Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion

by on 28 January 2019
Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion by Jamie Suzanne

Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #72: The Love Potion

Summary: A magical solution…

Peter Burns has a huge crush on Mary Wallace. But Mary doesn’t think Peter is the boy for her—and Mary’s friends in the Unicorn Club are certain that Peter is the wrong kind of boyfriend for a Unicorn! No matter what Mary says, Peter won’t take the hint. Then Mary and the other Unicorns stir up a fake magical brew to sell at the Sweet Valley Middle School Carnival. Will this love potion work some real magic and change Mary’s mind about Peter? [Wing: Not that I necessarily think Mary will just go along with the Unicorns’ opinion of him because she’s got a backbone on her, but shouldn’t something be done about them, too?]

Tagline: Will the Unicorns’ fake magic help Mary find a real romance? [Wing: Two things. (1) Wow, they’re actually admitting something they do is fake? (2) Thanks for the Bad Romance earworm, ghostie!]

Initial Thoughts

I love when the Unicorns have some sort of ridiculous school scheme (I’m betting some sort of fundraiser), and I love when Jessica tells fortunes and thinks she’s psychic, etc., so this should be a good combination. I hope.

[Dove: I have no nostalgia attached to this one. I never read it back in the day. Jessica and the Earthquake is the last one I remember reading, thought I may have read a later one, but I started missing books around here, because it was embarrassing being a teen, rather than a tween, and buying these books.]

Recap

I was right, this ridiculous school scheme is for a fundraiser! Specifically, the annual charity carnival that is in two weeks; SVMS raises money for local charities and the sixth grade is always in charge. But … but why? At the very least this school goes to seventh grade, and I think eighth grade is in it, too, [Wing: Note from like two seconds in the future, they are! Because Janet is an eighth grader and, because she’s the Unicorn president, pretty much the most important person in the school. Thanks for that, Jessica. Shocked you don’t think you are the most important person in the school.] so why would the sixth graders run something this important? [Dove: The Wakefields are the centre of the universe, no matter how illogical. Damn, Wing, it’s been 70+ books. Keep up.]

(I know, I know, that’s a pretty big assumption on my part that anyone in Sweet Valley thinks fundraising for charity is important and not just a big party.)

The Unicorns are tossing out ideas for a booth; the very first thing we see is Lila shooting down the idea of selling their favourite Unicorn stuff at a booth because they certainly don’t want just anyone thinking they can be a Unicorn. Never change, Lila. Never change.

Ellen suggests a kissing booth, one kiss for a dollar, but Jessica freaks out over this because god, they might have to kiss someone like Winston Egbert or Peter Burns in public. Oh, god, one of the Peters, I don’t even know which one you are. (I bet Dove knows!) [Dove: Nope. *dusts off hands in a very business-like manner* I just created the “too many peters” tag and moved the fuck on. Even I can’t keep track of them. We have Pete Burns, Peter Jeffries, Peter DeHaven, Pete Stone… and a bunch more. One of them is “Rockin’ Peter”, beyond that? Who knows.] Ellen defends herself because at least she has an idea, which none of the rest of them seem to have. Fair point, that, though at least one other person had an idea.

Kimberly Haver (I use her entire name because my initial response is always who the fuck is that [Dove: She’s the one who isn’t Tamara Chase, which is the one Raven irrationally hates.] [Raven: FUCK YOU, Tamara Chase!] [Wing: Note from the future, that hate is not so irrational.]) suggests a booth selling special paper, like the kind they made in art class. My mind first went to that Unicorn newspaper and then to rolling papers for joints, and I still have no idea what the fuck kind of paper they actually mean, so that’s useful. Whatever it is, Belinda says it will take too long to make enough because it took a week just to make one piece. That does sound like a pretty damn involved project.

Elizabeth turns up at the Wakefield house and Janet is appalled that she had a Sixers meeting at school on a Friday afternoon, because how could she ever want to stay behind for even a nanosecond longer than she had to. Elizabeth is excited about the special edition they’re putting together for the carnival.

Look, kid, it seems like every other damn issue is a special edition. They’re all just issues at this point, okay?

Lila shoots this down as boring, because Lila is ridiculous, and Elizabeth and Lila go in on each other a little; Jessica loves watching Elizabeth stand up to Lila and loves that Elizabeth thinks Lila is silly and snobby and Lila thinks Elizabeth is boring. I’m just as entertained, Jessica.

She breaks the news that Mr Clark is going to hold a contest to see whose booth can raise the most money. So, Lila and Bruce will set their parents at each other, right? Because that’s the kind of money that wins things in Sweet Valley.

Mary, the only Unicorn who isn’t already at the meeting, runs in to tell them that Johnny Buck is coming to Sweet Valley OMG SQUEEEEE! Lila doesn’t believe her because he only plays big cities and there’s not even a stadium in Sweet Valley big enough for him to play in.

It’s been a couple years in recapper time (oh my god, we’ve been doing this forever), but it’s the same damn school year for them: JOHNNY BUCK ALREADY PLAYED A GODDAMN CONCERT IN SWEET VALLEY. Why no continuity, ghostie?! [Dove: Maybe it doesn’t count because it was held at 3pm? And I was just as furious as you with this lack of continuity.] [Raven: Now hang on a buckin’ minute. MAybe Johnny Buck’s new album Pass the Buck, which was released when Lois Waller was Striking Back, catapulted his career into the stratosphere, and now he’s much too big to play provincial dives like Secca Lake. All Hail the Buckster!]

