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Sweet Valley Twins #13: Stretching the Truth

24
Apr 2017

Sweet Valley Twins 13: Stretching the Truth (Image from Calibre data scrape – assumed Shannon’s Sweet Valley Page)

Title: Stretching the Truth

Summary: What’s wrong with Mary Robinson? That’s what Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield want to know. She has a rich new stepfather who has a fabulous yacht and is going to build them a huge house. So why has Mary been acting so strange?

Jessica is confident Mary will be herself again, just as soon as she finds out about the surprise birthday party for her on her father’s yacht! But Jessica is wrong – a party on the yacht is the last thing Mary wants. It could give away her whole secret. In fact, all of Mary’s little white lies would get her into big trouble with her friends! Will anyone want to help poor Mary when they learn the terrible truth?

Tagline: Little white lies…

Initial Thoughts:

Wait just one minute here. Didn’t we have a birthday party for Mary Robinson last time she was the main plot of a book? Oh, wait, no, that was Sophia Rizzo. All these temporary Wakefield BFFs are starting to blur together, even though I really like both Mary and Sophia. Last time, in Three’s a Crowd, Mary (Giaccio at the time) was going to be adopted by her foster family and then shipped off when she decided not to be adopted and then SURPRISE her birth mother showed up and everything was wrapped up neatly.

Super excited that this book sounds like it’s going to be based on ridiculous lies yet again. MUCH EXCITE.

[Dove: I actually really like this book. It’s super dramatic, but still one of the better earlier entries. But then again, I like Mary and her step-dad. Also, that girl on the front cover? The one that is clearly Jessica? That’s Mary. And again I say: WHAT THE FUCK WENT ON IN THE GENETICS OF SWEET VALLEY?]

[Wing: Note from the future. Y’ALL. THIS BOOK. I CAN’T DEAL WITH WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ME.]

Recap:

We open with Jessica Wakefield dramatically announcing that Dream Chaser is the best movie in the world. She’s hanging out with Elizabeth Wakefield at Casey’s Ice Cream Parlor, and they look like mirror images, exactly the same on the outside, couldn’t be more different on the inside, Jessica likes to burn people, Elizabeth drowns them, fire and ice, yadda yadda.

Elizabeth, of course, disagrees, because, AND I QUOTE, “…the plot was completely unbelievable. Everything worked out so perfectly. It wasn’t like real life at all.”

GIVE YOURSELF A MOMENT TO TAKE THAT IN.

Ghost writer, if you are trying to be clever, all you’ve done is made me headdesk so hard I spilled my vodka. Thanks for that.

Jessica hates that Elizabeth is so practical, because Jessica loves romance and glamour and endings that wrap up in unbelievable ways — mostly because that is exactly the real life she lives.

She tosses in some casual fat hate (“If you want to see ‘real life,’ you could save your money and watch Lois Waller eat three desserts at school every day!”) because fat people are terrible and all they do is eat and force thin, beautiful people to deal with their gross horrible fatness.

Mary Robinson adds that she could also watch Charlie Cashman shoot spitballs. She’s just arrived to join them, and orders two of the specials, because Lila Fowler is also joining them. Elizabeth? What in the world are you doing hanging out with a group of Unicorns? Ninety-nine percent of the time, all you do is talk about how shallow and terrible they are.

Lila, of course, adored the movie, and Jessica is triumphant over this.

When Elizabeth again points out that happy endings like that (whatever “that” is because we aren’t actually told) don’t happen to real people, Jessica uses Mary as an example of a magical happy ending that was just like a fairy tale. I don’t think so, Jessica. No one cut off their toes or had to dance on hot coals until they died or had their heads lopped off for looking in the wrong room. Though if fairy tale endings are an option, I have a few for the Wakefields to try!

Mary also calls it a dream come true, and tells them she’s never felt so happy. And her getting to reunite with her birth mother after she was stolen away is pretty sweet. Unfortunately, it was also a trite, unbelievable story as told in that book, and I don’t see it getting any better in this one.

However, when Jessica points out that Mary is getting happier all the time because now her mom is remarried and they’re living happily ever after (Jessica — or the ghost writer — is certainly devoted to the fairy tale theme), Mary starts acting weird and doesn’t even dig into her ice cream.

Lila, who is always completely upfront about being terrible, shows her usual lack of tact, and asks why she hasn’t gotten to meet Mary’s stepdad if he’s so wonderful, and wants to know what he does. Mary says he works on houses, and Lila brags that her father owns three house, a condominium, and an apartment building. In turn, Mary says that Tim works on houses, apartments, and skyscrapers, because he’s “a… a sort of architect.”

Gee, Mary, I wonder if he is anything but an architect. Oh boy, is this going to turn into another Very Special Edition: Rich vs Poor again? Because that went so well last time.

Jessica is utterly delighted by this, because it must be great to have a dad who builds offices and skyscrapers. I doubt architects are that much different than lawyers as parents, but okay, Wakefield, this is your story.

Mary goes on to insist that her mom would never choose anybody ordinary and that Tim is very special. She’s specifically pushing back at Lila’s bragging, and I don’t understand why! It’s not like Mary hasn’t known Lila for awhile now, and she’s been a member of the Unicorns for awhile, too. Bragging is basically Lila’s second nature. Why in the world does she want to compete with her out of nowhere? This makes no sense, and doesn’t align with the (little bit of) characterization we got in her last book. I’m annoyed, ghost writer. Very annoyed.

Lila brags that her father is sending her to Europe next summer (she can be there with all the parents from Point Horror books), “daring Mary to top her.” That would make this a very different kind of book, Lila.

Mary is uncomfortable, but when she sees that Jessica and Elizabeth are watching her (how could they not be? The four of them are at the same damn table), she says that Tim calls Europe boring and that Africa is a better vacation. Before he moved to Sweet Valley, he designed a palace for an African king. Ah, yes, that king of the entire continent of Africa, what with Africa not being one homogeneous country. Fucking hell, ghost writer. [Raven: To be fair, it’s AN African king, not “the King of Africa”. According to Wiki, there are three African countries with constitutional monachies, along with several hundred independant monarchs recognised in urban and rural communities. And more importantly, it’s also an authentic-sounding yet ridiculous childish boast.]

Jessica is, of course, as impressed with this as I am furious. Good times. When she tells Mary that she has everything anyone could ask for (SO DO YOU, JESSICA FUCKING WAKEFIELD), Mary admits her grades are slipping and her teachers want her parents to come in for a conference. When Elizabeth questions that, because Mary has always done well in school, Mary says she hasn’t had much time for homework lately.

Jessica agrees with this, because it’s more important to choose fun than work. That’ll serve you well throughout life, I’m sure, as will your casual ableism about “crazy”. Good times.

Elizabeth, however, points out that they hardly ever see Mary anymore, so she can’t imagine why Mary doesn’t have time to do her homework. UMM. Because you are the only people she could possibly ever spend time with? I mean, really, Elizabeth. Are you sure you’re not a Unicorn? You fit in so damn well. Even Alice Wakefield is getting in on it; she’s been asking after Mary, because no one’s really seen her since her mother’s wedding.

