Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica’s Blind Date

by on 10 June 2019
Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica's Blind Date by Jamie Suzanne

Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica’s Blind Date by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s Blind Date

Tagline: Who is Jessica’s mystery man?

Summary: The boy of her dreams?

The sixth-grade newspaper at Sweet Valley Middle School has started running personal ads, and as far as Jessica Wakefield is concerned, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She and Aaron Dallas have nothing in common anymore. Jessica’s ready to find a new boyfriend in the pages of Sweet Valley Sixers.

Soon Jessica’s exchanging the most romantic letters with a mysterious admirer. Her new pen pal loves all the same things she does—even pineapple pizza! At last they decide to meet. It’s going to be the date of the decade. And is Jessica in for a surprise!

Initial Thoughts:

[Raven: Hello everyone! We’re back once again, with the ill behaviour. This week we have a recap (today) and a podcast (Friday), Next week, it’s our scheduled fallow week downtime, and them back on schedule for the following Monday and beyond. I hope you’ve missed us. We’ve missed you.]

Jessica’s Blind Date… interesting.

The cover is decent, although it would work just as well if the mystery chap substituted those flowers behind his back for a kitchen knife. [Dove: The Point Horror version of this would definitely have a knife.]

Jessica’s dress seems a little garish, but – spoilers – it’s a correct representation of the garment described in the relevant scene. Yay for accuracy!

[Wing: From the back, her date looks like he’s in his late teens. Has Jessica gone for an older boy again?]

Recap:

“Jessica Wakefield sat picking at her taco.”

Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

After such a corking opening line, it’s surely all downhill from here.

We’re in the Unicorner, and Jessica has lost her appetite. While her purple brethren chat about Rick Hunter’s upcoming party, she mopes about her waning affections for the irrepressible Aaron Dallas. Apparently, instead of setting her bean a-quiver, he’s been getting right on her tit-end and no mistake. [Dove: Well, she should go back to Rick Hunter, since he kept her on her toes.]

For a start, he wears neon surfer shorts. Who does that? Not even neon surfers wear that shit.

Secondly, he eats Graham Crackers. Personally, I feel sorry for Graham in this, as he probably needs his crackers to manage his diabetes.

And C: he’s just not romantic. Denny Jacobson saves his girlfriend Janet Howell pieces of his brownies, which reflects very well on the Unicorns. Note: “Brownies” is not a euphemism for faeces in this instance.

Aside:

On Graham Crackers.

The UK does not have these proprietary sweetmeats, although it’s fair to say that pop culture has stamped them into the national consciousness for a broad subset of media consumers.

For the uninformed, a Graham Cracker is basically a thin digestive biscuit.

Also, it’s apparently pronounced “grahmm” and not “gray-um”. Bloody American weirdos, always pronouncing names wrong. I speak from personal experience here.

[Wing: Okay, Craven, I don’t know what your problem is with Americans pronouncing names wrong. It’s not like anyone has ever mispronounced yours, Gaven. I’m sure we pronounce everything correctly, Raben. Also, graham crackers are an important component of s’mores and are therefore delicious.]

End aside.

Jessica confesses her concerns about Aaron’s suitability to the gathered spikey-foreheaded glitterati. They console and mock in equal measure, as is their enigma. Ellen has a few pithy backhanders about Aaron for Jessica to process.

“His wardrobe stinks,” Ellen finished helpfully.

Come on, Ellen,” Mandy chided. “It’s not a crime to dress a little differently, you know.”

God bless you, Mandy. To be fair, it’s the least you deserve, since the chemo.

After declaring that she’s bored of Aaron, but unlikely to do “anything drastic” before Rick Hunter’s party, she makes her excuses and leaves. Or at least, she attempts to leave. Aaron tries to noisily flag her down from across the cafeteria, standing on a bench and hollering like a neon-shorted buffoon.

She ignores him, despite resident Gossip Puffin Caroline Pearce’s best efforts to shovel Jessica in Aaron’s direction.

Head down, she makes a dart for the exit… and crash! She runs headlong into a mirror.

Wait a minute… THAT’S NO MIRROR! It’s her identical twin, Elizabeth Wakefield! Jess is rushing towards the library, while Liz is rushing away from it.

Okay… *cracks knuckles*… Let’s do this shit!

