Title: Won’t Someone Help Anna?
Tagline: Can Cammi help Anna survive at Middle School?
Summary: From the minute she arrives at Sweet Valley Middle School, everybody loves Anna Reynolds. She’s outgoing and funny—and almost as boy-crazy as the Unicorns! All of Anna’s new friends are especially impressed that she can handle the pressures of school as a hearing-impaired student.
The only one who isn’t impressed is Cammi Adams. For some reason, Cammi is convinced that Anna won’t last long at their school. When her prediction starts to come true. Cammi realizes that she may be the only one who can help Anna. But if she does, it will mean revealing a secret she wants to keep hidden forever!
ALERT! ALERT! A MINORITY HAS BREACHED THE TOWN DEFENSES!
DEPLOY THE WAKEFIELD AGENTS! JESSICA001 TO BULLY THE MINORITY INTO LEAVING, AND ELIZABETH001 TO BEFRIEND AND TERRIFY THE MINORITY. IF THEY DON’T SUCCEED, DEPLOY NYDICK001 WITH OPTIONAL WHIRLYCOCK ATTACHMENT.
[Dove: You missed out she’s a twofer. She’s both Asian and disabled. Sweet Valley will not tolerate this. The wall building will commence shortly.]
[Wing: Obligatory BURN SWEET VALLEY TO THE GROUND just to get us off on the right foot.]
To the text!
Let’s get this out of the way from the start: I did not like this book.
Frankly, after a slew of books I’ve really enjoyed, this dislike came as a relief. No one wants to read about us enjoying the series without reserve. We get it, you come for the snark and stay for the dark.
There were some small parts I enjoyed. I’ll get to them. But overall? This was DONKEY BALLS.
So. Can’t get to the end of this without starting at the beginning…
We start with Jessica hearing Mr Clark the principal shouting at another pupil in his office. Jessica assumes that the victim of the drive-by shouting is in trouble – say what you know, Jess – but Mr Clark’s secretary confirms the shouting at the new girl because she is deaf.
“I think the reason he’s talking so loudly is because the new girl is deaf. She reads lips, and Mr. Clark’s just trying to speak as carefully as he can so she’ll understand him.”
Strike One for the faculty. How the hell does talking louder help the poor girl in her lip reading? Enunciation and lip shaping does not improve with an increase in volume. Mr Clark is a fucking idiot.
I hate the fucking school. Obviously.
But the school in THIS BOOK? Probably the worst school in any book of the entire series thus far. And that includes the book in which chapters five through seven detail Mr Nydick’s illicit sixth-grade pool party.
Awful awful awful AWFUL AWFUL.
Apparently, the New Girl is Deaf. The New Deaf Girl is Anna Reynolds. And the New Deaf Girl is, apparently, “very nice.”
The secretary asks what Jessica has done to be sent to the Principal’s Office, presuming she’s in trouble when in fact she needs a sign off to go to the dentists. Elizabeth enters, and the secretary greets her warmly. Jessica briefly considers killing her twin and wearing her sanctimonious skin as a cape (sub-textually), before we have the sixty-ninth iteration of “these twins look similar but are INDIVIDUAL.” As it’s been a while, let’s crack a few off for ol’ times sake.
- Elizabeth spends her spare time reading. Jessica spend her spare time listening to the police scanner, desperately hoping her primary burial site remains undetected.
- Jessica loves talking about fashion. Elizabeth wears sack-cloth and daubs her face with ashes, which she believes brings her closer to God (in this case, Mr Bowman).
- Jessica has many friends, members of the fabled Unicorn Club. Elizabeth surrounds herself with sycophants, and is so lonely her only release is a twice-weekly frot with a battered stuffed koala.
As the twins leave the office, they are approached by Cammi Adams. Cammi Adams, despite being mentioned before, hasn’t had a plotline in almost seventy books, so excuse me for not giving a flying fuck about her. This book, of course, is all about Cammi. Except it’s really all about Anna. Poor Cammi, even the books about her are actually about other people.
[Dove: When on this page, Raven looked up at me.
Raven: Cammi Adams is the background one who gets lines when they need…?
Dove: –a non-popular girl to speak. If she’s popular but not a Unicorn, you need Kerry Glenn.
Raven: Just checking.
Also, there is a later book called Cammi’s Crush. Which is, now you mention it, obviously about someone other than Cammi! It’s actually the point where I just gave up reading the series because I knew we’d be recapping.]
Apparently, Cammi is one of the best writers on Elizabeth’s Glory Paper, The Sweet Valley Sixers. I can’t remember that coming up before, but I’m sure Dove will tell us all the times from previous books in which Cammi was important. [Dove: Zero. And no, I don’t believe this was mentioned before the lead-in to this book in the last one.]
Elizabeth gushes over Cammi’s writing talents, while Jessica dismisses her immediately as a nerd. That’s right, folks, it’s one of those books. The ones in which Jessica is just stone cold appalling. Sigh.
In a brief conversation on the subject of Cammi’s next Sixers assignment, Jessica suggests a profile piece on the New Deaf Girl. Elizabeth is interested about Anna’s deafness, and begins asking Jessica questions about deafness. Questions to which, bizarrely, Cammi seems to have some knowledge.
“Deaf?” Cammi repeated, her eyes clouding. “There’s going to be a deaf girl at our school?”
“That’s amazing,” Elizabeth said. “How will she be able to understand things?”
“I guess she reads lips,” Jessica said. She pointed down the hall to the office door. “She’s in there right now with Mr. Clark. I’m surprised you didn’t hear him yelling at her.”
“But if she’s deaf, why is Mr. Clark yelling?” Elizabeth asked.
“People are always doing that,” Cammi said under her breath.
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Cammi said quickly.
So, Cammi has some experience with deaf people. I’ll admit that my first impulse was that Cammi was actually deaf herself, before I realised that would be full-on ludicrous.
Cammi reluctantly agrees to write a profile on Anna The New Deaf Girl, and slinks away. Jessica and Elizabeth talk about her as she leaves. Elizabeth thinks she’s wonderful but shy. Jessica thinks she’s a complete lost cause. Talk turns to Anna.
Jessica glanced back toward the office door. “I wonder what the new girl looks like. I’ve never met a deaf person before.”
“Well, I’m taking a wild guess here, but I bet she’s just like you and me, only she can’t hear.”
Jessica sighed. There was no point in discussing certain things with Elizabeth. Besides, Jessica had more exciting things to think about—like getting her cavity filled.
DOUBLE ENTENDRE KLAXON!
That evening, back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica hams up the terrible dental pain something chronic. There’s some boilerplate banter regarding ice cream sandwiches, which eventually spills out from the twins to encompass Steven and his girlfriend, Cathy Connors, whom he got together with in Big Brother’s in Love. That was twelve books ago, so they’ve been together wither one day or fifteen years. #sweetvalleytime
[Wing: One day or fifteen years, YOU DESERVE BETTER, CATHY.]
