Title: Lois Strikes Back
Tagline: Has Bruce gone too far?
Summary: Winner takes all…
Lois Waller has always been too shy about being overweight to join in school activities. When the Sweet Valley PTA decides to have a bike-a-thon, Lois finds the courage to take part. It’s a chance for her to win a brand-new mountain bike—and it’s the perfect opportunity to put snobby Bruce Patman in his place.
Everyone at Sweet Valley Middle School knows how much Bruce bullies Lois. Although Jessica Wakefield thinks that anything Bruce does is perfect, her twin sister Elizabeth disagrees and is on Lois’s side. Elizabeth thinks Lois has a good shot at winning. But she doesn’t know how far Bruce Patman will go to see Lois lose!
At last! A book about a peripheral character I (we) love! I’m sure this will go a long way towards rectifying the cruelty inherent in each and every one of her previous appearances!
Let’s assess the cover…
THAT’S Lois? REALLY?! She’s LITERALLY EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE AS EVERYONE ELSE. I’m guessing that the artists missed a memo, and the publishers thought “fuck it.”
Also, THAT’S Bruce?! THAT’S the cutest boy in the whole school? He’s got a face like a slapped arse!
[Dove: This is the thing that really annoys me, because it either means that Lois is a pound or two heavier than the “normal” kids and must be treated like she’s the size of a house. Or she’s bigger than that, and we cannot possibly have a heavy girl on the cover of a book about pretty, thin, perfect people.]
This, I feel, will be a Tricky Recap.
We all love Lois. Hell, I wrote a song about her. And by “I”, I do of course mean “Stuart Taylor” (our musician friend). And by “Stuart Taylor”, I do of course mean Johnny Buck. Ahem. (Oh, and mild spoilers for Dove’s excellent NaNo Fic lie within… go read the Fic. Seriously. Yes, I DO mean you.)
This book, which we’ve been looking forward to recapping for a while, can only be a disappointment… right?
I fear the fat shaming will be rife in this one.
Let’s get this party started!
We start at school, with the usual “twins are the same, but NOT THE SAME” bimblepoop. These sections are so old and worn after 40-odd books. Whole paragraphs seem encased in amber.
In homeroom, the sexist Mr Davis (“What’s wrong with being sexy?”) has news of an interesting contest. It has a great prize (yay for Jess!) and is for a charitable cause (yay for Liz!). Apparently, after off-screen success in soucing funds for library books, the SVMS PTA has decreed the school library needs some video tape recorders and a selection of tapes.
Sadly, they don’t tap up the region’s premier tea-leaf, instead opting for a charity bike-a-thon.
Quick notes on the following quote…
“Can we get the Indiana Jones movies?” someone called from the back of the room.
“What about Batman?” someone else asked.
Mr Davis smiled. “I’m afraid instructional tapes are what the library had in mind.”
First, ACTUAL CONTEMPORARY MOVIE REFERENCES. Albeit character / franchise names and not actual films. Nice! [Dove: According to Michael Grant, they’re not supposed to do that.]
Second, I get that the tapes should be largely “instructional” in a school library, but it’s a pet peeve of mine that academia always has to force instructional or educational into every facet of its existence. There’s NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING FUN. But no, EVERYTHING needs to have some form of “lesson,” which just sucks all enjoyment from anything. It’s so patronising to have some smirking teacher leer “and what have you learned about geography today” in a supercilious tone when you’re trying to play a nice game of Risk with your classmates.
I genuinely believe it’s a serious issue. Learning how to have fun – no-strings, basic, breathless fun – is important, and school can just knock that out of you. Just get a copy of Batman on VHS, you library twats. Let the kids relax now and again.
The Bike-a-thon fundraiser is a sponsored event. Each participant collects sponsors who pledge to pay X coins per mile ridden. The “winner” – i.e. the participant who raises the most money – received a cool eighteen-speed mountain bike! So, actual cool prize there.
So. The course is thirty miles, leaving the formula thus:
Total Revenue = Sponsorship Pence Per Mile x Miles Completed
Whoever brings in the highest Total Revenue wins the bike. Uncollected pledges don’t count.
As you can probably guess, I have an issue with this system. It MASSIVELY favours the rich. If Lila wants this bike, Lila will get this bike. Ken Matthews has 10 sponsors, each promising a dollar a mile, and he rides all 30 miles to raise $300 dollars. Lila simply gets her father to sponsor her for $350 per mile, rides one mile (to the Dairi Burger) and wins the big prize. It also favours those with a large selection of friends and acquaintances, so lonely bikers will lose out too. [Dove: At primary school, we always had to do the [location] Walk, which is 24 miles, and I had the same problem, few friends, not as rich as the others in class, I’d feebly bring in about £5, while others brought in hundreds.]
[Wing: Almost any sort of school fundraiser supports those whose parents are rich or whose parents can take the sales sheet to work and have their coworkers buy everything. We didn’t do a ton of walks or bike rides to raise money, but we did sell products to raise money for band (alas, we never got any sort of “Band Candy” type shenanigans
to my continued disappointment). My family couldn’t afford to buy a bunch just to support me, and my parents didn’t work jobs where they could take the catalog and sales sheet in and do the sales for me, so I never earned the prizes. Not to mention the year where Brother Raptor was also in band with me, and so we would have been trying to sell to the same people. (I don’t think either of us tried to sell anything that year.) And sure, some kids were just great at door to door sales, but that is never going to be my strong point. It involves playing nice with people.]
