Title: Mademoiselle Jessica
Summary: A model family…
Jessica Wakefield is sick and tired of spoiled Lila Fowler’s constant boasting. So when she reads about the Model Family competition being sponsored by Teenager Magazine, she’s tempted to enter just to put Lila in her place. The first prize is a fabulous, all-expenses-paid trip to Paris. To compete, all Jessica has to do is write an essay describing her perfect family.
But the family Jessica ends up writing about is nothing like her real family. Still, it’s just a joke, until her twin, Elizabeth, posts the essay by mistake. Now it’s good-bye France and hello trouble—unless Jessica can convince the Wakefields to pretend to be something they’re not!
Tagline: How far will Jessica go to win a trip to Paris? [Wing: Considering she buries people in the Mercandy backyard on a whim, I’m sure there’s no limit to how far she’ll go.]
Two things: One, why are you posting your sister’s essay? WHY? WHY ARE YOU MEDDLING AGAIN? I DON’T FOR A SECOND BELIEVE IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.
Two, I cannot spell “mademoiselle” right on the first try to save my life. Fingers crossed that I won’t have to write it again in this recap, because The Carnival Ghost nearly killed me.
Amy Sutton is all excited to show Elizabeth her new bike, which her parents bought for her to replace that one that burned up in the house fire that should have been Amy’s fault but wasn’t. Elizabeth, Amy, and Brooke Dennis are going for a bike ride along the beach, and Elizabeth invites Jessica to join them. [Raven: Along the beach? Blimey, they cleared up that oil slick pretty quickly.]
Jessica argues that Brooke isn’t going with Elizabeth, she’s going to the Dairi Burger with Jessica and the Unicorns (why hasn’t Jessica tapped into that for her rockstar dreams?). Are the Wakefield twins fighting over Brooke? Good grief, and to think not all that long ago, you hated her.
Brooke turns up and sets things right: Lila mentioned something about getting together at the Dairi Burger, but Brooke told her she was busy. Lila told Jessica to meet her and walk with her anyway, because god forbid anyone refuse the Unicorns. (I love you, Brooke.)
Even though the twins look alike, they’re really very different, we know how this goes, but this time, Elizabeth says that despite those differences, she usually has a pretty good idea of what Jessica is thinking. Me too, Wakefield: KILL KILL OOOOH A GREAT LOOKING SWEATER KILL KILL KILL.
Over with the Unicorns, Mary Wallace is the only person to greet Jessica when she joins them. Mary, you are generally my favourite Unicorn. I love you. How’s the family? Run off to Mexico with any money lately?
Lila Fowler, snobby delight, is showing off the new charm bracelet her father bought for her. Jessica thinks about how pretty she is, and how spoiled: she just had her room redecorated, she just went to Los Angeles (which isn’t that far, damn it!) to buy an expensive new stereo, and most exciting of all, her dad flew the two of them to Hawaii for a long weekend.
Exactly how long a weekend? Because even from Los Angeles, that’s about a five hour flight (or more), and a ten hour roundtrip flight, plus whatever drive time to and from the airport (depending on how far away Sweet Valley is from Los Angeles or the nearest airport at the time) seems like a bit much for a three day weekend. (Which is generally what is meant here when you say long weekend.)
(I’m just envious. I want to go back to Hawaii. Especially because freezing rain literally just started pounding the windows as I’m writing this, and Monster Dog is pushing her way into my lap because she’s scared.)
Anyway, Jessica is also envious, because she’s not been any farther away than San Diego, and she took a bus there. I could have sworn that at one point we learned that the Wakefields had gone up to San Francisco, which is significantly farther away from Los Angeles than San Diego, but maybe I’m making that up. [Dove: … didn’t the twins go to LA to see Shout!? I can’t remember which book it is, but I’m sure it happened.] [Raven: Yeah, didn’t one of them go to LA with the daughter of one of Ned or Alice’s clients? Only one of them could go, and the parents were trying for make Elizabeth go, but Jessica convinced her sister that she wanted to stay home?]
Lila waves off the fact that Brooke didn’t come, because she really wants to talk about Brooke; Janet Howell, Lila’s cousin and Unicorn president, wants to add new people to the club. UMM. Why? I thought waaaaaay back in book one that it was a huge deal to be a part of the Unicorns and it was basically one in and one out, etc. Why is Janet so het up on adding more people? Or is it really Lila? Lila, are you building an army of expendable preteens? (Probably yes.)
Ellen suggests Mandy Miller; Lila is shocked by this, and Ellen jokes that she’s not serious, but Mandy’s been hanging around for weeks and she hinted to Caroline Pearce that she wanted to join the club. You believe a word that Caroline Pearce says? Really? After everything?
(Also, I had to go look up who the fuck was Mandy Miller on our character list, and it says she’s a Unicorn, so either this is a huge continuity error or Dove is introducing spoilers THANKS DOVE.)
Jessica is torn, because Mandy is strange and always dresses in clothes that look like they come from a secondhand store, but she’s also very funny and loyal, and would do anything for anyone, especially Jessica. WELL THAT’S CLEARLY WHY SHE JOINS THE CLUB. Jessica needs sycophants for when she stages her coup. [Raven: I love Jess. “Mandy, dig me a hole. About six foot long, and the same depth. What for? Erm… something something Unicorns?”]
Lila declares Mandy Not Unicorn Material, and wants to ask Brooke. After all, she’s pretty and sophisticated and wears great clothes, and, Kimberly adds, her father is famous and Brooke spent a summer in Paris with her mother.