Cathy is apparently having a party at her grandfolks’ beach house. Despite Steven’s protestations, she invites the twins, and suggests that they can invite “a few friends if they want.”
Uh-oh. That party will involve every fucker in the sixth grade, and probably have Mr Nydick in budgie smugglers furiously masturbating behind a sand dune. Steven eventually relents to allowing his sisters to attend a party thrown by his girlfriend, as long as they help in the set up and take down of the whole affair. They readily agree, because the party sounds dope, y0.
We skip to the next day. It’s English class, and Jessica is having trouble in Mr Bowman’s spelling test. Thankfully, the test is abandoned when Mr Clark brings the New Deaf Girl Anna into the classroom. [Wing: Bowman, I would expect you to care more about your spelling test than that.]
Anna, it seems, is not how Jessica imagined.
Jessica stared at her in disbelief. This was the deaf girl? She didn’t look at all the way Jessica had imagined she would. Anna was Asian, with long, straight black hair, almond-shaped eyes, and a brilliant white smile. She was stylishly dressed in white leggings and a pink hand-painted T-shirt that almost reached to her knees. If Jessica hadn’t known better, she would have thought Anna looked like potential Unicorn material.
Ah, culturally inappropriate descriptors. Lovely. Almond-shaped eyes. Great cliché there. [Wing: Sly little dig about how she can’t possibly be potential Unicorn material. Because she’s deaf? Because she’s “Asian” (very specific there, ghost writer)? Both? Anything is possible.]
Mr Clark tells the collective that Anna is hearing-impaired, can lip read well, and will be attending the school each morning and most afternoons.
Mr. Bowman turned toward Anna again. “Would you like to say a few words, Anna?”
Jessica frowned. Weren’t deaf people usually mute? It hadn’t occurred to her that Anna would be able to talk.
Fuck off, Jessica. I know you’re the base-level everywoman in this, to answer the questions all pre-teen readers might have, but even so.
Anna stepped confidently to the center of the room. “Hi, everybody,” she said with a bright smile. Her words were a little fuzzy, but Jessica could understand them easily. “I’m really sorry about interrupting your quiz,” Anna continued. “I know how disappointed you all must be.”
Anna, it seems, is pretty cool. She’s confident, sassy, interesting and fun. She’s likely to get on splendidly.
The class warm to her, and eventually she is told to sit next to… Cammi Adams. OBV.
As we see her take her seat through Jessica’s eyes, Jessica notes that Cammi seems to shrink back from Anna. This gives Jessica more ammunition for her argument that “OMG Cammi is totes a nerd u guys”, which can fuck off as previously stated. Even so, Jess is pleased that she isn’t the one sat next to Anna, because what on earth would she have in common with a deaf girl?
THIS IS SO FUCKING FRUSTRATING. Jessica is SO SHIT in this book. [Dove: Where is Jessica, Champion of the Disabled now?]
I think that once I’ve read the full series, I’ll classify the books by colour. Yellow books will be those in which the Ghostie didn’t get Jessica, or in which Jessica is just downright terrible. Purple books will be those in which Jessica is amazing, in which the Ghosties captured all we like about her and presented her brilliantly. I hope there will be more Purple than Yellow. [Dove: Dare I ask why yellow? I thought we agreed yellow was trustworthy. Especially after we got a press officer to say that very sentence on the commentary of a live football game.] [Raven: Yellow because it contrasts strongly with Purple.] [Wing: I know want to see Raven paint this judgment of the entire series.]
At lunch, Elizabeth and her Cabal of Utter Nonentity Twats (hereafter known as C.U…. actually, scrap that) invite The New Deaf Girl Anna to join them at lunch. She does so, with aplomb. She’s pretty cool, to be fair.
After some stock “lip reading is hard” and “how does deafness work” for the C2s and C3s, we learn that Anna is something of a health nut. She eats salad for fun, and dreams of being an Aerobics Instructor. Also, she’s HOT FOR COCK. Seriously, she’s listed all the boys in the school that she finds appealing.
“Let’s see,” Anna said. “I’ve been here three hours so far, and here’s my list. Aaron, Bruce, Jerry, Ken—”
“That’s Ken Matthews,” Elizabeth said. She pointed to Amy. “Amy and he are sort of—”
“OK,” Anna said. “Cross Ken off the list. But that still leaves Peter, Ross, Todd—”
“Well, Elizabeth and Todd—” Amy began.
Anna laughed. “There’s still Winston and Lloyd—”
“Lloyd Benson?” Amy asked doubtfully.
“Sure,” Anna said. “He’s cute, in kind of a klutzy way.”
“Anna, I have got to introduce you to my twin sister,” Elizabeth said as she reached over to steal one of Julie’s potato chips. “You’re both boy-crazy.”
So, the New Deaf Girl is now the New Deaf Man-Eater. Cool.
[Wing: You guys, I love her so much. This book is going to kill me. I mean, she just rolls with it. Oh, Ken and Amy? Cool, he’s off the list. Todd and Elizabeth, off the list. But there are so many guys and they’re all cute in their own ways. RUN, ANNA, RUN, YOU ARE TOO GOOD FOR SWEET VALLEY.]
We learn that Anna lost her hearing at eighteen months old, via meningitis. And she shares some of the finer difficulties of lip reading, such as similar words. Apparently, a lot of good lip reading is contextual. [Dove: America was terrified of meningitis in the early 90s, it appears. In the Making Out series, Benjamin loses his sight after meningitis, and I’m sure I’ve read another series that did the same, because my brain went, “Hey, just like Benjamin” when I read it.] [Wing: That is absolutely how it feels reading books that were written back then, but I don’t actually remember ever hearing about meningitis in the early 90s. It’s so weird. And that is true about lip reading.]
Elizabeth is fascinated by all of this, and eventually asks Anna if she’d be interviews by Cammi Adams for the Sweet Valley Sixers. Anna jumps at the chance, probably so she can introduce herself to the maximum number of boys at once. [Wing: ANNA I LOVE YOU.] She also reveals that she can communicate with ASL.
[Wing: The horns + shit for bullshit is the first one I learned. Eat a dick is my new favourite, though.]
All seems nice and bright in Anna’s world. She has hopes and dreams, she’s fitting in at school, and everyone likes her. Go Anna!
We cut to Cammi, trudging home after school. She, on the other hand, is not a happy camper. The cause of her despondency? Anna Reynolds, apparently.
Just stop thinking about it, Cammi told herself as she trudged home that afternoon. But she couldn’t get the picture out of her mind—the picture of Anna Reynolds sitting in the lunchroom with Amy and Elizabeth and Julie, laughing and talking as if they were old friends. As if there were nothing at all different about Anna.
“It won’t last,” Cammi muttered under her breath. Sooner or later the novelty of having a deaf friend would wear off. Then people would show their true feelings.