Oh dear. I have concerns about where this is going. (Though that’s really more of a Bleak Valley thing.)

Mary’s even more uncomfortable now, but says that she doesn’t have much time, because her stepdad always wants to go places “with Mom… I mean with Mom and me” so she likes to stick around because she doesn’t want to miss something exciting. Like Tim always taking the three of them out to dinner, or take them shopping, or on and on. Lila works to one-up her, Jessica is utterly thrilled, and Elizabeth thinks that it all sounds too good to be true.

Mary finally makes Lila jealous when she says that Tim is designing a new house for them, and letting them have all the things they want, so it will take a long time to design and build. Jessica immediately suggests things to add to it, because she’s super enthusiastic, and this is actually kind of charming. She’s thrilled, she has fun preteen ideas, and she’s sharing that excitement with her friend. Unfortunately, she’s otherwise so terrible I have a hard time enjoying the few moments of goodness she shows.

Elizabeth turns the conversation to the jewelry-making classes Mr Sweeney and Ms Lacey are going to give on Wednesdays. Both Wakefield girls have signed up for it, as has Lila, but Mary’s name wasn’t on the list. Mary says she’d love to, but she has to get home right after school.

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn that all the Unicorns have signed up, and they are going to make official club bracelets. Actually, I am pretty shocked that they aren’t buying official club bracelets. This is a club with freaking DUES. I have a hard time picturing, for example, Lila making anything, or wanting to wear it after she made it.

Elizabeth recaps the Unicorns and their club and their snobbery, even though she seems to be having a pretty great time hanging out with three of them right now. 

Apparently, Mary has been skipping Unicorn meetings, too. I AM SHOCKED THAT SHE HASN’T BEEN KICKED OUT OF THE CLUB. No, seriously, actually shocked, and also deeply concerned about her. I really do like Mary. [Raven: There’s certainly something about her.]

For a moment, Mary talks about how the only time she gets alone with her mother is right after school, and it’s both sad and sweet at the same time, but she quickly pushes back to how great things are and how she has to give some things up because they’re so busy, but she refuses to give up her mom.

Elizabeth and Jessica both talk about the things she hasn’t been doing (typing up articles for the Sweet Valley Sixers, going to the Dairi Burger with the Unicorns), and Mary admits that she’s missed them, but things are different now. And then she heads out, because she’s sure her mom and Tim are back home again after their drive up the coast, and she wants to tell her Mom all about the movie.

Jessica thinks that it is weird that Mary has changed lately, and Lila calls her a hermit. Elizabeth, too, misses working with Mary on the Sixers, but she doesn’t think that Mary wants to be alone, or to choose between her family and her friends, and Elizabeth doesn’t understand why she feels like she has to.

I think it is perfectly natural that Mary, who lived without her mother for so long, would want to spend as many moments with her as she could, even without something sinister seeming to go on in the background, but that clearly wouldn’t be an interesting story in Sweet Valley.

At home, Jessica and Elizabeth find Steven Wakefield in the fridge putting together one of his enormous sandwiches. Because of course it’s just the normal course of things and perfectly acceptable when Steven consumes all the food in Sweet Valley because he’s, god forbid, not a fatty fatterson like Lois.

He brags that he’s been elected chairman of the entertainment committee for the next Sweet Valley High dance, which (a) seems like a lot of work, to elect committees for each dance, and (b) is not at all like something I would expect from the Steven we’ve seen in previous books. Oh, also, it’s Sunday, and the elections aren’t until Monday, but he’s still pretty sure of himself. Mostly because he talked to Cathy Connors (whoever the hell that is), and she said she’s sure everyone is going to vote for him because they all love his idea of making the dance’s theme Dream Chaser. Oh, god, Jessica is going to crash the party, isn’t she? [Dove: Also, when they get to Sweet Valley High, Liz, Jessica, Lila, etc. do all the dance organisation. I don’t think a single freshman exists when they get there. (They’re sixteen in SVH, so Juniors?)[Wing: Sophomores or juniors, generally.]

(I’m sure Steven would love to take her as his date.) [Raven: Or take her as his bride.]

Luckily, he also wants all the girls to dress like Leslie Morgan, and Jessica hates her clothes. She does think it would be great to have a room full of the main actor, who she thinks is a hottie. She tells Steven his idea is only half bad. He gets pretty sarcastic at her, I’m sure only because she hates half his idea and not at all because she’s talking about other people being hot.

Steven heads out to join their parents in watching a football game and the girls tag along after. They all joke some more about how much Steven eats, but the difference here is that they’re teasing and laughing with him, not about him, as with Lois. Fuck off, Wakefields. They talk about the movies some more, and Ned Wakefield agrees with Elizabeth, that he wants a more realistic movie, because he likes to watch stories he can identify with, and he’s made too many mistakes and lost too many battles to identify with perfection. Which is actually a pretty great, humanizing moment. [Dove: Except Ned’s barely on screen so we’ve never seen him make a mistake.] [Raven: Point in Ned’s favour here – in the previous book, he does admit that he didn’t realise that Ithig would bring his daughters so much grief.]

Elizabeth talks to her parents about Mary and how hard it is to live with perfection. Her mother seems to think that Mary’s concern focuses on the fact that they don’t all have the same name, and that Tim will be adopting her as soon as legally possible.  I’m not sure that’s really the problem, and we’ve already heard all about how you haven’t actually seen Mary since the wedding, so you clearly don’t have any idea either. Alice is, of course, super interested when she hears that Mary’s family is moving, because she wants to sell them her interior designer skills, as always, and considers going to talk to Andrea Robinson-Wallace about it. Jessica reassures her that she gave them plenty of good advice. I’m sure you did, Jessica. I’m sure you did.

Elizabeth doesn’t think the new house is going to make much difference, and talks about all the things Mary has missed out on doing. Jessica and Steven end up arguing about whether the Unicorns are useful or not, and Jessica points out that he’s excited about sponsoring a dance, but they are planning a big party with a band and everything.

Elizabeth gets super sad over losing her friend, and thinks that Mary is afraid to let her mother out of her sight, which seems pretty spot on and surprisingly astute an observation for Elizabeth. And, again, I can’t blame Mary. She lost her mother for so long. Of course she wants to spend all her time with her now.

Alice says that she hasn’t seen Mary’s mother in awhile, and she’ll give her a call, see how things are going. This makes Elizabeth feel a lot better, because Mary’s problems seem bigger than Mary can handle, and I’m shocked that someone in Sweet Valley, particularly Elizabeth Wakefield, actually thinks that bringing in an adult is a good idea. I didn’t think any of you had it in you to call in an adult! Good job, Wakefield. [Dove: Of course, the adult is Alice, so…]

We then hop into Mary’s head for the next chapter. It’s lunchtime on Monday, now, and Mary rushes home during it to spend some time alone with her mother, who took the day off for the carpet to be delivered, but instead she finds Tim there, too. Mary is quite sad, because she loved spending time with her mother after they were finally reunited. Mary’s worried that Tim is the only thing her mother needs in the world because of the way she looks at him, and oh, god, my heart is breaking for Mary. I can’t believe her mother hasn’t given what this will do to her daughter after all that time apart. Fuck. Poor Mary.