Lila’s quick to say that Paris can’t possibly be as exciting as Hawaii. What do you mean, you bet it can’t possibly be as exciting? Haven’t you been there? I could have sworn she had! (Apparently, I need a map showing all the places which character has been when.) [Dove: Isn’t Lila always off to Europe, which, as we all know, is just a single country, and the capital city is France.]
Jessica rushes to add that Brooke throws great parties, too, because she doesn’t want to hear Lila go on and on about Hawaii again or to have to look at her pictures again.
Everyone agrees that inviting Brooke to join is a great idea, which makes Lila pleased and smug. She brags about Brooke helping her pick out that fantastic new stereo and after Brooke’s last party (which was actually her dad’s party, but who’s counting), they’ve gotten close.
Jessica is exhausted by Lila’s bragging. Oh, Jessica. She’s confident and cocky. You’re one to talk, since you’re the same damn way.
Mary is the only person who wonders if Brooke actually wants to be a part of the Unicorns; after all, she decided the Sixers was more important than the Boosters. Lila scorns this thought, because nobody would ever turn down the chance to be a Unicorn.
Except Elizabeth, Kimberly points out, and Jessica is immediately uncomfortable. DUDES. You all hate her. Why do you even care? (I mean, I get it, they can’t stand the thought that anyone might not want to be like them, envious of their beauty and personalities, etc., but still.)
This makes Lila cross, and she says that they always knew Elizabeth wasn’t right for the Unicorns, and they only asked her because of Jessica, and of course, no one but that horrid Elizabeth would ever turn them down. She’s 100% positive that Brooke is dying to be a Unicorn.
Mary still wants to see what she thinks first, because Mary is truly the most logical of the Unicorns.
Lila goes on and on about her trip in Honolulu with her dad and how it had a fabulous pool with a waterfall and flowers and there was a sauna and she could order whatever she wanted from room service, blah, blah, blah. Jessica is so tired of Lila’s bragging, but knows that letting on that she’s jealous will only make things worse.
And then she bursts out with her latest social coup: her dad has leased an entire sky box at the Arena (what, not Sweet Valley Arena? [Dove: It probably is, but the Unicorns have got better things to do than use the full name for everything.]) for the Dynamo concert. (Dynamo played a couple songs back at Brooke’s Dad’s party, and everyone wants to hear more. Nick England is particularly popular with the Unicorns.)
Everyone is overwhelmed by this, and Lila rubs it in by saying that she wishes she could invite them to join her, but her dad has clients coming in from out of town. Sooooo, really, your dad either rented it for his clients and will bring you along to shut you up or he didn’t even rent the box and it’s just a perk of the company where he works (owns, whatever, still not sure what he does). [Dove: … something to do with “technology”? Readers, help us out here?] [Raven: Sweeet Valley Arms Dealership, surely?]
Jessica wishes that she was the only child of a father who spoiled her rotten.
Mary and Jessica are the first to leave, and on the walk home, they complain about Lila’s bragging, but Mary points out that Lila will never stop, she was born to brag and the day she no longer brags is the day the world ends. Oh, Mary, I love you.
Meanwhile, Amy, Elizabeth, and Brooke are having a great time at the beach, much more fun than they’d have with the Unicorns. Amy finally addresses the fact that she (and the rest of their group, really) likes to shop and talk about boys, but there’s too much of a good thing, and the Unicorns never do anything else.
Untrue, they also plan parties and come up with ridiculous ideas that have no follow through and help or hinder Jessica in her hobby of the week, etc.
Amy then asks why Brooke is spending so much time with the Unicorns if she doesn’t like Lila; Brooke actually gives this some thought, because Brooke is a delight. She finally says that Lila and the others helped out a lot when she was getting ready for the party, and she started to wonder if they were nicer than she thought.
Elizabeth seems to have forgotten about that time that the Unicorns tried to get her to join the Boosters because they thought she could get them passes to Kent Kellerman’s set and once she did, they stopped being friendly to her, but Brooke hasn’t, and Amy agrees that they are good at using people. After all, they used her when her house burned down. [Dove: Fuck off, Amy. You used them. And your best friend. You absolute piece of shit.]
That … is not exactly how it happened. Yes, they suddenly started paying attention to you because something “interesting” happened, but you were the one who started telling lies and wanting to spend all your time with them. If anything, you were all using each other for entertainment and validation.
Brooke is sympathetic toward Amy, because she apparently doesn’t know about the other side of this story, and admits that she had some fun with Lila when Lila started inviting her to do things, but Lila never shuts up about things, and she turns even good things into huge bragging things, and it’s frustrating.
Elizabeth wants to know if she’s told Lila how she feels. HAVE YOU, ELIZABETH? HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HONEST WITH THEM RATHER THAN TALKING BEHIND THEIR BACKS? [Dove: *claps*]
Brooke is sharp, though, and points out that Lila won’t listen even if she did say something. God, I am loving Brooke in this book. She’s decided that the best thing to do is just extract herself from the friendship (smart) by basically ghosting her (…damn it, Brooke, and you were doing so well).
Jessica has to spend one whole entire hour on Saturday morning cleaning out her closet. How the fuck big is her closet? How stuffed full of things is it? [Raven: I presume the purple wing alone is at least 100 cubic metres.] Good god. So she’s already in a bad mood when Lila calls and talks about that sky box for ten whole entire minutes and then tries to decide which of her new outfits to wear, etc.