  • Elizabeth has a favourite tree in the back garden. She sits in it when she needs to think something through. Jessica also likes the tree. She uses it to mark the graves.
  • When Elizabeth is rushing, it’s because she needs to stop the presses with a huge scoop! When Jessica is rushing, it’s because she’s fleeing the scene of the crime.
  • Elizabeth has blonde hair, and blue eyes. Jessica, however, has blue eyes, and blond hai-… FUCKING HELL! THEY’RE THE SAME!

[Wing: *wipes away a tear* It’s been so long.]

Elizabeth asks for her twin’s help. Apparently, Amy needs a science tutor. Also apparently, Jessica can somehow help with this? I guess she was a decent member of the SOAR! Science Circle. And third apparently, Lila had a best-that-money-could-buy science tutor that Jessica could likely point Amy towards.

Either way, Jessica shuts her sister down quickly. She doesn’t give a pimply fuck. She’s more concerned with avoiding the fast-approaching neon-shorted Aaron Dallas.

Aaron catches up with his beau. How does he start with his charm offensive?

“Hiya, Jess Wess.”

Yeah, Aaron can fuck off.

Jess Wess? SO BAD.

Aside:

If you’re looking for someone to add random syllables to a word or name, to create a new word or name, then Dove’s your gal. Seriously, she’s got some sort of innate gobbledigook superpower. Our cats have never had the same name twice. [Dove: Be careful which superpower you wish for. You will get stuck with the weirdest one. I wish I’d asked for flight. Or always being right.]

Maybe she was bitten by the vampire corpse of Stanley Unwin.

Aside within an aside:

That’s a really funny reference, which I reckon no one will enjoy without googling. If it made you laugh, sound off in the comments.

End aside within an aside

I’ll leave it for Dove to come up with some better nonsense-names for Jessica, because I’m stone awful at it. Go Dove!

[Dove: My superpower doesn’t work that way. I can’t plan them, I just open my mouth to address someone and a new nickname falls out. But themeatically, they all are akin to: Jess-a-bubble-snuggy-bobs (a slightly tweaked version of the last thing I called our cat).]

End aside.

They have a terse exchange in which they agree to meet at Casey’s Place for ice cream after school. Aaron seems pleasant enough, but it’s obvious that Jessica is irritated with almost every word he says. Poor Aaron Warron. (See? Stone awful.) [Dove: *shakes head* The lack of creativity in this naming convention makes me want to bounce heads off walls. And not nicely rendered walls. I mean the horrible walls of our childhood, with rough brick that could make you bleed by looking too closely at it.]

Once Aaron ambles off, Elizabeth admonished Jessica for hurting her boyfriend’s feelings. Jessica pshaws this… didn’t Elizabeth SEE his fucking neon shorts?! Elizabeth responds by reminding her twin about all the nice things that Aaron has done. He gave her his soccer jersey, and bought her a Johnny Buck CD. Jessica mellows, and the chapter ends with her realising that shorts are not a reason for dumpage, and she doesn’t need the hassle of rustling up fresh man-meat in time for Rick Hunter’s party.

At Casey’s Place later that Day, Jessica spots Aaron sitting with his friends. Happily, his shorts are of the non-neon variety. Unfortunately, he is wearing a Donald Duck t-shirt.

Rotate-a-duck

What is seen cannot be unseen.

Jessica is mortified, but she rolls with it. Then it gets worse.

  • Aaron orders a very childish ice cream… a double scoop of bubble gum with rainbow sprinkles. That does sound like a blood sugar sex magical diabetes-in-a-bowl fairy jizz nightmare. [Dove: *blinks* But you can’t make up nicknames?] [Raven: What can I say? It’s not in my skillset.] [Wing: Bubble gum ice cream is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tried. Aaron, there is something seriously wrong with you on this point.]
  • Aaron starts humming. Humming is for losers. And boilers. And birds. His hummage of choice? The theme from The Flintstones. Nowt wrong with the classics, Jess Wess.
  • Aaron starts slurping his ice cream. Slurp slurp. Sorry Aaron, I was with you until you became a slurping wazzock. I absolutely hate the sound of other people eating. It winds me up something chronic. It’s probably the main reason I prefer cats to dogs. I think if I had to hear a dog snarfing his chow multiple times a day I’d end up punching it in the snout.

Aside.

Obviously I wouldn’t. Dogs are amazing. But they are noisy fuckers when they eat. [Wing: Too true. Though I find Monster Dog kind of cute when she’s eating kibble, mostly because she takes like three pieces at a time and then carries them into whatever room has Ostrich or me. The other night, she carried each set down the hall all the way to the bedroom. Silly dog.]

