Title: The Big Party Weekend
Tagline: Mum and Dad will be back any minute!
Summary: While Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield are away on holiday in Mexico, twins Jessica and Elizabeth and their older brother, Steven, are left with May Brown, the world’s most horrible baby-sitter!
But the Wakefield kids are determined to throw a party on Saturday night, with great food, fabulous music, all their friends – and no adults. They make an elaborate plan to get May out of the house, and the party of the year is on!
By the end of the party, the house is a wreck. How will Jessica, Elizabeth, and Steven ever get the mess cleared up before May – and their parents – come home?
I do quite like the cover, with the Little Wakefields tidying up after what can only be perceived as a thoroughly mediocre party. The broom-wielding Steven’s clearly eying up his sisters and saying “right, who wants the first paddlin’?” [Wing: Jessica. Or at least that’s what he’s hoping.]
One thing that does piss me off, however, is the crooked flower-painting on the wall. Firstly, it’s a completely shit picture. Secondly, by itself it’s obviously too small for the wall it’s being displayed on. Thirdly, it has been hung far too low.
Alice is an interior designer. She’s shit at her job.
[Dove: Also, I love that Chalet Girl (a film that is far better than it should be) directly references this advert. If you’re not a Brit, screw you. That joke isn’t for you. As for the actual book we’re recapping, there was a lot that just had me shaking my head and silently judging.]
[Wing: I feel like I’ve read this book before, but that is impossible, because I’ve never read any Sweet Valley until we started these recaps last year. Is there another parents gone/party weekend book that has similar beats in the plot? Most likely.]
The story starts, as all good stories do, with the adults fucking off to Mexico.
I mean, the fuck?!
This series has had countless plots in which the twins (and Steven) ask the Elder Wakefields for more responsibility, and EACH TIME their parents either rebuff them or are proven to be right when the shit hits the proverbial fan.
And at the start – At the fucking START – of this book, Ned and Alice are planning to fuck off to MEXICO?!
I call PROPER BULLSHIT.
[Dove: I assumed that they had agreed to be drug mules. As you pointed out on the cover, Alice is shit at her job. And Ned really can’t keep his story straight on which law he practices. So yeah, I think neither of them work, and every so often they hop the border and come back with their rectums filled with heroin.]
Alice and Ned are going on a MASSIVE drugs binge to relive their Woodstock years.
Blimey… Alice and Ned in Mexico for five days. Obviously a pair of political envoys tasked with persuading the Mexican authorities to pay for the erection of a massive wall.
[Wing: I’m off to Mexico later this year. Clearly I am going to foment revolution.]
Jessica is excited. Elizabeth is cautious. And no, that’s not the phoned-in twins-are-similar description for this book. It’s their reactions to their parents’ upcoming trip.
They discuss the possible baby-sitter situation. Jessica believes they’ll be left without any chaperone whatsoever, and Elizabeth likes that idea for wholly predictable reasons.
Elizabeth wasn’t sure, at first. But the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of their parents trusting them enough to leave them on their own. Maybe now that she and Jessica were in sixth grade at Sweet Valley Middle School, they didn’t need someone to look after them.
Jess, almost fanatical in her conviction that there would be no baby-sitter, is planning something.
At school the following day, it’s literally seconds before Jessica hits full speed. She tells her Unipals that her house is an adult-free zone that coming weekend, and that she’s throwing the party to end all parties that coming Saturday.
Usual fare. Lila is sceptical, Ellen is complementary / jealous, and Janet feels that this will reflect well on the Unicorns.
“So, who are you inviting?” Janet asked.
“Oh, everybody,” Jessica said. “I mean, everybody that we’d want to be there.”
“I’ll ask some people, if you want,” Janet offered.
“OK. Can everybody come on Saturday night, around seven?” Jessica asked.
So that’s how invites work in the Eighties?
“The guest list should be vaguely exclusive.”
“I’ll invite some people. I’m not specifying who.”
She ends the scene by asking Aaron Dallas, her apparent boyfriend, to attend the party. He agrees to come. Jessica is the Big I Am. Not to be confused with the Big Will.I.Am.
Of course, the party idea hasn’t been sanctioned by Saint Elizabeth as of yet, but Jessica knows it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. She collars her sister on the walk home from school.
Elizabeth, naturally, isn’t so sure.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to have a party while Mom and Dad are away?” Elizabeth asked.
“It’s not a good idea, it’s a terrific idea,” Jessica answered.
“I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “Did you ask Mom and Dad?”
Jessica shook her head. “Of course not! They’d never say yes.”
“But you’re going to do it anyway?”
“Sure. It’s no big deal. If it’ll make you feel better, we can tell them we’re going to have a few friends over while they’re gone,” Jessica said.
“I don’t think we should have a big party without asking them first,” Elizabeth argued.
Back and forth, back and forth, blah blah fucking blah. And as usual, Elizabeth collapses like a bridge made of biodegradable drinking straws built on a blancmange that has just had its foundations urinated on by an arrogantly big Labrador.
Jess has the final word:
“Don’t worry. Nothing bad will happen. I promise.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, may I present the entire Sweet Valley Twins back catalogue as rebuttal evidence? [Wing: Already a better attorney than Ned.]
