyond excited because the wildlife rescue people are going to bring a mother grizzly bear and her cub that someone found outside a mall in Fresno. (Jessica does ask if it had a Briana Taylor store, because she’s Jessica, and I laughed.) They’re going to stay at the zoo for a week or so until they can return them to the wild. I — why the zoo? Why only a week? Why not return them immediately? I’m very confused by this timing, but I’m also annoyed and bored enough I’m just going to roll with it. Justin’s going to alert the newspaper and he sends Jessica to hose down the cage for them. She can do that or feed the brown bears, because he’s got her number, and I legit laughed again. Jessica continues to be rude to Justin, the bears arrive, Jessica thinks that instead of Days of Turmoil she gets Days of Bearmoil, and I laugh again, though it would have been a better switch to be Bears of Turmoil [Raven: You’re laughing a LOT in this recap…] [Wing: I KNOW! Especially considering I mostly hate it.] , and Justin makes sure to securely lock the cage because sometimes they get mad when they wake up. Um, just a suggestion, but I’m betting you should probably lock the cage securely no matter what. Anyway, he tells Jessica she’s going to stay and watch the bears; she freaks out that he means from inside the cage, he forbids her from ever touching the key, and she decides watching them is better than hosing down a cage, at least. Except it is super boring and after only 15 minutes (which she thinks must have been at least twice as long), she talks herself into going to call Mrs Fiske again, even though she knows it’s a bad idea because she promised to stay. I am curious, if she’s meant to be there so that she can warn Justin if something goes wrong, why does she not have a radio and also, why the hell would he trust her with that kind of task? She’s been nothing but terrible. She does feel a little guilty for leaving them and thinks that she’s going to name them something fashionable like Mallory or Monique, you know, cool names. (Dove is the only person who knows why I just cackled with laughter. Maybe someday we’ll be able to tell everyone else, too. [Dove: I also smirked at that. All Moniques are cool. But rarely are they bears.] [Raven: Sounds like a logic puzzle.]) When she gets back, she finds the mother bear jerking and thrashing and struggling to breathe. The mother bear writhes and howls and Jessica races off to find Justin, only she can’t remember where he went. SEE? This is why she needs to have a fucking radio and also why you don’t let a 12-year-old intern (especially a completely unenthusiastic one) keep watch over your animals when they are coming out of sedation, jesus fucking christ, this would not happen, ghostie. You know, you could have had the mother bear die even with Justin there. Sometimes that happens. She runs to the security office but they apparently have no way to, you know, FUCKING PAGE SOMEONE, WHICH IS BULLSHIT. Eventually, she makes it back to the cage and is relieved that the mother bear is calm now, and we actually get a pretty cute moment:

“You sure scared me,” she said aloud, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. “No more jerking around, OK, Mrs. Monique Bear?” She wiggled her finger, pretending to scold the big grizzly. “We’ll make a rule against practically crushing your little baby under your paws, all right? No more loud noises, either.”

Except, of course, the bear is too calm. As in dead. And I just had to look over and make sure Monster Dog was still breathing, something I do fairly regularly and have since I first brought her home. I sometimes have this horrible image of finding her dead and then I have to check on her a bunch. (She’s breathing fine and asleep in her new cushioned bed for elderly dogs, by the way.)

Jessica freaks out enough she lets herself into the cage, begging the bear to be awake, and she’s actually really upset when she realises there’s no way the bear is pretending to be asleep. Again, this is pretty great.

Oh, man, she thought hollowly, as she saw the silent face, the expressionless eyes, the paws that would never cuddle a baby bear again—

That reminder has her checking on the baby bear and when she sees him, he begins to moan so she scoops him up and holds him. He’s lighter than she expected and he snuggles right in, fitting perfectly between her shoulder and her neck.

… okay, this adorableness might turn the fucking book around, or this storyline, at least.

She even cries over the fucking bear and, again, thinks that life isn’t fair, but this time it’s for him and not for herself.

Justin comes up and doesn’t get mad at her for being in the cage, he’s just sad, of course. I’m pretty sad myself. This is a quiet little sad scene. He tries to take the bear, but the bear only wants Jessica, and she’s surprisingly pleased by this. She also thinks that even though yesterday she wanted to model fur coats at the mall, today she’s realising how amazing fur is when it’s still attached to a baby bear.

Oh boy, are we going to get activist Jess? Because I can’t imagine her throwing paint on people wearing fur. She’d just disappear them to the Mercandy backyard.

Jessica isn’t ready to leave even when it’s almost time for the zoo to close at 6 p.m. (three hours after she was supposed to be done for the day). I think that’s really early for a zoo to close, but sure, why not. Justin asks how she’s feeling, and he’s legit worried about her and what she saw. Justin’s pretty damn cool. She tries to act all brave. Justin admits how bad he feels, because, again, Justin’s pretty damn cool, and he makes it a point of telling her that she did nothing wrong and it wasn’t her fault and she shouldn’t blame herself. The mother bear died because they shot too much tranquilizer in her and she couldn’t have been saved no matter what. [Raven: I was legit surprised that the Ghostie actually killed the bear.]

Jessica starts crying and asks if things would have been different if she’d noticed first thing and been able to find Justin right away and she can’t even finish her questions, she feels so bad.

Time to be honest here: I’ve teared up a little myself. Ghostie has managed, for this short time at least, to realistically have Jessica go from being selfish (in a believable way for someone with her personality and at that age) to feeling guilty and scared over something out of her control. And it’s sad that the bear died when all she was trying to do was find food at the mall dumpsters. There’s a lot to be said here about encroaching on wildlife habitats and what humanity does to animals, etc., and this scene (well, collection of scenes with weird breaks that I am ignoring to recap it as one scene) is sweetly sad or maybe sadly sweet.

