Title: Best Friends
Tagline: Elizabeth is afraid she’s losing her best friend — her twin sister!
Summary: Growing apart…
The twins’ close friendship in threatened when Jessica is admitted to an exclusive girls’ club.
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield feel special because they’re identical twins. For twelve years they’ve dressed alike, shared a room, and done everything together. But when they start Sweet Valley Middle School, everything begins to change.
Elizabeth wants to work on the class newspaper, but Jessica doesn’t. Jessica would rather join the Unicorns, a snobby all-girls club. Even though Elizabeth isn’t interested in the same things as her twin, she tries to tag along. But is she losing her best friend?
Dude, your twin sister/BFF will always be there, if Dove is any example. (She is, after all, the good twin.) Also, I was so, so annoyed when it felt like my siblings were always trying to do the same activities I did, even though looking back on it now, I can see we just have similar taste in what is fun, and I should have enjoyed it more.
I find the cover of this book extremely creepy; all that pink, yes, but also how pastel the world is: their shirts, their hair, their skin, their house, their yard, their sky — everything is washed out and terrifying. Suburban horror at its best. [Dove: It’s red. The cover is red, not pink.] [Raven: The cover is red, but the picture of the twins is indeed majorly pink. Got your back, Wing. *fist bump*]
[Wing: *fist bump* Dove is going to regret letting Raven join us.]
[2 Feb 2017 update: Wing: For another take on this book, though one that hits on a lot of the things that made us go boom as well, check out the Super Serials podcast episode.]
We open on Jessica rushing to catch up with Elizabeth, even though the tagline and blurb make it sound like Elizabeth is always going to be the one running after her sister. Jessica wants to know why Elizabeth isn’t waiting for her like always, and Elizabeth blows her off, saying she’s in a hurry. Truth is, Jessica was talking to some girls Elizabeth doesn’t like because, “They always acted as if they were stars and all the people around them were the audience.”
I’ve never read these books before, but based on sheer cultural osmosis, my impression was always that you two were just like that, so. [Dove: You are not wrong.]
Jessica wants to know if Elizabeth is mad at her. (“Lizzie” and that name always makes me think of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, because at one point there’s a nasty picture and rhyme that goes around about one of their teachers “Lazy lousy Liza Jane” — because she had lice at one point as a kid. And considering how far I’ve already wandered from the story at hand, I’m not convinced this is going to go as fast as Dove promised me it would.)
Elizabeth teases her about why she’d be mad, because all Jessica did was borrow her things without asking, make her late for class, get peanut butter in her hairbrush — HOW? — and these are all things Jessica does all the time, apparently. So, is Jessica going to be written as a ditzy clutz? Because that’s how it sounds right now. [Raven: Also, passive aggressive much? “No, it’s fine, honestly. I like peanut butter in my hair. I can buy another brush with my allowance, which is probably much smaller than yours.”]
[Wing: Point. And great comment color. I am inspired to add one of my own. And to fix Dove’s for her. Mwahahahaha.]
Elizabeth does tell her that it’s hard to stay mad at her, and that really, she just gets bored around Jessica’s new friends and she has a ton of homework.
They start to walk home together, and Jessica puts herself on my shit list for life when she gossips about Lois Waller in gym class and says “She was practically oozing out of her leotard. Fat everywhere. They shouldn’t let a tub like her take ballet.”
So that’s how it’s going to be, is it, Jessica. Okay. Enemy for life. (Yes, I don’t care that I’ve just made a 12-year-old fictional kid my enemy for life.)
Elizabeth points out that Lois can’t help that she’s fat (or maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t fucking care that you fuckers think she’s fat), and Jessica insists she can, because she can totally lose weight, and even worse, she can make herself look pretty, she doesn’t have to wear baggy dresses and let her hair hang in her face.
I — I am not going to do well with these books, am I? Are you trying to kill me, Dove? Do you find it funny when my head goes boom with rage?
(Spoiler: Yes, she does.)
[Dove: Yes, I do. However, once I got the ok you’d recap this and I did a quick re-read, I’ve been hiding under the desk ever since. I’ve been working through the last 20 of the series, and had forgotten quite how hateful the body shaming was in the early books — once you get to the point I’m at, they’ve progressed to taking down crime rings, starring in movies and dealing with hauntings. So, I’m actually sorry about this.] [Raven: Crime rings?! Yippie-ki-yay!]