After she basically hangs up on Lila, Jessica lolls about thinking about how unfair life is, right up until she sees an ad in Teenager Magazine (oh. my. god. that. title.) about winning a week in Paris for her and her family. She can barely read the fine print (and I’m amazed she even gave it a second glance), but basically, the contest is sponsored by Teenager Magazine (oh. my. god. that. title.) and its French counterpart, Le Teen. (OH. MY. GOD. THAT. TITLE.) The magazines are searching for the perfect American family and the perfect French family. To enter, you have to write an essay describing just how perfect your family was; Jessica thinks it would be super easy to do so if only her family loved France, but they don’t.
Jessica knows she can’t win, but she’s going to dream. I was prepared to mock the shit out of this fake family thing, but I actually find this awfully charming, damn it. Dream big, Jessica. DREAM BIG.
This is how she dreams:
- Alice, a beautiful blonde who works as an interior decorator and spent the rest of her time cooking gourmet French food, and is very interested in the ballet, which leads to her being a prima ballerina at the Sweet Valley Civic Ballet. (WHAT THE FUCK IS A CIVIC BALLET?) [Dove: But at least it fits the naming convention.] [Raven: A ballet performed by Honda Civics?]
- Ned, a high-powered lawyer who is also a well-known artist who shows his oil paintings of French subjects in all the local galleries; a terrified, generous, and helpful father always ready to buy his kids what they want and take them on exciting trips, including a trip to NYC next summer so Alice can study with a famous French chef, Ned can visit all the art museums, and the kids can shop and see the Broadway shows.
- Steven, a sweet and caring older brother who was never patronizing or overprotective; a star basketball player who won all the games for his team, but who also was a virtuoso on the trombone and has formed his own jazz ensemble (because “ensemble” must be a French word) that tours the region giving concerts. (Did you know that Steven actually is taking trombone lessons and is third chair in the Beginner Band (oh. my. god. that. name.)? Because I certainly don’t remember that.) [Dove: Added adorable points: Jess has to look up several words in the dictionary for this entry. Even when something’s for the lolz, she does it with Jessica-vigour!]
- JESSICA CAN’T THINK OF A WAY TO MAKE ELIZABETH ANY MORE PERFECT THAN SHE ALREADY IS OH MY GOD WHAT. [Dove: This is Grapplegate clearly mocking Elizabeth’s perfection.] SINCE WHEN YOU DO THINK SHE’S PERFECT AND NOT YOURSELF?! This is how Jessica describes Elizabeth: Elizabeth was extremely pretty. She was an excellent student who made straight As and who still had time to start up a class newspaper—with a column written in French. She was a loyal sister who always stood up for her twin. She was a terrific friend who was never too busy to stop what she was doing and lend a hand. NO JESSICA NO.
- While Jessica writes about herself, she realises that she doesn’t know what to say about the Unicorns, because they don’t do all that much except for have meetings, shopping trips, and parties. So she turns them into a community service group that recently volunteered at a local hospital and a library. THE UNICORNS ARE A COMMUNITY SERVICE GROUP. Pretty sure the world is on fire right now.
- Oh, and the Wakefields only speak French at home and she and Elizabeth do a ton of French crossword puzzles.
- OH GOD. She goes to write au revoir and sign her name, but she doesn’t know how to spell it. (Not her name.) And she actually looks it up, because Ned has a French dictionary in his home office. Why? [Raven: Gotta learn how to tell the Au Pair to put her clothes on and get out, amirite?]
Jessica goes to get some cookies from Alice, and just as they’re starting to talk about her new interior design job, Lila calls to talk about Brooke. She didn’t straight out ask her if she wanted to join, just talked about how terrific the Unicorns are and how it’s time they added a new member. In response, Brooke said that they do sound like a lot of fun and she’s glad they’re expanding. I can see both why they each said what they said and how the other person took it; this talking past each other can be hard to write, and the ghostwriter (are we still on Team Grapplegate?) is doing a great job here. [Dove: Yep, we’re with Grapplegate until The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley, I think.]
Jessica heads off to the mall with Lila, just in time for Elizabeth, Amy, and Brooke to come in and talk to Alice; turns out, Alice’s new job is to decorate the house Nick England is buying for his parents. You know, that uber fanciable singer from Dynamo.
Apparently, Brooke told Elizabeth about Lila’s call, and Elizabeth flat out asks if Brooke thinks Lila was feeling her out (not up) about being a Unicorn; Brooke is sure that’s not it, though, not after she turned down the Boosters. Oh come on.
Amy, Brooke, and Elizabeth joke around a little about Brooke not wanting to be a Unicorn and all the things she’ll miss, like wearing purple all the time or gossiping about Bruce Patman or doing a mean pledge task. Also: Brooke doesn’t like Bruce Patman. I LOVE YOU BROOKE.
As they’re leaving, Alice asks Elizabeth to mail a letter she wrote to their grandmother; Elizabeth also finds Jessica’s contest entry form. Because she was on the phone with Lila, Alice assumes that she just forgot to fold it, which is an understandable assumption, and so Elizabeth mails it too. [Dove: This is all Elizabeth’s fault.]
Late that evening, Jessica realises she left her entry form somewhere and is frantic to find it before someone else finds it and reads it. Alice tells her that she thinks Elizabeth mailed it, and is upset, but knows there’s nothing she can do now.
