Title: Mary is Missing by Francine Pascal
Summary: Missing person…
Jessica Wakefield is convinced that Mary Wallace has disappeared. No one has heard a word from her in three days. She hasn’t been at school, she didn’t turn up for Lila’s ice cream party, and worst of all, the Unicorns’ treasury money seems to be missing. [Wing: Oh, god, are we back to “stolen” money actually being misplaced?] What’s more, Mrs. Wallace, Mary’s mother, is acting very strange.
Jessica’s twin sister, Elizabeth, thinks that Jessica is just being her usual overdramatic self, until the twins get a mysterious and confusing phone message. Maybe Jessica’s idea isn’t so farfetched after all. Maybe Mary has been kidnapped. If that’s the case. Mary is in big trouble… and the twins had better figure out that cryptic phone message fast.
Tagline: How can a twelve-year old girl disappear into thin air? [Raven: Mr Nydick’s Love-Wagon?]
Well here we are, and I survived one year in Sweet Valley. I think it’s like dog years, because the past twelve months feel like they’ve lasted a decade. #sweetvalleytime
This time last year, I was horrified by what I’d agreed to when I read my first Sweet Valley book. This year, I know that while I hated a huge amount of the books, I did love a few and enjoy even more.
Dove swears we’re into the good books. We’ll see about that.
[Dove: This is a ridiculous book. The premise is so full of holes and silliness that there are multiple idiot balls that need grasping with an iron grip in order for it to happen (and believe me, Wing covers them), but on the other side, this book is fun.]
[Wing: Oh lord, here we go.]
Jessica is trying to reach Mary Wallace not because she’s missed a few days of school (which isn’t that bad) but because she missed Lila’s afterschool ice cream party and an important Unicorn meeting which is, of course, punishable by death in Sweet Valley.
Mrs Wallace tells Jessica that Mary isn’t home. She sounds sad and is slow to reply. Jessica immediately catapults herself over reasonable ideas and lands on Mary being in the hospital, but no, Mrs Wallace says, again after a pause, Mary is not in the hospital. Jessica waits for Mrs Wallace to tell her what’s going on, instead of just asking if Mary is okay or what’s happening, but Mrs Wallace not only tells her nothing but flat says that Mary can’t be reached when Jessica finally asks when Mary will be back.
Well that’s ominous. Are you trying to make everyone worried, Mrs Wallace? (If she’s not, and often the character withholding information isn’t trying to upset people, this is going the way of too many stories where characters act certain ways not because it makes sense for the character but because the plot needs it to happen. Sloppy writing.) [Dove: And there it is, why I have to ignore the Mrs Wallace part of the book. Anything she says is deliberately structured in a way to make the plot happen, rather than them being something that would be said naturally.] [Raven: Disagree. I think Mrs Wallace’s reticence is perfectly in keeping with the book’s finale, which I will wax lyrical upon later in the recap.] [Wing: Well, I look forward to that, because HOW? WHY? WHAT?]
Jessica runs off to talk to Elizabeth and lambastes her for once again sitting under the old tree that they both used to love. Here’s our identical but different section: Jessica’s schemes blow up in her face and burn other people to the ground, Elizabeth saves the day whether people want to be saved or not, blah blah blah.
This ghost author actually addresses the fact that though Elizabeth and Jessica have different friends, Mary seems to pop up around Elizabeth all the time. Here, they do have different friends, and Jessica finds Elizabeth’s friends boring (and, for Amy Sutton, tomboyish because god forbid) and Elizabeth finds Jessica’s friends snobby, especially Lila Fowler (true story). But they both like Mary.