[Wing: Okay, I’ll take a couple deep, deep breaths and try to get through the first books, and the body shaming, because those plots sound ridiculous and wonderful. You owe me so many drinks on holiday this year, though. So many.]
Jessica whines some more about how hard class was with Lois crashing around like a rhinoceros, and I hope she throws you into a wall sometime. Jessica is better than all the other dancers in class and might be a famous ballerina someday. I’m pretty sure you’re not on track to be a professional ballerina considering how many other interests you pursue at this age, but okay, jackass, you do you. [Dove: Truly exceptional ballerinas are on pointe by this stage in life, not starting their first lessons.]
Elizabeth is excited that Mr Bowman is going to let them start a newspaper just for the sixth grade, and he put her in charge. That’s mighty convenient. She wants to know if Jessica will write a gossip column or something. Jessica says that Caroline Pearce would be better at it, because she knows every drop of gossip, including about the seventh and eighth graders (who, I assume, are the other grades in their building). Elizabeth keeps pushing, and then is shocked, SHOCKED I SAY, that Jessica doesn’t want to write for the paper.
After all, they look alike, dress alike, share a room, watch the same tv shows, go shopping together — they are best friends. Actually, Elizabeth, it sounds more like you are codependent weirdos who desperately need parents who will enforce separate lives, but sure. Best friends.
(One of their favorite jokes is that Elizabeth is the “big sister” because she is four minutes older, and the one in charge; she reminds Jessica to do everything, picks up after her, and helps her with her math. UM. WHY?) [Dove: Because Elizabeth will always do that stuff, and Jessica relies on it. I have to say, as much as everyone hates Jessica, her family certainly haven’t tried to help her grow up decent.]
[Wing: Because the entire Wakefield family is terrible, as I’m sure I will say many, many times.]
Family roll call: Mrs Alice Wakefield works part time at Sweet Valley Design and Mr Ned Wakefield heads a busy law practice, because of course he does. Lawyers, pah. They also have an older brother, Steven, a freshman at Sweet Valley High, and a basketball player. He comes in angry, but won’t tell them what’s wrong; ever since he started high school, he’s been a pain.
(LOOK WHO IS TALKING YOU JUDGMENTAL DICKS.)
Steven teases them about their matching outfits, and Jessica defends them when he says no one can tell them apart, but Elizabeth has her doubts, because people are always calling her Jessica. She still thinks dressing alike is part of the fun of being twins. Is it? Is it really? WHY? Why aren’t you interested in individuality?
(Outfit: white blouse, red sweater vest, denim skirt, white knee socks, running shoes.) [Raven: Oh, and Steven… why is this news to you? Haven’t the twins been wearing matching outfits every day for twelve years?! Is this the first time you’ve noticed? Or are you angry because you have a vague notion that you’re stultifyingly stupid, but you lack the intelligence to understand why?]
Jessica gets a call from Lila Fowler, and she is super excited about it, like “she’d been talking to a member of the royal family.” UMM. AMERICANS NOT SUPER INVESTED IN THE ROYAL FAMILY WE DON’T HAVE. I haaaaaaaate that obsession. [Dove: However disinterested your country is in the monarchy, I can guarantee that my country cares significantly less. The only way we care about them is the cases such as me, where we’ve gone past disinterest to active hatred for those unelected spongers.] [Raven: If one of them dies or marries, we get a day off work. In these rare instances, you can wrap me in bunting and wave me like a flag.]
[Wing: That sounds terribly kinky. And for all my shouting above, I do know some Americans who are that invested in the royal family, and stay up all night to watch things like royal weddings. We certainly don’t get a day off work for them.]
Elizabeth knows all about Lila. Do you, Elizabeth? Lila has the biggest wardrobe in Sweet Valley, her rich father buys her everything, and Jessica has been spending a lot of time with her lately. That is not much information, actually, Lizzie.
Jessica tells Elizabeth that Lila is in the Unicorn Club. Elizabeth cracks a joke about whether her father bought her a unicorn, but Jessica won’t let her make jokes about it, because the Unicorn club is special; it’s called that because unicorns are beautiful, special, and everyone likes them (…except the people they impale, I guess), and the girls in the club are the same. (I would be so much happier if this club involved impaling people.) Very few sixth graders can join, but Lila is in, as is Ellen Riteman, because Janet Howell is Lila’s cousin, and Janet is the prettiest, most important girl in eighth grade, and, of course, president of the club.