ANYWAY, he apparently wants to play smaller shows on this tour and he’s going to be at the Hippodrome.

You know what, go back to calling everything Sweet Valley Whatever if that’s what you’re going to come up with oh my god. [Dove: There was a club near G.A.Y. (the Astoria) in London, called the Hippodrome. Feeling very clever and sneery about the basic types it attracted, we dubbed it the “Hetty Home”. Hours of smugness from us. Hours.]

It only has two thousand seats, but not to worry, no one can buy tickets anyway, there’s going to be a contest to win them instead. Two thousand tickets, apparently. That’s certainly one way to handle a concert for which I assume Johnny Buck wants to get paid…

(Merch sales? I guess he’s leaning on merch sales.) [Raven: I assumed that the paper holding the contest just bought all 2000 tickets and wrote it off as publicity.]

The Unicorns put up posters advertising the charity carnival around the Valley Mall on Saturday. (What, not Sweet Valley Mall?) They still don’t know what they’re doing with their booth, and it’s starting to wear on Janet. You’re usually more of a fly by the seat of your purple pants, Janet, what’s up? [Dove: I think Janet can’t really relax until she’s handed off the burden of thinking to someone else, and can chill out with the excuse of “It’s all ____’s fault for not coming up with an idea” (but with the added bonus, if they come through, of being able to say “It’s all brilliant because I was smart enough to put _____ in charge.”]

Mary’s distracted, though, because she really wants to find the perfect new outfit to wear to the Johnny Buck concert which is in two and a half weeks now.

So, wait, they’re going to give away two thousand tickets in less than a month? Good lord, there is no fucking logic in Sweet Valley. [Dove: Wing, Sweet Valley time will fix everything.]

Everyone is still all shocked that Johnny Buck is actually coming to Sweet Valley EVEN THOUGH HE’S BEEN HERE BEFORE I WILL NEVER LET THIS GO, but finally we get to the alleged plot of this damn book, which is that Peter Burns pops up to nervously and awkwardly flirt with Mary. She’s not rude or anything, but she never knows what to say to him because he always wants to talk to her but doesn’t actually say anything himself. Ugh, I think I’m going to get second-hand embarrassment from this awkwardness.

He takes off shortly later and the Unicorns give Mary a ton of shit over it and how he’s got a terrible crush and practically faints every time he sees you (says Belinda, who really shouldn’t be throwing stones in that glass crush house in which she lives) and turns bright red when he sees her (says Jessica who has certainly made a fool of herself in front of plenty of crushes), and is a geek (says Kimberly and I have no story about her because I can’t remember who the hell she is).

Lila has a pure Lila moment: How can he even think [getting with you] is possible? He might as well go after me.

NEVER CHANGE. [Raven: Laughed hard there.]

Mary doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t think he’s too terrible (which is not really what the summary led me to believe); he’s even cute in his own way, but kind of a nerd, too, and even won second place in the science fair. UMM. Have we forgotten Jessica the Nerd so quickly? Oh, ghostie.

Janet teases her that she just hasn’t been rude enough to him, but doesn’t take Jessica’s teasing too well when Jessica tells Mary to listen to Janet because she’s an expert on it. I love you all, you ridiculous, cruel, sometimes shallow girls.

They talk about different ways to get rid of unwanted attention; Belinda says that she left a note in a boy’s locker who wouldn’t leave her alone back in fourth grade (…why in the world would fourth graders have lockers?) threatening to beat him up if he didn’t leave her alone. God, Belinda, moments like this are why I love you. [Raven: Jessica’s advice was to wear mismatched clothes and not brush her hair, and I was like “Damn, that’s cold, telling the bald cancer girl with a quirky dress sense to wear crappy clothes and not comb her scalp,” but then Wing pointed out that’s MANDY and not Mary, and the book dropped a notch in my estimation because Mandy is great and Mary is meh.]

The Wakefields spend Sunday (after a nice brunch, at least) cleaning the house. Yes, even Steven. (You’re welcome.) (Apparently this is a Wakefield family tradition that we’ve absolutely never seen before. [Dove: Ooh, the That brand new tradition we’ve always had tag!]) They get a chore list: Steven dusts, Jessica sweeps and mops the kitchen floor, and Elizabeth cleans windows. Instead of actually doing much of this, though, they talk about the Johnny Buck concert (Steven wants to take his long-time girlfriend Cathy Connors. It — it probably hasn’t been that long, but I do like Cathy, so cool.)

They make a bet that whoever doesn’t get to see Johnny Buck has to do the winner’s Sunday chores for a month.

On Monday, Jessica oversleeps, but Elizabeth gets all the details on the contest. The Tribune is going to do a random drawing. There’s an entry form in that day’s edition, they’ll draw one thousand entries in a week, and every winner gets two papers.

Jessica rushes about getting ready (even putting on two random socks) because she wants to beat Steven to the Wakefield’s copy. It’s too late, Elizabeth tells her, and says that Steven has already run off to buy as many copies as he can from Al’s Newsstand. Did … did the Tribune not limit it to one entry per person?

… I was going to call them idiots, but you know what, no, that’s a great idea. Way to boost sales for that one day. Get it, business people.