On the other hand, I do quite like the way it takes the focus off the Jock participants in the way that a First-Past-The-Post prize would. There is also a special prize for anyone who finishes the course, because thirty miles is a LOT of miles. It’s at least six more than twenty-two miles, and perhaps even more miles than that.
The excited children hurl questions at their teacher. The most surprising classmate to show an interest is… Lois Waller! Here’s how she’s thrust into the spotlight of her own fucking book:
Lois Waller raised her hand. She was a shy girl who was self-conscious about her weight. She usually didn’t say much in class because she was afraid someone would make fun of her.
Given her treatment by the actual ghostie in previous books, I’m a little heartened that they didn’t start fat-shaming here. What could have been “she was a fat monster” becomes “she was a shy girl who was self-conscious about her weight.” So yay. I guess.
After questions subside, Mr Davis hands out sponsorship cards to all interested parties. The bike-a-thon is planned for the following Saturday, and Elizabeth can’t wait. [Wing: It always seems like they do things at the last minute. One week (or less?) to get sponsors? That’s not a great way to raise the money the school needs.] [Raven: Sweet Valley Middle School, doing things in an ad hoc and slipshod manner? Surely not!]
Jess collars her twin as they both head for their first class. As usual, her mind whirls into unexplored territory, and she’s spotted a snag in her grand plan to snag the Bright New Bike.
“It’s going to be nearly impossible for me to get sponsors. Everyone else can get pledges from both their parents and all their brothers and sisters, but I’ll have to divide our family up with you.”
Gotta admit, Jessica’s got a point. It’ll be all kinds of screwy across Sweet Valley. Nora Mercandy has no parents, so she’ll have to rely on the generosity of Marvellous Marvin. Sophia Rizzo only has a mother, and a poor mother at that, and to make things worse her brother Tony just lost out on supplying a load of VCRs to the local board of education so there’s be no help there. And Mary Wallace has foster parents, and a birth mother and a step-father, and even some fucking kidnapping parents or some shit, so she’ll be making mad drug money, y0.
For some reason, that last paragraph reminds me of a tweet I recently saw that made me laugh a great deal…
Boss: Business is bad, we are losing money hand over fist.
Employee: *hands over fist*
Boss: Thank you, I shall sell this fist and make money.
*taptaptap* Is this thing on?
Elizabeth, for once, isn’t falling for her twin’s soft soap, and she refuses to bow out to help Jessica’s sponsorship chances. Doesn’t matter either way, Liz… the book’s called Lois Strikes Back, so I’m pretty sure that neither of you Twinzis are getting your hands on a new bike this week.
At lunch, all canteen talk is of the bike-a-thon. Elizabeth and crew have the same idea they always have: a Sweet Valley Sixers special edition! Fuck me, ladies, can’t you come up with something more original?
Lois approaches with her lunch tray, and asks to join them. She sits, and comments on how she’s excited about the bike-a-thon too.
Elizabeth and Amy exchanged glances. Lois was so self-conscious about being overweight that she hardly ever participated in any activities. Trying to hide her surprise, Elizabeth asked, “Are you going to ride?”
“Definitely!” Lois replied.
Now Elizabeth was really surprised.
“You want to win the bike?” Amy asked.
As we know, these books have a fair chunk of fat shaming running through them, like a seam of lard woven through a glistening black pudding. There seems to be three distinct levels:
- Nasty kids mocking fatties (well, just Lois) for being too damn big
- Well-meaning but misjudged fattist commentary from the other characters
- The ghost writer mocking fatties for comic effect
Honesty? I’m fine with Level 1. It’s from nasty kids like Bruce and, well, Jessica, and generally used to show that the characters are nasty. I mean, it’s not wonderful – it’s lazy writing, and it does reinforce the appalling notion that being fat is a ‘bullyable’ trait – but it is an established literary tick akin to the serial killer being cruel to animals. And there is generally some payback in the long run, or so you’d hope.
Level 2, like the quote above, is more alarming. These characters are supposed to be the defacto ‘good’ people, and still they tread the same old tired boards of discrimination. Their words mean well, but they still come from the wellspring of “fat is bad and must be punished.” Showing Elizabeth as “really surprised” that Lois was up for a physical activity makes we want to kick her in the chin.
Level 3? You can just FUCK RIGHT OFF with that shit.
Anyway. I’m sure this ain’t the last time I’ll be bringing up the issue of fat in this recap.
Lois wants the bike as she’d like a paper route. Cool. [Wing: But … doesn’t she already have a bike? So she could already have a paper route? I mean, I’m not judging any of the people who already have bikes for wanting this allegedly better bike, but there’s nothing stopping her from getting a paper route with the bike she has. Or without a bike at all.]
We cut to the boys: Ken Matthews, Patrick Morris and Winston Egbert. They discuss the bike. Then Bruce Patman rocks up.
What do we know about Bruce? He’s rich and cute, so Jess and the Unicorns love him. But he’s a complete spam-badger, so Elizabeth (and the rest of the ‘right’-minded crew) detest him.