Jessica runs off to do some more ballet, leaving Elizabeth to clean up after their snack. Then Elizabeth goes up to do her homework, and we get our first look at their shared room. Why in the world do they share a room when their parents are supposed to be solidly middle class at the very least, and probably borderline rich? Anyway, the room is pretty, but she thinks a little babyish, with white wallpaper that has pink flowers, a pink rug, and white bedspreads and pink pillows on their beds. Elizabeth doesn’t even like pink, but went along with it. Jessica’s side is trashed, and Elizabeth’s organized. I see you’re going for an Odd Couple thing here, author(s).
They have a family dinner, their mom offers to give them ballet classes at the Dance Studio (what a fresh and distinctive name that is), and Elizabeth talks about the newspaper, which will be the first sixth-grade newspaper ever. She’s going to ask Amy Sutton and Julie Porter to be on it, and Jessica thinks that’s terrible. (“All you need is Winston Egbert and you can call it the ‘Nerdpaper.’” EGBERT? REALLY, AUTHOR(S)?) She goes on to slam Amy and Julie and the newspaper itself, and Elizabeth blows up at her, which apparently never happens, though I don’t understand how it couldn’t.
Elizabeth decides she won’t say anything else about the paper to Jessica, so that when it is a success, she’ll feel left out and want to join. Well that’s not passive aggressive at all. So much for BFF twins. [Dove: I’ve read pretty much all of these books, and Evil Elizabeth is the only one where there is evidence of a genuine closeness between the twins. And then evil happens.]
Right after they get to school, Bruce Patman greets at least one of them as “blondie”. Elizabeth thinks he’s really cute (and rich), but a bully and a jerk. Jessica apparently has a crush on him, and now thinks he’s teasing her because he likes her too. Elizabeth is shocked by this, because all summer, Jessica talked about how gross boys were. Aww, puberty has come to Sweet Valley.
Jessica takes off for Lila and friends, and Elizabeth almost follows her automatically, but catches herself, and instead goes to find Amy and Julie. Amy suggests they meet for lunch, and Elizabeth hesitates because she always eats with Jessica, but then decides that Amy and Julie can join them. At lunch, though, Jessica tells her that Lila and Ellen asked her to sit with them. She half-heartedly offers to let Elizabeth come with her, but can’t even finish the sentence.
Elizabeth is feeling sad about not being with Jessica, even though she doesn’t like Lila and friends anyway, and then nervous about how Amy and Julie will respond to her idea, but they love it, and start scribbling down ideas about various things to include. Their enthusiasm is actually pretty great. (I love school papers; I worked on one in middle school, so around their age, and then all through high school and university, and then started a creative writing journal with friends at my grad school.)
Caroline sits down with them unexpectedly (you remember, the Gossip); Elizabeth doesn’t much like her, because not only is she the biggest gossip, she’s the “prissiest person in the world.” She also lives near the Wakefields, of course, which makes me laugh. “Telling her a secret was like posting it up on a billboard.”
Aww, look at that pre-Internet quote. So sweet.
Caroline comes with the gossip that the school is going to fire Mr Nydick, who is the head of the history department, the oldest teacher in the school, and the nicest. She doesn’t know why he’s being fired, though, which is the actually useful part of gossip, so thanks a lot, Caroline. (She also knows that Roberta Manning was grounded for a week after staying out too late with a high school boy. She’d better be a damn eighth grader, and the high school boy a freshman, otherwise that’s getting into some creepy age difference shit.) [Raven: Mr Nydick is being fired for doing “something horrendous, maybe to one of the kids.” Looks like Mr Nydick will soon be on a register of his own.]
[Wing: I love how it is tossed out there as gossip and then dropped. If it doesn’t pick up in later books, why in the world is it dropped here?]
And then we head jump to Jessica’s point of view, because that’s excellent writing. She’s having fun sitting with Ellen, Lila, Janet, and Kimberly Haver, Betsy Gordon, and Mary Giaccio, three seventh graders. She feels like their table is the center of attention, and everyone at the table looks great and is wearing fantastic clothes, including her. Everyone else there is a part of the Unicorn Club, and Jessica is desperate to join it too. [Raven: So much pointless information. If this book were a Friends episode, it’d be called “The One With All The Fucking Surnames”.]
[Wing: Name soup for sure. I understand that a new setting is being established here, but do we really need 5 million people in it from the very first book?]