(It’ll be a pain in the ass to deal with all those entries, but as a one-off money-making scheme, go for it.)

Not to worry, though, there’s still the Wakefield copy since Steven has run off to buy others — NOPE. Elizabeth got to that first, and I am delighted that she stepped up to be competitive. I’m sure this will fade immediately, but get it.

Oh my god, the papers only cost thirty cents. I am dying. I’ve never known a paper to be that cheap. Never. [Raven: Aren’t they, like, a quarter out of one of those boxes on the street? Where you can put in one quarter and then just TAKE ALL THE FUCKING PAPERS…?] [Wing: They’re a dollar in those around here, but that’s a fair point about taking all the papers, which probably brings it down to a penny a pape depending on how stocked it is.]

Jessica buys six copies to Steven’s twenty-four, and Steven teases her that he has so many more he might even win four tickets. Now, I’m going to write this off as Steven simply not having read any of the rules, but if they’re also not limiting one set of tickets per winner, my head is going to explode. Ghostie, have you never, ever even looked at sweepstakes rules before? Never?

We check in with the Unicorns at lunch. Mary sent in seventy-five fucking entries oh my god.  Jessica now says that Steven sent in thirty entries, which how does she know? Did she see him pick up more copies? Because that’s not what was there earlier. (Also, why were there even six papers left for Jessica to buy? Why didn’t Steven take them all? ALSO ALSO, it’s time for me to really nitpick the rules (what, Wing, haven’t you been doing that all along NOPE you haven’t seen anything yet), because there should probably be a way to enter that doesn’t require buying a paper to enter because otherwise this could be considered an illegal lottery. I wasn’t able to pin down the exact time California started implementing promotional games laws, but abuse of them was rampant throughout the 1990s, so there were probably some sort of regulations on the books. California is particularly strict on promotions to this day.)

Apparently Lila also entered thirty entries, but we don’t hear from anyone else, in part because Peter shows up at the table behind Mary. Janet warns her that she has to do something soon or he’ll just keep following her around, but Mary doesn’t really want to be mean. It doesn’t come naturally for her, not like for Janet.

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT THIS IS MARY’S SECOND ROUND WITH A PETER?!

I completely forgot that she used to date Peter Jeffries, what the ever-loving fuck, series, there are a billion more names than Peter. [Dove: *blinks* This is what I mean by too many Peters. Even I can’t keep up with them, and I’m the idiot that invested many youthful years in this nonsense.]

Elizabeth is working her way through the charities that the carnival will benefit because the Sixers will run articles about each charity, and there are apparently a ton. Doesn’t these things usually benefit one charity at a time? What a way to split money.

Peter asks Elizabeth if he can help with the special carnival edition, and she puts him to work coming up with a new design for the paper just for it because he’s good with computers and, in fact, has already used the program they use.

My god, have we already moved on to computers? Weren’t they just typing things on a typewriter not too long ago? Good lord. [Dove: I know the Wakefields got a computer in Barnyard Battle, and possibly Liz was inspired by the Sixers use of it. But it really depends on how tech-friendly the ghostie is, I think.]

Peter tries to casually ask about whether Mary will be helping with this edition, but Elizabeth thinks Mary’ll be too busy with the Unicorns’ booth. She also clocks the hell out of his crush, because he is anything but subtle.

Mary daydreams about Johnny Buck noticing her at the small show (I’m sorry, 2000 people is not a small show) and maybe wanting to meet her after or sign an autograph for her. [Dove: Or maybe throwing an ugly baseball cap at her her, like he does for every girl in every city?] Peter interrupts this daydream, and because Mary isn’t around any of the Unicorns, she actually walks with him. He claims he’s headed over to a friend’s house near Mary’s, and she does wonder how he knows where she lives. Me too. You really aren’t subtle, Peter. [Dove: I honestly thought you’d be angrier about him finding out where she lives.] [Wing: I’m pretty annoyed by it, but this was also in the time when most people had their address listed in the phonebook, so I can believe he looked up her last name(s) there instead of creepily following her around town. It’s still not great, though.]

They chat about the carnival and the concert, and Mary complains a little about how many people have entered the contest. He tries to cheer her up with some talk about her odds, and it’s actually adorkably sweet. I like them together.

When he heads off, Mary thinks that she shouldn’t have been nice to him because it will just make his crush worse, but she has realised she does like him as a friend, though not a potential boyfriend, and maybe there’s more to him than the Unicorns think.

Jessica is thirty minutes late to a Unicorns meeting because she was getting ice cream with Aaron Dallas. That is, it seems, an acceptable excuse to them. Of course it is. The sugar rush and delight of her boy carries her into her booth idea: they should sell a love potion. (Continuity shout out: Mandy points out that things didn’t go so well when Jessica and Elizabeth thought they could read each other’s minds. Hey, that went over way better than anyone expected, and also, no callout to the time Jessica actually read fortunes at Lila’s party? Still, at least one bit of continuity here.)

Ellen is skeptical about this because they read some story about it for English class and she thought it was dumb; Jessica didn’t even though the girl falls for another guy and that’s the extent we learn about the story. I want to know what it is! Jessica doesn’t want them to sell a love potion that actually works, anyway, just one that people will love because it is a romantic idea and people like to believe in things.

Jessica, you have a very successful career as a fraud ahead of you if the whole murder-for-hire thing doesn’t work out. [Dove: Out of all the things Sweet Valley Confidential gets wrong, Jessica’s career is the one exception.]

