Title: Amy’s Pen Pal
Tagline: What happens when a friend turns out to be too good to be true?
Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield and her best friend Amy Sutton have big plans for the holiday weekend, including a fabulous party, a family barbecue, and the chance to see a dreamy disc jockey broadcast live from the Sweet Valley Mall.
But the weekend gets off to a surprising start when Amy’s pen pal from San Francisco turns up unexpectedly. Samantha Williams seems every bit as nice as her letters until Amy introduces her to the Unicorns. Suddenly, the popular girls can’t get enough of Sam and her stories, and Amy begins to feel left out. Why hasn’t Sam ever told her about all those wonderful things she’s done? Elizabeth and Jessica have a feeling that she’s making it all up. But will Elizabeth be able to stand by while her twin plans a coldhearted plot to uncover the truth?
Interesting… this is the first book in the series to quote a character’s name other than Elizabeth or Jessica. Way to go, Amy, you’ve made it to the Big Leagues!
I’m guessing the pen pal is a jeb-end.
The cover? It’s a symphony in pink. And Samantha looks like a proper slapped arse. Mardy cow. [Dove: She has no soul.]
“Wow! What a great-looking sweater!” Jessica Wakefield pointed to a purple sweater prominently displayed in the store window.
This is the most Sweet Valley beginning to a book that’s ever existed. In fact, it can be used to spice up a number of classic openings:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a great-looking sweater! – A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.
When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in great-looking sweaters! – Macbeth, William Shakespeare.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a great-looking sweater! – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
[Dove: Oooh, can I try?
The world had a great-looking sweater and it could bite you with it anytime it wanted. — The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King.
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a great-looking sweater. — It, Stephen King
You’ve been here before. Sure you have. Sure. I never forget a great-looking sweater. – Needful Things, Stephen King]
[Wing: Well, if this is now a group effort…
In the beginning, God created the heavens and a great-looking sweater. — Genesis 1:1
A great-looking sweater. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. — Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
January. Somewhere, high above, the moon shines down, fat and full-but here, in Tarker’s Mills, a January blizzard has choked the sky with a great-looking sweater. — Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King]
[Raven: Nice work, all round.]
As usual, the twins are in the mall. And as usual, the twins are incredibly different. Jessica blah blah blah purple sociopath. Elizabeth bluh bluh bluh female jesus.
The trip to the mall, it seems, is not to encase Jessica in purple fashion disasters. It’s to stock up on paper plates for the upcoming Big – nay, GIANT – Barbecue, hosted by the Elder Wakefields that Monday. Liz wants to go to Odds and Ends to pick out something nice, but Jessica thinks they should make do with stuff from The Mart.
So, Liz wants something fancy and Jess is being thrifty? What on earth has happened to our glorious girls? Is this some teen bodyswap story? No such luck.
Apparently, the weekend is full. There’s a party at Lila’s on Saturday, which is bound to be off the fucking hook, y0. Sunday sees the prep for the Barbecue at the Wakefield Compound, and Monday – no school – sees the barbecue actually take place. The Barbecue promises to be a cavalcade of guests, as it pairs guests from the twins, from Steven, and from Ned and Alice too!
When I read the introduction for the barbecue, I thought… “Awesome! We get to see the twins interacting with Steven’s friends, and with their parents’ friends. That’s pretty cool, something new and exciting! I mean, they are bigging up the Barbie in fine style, it’s bound to be a showpiece for the story.”
I was wrong. It’s pretty pointless.
I was disappointed. So, to save you, fair reader, from a similar fate, it behoves me to inform you…
She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.
[Wing: This weekend sounds like it should be Memorial Day or Labor Day, so have we skipped from December to May or September? Forward or backward? #sweetvalleytime]
Aside from party central – Jessica’s best weekend EVER ohmygaaaahd! – the truly exciting activity happening that (long) weekend is on Monday night. Dave Carlquist, high school student DJ with a mellifluent voice – is broadcasting his show from the Valley Mall. During the show, Dave will announce the winner of a recent postal contest that offered invites to a swanky party for the best name suggestions for his new show.
We learn that both Jessica and Elizabeth have entered names for the show. Jessica has entered at least ten. Elizabeth has entered one. I’m positive there’s an inappropriate joke in there, so feel free to excavate it with your fossil brushes.
[Dove: Internally, Liz thinks that Jessica’s suggestions are really boring. Which always puts a smile on my face, because there are few things in the Sweet Valley universe more boring than Liz.]
Jessica is sure to lose. Elizabeth is sure to win. The prize – a party at a teen dance club called Jupiter – will be gifted to or shared with Jessica. Everyone goes home happy. Roll credits.
Now that we don’t have to concern ourselves with that guff for a moment longer, let’s move on.
Talk of the packed weekend is interrupted by the sound of workmanship. Apparently, the mall guys are setting up Dave Carlquist’s booth. This information sends Jessica into a tizzy. Maybe Dave Carlquist will be there.
Jessica ALWAYS falls for this crap. “Oooh, someone’s putting up a poster for Kent Kellerman’s visit next week… Maybe Kent is in the building now, overseeing the difficult postering process!”
One barrier to Jessica spotting Dave Carlquist – she has no idea what he looks like.
“But he’s got such an awesome voice, I’m sure I’d know him if I saw him. He’s probably tall, and really good looking-”
Elizabeth’s laugh interrupted her sister’s daydreaming. “Or short, with really goofy glasses.”
FUCK YOU, Elizabeth. Fuck you right in the fucking ear. [Dove: I actually find short guys in glasses very good looking, so, Liz: get fucked, you shallow bellend.] [Raven: Love you too. *mwa*]
Apparently, Dave Carlquist must be gorgeous, as his voice is sublime.
[Wing: Because clearly Elizabeth is the only shallow one here.]
