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Sweet Valley Twins #43: Elizabeth’s First Kiss

12
Mar 2018

Sweet Valley Twins 43: Elizabeth’s First Kiss, by Jamie Suzanne (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)

Title: Elizabeth’s First Kiss

Tagline: Elizabeth is in love!

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield has known Todd Wilkins since she was a toddler, but she’s never noticed how cute he really is, until she sees him dancing with her sister, Jessica. Now Elizabeth can’t stop thinking about him—and everywhere she goes, Todd turns up, too. Could he actually like her as much as she likes him? Elizabeth wishes she knew more about boys. But when she finally asks her twin for some advice on the subject, she makes a terrible discovery: Jessica has a crush on Todd, too!

How can Elizabeth fall for a boy that her sister already likes? There’s only one honorable thing to do: forget Todd and never let Jessica know she cares. But that’s not going to be an easy thing to do

Initial Thoughts:

THAT’S Todd Wilkins?! But he’s about eight!

I dunno, I expected the Glorious Todd Wilkins to be… cool? Dashing? At least “blonde”, for some reason. Not this nervy looking gimp, dressed as a tomato and carrying the Horn of fucking Gondor.

[Dove: Mostly I remember this as “the tween version of Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love”. But it’s actually better, because, in general, Twins is better than High, and Grapplegate are better than most, if not all, ghosties.]

Recap:

I remember my first kiss.

In the podcast that’s coming up on Friday (go listen to it, we’re hilarious), we share our first kiss experiences. On reflection, the “first kiss” I discuss (no spoilers) was actually my first French kiss, with tongues and everything. It was a complete disaster. Jessica’s first French kiss is coming up is Mademoiselle Jessica, I presume.

No, my first actual kiss was when I was nine, I think.

At school at this age, I was in love with a girl called Caroline. She was two years older, at eleven. In order to drum up the courage to ask her to be my girlfriend, my chosen course of action was to ask a couple of other girls out. Test the water, so to speak. I never in a million years expected any of them to say yes, of course, an attitude that plagued me well into my twenties.

One said yes.

I can’t even remember her name.

My first kiss was with… I want to say Belinda? We kissed in the playground one morning, sat on a wall, both our heads covered in my coat so no one could see us.

It was stifling, deep within the parka. Her breath was strong with garlic and onion.

[Dove: He’s lying, his first kiss was with me. And my breath was minty fresh… I guess this joke only works if you know Raven was 30 when he met me.]

So… the book?

We start with the girls of Sweet Valley still gripped in a tsunami of Boyfriend Fantasy, setting the scene for the hormone-fuelled sausagefest to come. And of course, we learn about just how ALIKE but how DIFFERENT the sainted twins really are.

Elizabeth likes non-threatening androgynous boys. Jessica likes dirty rock-stars with prison tats.

Elizabeth likes holding hands and walks on the beach. Jessica likes rimming.

Elizabeth likes five to seven inches, with a slight uplift. Jessica demands nine inches, lintel-straight and as thick as a coke can.

[Dove: … and that is why we keep getting blacklisted from Facebook.]

Amy and Elizabeth discuss the beauty of sisterhood, which of course is lost on Liz’s floppy-haired bestie. Then, a wild Todd Wilkins appears, riding by on his bicycle. As the talk turns to boys, Amy comments on his cuteness. And a bell rings in Elizabeth’s tummy.

Liz has known Todd since the womb, but it’as only now she admits to seeing him as the throbbing hunk of boy-meat he apparently is. But there’s an issue: Jessica likes him too! In fact, as Jess is an action-packed go-getter, she even danced with Todd at Aaron Dallas’s recent shindig.

Amy turns the talk quickly to Ken Matthews, her on-and-off paramour since book six or similar. He too is cute, it seems, but then he can fit into your pocket and discrepancies in scale always crack me up.

“Did I mention that Ken stopped by after Booster practice yesterday to show me his new bicycle?” Amy asked.

Elizabeth laughed. “Only twice,” she said, thinking that this was probably the perfect time to tell Amy how she felt about Todd. But she wasn’t sure she was ready to share her feelings. It was all new and strange and even a little scary. And anyway, she felt funny telling Amy something that she couldn’t even share with Jessica—and Elizabeth definitely knew she couldn’t talk to her twin about Todd.

So there we have the story in a nutshell. Liz likes Todd. Jess likes Todd. Todd likes Jess. Liz can’t talk about any of it. Amy likes Ken. No one likes Amy. Amy is a bellend. [Dove: Well, she could have been happy with Ellen, but Grapplegate sunk my toy ship.]

Exciting!

Jessica, with everyone’s favourite megabitch Lila Fowler, is blathering on about Todd. Apparently, Todd had talked to Jessica about bowling. Lila asks whether Jess thinks this means Todd is about to ask her to bowl him over (or something), to which Jess replies with a “maybe.”

“You are so lucky.” Lila frowned and let out a big sigh.

Lila’s father was one of the wealthier men in town, and Lila always got everything she wanted. Now, for the first time in her life, Jessica had something that Lila didn’t—a boyfriend. Jessica was pleased at Lila’s reaction.

“I never thought you would be the first of the sixth-grade Unicorns to have a real boyfriend,” Lila went on.

… What?

Since when did “maybe he’ll ask me to go bowling” translate to “we are now boyfriend and girlfriend” …? That makes no sense at all. Like, I’ve nearly asked a lot of girls out over the years, does that mean I can add a few hundred girlfriends to my OkCupid profile?

[Dove: Actually, I found this quite believable. The Unicorns have decided they’re the prettiest and most popular girls in the school, without actually asking anyone if that’s the general consensus. So it only stands to reason that if a boy talks to a Unicorn, he must a boyfriend. What boy wouldn’t want to be a Unicorn trophy hunk?]

Aside:

Note to Dove: I DO NOT HAVE AN OKCUPID PROFILE.

I prefer Ashley Madison.

Aside in an aside:

Note to Dove: I DO NOT HAVE AN ASHLEY MADISON PROFILE.

End aside in an aside.

I’m getting divorced, aren’t I?

[Dove: Not until you’ve moved everything we own to the correct floor of our new house. It has three floors. And a basement. That’s a lot of fucking stairs.]

End aside.