Mandy wants to know what they would make it out of; Jessica has no idea but thinks it should taste delicious. I am dying, because I’m pretty sure she has zero idea of how to make that happen.

They decide to go with this plan, even though the $23 they have in their bank account isn’t going to get them too far with this. Janet is sure they can find money somewhere. Dude, Lila can cover anything and generally will as long as it makes the Unicorns look good. Why are you even stressing?

Jessica’s latest plan Re the concert is to suck up to everyone she knows just in case they win so they’ll be sure to choose her for their second ticket and she can still beat Steven in their bet. Priorities, Jessica has them, and she is the best.

When Jessica tells Elizabeth about their plan later, Elizabeth teases her that sure, the love potion might work just like the Sixers might win the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. At this point, I would not be surprised if it fucking did, y’all.

Steven has an in at the Sweet Valley Tribune, this guy Randy Knight who delivers the paper; they got close to 25,000 entries so far and could still get more the next day. What, are people dropping them off at the newspaper office rather than mailing them? Because that is a damn fast turnaround.

(Elizabeth: 1 entry; Amy: 15) [Raven: Elizabeth sent off one entry. If she wins, I’m flipping tables. Get in the sea, Charlie fucking Bucket.]

Steven and Jessica mailed theirs, so there goes that idea about them being hand-delivered. Or have we skipped a couple days ahead? The timeline on this is messed up. (What are the dimensions of the cave again?)

Oh, wait, apparently we have skipped ahead, or at least we do with the next scene, because now we’re only 24 hours from the big drawing. Mary can’t even eat her lunch, she’s so worried about it, and Peter is still lurking and watching her.

When Janet asks, Mary lies that she has been rude to him but he still won’t go away. Goddamnit, Mary, I could have sworn you used to have a backbone.

When she’s alone dropping off her tray, Peter brings her a copy of Rock It, this music magazine that has an exclusive interview with Johnny Buck; apparently Peter’s uncle works there and gets him the newest edition immediately. The Unicorns drag her away and tease her about it, but then they see the magazine and everyone but Lila and Janet are impressed because it has great pictures of Johnny Buck and it’s an edition that’s not even available yet. [Raven: To be fair, Lila’s uncle gets advanced copies of Johnny Buck’s ALBUMS, so a picture in a magazine ain’t cutting it.]

Lila and Janet suggest that she start dating someone else to put Peter off his crush, and they think it should be Tim Davis who is cute, popular, and coordinated. [Raven: Coordinated! Love it.] Mary’s liked him for a long time, but gave up on her crush when it seemed like he wasn’t interested in her. She also calls him a show-off. Mary, you don’t actually want to date him, jesus, just shut this down.

Sweet Valley Tribune is really bigging up this contest; they’ve drawn the winners but no one will know who’s won until the winners get special ticket deliveries on Saturday. Ned thinks the contest seems kind of cruel (I’m assuming he means in how they’re handling it, and while I would call it cruel, I would say obnoxious), and Alice is sick to death of hearing about it, so they turn talk to the carnival.

Elizabeth checks in with Peter on the new Sixers design and really loves it; she’s also entertained by the fake titles he’s using, one of which is Buck Concert Causes Riot. Peter, are you psychic? Because it seems like that might be a good prediction.

Peter admits that if he won he’d give the tickets to Mary, and even encourages him to maybe ask her to go with him instead of just giving them to him. Is — is his uncle going to really exist and magically come up with tickets to this thing?

The Unicorns are off to Steamer Trunk, the best vintage clothing store in Sweet Valley (and one of the few businesses not named Sweet Valley Whatever), which has amazing things from the fifties and sixties and rents costumes for special occasions.  They even rented poodle skirts for the sock hop … … last … … … year. [Dove: There is a line about how Ellen looked ridiculous in her poodle skirt. At this point, I metaphorically threw my Kindle against the wall. BEHOLD ELLEN. SHE BELONGS IN THE 50S.

Ellen IS the 50s (Dove loves Ellen)

Ellen IS the 50s (Dove loves Ellen)

]

[Wing: I do like how the second and fourth picture have her making basically the same face.]

I was under the impression that they weren’t all close friends last year, and also Jessica would have dressed exactly like Elizabeth at the time, so what the fuck. [Dove: This bothered me a lot until I counted how many Christmases we’ve had. She doesn’t mean last year as in “the previous school year” she means “some time, off-page, before the most recent Christmas we’ve had this year.” Does that make it make more sense?]

The salesperson brings them “gypsy” costumes of a sheer, flowing red skirt, a patterned red top, and a turban. I can’t even with this. Jessica thinks the skirts are too sheer to wear on their own (…Jessica? Is that actually you?), so the salesperson offers up satin pants to go under them. Tamara is afraid they’ll look like they way 200 pounds if they wear pants under the skirts. Fuck you, Tamara, like that’s the end of the fucking world. [Raven: Hahahaha, ACTUALLY FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE!] [Wing: Raven’s hatred doesn’t look so irrational now.]

Jessica is still sucking up to everyone and invites both Mary and Lila to see movies with her that night at different times. Jessica, you are turning this into some sort of silly romcom. I don’t hate it.

Lila wants to see that new horror movie Sewer Rats from Hell. I love you, Lila. I love you so hard right now.