He reassures her again and calls her a real hero for walking into the cage even when she didn’t know for sure whether the mother was dead or alive. I’m not sure I’d go with hero there, that’s not quite the lesson she should be taking away from this necessarily — but okay, yeah, I would have done the same thing, so I shouldn’t judge — and especially for trying to help out the cub when he needed it. She’s brave, Justin says, and I can’t disagree.

Jessica starts utterly sobbing at that. UGH MY HEART.

Jessica finally has to leave, the bear cub tries to go to her when he sees her after she’s cleaned up her tears a little, and Justin tells her to name him because he likes her best. She tries to think of a macho, trendy name and settles on Gus BECAUSE YOU KNOW HER OLD TEDDY BEAR’S NAMED GUS.

JESSICA KISSES GUS GOOD-BYE AND HE CRIES OUT FOR HER WHEN SHE LEAVES AND MY HEART HAS JUST FUCKING EXPLODED.

Okay, ghostie, kudos to you.

Jessica sleeps with the original Gus that night because he’s soft and the next best thing to the real Gus.

OH GOD MY HEART. GODDAMN IT GHOSTIE.

Tuesday: Elizabeth

Is trying to befriend the monkeys, does manage to start holding one but when she goes to pet his back he freaks out and runs away because he thought she might be trying to hit him and she should always reach from underneath. Madeleine thinks they are very smart, but Elizabeth thinks that’s just instinct. Wakefield, are you going to get weird and annoying, too? One of the monkeys laughs and she thinks that they can’t possibly be smart enough to have a sense of humour. Oh dear god, you really aren’t going to listen to the zookeeper are you.

Sure enough, at home that night Elizabeth tells the family that Madeleine keeps saying the monkeys are smart but she just can’t see it. Yeah, of course you would know more than an experienced zookeeper. Sure. God, I hate you even more after we’ve just gone through the touching scene with Jessica and Gus. [Dove: Elizabeth is insufferable.]

Steven continues to mock his sisters, Elizabeth keeps telling stories about the monkeys, and Jessica mopes around.

Tuesday: Bruce

Lots of fear, Melissa thinks there’s something wrong with his stomach, and we see nothing else from him. [Dove: Literally nobody cares. Nobody. Not even Bruce and Melissa.]

Wednesday: Jessica

Jessica wakes up to a phone call the next morning and isn’t awake enough to remember why she had teddy bear Gus out of the closet until she gets to the phone and Lila asks about her internship. That brings everything to mind again. Lila brags about her time at Briana Taylor’s, how she got to model some slinky dresses (Jessica is filled with envy) or, well, not model, exactly, but move them from one box to another (Jessica: still envious, Wing: confused as to why Lila was doing that). Jessica continues to feel like her internship is terrible because she hasn’t quite remembered all that emotion from yesterday. Lila mentions fur coats but when Jessica asks if she got to touch them, Lila hangs up. So that’s a no, and also, I’m sure she has her own fur coat so why is this such a big deal?

Jessica has gone back to being grumpy over her internship and how Gus wasn’t all that soft after all, he was dirty in places and not nearly as nice as a fur coat.

Well, that didn’t last long. [Raven: Yup. Disappointing.]

Then Mrs Fiske calls. She’s desperate because one of their employees just left. She hates the idea of replacing paid labour with unpaid but she has to have someone in the store. Jessica is thrilled, takes the internship, and then rushes downstairs for breakfast and to tell Elizabeth to let Justin know she won’t be coming back to the zoo. Damn, that’s ice fucking cold.

She has a miserable time working with Mrs Fiske who has her running around restocking makeup and answering the phone. Of course that’s all she gets to do, Mrs Fiske isn’t going to let her do anything that involves touching a client, come the fuck on, Wakefield.

And then when she’s sent to get brown eyebrow pencils rather than black, she notices that they are the same colour as Gus and his sweet, cuddly self. Fuck you, Wakefield, you fucked off away from that poor orphan bear. He deserves better.

She can’t stop thinking about him and then she gets a call from Justin. He says that even though he knows she’s happier doing makeovers, he needs to ask a personal favour which is, of course, to stop by the zoo because Gus has been impossible without her. Jessica runs out of the shop pretty much immediately to go see a bear, and she may just redeem herself again. [Raven: She can try to convince me she’s leaving for Gus, but she’s really leaving because she is being forced to actually work.]

(God, I am a sucker for adorable animals. I know it, and I am annoyed that Jessica being so sweet and loving with Gus makes me hate her less than I did a few scenes ago.)

Jessica tries to act unenthusiastic when she suggests she come back to the zoo for the rest of her internship, because she’s Jessica, but she is going back to the zoo and she can’t believe she left Gus and Justin is relieved when he should actually be annoyed too, but fine, Gus. Gus is adorable and I love him.

Wednesday: Elizabeth

Madeleine continues to explain monkey behaviour to Elizabeth. Today it is the important rules about who grooms whom and when. Elizabeth doesn’t believe it’s anything but a free-for-all even when Madeleine points out the details. She does finally admit that Howler, the leader of this group, looks the cleanest, and Bullwinkle, the bottom of the heap, looks the worst because none of them will groom him. Despite that, Elizabeth still can’t believe that monkeys are smart.

God, you are annoying. In a different way than Jessica right now, but still. YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. You were excited to come and learn! What happened to that?

Though we do get this great bit of judgmental sassery from her:

The monkeys were incredibly cute, but the way they refused to groom Bullwinkle seemed to her a little mean. Actually, Elizabeth thought, it’s kind of how the Unicorns treat people, including each other. And even though Elizabeth loved her sister, she would never call Jessica’s Unicorn friends especially intelligent.

Legit laugh.