Jess decides that shopping for paper plates is a waste of time, so she drags Elizabeth to Casey’s Place for ice cream. Naturally, she runs into the purple-clad buffoons we all know and love… the Unicorns. Much to Elizabeth’s dismay, talk immediately turns to Dave Carlquist.
Lila is disappointed that she couldn’t get Carlquist to play her party, as he was double booked. She’s still got a few aces up her sleeve, of course.
“My dad hired this terrific caterer, and a new band, The Hot Heads.”
When boasting about their party, what self-respecting teen lists a ‘terrific caterer’ ahead of a cool live band?! It’s Lila, not Steven. The party promises to be excellent, and everyone is invited… although Lila makes it clear that she’s not too keen on Amy Sutton attending.
“And what about Amy?” Lila said, rolling her eyes. She made no secret of her dislike for Elizabeth’s friend.
Erm… have I missed a meeting?
I mean, I know that Lila and the Unicorns are bitches, but there’s no special reason for Lila to be bearing a hatred of Amy from previous books, right? Is this an informed attribute, or have they been at each other’s throats in past stories?
Amy’s in the Boosters, isn’t she? Surely that means there’s some grudging acceptance, at least?
On the other hand, Amy’s a fucking clam, so she can get in the sea.
[Dove: Yeah, Lila’s specific hatred towards Amy has come out of nowhere. Back in Choosing Sides, the entire Unicorns were against a loser with stringy hair joining the Booster club, but that was about social standing, not Amy specifically. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that the Unicorns think all non-Unicorns are just one blobby mass of ugliness and lack of popularity, and it surprises me they know which loser is which – except Lois, she’s fat.]
As this book is about Amy, I’m assuming this is merely the setup for her inclusion as something more than a sycophantic bit-part player. Which is fine.
Jessica blows off the plate shopping, and Elizabeth goes it alone. She buys the plates, and heads home. When she gets there, who should she find in the kitchen…
… It’s a naked Mr Nydick!
… It’s Amy Sutton! [Dove: Are we sure it’s not Amy Porter?]
Apparently, Amy’s mother – a television reporter for a local station – is running a broadcasting convention this weekend, leaving our Amy at a loose end. Naturally, she calls upon her best friend to ask for a particular favour: would Elizabeth help Amy tidy her room?
Will Elizabeth come to Amy’s aid in her time of need? Will she drop everything to help Amy make her bed and sort her laundry? Find out in Sweet Valley Twins #36: Phoning It In, coming soon to a bookstore near you!
Before she capitulates, we have an odd exchange with Steven and Elizabeth regarding the upcoming Dave Carlquist show. Steven, turkey leg in each hand and a donut on his cock, [Wing: Is it purple in a new attempt to woo Jessica?] [Raven: Well, it makes his groin look like a Unicorn.] declares he will be helping Dave Carlquist with the show. Everyone at the high school is radio-obsessed, and Steven is going to be “the man behind the deejay” in the booth.
Like, that’s just something he can “do”, is it? To be honest, I’m surprised he can do his fucking laces, never mind operate technical equipment.
Throughout these books, Steven has been portrayed to be as gormless as a slapped chaffinch [Dove: Oh, just you wait until we get to the Nightmare mini-series… it’s the reason why Steven is irredeemable in my eyes.]. But apparently, he’s the man charged with making DJ DC’s inaugural mall-show the best damn show it can be?
I call bullshit.
Obviously, Liz agrees to help Amy with her chore, but inexplicably she makes a big deal about accepting, going all Mafia Don and expecting a “big favour” in return. In light of this horses-head turn of events, here are a couple of my favourite Mafia jokes in animated TV:
On the way to Amy’s house, the girls drop in at the park to see Ken Matthews and Patrick Morris. This is for a scene which achieves nothing and has no further bearing on the plot. Ken and Patrick say they’re going to Lila’s party, and we are reminded that Ken is Amy’s on-and-off boyfriend. That’s it.
At Amy’s, we discover that the titular character in this week’s proceedings is a Grade A slob. Aside from the usual clothes-on-the-floor and unmade bed schtick, there is, and I quote, “a broken kite draped over a lampshade.” What the actual fuck? That’s either incredibly stupid (“Let’s see if I can fly a kite indoors using my hairdryer!”) or incredibly random (“A broken kite was draped over a lampshade, a bronze penguin slept in a shoebox made of pastry, and a clockwork lawnmower sang karaoke with a marzipan effigy of Bobby McFerrin.”). [Dove: And a fire hazard… ooooh. OMG, actually, that’s the most brilliant foreshadowing ever, because in book #44 Amy Movies In, Amy’s house burns down. Now we know why.]
While tidying, we finally get to the crux of the matter: Amy stumbles across a letter from Samantha Williams. And we discover the hook of the story in one telling exchange…
“How is Sam?”
“I don’t really know. I haven’t heard from her in ages. I’m starting to get worried. She used to write to me at least once a month.”
So, trouble at home for poor ol’ Samantha Williams. I’m betting she’ll rock up at Amy’s before the day is done.
The scene is broken by a phonecall from Jessica. Mama Wakefield is tired, as per fucking usual [Dove: New tag added. This happens far too often.], and the Fam are headed off to Juan’s, a new Spanish restaurant, for some chorizo and rioja. Alice, in particular, loves a spicy sausage.
Amy, now alone, calls her mother, to discover that both of the Elder Suttons are busy that evening, and Amy is to fend for herself. Amy is disappointed, but rallies. Brave little soldier, having to microwave her own TV Dinner.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings! Who could it be?
… It’s a naked Mr Nydick!
… It’s Samantha Williams!
After an awkward introduction, in which Amy marvels at the psychic nature of Sam’s arrival with a “but we were only just talking about you” throwaway comment, we learn that Sam had sent a letter to herald her imminent arrival, but it had apparently got lost in the post. Oh, and she’d made her own way to the Sutton Compound, from San Francisco, via public transport.