Back at home, Jess natters with Ellen on the phone, about boys of course. Now Jess has a boyfriend, and her newly-pierced ears, no one could call her a baby.

Jessica talks Todd, and Ellen talks Rick Hunter. As luck would have it, while Jess is on the phone, she spots Todd cycling past the Wakefield Compound! He must be stalking her! That’s so dreamy!

[Dove: Sidenote: Raven looked up the url for this video and didn’t hit pause before we went to the shop. We came back to our cats lying on the sofa blissfully while Kenny G played. Now, either our cats are very proficient at YouTube but have questionable music taste, or YouTube was trolling.]

Jessica spills the beans to Ellen, who admits that Todd really must like her. This makes Jess smile.

Jessica couldn’t decide which was more fun—being around Todd or talking to her friends about him. It was great to be able to talk to her friends about him, especially since the idea of talking to him was still a little scary. What was even more exciting to Jessica was that she would be the first of all of her friends to have a boyfriend.

So there we have Elizabeth’s “out” – Jessica doesn’t really like Todd, she just likes the thought of having a boyfriend. So once Liz realises this, she and Todd can frot away in perfect harmony.

And yay for Jess. Literally anything in trousers.

Ellen then provides the hook to what might be my favourite Sweet Valley Twins line in the entire series so far…

“Hey, Jess,” Ellen went on. “Did I tell you that Rick Hunter gave me part of his candy bar today after school?”

“Really?” Jessica said, feeling a little disappointed. Giving someone a candy bar was better than riding by on a bicycle.

Hahahahaha!

“Giving someone a candy bar was better than riding by on a bicycle.”

PERFECTION.

Aside:

This was the point I realised that the whole “I have spoken to this boy, we are now married” thing was wonderful. I needed reminding that this whole thing is the viewpoint of CHILDREN. If a boy “might ask you to go bowling”, of COURSE it means you are now a couple. Of COURSE it does.

This entire book is filled with great innocent assertions and ideas, straight for the minds of sixth graders. And it’s GLORIOUS.

Nice work, Jamie Suzanne! Grapplegate kicking it out of the park.

End aside.

Next up, we see the B Plot. It’s Steven’s love live. Apparently, he’s dating a girl that calls him Stevie. Jessica finds this ridiculous.

As Jessica listens in on their private phonecall (like a boss), we learn this new girl is Candice Stapleton. And she is ALL IN on Stevie. Stevie, it seems, is INCREDIBLE.

“Oh, Stevie,” Candice said with a sigh. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your taking so much time to give me all this expert help. Why, I’d just be lost in Sweet Valley if you hadn’t come along and rescued me. It’s so wonderful to know I can count on you.”

Jessica grimaced. How could Steven stand listening to this stuff?

Steven is naturally pleased with himself. I guess that’s fair. Candice is a step up from masturbating into Jessica’s knicker-drawer, after all.

That evening, we have a wonderful scene of self-awareness from Jessica and Jamie Suzanne. Jessica needs to borrow clothes from her long-suffering twin, but she realises that, at times, Liz has been rather anal regarding their swift and uncrumpled return. She starts small, by requesting socks.

Jessica grinned at her twin. “Elizabeth, I can’t find any clean socks in my room. Can I borrow your blue ones to wear tomorrow?”

“Sure.” Elizabeth put her magazine down. “They’re in the top drawer.”

JESSICA HAS NO MASTER. JESSICA IS A FREE ELF.

Jessica ups the stakes to a new blue t-shirt, and Elizabeth agrees. Surprised, Jessica wonders if something is amiss. Elizabeth is distracted. Why? Boys, that’s why.

“Well, I wanted to ask you about, uh, well, about boys.”

“Boys?” Jessica thought she wasn’t hearing her twin right. Elizabeth had never been interested in boys. In fact, Elizabeth had always made it clear that she thought Jessica spent far too much time worrying about boys. Now suddenly she was asking about them. Something strange was going on.

Jessica leaned forward eagerly. “What about boys? Any boy in particular?”

“No, not really,” Elizabeth said, looking away. “I just wanted to know if you were, um, interested in somebody special…” She paused and started again, sounding flustered. “I mean, how would you go about getting him interested in you?”

Bless Elizabeth! This is actually super-cute.

Jessica is astounded. And thrilled. Elizabeth, talking about boys?!

Jessica waxes lyrical with the advice, loving every minute. Her tips for success:

  • Every boy is different.
  • Girls need a strategy.
  • The best thing to do is to feign interest in one of their hobbies.

Aside:

I was thoroughly charmed by this entire scene. Lovely.

End aside.

Jessica turns the questions to her twin. What – or who­ – is the source of Elizabeth’s newfound obsession? Elizabeth remains quiet. After making a few incorrect guesses, she tries a new tack… and talks about how much she likes Todd.

Bad move, Jess.

Jessica stood up. “I’m really glad we had this talk, Elizabeth,” she said happily. “I’m so excited that you’re interested in boys now. You’re finally catching up to me, even though you are the older one.” She hugged Elizabeth’s socks and T-shirt to her chest. “This is going to be great, Elizabeth. Now you’ll understand how I feel about Todd.”

“Todd makes you happy, I guess,” Elizabeth said.

Jessica sighed. “Every time I think about him I get goosebumps all over, and the shivers, too. And I’m losing my appetite.” It wasn’t quite true, but she had read a book once where that was what had happened when the heroine fell in love.

Another lovely exchange.

The twins move downstairs for popcorn and a movie. As they prepare, in rocks Steven, with a girl on his arm. He tries to bogart the snacks for his date, so they can watch ice hockey in the den together, but Lindsay shuts him down.

Lindsay.

NOT Candice.

Steven’s got two girls on the go. My playa!

So very wrong.

Lindsay, it seems, takes no shit. Jess spills the beans about Steven not actually liking hockey, and Lindsay declares she’d rather watch the match with her hockey-mad family than someone who wasn’t really arsed. She leaves with a confident smile, and Steven follows obediently.

I like Lindsay. She’s feisty. And too good for Steven, the two-timing ratbag.

(Although I do agree with Steven. Watching ice hockey is garbage. It’s just too fast to keep up with the movement of the puck.)

[Wing: You are wrong like a wrong thing. Hockey is wonderful, if better to watch in person right up against the boards so you can really feel when a player is checked into them. Ostrich agrees with you about the speed of the puck. Silly men.]