She actually asks Spanky, one of the few she can tell apart from the others, why he doesn’t try to open his locked gate if he’s so smart. Maybe because he knows it’s locked? You fucking weirdo. [Dove: The monkey is called Spanky. Spanky the monkey. This Jamie is bored.] [Wing: …I really failed myself by not catching that. Damn it, Wing.]

Justin calls Madeleine asking for help with the bears and she sends Elizabeth along. You don’t deserve the bear, either. Apparently Gus has been whining all day and Justin says that even though bears don’t feel emotions the same way humans do, it seems like he’s missing Jessica. I mean, animals don’t feel emotions the same way humans do, and we anthropormorphise them a lot, but also, they do feel things and can get attached to people. So. Yeah.

Justin wants to see if Gus will respond to Elizabeth since Jessica quit, and I have never hated Jessica Wakefield as much as I do in this moment. Yes, not even when she was terrible to that dog. At first it seems to work, Gus takes to Elizabeth, but then he starts fighting to get away from her.

Justin. JUSTIN. Surely you are smarter than that. It’s not only, or even mostly, about her looking the same. She doesn’t fucking smell right, you idiot.

THEN WE GET THIS: Gus must be able to tell the difference between you two–somehow.

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, GHOSTIE, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WRITING.

Eizabeth is hurt that he likes Jessica better than her and thinks that the monkeys can’t possibly be smart because there’s no way they could tell the difference between the twins. [Dove: I hope they rip off her face.]

They had better do so later, and Elizabeth is a jackass, and I hate everything again.

Wednesday: Bruce

On his way to the aviary, Bruce thinks about how it’s “Time to enter the crypt. To walk into the jaws of death. The chamber of horrors.” Okay, ghostie, you got another sincere laugh out of me. He thinks he’s been doing pretty well considering he didn’t even scream on Tuesday, not once. Well, not out loud, at least. Another laugh. Melissa, meanwhile, is having a great time with the birds. She keeps talking about how beautiful they are and graceful and then when they enter the aviary, she points out a bird at the top of the aviary. Bruce looks at it and sees a giant bird with horrible sharp claws diving toward him. He throws himself to the dirt and covers his head (and shouts for Melissa to look out, too, at least). And then: silence. The hawk is gone, Melissa is looking at him with a funny expression, and Bruce is embarrassed as hell.

Thursday: Jessica

Plays games with Gus, not that we get to see any of it.

Thursday: Elizabeth

While in the changing room before work, Melissa talks to Elizabeth about how Bruce is acting weird, always walking up to the birds totally terrified and ducking for cover whenever there’s a strange noise. He won’t admit it, but it’s easy to see, and Melissa says that he’s so stuck-up at school it’s nice to see him worried about something for a change. Oh, Melissa, no. No girl. Don’t do it. And then, of course, she says that she’s finally noticed that he’s kind of cute when he’s not being arrogant. OH, MELISSA, NO. [Dove: Melissa, if there’s one rich snooty brat you should hang out with more, it’s not Bruce.] Melissa turns talk away from her (you mean Bruce! You haven’t actually talked about yourself!) to Elizabeth, who admits that Madeleine keeps talking about how smart the monkeys are but Elizabeth just can’t see it and is getting frustrated. Fucking hell, Wakefield.

On her way to the monkey enclosure, she decides the crocodiles are smart because they don’t chatter, don’t jump around, don’t pick bugs off each other, they just sit on the banks of their river waiting for prey. Talk about instinct only there, Wakefield!

It becomes clear that she only thinks animals are smart when they are quiet and still, and absolutely refuses to believe that monkeys are smart. They shouldn’t even be called “man’s closest relative” she thinks, because they’re so loud and dumb. Elizabeth. Wakefield. WTF is wrong with you. [Dove: Seems legit. It’s like when she talks to her friends, it’s a “thoughtful conversation” but any time Jessica speaks to someone else, it’s silly gossip and utterly devoid of meaning or function in life.] [Raven: Elizabeth is broken in this book. Can I have my money back please?]

Later that day, Elizabeth finally admits to Madeleine that she doesn’t think the monkeys are all that smart. Instead Spanky in particular reminds her of all the show-offy-est (her word) boys at school or like Steven. Madeleine’s not perturbed by this and just tells her to remember to lock the cage when she leaves.

Again, I have some questions about leaving privileged 12-year-olds in charge of safety and security at the zoo with live animals, but okay, whatever, I’ll roll with it, ghostie. [Raven: You’re more forgiving than me.] [Wing: I had to finish this recap somehow.]

At the end of the day, Elizabeth is just about to close the door behind her when two of the big monkeys get into a fight. She bellows at them to stop their fighting and waves her hands around like Madeleine does when a fight breaks out. Why? Why not let them fight? I’m very confused. They separate quickly and she thinks they look at her with innocent expressions. Oh boy.

Of course, she forgot to close the door when she came back into the habitat and, of course, Spanky immediately escapes. She chases him for 2 whole entire minutes and hasn’t come close to him. She can’t believe monkeys can run that fast.

When she finally slows down to catch her breath, he slows down too, weirdly. She decides that maybe she can fool him if she approaches slowly by looking in another direction, because god knows she’s smart enough to fool a monkey. Are you — are you sure about that? And, of course, he gets away from her just when she gets close enough to grab him. Because he’s fucking smart and he’s playing with you, Wakefield.

When she finally has to leave near 6 p.m. (you remember, when the zoo closes for some unknown reason), no one has seen Spanky. Madeleine’s not super worried about this, either, because he’s probably just playing one of his games and they’ll catch up with him sooner or later. You seem far too calm about a wild animal on the loose, zookeeper. [Raven: I absolutely hated this, so much so that I almost retconned my reading into Spanky escaping from his CAGE but not from the monkey’s habitat. But no, it’s actually a full-on animal breakout into downtown Sweet Valley, and what do the keepers do? They fucking shrug. APPALLING.]