Chapter two begins after dinner on Monday. The Mexican trip is set for Wednesday. There’s been no talk of baby-sitters at this point. Jessica, is still convinced of the validity of her no-chaperone assertion. And big ideas, it seems, are contagious.
Jessica heard heavy footsteps on the stairs, and a few seconds later the twins’ fourteen-year-old brother, Steven, stepped into the room and dosed the door behind him. “This is confidential,” he said. “I’m having a party here on Saturday, and I don’t want you guys in the way.”
After a brief back-and-forth, they decide to double-up on the mayhem and hold a joint mega-shindig. Jessica thinks that high school boys can only make the party 20% cooler, while Steven presumably believes he can cop off with all his sister’s friends with impunity. [Dove: To be fair, he can and has: Roberta Manning and Sandra Ferris. They’re dead and buried in the Mercandy backyard, but that’s the price you pay for getting gropey with Jessica Wakefield’s favourite sibling.]
[Wing: Now I have a song stuck in my head AND a fanvid obsession, so here you go. Note: Marvel spoilers ahead, though not for Inifity War.
You’re welcome.] [Raven: Love this.]
They agree to club together for chips and soda. PRAGMATIC. Although Steven will get the best of that deal, as he’s basically a human fucking dustbin.
Elizabeth is still wary of the whole escapade, rightly surmising that the whole no-babysitter scenario is far too good to be true. Discussion turns to how the three party planners (well, two planners and a whiner) will be able to afford the snacks so blithely mentioned above. Steven suggests raiding the cabinets, which is basically stealing food from your relatives.
[Elizabeth] got her wallet out of her knapsack. “I can contribute five dollars, but that’s it.”
“I have a couple of dollars, but they’re in penny rolls, and I have to cash them in,” Steven said.
“That’s not enough,” Jessica complained.
“Well, what do you have?” Steven countered.
Jessica thought for a moment. At her last count, she was fourteen dollars and fifty cents in debt. “I have the new Johnny Buck tape,” she said, finally.
Nice work, Jess. Best get down to CEX, love.
They bicker, and Steven suggests that maybe their parents would give the youngsters so extra money for pizzas. Dream on, dude. Eventually, the scene ends with Jessica wondering if her promised best-ever-party would be all that and a bag of chips, as advertised. If it isn’t BUTT-FUCK SPLENDID, Jessica will be mortified. And Janet will decree that the whole debacle reflects badly on the Unicorns. Fucking Janet.
Tuesday Morning. Breakfast at the Wakefield Compound. With the Elder Wakefields.
Cue Elizabeth being a smug-faced little polyp.
Elizabeth helped herself to a glass of orange juice and poured some cereal into a bowl. “Dad, Mom, is there anything you want us to do around the house while you’re gone? Something to keep us busy maybe?” Elizabeth had decided she wanted to do something nice for her parents. That way she wouldn’t feel so bad about having the party while they were gone.
Oh, GET FUCKED you sycophantic canker.
I so hope that Dove has been trolling us for years, and that the Elizabeth in Sweet Valley High has punk sensibilities and a rebellious streak wider than the fucking Ganges. Kids hit their teens and turn on their parents, right? [Dove: Her left breast gets touched within the first ten books, I believe.]
Daddy Wakefield tasks them with clearing out the garage while they are away. The room is stuffed with tricycles and boardgames, which sounds amazing.
Lightning strikes Steven, and he has An Idea.
“Have a garage sale!” Steven suddenly interrupted.
Attaboy, Incesto! Show ‘em your gumption. Those chips and dips won’t buy themselves!
Elizabeth assures her family that half of the proceeds would go to charity. Seriously, Elizabeth, get in the fucking sea.
On the way to school, the Tiny Wakefields clap themselves on the back for a job well done. They conclude that the best time to hold a garage sale is mid-afternoon on Thursday, which makes NO FUCKING SENSE WHATSOEVER, but I suppose they can catch the after-school traffic or anyone on their way to a rock concert on Secca Lake.
At school itself, we see Jessica supplying more details about the party to her bored-sounding Unipals. Lila is unimpressed, naturally, but bless Ellen for taking the whole thing at face value and asking if she could bring her boyfriend.
We get clarity on Jessica’s standing with Aaron:
Across the cafeteria, she spotted Aaron, tossing a milk carton around with his friends. She had been thinking about him all day. He was so cute. Some people thought they were a couple, but they really weren’t. Not yet, anyway. They had gone on a date to a Lakers’ game once, but they had never kissed. If he kissed her at her very own party, that would be the best. Everyone was going to be there, and everyone would know that Aaron really liked her. She tried to picture what it would be like when she and Aaron finally kissed.
Well, now I know. Gonna sleep soundly tonight now that’s cleared up, believe you me.
We skip back to the Wakefield Compound, where the penny is primed and ready to drop like these guys:
Over dinner, the last-minute piss-artists that bumped uglies to create our titular heroines finally reveal their plans for their Compound while they smuggle cocaine in ass-condoms for El Chapo. Far from having no one watch over their little monsters, the Elder Wakefields have plumped for their very own Mary Poppins, a temporary live-in baby-sitter.
“Her name is May Brown, and she comes very highly recommended by the Morrises. She’s a nice, elderly woman and apparently a very good cook. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.”
Mr. Wakefield was right. Jessica wasn’t disappointed—she was crushed!