Tim’s only come home for a moment, though, to tell Andrea about their new purchase — he bought them a boat and has composed a song. Mary’s tired of his songs, though, particularly the sticky-sweet love songs he sings to her mother all the time. Every time he serenades her and her mother gets all shy and happy, Mary feels more left out than ever.

Mary, my heart is breaking for you, sweetheart. This is really nicely handled for a Sweet Valley book, at least so far in this one chapter from Mary’s perspective — I doubt it will last.

Anyway, Tim bought a tugboat from the family whose kitchen Tim is refinishing. The father of that family used to work at a naval shipyard, and he’s had the tugboat for years. Tim’s going to be restoring the old boat, and sings a silly song he made up called “I Think I Can” about a tugboat racing a sleek yacht, and the tugboat winning.

… y’all? Tim is kind of fucking charming here. Geeky and ridiculous, but he and Andrea seem to love each other, and he’s a little endearing with his cheesy songs, and this is actually all terrible, because it is a good story and I want to read about the three of them working through becoming a family — except this is Sweet Valley, and I know this moment of fun storytelling can’t last.

Andrea is super pleased by the boat and how talented Tim is as a musician, and keeps talking about how lucky they are to have him in their lives. Mary doesn’t say anything, just keeps clinging to her mother. She thinks Tim is a pleasant enough singer, but his song makes her feel lonely and frightened, and my heart is breaking for this kid. She feels left out of the boat planning, even though Tim wants it to be a real family project, and she’s embarrassed that it is a tugboat and not a sailboat or a cabin cruiser, like almost all the other families in Sweet Valley have.

Mary thinks she should have felt guilty that she was lying about Tim to her friends, but it was fun to talk about a glamorous, make-believe stepfather instead of the reality, which was trying to take away her mother. And she all sorts of thoughts about her “real” father, who was more than just an ordinary carpenter, and more like the fathers of the other girls in Sweet Valley. She wishes her parents hadn’t gotten divorced when she was a baby, she wishes she didn’t have to pretend to like Tim just to please her mother, and she wishes that everything had just stayed the same after she and her mother were reunited.

This is really, really sad and understandable and believable and well-done. Ghost writer, I am shocked.

She gets so worked up that she lashes out, and says they should call the boat what it is, a rotten wreck. She then runs off to her room so they won’t see that she’s crying. She eavesdrops on their conversation; Andrea claims that Mary never acts like that, she’s changed so much, her mother feels like she hardly knows her.

UMMM. ANDREA. You do hardly know your daughter. You guys weren’t reunited that long ago, and before you could spend hardly any time getting to know her, you changed her life all over again by bringing in a new person and breaking up whatever dynamic you had started to build with Mary. I would never say a single parent should avoid romance, but PERHAPS YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN THIS ROMANCE A LITTLE SLOWER AND WORRIED MORE ABOUT BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DAUGHTER. FUCK.

Tim, on the other hand, says that Andrea always claims Mary has changed, but the Mary he’s known from the beginning was doing bad at school, angry at the world, and acting like she didn’t like him at all.

FUCKING HELL, TIM. You created a ton of upheaval in the life of a girl, who can’t be more than thirteen or fourteen, whose life was filled with upheaval and foster families and BEING KIDNAPPED AWAY FROM HER FUCKING MOTHER IN THE FIRST PLACE OH MY GOD. You could show a little more fucking compassion.

When Andrea tells Tim to give her a chance, he says it is Mary who has to give him a chance, and I hate both Andrea and Tim so, so much at this point. LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO MARY, YOU ASSHOLES. THINK ABOUT WHAT KIND OF LIFE YOU’RE GIVING THIS KID. BE PATIENT AND COMPASSIONATE AND GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR ASSES.

After Tim leaves, Mary cleans up and then goes back downstairs again. Her mother says they don’t have much time for lunch together now, and Mary complains that they never have time alone together anymore. Andrea waves this off, because they have lots of time to be mother and daughter, the rest of their lives, and her loving Tim doesn’t change that.

Oh. My. God. How can you be so willfully obtuse. ONCE AGAIN I WANT TO POINT OUT THAT UNTIL A SHORT WHILE AGO, EVERYONE TOLD MARY YOU WERE DEAD AND SHE HADN’T SEEN YOU IN YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS. MAYBE CUT THE GIRL SOME SLACK.

Why are the adults in Sweet Valley so universally terrible?

Mary really wants her mother to understand how everything has changed. At first she was excited about her mother getting married, but then they went on their honeymoon and left her alone with the Altmans, the foster family she lived with before her mother returned, and for those two weeks, she woke up tossing and turning and crying, convinced she’d lost her mother once more.

Jesus fucking christ, my heart is breaking for this kid. And I am so, so furious at her mom. (AND, I have my doubts that their jobs would let them get away for and afford a two week honeymoon, but whatever, ghost writer, I’m going to give you a pass on that one because you are doing such a great job with Mary otherwise.)

Her mother ignores literally everything she is telling her, and instead throws together an apple and some cheese so Mary can have something to eat as she goes back to school. WOMAN. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS. Your daughter is hurting, and you haven’t taken one second to figure out why, even when she is TELLING YOU EXACTLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER WORDS AND ACTIONS.

Mary is very glad that the Wakefield twins hadn’t been able to come to the wedding (they had to cancel at the last minute — but why did Alice get to attend then?), because that meant she hadn’t introduced them to Tim. She wishes her mother would send him away so they could go back to the way things were. And while this is super repetitive, it is also completely realistic and utterly heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, back at school, Janet Howell is furious that Mary has missed another meeting (apparently the fourth in a row, though earlier, I got the impression that she’s been missing meetings for weeks, if not months, which would surely be far more than four), and especially one that Janet scheduled over lunch specifically so Mary could join them. Why in the world is Janet, an eighth grader, and Mary, a seventh grader, in the same lunch as the sixth graders? And if the school doesn’t split lunches that way, how in the world did all the Unicorns manage to get in the same lunch period? Are they blackmailing people in the office? … Actually, yeah, probably. [Dove: Is that a universal thing in American schools? Because over here, lunch ran 12-1pm, and we had two canteens, and certain year groups had certain slots in either canteen.] [Wing: Not sure which part you’re asking about as a universal thing, but generally, lunch periods are split either by grades or students are assigned different periods. So lunch as a whole might run from 11 to 2, but one group would be 11 to 12, one group would be 12 to 1, and one group would be 1 to 2, for example.]

Janet grumbles about Mary missing the meeting and how she’s showing she’s not ready to be an officer (she’s the treasurer and they’re supposed to be talking about fundraising); Jessica whines to Lila that if they don’t cut the meeting short anyway, she’s going to be in even more trouble than Mary. She has math after lunch, and she hasn’t done her homework again, and Ms Wyler is going to kill her. Lila agrees, because Jessica is really pushing Wyler’s limits; last week, she got caught passing notes with Helen Bradley, and Wyler was super angry. Oh, Jessica, why so ridiculous? (And, again, totally believable. This ghost writer is doing a surprisingly good job with some of this book. Katherine Applegate, is that you?)