The girls tell her about the club (they spend most of their meetings gossiping and talking about boys, which is basically just another form of gossiping), and Janet says they are always a group, they sit together at lunch, they hang out together after school, they go to the Dairi Burger together (which is where the high school kids hang out). They plan things like wearing purple all year, and they pay dues every week to cover expenses (food for slumber parties, going out for pizzas, etc.) Dues. They pay dues for their friends group. This is fucked up, y’all. [Dove: *pauses* Dude, we’ve been best friends for seventeen years, how much do we owe in dues?]
[Wing: You owe me even more drinks, now.]
They talk about the size of the club; there are twelve members, and they don’t want to get any bigger, they want it to stay exclusive. But sometimes a few new Unicorns are brought in to replace people who graduate or move away, and Janet says there might be room for someone else.
“When Jessica Wakefield wanted something, there was no ‘maybe’. There was only ‘yes’.”
So should I keep an eye out for the book where Jessica has to learn to take “no” for an answer? [Dove: Good luck on that.] [Raven: Maybe that’s what got Mr Nydick fired.]
The next morning, Elizabeth wakes up to Jessica groaning because she didn’t finish all her homework and needs to copy Elizabeth’s. Elizabeth isn’t down with this idea, because she doesn’t want to get into trouble with Ms Wyler, who I assume is their math teacher. Instead, she offers to help her during homeroom. Jessica then asks why they don’t own more purple, and Elizabeth pops off that they don’t want to look like grapes, which actually made me crack a smile.
(Outfit: jeans, white turtleneck, lavender sweater.)
Elizabeth is literally putting her new sneakers on her feet when Jessica asks to borrow them because she can’t find hers, and Elizabeth lets her take it. ELIZABETH. WHY? [Dove: And then they’re shocked that Jess is a spoilt brat. Maybe don’t say yes to everything she wants?]
[Wing: SHE LETS HER LITERALLY TAKE THE SHOES OFF HER FEET!]
During their walk to school, Elizabeth finally tells Jessica about the gossip she heard from Caroline, and Jessica already knows about Roberta and her high school boy because Roberta got kicked out of the Unicorn Club for that. Elizabeth finds that amazing, because half the girls in the club probably want to date a high school boy, and Jessica also admits that Janet and Roberta didn’t get along, and the high school boy kept putting down the Unicorns. Sounds like some super pettiness, but I am unsurprised.
After school, Elizabeth waits almost half an hour for Jessica, but her sisters blows her off; instead, Jessica goes with Lila to the Dairi Burger, and completely forgot she already had plans with Elizabeth.
Sure enough, the Unicorn Club has two openings, and they think Jessica is Unicorn material. All she has to do is complete some pledge tasks (their version of an initiation), and then the girls vote whether to let her into the club. Jessica has no worries, though, and immediately wants to know what she has to do.
Jessica’s Unicorn Club Pledge Tasks
- Hide Mrs Arnette’s lesson plan at the beginning of social studies and put it back in her bag by the end of class, without getting caught.
- Stand outside the girls’ bathroom between classes and tell at least three girls the bathroom is flooded and they have to use the boys’ room, and actually get three to go into the boys’ room.
- Come to school one day looking so different from Elizabeth that no one would know they’re twins.
She also has to keep all the pledge tasks secret, and can’t even tell Elizabeth about them. Jessica assumes that the other potential new member is going to be Elizabeth, of course, but they disabuse her of that notion real quick. (The other new member is Tamara Chase, an eighth grader who just moved to town.) Even though they say Elizabeth isn’t Unicorn material, and Jessica feels bad about it, she’s not put off from joining, and decides she just won’t talk about the club at all until after she’s in and can figure out a gentle way to tell Elizabeth. I’m sure there’s no possible way this could blow up in her face.
The next day, Jessica sets out to do the first pledge task. She gets Lila to ask Mrs Arnette about being a WAC in World War Two (a part of the Women’s Army Corps), and as Mrs Arnette starts talking about it, she sets down her plan book. Jessica fakes a bathroom emergency, then picks up the plan book on her way back into the room. Everyone seems to be working to keep her distracted by asking her tons of questions, but Jessica is now struggling to figure out how to slip the book into Mrs Arnette’s bag. She finally notices that her book is gone, and as she’s looking for it, Winston (you remember, the nerd Jessica was so down on earlier) asks her to show them how to stand at attention. This gets her back to Jessica, and Jessica just slips it into her briefcase when the bell rings.