We soon learn that Cammi’s parents are deaf, and Cammi herself goes a long way toward looking after them. She has a sister called Cara, and the family own a service dog called Ludwig, which is admittedly cute as a fucking button.
They have a nice little family, except Cammi for some reason refuses to tell anyone about her parents’ condition. Apparently, Cammi feels that everyone would laugh at her parents, and by extension presumably herself, if they knew the “terrible secret.” For fuck’s sake, don’t be so damn soft. They’re deaf. They’re not French.
Cara, Cammi’s younger sister, doesn’t have such qualms or hangups. She doesn’t see her parents’ deafness as a big secret, or a big deal. Because it ISN’T. Cammi, you’re an idiot.
In fact, Cara is confused as to what Cammi’s “secret” actually IS.
Cammi could tell that Cara was trying to remember all of her big sister’s past sins. “Oh, you mean about the time you ate that whole cherry pie and then blamed Ludwig?”
“No, Cara,” Cammi said, sighing. “I mean—” she glanced at the kitchen, “Mom and Dad.”
Cara’s eyes clouded. “But that’s not a secret. All my friends know.”
“Well, all my friends don’t.”
“I don’t get what the big deal is,” Cara said.
“You’ve just been lucky so far. Kids can be they sometimes aren’t very nice.”
“My friends are nice. Or else they wouldn’t be my friends.”
Wise words from young mouths. Nice work, Cara. Cammi, stop being ridiculous.
Cammi headed for the kitchen, with Ludwig slowly following at her heels. She paused in the kitchen doorway. Her parents were sitting at the table, their backs to her. They were talking to each other, their hands moving swiftly, as if they were conducting an orchestra together.
They had no idea she was there. She might as well have been invisible.
Oh, woe is me. Poor poor Cammi.
Her parents turn to see her, and smile warmly.
“I’m home,” Cammi said, her hands moving skillfully. She didn’t bother using her voice.
Her parents had never heard it.
Jesus fucking Christ.
This is why this book is awful. It’s because the central premise of Cammi’s dismay at her parents’ condition if absolutely ridiculous. But what’s worse, it’s also OVERBLOWN. Everything is written as if Cammi is such a poor troubled kid, so delicate, so emotional, so besieged by such afflictions that we should love her because she’s so very very brave. Yeah, get fucked on that one.
It’s all “Cammi turned to the toaster, only to see the burnt toast spring up. She’s ruined her breakfast. Tears welled up in her non-almond eyes. How could the toaster be so cruel? Didn’t it know that her parents were deaf?”
I’m only on chapter three. Fuck this book. [Dove: *applauds, then swoons* So much this.]
Thankfully, Chapter Three starts with a spoonful of Sub-Plot. But is it a tablespoon or a teaspoon of Sub-Plot? Cathy and Steven are arguing over the measurements in a recipe, and spoons are the units in question. [Wing: Right. Measurements “in a recipe.”]
Steven leaned back in his chair, his fingers laced behind his head. “Trust me, ladies. It’s a teaspoon.”
DOUBLE ENTENDRE KLAXON!
All this needs is a cheeky wink and a “want me to stir your coffee…?”
Steven loses the teaspoon / tablespoon / phallus argument, and we learn that Jessica has invited the Unicorns to Cathy’s beach party. Standard.
As the twins bake cookies and discuss the New Deaf Girl, Jessica lets some of the Aryan out.
Jessica brushed a spot of flour off her jeans. “I’m kind of surprised they let a deaf girl into school, aren’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we were talking about it at the Unicorner today. And it just seems to us that Sweet Valley Middle School should be for, you know, normal people.”
Jessica is FUCKING AWFUL in this book. [Dove: Hey, Jess, remember when you sprained your ankle and it was exactly like being disabled? Oh, you don’t. Guess the ghostie missed that one.]
Elizabeth, to her credit, calls her twin’s bullshit.
“Why are you looking at me that way?” Jessica cried. She flopped back on the couch and closed her eyes. “We didn’t mean it meanly, Elizabeth.”
“What way did you mean it?”
“We meant it in a helpful way.” Jessica opened one eye and peeked at Elizabeth.
“That’s the Unicorns, all right,” Elizabeth said sarcastically. “Helpful, kind, considerate. Sort of like Girl Scouts, only better dressed.”
Elizabeth is FUCKING SASSY in this book.
Maybe this book is written by a Ghostie who’s firmly in Team Elizabeth. Someone who believes that Liz is the best, and Jess is the worst. It’d certainly explain why Jessica is such a bellend in this one, while Liz gets a few of the best lines.
Interesting. Wrong, but interesting.
#teamjess4lyf [Dove: Even Michael Grant is on our team here.]
Happily, Elizabeth corrects her muddle-noggined twin by convincing her that The New Deaf Girl is probably just like Jessica. She’s “boy-crazy”, she loves clothes, and she’s killed over thirty people. [Wing: But where does she bury the bodies?] She invites Jessica to meet Anna at Casey’s Place the following afternoon after school. Of course, Jessica agrees… and invites a couple of Unicorns.
At the meeting the following day, Anna is a charm. She connects with the Unicorns immediately, partially by doing her homework and sucking up to them. Not in a weird way, of course; in a nice way. She tells them she knows their hierarchy, their hobbies, the whole kit and caboodle.
“Amazing,” Jessica said. “You’ve only been in school three days, and you already know all that?”
“It’s simple,” Anna said with a shrug. “I just do a lot of eavesdropping!”
Because of the lip reading, see? Funny!
The crowd get ice creams. Anna gets a fruit salad with extra cottage cheese, which suggests they do a fruit salad with cottage cheese as standard and she’s just piled it high.
Sorry, but I wouldn’t trust an “off-piste” choice at a specialist restaurant. I’d never order the omelette at the curry house. I reckon anything like that would not have a huge uptick, and thus the stock rotation wouldn’t be particularly stringent. That cottage cheese could have sat in the fridge for months before someone thought it was a good idea to buy the non-ice-cream-option from the ice cream parlour. It’s be funny if the rest of the book was Anna shitting through the eye of a needle while the “someone helping” was just Elizabeth holding Anna’s hair back while she vomited. [Wing: Well, I did like fruit salad and cottage cheese. Until now.]
The rest of the scene sees Anna sharing more secrets from The Deaf Handbook, about how deaf people lip read, and how they enjoy music. Anna tells everyone she’s looking to run an Aerobics class, free of charge so she can practice, and the girls all lap it up.
Eventually, Jess invites Anna to Cathy’s party. Elizabeth has got there first! How funny!
(Note: this is not funny.)
We cut to Cammi at school the next day, who’s trying to avoid Elizabeth and her promised Anna Profile Piece for the Sixers by dashing into the girl’s bathroom. Nice try, Cammi, but Liz is an industrial-strength stalker when it comes to shit like this. She can slither under the door in the bathroom stalls like Eugene fucking Tooms. [Dove: That reference? Probably contemporary when these books came out. Good thing we’re a nostalgia site.] [Raven: Hey, I call ’em how I sees ’em.]