Jessica tells Elizabeth her worries about Mary, but Elizabeth brushes her off as being too theatrical all the time. (Not nearly theatrical enough. I love it when Jessica acts. See, Jessica on Stage.) Elizabeth has a retort for every one of Jessica’s concerns, but finally becomes concerned when she learns that Mary didn’t show up to give a treasurer’s report at the Unicorn meeting (even though Elizabeth doesn’t believe missing the meeting itself is a big deal), because you can always count on Mary to do what she said she was going to do, so if she missed giving a report, something must be wrong. (Look, Elizabeth, whether or not you love or hate the Unicorns, if Mary agrees to attend meetings because she’s a part of the group, that means missing a Unicorn meeting should also be a big deal.) [Dove: Agreed, Liz does this throughout the book – look at all the facts except for the Unicorn bit, because fuck those silly bitches, anyone with half a brain would miss a meeting.] [Raven: Erm… did you guys read the same-but-different twin description? ELIZABETH DISLIKES THE UNICORNS, PEOPLE!] [Wing: Clearly I don’t read those description anymore, come on. But also, my point was that Elizabeth may hate the Unicorns, but she believes that Mary would never not do something she promised to do. Mary promised to attend Unicorn meetings. Therefore, Elizabeth should think it is a big deal that Mary missed a Unicorn meeting, not just that Mary didn’t give a report.]
Apparently, Mary had told both of them (and only them, at least as implied) that she’s been fighting with her mother a lot about big and small things. Then we get a recap of Mary’s life: kidnapped and kept by her kidnapper for a long time only to be reunited with her birth mother; issues with her stepfather after her mother got married way too soon after being reunited with Mary; and — oh wait, no, that’s it. We’re the ones who talk about Mary in a variety of other books.
Mary’s stepfather, Tim, is out of town for a few weeks, and Mary has been arguing with her mother every day. Jessica wonders if she wouldn’t run away (because Jessica sure as fuck would, I’m sure) [Dove: She would and does.] [Wing: Called it.], but Elizabeth doubts it and is certain that Mary and her mother will work things out. She says they’re just having trouble because they’re still getting used to each other after being separated for so long, which is true, but at the same time, only drives home even more how Mary’s mother shouldn’t have fucking got married so quickly after being reunited with her daughter.
Jessica grumps that if Mary’s mother knows where Mary is, she’s certainly not saying, because how dare she stand between two Unicorns or refuse to answer a question from one of the Unicorns. How very dare she.
Meanwhile, Amy Sutton is headed to Mary’s house because Mary is supposed to be typing up an article for her that Elizabeth needs as soon as possible — except that Mary has had it for a few days without typing it. UMM. So much for ASAP. At school earlier that day, Amy overheard Jessica and Lila Fowler talking about Mary missing the party, and Amy assumes that Mary is home sick.
On Mary’s street, she sees Lila and Ellen Riteman walking toward her. Amy’s not friendly with any of the Unicorns except for Mary (and Amy is one of the few non-Unicorns on the booster squad, though I could have sworn she was the only non-Unicorn on the booster squad).
Ellen and Lila snark at her some, but then tell her that Mary’s not home, she’s not sick, and her mother won’t say anything about where she is. Again, this reads very much like the only reason Mary’s mother isn’t saying anything is to move the plot along by making everyone worry about her. I hope this is going somewhere. [Raven: I think there are reasons. #vaguecommenting] [Wing: YOU ARE AS BAD AS MARY’S MOTHER OH MY GOD.]
Later, Elizabeth sets the table (in their Spanish-style kitchen, has this description popped up before) and Steven comes in, scarfing bread and thinking about Laura, whom he brought home for dinner a few days ago. Or invited home for dinner and she hasn’t come yet? Not sure. Anyway, Steven’s interests have long been food, basketball, and girls, in that order, so maybe he’s moved on to food, girls, and basketball.
Steven finally gives Elizabeth a message from two days ago, from a girl who called and said something about money, about needing money and having to get away, or having money or needing to get away, or something.
I can’t even put into words why I’m so annoyed by this story being driven by a failure to communicate in every direction, because I really shouldn’t expect better from Sweet Valley, but I am and I do. [Dove: Agreed, but on this occasion expecting Steven to do anything but throw a refrigerator down his throat is asking too much of him. The kid is barely functional. I hate him.] [Raven: I actually like this Steven. If he’s an idiot, make him a mile-high idiot.]