Yeah, that’s pretty shit, to be honest. Especially springing it on the family at the eleventh hour. [Dove: I love how they give zero fucks about meeting the woman they’re going to leave their crotchfruit with. The general vibe I’m getting from Alice and Ned is: “I kind of love you enough to hope you don’t die. But not really enough to care about your welfare beyond that.]
The three party planners try their best to persuade their parents that May Brown isn’t required, and that the fucking Morrises can take their recommendations and drily thumb them into their collective anuses, but Alice and Ned can stand firm.
The Wakefield’s are getting a Mary Poppins, and that’s that.
[Wing: BRB HAVING EMOTIONS NOW.]
May Brown is arriving the following day after school, and the Elder Wakefields are departing some eight hours earlier, before breakfast. This is complete horseshit. I’m pretty sure the parents wouldn’t just fuck off without ensuring the babysitter had arrived. Hitch this onto the fact that they didn’t mention it to their crotch-muffins until the NIGHT BEFORE they leave, and we have a fleecey plot made from some very threadbare fact-sheep.
On the way to school the next morning, Evil Twin beseeches Good Twin not to tell the Unitwats about the status of their upcoming party. Elizabeth thinks it’ll be alright, but Jessica knows that everyone with think she’s a fucking pterodactyl or something. I mean, what self-respecting twelve-year-old throws a party at which there’s a baby-sitter? She might as well shit directly into their vol-au-vents.
Various Unicorns chatter inanely at Jessica regarding the party. I think it’s cute that Ellen seems so excited. Then again, I’m probably projecting Dove!Ellen rather than Canon!Ellen [Dove: Dove!Ellen is Canon!Ellen, just not in every book.], but whatevs. Jessica deflects the questions with aplomb. Then they mention Aaron Dallas, and she nearly soaks her knickers.
Elizabeth descends upon Amy, and they talk about… Amy’s new boyfriend. Amy’s Non-Ken boyfriend. Amy’s Rob.
Elizabeth is astounded. What about Ken? Here’s how I picture Ken’s reaction:
Rob’s cool. He’s in the eighth grade. He’s on the soccer team. He’s great at video games. He’s cough-up-your-spleen hilarious. And he’s hung like a fucking baboon.
Amy’s kicked Ken to the kerb, and the poor little titch nearly broke his neck falling off it into the gutter. Amy is now psyched that she can double-date with Liz.
Elizabeth and Todd. Amy and Rob. Ken and a sock. Steven and his shame. Alice and her gin.
After school, the twins head home to meet their Poppins. Jessica chunters all the while, complaining about the party and the garage sale and the babysitter and Steven’s bathroom peephole. Elizabeth tries to roll these turds in glitter.
They enter the Compound to find Steven and the grandmotherly May Brown at loggerheads.
Immediately, May Brown establishes herself as the protagonists’ Nemesis. Shitty Poppins.
Unable to tell the twins apart, she demands they wear nametags (doesn’t happen).
She insists in strict rules about eating between meals (probably sensible in the real world, probably superfluous in the perfect metabolism-be-damned world of Sweet Valley).
She presents the Compound with a comprehensive list of House Rules (including bed by nine, and only one hour of television a day).
She demands they drink six glasses of water a day (sensible.)
And all this happens in about a page and a half.
After the Wakey Siblings present Shitty Poppins with a barrage of predictable sass, she banishes them to their rooms as she demands respect. This gives The Three Wakefeteers ample opportunity to besmirch her in the minds of the loyal readership.
Steven thinks she reminds him of his math teacher, the Dragon Lady. Although I fail to see how good a dragon would be at maths, unless the problem at hand was hoard-based.
Jessica thinks she’s a witch. Which is odd, as she is neither green not wearing a pointy hat. [Dove: Neither was Nora Mercandy. Ooh. Does this mean May is probably an orphan?]
Elizabeth, the Sainted Elizabeth, thinks she was probably a sergeant in the army. Well, she’s tough, but she’s no R Lee Emery.
Together, the three Wakefieldians decree that they shall do their utmost to rid the Compound of this meddlesome harpy, in time for their upcoming party that weekend. Yay!
Later that evening, May serves them dinner. First, she demands they wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs (and probably to make sure Steven doesn’t get spunk on the lettuce). That’s decent advice. Second, she makes sure that the twins sit on the opposite side of the table. I have no idea what that achieves, other than maybe May wants to make the twins face each other in order so she can pretend it’s one child looking at a mirror. And thirdly, she serves a fucking OUTSTANDING comedy meal…
Elizabeth took her seat. She looked at the steaming dishes of food on the table and wrinkled her nose. It looked like one of them was spinach and the other was something involving broccoli.
Broccoli gets such a bad fucking press. It’s an incredible vegetable..INVEGIBLE!
Jessica pokes the broccoli casserole, and full-on shits on the spinach. Naturally, May admonishes “Elizabeth” for Jessica’s transgressions, as can only be expected.
The twins and Steven stumble through the meal – there’s chicken as a third ingredient, which is decent enough – and Steven even (hehe!) manages to open a window and hurl his meal into the yard. Pudding is tapioca, and is followed by a constitutional walk around the neighbourhood.
I hate the world tapioca. It’s probably the least-appetising-sounding non-offal food word. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. [Wing: I really just want to know why it is so horrifying to you.] [Raven: It sounds 50% squelchy and 50% faux-posh.]