End aside.

Aaron, slurping away in a quest to look “cute and adorable,” definitely needs punching in the fucking snout here.

To Jessica’s credit, the slurping is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. An argument erupts, while the patrons of the parlour watch on agog. Jessica pours scorn on Aaron’s Donald Duck attire, but Aaron returns the favour in spades.

Aaron looked down at his shirt. “I happen to like this T-shirt.” His eyes narrowed. “At least everything I own isn’t purple.”

Now he was criticizing her clothes? Jessica had always prided herself on her excellent taste. “Purple is the official color of the Unicorns,” she said through gritted teeth. “You know that.”

“Yeah, well, I hate to tell you, but it’s not really your color,” Aaron said with a shrug.

Nice work, you neon-shorted slurpy asshat. [Dove: Ouch. And is anyone else imagining all the private meetings the Unicorns have had about this topic, and how many times they’ve tried and failed to get someone to confront her about the situation. I know it’s just a bitchy remark, but damnit, this is my new headcannon.] [Wing: HA. I wish I could take that on as a head canon, but the problem is, blondes tend to look great in purple and I can’t seem to ignore that knowledge.]

Soon, the barbs go nuclear.

“You know what your problem is, Aaron?” she demanded, her voice angry. “You are one of the most immature people I have ever met in my life.”

“And you,” Aaron said, “are one of the most stuck-up people I’ve ever met in mine.”

As the words fly and the crowd watch on agape – including the irrepressible gossip Caroline Pearce – we reach the inevitable conclusion pretty damn quick.

She was so angry now that she could hardly control herself. “I have news for you,” she said slowly. “If this is the way you feel about me, then it’s over. We’re not going out anymore.”

Aaron leaned across the table. His eyes locked onto hers. “Oh, yeah?” he answered evenly. “Who ever said we were?”

Jessica clenched her fists. Without another word, she stormed out the door.

Ah, young love. It’s so damn hormonal. [Wing: Aaron is goddamn amazing in this fight. It’s rare for someone to stand up to Jessica, and he was smart with it.]

After storming out, Jessica meets up with Elizabeth back home, and then the grim truth hits her in the face like a Nydick love-blob. If Aaron is out of the picture, then Jess has no partner for Rick Hunter’s party. Elizabeth isn’t arsed, until she realises her sister is top notch serious, at which time Liz turns on the sympathy. To be fair to Liz, her sister is a drama queen, and the more sensible Wakefield has Had Enough Of Her Shit on more that one occasion in the past.

To change the subject, Liz tells Jess of her new plan for the Sixers (the sixth-grade paper she edits for school): inspired by an offhand comment of Jessica’s earlier in the book, that was so inconsequential I’m not going to mention it, she’s planning a page of classified ads.

“Oh,” Jessica said, trying to sound interested. “That’s nice, I guess.”

Jessica is a honey badger.

Jessica Don’t Care, Bro.

That night in bed, however, she realises that Elizabeth’s classified ads might be the answer to her prayers.

The next morning, Jessica is full of (metaphorical) spunk and (actual) vigour. Over breakfast, and a knowing bout of banter from the always irritating Steven, she declares that she has the answer to all her problems. On the way to school, she reveals her genius to the incredulous Elizabeth.

[Jessica] reached into her pocket for the slip of paper she’d been carrying around all morning. With a flourish, she handed it to Elizabeth.

“What’s this?” Elizabeth asked.

“Read it,” Jessica urged her. “It’s for the new Sixers classified section.”

“‘Gorgeous, sophisticated blonde seeks boyfriend,’” Elizabeth read aloud. “‘Loves rock music, Doc Martens, beach parties, and airplane food. Hates square dancing, itchy sweaters, and black jellybeans. Please respond to box number one.’”

Aside:

To be fair, I like Jessica’s ad. It’s direct and to the point. And I believe that this sort of thing is totally in her wheelhouse.

[Dove: This is the start of Jessica’s obsession with Doc Martens. Something I can’t get behind. Docs belong to the alt crowd. Jessica should be wearing platforms, not Docs. Unless Wing is about to school me on how in American in the early 90s, only the Plastics wore Docs, and the alt crowd were so alt that they wore hemp flip-flops or something.] [Wing: Nah, Docs were an alt thing here, too. However, I would date the hell out of the Jessica in that personals ad. Though I would like some clarification on airplane food, because why?]