The next day, Ellen complains that the Sweet Valley Sixers doesn’t have a single article in it about Lila’s ice cream party or about the letter Lila got from the Donny Diamond Fan Club. They both think that the Sixers staff (including Elizabeth) is leaving the Unicorns out of the newspaper on purpose. (I mean, the Sixers also didn’t cover the party Ellen threw a few weeks back in honor of Johnny Buck’s birthday.) Of course all this means they’re being deliberately discriminated against.
Poor little white rich girls. I feel for you. Truly, I do. [Dove: But on the other side, excellent foreshadowing for the next book. This particular Jamie is very good at setting up the next books without it being eye-poking.]
Lila has decided that it’s a problem that Elizabeth and her friends have complete control over what goes into the class newspaper, which is a horrible thing, unlike the Unicorns having basically complete control over the Boosters, which is only their due.
Jessica tries to shut them up about it by asking what they want to do about this conspiracy, but that backfires, because Lila wants her to talk to Elizabeth about how they’re very upset she’s ignoring the Unicorns in the newspaper. She cannot yet mention they think it’s a plot, because they’re going to give Elizabeth a chance to do the right thing.
Jessica turns talk to Mary, of course, who is still missing. Lila is mostly annoyed that she’s disappeared when the Unicorns need the treasurer’s report. Jessica says she’s annoyed by it, too, but really she’s more worried than anything. They come up with a plan for Jessica to get into Mary’s room to look for clues. Wear your trench coat, Jessica. WEAR IT.
Jessica’s plan is to look for a library book that Mary borrowed from her that is coming due. (Somehow, this is not a lie, Jessica actually took out a library book and lent it to Mary. I zero percent believe Jessica did either of those things.)
Jessica searches Mary’s room quickly, but doesn’t find anything but old photographs and letters. Something seems off, though, and finally she figures out that it’s because Mary is a very neat person but the closet door and several dresser drawers are open and clothes are pulled out and tossed onto the bed. If Mary’s mom is trying to hide what’s happening, why hasn’t she at least closed the drawers? I’m so confused as to her motivations for her choices. Come on, ghost writer.
And then she sees Max, Mary’s worn and tattered teddy bear, sitting on the pillow. Jessica would make fun of any other seventh grader sleeping with a bear, but not Mary, who has gone through so much. Now Jessica is surprised, because everything else looks like Mary ran away, but if she did, she would have taken Max.
Jessica obsesses over this for awhile and tries to decide how much to tell Lila. Finally, she decides that she can’t say anything real, because she promised Mary she would never tell anyone about her problems with her mother and if she tells Lila everything else, Lila, too, will assume she just ran away.
On the one hand, I’m not sure I believe Jessica is loyal to Mary over Lila, considering how rarely she’s loyal to Elizabeth over Lila. On the other hand, I’m excited to see Jessica’s sleuthing, because she’s probably going to be ridiculous with it. [Raven: I like Jessica’s motivations here, and am happy she is showing loyalty to someone other than the Unicorns. Oddly, I think it’s believable. I think she knows Lila all too well, and realises no good will come of telling her anything of import regarding Mary.]
Lila and Jessica argue a little about Mary disappearing right around the time she’s supposed to give a report on the treasury, but in the end, Jessica’s loyalty to Mary wins out over everything.
Though both Elizabeth and Jessica are now convinced Mary’s disappearance is a real mystery, when Saturday rolls around, they’re shopping together at the Valley Mall. I can see how worried you are about your friend.
They decide to go to the movies, and when they see a newspaper abandoned on a bench, they grab it to check the movie times. (Aww, the days before you could not only look up movie times on your phone, but also order your tickets online.)
Elizabeth notices that there are holes in the paper, pieces clipped out of it, words clipped out of it. Well isn’t that fucking convenient. Jessica brushes this off, more interested in the movie, but Elizabeth starts to compare it to an Amanda Howard mystery. Jessica drags her off to the movie, but Elizabeth hangs on to the newspaper just in case. [Raven: Yup, Ludicrous.]
