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Evil twins snarkily recap Sweet Valley Twins, High, University, Confidential & Sweet Life

Sweet Valley Twins #15: The Older Boy

8
May 2017
Sweet Valley Twins 15: The Older Boy - Jamie Suzanne

Sweet Valley Twins 15: The Older Boy – Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Older Boy

Tagline: Jessica has the biggest secret of her life! [Dove: Until book 42: Jessica’s Secret.[Wing: From stealing money to fucking dating older boys, Jess is on a roll.]

Summary: The most exciting thing has just happened to Jessica Wakefield! Josh Angler, the cutest junior at Sweet Valley High has asked her out on a date. She’s had to lie a little about her age – well, a lot – and pretend she’s in high school. She’ll even have Josh pick her up at her friend Lila’s house so her family won’t discover her little charade – but it will all be worth it, won’t it?

Jessica’s plan backfires when she and Josh wind up on a double date with none other than her own brother, Steven Wakefield! Will Steven keep Jessica’s secret or will he decide to pay her back for all the things she’s ever done to him?

Initial Thoughts:

Wow. That’s a short summary. Might as well go with “Jessica creates an incestuous paedophile.”

The cover? Pretty decent, to be fair. The boy certainly does look older. And they are stood outside something that looks very American. Is it a mall? Or a motel? Or maybe a twinkie? Who knows! [Wing: Perhaps it is meant to be the roller rink. Also, as I mention in the podcast episode, at least Josh looks youngish. In the similar book and cover, Dawn and the Older Boy, the older boy is probably the same age as Josh, but looks to be in his 30s.]

Recap:

The book starts with the Valley’s favourite non-related evil duo, Jessica Wakefield and Lila Fowler, careening around a roller rink in a giggly haze of oestrogen and floor polish. Like, OMG, srsly, Josh Angler is, like, the cutest! Gag me with a spoon! The girls discuss how adorable the titular Older Boy actually is, and it’s literally the second paragraph.

I find it a little weird that the book doesn’t start with the meet-cute. It actually starts with the post-meet-cute, where the heroine discusses the hero’s prospects with her enthralled entourage. A wella wella wella UH-

The text turns to the usual descriptive bullshit we’ve all come to know and love…

But hang on a sec! Things are all skwirly!

This description isn’t about Jessica and Elizabeth… it’s about Jessica and her “best friend”, Lila!

So, let’s see…

  1. Jessica and Lila are both twelve years old
  2. They both attend Sweet Valley Middle School

And that’s that.

Aside:

These books are formulaic.

In part that’s their charm. We can dip in and out of Sweet Valley and know that Elizabeth is still a saint, Jessica is still a bitch, and Mr Nydick is still touching kids. Even so, the repetition can wear thin at times.

So it’s refreshing to see something buck the trend so early on in the story.

Is this a portent of things to come? Are we destined to have a book that bucks the mould? Or is this brief flash merely a speck of grit in the Vaseline of lukewarm test to come?

Wait and see…

End aside.

We learn that Jessica met Josh mere minutes before, as she caromed into his butch sixteen-year-old frame on the roller rink. She was immediately smitten, and began flirting.

Lila is astonished, which is a little rich coming from this little rich girl. I’m pretty sure she’d be round the back by the bins with Josh if the skate was on the other manicured foot. She offers a grave warning of the Armageddon that would befall the neighbourhood should Jessica and Josh go too far. Jessica pshaws her consternation with a deft flick of a foresight-free follicle or two.

Josh approaches. My, he IS dreamy!

They engage in some admittedly cute banter, revolving around the strength of Jessica’s skating and a hint of playful subterfuge in their meeting. At this point, I suppose I should be turned off by such insipid nonsense, but it’s actually quite deft.

Josh’s interest, like his girth, is growing by the second. He quizzes Jessica on her origin story.

“Why haven’t I seen you around at school? Are you a freshman or a sophomore?”

“Uh, a freshman,” Jessica fibbed quickly.

I now present the marvellous Wing to explain what these exotic sounding classifications mean, age-wise. As a 43-year-old Englishman, I’m both ill-equipped to research and disinclined to care.

[Wing, do your thing! Wait, I mean “do your thang!” I mean “Wang, do-” … oop, moving on!]

[Dove: Steven’s a freshman. Steven’s fourteen. Ergo = Jess is lying rougly two years upwards of her age.]

[Wing: YOU ARE NOT WING. I AM WING. WING WANG WOOM. Fuck, it’s contagious. But Dove is pretty close. Freshman would be 14 to 15, sophomore 15 to 16, junior 16 to 17, and senior 17 to 18. Obviously, just generalities; students will be outside those age ranges in both directions for a variety of reasons. But Josh, at 16, could be expecting Jess to be 15, though since we’re in the fall semester still, and not even close to Thanksgiving at the end of November, as far as I can tell, that would make Jess on the older end of the freshman class.]

[Raven: Thanks Wing!]

Josh is disappointed. He’s sixteen, which he rightfully accepts as “too old” for Jessica as a declared Freshman.

As she’s always dreamt of an older boy, Jessica is not about to let this one slip through her fingers. She claims to be fourteen. FOURTEEN AND A MOTHER-FUCKING HALF. She surmises, also rightfully, that if he knew she was twelve he’d shit out his liver.

Josh is sceptical, but begins softening to the idea. He invites Jessica on a date for that coming Saturday.

Aside:

At this point, I feel I must address the elephant in the room: the age gap.

In America, land of the free, the age of consent is eighteen. Thus, I suspect, the idea of a dating couple of a roughly similar age, both a couple of years UNDER eighteen, is likely pretty wholesome. Drive-in movies, corsages, milkshakes with two straws, holding hands while watching team sports etc. All exceedingly pleasant, and about as erotically charged as a weeping canker.

In England, land of the chav, the age of consent is sixteen. Thus, looking at a dating couple that consists of a sixteen year old boy and a fourteen year old girl takes on a one-sided sexual charge that tarnishes the intentions of the author and the Older Boy himself. And if you then take the fourteen year old girl and make her twelve… that’s a horror film waiting to happen.

End aside.

[Wing: Age of consent can vary by state in the USA. For example, where I live, the age of sexual consent is 17 (the age of majority, i.e., when you are an adult, is 18), but as long as everyone involved is 14 or older and under 21, it is not illegal for them to have sex. Also, 16 and 14 here have a good chance of being sexually active; yes, I know adults wail about the sexual promiscuity of younger and younger Kids These Days, but I think they’ve forgotten about their own youth, because my peers were absolutely sexually active between 14 and 16, which was not too terribly long after the publication date of this book. That wholesome concept of dating always looks back to the 50s with rose-tinted glasses, but I guarantee teens were having sex in the 50s, too. Oh, America, always white-washing and gentling your past.]