End aside.

Naturally, Elizabeth squats over Jessica’s ebullience and lays a massive Cleveland Steamer.

Elizabeth shook her head. “No,” she said firmly. “I can’t put this in the paper.”

Jessica’s face fell. “Why not?”

“Because it’s… a joke, that’s why.”

Oh, fuck off Elizabeth, you sanctimonious twat. You’re writing a school paper, not the New York Times. [Wing: That is true. And then I went into a Wing Research Spiral because I’m pretty sure the New York Times does have a personals section. Which they do! It didn’t start until 2001, though, and this was published in 1994. BUT IT’S A SIXTH GRADE PAPER, NOT THE GODDAMN NYT, ELIZABETH. You should be publishing things that students want to read along with whatever else you want to do.]

Jessica is predictably nonplussed. She pouts and pontificates, and eventually gets her way.

Elizabeth sighed again. “OK, Jess. I’ll print the ad. You’re right. A couple lines can’t be that big a deal.”

Aside:

We always complain about Elizabeth’s lack of spine in schemes such as these. To be honest, I think that’s a bit unfair on Elizabeth.

If Elizabeth was made of sterner stuff, we’d never have stories like “Jessica’s Blind Date”, “The Big Party Weekend”, or “Jumping to Conclusions”. We’d have stories like “Elizabeth Edits the Sixers”, “The Quiet Weekend In”, and “Making Logical Decisions Using All The Available Evidence.”

So yay for Elizabeth’s spongy vertebrae. They are the gears that drive the series. [Dove: And still I would buy and read those books.] [Wing: I would certainly read the logical decisions one. Even though I don’t actually think Elizabeth makes those.]

End aside.

That day at the Unicorner, Jessica is the centre of attention. Not for nice reasons, but because of the previous day’s public spat with the neon shorted slurping anus Aaron Waron. Jess doesn’t seem to mind, of course. Attention is attention.

Once the spiky purple princesses learn that Jessaron has been irrevocably dissolved, they posit Jessica’s options vis-à-vis Rick Hunter’s party. Their talk also turns to romance, as it always does. We learn that Lila and her fella, Jake Hamilton, are coming up to their one-month anniversary.

Young love, so transitory that any milestone is pounced upon like a kitten on fucking string. [Wing: I laughed so, so hard at the one-month anniversary thing. I remember when that was such a huge deal back then, and it is great.]

Janet Howell is sure that Lilake reflects very well on the Unicorns, and thinks back to her own one-month anniversary with Denny.

“I remember on my one-month anniversary with Denny we went for a moonlight walk on the beach. He brought a picnic. It was so romantic.”

“Isn’t that when you got food poisoning from the mayonnaise?” Ellen said.

Never change, Ellen, you magnificent idiot. [Dove: I always appreciate a Jamie who can write Ellen.] [Wing: Ellen is on fire in this book. I love her.]

The collective then muse on their own boyfriends, each deducing that their fellas fall short of the Romantic Yardstick. Then the boys’ table start a food fight, underlining the girls’ comments with a thick line from the irony pencil that would make Alanis Morrisette proud.

“Gross,” Jessica said.

“Completely,” Janet agreed.

Mandy shook her head. “Kind of makes you wonder what we see in them, doesn’t it?”

… … … … Cock length?

We cut to the dynamic offices of the Sweet Valley Sixers. Elizabeth and her lank-haired spunkwaffle best friend discuss the latest edition.

We learn that the Sixers has a boring layout. Why? Because the computer programme upon which it is built is archaic and restrictive. THIS IS PROBABLY IMPORTANT. Ish. [Dove: I’m sure we had a fairly recent storyline where everyone was excited to move over to computers because new technology would give them a delightful and dynamic look that would be totally terrific as soon as it printed out on their dot matrix printer. Does anyone remember this, or did I make it up?] [Raven: Rings a bell, but not very loudly.] [Wing: If we did, I completely blocked it out, because I was shocked they were on computers and not typewriters.]

Amy spots Jessica’s classified ad, and, like Jessica in one of the best books in the series, immediately Jumps to Conclusions.

“Gorgeous, sophisticated blonde seeks boyfriend.” Amy looked up from Jessica’s ad. “This is some kind of joke, right?”

“I wish,” Elizabeth said ruefully.