Bruce isn’t sure he’ll enter the bike-a-thon, as his current bike is apparently a fucking Nimbus 2000.
Yes I know the Firebolt is faster. But Nimbus 2000 is funnier.
As Bruce makes to leave, he spots Liz, Amy and Lois. He looks at Lois’s lunch, and lists the contents to the rest of the cafeteria. Lois’s lunch?
- One ‘huge’ helping of spaghetti
- Two pieces of garlic bread.
- Chocolate milk
- Cake and ice cream
Apparently, this is hilariously large. Really? It’s a question of scale. Bruce calls it a banquet, Lois calls it a lunch, I call it an amuse-bouche.
Also, garlic bread? GARLIC bread? Garlic… and bread? [Dove: You’re better than that joke and you know it. I’m ashamed of you, the (British) readers are ashamed of you. The site would like to publicly distance itself from this feeble statement that sits in the unimaginative side of British consciousness under the heading of “comedy”.] [Raven: Pffft, behave yourself. Too good for Peter Kay, are you? Sure, it’s an old joke, but observational comedy was once the In Thing. It’s not like I’ve linked to a Chubby Brown video. Go join the bloody Snob Squad, you ridiculous stand-up hipster.]
“We’re going to have to change your name to Lois Walrus if you keep going at this rate,” Bruce said loudly.
People start tittering, and Lois is upset. Bruce, his job done, swaggers away.
Lois Walrus? Really? That the best you got, Patman? Oh, how I wish Lois would go all Cyrano on this assbutt.
Also, this line annoyed me, I expect for the right reasons:
Bruce just ignored her. “What’s this? A piece of cake, and ice cream? Lois, I don’t think you need both of those, do you?”
What a bellend. Believable fat-shaming nonsense. As Level 1, it gets a pass from me. I guess.
Lois ends the chapter declaiming that she wished Bruce would leave her alone.
At the Wakefield Compound that evening Jessica complains to her mother about the grave injustice regarding twins and sponsorship. Eventually, the men of the house return from their foraging mission. They have hunted and killed some Chinese Food for supper. Too much food, it seems…
“My loving sister is making fun of my appetite, for a change,” Steven said with a grin. “I can’t help it if I’m a growing boy.”
“You’re going to be growing out instead of up if you keep eating the way you do,” Jessica warned.
FUCK OFF, Jessica.
Steven is often presented as a gannet. He’s always got his head in the fridge, and his eager appetite is a source of constant derision. This Level 2 bollocks grinds my gears here as it once again assumes that Being Fat Is An Unspeakable Sin.
Don’t eat that! You’ll get FAT. And Getting Fat is WORSE THAN SUPER-AIDS.
As they eat, Jessica continues her plea to the family in an attempt to gain traction in Operation Get All The Sponsors Instead Of Elizabeth. Eventually, in the spirit of fairness, the Elder Wakefield promise to pony up a dollar a mile to each twin. Even Steven proffers a nickel a mile.
After dinner, Lila Fowler and Ellen Riteman join Jessica for a ‘homework’ session. AGAIN, talk turns to the bike-a-thon.
Lila, predictably, confirms that her rich absentee father will likely cough up any amount required.
Ellen can’t be arsed entering.
The three witches then begin to assassinate Lois Waller’s character, with MORE fat shaming. The highlights:
- Jessica calls Bruce’s recital of Lois’s foodstuffs “the Walrus-menu”.
- Ellen doubts Lois could ride one mile on a bicycle.
- Lila posits Lois won’t top one mile an hour.
Of course, Elizabeth is listening in. She glares disapprovingly, collects her coloured pencils, and leaves with a single retort:
“Lizzie, you were having lunch with Lois today,” Jessica said. “Is she really going to try to win the bike-a-thon?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth replied. “And I think it’s really terrific!” Before the girls could ask her any more questions, Elizabeth took the pencils and left the room.
Way to go, Liz. Weaksauce.
Before the subject changes to Johnny Buck, Jessica gives us this gem:
“You know Elizabeth. She always feels sorry for someone.”
You’re not wrong, you blonde sociopath. You’re not wrong.
Apparently, the ol’ JB has a new album coming out: Pass the Buck. I doubt it contains his Lois Waller song, Either way, Lila’s record-company-working uncle has promised to ship his favourite niece a copy of the album as soon as it’s finished, before it’s shipped to the record stores! [Dove: Clearly trying to make up for the dance debacle in the last book.]
As I believe we’ve mentioned before in the podcast, THIS IS SO MUCH BULLSHIT. Lila’s uncle would be fired on the spot for leaking Johnny Buck’s album before release date. Nevertheless, Lila promises to let the Unicorns (and the Unicorn-adjacent) come visit for a listen the very second it arrives.
Later that evening, Liz and Jess briefly tackle the subject of Lois. Elizabeth is much stronger in her disapproval of Jessica’s outlook, especially the following line:
“Come on, Elizabeth,” Jessica said. “People like Bruce are always going to give people like Lois a hard time. That’s just the way things are.”
Unfortunately, Jess, I suspect you’re right.
Next day, in the lunch line, Lois is the butt of Bruce’s rapier wit once more. But this time, the tables are turned. As Lois brandishes her tray and adjusts her book bag, the dandling straps get tangled in Bruce’s nearby feet. He stumbles, falls arse-over-tit, landing face down and covered in Mac N Cheese.