Janet snaps at them for laughing, and points out that if they don’t get the meeting to order, they’ll never figure out how much money they need to raise for their big party next month. Just ask your parents to pay for it (hell, Lila’s dad would probably pay for it all on his own). This is Sweet fucking Valley. Only Mary and Sophia are poor.

Kimberly Haver and Tamara Chase, both seventh graders like Mary, point out that they don’t need Mary to tell them they have no money left in the treasury after buying purple sweatshirts for the club.

Betsy Gordon suggests that they let her brother’s high school band play for the party; he says they need practice anyway, and she thinks they’ll play for free. That is probably not the way to sell the idea to Janet, telling her that even the band members think they need practice.

Jessica is unimpressed by this idea, because everyone knows that Johnny Gordon and the Waves sound terrible. Janet turns Betsy down slightly more gentle, which is unusual for Janet; she goes on to say that her bunkmate from camp, Judy Walker, is coming to visit. She’s president of a club at her school, the Shooting Stars, and they sponsor great dances all the time. I like that name better than the Unicorns, but I bet they’re just as terrible. [Raven: The Shooting Stars are probably a very peculair bunch. I really want to see those fingers…]

Lila suggests a romantic singer, and Ellen Riteman backs her up, because maybe if they have a romantic singer, they’ll get the boys to dance more. That is probably not how it is going to work for middle school boys, but live the dream, Ellen. Live the dream.

Jessica tells them about what the high school is doing with its Dream Chaser theme (except that as far as you know, Steven hasn’t actually been elected and his theme chosen), because the Unicorns love knowing what the older kids are doing. This is also such a true thing for this age group. Oh, ghost writer, sometimes you make me so happy with how you’re writing this book. And yet I keep bracing myself, because it is Sweet fucking Valley.

Kimberly wants to have the dance by Lila’s pool, and Ellen says she’s going to dress just like Leslie Morgan from the movie. Jessica promises to dress much better, in her blue sundress with the beige jacket and her new Unicorn bracelet, which surely they’ll have finished by then. Jessica then talks about how maybe she’ll have a very special dance partner, Tom Houston, the star of the movie, because she’s been writing him every week and he sent her a photo. Oh dear god, Jessica, not this again. Janet, like me, remembers what happened last time she got a “personally signed” photo; that one was Johnny Buck, that singer everyone in Sweet Valley loves for some reason, and it was just a signed picture that everyone received.

Jessica, based on how you’ve described the movie, Tom Houston is an adult, and if he shows up at a middle school dance, not only will the police need to be called, but Mr Nydick will have a throwdown with him. [Raven: Two gruff men, greased up and wearing naught but adult daipers, grappling in a car park at dusk.]

Janet ends up nominating Jessica for chairman of their entertainment committee. Jesus, these kids take dances seriously in Sweet Valley. Jessica is super nervous over what will happen if Tom Houston turns her down, but fakes confidence and asks about the decorations. Janet admits they don’t have any money for decorations. This entire meeting is supposed to be about how to raise money for just that reason. You were the one who said that earlier, Janet. Get your meeting under control! You could use Kristy Thomas around here to straighten you out.

Janet also wants to elect a replacement for Mary as the treasurer. She’s not even sure Mary deserves to continue to be a Unicorn. Fuck, this is terrible. Jessica is furious, but she doesn’t dare challenge Janet. Except she challenges Janet all the time when it comes to proving how cool she, Jessica, is. So not consistent, but super realistic.

Lila, who is Janet’s cousin and not as afraid of standing up to her, says they should give Mary another chance, because she did most of the work typing up the celebrity cookbooks. Hey, wait a minute, weren’t you selling those to fund this party?! Did you spend that money on the shirts instead?

Because almost everyone else agrees with Lila, Janet agrees to give her one more chance, and says the meeting will continue at the Dairi Burger after school, but if Mary doesn’t show up for it, she’s out of the club.

Once Janet ends the meeting, Jessica races over to talk to Elizabeth, who is planning the next issue of the Sixers with Amy Sutton, Julie Porter, and Sophia Rizzo. Sophia! Good to see you again, if briefly! They stop their planning to listen to Jessica, though none of them are super fond of the Unicorns in the first place, and the way Jessica describes being kicked out of the club as making Mary a total reject doesn’t make them any more sympathetic — except for Sophia. She remembers how it felt to be friendless and alone before Elizabeth befriended her (because Elizabeth is a fucking saint, remember), and she thinks Mary needs the Unicorns just like the staff of the Sixers needs each other. Just another point to show that Elizabeth is as shallow and terrible with her friends as Jessica is with hers, it’s just that Elizabeth is also super hypocritical about it.

Jessica and Elizabeth end up being the ones who have to tell Mary about the ultimatum, because they have a class near one of hers that afternoon. Unfortunately, their class is with Mr Nydick, and he won’t let them leave until after he gives them their assignment, even though the bell has rung. That is bad classroom time management, Nydick. No need to keep the preteen girls in your classroom any longer than they have to be there.

His delay means that she can’t catch up with Mary, especially when she runs straight into Bruce Patman and Rick Hunter. Jessica thinks Bruce is the most gorgeous guy in the entire middle school, and Rick also pretty cute, and so is super flustered over this, but manages to hold a conversation with them both. She’s delighted to be talking to the two most popular boys in school, and conveniently forgets about Mary for awhile. They ask her to help them hang up posters about the new jewelry classes that were added because the first was so crowded. Even Bruce is taking the class, because he wants to make something for his mother’s birthday (a silver necklace). UMMM. This does not sound like the Bruce we’ve seen (albeit briefly) in any of the other books, nor does all this jewelry-making excitement really fit in the world of Sweet Valley that has been created. Ghost writer, I like what you’re doing, but there’s no real continuity between this book and all the books that have come before, at least in this sort of characterisation. [Dove: I don’t know, I think jewellery making sound exactly like the thing the Unicorns would be wetting themselves over. They would imagine that, after a brief montage of unspecified skills — maybe just joking with cute boys in the classroom, and looking studious in glasses (sexy glasses, not nerdy ones) — they would produce some breathtakingly beautiful jewellery, on par with what you can buy from Snobby Jewellery at the mall and everyone would be amazed at their skill; whereas what actually would happen is that they hate the first class because they came home with blisters on their fingers from working with wire and metal. That sounds exactly like a Sweet Valley plot. In fact, I’m shocked that wasn’t what happened here.]

[Wing: I agree with the hating the first class part, but I’ve never found Lila Fowler to be particularly hands on about anything, and still don’t buy her, at least, being into jewelry making. She wouldn’t even ride her own horse.]