Jessica, at this point getting everything she claims she’s ever wanted, jumps at the opportunity presented. She accepts, thinking on her twelve year old feet and demanding that Josh pick her up from Lila’s house. Josh isn’t sure.

Jessica changed the subject before he had a chance to reconsider. “Why don’t we go to a movie or something?” She had read in the latest Ingenue magazine that boys liked it when girls took an active part in deciding what to do on dates.

Again, I’m rather charmed by this. It seems realistic, and something I can totally believe that Jessica would think.

[Wing: And such a nice change from books, even current books, where the girl refuses to make a decision or offer a suggestion because she doesn’t want to emasculate the boy.]

Josh, momentarily distracted by colours and shapes – perhaps he’s a good match for Jessica after all – soon returns to his questions. Jessica answers cagily, as best she can, but is aware that she’s likely coming across as boring. Cue more description of Sweet Valley’s favourite sociopath, again handled pretty well in a refreshing change of approach.

Lila, likely sick of being sidelined, approaches with demands to leave immediately. Jessica and Josh bid their farewells, with vows to meet again that Saturday.

(Jessica) could barely wait until Saturday night. It was going to be her first honest-to-goodness real date. Not only that, it was an older guy who could actually drive!

Now the only problem was working out the arrangements without her family finding out.

That’s the Jessica we all know and love. Getting what she wants, and scheming merrily!

That evening, Jamie Suzanne introduces us to the rest of the Wakefield clan.

There’s Mr Wakefield, a handsome lawyer. He’s wearing khaki trousers!

There’s Mrs Wakefield, with her blond pageboy and blue eyes. People sometimes think she’s the twins’ older sister!

There’s Steven Wakefield, the fourteen year old brother. He looks like his dad, with added mockery and incest!

And of course, there’s Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin sister. She’s like Jessica, but not an asshat!

Table talk covers the upcoming circus visit that is sure to take Sweet Valley by storm. We also learn more about the twins, in yet another accomplished display of descriptive aptitude.

Aside

I believe that every book thus far has included the following point of twin-difference:

Both girls had … dimples in their left cheeks.

Constant repetition of such a quirky turn of phrase can only be explained as Commands Sent From On High.

It’s interesting that this particular incarnation of Jamie Suzanne has taken the usual orders from the Sweet Valley Council – describing the twins just so – and made it feel fresh and new. The text itself feels more compact in this book, at least this far in.

This book feels different. Or is it just me?

Has this series broken me? After just FIFTEEN FUCKING BOOKS?!

End aside.

More banter ensues. Although usually a tradition, Daddy Wakefield forgot to buy tickets for the circus this year. The clan are sad, but not bereft. Steven mocks Jessica, who’s doing her best to appear mature and worldly, bolstered by the knowledge she can bag a sixteen year old hunk with a flutter of her twelve year old eyelashes. This leads to Elizabeth underscoring the action with the following:

“Jessica’s on a new kick,” Elizabeth informed (Steven). “She was telling me the other day that she want to meet an older guy.”

While Steven lets that exciting and erotic thought sink into his confused head, Mama Wakefield SHUTS THAT SHIT DOWN.

“Good heavens!” Mrs Wakefield said. “Jessica, I hope you were kidding. Do you want me to get old before my time, worrying about you?”

Huh?

Is that… actual parenting?!

Seriously, what the fuck is going on?

The realistic parenting continues when Jessica asks if she can stay at Lila’s that weekend, as part of her elaborate cover story:

Mr Wakefield was engrossed in a section of the newspaper. “Mmmmm,” he said, only half-attentive to Jessica’s request. “What did you say, darling?”

The elders agree, the die is cast, and Jessica is ready for action. All she need do is invite herself to Lila’s house for the requisite period, and her plan will be bulletproof!

Aside:

It’s now the end of Chapter One, and my mind is whirling.

Seriously, this is the only book in the series thus far which has had literally NOTHING for me to snark at for the entire first chapter.

It’s well written. It’s well paced. It’s well focussed.

There is characterisation. The dialogue is believable. The plot isn’t far-fetched.

And Jessica?

She is GLORIOUS.

I mean, just look at the end of the chapter! Her plan is in action, and she is gleefully revelling in the deceit. None of her darkness is angled toward a New Girl, or an Outcast, or even her Sainted Sister. Sure, she’s bitchy in places; she calls Lila immature in front of Josh, for example. But even so, it’s OBVIOUS that she is so out of her twelve year old depth that she’s sure to come a cropper… and it’s the fall that we are all longing to see.

Jessica is being Jessica to the hilt. She’s blissfully unaware of her own machinations, and bereft of both empathy for others and remorse for her actions.

And I love her for it.

End aside.

Chapter two races forward to Saturday, and a grinning Jessica tries on outfits for the evening’s Great Date.

It was Saturday afternoon, and under normal circumstances she would have been tanning herself at the beach or hanging out at the mall with Eileen Riteman.

Really? Fifteen books in and they’ve been nowhere near the beach in any of them.

(Yes, this is the depth of my problem. Weak-ass snark aimed at low hanging fruit.)

In a fit of paranoia and exposition, Jessica calls Lila to go over the plan one more time. It breaks down thusly:

  1. Jess arrives at Lila’s at 18:30, to change.
  2. Josh arrives to collect Jess at 19:30.
  3. If anyone calls, the official line is that Jessica is in the bath. [Wing: The longest bath known to Sweet Valley.]
  4. Jess will be back by midnight.

In the ensuing two pages of chat, Jessica and Lila do something they’ve not done in the fourteen books so far: they come across as actual best friends.

They snipe at each other one second, then playfully giggle the next. As with the rest of the book thus far, it’s pretty damn great.

Jessica envisions her ideal image of the upcoming date. It’s delightfully ridiculous, and so Jessica that it hurts:

She was sure Josh Angler would drive a really neat car – maybe even a Porsche. She hoped it was a convertible. She had a perfect image in her mind of the two of them speeding along, a full moon overhead, her blond hair sailing behind her in the warm breeze.

This is a twelve year old’s romance fantasy to the core. And things aren’t going to go well.

Jessica convinces herself that the only dress she can possibly wear to a date of such epic proportions is a spicy blue number owned by her “better” half. In her own words, “the blue dress was the only answer!”

Lila, of course, is sure that Elizabeth would never agree to lending Jessica her clothes, which perhaps indicates that she doesn’t know her “best friend” that well after all. However, this leads into a paragraph that encapsulates the spirit of this book in the most perfect way possible:

That was the trouble with Lila Fowler, Jessica thought as she hung up the phone. She didn’t have enough imagination. Of course Jessica wasn’t silly enough to ask Elizabeth if she could borrow her dress. The thing to do was to sneak in while Elizabeth was downstairs helping their mother fold the laundry and snatch the dress off its hanger. By tomorrow it would be right back where she’d found it, and Elizabeth would never suspect a thing!