Lois is horrified. It was an accident.
Bruce is LIVID.
[Wing: Wing is DELIGHTED.]
The lunchroom monitors from the hallowed Eighth Grade task Bruce with the cleanup.
As the Red Mist clings to Bruce’s angry face, various Eighth Graders mock him in a largely identical way to his own treatment of Lois. Kids, it seems, are ALL asshats.
Bruce was furious. Usually, people didn’t make fun of him. And he especially didn’t appreciate being ridiculed now.
So, opportunity for learning, long term? Have Bruce realise that his own insipid brand of bullying is hurtful and wrong? Probably not. Let Bruce be blind by his own idiocy, I guess. I mean, we’ve hundreds of books yet to come, pretty hard to blow one of your baddie’s main schtick a fifth of the way into the series.
Sitting in the relative comfort of the bosom of his peers, Bruce vows to strike Lois down with great vengeance and furious anger.
He doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He just knows that it’s going to be trouble!
At the next Sweet Valley Sixers publication meeting, the Good Kids discuss… the bike-a-thon. Amy suggests they interview participants about their techniques for gaining sponsors.
“Ken Matthews went over to the bus station and asked people to sign up,” Patrick told her.
“And I heard that Grace Oliver asked people in line at Valley Cinema,” Julie said.
WTF? That’s not how sponsorship works, is it?
My memories of participating in sponsored events at school involved asking friends and relatives for pledges, then knocking on doors around my neighbourhood and doing the same. Maybe asking my parents to ask their friends and workmates too. It did NOT involve approaching total strangers.
I mean, in the line at the cinema? You don’t know these people! You’d need to either force the money to be handed over there and then, before the bike-a-thon occurred, or get their address and show up on their doorstep the following week. I guess I can get behind that… but canvassing the bus station?!
“So that’s a dollar a mile! Thanks. Where do you live so I can come collect next week?”
I know what I’m talking about in this regard. I did a sponsored games session at the age of thirteen, playing board games for 96 hours round the clock (in shifts, of course; we’re not animals). It was a world record attempt at the time, but our tally was beaten by a US team doing the same thing for 216 hours, and their attempt finished in the middle of ours. Bellends.
Jessica, it seems, is trying to drum up sponsorships by accosting strangers at the Sweet Valley Mall. I suppose that’s fine. At least they’re probably local, like those stood in line at the cinema. She’d tried tapping up her father’s help, asking him to canvas the law firm in which he works, but Daddy Wakefield don’t play like that.
Why not? Just take a form round the office, you stingy twat. “Oh, people might feel like they have been put on the spot.” SO WHAT? They’re LAWYERS, they don’t really count as people. (Hehehe!) [Wing: Truth.]
[Wing: Ah, but generally, the lawyer just hands it off to their assistant and (also generally), she is tasked with getting pledges from other support staff. Lawyers are far too busy with billable hours, you know.]
Attempts at the mall are not going well.
Here’s what Jessica should do…
- Encourage Elizabeth to gain loads of sponsors.
- Secretly copy them from Liz’s sponsor sheet to her own.
- After the event, rise super-early and collect all the sponsorship money claiming to be Elizabeth, before her goody-two-shoes twin gets a chance.
- Ride off on a SWEET NEW MOUNTAIN BIKE, flipping the bird at the world.
Twin Magic FTW!
Alternately, I’m sure Mr Nydick would sponsor all the girls for fifty dollars a mile, as long as they ride him instead of their bikes.
She bumps into Bruce, who casually mentions that he’s not yet decided to enter the bike-a-thon.
Bruce suddenly pointed in the direction of the fudge store. “Hey, look. There goes Lois Waller, getting something to feed her face, as usual. I don’t know anyone who eats as much as she does.” His gaze followed Lois into the candy store. “Lois hasn’t heard the last from me.”
“Lois hasn’t heard the last from me”…? Really? I mean, you’re name is nearly Batman, but that’s no reason for your dialogue to come straight from a comic-book. [Dove: Also, Bruce, meet Steven. That boy eats more than anyone else in the United States, never mind Sweet Valley.]
Nice try at being menacing, you dick. You’re Sweet Valley’s own Henry fucking Bowers. [Dove: No. Henry Bowers is one of my favourite villains of all time. Bruce is a fat-shaming date-rapist with the emotional depth of a thimble.]
Later, the twins conclude that they are both unlikely to gain enough sponsorship to trouble the bike-winning crowd. In fact, in a gathering of Unicorns that Monday, it seems the tide has turned on the bike-a-thon.
Lila, Ellen and Janet decide they won’t ride. Jessica is on the same page, naturally, and vows to pull out too. Obviously, the Elder Wakefields would be disappointed.
You’re just going to have to make sure they don’t find out, Jessica told herself.
In class on Tuesday, we learn how the participants are doing with their sponsorships.
Winston Egbert has twelve.
Amy Sutton has nine.
Ken Matthews has thirteen
Lois Waller has… twenty-three!
“That’s terrific, Lois. It looks as though you’re going to be the class leader,” Mr Davis said.
Lois, with her big family, also had the idea to put up lists in local stores, for the passing customers to pledge if they desired. It worked. And it’s… pretty cool, to be honest. Look at the big brain on Lois! [Wing: Still not sure how that sort of pledging is working. Are strangers leaving their addresses, or at least their phone numbers, on a public sign-in sheet?]