Jessica sort of thanks Winston as they leave the room, and then she turns to Lila, jubilant with her success. Even though she’s super excited from it, she waits until Friday to try the second trick, and heads up to the second floor bathroom after third period, because very few eighth graders use it, and they would be the hardest to trick. [Raven: I think Jessica missed a trick here. She could have covered Tasks One and Two on the same day by linking her “bathroom emergency” to the bathroom flooding. “Yeah, I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. Dunno what happened. I was like a water cannon. Ankle-deep in piss.”]
[Wing: So, I need Raven to write cheesy YA stories from now on.]
However, the first two girls who walk up are eighth graders, and when she tells them the bathroom is flooded, they want to know who she is and why she gets to tell them that. Instead of going into the boys’ bathroom, though, they just decide to use the bathroom downstairs. Jessica didn’t even think about that, because Jessica is kind of an idiot.
Lois is the next person to come up (you remember, the fattie who shouldn’t be doing ballet, and a big old FUCK YOU to Jessica once again). Jessica tells her to use the boys’ room, and that there are only two and a half minutes left before fourth period starts. Apparently, she is counting the seconds. Lois is reluctant, but goes into the bathroom; she comes right back out, though, because there are boys in there. Shocking. It still counts, though, because she went all the way inside.
Next up is Elizabeth, Amy, and Julie, but Jessica knows she can’t embarrass her own twin, so she lets them go into the girls’ room. Then two more eighth graders come up, and she tells them they can’t go in because flood. They claim they saw some other people go in, and Jessica spins a tale about them being a part of the Future Plumbers Club. THE FUTURE PLUMBERS CLUB. They don’t necessarily buy it, but have always wanted to see the inside of the boys’ room, so they go in anyway, and Jessica completes task two.
She then waits until Monday for the third one. In order to make herself look different from Elizabeth, she makes her sister choose what they’re wearing even though Elizabeth normally follows Jessica’s lead. (Outfit, Elizabeth: yellow sweat suit. OMG NO. [Dove: Do we think this is why Jess usually picks out what they wear?])
Once Elizabeth goes downstairs to breakfast, Jessica leaps out of bed and puts on a different outfit, then uses her mother’s hot curlers to curl her hair, puts on mascara and lip gloss, and decides that she looks like a different person, much older and very glamorous.
The rest of her family are pleased to see her looking so pretty and grown up (and this is kind of weird, but I’m going to let it go), but Elizabeth is pretty upset about it. On the way to school, she wants to know why Jessica didn’t tell her she was going to do it. Because Jessica has to run all her decisions past Elizabeth, huh?
Jessica figures out a good cover, which is that she decided Steven was right and they’re too old to dress alike. Elizabeth still thinks Jessica could have warned her, because they’ve been dressing alike since nursery school.
At school, Lila tells her she did a good job on all her pledge tasks, and they’ll vote by the end of the week.
Elizabeth locks herself into a stall on the first floor so she can cry in peace. She doesn’t understand why Jessica is moving on and leaving her behind, she keeps going to new places without her and doing things without her and dressing different — on the one hand, I guess this is a pretty big change. On the other hand, they shouldn’t have made it this long without figuring out how to be different people, so.
Elizabeth overhears two sixth grade girls talking about how great Jessica looks, how much older, and how she doesn’t look like her sister at all and now people she can tell them apart.
After they leave, Elizabeth knows exactly what she wants to do now. She changes her hair out of the ponytail they normally wear, and instead parts it in the middle, pulls it back off her face, and fastens it with a clip. Jessica hates that hairstyle, but Elizabeth loves it. When she goes out into the hall, Lois sees her and tells her she should wear her hair like that all the time, and people keep telling her that all day. [Dove: Spoiler: She takes this advice to heart, and keeps on wearing that hair style right through Sweet Valley High too.] The only person who thinks it is sad they are changing is Mrs Arnette, who says they used to look like two little dolls.
At home that night, their dad says that they have two sophisticated daughters. Elizabeth admits that she thought it would be terrible, but she actually likes looking different from Jessica. When she says they won’t dress alike anymore, it’s Jessica’s turn to freak out, because she loves being twins and likes to dress the same.
Mrs Wakefield then announces that they will be starting a new beginners’ ballet class the next day. Steven is unimpressed, but the girls are happy. Even Elizabeth. She might like looking different than Jessica, but she doesn’t want to do things without her.