After the movie, they run into Lila and Ellen. Elizabeth thinks Ellen is being unfriendly [Dove: Liz, she is. She doesn’t like you.], and then notices that Jessica isn’t super happy to bump into them, either. Lila accuses her of avoiding them, because she knew they were going to the movies, too. UMM. Why would she be at the movie theater if she was avoiding you?
The theory about Mary stealing the money comes out and Elizabeth is frustrated, but shot down because she’s not a Unicorn. (Elizabeth thinks they’re bitter because she was invited to join at the same time Jessica was, but she turned them down. That’s not quite how it went, but sure.)
After Lila and Ellen take off, Jessica tries to reassure Elizabeth that they don’t really think Mary is a thief, but Elizabeth is not fooled, and is, in fact, furious that anyone would think such a thing about Mary.
Later that day, Elizabeth figures out what words are cut out of the newspaper by comparing it to the copy they have at the house, which is also convenient. (It is just from the day before, but I’m surprised it hasn’t already been tossed.)
There are twelve words:
Elizabeth wonders what in the world those words could mean together. GEE, I FUCKING WONDER, ELIZABETH, ALLEGEDLY SMART PERSON WHO READS MYSTERIES ALL THE TIME. I FUCKING WONDER.
Here’s what she comes up with: YOUR DAUGHTER IS SAFE WILL BE IN TOUCH SOON DON’T CALL POLICE.
[Dove: Oh, arse. I got: TOUCH YOUR DAUGHTER. POLICE WILL BE SAFE SOON. DON’T CALL IN. Amanda Howard would be ashamed of me.] [Raven: I got DON’T TOUCH. IS CALL SAFE? POLICE WILL BE IN YOUR DAUGHTER SOON.]
Right after she’s figured it out, Jessica rushes in to tell her that Mary’s mother was super rude on the phone and demanded that she not call back. Both Elizabeth and Jessica decide that the missing words were used to make a kidnapper’s note. Of course they immediately jump to Mary being a victim.
Despite the “evidence,” Elizabeth does not fully believe this is happening, because it seems like it is a fictional mystery that would no way happen in real life.
Amy turns up to talk to Elizabeth because she has a problem with Mary. They don’t let her get a word in edgewise before they’re demanding to know whether she knows where Mary is. Instead, she’s there to talk to Elizabeth about her interview with Coach Cassels that Mary was supposed to type. I thought Elizabeth needed that ASAP. It’s been, like, a week or more, Amy. WTF. Why are you only now talking to Elizabeth about it?
They tell Amy their theory, and Amy says she saw Mrs Wallace at the bank looking worried. They try to come up with someone who might want to kidnap Mary, and Amy’s suggestion is Annie DeSalvo, the woman who kidnapped Mary when she was a little girl.
I mean, I guess that’s logical, if Annie somehow learned about Mary and Mrs Wallace being reunited.
They all agree this is the only thing that could be happening, and I’m actually going to give them this, because they are young and jumping to conclusions is realistic for their age and their characterisations. [Dove: And the last time they jumped to conclusions, all three of us were delighted.]
Elizabeth, of course, wants to call the police, and Amy agrees (and they’re right), but Jessica worries that they will put Mary’s life in danger. When. When will you learn that sometimes you have to bring in an adult, Jessica? How many things are going to go terribly wrong before you figure that shit out? (I’m guessing she never figures that out.)
Instead, Elizabeth convinces her to call Officer Carey, who helped them find Mrs Harrington’s stolen scrapbook back in one of my favourite books in the series, Jessica On Stage. [Raven: Gotta say, I love the continuity call-backs in this book. This Jamie Suzanne has done their research!] [Wing: Seriously! It was a great surprise.]
Officer Carey agrees to look into it and says that it is wonderful they’re so worried about their friend. I’m shocked as hell they actually called in a (somewhat) competent adult. Is — is this a new leaf?