The chapter ends with Elizabeth ruminating on Steven’s strategy of attraction. Pretending to like Ice Hockey to get into Lindsay’s pants… exactly what Jessica suggested for her own attempts at facilitating sexual congress.

Next day, the Unicorns talk boys in the corner booth at Casey’s place. THIS WILL BE A CONSTANT THEME. Once Jessica discloses that her sister is on the prowl for a fella, talk turns to Elizabeth. Jess tells her friends that she gave her sister some advice on attracting a mate, and the less acerbic Unigibbons declare that such sage counsel might bear fruit.

“I doubt it,” Lila said. “Elizabeth needs more than just advice on what to talk about. She could use some help with her appearance, too.”

“What do you mean, Lila?” Jessica demanded hotly.

“Don’t be so defensive, Jessica,” Lila said. “You’ve got to admit that even though Elizabeth is your twin, she’s not too fashion-conscious. In fact, most of the time, she dresses like she’s back in elementary school.”

Lila Flower, ladies and gents!

The Unicorns pile onto the Light Half of the Yin Yang Twins, and Jessica secretly agrees. Lila suggests Liz could do with a makeover, and Jess is totally on board.

Doing a makeover for her twin sister will be all kinds of wrong, surely? It’d be like making over a belligerent wriggly mannequin of yourself.

On the other hand, this could be Jessica’s chance! If Liz gives her carte blanche to upgrade her look, Jess can go wild. I’m sure Jess has often wondered what she’d look like with a Mohawk, or no eyebrows, or completely bald… fire up the clippers, girl! Now’s your chance!

As Jess leaves Casey’s Place with Mary, she sees her brother ordering ice cream with a non-Lindsay girl. Once the girl opens her mouth and utters the word “Stevie,” Jessica knows exactly who it is…

Candice, the Other Woman!

Mary and Jess watch Steven’s date. They reach a number of conclusions:

  • Candice is a flirt.
  • Stevie is lapping it up.
  • Jessica prefers Lindsay, as “she doesn’t let Steven push her around.”

In point three, Jessica and I are in full agreement.

Jess decides to get her troll on, and interrupts the two lovebirds. Steven is mortified. After some good-natured ribbing, Jess lets him off the hook and slinks away with Mary. Once outside, Mary giggles.

“Poor Steven,” she said. “You really scared him. He thought for a minute that he was going to have to sit there with you and Candice.”

Jessica grinned. “More than that,” she said. “He thought that if I sat down I’d spill the beans about Lindsay.”

Aside:

Gotta say, both the A Plot and the B Plot are shaping up nicely.

Sure, the A Plot thus far is in its infancy, but it’s definitely promising. It’s a classic love triangle, after all.

The B Plot? It thematically dovetails with the main plot, which is a nice change (instead of disconnections, stuff like “In this week’s book, Elizabeth enters a Spelling Bee, and Jessica stabs a penguin.”) It’s also moving along nicely.

Great work.

End aside.

On Sunday, Elizabeth is distracted from her homework. It appears that hell has frozen over at last, and the twins will be commuting to school on a Zamboni going forward.

The cause for distraction? Todd.

In a breathtaking bout of self-awareness, Elizabeth feels she needs to update her look in order to appear more sophisticated. Because that’s what preteen boys love: sophistication.

As luck would have it, Jessica appears. Liz asks her twin if she would perm her hair. Jess jumps on the chance, and offers a beauty lesson in exchange for a loan of Elizabeth’s purple skirt.

Wait, what?

Elizabeth has a purple skirt?

But purple is the Unicorns’ colour!

I know what you’re thinking: just because it’s the colour of the Unicorns doesn’t mean that Liz can’t rock it. And in thinking this, you’d be quite wrong. Let’s look at the evidence:

  • Elizabeth dislikes the Unicorns. She calls the “the Snob Squad” (apparently). She wouldn’t choose
  • You’re telling me that Lila or Jessica wouldn’t have mentioned it if ANY OTHER STUDENT WORE SOMETHING PURPLE, let alone Elizabeth? There would be a book about that shit for sure. If they can write a whole book about pig fucking Latin (ithig), they can write a book about The Day The School Wore Purple.

[Dove: I’m still waiting for Lois Waller to rock up clad head-to-toe in purple with a sign that proudly proclaims, “Purple is a fat colour and we’re taking it back!” The panic among the Unicorns would be spectacular. And I’d really love to see Lois do anything other than “lumber” about and apologise for being fat.]

While Jess applies the makeover, she grills Elizabeth about her secret crush while chatting about the hot Todd Wilkins. Elizabeth doesn’t share, of course. Keeping the A Plot ticking.

Soon, the makeover is complete. And Jessica has created… another Jessica.

Elizabeth stared at herself in the mirror. She could hardly believe what she saw. Her silky blond hair fell in soft, shining curls around her shoulders. Her cheeks and lips glowed with a soft shade of pink.

“I look just like you,” she said.

Jessica laughed. “Of course! We’re identical twins.”

Lovely stuff. SO perfect of Jess to turn Elizabeth into Jessica 2.0. [Dove: I adore this. The fact that Jessica’s only thought when it comes to improvement is, “She needs to be more… me!”]

Elizabeth ain’t so sure, but she applauds Jessica’s work ethic regardless before washing the makeup away.

Jess nips downstairs to fetch the latest Arsey Cocknballs tape (or something), and clandestinely discovers something disturbing.

Steven.

In the Den.

With Lindsay.

DANCING.

WTAF?

Seriously, is that a euphemism?

Dancing with your date, alone, in a room of your house? That’s not actually a thing, surely?

As Jess bolts for her bedroom to tell Elizabeth all about it, the phone rings. Steven answers it, and Jessica listens in. It’s Candice!

Of course, Steven blows her off with outright lies, telling the poor girl that he was busy doing something important with his father. So much bullshit.

Monday arrives, and Jess persuades Liz to go to school dressed to the nines in order to impress her crush and to show off Jess’s makeover prowess. Elizabeth doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.

At school, Amy doesn’t recognise her best friend, because Amy is a melon. And the sixth grade is abuzz with Liz’s new look. The Unicorns are complimentary, at first at least (FREE UNICORN WITH EVERY PURCHASE OVER £30!).