Pfff. Yeah, right. This is definitely legit.
Over pizza, Amy tells her pen pal all about the weekend of fun ahead. She mentions Lila’s party, and the Unicorns, who she describes as the “really popular girls” and “kind of snobby.”
Why are the Unicorns always touted as the most popular girls in school?
I’m pretty sure that most people just couldn’t give a pimply fuck about them, and the remainder actively hate them.
Seriously, the only people who think the Unicorns are popular are the bloody Unicorns.
Sam knows all about snobby girls.
“Oh, I see,” Sam said knowingly. “There’s a club like that at my school, too. The Rainbows.”
Okay, so that’s cute. The Rainbows! I really want to see a Unicorns versus Rainbows Battle Royale story now. [Dove: There’s a rival club coming up called, I believe, The Jaguars – these anti-Unicorns are penned by #BestJamieSuzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant), so there is that to look forward to. Also, the Unicorn Club series does have a rival gang too. I’ve not read them, but it’s a plot point of multiple books. Also, how much more death can you take? I killed all the major players in Sweet Valley last month.]
[Wing: I expect a lot of snapping and dancing and gang names painted on the sidewalk.]
Sam and Amy also talk about Little Bit, Sam’s horse. Amy mentions the Sweet Valley Sixers. They go for a walk, and visit the middle school. Sam is suitably impressed. [Dove: Sweet Valley has a beach, Secca Lake, and improbable cave, horse stables, a haunted house… and Amy shows her the school? #TeamBoring] Afterwards, they watch TV, as they like the same shows.
All is going well, and I must say the whole exchange is pretty nice. Normal, warm and proficient. It’s good to see an actual friendship blossoming, instead of being told “X is Y’s best friend”.
The Elder Suttons arrive home, and an unavoidable inquisition commences. Who the hell is this red-headed interloper, and why has she gained admittance to the Sutton Fortress of Solitude?
Mama Sutton is suitably aghast at the whole situation, but Sam puts her at ease. The Elder Williamses, allegedly, have decamped to Northern California, leaving the gingerest of their offspring to hotfoot it to Sweet Valley for some Amy Action.
To her credit, Mama Sutton doesn’t crumble straight away. She rightfully suggests they call Mama Williams, but they are camping in a place with no phones, and in a time with no emails or cell reception. And Sam herself pulls of a mini masterstroke with the following exchange:
“I did write,” Sam [said].
“But what did you think when you didn’t get a reply?” Mrs Sutton asked.
Sam looked uncomfortable. “I guess I thought it meant it was all right.”
“And is that what your parents thought?”
Now Sam stared down at the floor. “I didn’t really tell them I hadn’t gotten an answer.”
Nice work, Sam. I mean, this story is obviously bullshit, but it serves a great purpose in convincing the Elder Suttons that her transgression is this small oversight rather than something more sinister. It’s like confessing to the traffic violation to steer the cop away from the body in the boot / trunk. Good work, Sam. Nicely written, Jamie Suzanne.
Of course, the Elder Suttons eventually give in to the inevitable. Sam can stay!
A couple more things to mention here…
- Amy notices that Sam isn’t entirely on the level, as she tells the Elder Suttons about her parents going on a camping trip, having not mentioned it to Amy earlier. Is this foreshadowing? (Yes.)
- Mama Sutton warns that the girls will be largely self-sufficient this weekend, as everyone is busy.
Nicely handled, important statements, both of which advance the action along the expected lines without seeming heavy-handed. Props!
The next morning, Amy can’t wait to introduce Sam to her best friend. They rock over to the Wakefield Compound. Elizabeth is surprised, and comments on the coincidental timing of Sam’s visit. I’m sensing that the Jamie Suzanne behind this tale is secretly mocking the premise. [Dove: Given Michael Grant’s comments about the process… I’m starting to lean towards the idea that every writer was taking the piss.]
“Sam, why don’t we go out on the patio,” Elizabeth said. “You can meet my sister, Jessica.”
Amy made a face at Sam behind Elizabeth’s back. She had already told Sam what she thought of Jessica Wakefield.
It’s good to see Amy being fleshed out a little more. Lovely.
Jessica, sunbathing, is predictably unimpressed with the whole affair. Talk on the patio turns to the party at Lila’s that evening, and Liz offers to lend Sam something to wear, because god forbid anyone wear anything that didn’t once belong to a Wakefield. I’m surprised Liz has any clothes left. Maybe Winston Egbert will turn up to the party sporting once of Elizabeth’s dresses.
Liz, Amy and Sam head off to try on outfits, while Jessica remains behind. She’s uninterested in helping Amy’s “drippy pen-pal,” probably still smarting too much about Sandra Ferris’s makeover to get involved with dressing another waif / stray. [Wing: Damn, Sweet Valley guest friends need more name variety.]
Steven arrives (or, more likely, Steven pulls up his pants and emerges from the bushes), and asks the sunbathing Jessica if she’d like to join their mother and him at the mall. When she learns her brother is going to check out the booth for the Dave Carlquist show, she jumps at the chance. Maybe Dave will be there!
Oh Jessica, will you never learn?
At the mall, Jess persuades her mother to buy her a purple sweater – the great-looking sweater of Dickens / Shakespeare / Austen fame. And later, at the recording booth, she bumps into Steven chatting to friend. A tall, thin, horn-rimmed glasses-wearing-friend, called Buddy. [Dove: You’ve literally just described Buddy Holly.]
(Also, here is some space for Dove to put an inevitable picture…)
[Dove: If they hadn’t literally described Buddy Holly, this would be who I pictured (read Taking Charge for a rundown on the plot of Buddy’s Song… um, yes, that makes sense):]
Steven tries to introduce Jessica to his friend, but she turns away before anyone gets a chance to speak.