The rest of the class are impressed. Amy reminds Lois that she’ll need to ride as far as possible too. She’s concerned, but determined to do her best. Nice work, Lois!
In the lunchroom, Bruce Patman holds court with his own Crabbe / Goyle (Scott Joslin). He deduces, correctly, that the bike-a-thon means a great deal to Lois. Therefore, as ‘punishment’ for tripping him – IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, YOU HORRIFIC WASTE OF SKIN – he vows some form of payback. Presumably this will involve Bruce using his considerable wealth to muscle past Lois’s total and win the bike for himself.
Later that evening, Bruce asks his parents to sponsor him for the bike-a-thon. His parents agree, after some cajoling, for the sum of ten dollars a mile. Each.
Six Hundred Dollars.
Yeah, that’ll do it.
The Elder Patmans are happy that their son is taking part in such a charitable enterprise. I guess it’s refreshing to see that Bruce actually has nice parents with sound morals, but I’d always presumed that Bruce got his awful ideals and personality from rich snobby parents who basically brought up their progeny in their own distorted image. Shame, it seems Bruce is like Bruce because he’s just a prick. [Dove: But they’re hardly doing a steller job of parenting, even if they’re not as toxic as him.] [Raven: Fair point.]
At the Wakefield Compound, the family discuss the bike-a-thon plans for that Saturday. Liz, covering the shit-show for the Sixers, plans to ride with Lois Waller in a journalistic capacity. Jessica is, naturally, evasive. Later that evening, Jessica tries to enlist Elizabeth into helping her skip the ride.
“Maybe if you help me explain … They’d take it better if it came from you,” Jessica pleaded.
Elizabeth climbed into bed. “Sorry, Jessica, I can’t do it,” she said.
For this book, it seems, Elizabeth Has A Spine! Yay new tags!
The next day, Bruce Patman plans the cruellest way to let Lois know he had her prospective sponsorship total beaten. Revenge is a dish best served cold, so he chooses to bide his time. All he need do is twirl an imaginary moustache and he’d be full-on panto villain.
Lois is alarmed. She clocks that Bruce is spending an inordinate amount of time just staring at her, and discusses with Elizabeth the ways in which he is likely planning to pounce.
Lois spent a nervous lunch period waiting to see what Bruce would do. She made sure that all she had on her tray was a salad and a plate of Jell-O. Let Bruce inform everyone in the cafeteria of that if he wanted to!
Lois, no! Don’t let him win! You’d better have a motherfucking donut in your pocket, girl!
Bruce makes his move at the lockers. He corners our heroine, and shows her his… sponsorship form
“Your parents pledged ten dollars a mile!” Lois exclaimed.
Lois does the quick maffs (skraaa pop pop) and deduces she’s in the shitter. Crying, she runs from her taunting oppressor… straight into the arms of an angel. Well, Elizabeth Wakefield. Same diff. Saint Liz whisks her to the Dairi Burger, where she and her friends promise to help Lois through her difficult times.
They knock their heads together and pore over Lois’s sponsorship forms. Crunching the numbers, they deduce that Lois is only $1.50 per mile behind Bruce, with $18.50 per mile against Bruce’s $20.00 per mile. Not so surmountable after all, with a final push in the remaining thirty-six hours before pledges are closed.
Leaving the Dairi Burger, Lois is enthused. Although Julie Porter rightfully pointed out that literally everyone in Sweet Valley had sponsored someone, so she was rather out of options.
She calls in on her mother, who works in a local nursing home. He mother is taking the pulses of the residents, and is currently engaged with a tough old bird called Mrs Williams. Presumably no relation to Samantha Williams or the San Francisco Williamses. Mother Waller enquires about her daughter’s day, and Lois’s frustration comes pouring out. After unburdening her soul she finishes thusly:
“If I could only find a few more sponsors, I’d at least have a chance of winning, but I can’t think of anyone else to ask.”
“Well, you haven’t asked me yet,” Mrs Williams said with a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh, no,” Mrs Waller interrupted. “I told Lois when this whole thing started that she couldn’t possibly bother the people who live here.”
GET FUCKED, Mrs Waller! A nursing home is the PERFECT place to ask for sponsors. The infirm have trouble running away!
Eventually, Mama Waller agrees to let Mrs Williams sponsor her daughter, before sashaying off to clean out an old man’s catheter with a small pipe cleaner. She orders Lois not to bother anyone else.
Mrs Williams, it seems, has a rebellious streak. She offers to help Lois raise more pledges from the residents of the home.
“It gets boring around here. Rooting you on in the bike-a-thon, hearing about how you did – I’m sure many people here would enjoy that.”
“Do you really? But how could I ask them when my mother told me not to bother anyone?”
Mrs Williams smiled. “You don’t have to bother anyone. I bother people around here all the time.”
Lovely. Old people are fucking ace. Kindness is Magic.
(Seriously, the first series of this – six episodes – are some of the best TV I’ve ever seen.)
The day of the bike-a-thon dawns at the Wakefield Compound. Jessica is still angling to excuse herself from the whole thing when she is interrupted by the phone. It’s Lila… who’s just taken delivery of Johnny Buck’s as-yet unreleased album! She invites Jessica to a Unicorn-Only listening party that afternoon… the afternoon of the bike-a-thon!