After the thankfully off-screen walk, we have a small bridging scene in which the Wakefield Brats prepare for the garage sale the following day. We learn two things:
- Their plan to banish May before the party is called Operation Out-the-Door, which isn’t very imaginative at all. They should have gone with Operation Hoof-Poppins-Into-Space, or just something bizarre like Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard. [Dove: Or they should do what our company does, and name it after the first thing they see. Behold, Project Spaff Blizzard Over Boosters Uniform.]
- Alice has instructed them not to sell the marked boxes of antiques. If they’re valuable, Alice, MOVE THEM INTO THE FUCKING HOUSE. Sorry, Alice, but I call that these are unwashed sex toys.
They troop back into the house, and we learn that Jessica has began Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard in earnest. Shitty Poppins emerges from the bathroom, betowled and howling. Her hair? PURPLE, motherfuckers! She demands explanation and reparation in equal measure. All three siblings deny everything, and May troops off to the Elder Wakefield’s Sex Cave, where she is staying during her visit.
Jessica laughs and owns up. She substituted May’s shampoo with some Halloween hair dye. And that’s not all…
At that moment, May came charging back down the stairs, still wearing her robe and slippers. “All right, what have you done with my clothes?”
Yup. Jessica’s going full-on prankster in this one. Go for it, Jess! We love it when you’re proactive. And yet we hate Liz for the same thing… weird.
As May searches Jessica’s room, Jess returns the missing clothes to the Elder Wakefield Sex Cave. Maybe Shitty Poppins simply overlooked them?
May scurries off, and the siblings think they’ve won. Not even close. Soon enough, they are summoned by Shitty Poppins, who has a new weapon in her arsenal of fuckosity: a shrill and powerful whistle. She lines the siblings up in front of her, in a fashion.
“We seem to have gotten off to a bad start with one another,” May began. “I’m not sure why. I don’t usually have this much trouble. But it’s been a long time since I was responsible for three children your age.” She paused, then said, “I do have several rules, and maybe you don’t agree with all of them. That doesn’t give you the right to interfere with my private things. Now, who would like to apologize first?”
After some more premeditated sass, Shitty Poppins can’t take it. She assigns chores as punishment. Elizabeth wonders about their homework, and May instructs them to do it in the morning before school.
“But we don’t have time in the morning,” Jessica said. “We have to be at school at eight.”
“Nonsense! There’s plenty of time when you get up at five-thirty,” May said. “It’s time you children were on a decent schedule.” She blew the whistle and motioned for them to follow her. “Remember, early to bed, early to rise!”
Look, I know that she’s meant to be a battleaxe. I get it. That’s the story, right?
But she’s SO over the top, it’s ridiculous. I’m sorry, but the Elder Wakefields might be bad parents, but they’re not fucking derelict.
I don’t care WHAT the Morrises said, this woman isn’t fit to baby-sit a DUSTBIN, never mind three other sentient beings. Well, two other sentient beings and Steven.
[Dove: The Morrises are probably the heads of the drug cartel that Ned and Alice are muling for. The Wakefields probably have very little choice in the matter if they want to keep that attractive split-level house with the adorable Spanish tiling in the kitchen.]
We end the chapter at 3:45 in the morning, as Jessica has set May’s alarm clock and clock radio to chime out at full volume in the wee small hours, at five minute intervals. Keep it up, Jess. You’re the only one doing anything to get this witch out of the house. Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard forever!
Next morning, a visibly-tired Shitty Poppins questions the siblings on the whole repeating-alarm affair, but they bat the interrogation for six over and over. Even Elizabeth gets in on the lies, and much to her surprise her nose doesn’t grow a few feet in length.
As May prepares cereal, Steven puts the coffee on. This, however is no ordinary coffee. It’s actually covfefe.
Covfefe – Coffee with cinnamon, malice, and other random food-cupboard shite.
To be precise, May’s covfefe contained:
“Steven, what did you put in there?” Elizabeth asked.
“Cinnamon,” Steven replied with a serious face.
“And?” Elizabeth prompted.
“Garlic powder, a couple of bay leaves, some cayenne pepper, and a few dashes of tabasco sauce!” Steven grinned and took a bite of his muffin.
May drinks it, turns red, and bolts for the bathroom.
I’d love it if she actually died, and Steven went to prison for manslaughter. Especially if Ned represented him in court, and realised that no, he actually didn’t know everything about any aspect of fucking law. [Dove: I think Don’t Tell Mom The Baby-Sitter’s Dead was released too close to this book to be an homage if that’s the direction they went.]
And come on now, Steven. You can do better than that. Your covfefe ensemble is almost palatable. Where’s the olive oil, the masses of salt, the washing-up liquid, the Henderson’s Relish?
When she returns, Shitty Poppins doubles down on being a cunt. First, she reiterates that this antagonism will not drive her out. And second?
“Oh, and another thing,” May said. “Until all of these shenanigans come to an end, I’ve decided to take away your phone privileges.”
Jessica spun around. “What?”
“Until you can learn to behave, you’re not allowed to use the phone,” May said, wiping off the table with a sponge. She didn’t look at them when she spoke.
That’s it. Jessica’s life is now officially over.
The incredulous twins stomp off, with Jessica vowing that this means war.