She runs into Jessica on her way out and all Jessica wants to talk about is Gus and what he did while they played together and how she thinks he was laughing with her even though Justin says bears don’t actually laugh and she just flat out ignores Elizabeth trying to tell her about Spanky escaping and how Elizabeth is afraid they’ll fire her. You only have six days left, Wakefield, why are you so worried. You certainly don’t need the extra credit.

Thursday: Bruce

Who the fuck knows. I assume screaming and throwing himself to the floor and then trying to act brave and smug and cool.

Friday: Jessica

Finally we get to see Gus again. Jessica’s still playing and cuddling with him and she thinks he’s silly and smart and delightful.

You know, as adorable as this is, I have some concerns about how reliant he’s becoming on human interaction.

Justin forces her to take a lunch break away from Gus because they both need time apart; the only threat that works is his threat to cancel her internship. How much you’ve changed, Wakefield. How much you’ve changed.

Steven tries to give Jessica shit about being so distracted all the time lately; when Elizabeth explains that she’s fallen in love with a baby bear, Steven says giving up on boys altogether isn’t a bad idea and who’s the lucky bear.

When she says that she’s going to visit him over the weekend, too, because he needs her and doesn’t have a mother anymore, Steven says what some of us are thinking: I didn’t realise my sister was capable of such compassion. Since when do you ever care about poor abandoned animals?

Since now, Jessica says, and again, that’s not true. Know your history, ghostie.

And Elizabeth is super jealous of how much Jessica has grown to love working at the zoo when that was supposed to be how Elizabeth felt. Look, Wakefield, you are the reason she’s at the zoo in the first place. Slow your roll.

Friday: Elizabeth

When Elizabeth tells Melissa what happened, she’s sympathetic at first, but then points out that maybe Spanky is trying to pay her back for calling the monkeys stupid. Elizabeth blows off this theory immediately because god, Melissa, don’t you know that Elizabeth can’t possibly be wrong about the monkeys?

Elizabeth and Jessica have lunch together. Elizabeth is still freaking out about Spanky missing; Jessica still can’t shut up about how cute Gus is all the time.

Jessica nearly cuts a bitch when she thinks Elizabeth says she’ll take Gus when what she really said was that she’ll take the bus to search for Spanky. I’m sure that’s going to work.

On her way home, Elizabeth worries that Spanky is maybe dead even and she’ll feel terrible if so (as you should), right up until she sees him hanging from a street sign. She demands that he come down immediately. His hands are covering some of the letters on the sign so that it spells out ALI VE. Subtle. She tells him to wait right there on the sign while she goes home to call the zoo. Because sure, that’ll work.

And of course he’s disappeared again. Melissa tells her that if she sees him again, she shouldn’t let him out of her sight and should send someone else to make the call. Oh for a cell phone to be handy, Wakefield.

Later at Casey’s Ice Cream Parlor, she tells Amy and Maria all about her adventures. They’re interrupted by Mr Casey shouting from the back room and then, of course, Spanky shows up like he’s been waiting for Elizabeth to talk about him before he made an appearance. [Dove: What’s Mr Casey doing here? Didn’t he retire in the last book?] [Raven: And where the fuck is his lovable one-legged assistant?] [Wing: Maybe this book is meant to go before last book, setting-wise? Or, and far more likely, ghostie don’t give a fuck.]

Amy thinks he’s adorable and therefore I like her in this book.

Elizabeth orders them to block off Spanky while she calls the fire department (because they’ll arrive faster than Madeleine); Spanky alternates between eating cherries and chocolate chips and throwing them at Elizabeth and therefore I adore him.

The second Spanky hears sirens in the distance, he dives out the open door. Why the fuck was that door open in the first place if you’re trying to trap a monkey inside? You fucking idiots.

Friday: Bruce

Oh boy, we’re back to Bruce’s POV. What fun. He points out a barn owl to Melissa, though he’s careful to keep distance from it. He lets his hand brush against Melissa’s as he points out the owl and tells her how to tell barn owls from screech owls and hoot owls (heads and beaks and claws). By talking about all of the ways barn owls are dangerous, he starts to freak himself out. Slick, Patman. Very slick.

Melissa finally begs him to stop talking about how the owls hunt and tear apart their prey because it is disgusting.

They’re interrupted by Pamela Moreland, the head birdkeeper, who teases them a little about her interrupting them. Why do you care and also why aren’t you paying more attention to the intern who is clearly fucking terrified of your enclosure?

Pamela’s there to ask one of them to track some eggs due to hatch. They’ll need to measure the eggs, turn them, make sure nothing happens to them. AGAIN, you’re going to entrust that to a privileged 12-year-old? Oh boy.

Bruce thinks about how safe it will be and is about to volunteer when Melissa says he’ll do it. He’s worried that means she knows how he’s “concerned” (his word for terrified of) about the birds.

(Oh thank fuck, only five days left to this internship.)

Monday: Jessica

Steven shows up to check on Jessica hanging out with Gus. He tries to mock her but she lets it roll off her back because she’s too distracted by Gus. Steven’s fascinated because he’s never seen her like this before. She even laughs when Gus pees on the leg of her uniform. [Dove: A new spank bank memory for Steven.]

Okay, yeah, have to agree with Steven here, aliens really have taken over Jessica’s body. Good grief.

Monday: Elizabeth

I’m sure you’re shocked to learn that Elizabeth still doesn’t think the monkeys are smart despite how Spanky ran from the sirens and just happened to show up on her way home. And despite how when she misnames one of the monkeys she’s feeding, it gets annoyed with her until she gets the name right.

Elizabeth, you are being willfully obtuse right now.