Elizabeth invites Cammi to the party, which Cammi finds exciting, until Liz dully informs her it’s because she’s invited all the Sixers staff to the party. Poor Cammi! She wants to be invited to the party in her own special way! How can Liz be so insensitive to invite her like a normal person and not like a super duper special bestest friend. [Dove: Why isn’t that a real question? We all know how promiscuous Liz is with her BFFs. Why isn’t she making Cammi the centre of her world?]
Cammi turns the invite down, on the surface because she has to look after her sister Cara, but really because she has to be present at home to help her deaf parents converse with driveway workmen. The third reason she turns down the invite is due to her oily sheen of self-loathing.
Elizabeth quizzes Cammi on the Anna Profile, and Cammi tosses out some glib excuses and assurances that she’ll get round to it. Liz tries to chivvy her along, all jolly hockey sticks and gumption, but manages to say all the wrong things to play into Cammi’s insecure bullshit. She caps it all off with this corker:
“Trust me. Anna’s really great,” Elizabeth said. “And after a while you practically forget that she’s hearing-impaired.”
Well done Elizabeth, you fatuous hedge-puffin.
Cammi is convinced that Anna’s popularity will fade quickly once everyone has tired of the New Deaf Girl schtick. Whatever.
Suddenly, it’s Saturday! The twins wake Steven at noon, as it’s Cathy’s Beach Party that day. We have banter about cereal:
Jessica picked up the cereal bowl and waved it over Steven’s face. “We made your favorite, Steven. Space Critters.”
Steven cracked open one eye. “Why are you munchkins being so nice to me?”
“Hurry,” Elizabeth urged. “The little green marshmallow aliens are starting to drown.”
(I admit, I did chuckle.)
It is revealed that Elizabeth and Jessica have done some Grade A preparation for the party, which to be honest is quite nice to see. I’m assuming that Jessica actually pulled her weight on the chores, because if she hadn’t we’d likely have seen it in the text, front and centre. They’d thought of everything. Even earplugs for Cathy’s grandparents. Who, apparently, are attending the party. Weird.
By three o’clock that afternoon, the beach party was in full swing.
Really? Is Johnny Buck playing a gig?
I’ve never been to a bona fide beach party, but I’d always thought they would start at dusk or something. The Karate Kid beach party did, as did the Lost Boys one. Did the movies lie to me? [Dove: The Lost Boys one ended with people getting eaten. I think maybe that’s not something Sweet Valley would go for. Oooh, I want to crossover. Right now.] [Wing: Give Jess a few years and she’d probably go for it. The Mercandy backyard will run out of space eventually.]
Everyone seems to be having a great time. Cathy and Jessica joke about boys, and Jess confesses that she kind of likes Rick Hunter. So what happened to Aaron Dallas? I thought they were back together after the shenanigans of The Great Boyfriend Switch? Obviously not.
Cathy suggests that Jessica ask Rick to dance. Elizabeth and Todd do dance, and this spurs Jessica into asking Rick. Apparently, he was just about to ask her to dance too! My, how we all laughed. In fact, I laughed so much I actually shat myself.
As they all dance, Jessica spots Anna getting lost in the rhythmic beat. She too is having a great time.
Four chapters in, and Anna needs no help whatsoever. What’s going on?
I mean, I didn’t expect her to need constant supervision, with the Ghosties telling us she needed someone to wipe her almond-shaped arse every three hours, but with a title like Won’t Someone Help Anna, I thought we’d get to the actual helping a bit quicker than this.
Late Saturday afternoon, at the Cammi Adams household, and Cammi is playing Monopoly with her family. Poor girl, that sounds awful, especially when you consider that her parents have unfettered access to the Free Parking space. [Dove: FYI, I have a disabled parking badge. Raven and I fucking love it. It also means I don’t have to learn how to park well.]
More things we learn in this scene: the Adams Family use sign language at home. They also have a TDD – a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf – which is basically a special phone with an electronic readout.
We have a demonstration of the TDD in action, when Cara’s friend Lynne calls Cara for a chat. [Dove: Cara hipsters harder than anyone. She texted before anyone could text.] This is followed by more gnashing and wailing from Cammi when she’s sent to the Monopoly Jail, directly if I might add. She likens her situation with her family to a prison sentence.
Cammi shrugged and moved her piece to the jail square. She thought about how sometimes living in this house felt like being trapped in jail. No one came in, and she couldn’t ever escape.
GET FUCKED, you ludicrous girl. IT’S OF YOUR OWN MAKING. This constant moaning about a situation that’s PATENTLY LOVELY is grating like a cattle grid.
Eventually, Cammi plucks up the courage to call Anna and arrange her dreaded profile piece. Anna is, at the Beach Party, of course. This leads to Cammi’s parents asking faintly awkward questions as to why their daughter isn’t at the party herself.
“Why didn’t you go?” Mrs. Adams pressed.
Cammi shrugged. “I had stuff to do,” she responded. “Besides, you guys needed me.”
Mrs. Adams glanced at her husband, then reached over to touch Cammi’s arm. “Honey, you should have told us you had a party to go to,” she signed.
Cammi’s parents are lovely. This is yet more proof that Cammi’s complaints are woefully misjudged.
The scene ends with more overwrought waffle about how she wants to get out of jail “more than her parents could ever know,” and to be honest I want to jab myself in the eye with a fork.
[Dove: Oh, here’s something that Raven’s never talked about, and probably won’t because he’s a gentleman: Raven took care of me for two years straight when I couldn’t work. Not only did he financially support me, but he looked after me. He put my socks on (he still does on bad hip days). He clipped my toenails. He washed my hair in a sink when I couldn’t bathe. And he worked a full-time job. Hell, selling chunks of his Magic: the Gathering collection kept us from going bankrupt. So if you think he’s lashing out at Cammi from a place of comfort or assumption, he’s not. Sure, totally different situations, but there’s enough overlap to be able to see the difference between, “I wish I had friends, but I’ve got all these self-imposed rules” and “I literally have to support my family by myself.” My husband is the best.] [Raven: Love you. xxx]
We snap back to the beach party, and Jessica takes a secluded evening stroll at the water’s edge. Probably considering the logistics of dumping her bodies at sea, as the Mercandy backyard is getting pretty crowded.
Ahead of her, near some rocks, she spots two figures. One is Cathy, Steven’s girlfriend. The other? Jake Hamilton, the other half of her best friend Lila Fowler. They disappear behind some rocks as Jessica approaches. As she draws nearer, she spies the pair between two rocks…
Suddenly Jake put his arm around Cathy’s waist and drew her close. It was dark, but not so dark that Jessica couldn’t tell what was going on.
Cathy and Jake were kissing.