And the boys are lapping it up.

Lila quizzes Jess over the identity of Elizabeth’s crush, and then badmouths the notion of sisterhood when Jess reveals that Liz hasn’t told her. Poor lonely little rich girl, striking out against something she’ll never have, until the news of Papa Fowler’s promiscuous affairs hits town.

On her way to English, Jessica is approached by the Boy of the Moment, Todd Wilkins. He thinks she’s Elizabeth. Way to go, Brainiac.

In this marvellous exchange, we discover that Todd definitely likes Elizabeth rather than Jessica (he shapes up to ask “Elizabeth” on a date before he realises it’s Jessica), and that Jess is much more concerned with the appearance of having a boyfriend than with Todd himself (Jess believes Janet Howell seeing them together is “almost as good” as Todd asking her out).

Aside:

Again, the A Plot is shaping up nicely.

It’s less action-packed than we usually see – full of asides and conversations and illicit yearnings – but it works well in telling the story it’s telling. The whole “he-said-she-said” feel is very schoolyard.

Nice work, Grapplegate.

End aside.

Once Todd realises he’s not speaking to the managing director of his wank bank, he fucks off.

Next, we learn the school is overwhelmed with the talk of Jess and Todd’s budding relationship, thanks to party dances and Caroline Pearce and Janet Howell. Jess loves it.

In the Unicorner, boy talk continues apace, and Lila tires of Jessica’s talk of the Toddinator (as she’d rather talk about her crush, Jake Hamilton). In a fit of pique, she challenges Jessica to shit or get off the pot, daring her to go have lunch with Todd.

Jess, our glorious Jess, squares her shoulders and marches into battle. Straight to Todd’s table, where he’s sitting with friends. She sits and flirts a little as the other Unicorns pile over.

Lila, Ellen, and Mary were crowding around the table, pulling up chairs and talking and flirting with the boys. In all the talk and laughter, Jessica and Todd didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the lunch period. But Jessica didn’t mind at all. The only thing that mattered to her was the fact that the two of them were sitting together, side by side, where everybody in the entire cafeteria could see them. When Todd and his friends got up from the table and went outside to throw a football around, she waved good-bye, smiling happily. It had been a very successful lunch, after all.

Nice work, Jess.

BUT WILL THERE BE REPRECUSSIONS?!

Of course there will.

After lunch, we discover that Elizabeth isn’t enjoying the new attention that her bold look is creating. The boys are crowding rounds her like flies on shit, but they’re not the boy she wants to notice. And to make matters worse, she’d noticed Todd and Jessica sitting together at lunch, and this distressed her more that she’d care to admit. Poor Elizabeth!

Girl, want my advice? If you’re looking to up your chops in the dating game, ask a few non-Todds out to pluck up courage before scaling your Everest. That way you can snog a Colin or two (with garlic and onion breath) as practice for the Main Event.

Yeah, scratch that. It’s a terrible course of action.

Also, as Elizabeth’s revelations come during a Mr Nydick class, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tackle the following line:

Blushing, Elizabeth sat up straighter and tried to fix her eyes on Mr. Nydick’s slide of Washington crossing the Potomac. But she couldn’t keep her mind on what he was saying.

I feels ya, Lizzie. It’s tough to focus on the screen when the projectionist has his cock out.

After the class, Jess corners Liz and claims she knows the identity of her secret crush: Jim Sturbridge. The massively-sexist -boytoy-of-Belinda-Leyton Jim Sturbridge. Apparently, Jess had spotted Liz and Jim exchanging notes (off-screen). It’s innocent – it was a homework thing, obviously, as it’s Elizabeth – but Jessica sees her arse anyway as Liz won’t confess the truth.

In conversation with Amy, Elizabeth admits she feels uncomfortable with her new look. Her friend compliments her change, with caveats, and Elizabeth is pleased.

Back at the Unicorner, the Gibbons are still trying to deduce the identity of Liz’s crush. They suggest the usual plethora of wastrels and lost causes, before Lila comes up with a scheme…

Jessica narrowed her eyes. “What have you got in mind?” she asked suspiciously.

“You’ll love it, Jessica,” Lila said. She leaned forward. “We’ll let all the boys know that Elizabeth’s looking for a boyfriend.”

“What’s so funny about that?” Ellen asked.

“Elizabeth will have more boyfriends than she can handle,” Lila answered.

Lila pitches this as a harmless little prank, but I think it’s anything but. It’s rotten, and mean, and brilliant.

We know that Jessica will go along with this, even though it doesn’t mention that yet. Of course she will, it’s what the narrative demands. But I think it’s terrible of Jess, as she’s genuinely loving her opportunity to bond with Liz over something at long last. A great deal is made of Elizabeth’s disdain for all thing Unicorn, and boy talk, and shopping trips, and, well, Jessica. I think Jess wouldn’t throw her sister under the bus this time, as they have grown closer in this book and Jess should appreciate this change a little more than she does.

[Wing: This is a great point. We’re seeing a trend of Grapplegate writing them as getting closer as sisters without losing the ways they clash. It’s good work.]

That afternoon, we have something we’ve all been waiting for… Elizabeth and Todd finally interact!

In a gloriously awkward exchange, Todd tries to ask Elizabeth on a date. Bowling. Elizabeth thinks bowling is Meh, and says so.

LIZ, YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID BOWLING IS STUPENDOUS! YOU COULD HAVE DONE THE HAND GESTURES!

There are pauses, and dry mouth, and embarrassing goodbyes, and over-thought analysis after the event. Liz even bursts into tears after Todd leaves!

Was bowling the kind of thing that Jessica had been talking about when she’d advised Elizabeth to find out what a boy was interested in? Did Todd like bowling? If he did, Elizabeth was sure she had completely ruined any chance she had with him. She had even confessed how clumsy she was. How could she have said such a stupid thing to somebody who obviously liked bowling and was probably very good at it? She had made a terrible mess of the entire conversation! Todd Wilkins would never want to talk to her again.

Aside:

This is great, and so different to what we usually get.

So often, Elizabeth is shown as the Girl Who Knows Everything. She’s the voice of reason, the correct course of action, the guiding hand. It’s no surprise that the truly special books have Elizabeth ignoring her infallible moral compass and following Jessica down the rabbit hole, as no one likes a character that gets it right all the time.