Monday: Bruce

Surprisingly, Bruce really loves studying the eggs and all their different sizes and colours but similar shape (round at one end and oval at the other). He’s looking at one of the biggest ones when he notices a crack in the shell. He thinks it’s too bad that it’s weak and he should probably throw it out.

What… what exactly do you think eggs being about to hatch means, Patman?

Melissa is there to explain things to him, and he tries to pretend that he knew all along. She’s excited enough about getting to see a baby bird soon that she ignores his ridiculousness.

He’s starting to freak himself out again, anyway, because the eggs were safe and now there’s going to be a baby bird. I want to shake my head at his lack of logic here, and I certainly wouldn’t volunteer to watch spider eggs, but at the same time, I am sympathetic that fear isn’t always rational and logical.

Later, he asks Melissa what kind of bird she thinks will come out of the egg. She’s not sure but probably something big because of the size, maybe a raptor. And then Bruce simultaneously makes me laugh and hate him at the same time.

“A raptor?” Bruce’s eyes opened very wide. A picture of Tyrannosaurus rex flashed into his mind. T. rex with open bloody jaws. He took a step back. “You mean it’s a dinosaur?”

On the one hand, excellent dinosaur reference. On the other hand, this is a couple years after Jurassic Park came out, get yourself together. A raptor is not a T.rex and you fucking know it.

Melissa teases him a little about thinking a dinosaur could come out of the egg when there haven’t been any dinosaurs for thousands of years.

… thousands, huh. [Dove: Yeah, maths is hard. And it’s not like the “65 million years in the making…” tagline wasn’t on EVERY. SINGLE. POSTER.] [Raven: I suppose that it’s technically correct, as 65 millions does divide into thousands. Same if you use “hundreds”. It’s not good English, of course.]

When the egg finally hatches, Bruce tries to talk himself into being brave but can’t stop thinking about how it will try to bite him when it’s old enough to move. And then it moves and starts to hop toward him. Bruce figures out that it likes him when it keeps trying to follow him, and he freaks. the fuck. out.

Again, can’t really blame him here.

(Oh god this is taking forever.)

Tuesday: Jessica

Who the fuck knows.

Tuesday: Elizabeth

Elizabeth does some research that afternoon, trying to prep her presentation, but no matter how many things she reads, she just can’t believe everyone saying that monkeys are smart. Everyone but her thinks they are, but she still hasn’t noticed.

Because you are being willfully obtuse and stubborn as fuck, you jackass.

The more time she spends with them, the more they remind her of her classmates and yet she still also claims that they don’t communicate with each other or work together or solve problems or — Wakefield. You are supposed to be smart and to love learning. The fuck is wrong with you?

Spanky shows up, shushes her like a librarian would when she calls his name, and tries to bribe him with a fake carrot. He lets her get just close enough she thinks it will be easy to catch him and then he’s gone. Good god.

Tuesday: Bruce

He hopes the bird has forgotten about him overnight. It has not and immediately climbs him. Melissa thinks the chick is adorable and Bruce lucky that it likes him so much. He does not feel the same way. And she’s furious when he keeps pushing it off his shoulder.

She’s highly entertained when she decides that the chick has imprinted on him as its mother. I suppose that kind of imprinting is better than the Twilight kind of imprinting, which is creepy as hell. [Raven: I feel for the animals in this zoo. The Ghostie appears to have no love for animals themselves, as the passages that describe them are perfunctory at best, and neglectful at worst. There’s just something off about this entire book.]

The chick continues to sit on Bruce’s shoulder while he continues studying the eggs in the incubator, no matter how many times he knocks it away.

Melissa teases him about being a mom and tells him that he should name the chick. He finally proclaims it Drumstick, the kind you eat, not the kind you use to play drums. Melissa is disgusted by that name and walks off, leaving Bruce feeling weird, some sort of emotion he can’t name. But then he decides to blame everything on Drumstick. Okay then.

(No, seriously, this is taking forever, whyyyyyyyy.) [Dove: Because mathmatically all but 16% of this story sucks.]

Wednesday: Jessica

Jessica continues to be utterly besotted by Gus even as he’s getting bigger (though not too big to rock and cuddle) and how he can stand on his back legs and eat solid food and uh oh, Jessica, you’d better brace yourself. (Especially when she tells him that when she grows up and has a baby of her own, she wants it to be exactly like Gus. As much as the idea of Jessica procreating is terrifying, this is both adorable and ridiculous.)

Wednesday: Elizabeth

While spraying down the cage that morning, the hose stops spraying water for a bit. She holds it up to look inside to see if something’s stuck in there and a jet of water hits her straight in the face. This is exactly the sort of prank we played on each other kids, but sure, sure, monkeys aren’t smart enough to do that, right, Wakefield?

Except she finally admits that the monkeys did something and goes over to them when they call her over. It’s Spanky on the other side of the window! Treating Elizabeth like a part of the exhibit and him a spectator and also, why are they leaving a 12-year-old girl alone in a room with a bunch of loose monkeys? Monkeys can get violent. There is so much wrong with this book, ghostie. So much.

The monkeys stop her from getting to the cage door and by the time she gets Madeleine’s attention, Spanky’s gone again. Madeleine is even starting to wonder whether Elizabeth is seeing things because she wants to find him so badly. See, Elizabeth? It’s not so fun when people don’t believe you, huh.

Elizabeth leaves the zoo early to go work on her presentation and meets the Tweeds before they leave. They’re still there long enough to be snobby (and stupid by believing Alice would let a monkey into her house when Elizabeth, jokingly, calls Steven a monkey).

After Alice and the Tweeds leave, Elizabeth sets a trap for Spanky and settles in to wait, even ignoring Steven when he comes home until he starts to ask her about Spanky and how she’s going to trap him using a box propped on a stick with food under the box and when he goes for it, he won’t possibly be smart enough to work his way around the stick.