Disappointed, she trudged back to the shoe store. She’d come all the way out to the mall to meet the fabulous Dave Carlquist and the only person she’d seen was some boring-looking boy named Buddy.
Seeing how Jess is eager to meet Dave Carlquist… Buddy is obviously Dave Carlquist. Fuck you, Jess. If you can’t see past the horn-rimmed glasses, then you can go die in a fat fire.
Later that evening, Amy and Sam prepare for the party at Lila’s mansion. Both scrub up well, but as they approach the gates, Sam is understandably nervous.
“What’s wrong?” Amy asked.
“I don’t know,” Sam said slowly. “It’s just that there are going to be so many new people there.”
Amy put her arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’re going to be a big hit.”
Sam straightened her shoulders and tried to look confident. “Sure I will.”
Bless! Actual friendship.
Poolside, the party is banging. Sam is suitably impressed with the whole setup. The girls spot the Wakefield twins: Jess heading for the Unicorns, and Liz approaching with a smile. They catch up, and agree to pay their respects to the party’s hostess.
They approach the Unicorns, and Amy introduces Sam, explaining the reason why she’s attending uninvited.
At first, Lila is cold towards this idea, but soon warms when Sam complements Lila’s fabulous home.
Lila’s stern expression softened. “Thanks. I made sure the gardeners worked extra hard to make the patio look nice.”
Go Lila. We love you.
The Unicorns then attempt to shut Amy, Elizabeth and Sam out of their circle. Amy takes the hint, and makes to leave, but Sam wants to stay and chat. Amy is surprised, but leaves her pen pal in the Unicorner to go it alone.
Thus begins the Flowering of Samantha Williams. (Ew, that sounds all sorts of wrong.)
Sam starts strong. The first thing she claims is that her boyfriend is the son of Glinda Paris, an important and much-loved TV star. She then waxes lyrical about the beauty of San Francisco, and, having been to San Francisco, I can certainly relate to that. [Dove: Their fog globes are the coolest thing ever… why does nobody else make fog globes?] [Wing: You should share a picture of your globe here. (Less dirty in my head before I typed it.) I imagine getting a picture of it might be difficult, so here’s one of the fog globe versions in action. (There’s a bit of shaky cam at the beginning.)]
By the time she was finished, most of the girls were wishing that they lived there. Except for Jessica, who didn’t like all the attention that the newcomer was getting.
Once again, Jessica comes to the correct conclusion by taking the most wildly inappropriate path. It’s like hating Trump because you think he should be proud about his ties to Russia. [Wing: Eh, Jessica never likes it when anyone else gets the attention she thinks she deserves.]
Amy and Elizabeth watch as Sam mingles with the Unigibbons. She has them eating out of the palms of her hands. Amy thinks she must be simply being polite, but Elizabeth sees the truth: Sam is having a great time.
Later, as the Hot Heads play and the throng are entertained, it all kicks off big time. Amy, distraught, confides in her best friend. You’ll never guess who Sam is dancing with…
… It’s a naked Mr Nydick!
… It’s Ken Matthews!
At first it seems innocent, but Amy divulges the truth. It’s the third dance they have shared, and Sam is in full possession of the fact that Amy and Ken are an item (sort of). Also, Ken has got his cock out.
Elizabeth, cigarette in the corner of her mouth, goads Amy to go slap a bitch…
“Maybe you should say something to her.”
Amy tries, but is headed off by a malicious Lila. The Queen of Mean shoots down poor Amy. First she snaffles Sam away by offering her cake and company, then she belittles Amy by calling Sam the best and Amy a pest.
“I’m really surprised you and Sam are such good friends.”
Amy tried to keep her tone even. “Why is that?”
Lila shrugged. “She’s wonderful. It doesn’t seem like you two would have much in common.”
Damn, girl. That’s a dagger. [Dove: And this why I love Lila. She’s so rude without a hint of remorse.]
Amy has had enough. She confides in Liz that she wants to go home. Liz thinks it’s too early, and if LIZ thinks it’s too early then it’s probably about 3pm. Time for a Johnny Buck concert!
Amy summons Mama Sutton, and tries to pry Sam away from her Unifriends. As she approaches, Sam is bragging about her horse-riding prowess. The Unicorns are spellbound.
Amy says it’s time to leave.
Sam doesn’t want to go.
The Unicorns want her to stay.
Lila offers her chauffeur’s services to ferry Sam back to the Sutton Fortress of Solitude,
Sam wants this to happen.
Amy gives in, and storms off.
Amy leaves the party without her pen pal.
Dick move, Sam. I mean, I know it’ll be for REASONS with a capital REASONS, but it’s still massively shitty to ditch your accommodation host for the party host, especially if your accommodation host actually hates the party host.
Next morning, Jessica has the preteen equivalent of a hangover: she hadn’t shut her curtains the night before. The party had been fun, except for all the attention she’d missed out on as it was leeched away by Samantha Williams.
Her mind turns to the upcoming Name-The-Inexplicably-Important-High-School-Radio-Show competition, for which Jessica had proffered ten entries. We learn of two: Teen Talk and Teen Scene, both of which are fucking awful.
When she finally drags herself from her pit and ventures downstairs, the talk in the kitchen revolves around Alice’s Hot Apple Pies. This is NOT a euphemism. The family want pie, but Mummy Wakefield isn’t giving it up.
Mr Wakefield stared dreamily into space. “It’s been years since I’ve had one of your pies for breakfast.”
That’s filth, right? It’s not just me, surely?
Over cereal, Steven reveals his plans for the day: a pal from the Radio Club is coming over to discuss his running the board at the show the following evening.