“Everyone else will be here at one o’clock,” Lila informed her. “I’ve asked a few boys over, too.”
Jessica has her deadline. The bike-a-thon starts at midday, and the Album Party starts at one. An idea forms in her devious little mind… she exits the house in a mysterious way before returning.
After a breakfast back-and-forth (“Lois is the best!” – “No, Bruce is the best!”), Papa Wakefield checks the girls’ bikes… only to find that Jessica’s has a flat tyre!
WHAT A SURPRISING TURN OF EVENTS.
Steven fixes it. Because that’s what Stevens do. Jessica’s ruse is rumbled… she admits to her parents that she wants to ditch the bike orgy for an Album Party.
Heh, “An album party”… best not get the spaces wrong in that phrase. Her mother makes the following declaration:
“You can go after the race if you want, but you have made a commitment that your father and I expect you to keep.”
Poor, naïve Alice. Do you even know Jessica?
In private, Jessica tells Elizabeth of her plan. Start the race, drop out super-early, and head straight to Lila’s for an afternoon of hot Bucking with the boys. Elizabeth doesn’t like the deal, but she has to go along with it. [Wing: Why in the world would Jess even tell Liz? Liz is riding with Lois because of the Sixers, and Jess will be off elsewhere. She could get away with this damn easily.]
At the bike-a-thon, Bruce is primed and ready to go. Jessica tells him of the Album Party at one pm. He promises to finish the race as quickly as possible and head over to Lila’s ASAP. Amy is tasked with keeping pace with Patman and reporting on his progress for the Sixers. Bruce isn’t impressed, and promises to blow her off as soon as the race begins.
Liz is tailing Lois, who is awed but determined.
Each rider is given a punch-card. A parent, deployed at checkpoints a mile apart, will punch each competitor’s card as they pass. Collect all thirty punches, complete the course!
When the whistle sounds, the bikers depart at speed. Bruce darts away on his Nimbus 2000, with Amy in hot pursuit. Soon, the riders are thinned, and bringing up the rear is Lois and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth couldn’t remember when she had ever ridden at such a snail’s pace. Her legs seemed to be going in slow motion. She glanced over at Lois, who was rhythmically riding along. Lois didn’t seemed too concerned that they were falling further and further behind.
Is it too much to ask for Lois to be, y’know, actually half-decent at riding a fucking bike? [Dove: Right! Everything Lois does has to be fat. Thin girls walk, Lois lumbers, Liz rides a bike, Lois goes at a snail’s pace.] [Wing: Alternatively, Lois is conserving energy for what is a fairly long bike ride. Many of her classmates burn out much earlier than she does, so it’s a smart strategy. Could have been way the fuck better written though, GHOSTWRITER.]
The checkpoints come and go. Five miles, ten miles. Lois is tired, but determined to give it her all. Eventually, the course got the best of her, and at the twenty-second mile checkpoint, she called it a day.
Twenty-two miles…. Damn, girl, that’s awesome!
Unfortunately, twenty-two is not thirty.
The long and the short of it?
If Bruce fails to finish the race? Lois wins the bike.
If Bruce finishes the race? Bruce wins the bike.
That evening, a tired Elizabeth calls Amy to check on Bruce’s performance. Amy is useless in this regard, as although she’d kept pace with Patman for eight glorious miles, he hit a higher gear and raced away shortly after. Amy carried on and completed the thirty-mile course, but Bruce was nowhere to be found at the finish.
Nice work, Amy! Thirty miles is great. And apparently, all competitors that finished the full thirty received a voucher for a free ice cream sundae at Casey’s Place. Amy offers to split hers with Elizabeth the following day.
Jessica returns home, full of inanities about Johnny Buck’s new album. Elizabeth listens obligingly. But balks at one incidental fact in particular…
“Who else was at Lila’s?”
“Everyone! Janet and Ellen and Scott Joslin, a couple of other Unicorns, and a few more seventh grade boys. Bruce Patman showed up, too.”
Cheaty, cheaty Bruce… rocking up to the Album Party like it ain’t no thing.
Elizabeth presses her flighty twin further. After determining that Jess had flaked from the bike-a-thon after four measly miles (HAH!), she discovers that Bruce arrived at Lila’s not long after her sister, a little after one pm.
Like a well-cooked gravy… the plot thickens.
The following day, after splitting a humongous sundae with Amy at Casey’s Place, Elizabeth collects her sponsorship cash from her family. Jessica’s lacklustre effort of four miles is a severe disappointment to her parents, which makes Jessica feel pretty low. Too late, you lazy ingrate.
Back at school, the bike-a-thon was still the hot topic. Everyone is impressed by Lois’s twenty-two miles, but the real question on everyone’s mind… How did Bruce Patman finish? It doesn’t take long for the big reveal…
Bruce swaggers in, claiming he’d ridden the whole thirty miles. His proof? A cheque for six hundred dollars, and a race punch-card with thirty checkpoints punched.
Game, Set, Match… Patman.
Bruce, ever the gracious winner, demands his photo in the Sixers.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Elizabeth muttered.