That’s just for you, Dove! *mwa* [Dove: It’s a Unicorn. With fabulous purple hair. Who likes a good gossip. Rarity is Jessica’s spirit animal. Well, if Tirek isn’t available.] [Wing: One piece of the conversation over “spirit animal” being culture appropriation, from a Native writer.] [Dove: Apologies, I genuinely didn’t know this was a Native American term, I assumed it was some hippy thing white people said to sound deep. Which just proves the author’s point to the power of a billion. From now on, I’ll use “patronus”.]
Next day, Elizabeth rushes straight home after school. The garage sale starts at three.
I know we’ve gone over this before, but what the hell time does middle school finish in the US? Home by three? I’m presuming 2:30? [Wing: My school finished around 3:10. It seems like they live, what, 10 minutes from the school, but often spend time there before they head home, so 2:30 sounds about right for SVMS.]
After some more quality “why-the-fuck-are-you-twins” May banter, Shitty Poppins disappears for some grocery shopping. Only the essentials.
It’s Sweet Valley. I’m pretty sure the essentials are pretty luxurious.
As she leaves, May has some last-minute advice for Elizabeth:
“Keep an eye on your cash box,” May said, stopping at the front door as she put on her jacket. “And make sure no one walks on the flowerbed.”
I know it’s innocent, but that’s a wonderful Sex Ed advice talk right there.
Elizabeth snaps back, and May threatens to tell her parents just how bolshy she’s being when they next call. [Wing: This implies they’ve already called at least one. I don’t believe it.] Yeah, like they’re going to give a fuck. They’ll be off their fucking tits on PCP when they do.
Liz begins selling shit to people at the garage sale (including a toaster to someone who collects them, which is charming). Eventually, Amy rocks up with her new beau… Rob.
Rob is a FUCKING PRICK.
First, he mocks someone who bought a funky hat. Then he insinuates the Wakefields must be strapped for cash to hold a garage sale. THEN he assumes the Wakefields have a poor taste in music, and suggests they hire his favourite band: Johnny Gordon and the Waves. Who are appalling.
Elizabeth is confused why her best friend is with this douchenozzle. Hung like a baboon, Liz. A baboon.
Eventually, they fuck off.
Later, with Steven and Jessica finally helping out, Liz reveals their profits so far: thirteen dollar and twenty-five cents.
Steven was busy showing their old board games to a man wearing round glasses. “See, you have to answer these questions, and then you get a chance to swing on this vine. But if you hit a tree, you lose everything,” he explained.
I really hope this is a real boardgame. To the internet!
Nope. No clue.
[Wing: Sounds like a modified Tarzan board game. At least a couple of those exist, but I’ve never played them, so I can’t speak to the answer questions part.]
May returns with bags of groceries. She demands Steven helps her carry them. Elizabeth heads for the kitchen to fix some lemonade. This leave Jessica primed to sell some of her mother’s “antiques” by accident.
She sells a carved wooden rose in a glass case for seventy-five dollars.
All very Beauty and the Beast.
Elizabeth returns, and Jess is excited, until we learn the truth…
Elizabeth pointed to the boxes of antiques in the back of the garage. The blanket that had been covering them was thrown to one side, and they were all open. Elizabeth searched through them quickly. “Jessica, you just sold our great-great-great-grandmother’s rose!” she cried. “That’s one of Mom’s favorite things in the whole wide world!”
FUCK OFF, Liz. If it’s one of Alice’s favourite non-gin things in the whole wide world, what the fuck is it doing in a dusty box at the back of the garage? [Dove: This. THIS. THIS TO THE POWER OF A BILLION.]
Look, I get it that storage space might be tight, and that some things don’t go with a modern design aesthetic, but Alice! If you love something, put it on fucking display.
Anyway, plot. Drama. Things continue.
In the next scene, after we discover that Jess and Liz chased the buyer’s car to no avail, we learn exactly why it’s in storage in the garage: it’s too fragile for display. Well, if that’s the case, what’s the point of having it? [Dove: Wait. So how precisely is it stored in the garage? Just in a box? Why not put it on a shelf in the bedroom then? I have always assumed it was in a glass case to keep it safe, but if it’s not, fucking buy one and put it somewhere safe, Alice.]
Liz fumes, Steven is agog, Elizabeth blames herself.
Liz tries to sleuth the issue out by quizzing her sister. What does the guy look like? What is the make and registration of his car? Show us on the dolly where he touched you, etc. Jessica pretty much no-sirs the whole incident, as she was lost in thought about the party problem.
“Hey, the afternoon wasn’t a total waste,” Jessica announced with a smile. “I thought of a plan to get May out of the house so we can still have our party!”
Attagirl, Jess. At least Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard is go!
While Liz phones all the antique dealers she can think of…
… Jess outlines the plot to Steven, offscreen. He’s in.
At dinner, Steven and Jessica are incredibly polite, which is obviously part of the Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard. Elizabeth, unaware of the plan, is incredulous, and doesn’t manage to keep her irritation under wraps when Shitty Poppins demands she clean her plate. There is more hilarious banter and twin mixup nonsense. That never gets old.
Steven and Jessica even offer to do the dishes, which is astonishing. It seems this is all to soft-soap their baby-sitter into trusting them down the road. How conniving!