Jess considers her opportunity to casually drop Dave Carquist into the conversation, but does so in such an oblique fashion (in order to avoid mockery) that Steven doesn’t really pick up on it. Well, obviously. Can’t have Buddy’s secret being outsed. He is the one and only (Dave Carlquist), after all.
Jessica decamps to her bedroom, and phones Lila. Immediately, talk turns to Sam, and how awesome she is. Without the strength to argue with Lila (that’s not like Jessica at all, Ghostie!), Jessica mumbles numbly as the richest girl in Sweet Valley suggests they make Sam an honorary Unicorn.
“After all, kids in other parts of the country ought to know how great the Unicorns are.”
One agenda, one dream. Unicorns forever! [Dove: Make Unicorns Great Again #MUGA]
Lila is great in this book. [Wing: HDU, Lila is always great.]
Jessica agrees to meet the Unicorns at the Dairi Burger to discuss this (she’s definitely in the Hell NO camp), and shimmies downstairs. There, she finds Steven’s friend, Dave Car- I mean, Buddy.
Buddy explains that he’s waiting for Steven, and listening to the radio for an announcement about the Mall Show the following evening. Then Dave comes on the radio, and announces the forthcoming show that every evening, and Jessica wanders off as Steven arrives.
Dave is on the radio. Buddy is in the room.
Okay, I’m sure that Buddy is Dave at this stage. So I assume that the radio announcement is a recording.
But Buddy and Jessica share a conversation. If he were Dave Carlquist, wouldn’t she recognise his voice? Especially if the same voice was coming from someone in the room with her? Especially if Dave Carlquist’s one defining feature is a sublime and distinctive tone?
Maybe I’m wrong. Cool.
[Wing: Radio voice versus quiet in person voice?] [Raven: I guess. I mean, he’s not bloody Casey Kasem.] [Wing: Well THAT is a nostalgic flashback.]
We cut to the Sutton Fortress of Solitude. Amy is slamming about, still pretty pissed at Sam for her behaviour at Lila’s party. While Sam still sleeps, the Elder Suttons suggest a lake visit later that morning.
When Sam rises and hears the plan, she naively puts her foot right in it.
“Oh, that’ll be fun. Is there any chance we could see some of the kids?”
READ THE ROOM, YOU UNGRATEFUL COW.
Amy has been nothing but nice, and you are angling to ditch her for your new friends so early? Samantha Williams, you’re just a bad bad seed.
Before Amy can answer, Lila phones. For Sam, of course. She invites Sam – just Sam – to the Dairi Burger for lunch at one. After some lacklustre cajoling, Sam convinces Lila that Amy needs to come too. [Dove: Someone actually did this to me once – I won’t tell the whole story here, but it will hit my blog at some point. A friend was visiting from four hours away (that’s a lot in England), and someone who hated me sent her a text saying, “I heard you were in $city, why don’t you meet me for drinks. Don’t bring Dove.” I hate to say this, but I really feel Amy’s frustration here. I hate siding with Amy.]
Amy’s had enough. Once the call is ended, she lets Sam have it. The Unicorns, she suggests, are fucking hideous. Sam disagrees: to her, the Unicorns are spectacular. While nothing is resolved, Amy agrees to attend the lunch with Sam, as she is a guest in the Sutton Fortress of Solitude, and a guest’s word is law.
After an uncomfortable ride to the lake and back, the girls join the Unicorns at the Dairi Burger. Predictably, the purple bellends greet Sam with enthusiasm, and offer a noncommittal ‘sup to Amy.
As she had at Lila’s Party, Sam is full of great stories. Her family own property in Hawaii, and she is representing her school in a San Francisco spelling bee. Jessica, listening on without interest, remembers that the previous evening saw Sam laughing and claiming she was a terrible speller. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Sam, it appears, is full of porkie pies. It is apparent that her pants are, in fact, on fire.
The rest of the Unicorns cannot see it, and eventually turn the conversation towards offering Sam an honorary membership to the greatest, and purplest, club in the country. The official ceremony would be held at Jessica’s barbecue the following day.
Official ceremony? My, how will they find a torch-bearer at such short notice? Pompous tosh. I love it.
The scene closes with Sam, upon hearing of the Dave Carquist show the following evening, declaring that she too was a deejay for her school’s radio show in San Francisco. Of course you are, Pinocchio. Of course you are. [Dove: I had someone once claim that they had a copy of Chinese Democracy in 2001, their mum (a stay-at home mum in the arse-end of Kent) got it from a friend who knew Axl Rose. They also thought that Steve Tyler was a member of Guns N’ Roses… that’s the problem with lying about shit you don’t know about, you tend to look magnificently stupid in front of people who have an ounce of common sense.]
The following day, it’s the barbecue. And it’s sunny, because the weather knows its place in Sweet Valley. Jessica, while shirking responsibility in the Barbie prep, sounds Liz out about Sam. While sharing her concerns about the lying, she recalls an article she’d read in a magazine. An article that concerned Glinda Paris and her son, Sam’s supposed boyfriend. Apparently, he’s much younger that Sam, which would be all kinds of wrong.
Elizabeth cottons on to the problem, but is unconcerned.
“Do you mean Sam is stretching the truth a little bit? Is that so important?”
“Of course it is,” Jessica said indignantly. “The Unicorns have asked her to be an honorary member. We can’t just let anybody in.”
Never change, Jess.
Liz considers the position. Sam is causing trouble for everyone. Sam has made her best friend Amy very sad. Sam must die.
Sorry, that’s Jessica’s standpoint.
Sam must be punished.
There. That’s better.
The twins search for the elusive magazine article that discusses Glinda Paris’s son. Unfortunately, they can’t find it before Barbecue guests begin to arrive.