SHIT’S GOT REAL, Y0.
Why this particular subterfuge has been relegated to the sub plot while Cammi grinds her teeth and shouts at the moon about DEAFNESS, I’ll never know.
Later that evening, Jessica tells Elizabeth, who doesn’t believe her
“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe it,” Elizabeth said, although she didn’t sound completely confident. “Cathy would never do that. Besides, Jake’s only in seventh grade.”
“Yeah, but he’s very cute.”
“So’s Steven,” Elizabeth pointed out loyally.
Elizabeth thinks Steven is cute. FACT.
Steven’s going to be crushed when he finds out. We all know he’s only got eyes for Jessica.
Jessica, in a brief flash of the sociopath we love, decrees that Meddling Must Be Done. Steven must be informed, so he can be the dumper and be spared the embarrassment of being the dumpee. Elizabeth, ever the sanctimonious pragmatist, persuades Jess to keep her nose out of the situation for the time being at least.
No thoughts for your best friend Lila, Jess? Only for Steven? Lila’s in this mire too.
We cut to Sunday afternoon, and Cammi bikes to Anna’s house to finally start her New Deaf Girl profile. Anna answers the door, brightly donned in deaf apparel, falalalalaa falaa laa laa.
Anna appeared. She was wearing a T-shirt with the hand configurations for the letters of her name printed across the front.
“It’s my name,” Anna said, noticing Cammi’s gaze.
“I know,” Cammi said without thinking.
“You know how to finger spell the alphabet?” Anna asked as she held open the door.
“No, I just—” Cammi hesitated. “I just figured that’s what it had to be. Your name has four letters, and there are pictures of four hand positions.”
Cammi there, continuing her ridiculous O NOES WUT IS DEFFNESS YOU HAS EARS WHY approach.
Anna happily tells a tale in which an unenlightened person stared at her while she signed, and Cammi can relate. Although when Anna laughs it off, Cammi feels bad. That’s the difference, girl, Become deaf to it (LOL SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
Anna introduces Cammi to her family, and is pretty much a wonderful host. As she’s in the dark about Cammi’s deaf-adjacent lifestyle, she Annasplains about subtitles, the TDD and other deaf stuff, to which Cammi nods blindly. The entire Reynolds family are a joy, and are all supportive and signing for their sister / daughter.
Eventually, Cammi begins to ask questions for her profile. Of course, the questions all play into Cammi’s own Frightened Deaf Agenda. Such as:
“It must be a relief for you to come home and not have to read lips,” Cammi said.
“Why would you want to come to Sweet Valley Middle School, then?” Cammi asked bluntly.
Anna also talks about the beach party, and about how much she fancies Jim Sturbridge. Sorry Anna, I’m sure Jim’s other crush Billie Layton could smash you to pieces with one hand, unless your deafness has heightened your other senses to the point where you’re a kick-ass monk with super fighting skills. Hell, I’d read the SHIT out of that book.
Cammi seems depressed that Anna is having such an easy time, while she can’t get past the sorrow of her own parents’ condition. This seems pretty self-centred. Cammi’s awful.
PLOT ALERT! Cammi notices one of Anna’s assignments from Mrs Arnette. It was labelled with a big fat F.
So THERE’S the help that Anna requires. She’s struggling at school, probably because she has to lip read every teacher. That can’t be easy, especially when you factor in Mrs Arnette’s luxurious moustache.
The profile interview ends with a perfectly Cammi question:
“So, is there anything else you want to ask?” Anna prompted. “You know—about being deaf?”
Cammi thought for a moment. “I was wondering—” She paused. “Well, I guess I was wondering how you can manage to be so happy all the time. Aren’t you ever angry about being different?” Cammi looked away, annoyed to feel tears welling up in her own eyes.
“I used to be,” Anna replied, her face growing serious. “But one day when I was really feeling bad, one of my teachers told me I had a choice. I could sit around feeling sorry for myself, or I could open my eyes and see how lucky I really was. She said I was using my deafness as an excuse for being miserable, and you know what? She was right.”
Nice work, Anna.
Cammi, of course, ignores the unsolicited advice.
[Anna] shrugged. “Still, I have my good days and my bad days, just like anybody else.”
Good days and bad days, Cammi wrote in her notebook. But somehow she found it hard to believe that Anna had been having any bad days lately.
I’m fucking sick of Cammi, to be honest. [Dove: You are not alone. Cammi is having a whale of a time wallowing in her self-pity.]
I suppose my viewpoint isn’t particularly enlightened.
I suppose I should be all “Cammi’s concerns are valid, everyone. Let’s all back up to give her some wallow room.”
I suppose I should be all “people’s reactions to their own situations are entirely their own, and they have a right to express their own feelings.”
I suppose I should.
But I’m not gonna.
She can strongly do one.
[Wing: All of those are true things. That doesn’t make what she’s doing good or beneficial or, and the important part for us, interesting to read at all. Putting her whining front and centre has not done this book any favours. I’m guessing that ghostie is going for some sort of redemption story, but it is not going to work.]
Monday, ay the Unicorner, Jessica scans the cafeteria for Jake Hamilton. She’s acting suspiciously, and the other Unicorns pick up on it. As is their modus operandi, they demand Jessica spills the beans on what she’s thinking.
After a classic paragraph of Jessica convincing herself that the easiest path is the one she actually wants to follow – think justifying the abandonment of a dog – she tells the gathered Unicorns what she saw. She does, however, leave out one name from the tawdry scene: Cathy Connors. This is an attempt to spare her brother’s embarrassment.
Again, no thoughts for your BEST FUCKING NON-TWINNY FRIEND, you blonde dipshit?
Lila, of course, is on fine form. First, she vows to stand by her man, and demands Jessica provide proof. Then, less than two sentences later, she demands Jake Hamilton’s metaphorical head on a pike outside Fowler Manor, as a grim warning for other would-be suitors. [Dove: Lila… never change.]
Cutting back to Team Boring, we see Cammi presenting her Profile Report on the New Deaf Girl to a salivating and voracious Elizabeth. She needs WORDS, dammit. In fact, she doesn’t need words. SHE NEEDS PICTURES OF SPIDER-MAN!
From the length of the profile, it’s apparent that Cammi has royally tossed it off. (This is NOT to be confused with Steven royally tossing it off, which is him having a wank while wearing a carboard crown from Burger King.)
Elizabeth probes for the reason. Apparently, she thought the profile would be at least 20% deafer. Cammi responds to the notion that the readership demanded deaf facts with the following bare-arsed lie:
Cammi studied her fingernails, avoiding Elizabeth’s eyes. “Well, to tell you the truth, Elizabeth,” she said, “Anna didn’t seem to want to talk about it very much.” And neither did I, Cammi added to herself.
“Are we talking about the same Anna?” Elizabeth said with a laugh.
Elizabeth tries to persuade Anna to resubmit something with a little more verve, but Cammi makes a glib excuse and runs off.