Over the next week, Jessica manages to put it out of her mind, because thousands of kids will enter, and also Lila is being extra annoying. Jessica’s not the only one upset, more than one of the Unicorns are complaining about being sick of her stories, even Ellen.
(One of the stories she tells is that her father finally bought her a cordless phone so she can talk while she’s sunbathing beside the pool. YEAH NO. She had a cordless phone all the way back in Jessica and the Brat Attack, and it plays a decent part in the plot.)
Friday morning, Lila has something to talk about other than her own awesome gifts from her dad: she talked to Janet about inviting Brooke to join the Unicorns, and Janet agrees that Brooke has all the special Unicorn qualities and could keep up the Unicorn image. Gross. Janet’s calling a top secret meeting for that afternoon, because they can’t invite Brooke unless everyone agrees to it. They haven’t had a new Unicorn since Belinda Layton, and she’s too busy with sports to come to most meetings. I thought that was a bannable offense! [Raven: If you’re winnng trophies for the Greater Glory of the Unicorn Empire, I guess you get a pass.]
About five seconds later, Caroline Pearce is living up to her gossip reputation and telling Elizabeth all about the Unicorns talking about inviting Brooke to join. After all, she has her sources that she won’t reveal.
Brooke overhears this, and she and Elizabeth talk about what a surprise it is that the Unicorns are going to ask her to join; again, though, Brooke finds a way to brush this off, because if it was true and not just idle gossip, Jessica would have said something to Elizabeth. Right, because Elizabeth is ever interested in hearing about anything Unicorn from her sister.
Caroline is shocked, shocked I say, at the idea that someone might not want to be a Unicorn. Brooke jokes about this, saying she and Elizabeth are going to start their own club, maybe the Zebras, maybe the Rhinos, because they also have horns and are endangered species so almost as rare as unicorns.
FUCK, I SHIP IT Y’ALL. DAMN IT. STOP BEING CUTE AND CHARMING TOGETHER.
Caroline can’t decide whether they’re making a joke of this or not, and I am even more delighted.
There’s some volleyball talk, Lila’s not really trying, Elizabeth and Brooke talk again about how Brooke really feels about joining the Unicorns (my god, have you discussed her period yet, Elizabeth?), and Brooke ONCE AGAIN points out that, among other things, she couldn’t put up with Lila’s bragging all the time.
HA, THEN CAROLINE SERVES AND HITS LILA IN THE FACE WITH THE VOLLEYBALL OH MY GOD BEST.
At their special meeting, the Unicorns discuss whether they should invite Brooke to join them: she’s rich, her father knows everyone in the film industry, her mom lives in Paris and Brooke speaks French very well — and there are no minuses, despite Janet saying that no one is perfect.
Lila triumphantly says that Brooke is. Oh god, is that why you’re so obsessed over this? BABY’S FIRST GIRL CRUSH. [Dove: *thoughtful tone* Or Brooke is the only other kid in school who lives with her father, with no word on where her mother is, and Lila would like to get to know someone in the same situation as her: no mother, workaholic father, money but no love… *mic drop*] [Raven: *golf clap*] [Wing: All you’ve done is encourage my BABY’S FIRST GIRL CRUSH theory.]
Lila says Brooke is eager to join, Mary and Jessica continue to be skeptical, but in the end, they vote her in. (As far as I can tell, Mary abstains.) They’re going to throw Brooke a party to surprise her with the invite, but Lila can’t host because they’re starting construction on the new sauna. (With all these excuses — patio being rebuilt and now the sauna — if I didn’t know better, I’d think she was hiding the fact they lost all their money.)
Jessica offers to host instead, and Janet puts Jessica, Mary, and Ellen on the committee to decide Brooke’s pledge task. That seems like not the best idea, considering Jessica is hosting already and Mary has shown reticence to invite Brooke (and Ellen makes no decisions on her own when it comes to the Unicorns).
Lila and Janet both demand that Jessica keep this a secret from Elizabeth, which makes sense. Jessica snarks to herself that Elizabeth is better at keeping secrets than the Unicorns are, which I’m not sure I believe. Also, Jessica claims to hate to keep secrets from Elizabeth, which I also don’t believe.
Monday morning, though, word has gotten out that Brooke is joining the Unicorns, and even Todd Wilkins comes up to talk to Elizabeth about it. (Elizabeth is glad she’s wearing her favourite blue blouse and did a good job with her hair, which is adorable.)
Elizabeth brushes this off, but Todd is adamant because he heard it from Johnny Gordon, who is Betsy Gordon’s brother. Is … is Betsy a Unicorn? To the character list! … She is! And though I already don’t remember a thing about her, apparently she’s been tagged at least four times. [Dove: Don’t sweat it. She’s like Cammi Adams, Kerri Glenn or Tamara Chase. She’s not real, she’s just a name to make up the numbers.]
Brooke shows up then to say that Jessica has invited her to a Unicorn party; Elizabeth knew a few Unicorns were coming over but didn’t realise it was going to be a whole party. Todd teases Brooke about how reaction, smiles warmly at Elizabeth and takes off.