It’s soon Friday, and the twins are at school. Jessica chats to Aaron, who confirms he’s attending the party with Ken. I really want to see Ken and Rob have a fist-fight in a pub car park.
Lila confirms her attendance, and posits that the one fly in the Eccles Cake of this party might be the blabbermouth Caroline Pearce, who resides a mere two doors down from the Compound. Jessica says that Caroline is invited, so that’s one bullet dodged.
At lunchtime, Liz and Brooke provide the obligatory foreshadowing for the next book (but one, as the NEXT book is a Super Edition), before she speaks to Amy about her Wooden Rose issues and a prospective trip to the mall to track it down in the Antique District. Amy helps cheer her friend up, and then confirms that they are due a double date at 4pm at Casey’s Place.
Todd walks up with Ken, in time to hear these plans confirmed. Both Todd and Ken confirm they can make it for the double date.
Sorry, Ken. You’re no longer Boyfriend Material.
There’s a terse exchange between everyone. Then Ken strops off in a huff. And scene.
So, after school, we have a small scene in which Elizabeth strikes out at the Antique Store, in which she spills her plight and shares her number with the storekeeper. Let’s hope he’s not a predatory paedophile. This is followed by the double date, which is just awful. Rob, again, is a colossal prick.
First, he demeans Elizabeth’s concerns for the wooden rose, and not in a snarkily-recap-the-fuck-out-of-it-years-later way.
Then he almost blanks the girls in order to man-chat with Todd.
THEN HE TAKES THE PISS OUT OF YOGHURT.
Seriously, don’t mess with the Yakult, Rob. Or is that the Occult?
Either way, yoghurt is amazing. Nobody puts Muller in the corner.
After the double date, Elizabeth returns to the compound into yet another argument with Shitty Poppins. This time, May demands to know where Liz has been since the end of school. Elizabeth lies, claiming that she’d been at school the whole time, working on an issue of the Sweet Valley Sixers, which is backed up by a spurious note.
I know that Liz actively hates May with a passion, but this seems out of character for her.
May is strangely unwilling to accept Elizabeth’s version of events, and this time gaskets blow. May and Elizabeth go at it like chavs in a supermarket car park, culminating in Liz being branded a “spoiled brat” and sent to her room.
Elizabeth didn’t bother knocking on Jessica’s door, she just walked into her room. Jessica and Steven were sitting on the bed, talking.
“I don’t know what you guys are planning to do to get rid of May,” Elizabeth said angrily. “But whatever it is, count me in!”
I really like Elizabeth in this book.
Because we have seen her pushed to breaking point… and she breaks.
She’s not a saint. She’s a monster, just like Jessica. Just like us. Give her enough pressure, she’ll pop. It’s merely a question of scale.
I’m reminded of the famous apocryphal quote, attributed to Winston Churchill:
Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, and Elizabeth has admitted defeat on the quest for the wooden rose. Alice will just have to fashion something out of spare Rizlas or something. Hell, after her Mexican “adventure”, she’ll probably be so twatted she wouldn’t even notice if Jessica had sold the whole fucking garden.
The twins complain about Shitty Poppins, and her chore orders, and her stuffed peppers (which I’m sure are fucking amazing because peppers are wonderful and Dove is wrong). [Wing: Stuffed peppers are delicious, and I’m sure Ostrich will be happy to make them for you sometime.] [Raven: Yum!] They conclude it’s going to be a great party, and begin planning their outfits.
The clock ticks to 4pm, and it’s time to put Operation Meringue-Chested-Flute-Leopard into full effect. As the twins ‘relax’ in the living room, and May reads a magazine in the kitchen, Steven enters the compound with muddy boots.
When May demands he remove them, he does so with a begrudging snarl.
When May retorts that he shouldn’t act this way, he flies back with “it’s my house, beeyotch!” (paraphrased.)
May pushes back, Steven continues, and things build to a crescendo!
“I don’t care!” Steven cried. “And I don’t care about your stupid rules, either! I’m so sick of eating what you want us to eat and sleeping when you tell us to sleep and getting up at five o’clock every morning. I’ve tried really hard to do what you want, but it’s never good enough. I can’t stand living here anymore!”
After storming off to fetch a knapsack, he returns to pull on his sneakers and officially Run Away From Home.
As Steven’s frame disappears down the road, Shitty Poppins quizzes the twins on their brother’s intentions.
May was peering through the window. “Steven just left,” she said. “He said he was never coming back.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Elizabeth said. “He’ll be back.”
“I don’t know.” May craned her neck to look farther down the street. “He seemed pretty serious.”
“Yeah, but you know Steven,” Jessica said. “He’ll be back for dinner.”
May turned from the window and looked at Jessica. “Do you think so?” She looked pretty nervous.
“Sure,” Jessica said.
Dinner-time arrives. Of course, there’s no Steven. And the girls, well versed, lay it on trowel-style, thick like Rob’s cock. (Like a baboon, people.)
“Elizabeth, remember that other time that Steven ran away?” Jessica suddenly asked.
“What? What are you talking about?” May demanded.
“Well, a couple of months ago, Steven decided he wanted to live on his own, so he ran away from home and took a bus to Los Angeles,” Jessica said.
Elizabeth couldn’t believe her sister was making up such a big lie. May looked absolutely petrified!
“L-Los Angeles?” she stuttered.