Elizabeth should be happy. She’s now got someone she can fucking fix in this godawful book. True enough, after banal chat with Mr Bowman, Elizabeth vows that she has to get to the bottom of things… starting by talking to Cammi.
It’s suddenly Tuesday, and every girl we know and loathe is gathered in the school gym for Anna’s aerobics class. Before it starts, however, Anna is cornered off screen by a rampant Mr Clark. We don’t know what he’s saying – if only we could lip read! – but Anna seems upset.
She doesn’t let it affect her Aerobic Class performance, unless she was angry and took it out on her pupils with some devilishly difficult moves. Everyone is totally knackered after the class, but in a good way. Well, everyone except super-athlete Belinda / Billie, which is a nice touch. Man, fuck these excercisy bellends.
Jessica asks if they can do another class same time next week, but Anna is strangely vague. She needs to ask Mr Clark before committing, and walks off before being pressed further.
So, Mr Clark thinks the deaf girl can’t cut the academic mustard in a Normal Person School, and will likely relegate her to the minor leagues unless she can prove otherwise. What a mahoosive prick.
The boys’ basketball team take over the gym space. Jake Hamilton is there, and he watches a scowling Lila depart with love in his eyes. Then Peter Jeffries begins questioning him about the hot gossip that’s caroming around the school – that Jake has been canoodling with an unnamed older woman. Jake plays dumb, largely because he IS dumb, and he seems genuinely aghast at the entire debacle. [Dove: TOO MANY PETERS!]
So this is a case of mistaken identity then. Okay.
Jessica overhears the entire discussion, and is furious with her Unicorn friends for blabbing the secret she entrusted to them. In the best scene of the book, the Unicorns confess to sharing the secret with a plethora of non-Unicorns and beyond. Only Mandy hadn’t blabbed the secret to anyone.
Mandy held up her hand. “I didn’t.”
“At least one of you can be trusted,” Jessica said.
“Actually, Jessica, I tried to tell,” Mandy admitted sheepishly. “But I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t already know.”
Nice. Genuine laugh.
Lunchtime Wednesday, and Jessica sidles furtively to Jake in the cafeteria. She confronts him about the lip-a-lip lock with Cathy by the rocks, and he predictably denies all knowledge. Sure, you heart-breaking philanderer. That’s what a two-timing womaniser would say.
After school, Cammi lies on her bed, scanning the latest Sixers. It’s short. Because her profile isn’t in it.
The doorbell rings, flashing the house lights. As the only one home, Cammi goes to answer… to find Elizabeth Fucking Meddley-Meddley-Meddlesome Bumcrumpet Wakefield.
Desperate that Elizabeth not uncover her terrible Deaf Parents secret (like, WTF?), Cammi tries her best to keep Elizabeth from entering her Deaf Peripheral House of Shame, short of fashioning a wand and screaming Expelliarmus (although Accio Steamroller would also work).
Elizabeth finagles her way indoors, and begins her patented brand of low-impact passive-aggressive snoopage. She meets the dog Ludwig, and sees the TDD, enquires why the lights flash when the phone rings, yadda yadda yadda. She verily runs the whole gamut of Deaf Stuff in the Adams household without putting two and two together.
Finally, Elizabeth attempts her famous BBF coup de grace:
“Cammi, maybe it’s none of my business,” Elizabeth began, “but I have a feeling something’s been bothering you. I thought maybe you could use a friend to talk to.”
“A friend?” Cammi repeated.
Elizabeth grinned. “Me, of course.”
Sigh. Here we go again.
Cammi, like thousands before her, begins to crumble, when she’s saved by the appearance of her younger sister Cara. The younger sister she’d claimed was quarantined with chicken pox in an attempt to keep Elizabeth at bay.
As Cammi vamps like a pro and ushers her sister away, Elizabeth meets… Cammi’s deaf mum! Oh shit, the secret is out now! THANK FUCK.
“Hi,” Elizabeth said. “I’m Elizabeth Wakefield. You must be Cammi’s mom.”
Cammi didn’t even bother to turn around. She closed her eyes and sighed. It was all over now. Elizabeth knew her secret.
“Won’t you stay for dinner?” Mrs. Adams asked. She spoke slowly, struggling to make each word as distinct as possible.
Cammi knew that her mother’s speech was difficult for most people to understand. She waited, every muscle in her body tense, for the sound of Elizabeth’s laughter.
But to Cammi’s surprise, Elizabeth didn’t laugh. In fact, Cammi heard her say the most surprising thing of all.
“I’d love to stay,” Elizabeth said. “I’ll go call my mom to make sure it’s all right.”
Gotta hand it to Liz here, I guess. She acted like a human.
Alright, so I guess I do understand a little of Cammi’s distress. Kids can be pricks, for sure. I can only imagine how this would go if Bruce Patman or the shittier Unicorns were the ones in the eye of the deaf storm (the ear of the storm?).
It’s just the incessant self-centred overview that Cammi constantly wails about. And the fact that she can’t let go DESPITE THE EVIDENCE OF HER OWN EYES AND EARS.
Her parents may be deaf, but Cammi is blind to the truth.
After a splendid dinner, Cammi confesses she’s not told anyone about her Deaf Parents because she was scared everyone would laugh. She also reveals the story behind the whole ordeal. Apparently, some kids and parents laughed when her dad asked a question in his faltering voice at a parents’ evening.
Well, boo fucking hoo. People are cunts. Live with it.
[Dove: At a parents’ evening at my school, someone’s dad asked, “Is there time for our girls to work and play?” There were a few titters, since we were fourteen, and playing had fallen by the wayside in favour of sneaking cigarettes at the end of the school field. He was misheard and got an answer about prayer (deeply religious school). His daughter looked relieved until her dad asked again, clarifying that he said “play”. The teachers had a confab and informed him that there was a netball club. He seemed intent on asking again, but the teachers cut him off and changed the subject. Daughter was horrified. How could her dad ask such a feeble question? She was mortified. Her life was over. Everyone would mock her at school tomorrow. Like, two people mentioned it. Then something else happened at school and that became our focus.]
Elizabeth tries to use Anna as an example for hope, but Cammi still believes the New Deaf Girl will enter her own spiral of self-loathing as soon as the Unicorns have moves onto the next Exciting New Thing (Maybe it’ll be a New Australian Girl, or a New Trans Student, or a New Lupus Boy… but it’s never Lupus).
Cammi is not ready to be like Anna. End of. Elizabeth has been foiled.
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica quizzes Elizabeth on her whereabouts. She can’t believe that Liz had dinner with Cammi Adams, which is a bit odd because Cammi Adams is EXACTLY the sort of sixth grader that Elizabeth would hang with.
Talk turns to the sub plot. Jessica has been browsing through Steven’s yearbook, trying to find him another possible girlfriend for his upcoming Life After Cathy Connors. It’s rather cute, but Elizabeth shuts it down good. Killjoy.