At the Barbecue, Amy and Sam are polar opposites. Sam glows, and Amy blows. After a brief hellow, Sam disappears with the Unicorns, leaving Amy complaining to Liz.
“How’s it going?” Elizabeth asked sympathetically.
“Oh, great,” Amy said. “I spent last night listening to what a wonderful group of girls the Unicorns are, and this morning I had to rummage through my closet looking for something purple that Sam could wear.”
Hah! Nice touch, Jamie Suzanne.
Elizabeth and Amy discuss Sam and her vivid imagination. Liz shares Jessica’s concerns, and plan to unearth the truth via the Glinda Paris magazine article.
Amy, it seems, is all for it. Yeah, that’s right, Amy. Screw that lying bitch.
In the Unicorner, Sam’s lies just keep on coming. She now has a sister, while the day before she was an only child. Even the most vapid and idiotic Unicorns (hi Ellen!) are beginning to smell a rat.
Sam sojourns to the bathroom. Apparently, she’s so full of shit she needs to siphon some away. While she’s gone, the Unicorns cattily share their concerns. Surprisingly, Sam’s biggest advocate is…
… A naked Mr Nydick!
… Lila Fowler!
“I don’t see why you don’t believe her,” Lila said. “After all, I’ve done all kinds of wonderful things in my life.”
Lila decrees that the Unicorns must reserve judgment until they obtain proof. Jessica, determined, dashes into the house to find the magazine article. In doing so, she has an obligatory leave-me-alone-you-speccy-nerd moment with Buddy / Dave Carlquist before grabbing Liz for rummaging support.
Now that the plot demands immediate relief, they find the article at the first attempt.
Glinda Paris’s son is… nine years old.
Someone’s either lying, or going on a register.
Back with the Unicorns at the Barbecue, Sam is ushered away under the pretence of “induction preparation” to allow Jessica to spill the beans. The Unicorns agree that there is something fishy going on, and Janet decides on a course of action: they will lay a trap for Sam to stumble into.
“Let’s make up a completely outrageous story and see if Sam goes along with it. If she does, we’ll know she can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Then we’ll decide what to do with her.”
[Dove: I know I’m supposed to be mature and kind and grown up and all, but I fucking love this plan.]
[Wing: It’s a fairly clever plan, really.]
Sam is summoned back, and Operation Fuck Up The Liar goes full beam while they all eat hot dogs. Lila and Jessica spin a yarn about Melody Power, Jessica’s favourite singer, making a movie in San Francisco, and injuring herself while filming.
Sam, of course, falls into their pit.
“That’s right,” Sam said. … “It was pretty serious.”
“So, you know about it?” Jessica said.
“Sure, In fact, I brought her some flowers when she was there.” Sam went on.
“Did you actually get to meet her?” Ellen asked, her voice full of excitement.
“Well, she was kind of out of it. All that pain medication,” Sam said slowly. “But yeah, I did say hello.”
Sam is in trouble now.
I once worked with a woman like this. She was in her late teens / very early twenties, and we worked together on the lowest rung of a large Accounts Payable department (I was temping, she was there for six weeks in the summer holidays). During our breaks, she would regale the room with tall tales that were frankly so ludicrous that it was insulting.
There was the usual run-of-the-mill crap such as her father buying her a pink Porsche for her recent birthday (which she’d returned as it was the wrong shade of pink), or the fact that she’d once been asked to be a dancer for the National Ballet Company. Usually, we all smiled and nodded and oohed and aahed, and let her get away with it, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the time she said she went to see Justin Timberlake…
Apparently, she’d attended a Justin Timberlake concert that weekend (believable, as he was in town). She and a friend had managed to talk her way backstage, and they got to mingle with the Timberlake crew. She personally had spent the evening with Justin Timberlake himself, laughing and kissing and flirting. At the end of the evening, Justin had fallen in love with her and proposed marriage. She, of course, had to turn him down as she didn’t want to go on the road and tour the world with him, preferring to finish her college course.
I actually snapped, and called her bluff. I told her, quite angrily, that what she was saying was so patently ridiculous that she must think we were all complete idiots. I told her that if anything like that had actually happened, it would have been in the fucking paper (Timberlake was MASSIVE at this time, we’re talking Beiber levels here). I told her we were happy to talk to her, but we were all sick of her bullshit stories, and if she couldn’t wind her neck in she could get to fuck.
She stormed off, angry and probably very embarrassed. When she slammed the door as she exited the room, I got a round of applause from the office.
We didn’t talk much after that.
(Bizarrely, I also worked with a guy who once claimed he’d spent the previous week in Hawaii, winning the Cocktail Bartending World Championships, Tom Cruise Spinning Bottle style. I called him on his obvious bullshit, only to have him show me a website with him hoisting the damn trophy. He then twirled two coke bottles over his head, and I got back into my fucking box.)
Amy and Sam leave the Barbecue soon after, and the Unicorns plan their revenge. After spit-balling some ideas, Jessica comes up with a doozy: as Sam has claimed to be a deejay for her school in San Francisco, they’ll tell her that Dave Carlquist wants to interview her for the Dave Carlquist show that evening, to discuss deejaying and her meeting with Melody Power. She’ll be forced to approach DJ Jazzy Dave for her ‘interview’, only to be rebuffed in an embarrassing way. Then the Unicorns can call her on her nonsense, and turn their backs on her.
Foolproof. Nasty, but foolproof. Well, ‘foolproof’ in a Sweet Valley way, naturally.
As the party winds down – where were the Elder Wakefield’s friends? Where were Steven’s friends? – the Unicorns enter Phase One. They call Sam, and set the wheels in motion.
Sam reacts as you’d expect. She’s panicked, and nervous, and royally screwed. Without another option, she agrees to the whole thing.
The Unicorns are delighted.
As soon as she hung up, Lila raced down the hall to the kitchen. “She fell for it,” Lila whooped.