This paragraph is wonderful. It sums up Jessica’s outlook perfectly.

Of course Jessica knows what to do.

Of course she’s entitled to the dress.

Of course her plan will work!

Even the little things, like using the word “snatch” over take when describing the dress, shows the author’s skill here.

Aside:

And now, for your delectation and delight, a free verse performance poem over five lines.

I’m gushing.

I can’t help it.

I really like this book.

I can feel you judging me.

Get fucked, you twinny bellends.

End aside.

The evening approaches, and Jessica is ready. She’s stolen Liz’s blue dress, and has applied a layer of makeup. As she attempts to leave, Mama Wakefield spots the pancake, and engages in low-level parenting (yay!). Indignant, Jessica defends herself in the age old fashion.

“All the girls in the Unicorn Club wear makeup. Ellen Riteman’s even had a facial.”

I’m sure that one’s just for the recappers. Thanks, Jamie Suzanne!

At 19:30, Lila inspects a nervous Jessica. Blue dress, sandals, sporty yet elegant. Just a few dabs of fresh slap.

Lila had lent her a matching straw handbag to put a few things in – some change, a handkerchief, and a purple change purse for good luck. “The Unicorns’ color,” Lila reminded her.

Bless. SO cute. Actual friendship. Makes me all misty, and shit. [Dove: I too found that adorable. But everyone knows I love these books.]

Josh arrives, in a non-Porsche sports car. He looks fabulous.

Jessica has one mantra, going in.

I’m fourteen, not twelve.

I’m fourteen, not twelve.

I’m fourteen, not twelve.

I’m fourteen, not twelve.

Can Jessica’s dream date match up to the real thing?

OBVIOUSLY not.

After the greeting pleasantries, Josh throws the first spanner into Jessica’s well-oiled dream machine: he suggests it become a double-date with his friend Sam and Sam’s girlfriend Melanie. Against her hopes, Jess agrees. Melanie (Northrop) is “also” a Freshman, so Josh innocently posits that they might know each other!

Jess just knows Melanie will rumble her ruse in seconds, but appears railed in now, caught in the brights, powerless to pull back from the subterfuge of her own design.

Next obstacle: they pick up Sam, and plan the walkthrough of their dinner-and-a-movie double date. Sam says his allowance has run out, as has Melanie’s, so they’d prefer something cheap and cheerful.

Dairi Burger it is!

(For those uninitiated into the mythos of Sweet Valley, Dairi Burger houses the sixth graders on a far-too-regular basis. Jessica is sure to be rumbled by her classmates. Personally, I can’t see the appeal of Dairi Burger, especially to the exclusion of all other eateries. The Monopolies Commission should be informed. Or maybe they pack the food with Hillary Briss’s special stuff…)

Melanie is collected, and Jessica’s fears prove to be grounded in reality. Bubbly and approachable, Melanie brings the car to life with her personality, and tries engaging a reticent Jessica on her background and class timetable. Unable to answer properly, she tosses each question off with a surly unease. Thankfully, Melanie isn’t a prick, and she keeps the car’s spirits high by generally being a nice person.

At the Dairi Burger, things go from bad to worse. Sweet Valley Middle School’s Grade Six Gossip Queen Caroline Pearce, flanked by a gaggle of sycophants, spots Jessica right away, and they begin pointing and snickering in earnest. Jessica prays the ground open up and swallow her whole. Actually, knowing Jessica, she likely prays for a machete, and uzi and a moist flannelette. [Wing: Oh my god, “moist flannelette” is an unbelievably charming turn of phrase for it, even using most people’s hated word “moist.”]

Caroline even tries the old “hello Jessica” routine to insinuate herself into the group and to put Jess on the spot, but Jessica no-sirs the encounter with a nervous shrug.

Next problem: the group’s choice of film. Sam wants Night Stalker. Melanie wants to see the French film Marie Jean. Both are Rated R (superstar) films. Josh and the gang have fake IDs (of course), while Jessica does not.

Wing, please can you strut your funky stuff and explain to the cheap seats just how the age restrictions work in America. I studied film at university, and even I’m a bit hazy on the details.

[Dove: Yes, Wing. Is it actually true that you could take a baby to see Saw, as long as you were its guardian? Our age restrictions are: U (Universal, anyone can see); PG (Parental guidance – anyone can see, but your parents might want to double-check it’s suitable before sending their little kids in); 12, 15 and 18 – you must be the minimum age to see this, no excuses, no parents accompanying you, and provide ID.]

[Wing: I’m so useful. And yes, our ratings are based on the idea that a parent can take any age child to (almost) any film rating. We have G (general audiences, nothing that offend parents if their child saw it), PG (parental guidance suggested, some content may not be suitable for children), PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned, some content may be inappropriate for children [mostly focused on kissing and sexual jokes, lots of violence generally okay], parents may not want non-teen kids to watch), R (restricted, requires parent or adult guardian to attend with the child, some adult content [which again generally means any amount of sex but only an excessive amount of violence, because puritanical]), and NC-17 (no one under 17 admitted, pretty much porn). 

These days, theaters are much stricter about that “parent or adult guardian” actually being a parent or adult guardian, but back when I was a teen, you could generally get away with having anyone 18 or older in your group. Mr Wing and I went to see The Crow, and had to bring along a friend’s brother who was over 18 so we could get in. But that “parent or adult guardian” part is why parents can bring babies to see Saw, but Jess won’t be able to see a rated R movie. Also, even if she had a fake ID, she looks far too young to get in. I was being carded for rated R movies well into grad school, which was during my late twenties.]

[Raven: Thanks again, Wing!]

In the end, they settle for an insipid comedy about a summer camp (gotta be better than Car Capers). [Dove: In a horrific twist, they actually misread the blurb for the movie and make their choice based on title only. They see Sleepaway Camp. Steven is left with many questions.[Wing: Lies about it being better than Car Capers, which is the Fast and the Furious of Sweet Valley.]

Aside from these major issues, the date is also plagued by smaller defeats for our second-favourite twelve year old.

  1. For a start, she’s overdressed. The blue ensemble is classy, while the rest of the car went for casual.
  2. Then there’s Anita, an old girlfriend of Josh’s that Melanie alludes to when chatting to Jess. Who the fuck is this bitch?
  3. Josh also had a peculiar habit of calling her a “sweet kid,” which won’t set a fairy twinkling in anyone’s ladygarden.
  4. Jessica has the self-awareness to realise that her evasiveness and surly attitude hardly makes her good company. She posits that Josh must think she’s a stone cold dud.
  5. And finally, in a bizarre twist, when Melanie mentions the hotness of the actor Robbie Robins, Jessica doesn’t know who that is. Now, I can forgive a lot of things, but this tiny fact is a direct slap in the continuity ballsack. It’s demonstrated time and again that Jess lives for that shit.