So having Elizabeth flounder like this, her moorings dashed against the rocks and floating into open seas, is refreshing.

There’s no nagging voice to point her in the right direction.

She simply doesn’t know what to do.

Love it.

End aside.

Amy breaks her friend out of her fugue of crushing doubt. Apparently, there’s new bowling place in the mall, just opened. All the cool kids are talking about it. Some of them are talking of visiting soon…

If this place isn’t called the Sweet Valley Bowlorama, tables will be flipped.

Amy and Liz see Steven with Candice, and we move to the next chapter.

As dinner is being prepared that evening, the Wakefield Children go about their business. Steven arranges a date, via telephone, with Lindsay. They plan to go bowling that Friday. Jessica pulls the old “but what will Candice say about that” routine, which pisses Steven off.

Elizabeth, lightening the mood, asks Steven about the new bowling alley. Jessica joins in the conversation.

“I know Todd likes to bowl,” Jessica remarked. “He and Aaron Dallas were talking about going at lunch today. Elizabeth, maybe we should go to the bowling alley on Friday. We might run into him there.”

Liz, now understanding why Todd was wittering on about bowling, isn’t too excited to attend. She doesn’t want to see Jessica nibbling on the ear of her own major crush, after all.

Then a thought struck her. If she ran into Todd at the bowling alley, would he remember that he had mentioned bowling to her and think that she had come there on purpose, just to see him? He might think it was a little strange, since she hadn’t been very enthusiastic about bowling when he’d asked her about it. Just then another thought occurred to her. What if Todd had actually wanted to invite her to go bowling that afternoon? If he did want to ask her, she had ruined everything by telling him that she was a terrible bowler.

Hah! More pointless introspection and over-analysis from Elizabeth. Very pre-teen angst, Love it.

[Dove: Also, I like that this actually fit the trope it was playing. Quite often you only see half of it, where two inept fools are trying to negotiate a date without saying so, and keep getting the wrong end of the stick. And then they agonise over it. This actually completes that step by Liz actually being dragged bowling by Jessica, after telling Todd she was rubbish at it, which actually does imply that she’s quite likes bowling but doesn’t like him. Quite a lot of tween nonsense I read back in the day only did the first half – the agonising conversation.]

As the Wakefield Family gorge on hamburgers, Candice phones for her apparent beau. Steven again lies through his teeth, claiming he can’t see her Friday as he has family commitments. Angry Ned demands his son slam the phone down immediately and come eat the meat he prepared with his powerful man-fists, so Steven promises Candice he’ll see her Saturday and rejoins the table. It’s obvious, however, that he’s troubled.

After dinner, as the girls clear the dishes, Jessica teases her brother about his calamitous love life. Steven is annoyed and stomps off, and Elizabeth thinks Jessica is going too far (of course).

When the twins are alone, Jessica decides to talk about NOTHING BUT TODD for the next ten minutes. Todd is a dreamboat, Todd smiled at Jessica, Todd is allergic to hummus, Todd once bummed a chicken, and so on. Elizabeth shoulders this unusual punishment with grace, because she’s realised the truth:

Jessica couldn’t give a pimply shit about Todd.

Jessica loves attention.

“Jessica,” she said suddenly, “do you really like Todd?”

Jessica stared at her twin. “Of course,” she said. “Isn’t that what I’ve been telling you? I mean, everybody thinks he’s so cute. Even Janet Howell, and she’s an eighth grader.”

FINALLY. Elizabeth has accepted what we have known since book ONE. Or at LEAST from the book called Center of Attention.

Jessica piles it on, and continues prying about the identity of her sister’s crush. Elizabeth has had enough. She shouts, and flees the scene in anger. Jessica shrugs, and carries on regardless.

At lunch the next day, the Unicorns are talking about boys. AGAIN. This time, their one-upmanship is heightened.

Rick Hunter sat by Ellen < Peter Jeffries walked Mary home < Jake Hamilton sent Lila a note

The note?

“What did it say?” Ellen asked excitedly. Lila smiled. “It said, ‘yes,’” she replied. “And it was signed, ‘Jake.’”

The question?

“I wrote him a note and asked if he was going to basketball practice this afternoon,” Lila explained. “Janet delivered it to him. ‘Yes’ means that he is.”

Hahahahaha! Ridiculous.

“I’m going to put it in my scrapbook,” Lila announced. “Along with my picture of Jake.”

Love it.

After school, the Unicorns go to Basketball Practice to cheer their respective “boyfriends”. Each sits, bored, until their own boyfriend does something cool. They then cheer and clap. Transparent and wonderful.

Back at home, Steven gets excited when he thinks Lindsay has called, when it fact it was Candice. Looks like the guy has made his decision. Lindsay rules, Candice drools. Jessica mocks him once more, and he storms off.

Fair play, Steven. I reckon you’ve chosen the right girl. [Dove: Grudgingly agreed, but you didn’t tell everyone that Candice had a southern accent. I’m imagining she has Mickie Knuckles’ voice and accent, which gives her extra points.]

It’s now Wednesday, and Amy meets Elizabeth at her locker. Liz, it seems, has received a note.

When Elizabeth unfolded the paper, she read, “You look really pretty with your hair curled.” The note was signed, “Your Secret Admirer.”

Elizabeth blushes with embarrassment. The day before, she’d returned to working her own clothes and scrubbed off the face paint. The curly hair remained, but that’s it. Nevertheless, her milkshake was definitely bringing the boys her yard.

Throughout the day, the hits just keep on coming. Winston Egbert. Peter DeHaven. All the fellas we hot for Wakefield.

In the face of this barrage of attention, Elizabeth vows she don’t want no scrubs. She’s no time for boys… unless it’s the boy, of course. She’ll always have time for Todd.

After school, once Caroline Pearce has been sent packing from the offices of the Sixers for planning a gossip column filled with nothing but news of who’s shagging who, Amy tells her friend that she’s heard a rumour…

“A rumor!” Elizabeth exclaimed, sitting up straight. “What kind of rumor?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it,” Amy said unhappily.

“Amy,” Elizabeth said, “just tell me.”

“All right.” Amy sighed uneasily. “But you’re not going to like it. The Unicorns are spreading it around that you are looking for a boyfriend. They’re saying that’s why you borrowed your sister’s clothes and put on makeup and fixed your hair.”