“Did you hear how nervous she sounded?” Jessica asked with a grin.
“I’ll bet she’s feeling pretty sick right now,” Janet said.
“I can hardly wait till we get to the mall,” Ellen added.
Bunch of pricks. Except Ellen. She hasn’t got a clue what’s happening, she just wants some ice cream.
After the Barbecue is done, Jessica fills her sister in on the whole glorious and hideous scheme. Elizabeth, the Sainted Elizabeth, has reservations. Of course, Jessica talks her down from the I’m Telling Mom ledge. As usual, Jess gets it all her own way.
We now cut to the Sutton Fortress of Solitude. Amy and Sam are at loggerheads. Amy, tidying her room noisily, enquires when Sam’s leaving. When pressed for details, and with parental contact mooted, Sam becomes evasive.
Sure, there’s nothing untoward happening here.
Churlishness soon turns a nasty shade of, well, purple.
“I don’t see why you have to be angry just because the Unicorns like me and not you,” Sam spat out.
Amy refused to keep her feelings bottled up any longer. “That’s not it at all. You were supposed to be my guest, Sam,” she said. “Instead, you’ve been spending all your time with the Unicorns this weekend and ignoring me. You’ve been a terrible guest.”
“You’re just jealous,” Sam shouted. “I can’t help it if you’re not popular.”
“I am popular,” Amy yelled back. “Just not with snobs like the Unicorns.”
You tell her, Amy. Sam has been an awful guest.
Mama Sutton comes and lays down the peace. A reluctant truce is hastily drawn. Again, Sam is quizzed about her return travel plans, and again, she dodges the question. They all agree to make the requisite enquiries after the mall radio show that evening.
That evening, Elizabeth visits Amy before they head to the mall, and discusses the Unicorns’ plan with her despondent best friend. Sam, it seems, has already left with Lila.
After Elizabeth spills the beans, we have the following exchange:
“It’s a cruel plan. Do you think we should do anything about it?” Elizabeth asked anxiously.
“Yes I do.” Amy nodded.
“What?” Elizabeth leaned forward.
“Stand around and laugh right along with the Unicorns.”
“Oh, Amy, do you really mean that?” Elizabeth asked, dismayed.
Amy leaned back against the couch. “Yes, I do. I told you earlier, Elizabeth, I don’t really care what happens to Samantha Williams. She thinks the Unicorns are such great girls. Now she’s going to find out just how mean they can be. And if I can be there to watch the fun, so much the better.”
Sweet Valley Twins #35: Amy Grows Some Testicles. [Dove: I really like this about Amy. Not just because I’m a dickhead, but also because it’s actually a bit realistic (for Sweet Valley). Amy’s a twelve year old who’s had her feelings hurt quite solidly all weekend. You can’t really expect her to think of the greater good here.]
I think I resent Elizabeth being the de facto moral centre for this universe. When she says things are cruel, things are cruel. She is the motto, the message. She is Sweet Valley Metatron. This series would be much more engaging and joyful if Jessica was the compass. With Jessica at the helm, unquestioned, there would be much more joy. And much more bloodshed.
Still, even though she disagrees with Amy’s hardness, she is bound by duty to go along with the plan. She might have an ethical superiority, but she also has the spine of a cucumber.
Mama Sutton then flicks the endgame plot into high gear. She decides to call the Elder Williamses, to cement Samantha’s travel plans. Once in contact, she discovers something shocking…
… It’s a naked Mr Nydick!
… Sam is a runaway!
I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING.
Mama Sutton shares the exposition. Sam, it seems, has a younger sister. This younger sister has been very ill, and consequently, no one has been paying any attention to Sam. So Sam ran away, leaving a note in which she said she was going to find someone who was interested in her.
Wait, is this meant to make us feel sympathy for Sam? Because, on the contrary, I actually now hate her.
Her sister is very ill, and all Sam can do is pitch a fit because no one has the time to make her a fucking sandwich or attend her fucking piano recital? What an absolute fucking cleft of the highest order.
What if your sister dies, Sam? Still gonna be complaining that no one is stroking your ego?
Seriously, Sam can get fucked.
[Dove: This. In Blyton, there are multiple characters who act oddly because they feel they are unloved by their parents because of a new sibling, or an ill sibling, but Blyton being the ruthless cow she is, has the parents completely ignore their child, not write to them at boarding school or reply to the kid’s letters, not visit during the holidays, not send birthday cards/gifts – and has other characters actively mock the child because their parents don’t love them. In Sweet Valley, you just know that Raven has nailed exactly how ignored Sam has been.]
They all head to the mall, after agreeing not to say anything to Sam that might cause her to flee. Her parents, who have been understandably distraught, have boarded the first available flight, and would be there by the time everyone had returned from the mall.
Privately, both Amy and Elizabeth agree that letting Sam go through the Unicorn-driven humiliation at the Dave Carlquist radio show would be cruel. They also agree that trying to stop the plan might cause Sam to get wind of the whole thing, and bolt.
What a conundrum!
Thankfully, Elizabeth spots Steven fiddling with wires in the radio booth, and has an idea…
We cut to Sam, and she is petrified. The Unicorns, full of glee, tell her she’s to approach Dave Carlquist after he’s finished his second record, and say “I’m that famous deejay from San Francisco, Samantha Williams”. Sam tries to disassociate herself from her outlandish claims, but her words are coming back to haunt her.
She tries to back down, claiming illness, but Janet delivers an ultimatum: go through with this, or there’s no Unicorn membership. Sam reluctantly agrees.
The crowd waits for the show to begin. There is a buzz in the air. As the show begins, Jessica strains to see the mythical Dave Carlquist… but in the booth, all she can see is Steven and Buddy. Slowly, the truth is revealed.