Jessica refuses to leave the Wakefield house on Saturday until the tickets show up; they still haven’t arrived when Mary calls her at 12:30. No one Mary has talked to has won yet, which disheartens them both. As they’re talking, a truck pulls up with a delivery — for Steven, of course. He won tickets in row 24 and no one else in the house won.

Jessica is furious, both that he won and that he’s rubbing it in her face, until he heads off to tell Cathy the good news and Jessica realizes: Elizabeth was in on the bet too. Jessica wouldn’t have to do all the housework, only have. And if she didn’t quite have time to do her share… well, Elizabeth wouldn’t mind helping her.

PURE JESSICA.

She gets her comeuppance, though, because Amy won tickets in the 7th row, and of course she’s taking Elizabeth. I guess Elizabeth is pretty lucky that Amy is her BFF of the book and not one of the new girls instead.

Mary is super sad that she didn’t win any tickets and mopes around her room which is covered with pictures of Johnny Buck and lyrics that she copied in big, colourful handwriting. Mary’s kind of adorable.

Tim calls to invite her to the picnic Sunday after the carnival. She doesn’t really want to go (she doesn’t want to do anything), but she knows the Unicorns will kill her if she says no, so she agrees to it. Damn it, Mary, BACKBONE.

They talk a little about the Johnny Buck concert, too, even though Tim thinks he’s completely overrated. Tim likes Major Mercy much better, a heavy-metal band. I’m with Tim on the music, but this is yet another sign that Mary should not be saying yes to this date, considering how dismissive he is even after he learns that Johnny Buck is her favourite musician. Also, she feels a little bad about Peter, but at least Tim had the nerve to ask her out.

Mr Bowman tries to get the class to talk about the story he assigned over the weekend, but everyone barring Elizabeth and Amy is too bummed about the concert. Mr Bowman admits that he won two tickets that he was trying to win for his niece, but now he thinks he should instead give them away as a raffle at the carnival. Okay, that is pretty clearly an illegal lottery (though see above RE dates). He’ll sell them for fifty cents per ticket which he thinks is cheap but, uh, the paper itself was only thirty cents for the entry plus a bunch of things to read, so… He’s also limiting it to one ticket per person, which is the only smart part of this. Though I hope he didn’t tell his niece about what he was doing for her, because this would be completely shitty. [Dove: I felt for his niece too. Perhaps Ofsted are visiting and Mr Bowman is making a last-ditch attempt and engaging his students?] [Raven: If Mr Nydick had won tickets, his special raffle would have been VERY different…]

Peter comes up to talk to Mary even though the Unicorns give him the cold shoulder; he apologises that he wasn’t able to win tickets for her, which makes her blush because she can’t believe he thought of her first when everyone else was being so competitive. He then asks her out for the night of the concert (a movie or miniature golf or whatever), and is actually adorable throughout it.

Before Mary can say anything, Tim slides up to talk to her about the picnic after the carnival and how his dad will drive them and to remind her to come watch him in the exhibition basketball game. This breaks Peter’s heart, and Mary and I are both pretty grumpy over it.

While the Unicorns are shopping for ingredients for the love potion, Jessica and Mary promise to take each other to the concert if they win the last pair of tickets. Aww, you adorable kids, I love when you guys are good friends to each other.

Later that day, Steven demands to know where his tickets are; he, of course, assumes she took them, but Jessica swears she didn’t and is shocked that he lost them. She offers to help him search, and he wants to search her room first, even though it is completely trashed, even worse than normal. He’s still convinced that she stole his tickets, enough so that she even gives him her locker combination so he can go search it. As messy as she is in her room, I expect him to be buried under an avalanche of shit.

The Unicorns talk up Tim to Mary, telling her how much he must like her because of how he’s acting, even though he’s barely saying hello to her in the halls. And she still thinks he’s a showoff, which the Unicorns shoot down because he’s good enough at basketball he has a right to be one, and he’s cute and being with him makes the Unicorns look good. [Raven: Don’t forget, he’s also coordinated!]

Mary starts to question all of this, though she pushes those thoughts away, trying to convince herself that she’s just upset about the concert still.

Steven still hasn’t found his tickets, so Jessica makes a deal with him. If she finds them, and if she doesn’t have another way to go to the concert, he’ll give her his ticket because he doesn’t even like Johnny Buck, which will let Jessica go and make him look thoughtful and kind to Cathy, who will also go.

We get Girl Sleuth Jessica for awhile, which is GREAT, and she wants to retrace Steven’s steps first thing. The last time they remember him having the tickets was when he got back from Cathy’s and waved them in Jessica’s face while she was setting the table. That’s a lie; there’s no way Jessica didn’t get Elizabeth to set the table for her. He put the tickets back in his pocket, and then those jeans … went into … the laundry basket OH NO.

The jeans are currently in the washing machine, which is super convenient timing, and Jessica digs right into the wet, soapy jeans. She finds a science quiz she failed last Tuesday and is glad that Alice didn’t check the pockets, but no tickets.

By Thursday before the carnival, the Unicorns still haven’t come up with their love potion. All they know is that it has to be purple and sweet. Umm. Hello. Grape juice, throw in some honey, find edible glitter and you’re good to go.

(OH MY GOD, ELLEN SUGGESTS GRAPE SODA, WHICH IS ACTUALLY EVEN BETTER BECAUSE FIZZY. I love you, Ellen.)