But on the other hand, the date does include some more heartening aspects.

  1. Aside from the weird “sweet kid” thing, Josh flirts with her quite a lot. Jess responds in kind. It’s quite cute.
  2. At the cinema, Josh sits with his arm around her for the entire time. I guess I can forgive Jessica for not thinking about Robbie Robins this time.
  3. Despite believing herself to be quite the dullard, Jessica does secure a second date for the following Saturday.
  4. And of course, best of all…THE FLAGSHIP MOMENT!

“I’ll call you in the middle of the week to make definite plans, but let’s make it Saturday for sure,” Josh said. He leaned over and cupped her chin in his hand. “I mean it. You’re a sweet kid,” he said. And he kissed her on the lips, very, very gently.

BOOM!

RIGHT THERE!

MOTHERFUCKING FIRST KISS.

[Dove: Oddly, this has been stuck in my head for weeks. I have a bit of a crush on Greg Davies.]

Jessica glides into Lila’s house at 11:30, blissed out on dream biscuits. Lila wants to know everything, as all best friends should. In another lovely exchange, Jessica embellishes the truth about the date’s romantic nature, and toys with her friend in a realistic way…

“When he drove me back here, he started to talk about what a great time he’d had… and then – oh, you don’t want to hear about it,” she said, with a torturously dreamy look on her face. She waved her hand. “Let’s just go to bed. I’m pooped.”

The remainder of the chapter sees the two best friends discuss the date, and the kiss, in a wholly believable manner. Jess tells Lila she’s on for a second date the following week – in which Josh has promised “a big surprise” (*ziiiiip*). Lila is pleased for her friend, and they scheme on how to make Jessica’s plan home to fruition.

Lila looked at Jessica with admiration. “I can’t even believe you,” she said. “Going out with a sixteen year old! It’s absolutely amazing.”

Jessica didn’t answer. The trust was, she was tempted to agree.

Perfect.

Aside:

As you’ve no doubt surmised, this ain’t your normal recap.

Thus far, I’ve literally NOTHING to complain about in this book. Spoiler: it continues in the same vein for the rest of the ride. Loved it, from dawn until dusk.

Here’s some of the things I most enjoyed about Jess and Josh’s first date.

  1. Josh was an absolute sweetheart. Respectful, inclusive, engaging, fun. I was totally expecting to be squicked out by this book in a major way, but no.
  2. The date was a disaster, but written in such a way that there were no obvious repercussions. Each misstep and hazard was believable, and each was deftly handled by the writer.
  3. The date was TOTALLY believable as a fifteen / sixteen year old’s idea of a good time. Slightly awkward, and nothing outlandish.
  4. OMG, Lila and Jessica are THE CUTEST FRIENDS EVER. Fuck Elizabeth, let me just read about these two!
  5. The contrasts between a) Jessica’s ideal date, b) the ACTUAL date, and c) Jessica’s post-date description of the date are captured wonderfully. I especially like the fact that, through the act of sexing up the date dossier for an expectant Lila, Jessica comes to ACTUALLY BELIEVE the date went as described. It’s that blissful self-delusion, that force of will that makes Jessica so damn great in this book. When her self-centred nature is focussed on, well, HERSELF rather than the belittlement of an external character, she’s just AMAZING. For me, this is the best thing about The Older Boy… Jessica’s misplaced self-belief that her way is the right way, and that her alternate facts are the absolute truth. Presented with no remorse, and to the hilt.

I loved the first date. Like Jessica, I’m looking forward to the second.

End aside.

We cut to the Book Nook, where Elizabeth and Amy are pursuing their nerdity with abandon. Their bliss is soon pierced, however, by the approach of a cute new arrival… Josh Angler!

Naturally, he confuses Elizabeth for Jessica, which is odd. I’d assume he’d simply go “no horns, visible halo… this can’t be my Jess.”

After a short and confusing banternage between the two, with Amy Sutton watching on, Josh strides off with a wink and a “see you Saturday, sugar-tits.”

“Wow,” Amy said, wide-eyed. “Liz, do you know who that is? It’s Josh Angler. … He goes to Sweet Valley High. He’s really popular – he’s on the soccer team and everything. Do you think he likes you?”

Pfffft. And they say Jessica is the shallow one.

Elizabeth soon thinks through the situation. It’s obvious that Josh thought she was Jessica. And it’s obvious that the pair were due to meet that weekend. Amy shrills what we’re all thinking…

“Lizzie! What are you going to do?” Amy demanded. “She can’t go out with Josh Angler. He’s much too old for her!”

You’re not wrong, Ames. Elizabeth vows to get to the bottom of it.

After a brief thinky-stint at her special Tree of Solitude, the sainted Liz decides to confront Jessica while they co-cook a delicious meal for the parental units. Of course, nothing is simple in Sweet Valley, and instead of asking outright, Elizabeth lays a bear-trap for her scheming sibling. She plants the seed of excitement: a proposed cinema trip. Then she snaps the trap closed: how about Saturday?

Jessica thought fast. “Uh, I think I’m going to Kerry Glenn’s cabin with her family.”

Elizabeth is suspect, but Jessica bolts when pressed further. And in usual doormat style, she soon begins to doubt her own reaction…

In all likelihood, Jessica was telling the truth, and Josh had just mistaken her for someone else. Who could tell? Maybe she and Jessica had a look-alike somewhere that they knew nothing about! [Dove: Actually, they have two, but they don’t show up until Sweet Valley High. Oh, and there’s their cousin, Robin, who also looks like them. And Mary, she looks like the twins too. So actually, the identical twins have four lookalikes. Again I say: what the fuck went on with the genetics of Sweet Valley?]

Or perhaps Josh was hitting on Alice. “You look so like your daughters, Mrs Wakefield… you like a spicy sausage?”

Jessica rushes to call Lila, needing to get her cover straight for that coming weekend. Lila agrees that Jess can use her house as a springboard to romance once more, and Jess clues her in about the Kerry Glenn Cabin Gambit.

At dinner, the intrigue intensifies. The phone rings. It’s Josh!

House rule #1 is “nowhere that will leave a bruise.” House rule #2, however, is “absolutely no motherfucking calls at motherfucking dinnertime.” Jessica faces a barrage of mockery from the ever-pervy Steven, and a veritable Death Glare from her sainted twin (who has doubtless twigged what’s going on). However, Alice and Ned are more zen, and leave the prying up to their offspring.

Jessica uses her parents’ relaxed gin-addled attitude to her advantage. She opens with the Kerry Glen Cabin Gambit. Surprisingly, Alice is on defence almost immediately.