Of course, this doesn’t last long, because he calls Mrs Wallace and Mrs Wallace assures him that Mary is fine, and she’s just gone away with some friends. Jessica thinks this is disheartening, but Elizabeth trusts that Officer Carey would have told them if he thought something was wrong. Probably he would not have, Elizabeth, but sure.
Elizabeth and Amy want to drop the mystery now (…and you are the ones who love mysteries?!), but Jessica is determined. This is pure Jessica, and I’m glad for it.
On Sunday, Jessica, frustrated with Elizabeth and Amy, decides to tell Lila and Ellen her theory, but they shoot her down completely, and, in fact, think she’s made it up because she’s trying to cover up something. UMM. So much for being BFFs with Lila, Jessica. None of your BFFs trust you, but unlike Elizabeth, Lila has a backbone.
Jessica says she can prove it if they stake out Mary’s house by hiding in the vacant lot next door. Ellen thinks that will be boring, but Lila is somewhat intrigued with the idea of trying to overhear any call Mrs Wallace receives so they can try to find Mary. Lila is, of course, still not convinced about the kidnapping part of the story; she’s still certain that Mary has run off with the Unicorns’ money. Good lord, the Unicorns don’t trust each other one fucking bit, do they.
They spend a whole entire hour (Ellen and Lila getting more and more bored) before a call comes in. They hear Mrs Wallace say that she’s getting ready to leave, and she won’t be late, and she’ll bring what she’s promised, none of it marked, and all small stuff. Plus it will take her longer to get the rest of it together.
Jessica is certain that she was talking to the kidnapper and is about to pay the ransom, because Jessica watches television and knows all about marked bills, etc.
Mrs Wallace leaves the house shortly after carrying a suitcase, a bundle of Mary’s clothes, and Mary’s teddy bear.
They take off on their bikes after Mrs Wallace’s car, but that goes about as well as can be expected (…though, in Sweet Valley, I probably should have expected they would somehow magically be able to keep up, because Lila and Jessica are teamed up here); eventually they go back to the Wallace house (but not before stopping at the Dairi Burger for chocolate shakes).
Back at the house, Mrs Wallace shows up without the suitcase or the teddy bear. (No word on the clothes, though.) Jessica explains that Mary isn’t back yet because Mrs Wallace still has to get the rest of the money together, and Lila and Ellen are very impressed by how smart she is to figure everything out.
Oh, lord, here we go.
Elizabeth and Amy go to the library where Elizabeth hears someone tearing up a book and goes off to confront them because HOW DARE ANYONE TEAR UP A BOOK. Which I agree with, actually, but Elizabeth, you are not the one who should be dealing with that. [Dove: What? Of course it should be Liz. Don’t you know that she’s the centre of the world? Oh, wait, no, you haven’t read A Christmas Without Elizabeth yet.]
She doesn’t get to confront anyone, though, because she sees a woman about Alice’s age walking away holding a newspaper. Of course, that makes alarm bells go off in Elizabeth’s head, because could this be the kidnapper?!
After the woman is gone, Elizabeth and Amy take a look at the paper, which is an L.A. paper a few weeks old with an entire article missing. How long did libraries leave papers on the shelf before archiving them to make space for new papers? Not that long, at least not when I worked at one.
In fact, Elizabeth manages to find that issue of the paper on microfilm, because libraries keep older newspapers on microfilm. SO WHY THE FUCK WAS THAT PAPER STILL ON A REFERENCE SHELF?! [Raven: Could she have requested the paper from the archive, tore the article out, then dumped it on a shelf to avoid awkward questions when returning it?] [Wing: Doubtful that they would have left her alone with a copy from the archive for just that reason, but I’ll accept that logic for Sweet Valley.]
The missing article is about a kidnapping that has still gone unsolved. An L.A. girl was kidnapped but never returned after the parents paid the ransom.
That night before dinner, Alice admonishes Steven for trying to eat too many of the pizza toppings and then for losing the phone book (omg phone books) and for forgetting everything lately.