Lila interrupts to drag Jessica away to the meeting; Lila’s dad doesn’t like Bruce’s dad, so she doesn’t like Bruce. However, she really likes Rick, who is one of the best tennis players in school, and Lila loves tennis and cute boy sand flirting. She’s in much less of a hurry once she realises that Rick is helping Bruce, and completely ignores the fact that they have to find Mary before the meeting. Jessica tells her she needs to go find Mary, but Lila is furious that Jessica would leave her alone and make things too obvious. They’re already pretty obvious, LILA. And also, you are an ass. Jessica doesn’t dare cross Lila, even though Lila is her best friend (… I thought the twins were each other’s best friends, but that is dropped whenever it isn’t convenient to the current story), and so she stays and works with them until it’s time to leave for the meeting.

It’s not until they’re at the Dairi Burger and Bruce asks what the special emergency meeting is about that Jessica remembers they never told Mary. Rick and Bruce take off when they see some friends, so none of the Unicorns even see them all together in the first place, and Mary isn’t there yet, so Jessica feels terrible. Because you are terrible, Jessica. Learn from this. (She won’t learn from this.)

But Mary rushes in right after them, because Elizabeth stopped her on the way home and told her. She thanks Jessica for spreading the word, and Jessica takes all the credit for Mary getting the message. Fucking Jessica.

Jessica boasts about Mary’s new house plans and adventures, and Mary is a little embarrassed over how her lies going so far — and then promptly tells another, about the boat, letting them think it’s a yacht and that they can all go for a ride on it. She’s just not sure her friends will accept her if they knew the truth about Tim. Except they’ve accepted you through all the other wild crap in your life (more or less, the Wakefield twins had some issues when you were so gung-ho to hang out with Alice), and I think you would have been fine if you’d just been honest with them. (I mean, you never got the treatment Sophia did for being poor, that’s for sure.)

Janet calls the meeting to order and demands a treasurer’s report. Mary says that if they want to hire a band with that money, they need a band who will work for $3.10. Everyone is dejected, because that won’t pay for decorations. Janet questions whether Mary knows what money they actually have, but Mary has double-checked the numbers, and points out they spent most of the money on the club sweatshirts. Don’t you pay dues? And didn’t you do that celebrity cookbook fundraisers? How in the world did you spend all that money on sweatshirts?

PLUS, Lila can’t host the dance at her pool, because it’s off-limits until the filter is fixed. UMM. The dance isn’t for a month still. You mean to tell me that Buy My Daughter a Horse and Let Her Sell It On a Limb Fowler can’t get the pool fixed in that time? I call shenanigans!

The talk turns to how perfect Mary’s new house would be to host, but Mary keeps putting them off because it won’t be finished in time. And that is believable (if there was going to be a new house, that is), while the pool repair really isn’t. They’re talking about what kind of fundraising they can do in the next month when, OH NO, Andrea and Tim walk into the Dairi Burger.

Mary is super ashamed to see them. Mary decides to join them for dinner, but Andrea is still going to order shakes, so Mary has time to introduce the Unicorns to Tim. Tim doesn’t even know about her being a part of the Unicorn Club, which I’m sure is going to sit well with the Unicorns.

Mary has bigger things to worry about, because of course they start asking about the things Mary has told them, and of course none of those things are true, though Tim actually makes it worse in how he phrases things (talking about the boat having a working crew of about six, and of course the Unicorns think that is in addition to all the places for actual visitors to sleep and hang out). When they ask about the summer palace (you know, the one in AFRICA THAT SINGLE COUNTRY FUCK OUT OF HERE WITH THAT BULLSHIT), Mary fakes being sick, and they get out of there, though Andrea does take Mary to see the doctor instead of straight home. Dr Costa of course determines there’s nothing wrong, and again, Mary eavesdrops on a conversation. Dr Costa becomes the most reasonable adult in all of Sweet Valley when he says that it’s not easy for Mary to deal with as many life changes as she’s had to confront recently, and that she desperately needs to feel like she has a place in the new family, and that Tim can’t expect Mary’s focus on her mother to change overnight.

Dr Costa, you are truly the best.

This does make Mary think about the fact that all this time, she’s been worried about Tim not accepting her, and she’s surprised that Dr Costa is focusing on Tim giving Mary time to accept him. I haven’t actually seen anything about Mary being worried about Tim accepting her, but besides that, this makes a lot of sense and is well done.

And holy shit, when Tim and Andrea have a conversation at home (while Mary is conveniently on a call with Jessica and not eavesdropping for the first time all book), Tim agrees that Dr Costa is right, and Mary is afraid that he’ll take Andrea away. Dear god, they are actually listening to the doctor and trying to do logical, good parenting things. Thank you ghost writer. Thank you.

They decide that one way to make her feel needed and special is to do something nice for her for her birthday, to throw her a big party, invite all her friends, and show her how important she is to them — and because her friends were asking about the boat earlier, he wants to have the party on the boat, because he thinks she’s now super proud of it.

OH MY HEART.

Everyone just cares so much in this book. Or at least Mary’s family just cares so much. It is amazing how much more I enjoy the story when the Wakefields are basically side characters! [Raven: An excellent point!]

Anyway, they are going to secretly fix up the boat and put up a ton of decorations. Mary comes down while they’re whispering about it, and is of course super sour because she feels left out. Here is my problem with people throwing surprise parties to make other people feel special and welcomed: a surprise party means secrets and awkwardness and hiding things, and all that does is make the person feel even less welcome than ever right up until the surprise party. (Also, lots of people hate surprise parties.) So while I think this is being done in good faith and coming from a really loving place, IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.

Mary talks about feeling sick again, and cuddles with her mother for awhile. She thinks all the sacrifices she’s making is worth it (including her grades dropping), and this is sweet and sad and adorable. Tim brings her homework down, and leaves them alone to work on it together, which is also sweet and a little sad and adorable. Ugh, they are just trying so hard, and this part of the book is really working for me.

Aaaaaand, we’re back to the Wakefields. Just when I was really enjoying myself.

Jessica is trying to write to Tom Houston, because this is totally a great idea. Elizabeth wants to know whether Mary made it to the meeting and is still in the club, and Jessica gives her the good news, and then asks for help with her writer’s block. Elizabeth doesn’t want to help her with her homework, which is hilarious, because she always either helps her with her homework or flat out does it for her.

Jessica does take a moment to gossip with Elizabeth about meeting Tim. She thinks he’s really cute and is excited to go for a ride on the new boat. Elizabeth asks why Jessica didn’t tell Mary about the meeting, and she talks about needing to help Bruce Patman with posters for the jewelry class. Elizabeth finds him conceited and obnoxious and tells Jessica to stand up to the bully next time.

Jessica. Stand up to the bully. As if she’s not the fucking bully 99% of the time!

Jessica spends some time trying to flatter Elizabeth into writing the letter for her, but Elizabeth is having nothing of it, because she doesn’t believe anything will convince him to come to the dance, she has a ton of homework to do, and Amy and Sophia are coming over to work on the newspaper. Jessica thinks this is great news, because Amy and Sophia are also great writers (almost as good as Elizabeth, even though last time we saw Sophia writing, she was supposed to be a billion times better than Elizabeth).