(I actually hate grape soda, but it is a perfect idea for this.)

They may not have the love potion itself, but they’re on their way to pick up the costumes, Lila’s dad donated the money to get the little glass bottles, and Belinda’s mom donated labels for them.

Mary’s not been having fun with Tim, who only talks about basketball and Major Mercy. Told you so, Mary. Listen to yourself and not your friends. YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

(Peter is working at the science club booth at the carnival making a big volcano eruption. I am not really seeing how that’s a fundraiser, but okay.)

The Unicorns are in the Wakefield kitchen trying to put together their love potion. Suggestions: maple syrup, chocolate syrup, corn syrup, olive oil, caramel sauce, butterscotch, tomato sauce, applesauce, vinegar — this sounds exactly like something they would make, though at least some of it is Jessica trolling them, because she is delightful.

Mary wants to start with fruit juice and then add a bit of syrup to make it thicker and some spices, maybe. They use cherry-grape juice, a tiny bit of syrup, and then Janet tosses in some spices and tests it — vile. Because she used garlic powder. WTF Janet.

Belinda tries cherry-grape juice, lime Jell-O powder, and half a bottle of vanilla extract oh my god child no don’t fall for how good it smells. And, of course, it tastes terrible.

Ellen tries cherry-grape juice and lemon juice and vinegar and then adds baking soda into a full bowl, which makes it foam and spew and spread “like something out of a scary movie.” ELLEN YOU ARE THE GREATEST. She wanted to make a foaming love potion, which is actually adorable and a great idea.

DRY ICE! YOU SHOULD GET DRY ICE! (I’m certain nothing would ever go wrong if the Unicorns had access to dry ice.) [Dove: Less bodies in the Mercandy backyard? Everyone gets body-chip jewellery for their birthday?]

Mary decides they should look in a cookbook for punch, which is a great idea and I have no idea why no one thought of it before, goddamn. They decide to make pineapple punch and call it Purple Pineapple Love Potion, and Jessica is pleased because she has good luck with pineapple recipes. MORE CONTINUITY! Not enough to make me forgive the whole Johnny Buck thing, but it is wonderful to see a reference to a book I (surprisingly) enjoyed. [Dove: This now begs the question I raised on Twitter. If the main series acknowledges the Super Editions, that makes them all canon. So, does that extend to Super Chillers, and are ghosts canon too?] [Wing: Well, you know my vote is YES YES YES A BILLION TIMES YES.]

Ellen suggests that they call it Purple Pineapple Passion Potion because her dad said that purple was the color of passion. That is a goddamn great idea, but everyone else shoots it down because Tamara, Mandy, and Kimberly have already written 350 labels (I assume with just the words Love Potion on them) and there’s no way they’re starting again.

That evening, Alice warns Elizabeth to walk carefully in the kitchen because the floor is super sticky. GEE I WONDER WHY. [Raven: … … … … Steven?]  [Wing: Legit bark of laughter here. Scared Monster Dog, even.] They’re having spaghetti and garlic bread, which sounds delicious.

Steven and Jessica are off arguing about whether Steven could have left the tickets at Cathy’s house, but won’t call her and just ask. Steven doesn’t want her to know he’s a loser like this and thinks he should just search her room when she’s not looking. Because that’ll give her a much better impression of you.

By the day of the carnival, Steven still hasn’t found the tickets and is grumping all over the place. He picks at Jessica’s outfit for a bit (you’d think he would be all over that sheer skirt), until Lila shows up in a limo to get her, because of course. Mr Fowler is along for the ride to help them set up (they do have 500 breakable bottles, after all), and he even tried the love potion to make sure they weren’t going to poison anyone. Brave of you, sir. Also pretty cool that you’re being involved in this when you’re normally absent from Lila’s life.

Oh, look, the carnival is being held at Secca Lake HOME OF THE LAST JOHNNY BUCK CONCERT THAT APPARENTLY NO LONGER EXISTS IN THIS WORLD. Anyway, the Unicorns’ booth is near the food court, which should get them great foot traffic, and they’re going to sell their bottles of love potion for $1. Goddamn, even the concert ticket raffle is only going for 50 cents.

Some of the booths:

Soccer team has a raffle for tickets to a professional soccer game in L.A.; chess club has a computer chess game people can try to beat for $1; Sixers are selling copies of the special edition for 50 cents (and have sold 100 by 1:30); science club has that volcano, of course, which is rumbling though I still don’t know how that’s a fundraiser; and that’s it we don’t get to know any more, damnit. [Dove: Maybe there’s little toy people that represent the teachers of SVMS? People donate to see them lava’d because it’s cathartic?] [Raven: Maybe they set it to erupt at a random time, and there’s a sweepstake to guess the eruption?] [Wing: Oh, so that’s Mr Nydick’s contribution to the carnival. The Great Eruption Guessing Game. Three strokes for $1.]

By 10:30, the Unicorns have already sold 78 of their bottles, which is pretty good. Tim wanders up about then and buys three bottles and drinks them one after the other, then teases them about everyone falling in love with him now since the potion is guaranteed. The Unicorns give Mary grief after he leaves because she still thinks all he really cares about is himself. (Lila: What’s wrong with that? I LOVE YOU LILA.)