There’s more fat hate on the way to ballet class (Jessica thinks Bruce is flirting with her, Elizabeth calls him terrible because he calls Lois “the pig” and shouted out everything on her lunch tray in the lunch room one time. Jesus, kids are fucking terrible. Jessica thinks it’s funny, and deserved, because she gets enough food to feed an army. Right, sure, author(s), because that’s exactly how fat works. Fuck off with your fat hate and body shame).
Once they get to the studio, they’re running a little late because of Jessica, so Elizabeth rushes into her uniform (outfit: black leotard, white tights, black slippers), but Jessica takes longer. (Outfit: purple leotard, purple leg warmers with pink hearts and yellow stripes, filmy lavender scarf around her waist, hair loose and pulled back with glittery barrettes with long lavender streamers, and blue eyeshadow all the way up to her eyebrows. That is a lot, Jessica.)
The only person Elizabeth recognises in the class of thirteen girls is Sarah Thomas from her math class. They seem friendly enough, but don’t have time to talk before Madame Andre starts class. Jessica runs in late, and is in trouble both for being late and for dressing like she is wearing a costume and is a star. Jessica is, of course, embarrassed, and Elizabeth is embarrassed for her.
The class just keeps going worse for Jessica; she mixes up the five positions even though she knows them perfectly, and then she trips during a plie.
The next day, Caroline races up to Elizabeth and demands to know why Elizabeth didn’t tell her about Jessica being invited to join the Unicorn Club. Of course, Elizabeth doesn’t know about it, so way to spill the beans, Caroline! Who tries to stir up trouble by saying that it’s too bad that they didn’t have room for Elizabeth too.
Elizabeth is heartbroken that Jessica didn’t tell her, and decides that she can’t handle being alone with Jessica even on the walk to ballet after school. She doesn’t just abandon her sister, though, she ask Lois to give her a message. Which is actually pretty shitty, considering how Jessica talks about Lois. Don’t put someone else in the middle who Jessica already treats like shit, dude.
Another head hop to Jessica’s point of view, because of course.
Jessica is excited to show off for the teacher, but Madame Andre ignores her the entire class. This is actually kind of a crappy way to teach twelve year olds, but not super surprising for a French ballet instructor in children’s fiction.
After class, Jessica is pissed off about all the work she went into and gripes that she’s going to tell the Unicorns all about it — and Elizabeth bursts into tears. Jessica doesn’t understand why she’s so upset and runs off, but then she realises that somehow Elizabeth must have learned about the Unicorn Club. UMM. You literally just told her you were going to complain to them about it. What the fuck, Jessica?
Elizabeth runs home to talk to her their mom about what’s happening. Her mother points out that it doesn’t sound like the kind of club she’d want to join anyway, and Elizabeth admits that is true, but she wishes they wanted her anyway — and that mostly it’s about not getting to do everything with Jessica, and how it feels like Jessica doesn’t want to have her around anymore.
Her mother even tells her that it’s good for them to grow apart and do different things, which is good parenting, except she probably shouldn’t be springing it on them at this age, and maybe should have brought it up as they were younger and growing into their personalities. [Dove: Alice is great at parenting advice way after the fact. Not so much with the doing and the prep work.] [Raven: The Wakefield Parents are both from the “Let’s Throw Money At It” school of parenting. Girls are unhappy? Let’s buy them ballet lessons.]
[Wing: Should have shelled out for finishing school instead.]
Elizabeth and Jessica talk about it a little bit, but Elizabeth still feels like she’s losing her best friend.
The next morning, Jessica is super excited to be voted into the club, and promises Elizabeth she’ll get her into the club if she gets in. Which is still kind of ridiculous, because Elizabeth dislikes everyone else in the club and doesn’t want to do any of those things in the first place! I am trying not to judge too harshly because they are so young, but damn, come on!
Side note that at some point, Roberta calls for Steven, so Steven must be her secret high school boyfriend. On the one hand, at least he is only a year older. On the other hand, gee, how convenient.
Unsurprisingly, Jessica makes it into the club, and Elizabeth is thrilled for her. Steven not so much.
The next Monday afternoon, Jessica goes to her first official meeting of the Unicorn Club. While she’s gone, Elizabeth decides not to mope around and invites Amy over instead. They make a snack, then Elizabeth takes her out to her favourite spot under an old pine tree. It’s where she goes to write, and Jessica never comes there anymore because she thinks it is babyish.
They talk about the newspaper, and decide to call it The Sweet Valley Sixers, which is kind of terrible, but pretty standard for a middle school newspaper. [Dove: Grades 7 and 8 share a paper, called Gazette 7&8, so if I were you, I would stand back and gasp in awe at the cleverness of calling it The Sixers.]