Elizabeth manages a very tiny bit of homework before Jessica comes for another favor. This time, she wants Elizabeth’s new skirt, one she hasn’t even worn yet. AND I AM SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, THAT SHE WANTS TO WEAR IT TO THE JEWELRY CLASS TO IMPRESS BRUCE. Elizabeth is having none of that, though, because they’re supposed to wear smocks to protect their clothes from the solder and glue. Gee, I wonder if Jessica’s going to ruin that skirt. Hmm. Where is my Magic 8 Ball?

At dinner, Alice gives them an update about talking to Andrea about Mary. Elizabeth says that Jessica met Tim and thinks he’s terrific, and apparently that’s what Andrea told Alice, too. AND they talked about the surprise party for Mary on the new boat. The Wakefield twins are delighted by this. Jessica is then too excited to eat, and wants to go call everyone about the party. Alice and Elizabeth tell her not to do so, because they should get to send their own invitations. Jessica gripes because no one trusts her to keep a secret. Because you always tell them, Jessica. Literally. There was an entire book all about it. A boring book, but none-the-less, the whole point was that YOU COULDN’T KEEP A FUCKING SECRET.

SURE ENOUGH, by lunch a few days later, Jessica has told pretty much the entire school. Jesus fucking christ, Jessica. And also, you’d think that Alice would know better about telling her secrets. COME ON, NOW.

The Unicorns decide to wear matching outfits, maybe white pants with their purple sweatshirts and dangly earrings to go with their bracelets. I am really thrown by the idea that these popular, fashion-conscious kids want to wear matching outfits all the time. Jessica not too long ago threw a fit over dressing like Elizabeth, and zero percent of me believes that Lila fucking Fowler likes wearing the same outfit as anyone else ever.

Hop to Mary’s head (sloppy writing there, ghost writer), and she’s a little weirded out that all her friends stop talking as soon as she walks up. She decides to pretend she hasn’t noticed, and asks them if they want to go to the Dairi Burger, because she doesn’t want to go to the harbor with her mom and Tim. (Reality: they rushed off without her, because a secret party when someone is already feeling left out is a TERRIBLE FUCKING IDEA!) [Dove: A better idea from the parents would be to enlist the Unicorns, and be like, “Right, we’re working on the boat on these days, so can at least one of you invite her over/go out with her on each day?” If they had to stick to their terrible surprise party idea, that is.[Wing: Infinitely better plan.]

Of course, the Unicorns have to put her off, too, because, again, SECRET PARTIES ARE BAD FUCKING IDEAS.

Mary is pretty heartbroken that everyone seems to be trying to get rid of her. She snarks about how frustrated she is about hearing about the boat, and if she hears any more about it, she’s going to get seasick before she gets on board. Then, a terrifying thought hits her: what if the others found out it is a tugboat and not a yacht, and now they are snubbing her, because they are the Unicorns.

Lila comes up with the cover story that they’re working on their bracelet designs after school. Mary still hasn’t signed up for the class, so that seems like a good thing to use to get away from her. Jessica then tells the others that she’s working on two jewelry projects, because Bruce asked her to work with him on that piece for his mother. The Unicorns are suitably impressed.

Mary admits she’s sad she’s not taking the class, but she’s been doing her homework with her mother after school, and she doesn’t want to let her down because she’s worried about Mary’s grades. Tim leaves them alone together for that, and is even building a desk that folds out from the living room bookcase so she can work downstairs. Fuck, once they finally paid attention to what was going on around them, Andrea and Tim are pretty fucking awesome parents. I’m impressed.

Talk moves to Jessica inviting Tom Houston to the dance. Lila is pretty scathing about it being a ridiculous idea (BECAUSE IT IS), but Jessica remains positive, even when Lila laughs at her.

They run into Elizabeth as they’re leaving the lunchroom, and she’s desperate to get some help for the Sixers. Mary offers to help, and Elizabeth is super grateful. Mary’s pleased to have someone to hang out with, someone who doesn’t try to get rid of her or rush her off somewhere. Oh, Mary, I love you so much, you sweet, sad, self-conscious girl.

Unfortunately, Mr Bowman took pity on Elizabeth and her stress, and has a typing class type up all the articles, so there’s nothing to do after school. Ouch. Poor Mary. We’re introduced to the plot for an upcoming book, I’m sure, because the sixth grade is losing their class president (Linda Lloyd), because her family is moving away. Caroline Pearce, gossip extraordinaire, got the scoop. Amy suggests that Elizabeth run for president. UMM. Isn’t she already treasurer? REMEMBER THAT, GHOST WRITERS?! EDITORS?! SOMEONE ANYONE?! I DID NOT RECAP THAT DAMN BOOK FOR NO GOOD REASON.

Mary’s so eager to help that Mr Bowman appoints her chairman of the collating committee. Way too much appointing of chairmen in this damn book. Elizabeth is again grateful for her help, and suggests they go get chocolate shakes at Casey’s after. How many places do they go to get chocolate shakes? And don’t they eat anything else sweet? (Random Wing fact: I am not a fan of chocolate shakes. Or vanilla. Or strawberry. Or shakes in general.) [Raven: So they’re no great shakes, yeah?[Wing: Oh my god, Raven.]

Next chapter, Jessica is frantically getting ready for her jewelry class, and Elizabeth jokes that she should wear green, because that’s Bruce’s favorite color: money green. Legitimate laugh from me there, Elizabeth and ghost writer. Good job.

Jessica is going to make Mary a Unicorn bracelet as a gift, because she didn’t sign up to take the class. That’s kind of adorable, and a decent thing to do. Who are you and what have you done with the real Jessica?

Elizabeth also thinks this is a good idea, and agrees to help. She drew the unicorn that all the Unicorns are using, and now will draw roses to go around Mary’s name. This sounds pretty great for the Unicorn aesthetic, really, and I’m kind of delighted by this part. Ghost writer! I am shocked by you sometimes.

(I am drinking quite a bit of vodka at the moment, but for a large part of this recap, I had no alcohol at all, so I don’t think it’s vodka goggles making parts of this so damn enjoyable.)

OH, SURPRISE! Jessica needs Elizabeth to measure Mary’s wrist to make sure the bracelet is the right size. OKAY LAUGH OUT LOUD HERE. I love this part of Jessica being manipulative and sneaky. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s hilarious, and it fits her personality well.

Elizabeth to the rescue, though, because Jessica wore Mary’s bracelet in her first book, so they already know she wears the same size they do. Not even this is an annoying Saint Elizabeth moment, but instead her being clever and a good bit of continuity.

… maybe it is the vodka. I’m eyeing my goblet speculatively.

Yes, I drink my vodka out of a handmade goblet. Doesn’t everyone?

They’ve all been invited to the party, by the way, and Jessica’s gossiping doesn’t seem to have caused any problems for once. Probably not the smartest thing to say, Elizabeth, because there’s still plenty of time for things to go terribly wrong.

For example, Mary has become more and more suspicious, because everyone at school stops talking when she turns up and looks uncomfortable, and her mom and Tim never stick around after school, not even for her homework sessions. OUCH. And again, the chorus that has become the theme to this recap, SURPRISE PARTIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ALREADY FEEL LEFT OUT ARE TERRIBLE IDEAS.