Amy’s eyes grew wide. “You’re not serious, are you? I thought you and Todd were really happy together.”

Genuine lol there. Amy actually made me laugh. Go, you lank-haired spunkwaffle!

Elizabeth sets the record straight, and asks Amy what she thinks of the Sixers running a personal ad. Amy, fresh from saying something amusing, reverts back to being a fucking mirror to Elizabeth’s own opinion. The ad is embarrassing, and makes the Sixers look unprofessional. Yeah, whatever. It’s not a professional publication, why on earth should it look professional? I mean, I do get the whole “aspire to be great” thing, but seriously?

The chapter ends with the girls heading to the photocopy machine to run off the newest edition. Because photocopied newspapers scream “professional.” [Dove: See? Upgrade. They used to crank them out on the ditto machine.]

Understandably, we learn early in the following chapter that the new edition is a massive hit. Copies are snapped up immediately, leading to a newspaper shortage, and all because of the single personal ad at the foot of the classified section. The entire school is aflame with intrigue over the words of “Gorgeous Blonde.”

I call Bullshit.

Bullshit!

Elizabeth hears a gaggle of seventh graders discussing the ad. The boys are bantering about who has the best chance with Gorgeous Blonde, and the girls are theorising on her identity. Even the All American Dreamboat and Classic Douchenozzle Bruce Patman is getting in on the speculation. In fact, it’s so bad that when Elizabeth bumps into a boy she doesn’t know (who the hell doesn’t The Saited Elizabeth know?!), he tips her a knowing wink.

A boy whose name she didn’t know caught her eye. He had brown eyes and dark curly hair. “Sorry,” she said, trying to get past him.

He looked at her strangely, then grinned. “That’s OK, gorgeous.” He was holding the newspaper in his hand.

Suddenly Elizabeth had a terrible thought. He must be wondering if I’m the one who placed that ad! How embarrassing!

[Dove: Um, arrogant much? “I’m blonde, I’m clearly gorgeous. Everyone will think I’m ‘Gorgeous Blonde’.” Dick.]

It’s all too much for the more serious half of our favourite twins. Elizabeth is mortified by the entire debacle, and is convinced that her beloved vanity press is being brought low by such immature nonsense.

We check in with Jessica, who’s a whirlwind of emotion. Everyone is talking about the personal ad by the mysterious Gorgeous Blonde, sharing their theories on her identity, and it’s all Jessica can do to keep her secret safe.

Classes finish, and she dashes to the Sixers office to check her box (JOKE POTENTIAL), but in doing so, she caroms into everyone’s favourite Unicorn, Mandy. Our quirky cancer girl is in a romantic pickle of her own: apparently, her paramour Peter likes “somebody else.”

OH, THE HORROR.

Jessica is somewhat sympathetic. Mandy offers the theory that maybe a break with Peter wouldn’t’ be such a bad thing after all.

“Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we did break up. All we ever do together is go to kung fu movies. I hate kung fu movies. Everyone always gets killed.”

Jessica tried to remember what movie she and Aaron had seen the last time they had gone to the movies with Mandy and Peter. Then she remembered. Chinese War Dragons.

Another laugh there. Mandy’s great. And all this is setting up the obvious “everyone writing personal ads” schtick that this book is heading towards.

Jessica darts off to the Sixers office, and once she’s disposed of a lingering Sophia (NOT BY MURDER, but by chicanery!), she has the room to herself.

Her box is crammed with eager suitors (JOKE POTENTIAL). A total of SIX responses!

While dashing home to check out the love-notes, Jessica bumps into Lila.

Aside:

This book has been crammed with people-running-into-other-people. Let’s look at the evidence.

  • In escaping from neon-shorted Aaron, Jess runs into Elizabeth.
  • In dashing to the Sixers office, Jess runs into Mandy.
  • In dashing from the Sixers office, Jess runs into Lila.

Four chapters, three occurrences of running into another person.

Bit much.

End aside.

Lila is looking for input on her one-month-anniversary date with Jake. At first, Jess tries to brush her off in order to get home and read her responses, but Lila pulls up her Bitch Pants and pulls rank until Jess offers some actual advice.

At home, Jess checks the responses.

  • Response 1 is from a hockey lover. Jess hates hockey.
  • Response 2 is messy. Jess is messy, but a relationship only has room for one slob.
  • Response 3 is a poem. It’s signed Donald Zwerdling, who is Optimus Nerd.
  • Response 4 is from a computer wiz and gamer.
  • Response 5 is boring, and a dog lover.
  • Response 6 is appallingly written.