Mrs Wakefield looked skeptical. “I’d feel better if I could talk to Mr or Mrs Glenn. Maybe later in the week. And meanwhile, find out everything you can about the trip and what you’ll need to take with you.”

More actual parenting from Alice! Capping another fun section of realistic conversation and believable plot development. What in the world is Sweet Valley coming to?

Josh calls back later that evening, and in a plot twist straight from the Eighties that includes a house-phone with an extension, Elizabeth listens into Jessica’s conversation. When Jessica was finally off the call, there is confrontation in Jessica’s bedroom.

This time, Elizabeth doesn’t fuck about.

“Jessica,” she said, putting her hands on her hips, “Who was that you were just talking to?”

Thankfully for Jessica, her sainted sister is distracted before the interrogation can begin in earnest. Elizabeth spots a crumpled and neglected blue dress amongst Jessica’s cast-off clothing detritus. It’s the dress Jess “snatched” for her first date with Josh!

Elizabeth is annoyed, as usual. Jessica is apologetic, as usual. Elizabeth forgives Jessica, as usual.

Jessica’s eyes sparkled. Elizabeth could never stay mad at her for long.

There you have it. More proof that there are certain buzzwords that the Sweet Valley Committee decree must appear in every book.

Aside:

I seriously believe there’s a rule-sheet that’s handed to each new Jamie Suzanne, packed with both general guidelines on style and form, alongside actual phrases that are included as part of a contractual obligation.

It’ll be fun to track them down and highlight them.

I offer the following phrases I believe are actual must-be-included-verbatim-in-all-books commands.

“Elizabeth could never stay mad at Jessica for long.”

“Elizabeth was the older twin by four minutes.”

“They both had a dimple in their left cheek.”

Any more?

[Dove: Alice looks like “the twins’ older sister”.]

End aside.

Eventually, Liz continues the questioning. Jessica swears she’s attending CabinFest 1985 with Kerry Glenn, until Elizabeth confronts her with her eavesdropped proof. Despite her righteous indignation, Jessica knows she is cornered.

“Okay Liz,” she said, relenting. “I’ll tell you the truth, but only if you swear not to tattle.”

“I swear,” Elizabeth said, her eyes big.

Jessica proceeds to spill another bushel of bullshit, throwing her sister off the scent once more. She claims that Josh was merely a Phone Friend, and there were no plans to meet up.

Elizabeth, perhaps a little more genre-savvy than we think, is incredulous, and shows it. Jessica, the brilliant Jessica, doubles down. She calls out her sister on her “ludicrous” claims, and layers on the martyr cream in spades.

“Honestly, Liz. You really ought to trust me a little more. And I don’t want to keep saying it, but it makes me feel bad that you had to listen in on my phone call.” Her blue-green eyes were big and filled with hurt. “You could have just asked me.”

Elizabeth felt truly awful now. “You’re right, Jessie. I’m a jerk.”

Aside:

You know I love this book. Here’s another example of why.

Jessica is RELENTLESS in her pursuit of her goals.

In this scene, she’s bang to rights. Elizabeth has her. And yet, YET, Jessica squirms free. She twists the facts, and manipulates Elizabeth’s emotions. By the end of the scene, Elizabeth is APOLOGISING TO HER.

And the glorious thing about it?

JESSICA DOESN’T CARE. Hell, she doesn’t even NOTICE.

She’s safe. She’s deflected the problem.

And she 100% knew she would do it.

Supreme confidence, layered upon an ice cold heart.

Wonderful.

End Aside.

Next up, we see Jessica coercing her best friend Lila into more subterfuge. In a masterstroke of deception, Lila calls Mrs Wakefield in the guise of Mother Glenn, in order to throw the Elder Wakefields off the scent.

In no surprise to anyone, Lila hams it up in spectacular fashion. She affects a high-pitched squeak as the voice of “Nellie Glenn,” and romps through the call with verve and aplomb. She demands that Jessica bring sweaters to fend off the unpredictable mountain breeze, and lays on the fatuous praise with a trowel (so much so that even Jessica is cringing). Wonderful work again, Jamie Suzanne!

After her prize-winning performance, Lila offers a warning, and a perspicacious nugget of advice:

“You just have to hope your mother doesn’t run into Kerry Glenn or her family,” Lila added. “That’s the thing about lying, Jess. It’s best to keep it simple.”

Great advice, perfectly phrased from a character such as Lila Fowler.

So, to recap (in this recap):

  • The parents are convinced Jessica is staying with Kerry Glenn.
  • Elizabeth is convinced that Josh is just a Phone Friend.
  • Josh is ready for their upcoming date on Saturday.

It’s all systems go!

We cut to Wednesday. It’s dinnertime at the Wakefield Compound. Lasagne. And Daddy Wakefield has a surprise for that weekend…

Circus tickets! For the whole family!

Steven tells everyone that he’s going to the circus with some friends, a fact that had slipped his mind. And Jessica reminds Ned that she would be deep in the mountains at Kerry Glenn’s cabin. Surprisingly, especially to Jessica herself, she feels disappointed. Was the date with Josh actually worth missing the circus? Should she cancel with Josh (or Kerry)?

To be honest, their date had been kind of uncomfortable for Jessica. Pretending to be fourteen and a half had taken a lot out of her.

Eventually, in another masterstroke from the writer, Ned apologises to Jessica for his mistake in missing the original ticket ordering. His error has led Jessica to this position, having to choose between Clown Time with the family or Cabin Time with the Glenns. He offers to make it up to her with a glass-bottomed boat trip the following weekend. This cheers Jessica considerably. [Dove: Also: Fish > Clowns, so Jessica wins.]

Elizabeth, listening to the whole affair, marvels at how her trainwreck of a sister can leap nimbly from precipice to precipice without stumbling once. Jessica is gliding between the raindrops, and Lizzie is a touch jealous.

After dinner, Liz visits Amy, who had been trying to call her all evening.

“Jessica!” Elizabeth groaned. “That girl spends more time on the telephone than the rest of Sweet Valley put together.”

Aside:

Let’s consider that statement for a second.

“That girl spends more time on the telephone than the rest of Sweet Valley put together.”

If this is true, this means one of two things:

  • If we take Sweet Valley as the insular gated community it appears to be, where no one knows anyone outside their circle of friends, we must logically deduce that all phone traffic in Sweet Valley has Jessica on one end of the line. I’m guessing she must be prank calling a lot of people, or heavy breathing down the phone at a number of cute boys. We’re talking a plague of sexual harassment on a biblical scale.
  • If Sweet Valley is more cosmopolitan, it means Jessica must be calling people outside of the town. This is likely to order a plethora of illicit wares, such as narcotics or weaponry.

Either way, Sweet Valley is fucked.