Chapter Nine brings us to Friday, and Team Boring are in the girls’ bathroom, discussing an English Quiz. Liz thinks she’s aced it, Amy doesn’t mention her score. From a stall, they hear sobbing. It’s Anna. They also notice Anna’s crumpled quiz paper, marked with a huge F.
So has this quiz been marked and returned, then? If so, why does Elizabeth only think she’s aced it? Why doesn’t she bloody know she’s aced it? Daft cow.
Through tears, Anna confesses her problem, which is presumably what she’ll eventually need help with, a la the book’s title.
Anna shrugged. “I can’t follow any of my teachers. I’ll be lip-reading just fine, but then they’ll turn around to write on the board or something, and I’ll completely lose track of what’s going on.”
“Maybe if you talked to them and explained that you’re having trouble,” Amy suggested.
“I’ve tried. My parents called Mr. Clark, too. He reminded all the teachers to be careful when they’re lecturing, but I guess it’s hard to break old habits.” She looked in the mirror, shaking her head sadly. “It’s not their fault, anyway. It’s mine, for being stupid enough to think I could ever fit in at a regular school.”
Erm… hang on a goddamn fuck-minute, Anna. It’s ENTIRELY their fault.
“I don’t want to be treated differently, Elizabeth,” Anna said firmly. “If I can’t make it, I can’t make it. Besides, Mr. Clark’s not trying to be mean. He just doesn’t want me to fall too far behind. He had his doubts about my coming here to begin with, and now he’s really worried. I used to get straight As at my other school.”
This FUCKING school.
You’re telling us that ALL THE TEACHERS are fucking up your classes because they can’t remember to FACE THE FUCKING CLASS when talking? That they’ve been REMINDED by the FUCKING PRINCIPAL that they need to FACE THE FUCKING LIP-READING DEAF GIRL when they are imparting their apparent wisdom, and they are STILL not doing so? And when your grades suffer, that FUCKING INSIPID GIMP-GUSSET of a PRINCIPAL is actually BLAMING YOUR LACK OF ATTENTION and your INABILITY TO FIT INTO A NORMAL CLASS on your bad grades? And you’re WILLING TO BLAME YOURSELF about all this?
FUCK THIS SCHOOL. TAKE A FLAMETHROWER TO FUCKING CLASS and TAKE THEM ALL DOWN.
[Dove: This is exactly what I was alluding to when I said it was massively unlikely that Giovanna would have an easy time at school. If these fucking muppets can’t remember to face their class for a permanent student, then I bet they’d mumble and burble and go off on tangents that she probably couldn’t follow easily. Also, literally everything Raven just said too. Here, have a gif:]
[Wing: Ahhhh, there’s the fire. And everything Dove and Raven said is spot on.]
The creators at Sweet Valley Online would like it to be known that this fictional rant about a fictional girl at a fictional school populated by a fictional fuck-witted faculty calling for a fictional flamethrower apocalypse is in NO WAY a call to arms for any real student up against similar yet entirely non-fictional issues to rise up against the system and start harming other people.
This is mere WHIMSY.
Talk to an adult if you’re in pain, folks.
Seriously though, start with Madame fucking Andre.
Anna squares her shoulders and promises herself she’ll weather this. You go, New Deaf Girl!
After a short sub plot scene in which Jessica tries to catch Cathy in a lie after she cancels a date with Steven – failing miserably – we get straight back to the gossip mill. It’s Sunday afternoon, and the whole town apparently knows that Anna Reynolds is getting kicked out of Normal School. Pfft, yeah, like Sweet Valley Middle School is fucking normal.
Jessica channels her inner Elizabeth, and decrees Something Must Be Done. She comes up with some crap ideas – kids writing down what the teachers say, for example – but nothing that tackles the real issue of the teachers being fucking USELESS.
[Wing: I want all the students shouting at their teachers to TURN THE FUCK AROUND. And then, in ASL, add EAT A DICK.]
Monday rolls around, and Cammi is being bored by Mr Bowman’s grammar lesson. She’s not the only one. Cammi spots Anna literally crying though boredom. Or is it boredom?
Cammi looked up at Mr. Bowman, who was lecturing away about adverbs, his back to the class as he wrote on the board.
So that was it. Anna was having trouble lip-reading.
Mr Bowman is supposed to be one of the good ones. Fucking clown-dressing ass-clanger.
Cammi knew that Anna must be wondering what was going on. For a moment, she almost said something, but then she stopped herself. This isn’t my problem, she thought silently. Anna shouldn’t even be putting herself through this in the first place.
Cammi sat there for a few more minutes, trying with all her might not to think about Anna anymore. Forget about it, she told herself. There’s nothing I can do.
Fuck off, Cammi. Grow a pair. A pair of testicles, not spare ears for Anna. Just thought I should make that clear.
After class, at the lockers, Cammi overhears the school gossip queen Caroline Pearce discussing Anna’s potential imminent expulsion for GENERAL SHITNESS and WONKY EARS. Ellen, channelling the horse-riding bitch we all hate rather than the gormless twonk with a heart of gold we all love, rains down the spite.
“I don’t know why she came here in the first place,” Ellen said. “Mr. Clark’s right. She can’t keep up with regular students.”
Sadly, although Cammi is learning about the plot in fine fashion, her idiotic kids-are-anti-deaf-prejudicial ideas are being reinforced big time.
We cut to the sub plot.
“Just look at him,” Lila said that afternoon, shaking her head sadly. “While Steven’s down there, happily mowing the lawn, his girlfriend is busy stabbing him in the back.”
DOUBLE ENTENDRE KLAXON!
Steven’s “down there, happily mowing the lawn,” is he? I bet he is, the sly tinker.
Jessica has finally told Lila and Ellen about Cathy Connors, the rampant slut. And the angry Unicorns want to tell Steven all about it. Jessica agrees that she should tell her brother, because she wants him to be happy.
“Lila’s right,” Jessica said. “I want Steven to be happy.”
“But if you tell him the truth, won’t he be unhappy?”
“Yes, Ellen, but it will be an honest unhappiness instead of a dishonest happiness,” Jessica explained.
“Exactly.” Lila nodded. “There’s nothing worse than being happy when you shouldn’t be.”
Yeah, there’s nothing worse than dishonest happiness. Mandy Miller should be pleased she had cancer instead.
The girls discuss how to break the news. Jessica, as we can guess, turns to soap stars for an answer.
“I think I should build up to it slowly. Maybe I could start by telling him about Marston and Maggie on Days of Turmoil.”
“I don’t think so,” Ellen replied. “Marston was so depressed over losing Maggie that he drove his car into a brick wall. He had to have tons of plastic surgery on his face. Now he’s a totally different actor.”
Ellen’s amazing. [Dove: At least this ghostie didn’t completely kill Ellen’s character.]