“Of course, he came right back on the next bus,” Jessica said. “But Mom and Dad sure were worried.”
To be fair, Shitty Poppins is now legit scared. Maybe it’s fifty-fifty fear of Steven’s death measured against fear of Elder Wakefield Wrath, but either way she’s up shit creek.
Luckily, in a clever development of Operation Meringue-Cheste-Flute-Leopard, Steven phones the Compound to kick things into Phase 2.
Just then the phone rang, and May rushed to answer it. “Hello?” A look of relief swept over her face. “Steven, where are you?” She listened for a minute. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, I understand. No, I’m not mad.”
May covered the phone with her hand and said, “He’s all right, girls. He’s at a friend’s house up in Palilla Canyon.” Then she grabbed a pad of paper and a pen. “OK, Steven, go ahead.” She jotted down several directions on the pad, then turned the paper over and continued writing. “It seems like quite a drive,” she said when he was finished. “How long will it take? Are you sure? Fine. I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’m leaving now. Good-bye, Steven. Now don’t go anywhere.”
Of course, as soon as she’s gone, Steven returns. It’s a ruse! The long plan is to let May drive around looking for Steven, and when she returns empty handed – after the party – they tell her Steven got a lift home from his friend.
I gotta say, this plan is pretty decent. It shifts May out of the house for a respectable amount of time.
But it’s really shitty on the baby-sitter.
Yeah, I know she’s a battleaxe. But it’s proper dangerous.
For a dark twist, imagine if May got into a car crash while trawling the streets for a non-existent Steven… that’s industrial-strength mindfuckery right there. Years of therapy.
In the words of the great Space Indiana Jones, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Once the coast is clear, the twins start prepping the Compound, jazzing it up for a Party Central vibe. CDs, nibbles, dips, the lot. And soon, the people start arriving.
First there’s Lila. Then some of Steven’s friends. Then more people, and more, and more.
By the time Brooke Dennis arrives – with a ladleful of foreshadowing for the next-but-one book – the Compound is quite crowded.
Yeah, we ALL know where this shit is going. This is Barrymore-corpse-in-a-pool territory. [Dove: Now there’s a reference that’s going to be even less understood than all my Saville cracks with the non-British audience.] [Raven: What is a hot spot not? A good spot!]
Amy rocks up to Liz and Brooke in the middle of Brooke’s foreshadowing, and points out Rob, taking to Todd. Brooke, her foreshadowing done, wanders off to the periphery and Amy and Liz approach Todd and Rob on strong B-Plot Business.
Todd, the perfect gentleman, compliments Liz on her hostess abilities and asks her if she’s having fun. And she is, which is nice. We often see Liz’s saintly spider-sense tingling whenever she does anything even remotely clandestine or illicit. It’s great to see her embracing things for once.
Rob, of course, does a massive shit on her shoulder.
“Everything’s out,” Elizabeth said. “There’s stuff for sandwiches over there.”
“You don’t have any pizza?” Rob asked.
Elizabeth shook her head.
“What about ice cream?” Rob continued.
Elizabeth felt like pouring a bottle of soda on Rob’s head. “Nope. No ice cream. Sorry.”
I really hate this kid. Seriously, I hope Ken brings a machete to the party and cuts off his fucking leg. [Dove: I kind of want him to date Jessica and see how many minutes it takes for her to kill him.]
As Amy’s new fella argues with Steven about “good” music, Elizabeth is bold enough to ask her best friend WHAT THE BLUE FUCK she thinks she’s doing dating such a glorious spunk-punnet as Rob in the first place.
Amy breaks immediately. Apparently, she liked Rob at first, and she really wanted an honest-to-goodness boyfriend, but as she got to know him she realised that Rob was, in fact, a complete shit. Her big fear is that Liz would forget her now that she was with Todd.
No, Amy. Liz only forgets you when a New Girl arrives to take your place for a week.
Liz consoles her BFF, and confirms that a certain Ken Matthews has a full-on midget chubby for Amy every time he sees her toss a baton.
Suddenly, the phone rings. Jessica answers. It’s May!
“You’re where?” Jessica asked. “Uh-huh, right. Well, I don’t know, I’ve never been there. No, he hasn’t called here. I’m sure he’s OK, though. It’s not that late yet.”
Elizabeth glanced at the clock on the wall. It was already nine-fifteen! May had been gone for almost three hours. She was probably worried sick. And she’d been driving around lost in the dark, all by herself. Maybe it was time to tell her what was really going on, Elizabeth thought.
Sigh. There’s the Elizabeth we all know and loathe. You’re in it now, Liz, mise well go full bore. Burn the bridges. Forge ahead. To the hilt.
Jessica fobs off Shitty Poppins like a full on boss, and returns to the party.
And here’s where things start going south… the Party Mayhem starts cranking up, notch by notch.
There’s grape soda on the floor.
Music creeps up in volume.
Random boys steal food from cupboards.
The kitchen is a total mess.
Elizabeth picked up a cup from the floor and tossed it into the trash. “Jess, do you think maybe things are getting a little out of control?”
Elizabeth didn’t hear Jessica’s answer—it was drowned out by a loud crash from the living room.
A lamp is broken. This, predictably, triggers Elizabeth’s preservation gland, and she starts backing away from the subterfuge in earnest. She turns down the volume, in order to restore a modicum of order to proceedings, but that PRICK Rob undermines her with louder music and a clarion call to “lighten up.”