Six responses, six strikes.

Right then.

ONE – I don’t blame her. Hockey (presumably the Ice variety) is awful. The puck moves too quickly to follow on TV, so it’s just burly men in padding skating back and forth on a frozen swimming pool while people cheer over the noise of a drowning church organ. [Dove: But fictional hockey is amazing. *sings We Are the Champions*] [Wing: Never have you been so wrong, Raven. NEVER HAVE YOU BEEN SO WRONG. In fact, while I’m commenting, I’m waiting impatiently for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals to begin, because my beloved St. Louis Blues are one game away from winning the Cup for the first time ever. They haven’t even been in finals during my lifetime. They have such an underdog sports story this year. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH ICE HOCKEY IS THE BEST PLAY “GLORIA” INDEED BRING IT HOME BOYS #WEALLBLEEDBLUE #WEWANTTHECUP.

Okay, okay, I’ll rein in Wing Hockey Love. For now. Though I will add that Ostrich hates that they stopped using a coloured dot to show where the puck is, and he won’t watch hockey now. Because he is also WRONG LIKE A WRONG THING.]

TWO – Again, no blame. Messy-on-messy action can’t end well.

THREE – The poem is cute, but signing your anonymous love-note is a rookie mistake. Also, OPTIMUS NERD. AUTOBOTS, ROLL OUT.

Cosplaying is not just for Cons, folks.

FOUR – I guess Jess has form in hating computers, if the events of Barnyard Battle are to be believed.

FIVE – Jess definitely has form in the dog-hating department. For which we hate her. [Wing: I wouldn’t hate her for her dog hate if she’d just stop interacting with dogs in horrible ways.]

SIX – HANDWRITING IS A WINDOW TO THE SOUL.

Jessica is a little disappointed, but hopes for better luck the following day. Yeah, don’t get too excited, love. The pool of talent from which you’re trying to pluck your prince isn’t exactly overflowing with prime fillets.

Next morning at school, we discover that Lila’s one-month-anniversary date with Jake Hamilton was an unmitigated disaster.

Lila removed her dark glasses. Her eyes were red and puffy obviously from crying. “He forgot,” she announced in a hollow voice.

Apparently, instead of lavishing attention on Sweet Valley’s premier Little Rich Girl at Casey’s, Jake simply bummed around with his basketball teammates before fucking off home for dinner.

[Wing: I laughed myself to tears here, because it is so believable and so ridiculous.]

Jessica decides to actually help her best friend, and suggests that she send in a personal ad to the Sixers, to cast her net wide. Lila scoffs.

“Oh, please, Jessica,” Lila said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not that desperate. I don’t have to advertise to get dates like that loser who calls herself Gorgeous Blonde.” She laughed. “If she’s that gorgeous, she’d already have a boyfriend!”

Jessica doesn’t admit that she herself is Gorgeous Blonde, but does manage to convince Lila that a personal ad is a good idea. She even helps Lila write a perfect entry:

Jessica wrinkled her nose. “How about ‘Material girl seeks material guy’?”

Lovely.

In class, Elizabeth is still angry. Everyone is still fixated on the Gorgeous Blonde ad, although when Charlie Cashman admits that he read an article on the track team in the same issue Elizabeth is conflicted. Has the interest in Jessica’s ad driven actual interest in the rest of the Sweet Valley Sixers edition?

As Elizabeth wavers on the edge of ad acceptance, Caroline Pearce rocks up and starts questioning Elizabeth about the identity of Gorgeous Blonde. This pushes Liz over the edge into full-on ad hatred.

This personal ad business is making my life miserable, she thought angrily. And it’s all Jessica’s fault!

Yawn. You’ve made your bed, Oh Holy Liz, so now you’ve got to lie in it.

We cut to Jessica, who (after passing Elizabeth spitting daggers at her, and collecting a fresh batch of ad responses) is accosted by a furtive Janet Howell. Janet has a problem… a problem with her boyfriend Denny.

“But you have fun with Denny,” Jessica said. “He brings you brownies for lunch.”

Janet wrinkled her nose. “Brownies. Big deal. All he ever gives me is food.”

Predictably, she too wants help writing and placing a personal ad in the Sixers. Jessica agrees to help.