Elizabeth and Mary go to Mary’s house for lunch one day (and I am not really sure the school would let SIXTH GRADERS leave campus without their parents, but this was the 80s (or maybe the 90s), so I guess I’ll let it go as a different time), and Elizabeth is quite taken by the little desk Tim built for her. Elizabeth wants to talk to Mary about how she’s doing, and Mary finally starts to come clean about some of the lies she’s been telling, and then talks to her about how shitty she feels because people keep shutting her out and whispering and talking behind her back.

Oh, Mary, my heart.

Elizabeth is shocked, because she and Jessica were sure Mary didn’t suspect a thing, and here Mary is breaking down over it. Oh, MARY. She talks about how left out she’s felt over the past few weeks, even more than normal, and my heart is seriously breaking.

Elizabeth’s heart, too, and she actually tells Mary they are whispering behind her back, but it’s because everyone loves her and wants to make her happy. And then she tells her about the surprise party. And for once, I am not even calling her Saint Elizabeth, because is exactly what she should have done. I’m glad to see some solid friendship here.

Fucking hell, ghost writer, are you trying to sell me on this series? IS IT WORKING? OH GOD, IT MIGHT BE WORKING.

Excuse me, I need to chug some vodka if I’m going to start liking this universe.

Aaaand then Elizabeth says it’s going to be on the boat, and Mary’s heart breaks again. She’s super embarrassed, both about the boat itself and about her lies. Oh, Mary. Buck up now. Mary tries to tell Elizabeth the real truth about Tim, by telling her that Tim didn’t just design the desk, he made it; Elizabeth takes this as a wonderful thing (because it is), but Mary isn’t done. She’s come up with a new plan.

On Friday, she pretends to get sick after math class, and manages to get herself sent home. She does such a good job of pretending that she starts to believe she might actually be sick, because her head hurts and she feels warm, achy, and tired. Her mother takes her temperature, though, and she has no fever. Mary actually asks to go see Dr Costa. Mary, I don’t think that’s going to work out the way you hope it will work out.

After Mary goes upstairs, Tim says he thinks Mary’s upset because she thinks they’ve forgotten about her birthday (BECAUSE A SURPRISE PARTY IN THIS SITUATION WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA), but everything will be fine after the party. He’s even written a song for it, a simple melody about love and trust, building love like a house, adding room after room until the house is a castle, and there’s always room for more love. UGH. OKAY. THAT IS FUCKING SWEET. GOD.

And of course Mary comes downstairs and finds them like that. OH MARY MY FUCKING HEAAAAAART. She’s heartbroken and crying and takes herself back to her room because they aren’t worried about her at all, they’re wrapped up in each other and not even thinking about her.

YOU GUYS, EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE BECAUSE THE EMOTIONS ARE KIND OF WONDERFUL IN THIS BOOK, NOT TERRIBLE BECAUSE THE BOOK IS TERRIBLE.

I don’t even know what to do with myself right now.

OH MY GOD MARY RUNS AWAY. MARY FUCKING RUNS AWAY TO FIND HER REAL FATHER. OH MY GOD.

Okay, didn’t see that coming until the moment she was on the stairs looking down at Andrea and Tim. Good job, ghost writer. Good job. (No sarcasm at all there. Really good job.)

And then she trips over her own bike and hurts her arm very badly, and now it hurts too much for her to go anywhere. Plus she’s locked out. OH MARY. MY HEART.

Tim finds her outside, makes a fun little joke, and tries to help her to her feet. He checks out her arm after she shouts in pain even before he touches it, and he checks it out, very careful with her. He doesn’t think it’s broken, but it might be sprained, so he carries her inside. She doesn’t want her mom to know, and Tim agrees that it can be their secret. He wants to know why she’s running away and why she couldn’t wait for morning.

Mary can’t bring herself to tell him about her lies, and just says that she felt like needing to leave. He says that if anyone leaves, it will be him, the implication being that he would never push her away from her mother. OH MY GOD MY HEART. Once he hides her suitcase, he calls Andrea down to help take care of her arm. He says she fell trying to put her bike away, which is pretty decent of him. Tim ends up cleaning her arm because when Andrea touches her, she manages to be too rough even when trying to be gentle, but Tim is gentle enough she can barely feel it at all.

They decide to go to the hospital after anyway, and Mary starts to get really nervous because her mom is super worried about her arm. Tim reassures her that she’ll be fine, it’s probably just a bad bruise, but it’s better to be safe and get it checked out just in case. Andrea freaks out because her baby is hurt, but Tim is a voice of calm reason, and even makes up a hospital song to distract them. It leaves Andrea smiling and Mary giggling, and they’re all very happy when the doctor finally comes in.

I know I’ve said this like a hundred times before, but UGH MY HEART. I kind of love this family, y’all. A lot.

She needs x-rays, and Tim asks if the doctor wants them to leave. Mary tells him she wants him to stay, and then adds for good, too, because she wants him to stay at the house, too. He tells her it won’t be easy, and they’ve got to trust each other, and it’s a really sweet fucking moment. She doesn’t even mind when the doctor calls him her dad. CHOSEN FAMILY, Y’ALL. CHOSEN. FUCKING. FAMILY.

Oh god. I … I think I like this fucking book.

WOE TO YOU, GHOST WRITER. YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS.

[Raven: I didn’t interrupt your lovely moment of revelation, but agreed on all counts. This book is excellent. And Tim is great. Glad you’ve found something you can genuinely enjoy in the series!]

Hop to the Wakefield house the next morning, and Jessica is beside herself because Tom Houston can’t come to their dance. Even though I think it was ridiculous for her to consider for even a moment that he would (or that it would be a good idea), it is kind of a realistic ridiculous belief, and I am feeling fairly positive toward Jessica at the moment (and toward this book as a whole), and I’m sad that she’s disappointed and hope she finds a way to have fun anyway. Jessica swears that she will become a celebrity herself, and when he asks her to do something, she’ll tell him she’s too busy. Oh, god, Jessica, you are adorable. And ridiculous. [Raven: I’ve made a present for you…] [Dove: That’s a present for all of us. The entire world.]

[Wing: I hate you both so much right now. All the hate normally reserved for the book? It’s all yours.]

The twins go upstairs to get ready, and Jessica realizes she forgot to finish Mary’s gift; she’d brought sandpaper home from school to work on it Friday night, and forgot all about it. This goes literally nowhere, though, because she finishes it a few minutes later. What even was the point of this other than useless filler? And only two sentences of it, at that.

Mary is quietly freaking out about the party, but she knows that she has to face the lies she told her friends, because she, Andrea, and Tim are a family now, and she has to do whatever it takes to make them happy. They did everything out of love for her, and she’s not going to let them down.

Oh god my heart.

Tim and Mary have another talk about her trying to run away being their secret and that if she ever feels like that again, to tell him, because he will leave, he’s never going to come between her and her mother. She says she was running away to find her real father, but she realized she already has one, and he wants to adopt her, and oh my god, my heart just grew ten sizes.