Showing an astute grasp of the meta, Elizabeth immediately blames Jessica. And she’s rightfully mortified.

“I’m sure that those boys heard the rumor,” Elizabeth said, blinking back tears. “And they saw the evidence—after all, I did get all dressed up on Monday, and I’m still curling my hair.” She swallowed hard. “But not for long!” She grabbed a rubber band off a pile of papers in front of her and pulled her hair back into a ponytail.

Aside:

I really feel for Elizabeth here. The whole situation is rotten.

I’ll share a story with you. When I was eleven, I had my first “real” crush on a girl. She lived across the street from me, and she was called Christine.

I remember visiting her house to play on Paperboy on her computer. She was cool.

Nothing came of it, of course. This was in the summer holidays before we both went to different senior schools. No biggie.

But I made the mistake of telling my parents that I liked her.

And they ripped the piss out of me for weeks.

Little stuff. Like, we got a new dog a week later, and were discussing what to call her. “Maybe we should call her Christiiiine, hahahaha”. That kind of feeble crap.

It was pretty harmless, looking back, but it did upset me. So much so that I didn’t tell my family about girls I liked until I was well into my twenties.

(And on that occasion, my hand was forced as my mother found an errant pair of my girlfriend’s knickers in a load of my washing I was doing back at the family home. Mum was astounded, as she’d actually presumed my silence on the topic meant I was gay.)

[Dove: To the point where I was the first girl he brought home to meet his family. His brother gave me the seal of approvement by saying, “She’s better than I thought she’d be.”]

So yeah. Elizabeth, I feel your pain. *fist bump*

End aside.

Then another question came into Elizabeth’s mind. What if Todd heard the rumor that she had changed her looks in order to try and get a boyfriend? What would he think of her?

You never know, Liz. It might turn him on.

That same afternoon, at Casey’s Place, Jessica and Pals force their attentions on Todd, Rick and Jake. They predatory pre-teens leap on their bemused male targets like Dilophosaurs on a Nedry. Talk turns to the new bowling alley, and the girls sense their prey’s weakness.

The boys arrange to go bowling on Friday, and the girls invite themselves along.

Jessica smiled in blissful happiness. This couldn’t have happened better if she’d planned it. Todd had come right out and asked her for a date, in front of Lila and Ellen! “Friday’s fine,” she said quickly, before he could change his mind. “Is Friday OK with you?” she asked Lila and Ellen.

“Friday’s good for me,” Lila said, and Ellen agreed.

“Well, now that’s settled,” Lila said, “I guess we’d better be going. So we’ll see you all on Friday night, at the bowling alley. OK?”

The boys exchanged glances. Jessica noticed that Jake was frowning a little, and Rick looked as if he weren’t sure what had happened. Todd cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said, “I guess we’ll be there.”

“Good,” Lila said triumphantly, and the girls left. Out in the mall, where the boys couldn’t hear them, they all screamed.

Excellent stuff! I particularly love the post-ambush scream-fit.

One pube in the pudding? During the exchange, Todd had questioned Jessica about Elizabeth a little too much… And thinking about it, the boys weren’t exactly frothing at the helmet about the idea.

A triple date, of sorts! Jessica is delighted. As a reader, I’m delighted too.

Later that evening, we have The Showdown. Elizabeth squares up to her allegedly rumour-mongering twin and lets her have it, both barrels. How DARE Jessica spread rumours about Liz’s intentions regarding her makeover. How DARE Jessica divulge personal conversations about boys to her vapid cabal of idiot harpies.

I love this. Elizabeth has a spine!

Jessica is trite and contritious. It was a joke, she did it because Liz wouldn’t reveal her crush… Liz calls bullshit.

“It’s none of your business who I like!” Elizabeth said furiously, her fists clenched. “Tell those Unicorns to stop spreading rumors about me.” She leaned forward, her blue-green eyes flashing with anger. “Or I’m never speaking to you again!” She stormed out of the room, leaving Jessica staring after her in shock.

BRILLIANT! [Dove: Agreed. I felt for Liz on this whole “prank” and I really liked that she finally stood up for herself.]

The next day at school, full of vim and vigour, Elizabeth bats off some frankly hilarious and heartbreaking attempts at seduction from a plethora of sixth grade male misfits.

First there’s Colin Harmon. Who the fuck is Colin Harmon? [Dove: I was about to get all snooty and say “That’s why we have a character page!” But as it turns out, Colin is so background that even Wing hasn’t listed him. And Wing listed a Helen Bradley, who passed a note to Jessica in a book #13 and hasn’t been seen since.]

[Wing: Likes to be thorough but has been trying to rein in that impulse. Look where tagging less got me.]

Colin just comes out with it. Confident smile, finger-guns, the works.

“Wanna go bowling, Liz?”

“Not with you, you testicular polyp.”

Colin is taken aback, but I feel he won’t be down for long. Fuck yeah, Colin’s awesome.

Winston “Let Me Fertilize Your” Egbert tries his luck, in a much more clumsy and awkward way, during which his ears turned pink. What the fuck colour were they before? Orange?

Elizabeth completely no-sirs his technique, refusing to acknowledge it was even occurring. Smooth.

Next up, there’s Randy “Wandering Handy” Mason. He ups the stakes, by buying Elizabeth a present: a cute plastic bracelet, the same colour as her makeover dress!

So cute! Much feels.

Elizabeth accepts the gift, because she’s not a monster, but unfortunately for her Todd Wilkins sees the exchange.

Elizabeth felt her cheeks flaming. For a second, she closed her eyes, wanting to cry. Todd must have heard the rumor that she was looking for a boyfriend, and he had just seen her accepting a present from a boy. He would never like her now.

On the journey home from school, Amy and Liz discuss the boy bother from earlier. Liz is overwhelmed, and vows to stay home on Friday. Bowling, she feels, can get fucked. However, Amy is looking for a wingperson – apparently, despite them being and on-and-off item for multiple books, she feels she can’t talk to Ken Matthews without Liz’s moral support.

Liz glumly acquiesces to Amy’s request. It seems she only has enough spine for three conflicts per day.

Back at home, Elizabeth helps her mother with some chores, when who should rock up but… Candice! She ingratiates herself with the female Wakefields and waits for Steven to return from school.