End aside.

Amy has more news from Caroline Pearce, concerning Jessica. It seems that Josh Angler had recently split up with his long-time girlfriend, Anita. It was a stupid fight, a spat over nothing, and Anita was keen to take that hatchet and bury it deep in the woods.

Only Josh, it seems, has moved on. To a girl called Jessica.

Elizabeth is dumbfounded. So much for “just phonecalls.” Jessica had been lying again.

While Lizzie fumes with Amy, and plans how to make her twin confess, Jessica decides to strengthen her relationship with Josh by following some handy second date tips from her beloved Ingenue magazine. The mag has eschewed the tried-and-tested treat-em-mean-to-keep-em-keen approach, opting instead to give the following advice:

“Sometimes it helps to break the ice between dates number one and two with a few casual phonecalls. … Don’t let him think you’ve forgotten him between weekends! Call him up and say hi.”

She picks up the phone, and dials.

It does not go well.

First, a woman answers the phone and assumes she’s someone called “Anita.” Next, Josh asks more questions about school she feels ill-equipped to answer. And last, she’s forced into telling more fibs, lies on top of lies, in order to mask the truth.

Jessica had to admit that making conversation with Josh wasn’t as easy as she thought it ought to be. Maybe she and Josh weren’t fated for each other after all.

As a parting shot, Josh tells Jessica that the Saturday surprise would be another double date extravaganza. Jessica is disappointed once more, but determined to follow through come what may.

Aside:

I enjoy Jessica’s creeping realisation that the whole Older Boy thing is not for her. What started as an immature dream has been bludgeoned into submission by the mundane reality of dating a sixteen year old, and the lies that subterfuge entails.

I guess this is the only way the author can go. Jessica has to come to this realisation of her own accord. If she doesn’t, the end of the relationship could be a rather sad affair.

It can’t be love. That’d be horrible.

End aside.

On her return from Amy’s, Elizabeth wastes no time in confronting her wayward twin.

At first, Jessica refuses to budge. She and Josh are Phone Friends, and nothing more. But this time, finally, Elizabeth is not for turning.

“Don’t even try,” she said. “Melanie said she went out on a double date with you guys last Saturday night. Caroline claims she saw you in the Dairi Burger with Josh.”

Jessica dropped her eyes. This was going to be tricky.

There she is, our beautiful schemer. Cornered again, faced with impenetrable truth, and she’s on the prowl for an angle of escape immediately.

Jessica throws it all back. It was just a movie. Totally kosher. What’s the problem?

Elizabeth fights. Why not tell the Elder Wakefields? Maybe because Josh is actually sixteen?!

Jessica bit her lip. Elizabeth had backed her into a corner. The only recourse was to play completely dumb. “What are you talking about – sixteen?” she demanded. “Josh isn’t sixteen. He’s fourteen, the same age as Steven. He told me so himself.”

[Dove: Jessica is magnificent here.]

Of course, Elizabeth believes her sister’s lies once more. She sympathises with Jessica, and tells her of Anita, Josh’s ex-girlfriend. This does surprise Jess, but she still piles on the flannel.

“I’ve been such a jerk, Liz. I never in a million years would have gone out with him if I thought he was that old.”

In more exquisite dialogue, Jessica chews the scenery to throw Liz of the scent. She has no intention of ditching her date that weekend. In fact, as well as being wonderfully OTT in the entire exchange, she intersperses her gnashing and wailing with smug self-high-five phrases on her wit and resolve. She’s the greatest, and she knows it.

Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s Josh!

“He’s on the phone,” (Jessica) whispered. “Lizzie, let me talk to him in private, okay? I want to tell him off.”

Elizabeth nodded. She could certainly understand why her sister wanted some privacy. If she were Jessica, she wouldn’t let Josh off lightly!

Once Jessica was alone, she flicked the switch inside herself that compartmentalises her feelings. It was Josh. Time to shine.

Josh, it appears, only wants to confirm this Saturday’s date. While the destination is a surprise, he couple on the double-date are less of a mystery: it’s Josh’s cousin Megan Moore, and her new boyfriend Stu, or Stan or something. Jessica gushes her acquiescence before they terminate their chat.

Of course, Elizabeth wants to know how things went. And Jessica lies through her teeth about giving Josh a world-beating admonishment. Go Jess!

The chapter ends with a small scene involving Steven and the Elder Wakefields. Ned, keen to salvage a little quality family time at the circus that Satruday, is trying to convince his son that he should turn his back on his friends and come watch the clowns with dear old dad instead.

Steven, to his credit, is having none of it. While he does agree to meet up with the folks in the intermission, he’s more interested in the Stephen Time either side of that. Partly because, although he IS a colossal prick, he’s not THAT colossal prick. But mainly because his meetup with friends is actually part of a double date!

Steven looked more than a little infatuated. It wasn’t so often that he sounded so excited about a girl, and his parents were intrigued.

“What did you say her name was again?”

“It’s Megan,” Steven told them. “Megan Moore.”

SHIT’S ABOUT TO GO DOWN, PEOPLE.

Aside:

The final third of the book (Kindle says I’m at 67%) deals with the fabulous second date. As I’m sure can be surmised, it’s a car wreck of epic proportions. It’s also great writing, smart dialogue, well paced and interestingly plotted, and just an out-and-out gleeful romp.

This has been an uncommon recap, about a fabulous book. My serious advice? Go read it, if you haven’t. If you have, go read it again.

I am, however, finding it tricky to stay on point with this recap, as writing nice things about stuff I love is infinitely harder than writing snark about idiocy. So in order to buck the mould and keep things fresh, I’m tackling the second date in a different way.

  • I’ll bullet-point the timeline.
  • I’ll then take the points and expand on those that need more exposition.

Why am I doing it this way? Well, I’m tired for one. Also, as is my usual tendency, this recap is in danger of going too long.

But the main reason for this change of pace? Because whatever I write in praise of the scene will pale in comparison against an actual reread. Seriously, go pick up the book. It’s great.

End aside.

Saturday comes. It’s the Big Date!

Here’s how things go down…

  • Jessica prepares in Lila’s house.
  • Josh arrives, with Megan.
  • Jess discovers the big surprise… they are going to the circus!
  • They collect Megan’s date… it’s Steven Wakefield!
  • While Megan fetches Steven, Josh “breaks up” with Jessica.
  • Steven does NOT blow Jessica’s cover.
  • At the circus, Jessica meets Anita, and reveals that Josh still lovers her.
  • The circus starts, and the Three-Person Wakefield Clan are sat opposite the double daters.
  • Anita arrives in the interval.
  • While fetching drinks, Steven becomes Jessica’s Burly Protector.
  • Jessica runs into Elizabeth
  • Josh and Anita get back together, as Jessica tries to leave.
  • They all watch the second act, and things seem fine…
  • … Until they bump into the Wakefield Clan on the way out of the venue.
  • Steven acts as peacekeeper, and the Wakefield Clan depart
  • In the car park, Jessica confesses all to Josh…
  • … Who takes it all rather well.