Jessica, Mary, and Ellen try to come up with pledge task ideas:
- steal the gym teacher’s whistle (a la Jessica stealing Mrs Arnette’s lesson plan book),
- stealing Leslie Carlisle’s bra (because Leslie is “very developed for her age,” which sounds like something the Unicorns would want; Mary says this is too mean, and Brooke wouldn’t go through with it [and Mary herself wouldn’t blame her; Mary, escape the Unicorns while you can!]);
- drawing a cartoon of Mr Nydick and making Brooke pin it to the map in his room (not clear whether she would also draw the cartoon or they would);
And then their planning is interrupted by Aaron (Jessica’s boyfriend — apparently, they got together at the bowling alley a few weeks ago and are now boyfriend and girlfriend, which was not the impression I took away from that book at all!), Peter (Mary’s boyfriend), and Rick (the boy Ellen likes). They all head out to play Frisbee with the boys rather than finish their work. Shocking.
At the party that night, Lila and Janet bicker over who gets to be the one to officially invite Brooke to join, but in the end, Janet pulls rank and gives a little speech. They give Brooke a preliminary invitation because she has to complete her pledge task first and then they vote her in. Jessica has to admit that they haven’t come up with one yet but explains it away that they’re trying to find one that is exactly right for Brooke.
Brooke hedges that she doesn’t know what to say, and then asks what the Unicorns do. They hold meetings and give parties. Brooke wants to know more, and they struggle to come up with this, though eventually, Lila says they go shopping and Mary talks about that one time they sold celebrity cookbooks.
Brooke asks for time to think about it because, as Ellen said, it’s a very big responsibility and she’s not sure she’s ready for it. That’s far too polite, considering how obtuse they are, but Janet still freaks out over it.
This drama is interrupted when Jessica receives a special delivery (and not a Nydick one); it is, of course, something from Teenager Magazine, and the timing here is actually impeccable because I was just wondering what the fuck happened to the A plot.
The Unicorns force her to open it in front of them and read the letter to them, which addresses her as Mademoiselle Wakefield. She and her “outstanding French-oriented family” are finalists in the contest, and someone will set up a family interview soon.
They are all awestruck that she has a chance to win a week in Paris. Jessica, meanwhile, doesn’t understand how she possibly made it this far, because surely the judges had realised she made everything up. The Unicorns then tell her that she cannot fail, she must win for the Unicorns, because no pressure, right. [Raven: I’m now picturing Lila having a room in her house dedicated to the various trophies and accolades that the Unicorns have won over the years. A full-on Unicorn Museum.] [Wing: Headcanon accepted.]
Brooke is the only one who comments on that whole French-oriented part, and asks Jessica if she speaks French. In French, of course, a sentence that even I can translate, though I’ve not had a second of French. Jessica gets them to promise not to say anything to the rest of her family because she wants it to be a surprise, but Jessica and Lila manage to steer it back to telling Brooke about the Unicorns.
Later, Jessica goes over the rules again (this time using an actual magnifying glass and I am dying), and sure enough, there’s a bit about an in-person meeting in it.
Lila comes back around, and she flat out tells Jessica that there’s no way she can win, because there are so many good finalists, and the Wakefields just won’t be good enough. If it was the Fowlers, on the other hand…
Jesus fuck, Lila, that is some bullshit. Brag all you want on you and your family, but why the fuck are you attacking your alleged best friend’s family like that?! [Dove: BECAUSE ALICE WAKEFIELD IS ALWAYS HOME TO GIVE HUGS AND ADVICE (when she’s not resting from a busy two hours at part-time work) AND LILA DOESN’T HAVE A MOTHER, AND GODDAMN YOU, WAKEFIELDS AND YOUR FUCKING PERFECTION!]
Jessica reacts even worse than I did, and is now determined to win — though she’s not sure how, considering her family’s not actually interested in France and also she’s a lying liar who lies.
Later, Brooke catches Elizabeth up on the party and the fact that Todd was right and the Unicorns did invite her to join. Todd was the only one who was right, huh? What about literally everyone else in the school who seems to be saying the same thing? Just Todd then? Kay.
Brooke says that she agrees that they are the “Snob Squad,” because that’s still a thing that Elizabeth apparently calls them all the time, but the meeting wasn’t boring because of that letter Jessica received special delivery right in the middle of the meeting.
You realise you’re being just as gossipy as the Unicorns right now, don’t you? And I was all set to cut her some slack because mentioning the letter isn’t telling the details that Jessica asked them to keep secret, BUT THEN SHE TELLS THE DETAILS TOO OH MY GOD.
Now, Brooke says she’s worried that Jessica is in over her head, and it is true that she is. HOWEVER. You also at least implied that you would keep this a secret, and also, you and your group of friends constantly judge the Unicorns for not keeping secrets, so what the fuck, Brooke? And what the fuck, Elizabeth, because you certainly didn’t back down when Brooke admitted that Jessica wanted it to be a secret.
Elizabeth goes home to talk to her sister, but Jessica is already off at the library. Elizabeth and Alice talk a bit about whether the twins like Dynamo, and then asks Elizabeth not to tell Jessica about the project for Nick England, because Jessica gets too worked up over rock stars.
There are so many secrets floating around and so far, Jessica’s been the only one good at keeping them. [Dove: Re-read what you just wrote, Wing.] [Wing: I KNOW. And yet, here we are.]
Finally, though, Elizabeth and Jessica talk about the contest; Jessica even tells her that she didn’t mean to enter, all she did was write a joking entry, and Elizabeth was the one to mail it. Which is true enough, but (a) how was Elizabeth to know and (b) if you wanted to keep it a secret, maybe don’t leave it lying around in the common rooms.
Elizabeth wants her to call the contest and tell them the truth, because otherwise Alice and Ned will have a fit. Jessica begs her not to tell, at least until after Jessica works things out, because what if they won the trip? WHAT IF, ELIZABETH.