“You know, if Lois Waller had won, you would have splashed her picture all over the paper. And it would have taken up a lot more room than mine.” He laughed at his own joke; a couple of other joined in.
Sigh. Nice one Bruce, you ridiculous louse. I sincerely hope you get a paper-cut on your scrotum, which then gets infected and causes your plums to swell to the size of cantaloupes.
Elizabeth vows to tell Lois the bad news before Bruce can. She spies her in the lunch room, and invites her to join her table (with Grace Oliver and Cammi Adams, apparently). Sadly, before she can, Lois is cornered by Bruce, who piles on the humiliation with a mean-spirited trowel.
“Hey Walrus, did your pal give you the news?” he asked jovially.
“Yes.” Lois answered quietly.
“Aren’t you going to congratulate me?”
“I guess so.”
“So say it. Say ‘Congratulations, Bruce. I went only twenty-two miles, and you finished the course.”
See, I guess we should actually applaud the ghost writer for this shit. Because I really do want to punch this fucking prick in the eye. Yay?
Bruce and his pals Syltherin it up with guffaws and back-slaps. Scott Joslin even suggests that Bruce gives Lois the ice cream gift certificate as a consolation prize…
Of course, Bruce has no idea what about the ice cream gift certificate.
Why? Because he didn’t finish the race? Maybe…
Elizabeth overhears Bruce’s confusion, even though he attempts to laugh it off. She’s becoming more and more suspicious of Patman’s bike-a-thon claims.
The Sainted Liz invites Lois back to the Wakefield Compound for a snack. While there, we have the following trite exchange:
“How about a snack?” [Elizabeth] opened the refrigerator door and peered inside. “We could have ham sandwiches or turkey.” Then she looked in the freezer compartment. “Or ice cream.”
“I’m trying to stick to a diet,” Lois said shyly.
Elizabeth turned and looked at her friend. “That’s wonderful.”
“I’ve lost two pounds already. I guess that bike-a-thon was good for something.”
Of all the passages in this book, I think I hate this one the most.
First, there’s Elizabeth. Immediately assuming her “fat” friend wants a snack. [Dove: In Liz’s defence — and I hate saying that — these kids always eat after school.]
Then there’s the snacks offered… ham sandwich? No? Turkey? No? How about ice cream! Yeah! You love that, don’t you! Yes you do! You love that ice cream! Mmmmm! Go on, shovel it in!
Finally, there’s poor and broken Lois. “Nothing for me please. Starvation is the path to happiness. I deserve to be bullied. I tried to ride a bike, but it was a waste of time.”
FUCK this bullshit. I’m having a bloody cake. One of these, as it happens:
Egg. Fucking. Custard.
Anyway, back to the book.
[Wing: I am not sure how I feel about this dessert. For other people who may not be familiar with it, either, here’s a quick breakdown I pulled from a recipe site: Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl until completely combined. Pour egg mixture into 6 custard cups; sprinkle tops with nutmeg. Place cups in a baking pan and fill pan with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Bake.
I should try it before I judge it, but so far, it sounds like a strange mix of desserts.] [Raven: You really should. They are AMAZING.]
Jessica arrives, and hates the fact that Lois is in the Compound. Get fucked, Jess. She and Elizabeth discuss Bruce, with the usual he’s=dreamy-he’s-sleazy point and counterpoint. Jessica unwittingly supplies more fuel to the conspiracy theory: Bruce arrived at Lila’s dishevelled and cranky!
Lois, overhearing , questions Liz’s interest in the bike-a-thon result. Liz promises to spill the beans once she’s figured it all out.
After preparing dinner (where the fuck is Alice?), Elizabeth decamps to her Thinking Tree. She considers the evidence:
- Bruce arrived at Lila’s very quickly.
- Bruce didn’t seem excited that he’d won.
- Bruce knew nothing about the ice cream certificate?
Did Bruce finish the race?
Also, she missed the most important piece of evidence:
- Bruce is a cock.
In the next chapter, Lois visits the retirement home and collects her pledges. The residents are warm and consoling, and the entire exchange is lovely. They congratulate her on a thoroughly spiffing twenty-two miles, and enquire on the identity of the winner.
“Oh.” Lois had been trying to forget about Bruce. “It was a boy named Bruce Patman. He… he isn’t very nice to me.”
“Oh, yes,” Mrs Williams said. “You told me about Bruce the other day. Well, don’t let him get to you. He’ll get his comeuppance.”
Damn skippy, Mrs Williams. Nice work, Jamie Suzanne. #TeamPeripheralPensioners
After dinner at the Wakefield Compound, Elizabeth bikes to Amy’s house. There, she fills her friend in on her theories. Amy is amazed, but soon comes to believe the whole shebang.
The issue? The cheque for six hundred dollars, and the completed punch card. This conspiracy flan comes with two particularly wiry pubes embedded in the filling.
As she rides home, Elizabeth happens upon a baseball game finishing up. Various seventh and eighth graders were embarking on their journeys home. Bruce Patman was there… without his Nimbus 2000.
Like the American Presidency… the plot thickens!
Mind whirring, Elizabeth returns home to find Jessica has discovered her notes on the conspiracy! And she’s appalled at her meddling sister. Why can’t Liz see that Bruce is innocent? After all, he’s much too cute to be a wrongun! [Dove: Is this the point where Jessica tries to make a case that Bruce is being oppressed by Elizabeth’s virulent and unwarranted hatred?] [Raven: I do believe it is!