Phew! An exhausting evening for all involved, I’m sure you can agree. Taking things in order…

Jessica prepares in Lila’s house.

This is more great character-building friendship from Jamie Suzanne. Lila, still gushing over her friend’s romantic prospects, shares her vision of the perfect date with an older boy. It involved dancing on a boat (on a dolphin, doin’ flips an’ shit).

Jessica smiles at her friend’s unrealistic and immature expectations. She thinks Lila would be disappointed with a burger at a local restaurant. My my, has Jessica grown a little since her own unrealistic expectations at the outset of this caper? I think so!

Josh arrives, with Megan.

Megan seems lovely. Happily for Jessica, she’s not a chataminute like Melanie, so Jess avoids a grilling and can concentrate on being awesome instead of being fourteen.

Jess discovers the big surprise… they are going to the circus!

This is the nut-slap in the triple-whammy of nut-slap / cock-twist / bell-flick that befalls Jessica in short order. Through a guessing game replete with crap punnage, Jessica ascertains their destination for the evening… the circus! The circus at which the remainder of her family would be attending! Her parents would be there, with the Sainted Elizabeth, laughing at a malnourished tiger and pointing at a sad pensioner in an outlandish constume consisting of comedy trousers! Steven would be there too, with all his friends!

Yeah, about that…

They collect Megan’s date… it’s Steven Wakefield!

As they ponder the circus, the car pulls into Jessica’s road. Then Jessica’s driveway. Then it crashes into Jessica’s brain, and they true horror of the events began to unfold before her, inflating in her mind like a malevolent airbed, pushing all purple happiness into the recesses and blocking out the light. Megan springs forth to fetch her beau.

Jessica. Is. FUCKED.

Nut-slap. Cock twist.

Next up?

Ding!

While Megan fetches Steven, Josh “breaks up” with Jessica.

If this wasn’t enough, Jessica’s night gets even worse. Josh, the lovely sweet and innocent Josh, gently breaks the news that – shock and horror – he still has feelings for his ex girlfriend Anita. Despite splitting up recently, they had begun to talk on the phone a lot more, as Phone Friends.

Jessica does not appreciate the delicious irony here.

The next quote is probably my favourite in the whole book…

“You’re still in love with her, aren’t you,” Jessica said mournfully. It figured. First he told her that he just happened to be taking her to the one place in town where her entire family was going to be. Then he drove her straight to her own house to pick up her older brother for a double date. And now he was telling her that he was still in love with his old girlfriend. This was not the way things were supposed to go according to Ingenue magazine.

Thoroughly mortified, Jessica suggests that she just go back to Lila’s. To be honest, it would be the best idea, as that way she’d be spared the embarrassment of Steven and the threat of the Parental Meetup. Josh, of course, if too much of a gentleman to ditch her and run to Anita. No, Jessica’s die has been cast. Her bed is there, and she’s climbing in.

(Again, I love this section. Jamie Suzanne has deftly led us to a place where Jessica herself is unsure of the validity of the Josh/Jess pairing, and having Josh split things before the inevitable OMG-YOU’RE-FUCKING-TWELVE moment lets everyone remain sympathetic and entirely non-squicky. Kudos!)

Steven does NOT blow Jessica’s cover.

In a surprising turn of events, Steven does not immediately blow the whistle on the whole escapade. He’s shocked, naturally, but he plays along like a champ. Of course, being the believable siblings that they are (it feels so wrong to write that phrase and actually mean it with no trace of irony), he does land a few comedy digs and sibling retorts while inquiring on his sister’s backstory.

“We’ll have to talk later,” Steven said, staring at her with a murderous look in his eyes. “After all, we have so much in common.”

And a little later, he becomes a real brother.

Steven looked closely at her, and suddenly his expression seemed to soften a little. “You look upset,” he said. “Are you okay? How in the world did you get yourself into this mess?”

Lovely.

At the circus, Jessica meets Anita, and reveals that Josh still lovers her.

While powdering her nose and pondering her plight, Anita plus entourage wanders into the ladies room. Now, in Britain this would undoubtedly result is at least a catfight, at most a slashing with a Stanley Knife, but things in Sweet Valley are much more genteel. And anyway, Jess knows it’s all a massive Fuck Pie, so she goes out trying to save face.

She tells Anita that Josh still loves her, and implores her to come speak to him some time during the evening.

While this is a nice thing to do, it’s not without self interest. In doing so, she homes she can extract herself from the situation and take a cab home. It’s Jessica after all… she never does anything without some material gain for herself.

Jamie Suzanne sees you, Jessica. She sees you.

The circus starts, and the Three-Person Wakefield Clan are sat opposite the double daters.

Oh noes!

That’s all I have to say about that.

Anita arrives in the interval.

True to her word (or the word of her friends), Anita arrives in the interval to attempt a patching of the relationship. Jess attempts to flee the scene with a modicum of grace, to leave the two lovelorn soulmates some time to re-bond in an adolescent style.

Josh, ever the gent, offers to accompany Jessica to the concession stand, but in the end he is rebuffed and Steven takes his place. Weirdly, in this book, the obvious “in Jessica’s heart, and pants” jibe doesn’t ring particularly true.

While fetching drinks, Steven becomes Jessica’s Burly Protector.

Jessica is now feeling pretty wretched. Steven, ever portrayed as part-imbecile and part-incestuous-horndog, actually steps to the fucking plate and does some Big Brothering. In response to Jess spilling the beans on her awful predicament, Steven envelops her in a sibling-appropriate hug.

“I’m going along with your story and acting as if I’ve never met you before tonight. We can talk about this later. Just make sure Mom and Dad don’t see you. Something tells me they’re not going to be half as understanding as I’m being.”

Jessica is actually moved to tears by this face turn. Personally, I think it’s just being human, but your mileage may vary. Either way, Steven’s neat-o!

Jessica runs into Elizabeth.

Things then take a possible turn for the worse, as Jess stumbles arse over tit into an nearby Elizabeth! Soda is spilled in the melee, which is a tragedy in and of itself.

Jessica is understandably tense… how will Elizabeth react? Jess’s lies have been debunked not once, not twice, but three times now. Elizabeth is sure to be furious… right?

But as we all know, Elizabeth can’t stay mad at Jessica for long.

Elizabeth warns Jess of their approaching Parental Units. Jessica flees to her seat for the second half.

Josh and Anita get back together, as Jessica tries to leave.