At home that evening, we have a dinner table scene in which Elizabeth’s stink eye towards her sister causes the truth about the ad to come flooding out to the assembled Wakefields. Steven finds it hilarious, naturally, that his fun-loving sister has resorted to begging for dates. He actually falls of his chair in fits of laughter.

Has anyone actually done that? Actually fallen off their chair laughing? I’m calling shenanigans, like someone slipping on a banana peel. Only happens in fiction. [Dove: I fell off my chair sneezing, something our mutual friend, Tiny, finds hysterical. I sneezed while wearing noise-cancelling headphones. The result was a wave of vertigo so intense I went from chair to facedown on the floor in seconds with no real understanding of why.] [Wing: I’ve flipped an office chair a few times, generally from leaning back too far. Sometimes while laughing.]

An argument breaks out over the apparent reams of newly submitted personal ads clogging up the Sixers mailbox. Jessica is forced to apologise for her part in the war of words, but in bed that night Elizabeth is still worried over the direction her beloved paper was taking.

After a brief period of introspection, she concludes that more interest in the paper is worth sacrificing her standards. Yay for the plot necessitating character change! [Wing: Why is she so surprised that Jessica has good ideas about the things people like? She’s tapped into pop culture and popular things.]

We now skip to Monday, and Jessica returns home from school with four fresh ad responses. After depositing them on her bed, she’s told by Steven that she has to take out the trash. When she returns, she checks out her five new ad responses with gusto.

FIVE. Not FOUR, as she was expecting. She did not process the numerical discrepancy with any intellectual vigour.

THIS MIGHT BE IMPORTANT.

Go go gadget response list!

  • Response 1 is from a surfer boy. The neon aspect of his shorts remains unannounced, but he’d binned off regardless.
  • Response 2 is a rock-loving, junk-food-eating, travel-bug blonde Adonis. He goes on the Maybe
  • Response 3 is from a lover of football and king fu movies. Peter, is that you?
  • Response 4 is from OPTIMUS NERD Donald Zwerdling. Again.
  • Response 5… well, I’ll let you be the judge.

Jessica picked up the last letter. She didn’t remember seeing it before, but she figured it had probably been stuck in among the others. It was neatly folded and carefully typewritten. Hmmm, she thought. Good start. She began to read: “Dear Gorgeous Blonde,” the note said. “I’ve always hoped to meet someone like you. But finding a girlfriend hasn’t been easy for me. You see, even though I’m only in tenth grade (someone left a copy of the Sixers with your ad in it lying around the high school library) I’m already a professional studio musician and so most of my spare time is spent jamming and recording with my musician friends. I got started in the music business because of my cousin. His name is Johnny Buck. Maybe you’ve heard of him.”

Well hello there, Steven Wakefield.

I CALL OBVIOUS BULLSHIT. [Dove: Nev and Max wouldn’t even reverse image search this obvious catfish.] [Raven: That’d be an awesome episode of Catfish… Jessica is Catfishing all her friends just so she can get on TV and meet Nev.] [Wing: It’s a catfish to cover up the incestual love he has for Jessica. INCEPTION.]

Bullshit!

The letter goes on to claim the writer can grant her access to Johnny Buck recording sessions, Porsche driving trips and more. Calling himself “Rock Lives”, he suggests a meetup at the Dairi Burger the following afternoon at 4pm. As a point of reference, Rock Lives would be there bedecked with a Rolling Rocks magazine t-shirt and a Boys Next Door baseball cap.

Is it me, or does that sound like a homosexual and homo-wholesome version of Girls Gone Wild…?

Oblivious to Steven’s obvious subterfuge, Jessica is sold on the whole fantasy. She can’t wait.

The following afternoon, dressed in her best rock chick outfit, she nervously enters a packed Dairi Burger and looks for the tell-tale signs of Rock Lives. Eventually, she pinpoints his location: far booth, alone, with his back to her. She tentatively approaches.

Boys Next Door baseball cap? Check.

Music magazine? Check.

It’s now or never.

“Excuse me,” Jessica said … “Are you Rock Lives?”

He turned around slowly.

Jessica gasped.

A horribly disfigured face stared back at her. He had no mouth, just a gaping hole. No eyes, just dark sockets. And skin that looked like elephant leather. “That’s me, Gorgeous,” he said in a high, quavering voice. He let out a frightening cackle and reached out for her.

Jessica flees in terror, before the whole trick is revealed.

It was Steven! In a horror mask!