… right.

Steven’s the one who notices that Spanky is not only there, he’s stolen the Twinkies out of the trap without setting it off. Elizabeth, I’m pretty sure you are the one not possibly smart enough to do anything here.

She and Steven go to check on the trap; Steven tells her it wouldn’t work, it’s too sturdy, Spanky wouldn’t have been able to knock over the stick at all, but when Steven reaches in for the bananas Spanky left behind, his sleeve just brushes the stick and the trap comes down on his arm. [Dove: The minute I read that it was a trap with food, I was counting down to the moment where Steven would set it off.]

So basically, monkeys are a billion times smarter than the Wakefields. My shock, it is high.

Wednesday: Bruce

Melissa continues to chastise Bruce for being mean to the little chick. And the way she talks about it makes him think Drumstick looks all innocent and fuzzy and soft and frail, too, but he can’t shake the thought that when she grows up, she’ll be a giant bird with monstrous beak and claws. Poor guy.

(Oh my god there’s still like ¼ of the book to go why is this taking forever?)

Thursday: Jessica

Gus is not in the cage when Jessica gets to the zoo that morning. Justin’s gone, too, and she paces the parking lot waiting for them to return. Apparently Justin took him to the vet, as if a vet wouldn’t come to the fucking zoo to check out the baby bear. And as if the zoo doesn’t have vets on staff, damn it, ghostie, did you do any research?

Justin isn’t too happy, though, because he has to break the news to Jessica that Gus is ready for his relocation on Saturday.

Jessica freaks. the fuck. out.

Justin is gentle as he explains to Jessica that Gus needs to live in the wild, the zoo isn’t set up to handle a growing bear cub (… why the fuck not? Most zoos expect their animals to breed), Gus doesn’t feel emotions the way she does, yes he might love her but it’s not the same as a little human kid loving their mother, and Jessica won’t be able to be with him all day every day when school starts again. She swears she’ll quit all her activities and be there right after school every single day.

Oh, Jessica.

She bursts into tears, Justin tells her she can stay with Gus as long as she likes the next two days so she can say a proper good-bye, and I expect Justin will be in the Mercandy backyard by dinnertime and Jessica and the bear on the run. [Dove: Did anyone just imagine a twelve year old stealing a car, definitely a convertible, and driving off at high speed with a bearcub in the passenger seat, all set to a great 80s soundtrack? Suggestions on the music they would use in the trailer of that movie?] [Raven: Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now?]

Jessica misses the intern party because she stays with Gus until 830 when she was finally kicked out of the zoo. She dreams about bears all night. Those dreams lead her to her new plan of kidnapping Gus. Shocking. [Raven: Here’s where I noped out.]

Thursday: Elizabeth

At the party, Elizabeth gives her speech. She even talks about how the monkeys remind her of her classmates, which damn, Wakefield, you’d best step careful with Lila around. Before she gets very far into it, though, Spanky rocks up and she goes chasing after him.

Ellen screams and leaps onto her chair, because yes, that’ll stop the monkey who can climb things.

A bunch of the boys start chasing him with Elizabeth, Mandy tries to shut the door but it’s stuck, the science teacher tries to get everyone to calm down, and Spanky climbs a wall and jumps onto the back of Ellen’s neck.

Okay, I am D Y I N G here.

The pizza delivery guy shows up, Spanky jumps at him, he drops several of the boxes, and Spanky runs off with one. I love you, Spanky.

Thursday: Bruce

That afternoon, Bruce is excited for the pizza party that evening. Drumstick continues following him around, bigger now and hopping along behind him rather than sitting on his shoulder.

He keeps a wary eye on the big predators and when Drumstick picks at his overalls, he throws her across the aviary. Jesus, Bruce. I still can’t blame him, because I have gone so far as to nearly break my own neck trying to deal with a spider (which was a fun time for Dove), but damn, kid. [Dove: This is why I now have Wing’s sister’s phone number!]

Of course, the predators are staring intently down at them when Drumstick makes a scared little sound. Gee, I wonder which one of them those birds are hunting.

(Oh dear god we’re still not done. *sobs*)

Friday: Jessica

In order to set her plan into action, Jessica arrives really early. Justin says kind things to her about how good she was as an intern and invites her along with him when he goes to release Gus into the wild.

Jessica tells Gus to stay quiet in her backpack, glad that she taught him hide and seek, and she heads out to the exit, struggling a little under his weight.

She’s almost to the exit when Tomlinson stops her to thank her for her work and congratulate her on doing a good job despite her first impressions. Jessica walks away as soon as she can, being not at all subtle.

And yet she manages to get him all the way home.

No one notices until dinner that night when the family hears moaning coming from her bedroom. Jessica tries to explain it away as a new alternative-fusion-world-beat pop group playing on the radio she left on. Steven says they sound like Four Howling Dogs. Jessica tells him that they’re called the Bear Necessities, because she’s about as subtle as a brick to the face.

Jessica also manages to hide Gus that night when Alice comes in to tell her that the Tweeds will be at the house the next day and so she needs to be on her best behaviour. Oh boy.

Friday: Elizabeth

Who fucking knows. I assume chasing Spanky and underestimating all the other monkeys.

Friday: Bruce

At 3 p.m., the end of his last day on the internship, Bruce is thrilled that he beat the predators at the top of the aviary, and he shoves Drumstick aside. While he’s getting dressed, he hears Drumstick shrieking and it sounds different from before, louder and higher. He finally looks out the window and sees her at the very top of the highest pole with raptors circling her.

He goes racing into aviary, possibly without wearing his jeans since he dropped them on the floor, shouting for help. No one seems to be around, though, and he ends up climbing the damn pole himself.