It’s Elizabeth’s turn to set the table again, because apparently they take turns but we never get to see Jessica’s or Steven’s turn. (Well, often Jessica convinces Elizabeth to do her work for her, I’m sure.) [Dove: Having read the majority of these books, I have never once seen Steven do a “girl” chore regularly. We only ever see him cleaning the garage or mowing the lawn. He does not do the womanly work.]
During Jessica and Steven’s bickering, Elizabeth is reminded of that message and wonders if Mary had been able to temporarily escape from her kidnappers long enough to call them when she couldn’t get ahold of her mother. This is really reaching, but sure, why not.
Elizabeth tells Jessica and Amy everything, and they try to figure out what to do next, because they can’t go to the police again. Which is probably true, but why not talk to your mom, at the very least? Or your dad? Or anyone other than assuming three twelve year olds have this on lock.
On Monday, Mary still hasn’t shown up for school, but instead of coming up with a plan to find her, Elizabeth and Amy mock all the articles the Unicorns have been submitting. So this is going well, and also, I’m sure the Unicorns are the only snobby, mean girls in this school.
At another table during lunch, Jessica brings Lila and Ellen up to speed. Mrs Arnett, the teacher who assigned them all to study Mexico (which is why Elizabeth and Amy were at the library before), overhears them and says that Mary is in Mexico doing her research (what) and Mrs Wallace called Mrs Arnette to tell her about these plans (what what).
Jessica is super confused by this, but Lila calls it a silly story that Mrs Wallace made up to cover the fact that Mary’s been gone nearly a week. Surely more than a week at this point? Whatever.
Amy and Elizabeth stop to do some grocery shopping for Amy’s mother after school where they see the woman from the library. (Jessica is convinced this woman is Annie DeSalvo, of course.) They sneak around, hiding and watching her (completely not subtle and also sans trench coat, because they are not nearly as cool as Jessica). The woman is completely oblivious even when they knock over a stack of cookies.
They follow her out of the store and, again, people follow a car on their bikes. This time, though, they manage to keep up with her due to traffic (wait, are you telling me Elizabeth is better at this than Jessica and Lila put together?) and find her parking in a driveway in an older section of town.
Elizabeth and Amy come up with a plan: they’ll go home for dinner and then come back later. Later, of course, they are going to be joined by Jessica, Lila, and Ellen, because they are all worried about Mary, too. Amy brushes all of this off, because Amy and Elizabeth certainly aren’t snobs in their own right.
Of course, by the time they get to Lila’s house, the Unicorns want to push Amy out, but Elizabeth holds firm. Lila also tries to take charge and tells them to follow her plan, which she hasn’t actually figured out yet.
This is clearly going well.
They keep arguing as they hide and watch, which is super realistic for this group, and get startled by a cat, and eventually, Elizabeth and Amy sneak over to try to see inside. Elizabeth climbs onto Amy’s back (literally stepping on her) and sees the woman in the house, but she’s alone.
They can’t get in through the back door because the stairs are rotted and the door nailed shut, but they can get in through a broken basement window. THIS IS HOW HORROR MOVIES START, ELIZABETH.
(I would love for this to be a horror movie.)
They go back to tell the others their plan, and see two dark silhouettes against a shade in an upstairs window. The taller one is moving around, the smaller one seated and unmoving. [Raven: I saw this as being three people in the house: the woman downstairs and the two silhouettes. Anyone else similarly confused?] After seeing that, the girls have to go home so their parents don’t worry (I mean, you could always FUCKING TALK TO THEM) (and except for Lila, who only agrees to go because the others are leaving — she says nothing about her father expecting her home, of course), and they make plans to come back the next night. (Well, 6:30 p.m., which is more like evening, but this is a place where concerts happen in the afternoon.)
The next day, Jessica and Lila are running late to meet the others (because Lila called Bruce after dinner for some fucking reason what the hell), and then the heel comes off Lila’s sandal. She orders Jessica to find her a rock so she can pound it back on, which is actually pretty rock star of her.