How the fuck are you going to win this contest, Jessica? Are you going to magic up the perfect — oh fuck. You’re totally going to do some blood magic, aren’t you?
Finally, though, Jessica agrees to “take care of it,” which Elizabeth takes to mean “tell the truth” but which we all know actually means “blood magic” or “burying people in the Mercandy yard.”
Steven offers to help with the dishes that night, and everyone is shocked because he never wants to do kitchen chores — until Jessica calls him on using it as an excuse not to practice his trombone. I’m actually surprised he didn’t go for something flashier, like the trumpet. [Dove: The trombone, much like the saxophone, is not a sexy instrument.] [Raven: “Something flashier, like the trumpet.” Hahaha, because we all know that Trumpet = Crumpet. The trumpet isn’t a sexy instrument either.] [Wing: Here we go again with the Sexy Instruments Debate. (1) I said “flashier” not sexier. The trumpet is not sexy, but it is a hell of a lot flashier than the trombone when it comes to most musical arrangements. (2) Saxophones make sexy music, no matter how overused they are in allegedly sexy videos. (3) Want sexy? Look to the drumline.]
Ned says they’ll “giv[e] the women a break” and do the kitchen cleaning for a change. FUCK YOU, NED. You should regularly be doing those chores, too. FUCK. YOU.
Later, Jessica gets a call from Marie Harris, the representative of Teenager Magazine. She starts out speaking in French, of course, but because of Steven’s trombone blaring, Jessica can wave it off as not being able to hear her clearly. She sets up an appointment for Thursday, which gives Jessica only a few days to figure things out.
She thinks and she thinks and she thinks, and finally she comes up with the best plan she’s ever “concocted” oh my god I love you. And if she can pull this off “there isn’t anything I can’t do!” she promises herself. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, YOU RIDICULOUS PERSON YOU.
Tuesday morning, she tells them about winning the trip to France — or, well, they’ve almost won it, and all they have to do is one or two little things. Jessica says that she wrote an essay about their terrific family, and Elizabeth entered the contest, which is both technically true and manipulative as fuck. [Dove: *applauds Jessica*]
Elizabeth points out it’s not quite as easy as she’s making it sound, is it Jessica, and Jessica admits that they have to go to some effort to show their interest in France. Which is basically nil; Alice hasn’t studied French since high school and remembers none of it.
Jessica starts easing them into the facts she used, letting them know a little bit more and more how much she stretched the truth. OH GOD AND THEN SHE ACTUALLY ADMITS THAT SHE COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING TO MAKE ELIZABETH SOUND BETTER THAN SHE IS SO SHE JUST TOLD THE TRUTH COME THE FUCK ON.
Jessica. JESSICA. JESSICA FUCKING WAKEFIELD CAN’T THINK OF ONE GODDAMN THING TO CHANGE ABOUT HER SISTER? NOT ONE. GODDAMN. THING.
Ned finally tells Jessica she needs to call the magazine and withdraw because it was all a big mistake. Jessica begs them to play along, it’s just a couple of hours to show they’re the kind of family that she wrote about.
OH. MY. GOD. And then Alice starts going along with it, because it would be great to go to Paris AND ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?! GHOSTWRITER! GRAPPLEGATE! WHOEVER THE FUCK YOU ARE WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN DOING RIGHT NOW.
There is no fucking way that even Ned and Alice Wakefield would go along with this. NO. FUCKING. WAY. THIS HAD BETTER BE SOME KIND OF TEACH HER A LESSON THING OR I AM GOING TO BURN DOWN EVERYTHING. [Raven: Madame Andre says hello.]
Jessica is giddy over this turn of events, and then takes off because she has something important to do. Like go to school? Because it is Tuesday morning and this conversation feels like it is taking forever.
Oh, thank fuck. Alice does want to teach Jessica a lesson, in hopes that she will learn not to exaggerate. While I appreciate that sentiment (hell, I’m fucking relieved over it), I have zero doubt she’ll even learn a lesson for the end of this book, much less than one that carries over.
So their plan is to do a little exaggerating themselves on Thursday, which they all think will be fun. NOW. I do think Jessica needs to learn a lesson, but even if I thought she would ever learn one, I think humiliating her in front of a stranger is maybe not the way to go, and this sounds like that will be the result.
(Well, that or her own family ending up in the Mercandy backyard. Or maybe both.) [Dove: I want this.]
They are going to let Ms Harris know what’s going on, though, and see if she’s willing to go along with them, which is slightly less humiliating — maybe. I think it is still kind of terrible.
God, the entire Wakefield family is just a mess. [Raven: Also, this is the “best plan” Jess has ever concocted? This isn’t a plan! All she did was told them about the contest! I guess she played down certain aspects, but that’s nothing special, or scheming, or clever. Pretty let down here, to be honest.]
Back to Jessica, who is trying to kill two birds with one stone, and have Brooke dress up as a French maid and serve dinner during the interview as her pledge task. (Nydick just perked right up. Not getting into which parts, either.) Mary thinks this is brilliant, but Ellen is skeptical because Jessica will be the only Unicorn around to see it.
Oh, but Jessica’s thought that through already; Ellen and Mary can peek through the window to see it. Lila, too.
… so complete humiliation, then? Cool. (Also, creepy.)