He has to keep stopping and waving his arms and shouting to get the bigger birds away. Finally he gets to the top, grabs her and cuddles her against his bare chest. So, yeah, he’s at the very least shirtless and, again, possibly not wearing his jeans, either. This is amazing and ridiculous.

Melissa startles him and he falls the last couple of feet to the ground. And, sure enough, he’s only in his underpants. I am D Y I N G. He thinks she’s laughing at him at first, but then she calls him a hero and says she saw the whole thing, and he’s incredibly brave, and then she kisses him on the cheek. You still deserve better, Melissa. [Raven: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE ZOOKEEPERS? WHY IS BRUCE ALLOWED TO SHIMMY UP POLES IN THE AVIARY WEARING NOTHING BUT HIS UNDERPANTS?]

(Dear god this will never end.)

Saturday: Jessica

Jessica wakes up at 943 and is thrilled that Gus has officially missed his ride back to the wilderness which was leaving at 9. I was going to say I zero percent believed Gus let her sleep that late but oh, her bedroom door is open and he’s escaped. [Dove: I can only imagine that if Gus pooped, Alice or Ned saw it, sighed, and blamed Steven.]

Then she hears a chattering, a scream, and a Gus growl.

Downstairs, she finds Gus staring at the garbage can looking hungry, Mr Tweed hiding behind the garbage can, and Spanky dropping grapes in Mrs Tweed’s hair.

Oh, Alice is going to be thrilled.

Though, you know, if your 12-year-old kid can sneak a fucking bear cub into the house overnight, maybe you deserve it.

The Tweeds leave but not before threatening to sue the Wakefields. Oh, good, Ned can practice another type of law. Mr Tweed also threatens to kill Gus, and Jessica snaps at him over that.

Saturday: Elizabeth

Later that morning, Elizabeth goes to see Madeleine practically in tears because she’s been chasing Spanky for days without being able to catch him. She finally, finally admits that monkeys are very intelligent. Spanky rocks up to laugh at her and she tells him he wins.

When she finally gets home, Madeleine has called several times to tell her that Spanky came to the door of the monkey cage and begged to be let back inside. The monkeys have been giving each other high fives ever since.

Back at Casey’s, Elizabeth tells Amy and Maria what happened. Even though Maria earlier suggested that Spanky was trying to teach her a lesson that he was actually smart, now they remind her that monkeys aren’t humans and can’t do stuff like that. Good grief, ghostie, can’t you have continuity within one fucking book?

And oh, god, Melissa and Bruce are there, too, gazing dreamily at each other. I’m going to be sick.

Saturday: Bruce

Bruce is besotted and surprised and feels very lucky. I’m going to be sick.

Sunday

Dear god, I hope all we have left is to wrap up Jessica’s story, so I’m taking the chance at not splitting it.

She’s incredibly sad because it is her last day with Gus.

Yesterday, the Tweeds didn’t end up leaving or firing or suing Alice, just settled for an apology and new clothes. Well okay then. [Dove: So glad that half-assed non-clusterfuck took up a few paragraphs and went nowhere. Totes worth it.]

Jessica had to call Justin and tell her what she did, as if Justin couldn’t have figured out that Gus disappearing means Jessica fucking Wakefield took him. In fact, why the fuck didn’t anyone go on the alert the second she got him out of the zoo? Good god, the night crew sucks.

Jessica goes with Justin to take Gus back to the wild. She finally admits that it’s probably better for him to live out there but she will still miss him. When they finally stop, Gus seems to change as he breathes the mountain air, coming more awake and more alive. Aww, sweetie.

They walk with him down the path a bit and then Justin gives her a minute to say good-bye. She hugs him and tells him to run and play and that she will always love him and then lets him go.

She wants to know if she can come visit him, but Justin tells her no, bears and humans don’t mix and they don’t want Gus to start feeling comfortable around the humans. Too late for that. I’m pretty sure this is not at all how you handle a wild animal that you will release back into nature. Also, do bears really go from needing to be bottle-fed to being able to hunt for themselves without having a parent show them how and in less than two weeks? Because, uh, I have a lot of doubts over here.

Jessica cries, Justin thanks her for her work, and Jessica asks if she can keep her uniform. Oh good grief.

Final Thoughts

And finally, finally we are at the end of the book. There were a couple brief, shining moments where the story redeemed itself and I loved it, but most of the time I was both bored and annoyed, and even in the good parts, I had to suspend so much disbelief because ghostie went for whatever needed to happen to make the plot go instead of doing any fucking research at all.

Not the worst book we’ve read in the series, though I thought it would be when I recapped the first few chapters, but not great, either. Weird highs and lows, like an unbalanced roller coaster.

[Dove: I liked half of one third of this book. I only cared about the Jessica part of it, and only when she stopped being a privileged brat. The bits I liked, I actually loved just as much as the first time I read them when Jessica saved Whiskers. Everything else? Couldn’t care less. Not even faintly interested in Elizabeth’s superiority complex and the stupid farce with the monkey, and Bruce Patman? Complete tool. The background Wakefields also sucked. The other story about Alice’s stuck-up clients took up all of two paragraphs. Total waste of time. Urgh. This book sucked.]

[Raven: THIS IS A BAD BOOK. Main Story? Jessica was a complete TWAT before her bear-cub inspired face turn… but what exactly did she do after that? She spent the entire book playing with Gus largely offscreen, and contributed NOTHING to the story. B-Plot with Liz and the Monkeys? THAT WAS NOT LIZ. C-Plot with Melissa and Bruce? Pretty much a re-tread of the A-Plot, with an animal imprinting on a reticent human. Also, every interaction with an animal was just… off, somehow. Like it had been written by someone whose knowledge of animals came from reading a couple of pamphlets, or someone who has never actually seen an animal in real life. And the ZOO?! Fucking APPALLING, but I suppose that’s down to the Ghostie not doing even any cursory research into the subject.