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Jessica cajoles Elizabeth into making a bet. If Elizabeth can’t prove that Bruce is a cheater by the end of the week, Elizabeth must do TWO FULL WEEKS of Jessica’s chores. If Liz can prove her conspiracy, Jessica returns the favour.
Looks like Jess is truly boned. [Wing: Yeah, like she’ll do those chores. She doesn’t even do her own chores.]
With three days to prove her theory, Elizabeth is worried. At school, she discusses strategy with Amy. They consider and discard various strategies, including sneaking into Patman Manor and searching for his bike, before settling on asking their classmates if they saw Bruce finish the race.
They ask Ken Matthews. No dice.
They ask Grace Oliver. No potatoes.
They ask everyone they can think of. No fucking luck of any kind.
“I’m afraid the kind of proof we‘re looking for only comes when the subject confesses.”
Elizabeth stared at Amy. “A confession! That’s it! That’s exactly what we need.
The next passage starts like this:
Jessica was lying in the lounge chair on the Wakefields’ patio, listening to a tape of “Pass the Buck” [the new Johnny Buck album].
Not only did Lila coerce her uncle into supplying her with a pre-release copy of Johnny Buck’s new album, she made bootleg copies for her friends?!
Someone’s getting FIRED in the morning!
While enjoying the smooth tunes of the Buckster, Jessica ponders her sister’s bike-a-thon theories. Could it be true that Bruce cheated? Elizabeth, on the other hand, wracks her brains for a solution to the confessional conundrum. Eventually, she has a brainwave… a plan forms, but she’ll need Lois’s help to finalise the details.
The following day, in the school cafeteria, the trap is sprung. Elizabeth, Amy and Lois sit eating their lunch, when Bruce approaches to set the ball rolling. With his customary swagger, and the entire room hanging off his every word, he begins the Belittlement of Lois Waller in earnest.
First, he taunts her with his victory, asking her how it felt to be beaten by the Pattinator.
Lois throws a curve ball, and soft-soaps him right up.
“Thinking I could beat you was really dumb,” Lois said.
Bruce eyed her suspiciously. “You mean you finally realise that?”
“I’d have to be pretty silly not to,” Lois answered.
“I guess you would,” Bruce said, starting to smile.
As everyone listens in rapt attention, Elizabeth shifts gears. She piles on the pressure, questioning Bruce about the logistics of his victory in the guise of a Sixers journalist. Nice work, Liz!
Bruce begins twisting and turning in his lies, as all involved press their advantage. Happily, it’s Lois who delivers the coup de grace.
“What I don’t understand,” Lois said, “is how you could have gotten to Lila’s house before two o’clock. You not only had to finish the bike-a-thon, you had to ride all the way over there. It doesn’t seem possible.”
“I, uh…” BruceFloundered. …
“Don’t worry,” Lois said, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence. “I understand. You were so afraid that I would beat you, you had to cheat.”
“Are you crazy?” Bruce cried. “Me afraid that you would beat me? There’s no way you would have won if I hadn’t crashed and smashed my bike after eight miles!”
Looks like Sweet Valley Middle School could handle the truth after all.
In the wrap up, we see that Lois makes the Sweet Valley Sixers. Bruce receives his comeuppance, as foretold by the Pensioner Prophets earlier in the book. Lord and Lady Patman graciously allow the school to keep their six hundred dollars, in light of their son’s deception. Overall, the bike-a-thon raises over three thousand dollars. If they can’t stretch to a copy of Batman on VHS, the PTA should be rounded up and shot.
Lois finally receives her mountain bike in a packed school assembly, and gives the following speech:
Lois cleared her throat. “It’s a real honour to be standing up here. Getting the pledges was hard, but riding twenty-two miles was harder.”
Everyone laughed good-naturedly.
“I’m glad I was able to help my school and, well, that’s it, I guess. Thank you.”
As speeches go, if I’m perfectly honest, that’s a bit fucking shit. I love Lois, mostly, and I’m glad she’s got her own book, but she’s a bit bloody wet. I think Dove’s version of Lois – feisty, sarcastic and kick-ass – has warped my expectations. Seriously, go read her Nano fic. #FanonLois4Lyf
Jessica lost the bet, so spends the next two weeks doing all of Elizabeth’s chores. Or, more likely, she does one day of chores before Liz caves like a pothole. In fact, that’s the lead in to the next book… can Jessica act like a responsible member of society?
I’m guessing that’s a NO.
I really wanted to like this book. It had some fun aspects. And yay, Lois Waller gets her five minutes of fame! Go Lois! Holla Holla!
But in the end, it didn’t really do it for me. Lois was a bit of a dishcloth. Bruce was a complete tool. The fat shaming was rife, and by that I don’t mean the Level 1 stuff, I’m talking Level 2 and maybe Level 3.
I did like the old folks in the Nursing Home.
Ah well. They can’t all be zingers.
[Dove: I’m the same here, I want Lois to be much cooler than the writers make her out to be. She’s pretty feeble, and she needs Liz to save her. I wish she was more feisty and saved herself, rather than relying on Liz to come up with a cunning plan.]
[Wing: The nursing home parts were great.]