Amy and Ellen argue about why Jessica and Lila aren’t there, but not why Elizabeth isn’t there, because who cares about Liz Wakefield, right? She turns up a few minutes later, anyway.
The kidnapper leaves the house then, and they waffle over what to do. (Ellen wants to wait for Lila, of course.) Amy and Ellen continue to fight, until Elizabeth calls them on their shit. (For once, a fantastic voice of reason.) They decide that Ellen will stay behind while they go inside, but Ellen ends up getting into the basement before they do, because Amy called her a chicken.
Amy goes in after her, leaving Elizabeth outside. What? Elizabeth doesn’t get to go in to save the day? No, wait, can’t get my hopes up, I’m sure she still will before this is over. [Raven: More than happy to have Team Peripheral Character take centre stage!]
Amy quietly tries to find Ellen, but can’t; suddenly she hears a crash from upstairs and sees headlights swing into the driveway. She hides behind a sofa, which is a great hiding place, clearly.
Amy freaks out, because she can’t get out the front without being heard or out the basement without being seen.
Outside, Lila and Jessica finally show up. The new plan is that Elizabeth goes inside and Jessica and Lila will call the police, but Jessica not only wants to stick with Elizabeth but wants Lila to come with them because she’ll be useful if they have to fight off the kidnapper. I mean, she did show some skill with that rock earlier.
Amy finally sneaks upstairs and finds Ellen on the floor in one of the bedrooms, a bruise over one of her eyes. The crash Amy heard was a chair breaking; it was set up like a booby trap over the top of the door. [Dove: Did Kevin McAllister stage this kidnapping?]
They hear the kidnapper coming, and Amy rushes to hide in the closet door. She calls for Ellen to follow her, but Ellen is groggy after taking a chair to the head (as she fucking should be) and doesn’t make it. (Gee, Amy, way to leave her behind.) [Dove: Um… well… that’s awkward. Sweet Valley have just pwnd Point Horror on the realism of head injuries.]
The woman walks into the room and drops her glass on the floor; Ellen tries to get out the window but the sash is stuck. The woman launches herself at Ellen, they knock over a lamp and put out the light, and Amy hears Ellen scream.
At Ellen’s scream, Elizabeth and Jessica rush into the basement though Lila is freaking out about not wanting to go inside and needing to call the police. Well, she’s not wrong about that. She ends up following them anyway, though, trying to be brave. Oh, Lila. My heart.
Lila freaks out over cobwebs on her hands and the spiders (don’t blame you, Lila), but eventually they make it up to the first floor and then the second floor. They get into that bedroom and find Ellen turning on a lamp and Amy sitting on top of the kidnapper, holding a chair leg.
Ellen is completely besotted by how Amy saved her life, and I immediately start shipping them. (Come the fuck on, Wing, god.) [Dove: You’re not alone. That was my favourite part of the book. I adore this trope. And I also adore Ellen (aside from that one book).]
In all the excitement, they all forget about Mary until Elizabeth asks about her. They find her in a dark alcove, tied to a chair, mouth gagged.
EXCEPT SHE’S NOT FUCKING MARY OF FUCKING COURSE.
It’s Becky Kern, the girl who was kidnapped from Los Angeles. (Or at least a girl who was kidnapped, I guess.) (The woman is Rita Partman.)
Lila calls the police and plans to take all the credit, but Amy points out that everyone else did all the fucking work.
Anyway, the cops show up, Amy and Ellen keep saying really nice things about each other and talking about how they’re a good team (MY SHIP), and the police don’t know anything about Mary being missing.
“That’s OK,” Amy said. “Elizabeth already offered me a ride. I can go with the Wakefields.”
“But I want to give you a ride,” Ellen pleaded. “Please?”
I bet you do, Ellen. I bet you do. (WING, THEY ARE TWELVE DON’T BE A STEVEN.)
AND THEN MARY HAS BEEN IN FUCKING MEXICO ALL THE TIME. With Mr and Mrs Altman. Remember, her former foster parents. Who are helping her and her mother work on ways to get along. Mary did call Steven to tell him the amount in the treasure, which is $49.10, and she asks Jessica if that is enough to have a party.