Peter wanders by the Unicorn booth while Mary is still at the basketball game and they try to tease him into buying a love potion. They’ve just talked him into it when Tamara realises that they are out, even their sample bottles. Jessica promises to whip him up another batch in 15 minutes, one that she’ll make extra strong. She also spins a story about how this family recipe is how her father met her mother. God, I love it when you’re on a roll, Jessica.

Once he’s gone, they talk about how they don’t actually have any ingredients left. Jessica doesn’t know what her concoction will taste like, but she’s going to make a special Puppy Love Potion that will never work. Aaaaand so much for that moment of sheer adoration for you, Wakefield.

After the game, Tim complains to Mary about how Todd always hogs the ball and how unfair it is that the coach took Tim out after he fouled a few people. Mary thinks he’s being quite the sore loser and is tired of listening to him complain for the last 10 minutes.

Mary cuts away to talk to Mr Bowman about the raffle because she sees Peter at the booth. Mr Bowman tells her that he’s sold nearly 600 tickets. Peter is pretty chill about everything, and I am cringing. Please don’t tell me you’re going to write him as actually believing in this love potion, ghostie. I wouldn’t buy it for a second.

Jessica’s Puppy Love Potion is made up of things she can get for free from the concessions: hot salsa, yellow mustard, root beer from the soda that Ned bought her, a little bit of many different types of Indian spices, and powdered sugar from the funnel cake concession stand. [Dove: So… there are people of Indian descent in Sweet Valley? Or just white people running an Indian restaurant?] [Raven: There’s surely somewhere in the mall called Sweet Valley Curry House.] [Wing: Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen white people running an Indian restaurant.]

I really want a funnel cake now. Warm from the fryer with caramel sauce and baked apple pieces. [Dove: That sounds amazing.] [Wing: It is so good. They debuted one at the local pumpkin patch last October. Someday we will find a place on holiday to let you try it, too.]

When Peter comes back for it, Jessica tells him that tradition says he has to hold his nose and drink it in one gulp because it’s a little like cough syrup, it has to taste bad or it won’t work. He does, and then the hot sauces hit him and he goes red, then pale, and then green, and then he stumbles away with a stomachache.

Mr Bowman has Elizabeth do the drawing, and she draws Peter Burns’ name. The announcement has to be a complete surprise until the picnic the next day, and I’m left wondering why the fuck they didn’t just draw it then and there, which would build all the excitement anyway.

Tim calls Mary that night to tell her that he bought a raffle ticket after all, and he hopes he can take her. He also reminds her to ride to his house so that his dad can drive them to the picnic; his dad won’t pick her up at her house because it’s too far away. Well damn, if she’s that far away, how the hell is she supposed to get to your house in the first place? He then cuts their call short because he’s going out for ice cream with the guys. This is at least the second time just since he showed up in this book. Isn’t there anything else to do?

She thinks that if he were actually nice, he would have tried to cheer her up, ask if she wanted to get ice cream with him, etc., and admits to herself that Peter would have. She’s not wrong about cheering her up, but dude, he already had plans with his friends. Also, if you need something, fucking ask for it. Don’t expect him to read your mind and understand that you’re upset with him and/or why you’re upset.

Mary decides she’s going to apologise to Peter at the picnic, and she’s more excited about getting to talk to him than she is about the Johnny Buck tickets.

The next morning, Jessica begs Elizabeth to tell her who won the raffle and even tries to read her mind, a nice throwback to that early continuity. She finally talks Elizabeth into writing the name down on her napkin so she can visualise it. Unsurprisingly to anyone but Elizabeth, the second Elizabeth writes down a name, Jessica runs off with the napkin.

The fact that it says “a name” and not “the name” makes me think she was smart enough not to write down the real winner, but who knows.

Steven finds his tickets in his geometry book; Ned calls him on not having looked at his geometry book in more than a week. Seriously, Steven, geometry is great, why are you blowing it off? And grounds him for a week but for the concert.

… Jessica is dying to tell someone about the raffle winner, but she’s managed to keep the secret for an entire hour. Swearing she wouldn’t tell is the only way she kept Elizabeth from killing her. (a) Bullshit, that would take a spine, and (b) WTF Elizabeth, tell me you didn’t write down the real name and this is just a trick to throw her off the scent and get her to stop pestering you.

… OH MY GOD ELIZABETH REALLY DID WRITE IT DOWN AND JESSICA KNOWS IT IS PUPPY LOVE PETER WHAT THE FUCK WAKEFIELD HOW DID YOU FUCK UP SO HARD [Raven: YUP I TOO AM ASTOUNDED SHE DIDN’T JUST WRITE “GET FUCKED YOU TWINNY BELLEND” ON THE NAPKIN LIZ YOU ARE A CLEFT] [Wing: SERIOUSLY! She started out this book all competitive, too, and then here we are.]

Lila immediately says this means Mary should have never broken up with him, and oh god things are spiralling in a way that is going to be super embarrassing, aren’t they? I don’t want to read the rest of this.

Jessica tries to call Mary to tell her that Peter won, but Mary’s already gone to Tim’s house.

Over at Tim’s house, Tim’s late coming downstairs because he overslept and his dad can no longer drive them so they’ll have to ride bikes, even though Secca Lake is a long ride and Mandy doesn’t have a bike. Tim says she can borrow his mother’s bike, but it’s too tall for her and she’s wearing a cute new sundress.