When Jessica gives Brooke her pledge task, she doesn’t like how amused Brooke sounds about it (or how she seems to have forgotten all about the pledge task in the first place); despite that whole inability to keep a secret, I continue to be utterly charmed by Brooke.
Brooke agrees to do it, but she wants to talk to Elizabeth about it. Now, Unicorn initiations are secret, but Elizabeth will be at dinner so — Jessica gives in to the request.
AND THEN JESSICA ASKS BROOKE TO USE A FRENCH NAME FOR THE EVENING. LIKE BROOKETTE.
I laughed until I cried.
Lila’s none too pleased that the pledge task won’t take place at school and absolutely refuses to peep through a window (though not because she doesn’t want to be a creeper; she doesn’t want to be childish), so Ellen and Lila will drop by sometime that evening, making up an excuse. Even more humiliation. This just gets better and better.
(Also, hello, Mary is a part of this too!)
Brooke and Elizabeth go skating, and Brooke entertains Elizabeth with the details of Jessica’s request. Elizabeth even tells Brooke about the family plan to teach Jessica a lesson, because literally only Jessica is able to keep a fucking secret in this book.
When Jessica breaks the news about their French maid to the family, they feign surprised (or at least Alice does) because Elizabeth has already warned her. There’s some real second-hand embarrassment going on in my reading right now. Her entire family plotting against her, even for a good reason, is super fucking uncomfortable, even though I think Jessica is in the wrong.
Elizabeth suggests that Brooke knows a lot about French clothing and should help them choose their outfits, and Jessica leaps on this. I’m shocked she hasn’t thought of it already, but cool.
Steven tells Jessica he’s going to pretend to go upstairs to practice and then put on a jazz trombone tape, and Ned is going to be the most interesting artist Ms Harris has ever met in her life.
Jessica eats this up. She’s getting exactly what she wants, of course, and thinks herself a genius, but I’m not sure why she’s so trusting. Maybe of her parents and Elizabeth, but Steven is going along with this hardcore, and I don’t know that I’d trust him even if a trip to Paris is on the line.
Elizabeth starts talking about what they might serve, like braised partridge wings in wine and souffle a la terrapin; even Jessica knows that a terrapin is a type of turtle. Steven, in turn, shoots down escargot, at least when he learns they are snails. I quite like escargot, though I don’t normally like very salty things.
THEY’RE HAVING A FLAMBE FOR DESSERT OH GOD THAT HAS NEARLY WON ME OVER. YOU SET THINGS ON FIRE. I FUCKING LOVE FLAMBE. [Dove: *smirks* Oh, just you wait to see what they set on fire!]
Jessica goes home to clean rather than go shopping with Lila, and does an amazing job of it, apparently, even though she never cleans. By the time dinner’s ready, she’s cleaned the entire downstairs and is exhausted. Well yes, Jessica, cleaning is exhausting. Glad you’ve finally figured that out, considering how often you make other people, mostly Elizabeth, do your work.
After dinner, Brooke brings over some clothes and things in an old trunk of her father’s, and is going to give Jessica a quick French lesson. The clothes she’s brought include a long, swirly magenta and orange skirt that nearly comes down to Jessica’s ankles, a magenta t-shirt (which she says clashes, except the skirt is also magenta, so — how?); Alice adds a green plastic necklace and bracelets that Steven gave her a few years ago. Jessica will finish the outfit off with ballet slippers tied high around her ankles and red tights.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, will be wearing purple jeans with rhinestones down the sides (…actually, I kind of want purple jeans now. Maybe without the rhinestones, but if they were small enough, even then), a black top, and black boots. She’ll add one of Alice’s long purple scarves wound around her neck, and if I was writing this, that scarf would catch on fire by the end.
Alice is going to wear a denim skirt over a leotard and a pair of leg warmers, because Jessica told Ms Harris about her love of ballet, and a ton of jewelry, including her silver Eiffel Tower earrings. (Which hang down to her shoulders, not at all what I was picturing, and Jessica only bought them as a joke.)
Steven, meanwhile, will be wearing a black turtleneck sweater, a black leather vest studded with silver metal, and black jeans. I am dying. [Dove: I hear that description, and I start humming Macho Man by the Village People.] [Raven: I went here…
On Thursday, Brooke shows up wearing a raincoat over her French maid’s outfit, and this is starting to sound more like a porn than a Sweet Valley Twins book. (Pretty sure Brooke showing off her outfit to Elizabeth will colour Elizabeth’s fantasies well into the future.)
The food they’ve come up with is: nouilles au fromage a la Elizabeth (Elizabeth’s macaroni and cheese). And that’s apparently it? I was looking forward to more fake French foods.
Steven, meanwhile, has been tasked with making a mess of the entire downstairs, which is even crueler considering how hard Jessica worked to clean it up. [Raven: Why are they messing the place up? Is a messy house somehow French?] [Wing: We talk about this more in-depth in the podcast episode that will go up later, but my reading of it was that they messed up the house simply because Jessica wanted it clean, not because the French are stereotypically messy.]
Jessica gets dressed and then is the one who answers the door for Ms Harris. She’s learned enough French to introduce herself as Jessica and ask how Ms Harris is, but then she’s lost.
There’s talking, Brookette makes an appearance, this is all so awkward and over the top.
Oh, they are having other food, epinards a la creme and pain de carottes, which is creamed spinach and carrot loaf. What the fuck is carrot loaf? Is it meatloaf with carrots? Is it zucchini bread with carrots?