Then Amy suggests they write a book together, a whole long book about their lives, the other kids at school, etc. They talk a little about the Unicorn Club and how they’re glamorous but have no personalities. [Dove: When Liz talks about other kids at school? “thoughtful conversation” with her best friend. When Jess talks about other kids at school “gossip”. And no, Liz isn’t being much kinder that Jess and the Unicorns.]
Later, Jessica is at her third meeting when she finally brings up the idea of bringing Elizabeth into the club. The eighth grade members mock her for being too much of a baby to do things without her sister. Jessica then says that she’ll have to drop out because her parents think that twins need to be together. This gets them moving, because they can’t handle letting someone quit. (It’s one thing for them to kick someone out, quite another for someone to leave them. This club is just aces, isn’t it.) So instead, they’re going to give Elizabeth one difficult pledge task to prove herself. [Raven: Again, super passive aggressive. “Elizabeth can’t join? Then I must bid you farewell, and walk the Earth alone.”]
At lunch the next day, the Unicorn Club tells Elizabeth they’re taking it easy on her because most people get three tasks, but then they tell her she has to invite Lois to Dairi Burger, order two ice cream sundaes, and then switch the whip cream on Lois’s with shaving cream.
Elizabeth refuses, because it’s a terrible thing to do and everyone is already so mean to Lois. Jessica is shocked by this, but Janet is not surprised and just tells her it’s her only way into the club, and she can take it or leave it and let them know the next day.
After school, Jessica confronts Elizabeth about it, but no matter how Jessica argues, Elizabeth refuses to do it. Finally, Jessica storms off and threatens that it’s not the end of things. Gee, I wonder if she’s going to pose as Elizabeth and do it for her. Twin shenanigans should be fun, but this is terrible.
Sure enough, Jessica calls Janet to tell her that Elizabeth will do it on Wednesday, though she knows Elizabeth has a dentist appointment. She then says that she can’t be there because she has the dentist appointment. I’m shocked. Are you shocked?
The next day, Jessica makes sure they dress very differently during the day, but after Elizabeth leaves for her appointment, she changes so that she’s wearing the same clothes that Elizabeth was, no make-up, same hairstyle. Jessica-as-Elizabeth goes down to meet Lois, all the while thinking nasty, fat shamey thoughts, and I fucking hate her so goddamn much.
Jessica pulls it off, Lois starts crying and tells her that she’s acting just like Jessica, and then runs off. Fucking hell, you bags of dicks.
Jessica goes to ballet, and has such a terrible time that she decides to quit. Elizabeth begs her not to because it’s the only thing they have left together, but Jessica promises she’s getting into the Unicorn Club. She covers it, but badly; Elizabeth still buys it. Elizabeth convinces her not to give it up, at least for now. (And not for awhile, because I know what book is coming up next.) [Raven: I was quite charmed by the slow tease for Book Two. Let’s hope they keep it up!]
Madam Andre announces that they will be putting on a show in two months, and they will perform a scene from Coppelia, which is a lovely ballet, about love and potentially living dolls, and dream dances. This is, of course, enough to convince Jessica to stay.
Word comes that the Unicorn Club has accepted Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is shocked, but glad they decided not to go through with the pledge task. She also says it is weird that Lois has been out of school for the past four days. But not once, NOT ONCE, even knowing how Jessica is and how they’re easy to confuse as each other, does Elizabeth think oh, hey, I wonder if my sister did something.
At her first meeting, Elizabeth can’t hardly handle how much they talk about cute boys and ridiculous gossip. They make it through the meeting without anyone mentioning the pledge task, but as they get ready to go to the Dairi Burger, Ellen brings it up.
Elizabeth instantly knows what it means. Why the fuck haven’t you thought about this before, dude? She tells Jessica she’ll never forgive her and storms out. At home, she talks to her mom about it, but doesn’t mention that pretended to be her and did something terrible. Fuck, Elizabeth, stop protecting her so damn much. She then goes and calls for Lois. After a few minutes, Lois actually believes her. They talk a little about school and she invites her to join the newspaper and begs her to come back and not go to private school (which her parents can’t afford anyway). [Dove: Let’s also not gloss over the fact that Lois is so excited to have this conversation, she says she’ll go on a diet. Because a Wakefield is giving her attention.]