I hate you, ghost writer. So damn much.

The old boat looks AMAZING now, too, even though it’s not a sleek cabin cruiser or racing boat. There are rows of colored lights all around the deck, it is newly painted, and it’s called the S.S. Mary, because this book is doing everything it can to stomp all over my chosen family feelings.

When her friends show up, Mary braces herself for teasing, but they love it. Janet even calls it the cutest antique boat she’s ever seen. Mary tries to be honest about how they’re not rich like almost everyone else in Sweet Valley, but everything thinks it is awesome and amazing, even Bruce Patman.  Tim shows them how to use it, and it turns out to be the best party ever, especially the way Andrea turned the old galley into a “beautiful sea cavern, complete with fish and anemones swimming in nets strung along the walls, and lovely flickering candles on the sailcloth tables.” That does sound delightful. [Raven: Fuck land, I’m on a boat, motherfucker.]

They even have a ridiculous whale-shaped cake that Andrea made. Y’all, I think I want to have this party myself. Oh god.

Mary gets a ton of great presents, but her favorite is the delicate silver bracelet from the Wakefield twins. Right up until Tim sings his birthday song for her, and that is the greatest gift ever. The Unicorns even tear up over it. Not gonna lie, I’ve gotten a little teary a couple times toward the end of this book, as all the chosen family stuff came to head.

Fuck you, ghost writer. I can’t believe you made me care this much.

There’s another sweet moment between Tim and Mary (and she calls him dad), and then the Unicorns talk about how much better he is than Johnny Buck and ask for his autograph, which is fucking adorable as hell. He plays Dream Chaser songs, and I can see where this is going. Sure enough, when his voice starts to give out, they ask if he’ll play for the Unicorn dance next month, and he not only agrees, but asks if they want to have it on the boat.

YOU GUYS. I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS BOOK BEING SO ADORABLE.

And then they have a dance contest and eat pizzas and cake and everyone is happy and tired and filled with love.

Mary even apologizes to the Unicorns for lying, and Janet says that he’s amazing, and Mary totally didn’t have to make anything up because he’s terrific the way he is.

And this would have been the perfect ending.

Except that we still have to seed more for the next book, so we jump to Jessica and Elizabeth talking about how sad it is that Linda Lloyd missed the party because she’s helping her family pack for the movers, and Jessica says she’s always wanted to run for office, maybe she’ll run for president. SINCE WHEN DO YOU WANT TO RUN FOR OFFICE, JESSICA? YOU WERE PRETTY UNHELPFUL DURING THE LAST ELECTION. [Dove: In One of the Gang she imagines herself being the first female president.[Wing: Still a far cry from actually participating in anything like an election.] [Raven: I’m pretty sure “being helpful” and “politics” are likely mutually exclusive in Jessica’s worldview.] [Wing: … to be fair, they’re pretty mutually exclusive from most politicians’ worldviews, too.]

And so instead of a great, heartwarming ending, we get this foreshadowing, lack of continuity, crap ending.

Thanks, ghost writer! I was almost super positive there.

Final Thoughts:

Y’all, I love probably 90% of this book, and I don’t know who I am anymore. DAMN YOU GHOST WRITER.

[Raven: Great book.]

[Dove: *smug*]

[Wing: Don’t get too smug. I’m sure I’ll be back to hating it shortly.]

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.

 Category: Sweet Valley Twins

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7 Comments

  1. AbstractConcept
    Posted 26 April 2017 at 9:53 pm Permalink

    I can’t tell you guys how much I’ve been enjoying these recaps! I loved/hated these books as a kid (I didn’t notice ALL the awfulness, but I did notice a bunch) and it’s hilarious to see someone else suffer through them. Are you going to do Standing Out (#25)? PLEASE tell me you’re going to do Standing Out! I thought it was the very worst book in the series; even when I was eight years old it made me want to set fire to the neighborhood. I still kind of want to kill someone when I think about it. Man, these books are terrible. And they usually spend 99% of the book with everyone being terrible to someone, then .5% resolving it (usually when they discover the new girl is actually useful to them in some way), and then .5% with the victim completely forgiving their tormentors, with no lessons learned at all. I don’t care what anyone says; the BBC was FAR superior to the Wakefields and their friends. (Also, I had the Sweet Valley High board game as a kid. I don’t remember anything about it except for you were maybe supposed to get a date with one of the boys? I just remember I always went for Ken, because in his picture he had what my mother called “kissy lips” lol.)

    • AbstractConcept
      Posted 26 April 2017 at 9:58 pm Permalink

      And I meant the BSC, not the BBC! Curse you, stupid fingers! (Although the BBC is by far superior to both Sweet Valley and the BSC, so I’m not technically wrong.)

    • Posted 26 April 2017 at 10:02 pm Permalink

      Thanks so much! We’re glad you’ve been enjoying our pain. (And sometimes our joy.) 😀 We will definitely do Standing Out; we actually have the entire series scheduled out for recaps, well into 2021, so barring any disaster, we’ll get to them all.

      I also think the BSC is far superior to Sweet Valley. Of course, some of that is the nostalgia factor; I am a BSC fan from way back. If I ever have extra time, someday I’d like to recap those, too, though I’m not sure I’d be able to do so without being super biased and wearing rose-colored nostalgia glasses.

      I only recently learned about the board game on Tumblr, and I am looking for a copy of it so I can make Dove and Raven play when we go on holiday together this summer. It would be so, so ridiculous.

  2. Mimi
    Posted 29 April 2017 at 6:50 pm Permalink

    My friend had the game. We played at slumber parties. I should be embarrassed to admit that, right? Well, since I’m already embarrassed, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I have the SVH TV show on DVD too. I can sing the theme song if bribed. It’s pretty awful. I was digging through the clearance bin at our video store years ago (when such places actually existed) and found it for $1. Nostalgia demanded I buy it and the rest is history.

    Okay, last week I accused Raven of making that book up out of thin fucking air because there’s no way a book that awful actually existed. However, I’m more inclined to believe that ithig belongs to this series than this book. This book gave me all the feels and I’m terrified it’s an anomaly and we’ll never see anything like it ever again. It feels like the unicorn of the series (and not the stuck-up sociopath kind).

    • Posted 29 April 2017 at 8:09 pm Permalink

      Don’t be embarrassed! I think it’s great you had the game and currently have the TV show. It’s on my list of things to watch, though probably not until we get through SVT.

      I still can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book! It really does feel like the book that doesn’t belong, out of the 13 we’ve recapped so far. I didn’t like the next one nearly as much, so at least I’m fairly sure I haven’t been brainwashed into loving the series.

      • Posted 7 May 2017 at 1:27 pm Permalink

        I can’t believe how much you enjoyed this book. I’m dumbstruck by it.

        The TV show has a theme song that will stick in your head for the rest of your life. As a massive troll, I say: WATCH, WATCH, WATCH! As your friend, I say: keep that song out of your head as long as you can.

      • Posted 27 June 2017 at 3:39 pm Permalink

        Note from the future: I am no longer so sure I haven’t been brainwashed into loving the series.

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