AND DESSERT IS JELLY DOUGHNUTS FLAMBE OH MY GOD. [Dove: *cackles*]
Jessica is plenty humiliated by the time dinner is over, and like I said earlier, though I agree she needs to learn a lesson about exaggeration (this is not the first book it’s come up in, after all), but humiliating her is not the way to go, goddamn. What kind of supportive family is this?! [Dove: I mean, humiliation is never the way to teach any child a lesson, but definitely not the child that has buried so many bodies in the past year.]
Ned shows off a “new painting” which is a copy of a Manet, and is the worst painting Jessica has ever seen, “a muddy-looking mess of splotches and runny patches”.
Alice then says she’s going to perform a short ballet dance for Ms Harris, and while she’s getting ready, Elizabeth is to give Ms Harris a tour of the house.
Finally, Jessica has had enough and everyone starts to laugh at her.
Alice apologises for playing a trick on her and explains they did it to teach her a lesson about exaggeration. Ms Harris admits that she was in on it, but she wants to know the real details of how they ended up in the contest, so Jessica, bright red with embarrassment, tells her the story.
Once she’s done, Ms Harris breaks the news that there’s no way Jessica would have been able to accept the prize, because one of the requirements in the rules is that she had to be enrolled in a French class at school.
THIS IS WHY YOU READ THE FINE PRINT, PEOPLE! SOME LAWYER WORKED HARD ON THAT AND YOU JUST IGNORE IT AND CLICK ACCEPT AND DON’T EVEN CARE — ahem. Never mind.
Ms Harris tells her that she can enter again the next year, when she’s actually taking French (apparently language classes don’t start in Sweet Valley until seventh grade), and Alice wonders if they should check her eyes, since she couldn’t see the fine print.
This, of course, horrifies Jessica, because she can’t imagine anything as horrible as having to wear glasses. Really? REALLY? Not what you just went through? Not that Lila and Ellen are about to turn up and see you in that ridiculous outfit? Not that time you embarrassed yourself trying to date an older boy? Not the time you lied about getting your period? Not — oh never mind.
Lila and Ellen never do turn up, and Jessica is suddenly terrified that they decided to peek in the window instead and saw her in that outfit, which would mean she would have to resign as a Unicorn because she’d be humiliated forever.
Turns out, Mr Fowler insisted on taking Ellen and Lila to dinner at Chez Sam’s so they couldn’t make it to the house. (… the French restaurant is Chez Sam’s?! [Dove: Why isn’t it called Sweet Valley French Restaurant?]) Jessica says that dinner was a total success and the representative said she had never been more entertained. So, that lesson on exaggeration went right out her ears, then.
Jessica does agree with Lila that she’s probably not going to win, but that she’ll get a big consolation prize, which is something Ms Harris told her about, so at least that is true enough.
The Unicorns unanimously vote Brooke in, but Brooke turns them down. When Lila wants to know what in the world she’s supposed to tell the others, Brooke suggests she tell them that Brooke is allergic to purple.
100% TEAM BROOKE.
The Dynamo concert is Friday night, and the seats the Wakefield kids got are terrible, all the way in the back and far over to one side. Jessica is feeling terrible about everything all week, and the only thing she’s looking forward to is the consolation prize. Look, woman, you’re going to see your current fave band play. CHILL THE FUCK OUT.
The consolation prize? A COMPLETE SERIES OF FRENCH LESSONS ON CASSETTE. I AM DYING. Jessica is humiliated all over again because she told Lila it would be jewelry or perfume. LESSON FUCKING LEARNED, I SEE.
And this time, Alice rewards her with front row seats for the kids. Because of course. The concert is the most exciting event of Jessica’s life (so far). Because of course. Nick England pulls Jessica up on stage for a dance. Because of course. Jessica lords it over Lila the next day. Because of course. Lila’s experience was terrible, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Because of course. [Raven: I hated this ending. Because of course.]
So suddenly, Jessica is on a run of good luck, and we’ll find out in the next book whether Jessica’s good luck will run out. Whatever could that mean? I BET IT MEANS GLASSES.
I don’t even care anymore.
God, this book. I still have issues with how humiliation was the way to teach Jessica a lesson according to her family, and how the next time she exaggerated nothing was said, and how she still managed to have the bestest best time ever. I mean, Steven and Elizabeth were right the fuck there. If nothing else, why didn’t he bring all three Wakefields on stage? What the fuck is even happening.
God, by the end I have absolutely hated this book. Did not see me coming around all the way to that.
[Dove: For some reason, I like this book. I think it’s fun, although I absolutely agree that it’s awful that the Wakefield parents thought this was a good way to treat their kid. Also, I blame Elizabeth a little for mailing Jessica’s entry, even though nobody asked her to.]
[Raven: I enjoyed this book a lot. Jessica’s contest entry had me smiling throughout, and I also loved the fake-out French party schtick at the end. The whole Brooke and the Unicorns B Plot was also handled well. There were a few issues, such as the ludicrous dragged-up-on-stage-at-the-concert ending, and the whole premise that Miss Harris would go along with sich a thing in order to teach Jessica a lesson – havent international magazines got better things to do? But, overall, J’ai vraiment apprécié ce livre, et je le recommanderais à tous ceux qui ne s’intéressent même pas à la série. Bon appétit!]
[Wing: Obviously, Raven should have recapped this book and thrown more French into it. No hablo francés.]
Elizabeth’s book-long soulmate: Brooke Dennis
Jessica’s hobby of the moment: France
Events: Essay Contest