Elizabeth confers with Steven, and they admit that the party is full of people that neither of them know. They try and clear the pool area of cackling miscreants, with some success, but that just drives some of the idiots inside. And the pool is overwhelmed with party detritus… AND STEVEN, when some nameless goon shoves him in.
As Elizabeth frantically attempts to clean around the partygoers, Jessica learns that Aaron has to leave to get home for his ten-thirty curfew. They’ve had no time together at all, and Jessica’s dreams of a resplendent romantic encounter are dashed on a sea of plastic cups and scattered popcorn. The party is a success, of course, for a very specific definition of ‘success.’
But wait! It’s not all lost yet.
As Aaron makes to leave, a wonderful thing happens.
Aaron smiled. “I had a great time.” Then he took a few steps closer.
Jessica’s heart started beating faster. She couldn’t believe it. Everything was turning out just like she planned—Aaron was going to kiss her! And in front of everybody! He really did like her!
Aaron leaned down and kissed Jessica lightly on the lips. She felt all tingly inside. It was better than she’d ever imagined, it was fantastic, it was—
Jessica jumped back from Aaron and touched her face. A piece of bologna had just come flying through the air and hit her on the cheek.
Everyone around them burst out laughing.
Fucking LOVE IT.
Next thing we know, food is flying everywhere.
Once the mustard has settled, the Wakefield Twins realise the only people they know who are now left at the party are Todd, Ken and Amy. Oh, and Rob. Prick.
Jessica then watches as Rob – PRICK Rob – steals some of her CDs. As she marches over to kill- sorry, confront him, who should step up to the plate but tiny little Ken Matthews! After straight-up confronting him, our Ken grabs Rob’s jacket in the face of his denial, and a plethora of Jessica’s CDs fall out.
Is this the making of Jessica and Ken? Surely not. [Dove: In Sweet Valley High 56: Lost at Sea, she’s very interested in Ken. I bet it all started with this moment. That’s not a spoiler, since Jessica dates pretty much every male in a 25 mile radius. Except Big Mesa kids. Fuck them. (Actually, she might date them, I just haven’t read those books.)]
Rob tries to laugh it off, but no one buys it. Happily, he’s expelled from the party in disgrace. He tries to take Amy with him, but she’s finally wise to his insidious, abusive bullshit. You go, Amy.
Ken offers to walk Amy home. Boom-chikka-wow-wow.
So, the party’s now over, right? Wrong. It’s time for the REAL shit to go down. Heavy metal, leather jacketed kids, rocking out and dancing on the Wakefield furniture. It’s eleven o’clock, and the whole thing has gone to shit. Their friends have abandoned them, and they are trapped in the Compound surrounded by antisocial strangers. Can it get any worse than this?
The kitchen door started to open, and Jessica groaned.
“The party’s over—don’t come in!” Steven yelled.
The door swung open anyway. May was standing there, glaring at them. “I was just leaving,” she said frostily and left the room without another word.
Yup. Hit rock bottom, and break out the pickaxe.
As Shitty Poppins, fresh from her wild goose chase, packs her bags to leave, the Wakefield Twins try something new: they apologise.
It does no good, of course. At first at least.
More things are getting smashed downstairs. One of Ned’s diplomas has fallen from the wall, smashing the frame. I doubt Ned will be worried, he can always fabricate another one.
As the three Wakefield children, cowering in their father’s study, plan their next move, they hear a familiar and strangely welcoming sound: May’s whistle.
After bellowing, stink-eyeing and whistleblowing in the faces of the heavy metal hamsters, the house is empty within five minutes.
So, in the cool down we have the May apologising to the Wakefield kids for being a battleaxe (she was). Her reasoning? She’s not used to dealing with young almost-teenagers. Just means she’s a dick to very young preteens too. We also have the Wakeys apologising to May for being bellends (they were). The kids also do all the party cleanup themselves, which is only right.
Oh, and May also managed to get the wooden rose back. Because SWEET VALLEY.
The parents come home, fresh and drug-free, and no-one rats on anyone for their holiday indiscretions. What happens in the Wakefield Compound / Mexico STAYS in the Wakefield Compound / Mexico, right?
Cue the foreshadowing (something something Brooke’s mum), and I’m out!
Not that keen, to be frank.
May’s a massive cliché from start to finish. The Elder Wakefield’s trip to Mexico (and the ‘preparation’ for it) was just fucking shoddy. The whole garage sale / wooden rose thing was boring at best, and the whole ‘look what I got, for less than you sold it’ resolution was godawful.
I liked Rob. In that I liked that I wanted to kick Rob in the balls so hard they would shoot up through his body and burst through his skull so his corpse would look like Mickey fucking Mouse. And, randomly, I liked both Jess (for her scheming) and Elizabeth (for her sass and total capitulation). Hell, even Steven was value.
But overall, pretty weak.
[Dove: Not the best book, but not the end of the world. I loathed May, I thought her skills were lacking, she had no idea how to talk to the Wakefields. Actually, the sass given out by the twins was very enjoyable. But overall, this was nothing special.]
[Wing: I’m still trying to figure out which book it reminded me of with the plot beats. Loved the snark. Mostly bored, though. Probably because it reminded me of another book.]