When Steven rocks up, he’s not a happy camper. Candice is NOT Lindsay, after all.

Mama Wakefield invites Candice for dinner. It’s spaghetti. Fucking hell, it’s ALWAYS spaghetti. I get that it’s Jessica’s favourite, but damn, Alice. Spring for a fucking cookbook. Or make the kids eat broiled flounder.

Candice accepts, which annoys Steven. Through a largely awkward dinner, he eats food in silence. He even refuses second helpings, in order to speed the meal and get Candice out of his hair as quickly as possible.

GRAPPLEGATE: WHAT THEY HELL HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REAL STEVEN?

Eventually, Steven drags Candice out of the house to walk her home as quickly as possible. The Elder Wakefields marvel at the entire affair, and Jessica brings them up to speed on her brother’s complicated love life.

What the fuck, Jessica?! You dirty snitch! Do you really have to punk your brother like that?

When Steven returns, his mother accosts him over his two-timing ways. The poor lad squirms, an ant under the pinpoint burn of a magnifying glass in the sun.

“I’m surprised at you, Steven. You’re not being fair to either girl. It’s OK to date more than one girl if you’re honest with each of them. But you shouldn’t sneak around. And if you don’t really like one of them, you shouldn’t continue to encourage her.”

Fair advice, I guess. I’d pay cash pounds to hear Ned’s advice on this.

“Look, Steve, it’s fine to have a side-bitch. Nothing wrong with a little away fixture every now and then. But don’t shit on your own doorstep, son! You need to be savvy, you need to plan more. If you’re nobbing one, make sure you wash your junk before you nob the other, k?”

The beginning of the next chapter is perhaps my favourite section in the whole book.

Later that night, Elizabeth finds Steven at the kitchen table. He is bereft of hope, his confusing love life the cause of such upset. In desperation, he turns to Elizabeth for guidance.

Elizabeth contemplates the conundrum her brother faces, and offers some sage advice.

“If it were my problem, Steven,” she said softly, “and I really wanted to keep Lindsay’s friendship, I’d be honest with Candice.”

“How can I tell her how I really feel?” he asked, looking up. “You saw what she’s like. She really thinks I like her.”

“That’s why you have to tell her the truth.” Elizabeth sipped her hot chocolate. “If Candice doesn’t know exactly how you feel, she could keep fooling herself for weeks and weeks.”

Great work, Elizabeth. Even Steven agrees. [Dove: Steven’s totally dodging the fact that he let her get her hopes up by lapping up every compliment she threw his way.]

He drained his hot chocolate and stood up. “Thanks, Liz,” he said, looking down at her. “I appreciate the advice.”

And as he makes to leave, Jessica enters with the kicker:

Steven was on his way out of the kitchen when Jessica barged into the room.

“Hi, Stevie,” Jessica purred, in a perfect imitation of Candice. “Did we have fun tonight?”

Steven glared at her, then stomped out of the kitchen without a word.

GLORIOUS.

If there’s ANYTHING that more perfectly demonstrates the differences between the twins, I’ve yet to see it. Fuck all this four minutes older bullshit, THIS is what they should write at the beginning of every book.

We skip to Friday, and the Unicorns prepare for their Bowling Date. Apparently, the plan is to meet the boys there.

Of course, the whole thing is an unmitigated farce. Let’s break it down.

  • First, it seems like the whole school is there!
  • Steven and his friends are also present, with a plethora of high-schoolers. And Lindsay.
  • The boys bowl with the boys.
  • The girls bowl with the girls.

Date night my FAT ARSE.

The whole thing stinks of school disco. Boys on one side, girls on the other. All it needs is a host of teachers swigging secret gin from hip flasks while a mucky-looking DJ plays the greatest hits of Kajagoogoo.

It’s AMAZING.

The Sixth Grade Unicorns bowl with Janet Howell, in a lane next to the dreamy Bruce Patman and his cronies. One of those friends? Aaron Dallas, he of the spectacular party in the previous book. [Dove: And also, the mastermind of the improbable cave prank in The Bully.]

Jessica looked toward the next lane to see Bruce Patman waving at her. Beside him, Aaron Dallas ran his hand through his brown hair and gave her a grin.

“Thanks for saving room, Janet,” Jessica said, smiling back at Aaron. She saw that he had a dimple in his right cheek that flashed when he smiled. It was funny that she’d never noticed it before. “We’d love to bowl with you.”

OOOOOH, so THAT’S how it’s all resolved. Jessica will cop off with Aaron Dallas, leaving Todd free for Elizabeth. Sweet!

After a nice bout of competitive banter, Jess and Aaron go “grab a soda,” which is probably code for third base. As they head for the snack bar, Elizabeth and Amy arrive, accompanied by Julie Porter.

No one was paired off. Instead, there was a lot of giggling, running back and forth between the lanes, and dashing to the soft drink stand. Elizabeth noticed that the Unicorns were bowling next to Bruce Patman, Tom Sleeter, and some other boys. She glanced around, noticing to her relief that Randy Mason, Colin Harmon, and Winston Egbert were down at the far end of the alley, almost out of sight. But where was Todd? Why weren’t he and Jessica bowling together?

Amy spots Ken, which must be tricky because he’s tiny. All he needs do to avoid being seen is hide behind a bowling pin.

Luckily for the plot, Ken is bowling with Todd Wilkins and Tom McKay, so Liz can schmooze her way in to her heart’s content, should she choose to do so.

Eventually, she and Todd strike up a cute conversation. Elizabeth even bowls a strike! The whole evening, it seems, is going wonderfully, although Liz does wonder if Todd has her confused for Jessica…

The thought made Elizabeth’s stomach knot up. She had to make certain that Todd really knew who she was. But at the same time, she didn’t want to let him know. She had been having such a good time. It would be awful if Todd went off to look for Jessica when he discovered his mistake.

Before Liz can tackle this thorny dilemma, Steven’s problems increase exponentially. As he sits with Lindsay, arm around her shoulder, a familiar face rocks up to spoil the party… it’s Candice.