Eventually, the girls inform Steven about the whole damn shitshow. And he’s fucking FURIOUS. He demands satisfaction, and only Jake’s demise can provide it.
“Where can I find the little vermin who destroyed my life?”
“He has basketball practice tomorrow afternoon at the middle school gym?”
“Basketball practice!” Steven repeated gleefully. “I’ll see to it that he never, ever dribbles again!”
DOUBLE ENTENDRE KLAXON!
(Okay, so that’s stretching it a little.)
[Wing: And there’s the next double entendre immediately following. Stretch away.]
We skip once more to Cammi, still at sea over the confusions in her deaf-addled life. Wistfully, she watches her younger sister and sister’s-new-best-friend try to teach the always-silent Ludwig to bark like a Normal Dog.
Cara … opened a package of Ludwig’s favorite treats, Cat Nips. They were little bacon-flavored biscuits in the shape of cats.
You know, it’s bullshit like THAT that perpetuates the continual infighting in the Dog / Cat War. Throw away your Cat Nips, people! Let Cats and Dogs live together in peace!
[Wing: I WOULD LIKE TO FEED MONSTER DOG CAT NIPS IMMEDIATELY.]
As usual, Cammi laments the fact that her younger sister has a much better time acclimatising to their family’s Deaf Situation than Cammi herself. But as she’s watching her sister and friend play with Ludwig, and as she’s hearing Cara’s explanations of her deaf-adjacent lifestyle – and especially as she hears Cara’s friend take the whole thing in her stride as if nothing is wrong BECAUSE NOTHING IS FUCKING WRONG – she begins to believe that maybe, just maybe, she’s over-reacting about this whole thing.
GEE, D’YOU THINK?!
Mamma Adams sashays over, and Cammi shares a few of her woes with her. Mamma Adams does her matronly duty, and supports her idiot child.
“Cammi, I know what it’s like to be different,” Mrs. Adams signed, a gentle smile on her face. “You’ve handled it well, and I’m proud of you.”
Cammi looked away. Her little sister thought she was brave. Her mother was proud of her. It should have made her feel wonderful. But inside she knew she didn’t deserve their praise.
[Wing: She doesn’t.]
Cammi goes upstairs to do her homework. As she distractedly paws at the pages, she hears the taciturn Ludwig give out a mighty bark. I know that’s significant, and it Means Something, but to be honest I couldn’t care less.
Next day in English Class, Mr Bowman waxes lyrical about verbs or some shit. This time, however, he has Mr Clark taking notes. Notes on Anna’s progress. Because sure, she’s the problem.
Anna does her best, but as usual Mr Bowman spends a huge part of the lesson speaking with his back to the class. And when he turns to ask Anna to answer a question, the poor girl has no clue as to what’s happening.
Cammi looked over at Anna just in time to see her turn red and slump down in her seat.
“Well, um—” Anna said softly.
Mr. Clark looked down at his notebook and began scribbling.
I really hate this fucking school.
Finally, inevitably, Cammi steps up to the plate and begins signing to Anna.
Yay, I guess. I don’t fucking care.
After the class, everyone is amazed at Cammi. She finally tells everyone her parents are deaf, and guess what? NOBODY FUCKING LAUGHS.
There’s a nice little bit of secret language between Anna and Cammi (NOT ITHIG OH MY GOD FLASHBACKS) where they say one thing but sign another. Actual friendship or deaf solidarity? I guess we’ll see, or not, when neither Anna nor Cammi appears in the rest of the series in any significant way.
Cammi offers to help Anna with her classes, which should placate the Idiot Principal. Although that hurdle has already been crossed, if we believe this particular exchange:
“I’ll bet Mr. Clark would let you stay,” Elizabeth said to Anna. “Did you see his face after you answered Mr. Bowman’s question? He was grinning from ear to ear!”
“Right before he left, I heard him tell Mr. Bowman to keep up the good work,” Jessica added.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
Mr Bowman did LITERALLY THE OPPOSITE OF GOOD FUCKING WORK.
If this whole series doesn’t see the entire teaching staff of Sweet Valley Middle School being sent to prison for gross negligence and misconduct, I’m going to BURN DOWN MY LOCAL WATERSTONES IN PROTEST.
The creators at Sweet Valley Online would like to make it clear that these sentiments are for COMIC EFFECT ONLY, and in no way count as an actual threat to burn down a bookstore, local or otherwise.
This is WHIMSY.
[Wing: Of course we would never burn down a bookstore. Bookstores are lovely. Something that reminds me of Sweet Valley, though…]
With the main plot finished, we head back to the sub plot. Steven is about to fight Jake. Of course he is.
The whole thing is a work, naturally.
Steven and Jake square up, with folk claiming that Jake can kill people with his bare hands. Jessica begs them both to stop, which they agree to do if Jessica buys them a milkshake at Casey’s Place.
Yeah, it turns out that Jessica had been mistaken on the beach, what seems like many years ago. She’d actually seen Cathy kissing Steven.
I mean, COME ON. What a fucking terrible ending. This is totally “it was all a dream” level bullshit. Although it could have risen to epic status with one simple exchange…
“So it was Cathy and Steven, not Cathy and Jake?” Jessica asked.
“Correct,” said Elizabeth with a smile. “You know what this means, don’t you Jessica?”
“It means TWO MORE MONTHS OF WEARING GLASSES, you specky bint!”
The last chapter has a nice bit of bonding between Cammi and Anna, followed by a frankly bizarre section of foreshadowing where the twins both claim they are psychic. Gee, that sounds thrilling.
I did not like this book.
Anna was nice, I guess. And the stuff about deafness was actually interesting. But I fucking hated Cammi’s idiotic self-loathing. And I hated hated HATED HATED the fucking school in this one. Even the GOOD teachers were awful, and having the kids make excuses for their continual ball-dropping riled me up something chronic. I was so angry, blood was pumping through my veins. I felt as though I would boil over and explode at any moment.
DOUBLE ENTENDRE KLAXON!
[Dove: I can’t help but be grateful that this one didn’t fall on me. I hate this book. No matter what the topic, I fucking loathe inactive characters who wallow in their own misery, while congratulating themselves on staggering bravely through the day, when they’re not even doing anything. They’re existing. They’re not fighting. I hate that. There was no way I could get behind Cammi. Her reason for isolation was so pathetically feeble that I really couldn’t imagine that it would destroy a life, they way it’s apparently destroyed Cammi’s. The teachers were offensively bad. Not just a little “oh, aren’t able-bodied people thoughtless”, but actively terrible. Anna herself was nice, but I feel for her being saddled with Cammi for the rest of her time at SVMS.]
[Wing: Three for three. This book is fucking horrible, Cammi needs to die, Cammi’s family and Anna are pretty great but this ghostie did not get Jess or Ellen at all, and the subplot is both boring and WTF. Eat a dick, ghostie.]