They catch Mary up on what’s been going on, and it turns out Mrs Wallace was taking some of Mary’s clothes to the church for a bazaar; those clothes are too small for her now. She also took Max to the cleaners. Why didn’t Mary take him with her? Whatever, I’m trying not to use too much logic here.
Jessica, Lila, and Ellen talk about the party they are going to throw, and Ellen wants to invite Amy because she saved her and all Ellen talks about lately is Amy and seriously, I ship them hard. Somebody write me fic, please. [Dove: On it.] [Wing: BFFs.]
Lila wants to know if Jessica ever talked to Elizabeth about the Sixers, because even if they’ve been busy saving people, Lila knows what’s important: getting media coverage for the Unicorns, no matter how small the paper. Jessica agrees she’ll talk to Elizabeth.
“We need something that covers all our activities. After all, the Unicorns are the most important people at Sweet Valley Middle School. Right, Ellen?”
But Ellen hadn’t been listening. “Jessica,” she said, “do you think Amy would rather have an outdoor party by the pool or one at the skating rink?”
Jessica and Lila just looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
I SHIP IT.
When Jessica really does talk to Elizabeth about the Sixers and the Unicorns, Elizabeth flat out says that the Unicorns never do anything that people want to read about. Elizabeth says that if they got an interview with someone important (say, Donny Diamond), she would publish it, but Jessica points out that no one else has to do anything that major.
Finally, Elizabeth says that Jessica should write a short article updating everyone about all the latest news, but she has to keep it to 200 words. Jessica freaks out about that being too small, but Jessica, you never write anything anyway, so why are you so worried?
Elizabeth says she’ll try to make room for it on the front page, which probably means she won’t make room for it anywhere, and now there is setup for the next book, The War Between the Twins.
As usual for both Sweet Valley and for books of this nature, the premise of the mystery was absolutely fucking ridiculous. Mrs Wallace being so reluctant to just flat say anything about where Mary has gone is complete, fabricated bull shit just used to drive the story forward. [Raven: Disagree strongly. Mrs Wallace and Mary are having trouble connecting. Mary’s OLD FOSTER PARENTS offer to take Mary to Mexico to give both Mum and Daughter some time apart. Mrs Wallace, who surely has doubts about her strengths as a parent, given the circumstances, is bound to feel pretty shitty by being usurped by the Good Parental Figures like that. I TOTALLY buy that she was evasive and embarrassed about the whole thing, hence her reluctance to admit to the truth at any point.] [Wing: I still don’t buy it. Out of town is an easy as hell thing to say, and all the secrecy just draws more attention to Mary being gone and the trouble Mary and Mrs Wallace are having.]
The rest was super fun, though. I loved the team-up and how realistic it was, both for twelve year olds and for their characterizations, obviously I loved the hell out of Ellen and Amy bickering and then Ellen coming around to adore her, and I was delighted by how Ellen and Lila, in particular, overcame their fears to be heroes. That kicked ass.
[Dove: Agreed. If I ignore everything that led to the plucky girl detectives part of the story, I love this. If I pay attention to it, it drives me up the wall because it’s so stupid that Mrs Wallace is deliberately wording things and withholding information in order for the plot to progress. However, I adore the Amy/Ellen parts, which is a trope I love so much. It breaks my heart that there’s no holdover from this book in future books.]
[Raven: Excellent story. It actually felt like a mystery, and the characterisations were spot on. I too loved Amy / Ellen, and Lila was fabulous of course. My one issue lies with the twins randomly finding the paper used to make the ransom note on some bench in the mall. But I can even forgive that, as this whole story had a weird Lemony Snicket vibe I enjoyed; the plot is allowed to be ludicrous if the peril is presented as real, and I definitely felt the peril here. Great stuff!]
[Wing: That’s a good point RE ludicrous plot if the peril feels real, which it did. This was such a good way to start the year.]