Jessica comes home and tries to calm her down, but Elizabeth tells her for once she’s going to listen. She’s mad, but the worst part is not what she did to Lois (oh really?) or that she lied to her (really?), but that Jessica would make it look like Elizabeth would do something like that.
Your reputation is worth more to you than Lois being so bullied and broken that she’s terrified to come back to school? Than your sister manipulating and lying to get whatever she wants?
Fucking shit, Elizabeth, you are also terrible.
Elizabeth then threatens to blackmail Jessica into apologising to Lois in person, or she’ll tell the Unicorn Club and their mother everything. Fuck, Elizabeth. Just fuck.
One week later, they’ve put out the first issue of the paper, and everyone wants it and talks about how great it is, even Lila and the other Unicorns. They then mock Lois even as she’s sitting there with Elizabeth, because of course they do.
Jessica apologises to Lois (what, you let her get away with this for a week?!), and then after she’s gone, says it’s too bad she can’t take a joke. Oh, both of you can fuck off into the sea.
Some morning later, they have a fight over how messy their room is, and that night after dinner, their parents decide to give them separate rooms. JESUS FUCK IF IT IS THAT EASY WHY HAVE YOU NOT DONE IT BEFORE THIS POINT?! I HATE THIS FAMILY SO DAMN MUCH. [Dove: *sighs in contentment* That’s what I’ve been waiting for.]
[Wing: I hate you. Just remember, we’ll be recapping in person soon enough. Watch your back. And your face. And your food.]
Then we learn that Steven has been grumping around the house because Roberta dumped him for being too immature. Oy. Then Steven lets it drop that Roberta didn’t get kicked out of the Unicorns, but quit because Janet asked Steven to a party and she was mad about it.
Elizabeth decides she wants to make everyone laugh at the Unicorns, and calls in Lois to help her play a trick on them. They pull the same damn trick on them, switching the whipped cream with shaving cream (at least on Lila’s sundae). Then Elizabeth points out that she wouldn’t trust Lois to get her food after that last trick. But Jessica’s and Ellen’s are fine — everyone’s is fine, except for Lila, who actually tries to eat a mouthful of shaving cream. Amy snaps a bunch of pictures of them, and everyone in the restaurant laughs at them. [Raven: I HATED the way Lois and Elizabeth “got back” at the Unicorns. Talk about stooping to their level, literally. And I didn’t understand why Elizabeth “blew the whistle” on Lois as part of the scheme. It served no discernible purpose. I thought the whole club would get their order poured over their smug heads while the camera clicked away happily… I was underwhelmed with the actual scenario.]
They have one more ballet class, tell each other they are still best friends, Amy joins ballet too, and Jessica remains super grumpy about how Madame Andre ignores how good she is. I don’t give a fuck, Jessica, because you are terrible.
I hate everything about this series, starting with the entire Wakefield family. Is this what you wanted, Dove? IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?!
[Dove: Yes. I really did. Aren’t they awful? Elizabeth is a needy, co-dependent freak of nature, who can’t let her sister do anything that doesn’t involve her; Jessica is lazy as hell because Liz will always cover for her, and she’s a spoilt vapid brat who can’t say a nice word about anyone; Steve has borderline incest on his mind when he interacts with Jess; Alice and Ned are fucking morons who shouldn’t raise children.]
[Raven: I quite enjoyed my first foray into the heddy world of Sweet Valley. I hated every one of the characters, from the sympathetic to the detestable. The plot had more holes in it than a fishnet colander. The denouement was more crappy ending than happy ending. However, it was written with breakneck pacing and a modicum of love, and the opportunity for snark in this series seems endless. Knowing Wing as I do, I took a particular joy in picturing her apoplexy when I saw lines I knew would make her scream at the sky and ball up her dreaded Fist of Rage. Looking forward to the next!]
[Wing: Oh, great, now they’re both waiting for the Wing Goes Boom moment. I am going to regret this, aren’t I?]
Characters: Alice Wakefield, Amy Sutton, Betsy Gordon, Bruce Patman, Caroline Pearce, Elizabeth Wakefield, Ellen Riteman, Janet Howell, Jessica Wakefield, Julie Porter, Kimberly Haver, Lila Fowler, Lois Waller, Madame André, Mary Giaccio-Robinson-Wallace, Mr Bowman, Mr Nydick, Mrs Arnette, Ms Wyler, Ned Wakefield, Roberta Manning, Sarah Thomas, Steven Wakefield, Tamara Chase, Winston Egbert