I won’t be re-reading this shitglobe, that’s for sure.]

I am the evil twin. I'm in a feud with R.L. Stine, but he hasn't found me here yet. Every story needs more werewolves.

5 thoughts on “Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica’s Animal Instincts

  1. Oh, boy. It is my time to SHINE.

    First up – every zoo I’ve been to/worked at closed at 5pm, so I’m not sure why Wing thinks 6pm is unrealistically early, but whatever nbd.

    Monkeys are fucking assholes. Smart as hell, so they’re assholes with BRAINS behind it. Elizabeth is a fucking idiot. Also, different types of monkeys wouldn’t be housed together. Monkeys are territorial AF, can you imagine all the alpha males of all the different species fighting it out? There would be so many dead monkeys, omfg.

    What’s Raven’s hatred of giraffes all about? I mean, sure, you have to be annoyingly careful not to startle them so they don’t take off running and break one of their stupid legs, but the females and babies are actually quite sweet. The adult males, though? Assholes. Super assholes.

    The bears would probably be taken to a wildlife rehab, not a zoo. They would be checked over for health, and then released back into the wild. There’s no fucking way a bear CUB is going to be released on its own like this, what the actual fuck. OF FUCKING COURSE zoos are set up to care for growing animals; most zoos participate in breeding programs AND MY RAGE KNOWS NO BOUNDS OVER THIS GHOSTIE’S STUPIDITY!

    There’s no way 12-year-olds are working at a zoo doing anything but scooping sno-cones for visitors. Even in the junior zookeepers program, they are not being allowed anywhere near the animals without strict supervision, and anyone who climbs into a fucking bear cage on their own is getting tossed out of there so fast they won’t know what hit them. Again, my rage knows no bounds, etc etc.

    If an animal escapes from its enclosure, the whole place goes on lockdown, oh my God. Ghostie. What the fuck.

    “Also, I think you mean venomous unless you plan to eat the iguanas.” – I love you for pointing out the difference, Wing.

    WHY THE FUCK ARE THE BIRDS OF PREY IN THE SAME ENCLOSURE WITH THE BIRDS THEY PREY ON?! THIS IS NOT WHAT ZOOS DO!

    Also, “hoot owl” is not a type of owl. They all fucking hoot. It’s literally just a cutesy way of referring to any owl. It’s akin to saying “soda pop.” Fuck the actual fuck off, Bruce.

    This book. Jesus Christ. I would have thrown it across the room so many times. All the animals in that zoo are dead from neglect and stupidity, and thousands of visitors a year are mauled. So many faces have been ripped off. Goddamn Sweet fucking Valley, I swear to god.

  2. “Bruce keeps thinking about an enormous hawk carrying him off into the air with its razor-sharp claws, and the image is ridiculous but I still feel bad for him. I get fears that don’t actually make much sense.”
    You’re too kind. There’s an old recapper who worked random bird pictures into all of their recaps with, “Hey Bruce!”

    “They’re also one size fits all, which is a bullshit size because no, it doesn’t.”
    Does it even specify youth or adult? Regardless of body types, “youth” alone is ridiculously varied.

    “[Raven: I presume Howler is a Howler Monkey, and Capuchin is a Capuchin Monkey, and so on.] [Wing: Then why are there only one of each? I still have questions.]”
    I assumed this was the ghostie thumbing their nose, “see I did research!” Especially considering you wouldn’t keep different species together. For starters, they’re from different climates, they have different social structures…

    “She hates the idea of replacing paid labour with unpaid but she has to have someone in the store.”
    Riiiiiiight. She means ‘untrained.’

    ” [Raven: She can try to convince me she’s leaving for Gus, but she’s really leaving because she is being forced to actually work.]”
    Touché lol

    “Eizabeth is hurt that he likes Jessica better than her and thinks that the monkeys can’t possibly be smart because there’s no way they could tell the difference between the twins. [Dove: I hope they rip off her face.]”
    Elizabeth is hurt because Gus is literally the only character in any series who can tell the twins apart. Dove, I agree wholeheartedly.

    “Elizabeth, who admits that Madeleine keeps talking about how smart the monkeys are but Elizabeth just can’t see it and is getting frustrated. Fucking hell, Wakefield.”
    I spent a lot of time on primatology in college, so this plot is excruciating. I took a class called ChimpanZoo where we earned credits by watching the chimps and recording what they did every minute (you had a timer, and could make notes of what the did between timers.) I was older than Elizabeth, but for fuck’s sake, if you can’t see patterns in behavior with how much observation time you’re getting, YOU are the idiot. But we been knowing. Fack

    “It becomes clear that she only thinks animals are smart when they are quiet and still, and absolutely refuses to believe that monkeys are smart. They shouldn’t even be called “man’s closest relative” she thinks, because they’re so loud and dumb. Elizabeth. Wakefield. WTF is wrong with you. [Dove: Seems legit. It’s like when she talks to her friends, it’s a “thoughtful conversation” but any time Jessica speaks to someone else, it’s silly gossip and utterly devoid of meaning or function in life.]”
    This whole exchange explains a lot. Elizabeth is someone who succeeds in the American school system (and a particularly bad school) where you’re rewarded for obedience and routine. Anything that disrupts the conveyor belt of learning is bad.

    “[Raven: I feel for the animals in this zoo. The Ghostie appears to have no love for animals themselves, as the passages that describe them are perfunctory at best, and neglectful at worst. There’s just something off about this entire book.]”
    Theory: Jessica wrote this book after Liz got her publishing job back.

      1. Yes! 1bruce1 was my introduction to recapping. I start recollecting around the same time it was live, but I didn’t find it till past its heyday. I’m so excited to enjoy live recapping 🙂

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