Buddy is Dave Carlquist.
Dave Carlquist is Buddy.
Buddy is, apparently, a nickname.
At the Wakefields’, Dave had just been a plain-looking guy in regular clothing, but now he was wearing a fringed cowboy shirt and black jeans. His hair was slicked back, and his glasses had disappeared. He definitely looked like a deejay now.
Heh. Fringed cowboy shirt. Smooth.
In a rare moment of self awareness, Jessica realises that she’d had many chances to get to know Buddy, but she’d been rude and ignored him. She’s missed her shot. Game over, jess.
As she explains away why she hadn’t introduced Dave to the Unicorns at the Barbecue earlier that day, the show starts with a bang. A Melody Power track… boom!
As the song plays, Sam gets more and more nervous. She’s dreading the interview with Dave, but more importantly, she’s dreading her departure from Sweet Valley the following day. She didn’t know where she’d be heading, but she knew it wouldn’t be San Francisco.
As she waits for the second song to start, Dave Carlquist calls out her name.
Her eyes wide, she turned to Jessica. “Are they calling me?”
But Jessica and the others were just as surprised as Sam was.
Hah! Another great section. The Unicorns are flummoxed too.
As Sam stumbles to the stage, Amy and Elizabeth intervene. They tell her not to worry, and that she won’t have to make up any more stories.
True enough, as Dave Carquist interviews Sam, it becomes obvious that the poor girl has been spared embarrassment. The questions dwell on Sweet Valley, on Sam’s horse, on her hobbies. The interview passes smoothly, and Sam acquits herself with grace.
After the interview, a relieved Sam is cornered by the irate Unicorns. Their plan had been foiled, but they still let Sam have it with both barrels.
As they tear her a new asshole, Sam feels the tears well up. As the accusations and insults fly, she does the only sensible thing: she turns tail and flees.
Into the arms of Amy and Elizabeth.
Gently, they discuss the events. They explain why the Unicorns had planned such a trick – which Sam had already deduced. They also confess to arranging the safe, more comfortable interview – again, which Sam had already deduced. One thing Sam couldn’t fathom… exactly why they had been so nice to her, especially after Sam had been so thoughtless towards Amy.
Before Amy can confess that she knows about Sam being a runaway, Dave Carlquist starts to announce the winner of the Name My Show competition.
Can you guess who won?
… It’s a naked Mr Nydick!
… It’s Elizabeth Wakefield!
Apparently, the show is now called The Awesome Hour. To be frank, I prefer Jessica’s entries, and they were crapper than crap. [Dove: This bugged me throughout. At least Jessica’s entries, while fairly flat, were short and snappy and rolled off the tongue easily – say “teen talk” then “the awesome hour”, one is significantly easier to say. Elizabeth’s suggestion is just as boring as she is. Also, I love that the book says Liz loves playing around with words, as if she’s so skillful. I bet they picked the winner at random.]
Elizabeth goes to collect her prize – the chance to host an exclusive party at Jupiter, a cool local hotspot. Of course, Elizabeth tells everyone the prize will be shared with her twin sister. Because heaven forbid that Jessica goes without something that she’d decreed she deserves.
After the show, it’s time for the Parental Showdown. Still in the dark, Sam is driven to her fate at the Sutton Solitude of Fortress by Mama Sutton, with Amy in tow.
Back at the ranch, Sam’s jig is finally up. Her parents are here. It’s time to face the music.
The reunion goes exactly as you’d expect. The Elder Williamses are contrite about neglecting their daughter, but make the very valid point that her sister’s illness couldn’t be helped. They also tell Sam (and the reader) that Bad Things can happen to kids that run away, and that any problems she faced would have been much better handled if only she had talked them through.
Sam promises never to run away again. And we learn that her sister, Emily, is on the mend.
Hugs, tears, fade to black.
Before the finish, Sam does the decent thing and apologises to Amy for being a bellend. She reveals that she never intended to let things get out of hand with the Unicorns, but, as starved of attention as she felt, things slipped away from her and she got in over her head. She promises to be a better friend and pen pal, if Amy is still game.
Naturally, Amy is still game.
We end with the twins planning their party at Jupiter. Everyone is excited… except Mary. As her name is in the title of the next regular SVT book, I guess that’s foreshadowing. Sweet.
I really enjoyed this one. It moved with real pace, and the dialogue seemed fresh. Everything happened on-screen, as it were, and the tale was large enough to be engaging, but small enough to be believable. The A Plot was decent, and the B plot was also pretty neat, if you overlook Steven’s abrupt and unexplained (and, I assume, never-to-be-mentioned-again) love of radio. [Wing: Well damn, Steven, you don’t have to try to be like Jess with her Hobby of the Book in order to
get in her pants be a part of the family.]
The only sticking point was Samantha Williams. I was largely sympathetic, and I thought the denouement was well handled, but when I found out she ran away because she felt neglected when her younger sister was very ill, she became massively unsympathetic. It really did detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
Still, an definite improvement on the last few. And Lila was fucking epic. So yay!
[Dove: Agreed, this was a fun book – I think we’re finally hitting the stretch where the ghosties are getting better and so are the plots. (#BestJamieSuzanne kicks in from book #39.) I feel we’ve had a run of books where nothing happens, and this was a nice change of pace. I really don’t like Sam, and I feel icky siding with Amy, because she’s so dull – and I get she has to be, in order to make Liz look better, but it’s hard to like her when Jess gets a fabulous best friend like Lila.
Also, while Mary is Missing is the next book in the main series, the next book published is The Christmas Ghost, the recap of which will be going up next.]
[Wing: Ah, I definitely had the order reversed in my head between this and Christmas Ghost. So my earlier comment really goes the other way; the long weekend in this book sounds like it should take place in May or September and then we skip ahead to December. #sweetvalleytime]