On the way, Mary’s tire goes flat, and Tim blames her for it, saying she must have run over something sharp. She says she’ll lock the bike to the street sign and walk the rest of the way, because she’s done with this date (though she doesn’t tell him that, not yet, she’s going to wait until the picnic for some reason). [Dove: To be honest, he doesn’t give her much chance before tearing off to the park.]

When she arrives, the picnic’s busy. She’s going to tell off Tim first (AGAIN WHY NOT WHEN YOU WERE WITH HIM 30 MINUTES AGO), but then she sees the Unicorns swarming around Peter. She wonders if they also figured out he was a great guy even if he wasn’t all that cool.

She ignores Tim when he tries to talk to her and finds Jessica apologising for the spicy love potion; she claims she accidentally put a little of her dad’s extra-hot barbecue sauce in the bottle by mistake, but the rest of it was a love potion. Lila tells him it’s working, though, because now he’s surrounded by pretty girls. Awkward.

Mary pulls him away to tell him that she’s sorry and she was just listening to her friends and they were all wrong about Tim who is a jerk and she really likes Peter. He gives credit to the love potion, but she shoots that down because it was just a silly thing they made up. He admits that he knew Tim was a jerk and that she’d realise it and dump him pretty quickly, so he wasn’t pushing her while she was dating Tim. Oh, kid.

The rest of the Unicorns notice there are a ton more couples at the picnic than usual and wonder if their love potion actually might have worked. Mandy gives a mysterious smile at this, and I want Mandy to be a witch so goddamn bad. [Raven: Mandy, why wasn’t this book about you?]

Mr Clark announces that the carnival raised more money than any carnival in the past, which is cool, and, of course, the Unicorns raised the most money for charity. Their award is a plaque; Lila calls it a lousy plaque, and she’s standing close enough to the microphone that it picks up her voice. Oh god, I am dying. [Dove: She was all over those plaques when it was for the football field!]

Peter wins the tickets and gives one to Mary, then gives the other ticket to Jessica to thank her for her extra special love potion. He also admits that Johnny Buck’s voice gives him a headache and he doesn’t really want to go anyway. He says all this in a way that makes Jessica figure out he’s known all along about the trick and he was still nice to her despite it; the Unicorns really were wrong about him, she admits. Gee, you think. Pretty much always.

The rest of the Unicorns are furious that Jessica got the ticket, but they have been having a ton of fun picking on her this whole time because they knew she was buttering them up to try to get them to give her a second ticket if any of them won. I love the Unicorns trolling each other.

Ned forces everyone to ride in one car together even though the last thing Steven wants is to show up at the concert with his girlfriend, his sisters, and their friends. Right. He also nearly leaves the tickets behind. Goddamn, son, you are shit at life.

We don’t see any of the concert (thank god), just skip ahead to two days later when Lila is sick to death of hearing about it and how went around the audience and stopped to look at them and blah blah blah. Talk turns to the new Melody Powers video that’s premiering soon; RockTV announced they’d show it the next week.

ROCKTV.

(a) Oh my god, what a terrible MTV knockoff. (b) When I think of RockTV, I do not think of music videos.

[Dove: this?

via GIPHY]

[Wing: I mean, not from his wrestling days, but in general, yes. That is a man who gets hotter as he gets older.]

Lila decides to host a pizza party so they can all watch it together at her house on her big-screen TV because everyone else has tiny televisions. Jessica rolls her eyes at this bragging, which is rich considering all the bragging she’s done about the concert.

This is our segue into the next book, which is all about a new show that puts on local bands’ videos, and Jessica suggests they make their own video and win. Lila shoots this down, but funny enough, the next book is called Lila’s Music Video, so that won’t last long. (Also she’s the only one who could afford to make a fancy one.)

Final Thoughts

This one was okay, I guess. I enjoyed the hell out of the love potion creation process, and I didn’t hate most of the Mary, Peter, and Tim stuff, though I’m not a love triangle fan. Steven losing his tickets was ridiculous, and I cannot get over the lack of continuity around the goddamn Johnny Buck concert that was such a huge part not all that long ago.

Great little moments for Ellen and Lila, though, and even Elizabeth; Jessica and Mary were fantastic; and I am here for witch!Mandy.

[Dove: General feeling of “meh” about this one. I may have loved it more if I’d read it as a kid, because the Mary/Peter stuff was cute, as was the making of the potion, but goddamn, I hate Steven. It’s not funny, it’s a genuinely awful attempt at comedy. The fact that this trope gets used so often (in general in all media, and in particular on Steven in this series) is infuriating. There is one particular sub-plot coming up where I lost any ability to tolerate Steven, so any hints of that, even before it gets to such terrible levels, really does taint an otherwise enjoyable plot.]

[Raven: Yeah, this was okay. Even though she wasn’t Mandy, Mary was actually quite nice, and Peter Burns was one of the better Peters. I got irritated at the Unicorns’ meanness and dislike of him, but they made up for it with the Love Potion and their trolling of each other. Also, Lila was on fine form. I actually quite liked Ned and Alice in this one, as they had some fine and funny parenting lines. I just wish they’d actually hidden Steven’s tickets to force him to tidy his room while searching for them. That would have been epic.] [Wing: YES. Oh my god, that would have fixed everything I hated about that plot.]

I am the evil twin. I'm in a feud with R.L. Stine, but he hasn't found me here yet. Every story needs more werewolves.

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