Before SHIT KICKS OFF BIG TIME, Stevie manages to drag Candice away, to let her down gently out of earshot. He then comes clean to Lindsay, again out of earshot, and Lindsay forgives him with a gentle kiss on the cheek. [Dove: One tiny think rankles on this exchange, and it’s when Liz thinks, “Don’t let her bully you, Steven,” about Candice. It’s not really bullying to point out that someone has been stringing you along for a few weeks.]

Yeah, I’m pretty sure Lindsay should be throwing her Dr Pepper in his grovelling face at this point.

During a convenient break, the group hits the snack bar for hot dogs. Ken and Amy start chatting away, oblivious to those around them. Steven rocks up, and thanks Liz for the great advice. But Todd? Nowhere to be seen. Has he realised his mistake and dashed off to find Jessica?

Then, since she had nothing better to do, she wandered over to the jukebox and stood in front of it, thinking about how much had changed in the past few months. Although they had had a few problems in the past week, she and Jessica were closer than ever. Steven was behaving more like a real brother and less like an arrogant know-it-all, and he’d straightened out his tangled relationship with Candice and Lindsay. Everybody else seemed to be getting together, too. There were Amy and Ken, Jessica and Todd, Julie and Tom. And even though things hadn’t worked out between her and Todd, Elizabeth was beginning to enjoy being around boys.

CHEESY JUKEBOX HOOKUP IS GO!

I REPEAT, CHEESY JUKEBOX HOOKUP IS GO!

At last, we’re getting to the titular Elizabeth’s First Kiss! Pucker up, Liz!

Todd approaches, as Liz  sways to the music. They share pleasantries, and Liz tackles the elephant in the room. Did Todd think she was Jessica?

Of course not.

“Oh,” Elizabeth said. She managed a shaky little laugh. “Then you didn’t have the two of us mixed up?”

“No way.” Todd laughed. “At first, at school, when you started wearing your hair that way, I got confused. But I can usually tell you apart.”

“Really?” Elizabeth was surprised.

“Uh-huh. You and Jessica are pretty different—in lots of ways. Important ways.” He smiled. “Hey, the song’s over, and I’m in the mood for some ice cream. Want to go over to Casey’s Place with me? We can get a couple of milk shakes and talk for a while.”

Elizabeth stared at him, astonished. So all along Todd had really liked her.

Lovely!

As they get milkshakes, they discuss all the mix-ups from the previous week.

As they talked, Elizabeth discovered that she and Todd had a lot in common. He liked to read mystery stories, and he also liked horses. Once in a while he’d gone up to Carson Stables, where Elizabeth rode. He enjoyed bike riding as much as she did.

Everything is coming up Milhouse for the lovely Liz. She and Todd agree that having milkshakes together counts as a date, and I am charmed beyond belief.

Elizabeth even discusses the horrible rumour, and Todd’s response is excellent.

“I heard what the Unicorns were saying about you. But I didn’t believe it.”

“You didn’t?”

“Of course not,” he said. “Your sister might do something like that. But you wouldn’t.”

Smooth as ice, dude. As ICE.

As they head back to the bowling alley, it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Elizabeth’s.

First.

Kiss…

As they walked back to the bowling alley, Todd held Elizabeth’s hand. When he leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, she thought she was the happiest, luckiest girl in Sweet Valley. And then suddenly she remembered something that made her happiness vanish.

She’d forgotten all about Jessica!

WHAT THE BLUE FUCK?!

A KISS ON THE FUCKING CHEEK!

REALLY?!

MOTHER-FUCKING REALLY?!

THIS WHOLE BOOK, WONDERFUL IN SO MANY FUCKING WAYS, AND IT’S A KISS ON THE FUCKING CHEEK?!

I AM NOT HAPPY.

Seriously. Not. Cool.

Elizabeth’s first kiss ISN’T A FUCKING KISS. She’s had a peck on the cheek before. I believe Olympic Greg did the honours in Danny Means Trouble. For fuck’s sake!

Grapplegate: would it have KILLED you to have it be a peck on the lips? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, blame wise, and assume this was dictated by the publishers, but even so, it’s taken a great book and left me SO UNDERWHELMED at the end.

Fucking HELL, this pisses me off.

BAD FORM.

BAD, BAD FORM.

[Dove: Someone mentioned this on Twitter recently – not sure if it was Raven or Wing, but by god did the RAAAAAGE come out. I think Rosey, Gemma and OhGodWhyNostalgia were involved, but the thread went on for ages as we all raged.]

[WING: BECAUSE THIS IS BULLSHIT.]

As for Jessica, she’s with Aaron Dallas now, so she couldn’t give a shit about Liz and Todd. They all banter about the situation, and we cut to the foreshadowing for the next book.

(If you’ve not guessed, I’ve lost my appetite for the story at this stage. On the CHEEK. On the FUCKING CHEEK.)

The last page sees Amy and Liz discuss their upcoming science project, and their cast-iron friendship.

“I’m really lucky to have you as a friend, Amy. It’s almost like having another sister. I can tell you anything, and I can trust you to keep even my deepest secrets. And I never have to worry about making you mad or hurting your feelings.”

Amy nodded solemnly. “I know. I’m glad we’re friends, too. For me, it really is like having a sister. Nothing will ever come between us!”

Nothing to worry about here. Amy and Liz have always got on like a house on fire.

Winky face, OUT, y0!

Final Thoughts:

So much to love about this book. SO MUCH.

AND YET.

It’s such a shame that the glorious whole is undermined by such a simple thing. Two inches to the centre, lips brushing lips, and this would be Top 3 material. As it stands, it’s still top 10, but the payoff is SUCH a letdown that it leaves a sour taste.

A great book. But not perfect.

[Dove: This is always more adorable than I give it credit for. I always think of it as a knock-off of Double Love (SVH #1), but this is the same story in much more capable hands. Liz has a spine, and she’s confused, and she can’t possibly shoulder pat, because she hasn’t got a clue. And that’s very nice to see. Jess is #BestJess. And it’s all so sweet and ridiculous – and A+ for the Unicorns trying to one-up each other.]

[Wing: Love most of this book. There’s no way SVH will be able to compare.]

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

 Category: Sweet Valley Twins

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2 Comments

  1. MrToddWilkins
    Posted 21 March 2018 at 12:12 am Permalink

    Just had a fanfic idea. Sweet Valley characters reading the books (there are Harry Potter fics with this conceit). Might work for the BSC too.

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