Back at the cheap seats, it’s obvious that Josh and Anita are an item once more. A weary Jessica attempts to gracefully bow out and leave them be. But again, the fucking super-sweet fuck-monkey that is Josh Fucking Angler makes the rest of mankind look bad by proving conclusively that chivalry is alive and well and living in a Californian Big Top. He wouldn’t hear of Jessica being abandoned in such a callous fashion.

Darn, Jessica thought. So much for her graceful exit.

Josh Angler. Such an irritating twat.

(Only joking, of course. He’s dreamy).

They all watch the second act, and things seem fine…

Jessica is on the home straight now. In a magnificent thumb of her perky blond nose, she tempts the capriciousness of a malevolent Fate and dares dream she’s home dry and scott free…

Reality, of course, made other arrangements.

… Until they bump into the Wakefield Clan on the way out of the venue.

Just when you think the beaches are safe, Jaws 2 rocks up and chomps on tanned legs.

Jessica, lost in thoughts of how to escape, takes her eye off the prize. And the whole thing comes crumbling down.

Alice, Ned and Elizabeth glide into view. Their eyes lock with Steven, and we have Total Meltdown in mere seconds.

After the initial shock of discovery, the Elder Wakefields have important questions to ask, such as “who in the blue fuck is this bellend?” in reference to a certain Joshua Fisherman.

At first, Liz tries to stall the tsunami. Offering to “explain everything later at home” doth butter no parsnips with her incredulous guardians. And Josh is becoming more and more confused with every awkward introduction and uncovered lie.

Tempers begin to rise up. The crowd is getting restless. Ned is in serious danger of crossing his fucking arms in approbation, while Jessica’s pleas for a temporary reprieve from embarrassment fall on stony ground.

In such times of great stress, the Prophecies foretold of a great hero. A hero ready to do battle for his lady’s honour, to stand tall against the unjust forces of oppression.

And that hero… is Steven Wakefield.

Steven acts as peacekeeper, and the Wakefield Clan depart.

“Listen, Dad, Steven said, interceding on (Jessica’s) behalf. “Jessica is okay. She’s with me. Let me bring her home, and we can talk about this then.” He gestured at the crowds around them. “Please, it’s too noisy here. I promise she’ll be fine.”

Genuinely good work, Steven.

The parents agree, and the Wakefield Clan depart. Jessica is safe… for now.

In the car park, Jessica confesses all to Josh…

On the ride home, Jessica finally comes clean with Josh. With some confusion over their relative ages – confusion which Steven once more milks like only an irritating elder sibling can do – Jessica reveals herself as the immature twelve year old she always dreaded him discovering.

At first, Josh is angry. He has every right, of course. Although he has behaved impeccably and beyond reproach for the entire book, it’s still not nice to feel deceived.

… Who takes it all rather well.

However, he softens in the blink of an eye. Instead of holding a grudge, he shares a nice story about “stealing” his dad’s car at the age of thirteen. He forgives the twelve year old Jessica immediately.

At this point in any other book, I’d be ripping the proverbial piss out of whatever “Josh Angler” saw fit to grace the pages. Hell, I even just types “Get fucked Josh, you” before I thought better of it.

Josh is sweet. In all seriousness, he’s too sweet for Jessica, the Sweet Valley Hellspawn.

He’d be perfect for Elizabeth. Give it a few books, let’s see where we are.

Back at the Wakefield Compund, Jessica (and Jamie Suzanne) put on another masterclass of intrigue and deception. She promises to tell her family “the whole thing, from the very beginning.”

Does she do that?

Does she balls.

In her heavily edited bunch of alt facts, she neglects to mention the first date or the lies about her age. She also claims she had no knowledge of Josh’s real age. She’s wriggling and squirming with every word, throwing shade on the proceedings, trying to remain as innocent as possible.

This, coupled with what sounds like genuine remorse for the things she does admit, leave her in a very strong position. And the Elder Wakefields fall for it.

After some very necessary admonishment from Alice and Ned, culminating a the just punishment that is two weeks of being grounded, Jessica calls Lila. After all, for all her best friend knows, the date is going swimmingly.

“Hey! How’s everything going? Are you madly in love?” Lila demanded eagerly.

“Lila,” Jessica said heavily. “I’m not coming back tonight. So don’t wait up for me.”

“What?” Lila shrieked. “Jessica, what are you talking about? You’re not going to do something crazy, are you?”

Another glorious line for the recappers. Still makes me laugh.

And so, we wind up another book. The final chapter has two features. The second is the boilerplate foreshadowing for the next book – something about two brothers who don’t see eye to eye. However, it’s the first feature that’s the most pertinent to the main story.

Jessica, our giggly wriggly schemer supreme, is on top of the world once more. She may be grounded, but at school, she’s a bonefide legend. Rumours of her tawdry affair with the husky twentysomething Josh Angler are spreading like wildfire, and, as you’d expect, Jess is loving every second.

Elizabeth had to hand it to Jessica. That girl really knew how to come out of a crisis looking like a hero!

Indeed she does, Lizzie. Indeed she does.

Final Thoughts:

I genuinely loved this book, and here’s why:

  • The characterisation was great
  • The story was great
  • The pacing was great
  • The dialogue was great
  • Ah, fuck it. THE DAMN BOOK WAS GREAT.

I can only apologise to our loyal readers who tune in each Monday expecting us to snarkily roast a legitimate piece of fucking shit. This entire month must’ve been torture for you, especially on the back of a book about ithig.

Is this a turning point? Have I now been assimilated into the Dark Heart of Sweet Valley? Am I destined to live the rest of my life as a proud foot-soldier in the Sweet Valley Middle School Infantry? Will I have to change my name by Deed Poll to Ken Matthews? [Dove: No. You’ve already changed your name once by deed poll. Twice would be excessive.]

I’ve read on to my next recap. It’s a Super Edition.

The Class Trip.

It’s total bollocks.

For those of you who like Raven Going Boom, never fear. It’ll soon be business as usual.

Until next time, may all your schemes bear the sweetest fruit.

[Dove: I also loved this book. I thought it was nice, for once, to see Jessica and Lila acting like friends. Usually they’re just stabbing each other in the back. Or the front — it’s not as if they’re subtle. In this book, they were awesome.  The book was also light on Elizabeth, which can never be a bad thing for me.]

[Wing: Originally, I did not super enjoy this book. It was fine, but it came in a distant second to my beloved (I can’t believe I just fucking said that and meant it) Stretching the Truth. However, the more we talked about it while recording the podcast, and the more I read through Raven’s recap, the more I enjoyed it, and now it is a close second to my beloved (OH GOD) Stretching the Truth. Thank fuck Raven has already promised me The Class Trip will be terrible, otherwise I don’t know if I’d survive this whiplash love fest of a month.]

[Raven: This month has been very confusing.]

Looking back at things I've enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.

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