Aside:

I’m summoning a LOT of Bullshit Man in this recap, but I call it how I see it.

It’s her brother in a mask.

There’s no way Jessica is horrified by that at all.

I’d giver her mild curiosity, sure. And perhaps crushing disappointment.

But “scream-and-run” terror, in a packed burger joint in broad daylight? Pssh, not a fucking chance.

Going for the shock shot, rather than a more satisfying prank payoff? Weakly written, Jamie Suzanne.

End aside.

Steven reveals himself in fits of laughter, his friends in the Dairi Burger joining in heartily. Jessica stomps off, revealing that perhaps she and Elizabeth have one more thing in common in that they both can’t take a bloody joke.

With only two weeks remaining until Rick Hunter’s party, Jessica realises that the time for procrastination is past. Back home after her embarrassment, she reclassifies her ad responses received thus far. The categories are threefold.

  1. NOT IF HE WERE THE LAST GUY ON EARTH
  2. MORE FUN THAN TOOTHACHE
  3. LOVE OF MY LIFE

Sorry, but what’s wrong with “Yes / No / Maybe”…? Trying to pad the wordcount, Ghostie? [Dove: Don’t hate. Those last 2,000 words of NaNo are a complete bitch.] [Wing: Lies, those categories are amazingly Jessica. And realistic for a lot of teen girls.]

After hours of sorting and sifting, she has plenty of responses for categories one and two, but not a single response as category three. Why? Because she’s too fucking picky, that’s why. I’m not saying she should just go to the party with Optimus Nerd Donald Zwerdling, but I do think that she could be a little more fast and loose with her categorisation.

Briefly she thinks wistfully of Aaron, which indicates a couple of things. First, it suggests we are at (or approaching) the peak of the story, from which point it’s downhill back to the initial status quo. And second, it convinces me immediately that once Jessica finds her perfect ad response and lines up the titular blind date (likely at Rick Hunter’s party), the reveal will be her perfect guy is actually Aaron all along.

Still can’t get behind a slurping buffoon. Sorry Aaron.

Chapter Seven begins an undisclosed amount of time later.

Aside:

Undisclosed, not ridiculous. I mean, I’m not suggesting that Chapter Six ends with Jessica vowing to find a perfect partner for Rick’s party while Chapter Seven begins 40,000 years later in a grimdark future in which There Is Only Wakefields.

But that’d be one hell of a crossover. [Dove: Why do you have all of these off-the-cuff ideas that never get written?] [Raven: Laziness.] [Wing: Damnit.]

End aside.

It’s only a short time later, after publication of the next Sweet Valley Sixers. That edition was four pages of news and six pages of personal ads. It seems that Personal Ad Fever has hit the entire school!

The newspaper office (lol) is constantly overrun with eager beavers checking their response boxes. And the list of ad sendees is long and distinguished. Aside from the aforementioned Lila and Janet, we learn that practically everyone in school has submited an ad, including couples who have been together for a long time (whatever that means in Sixth Grade language).

The biggest surprise? One of the boxes belongs to our favourite lank-haired spunkwaffle, Amy Sutton.

Yep, the Amy Sutton who told Elizabeth she thought that personal ads in her beloved school paper would be tackiness personified, has actually taken out an ad herself. Poor old tiny Ken Matthews.

Lank-haired spunkwaffle seeks shiny-haired love-rabbit for some freaky theme park sex shit. Must be over five foot six to ride this attraction.

Elizabeth is astounded at her best friend’s apparent betrayal. Despite Amy claiming that she now thinks that it’s all just a bit of fun, Elizabeth takes this slight to heart. Amy, to her credit, does not back down.

“Lighten up, Elizabeth,” Amy said with a frown. “I admit I had my doubts about personal ads at first, but it’s all just for fun. I think Jessica really hit on something great with this idea.”

Elizabeth couldn’t believe her ears. She felt hurt and betrayed—she never would have expected Amy to act like this! “Well, if you think Jessica has such great ideas,” Elizabeth said angrily, “maybe she should be the editor of the Sixers instead of me.” She grabbed her books and stormed out of the office, leaving Amy staring after her in astonishment.

Wow. Nice going, Amy! You’ve de-lanked your hair with a bushel of starch and gumption.

Aside:

This is a massive over-reaction from Elizabeth, and I quite like it. Because it feels like an immature way to handle things, and a reminder that the twins are still sixth graders is always welcome. So many ghosties have Elizabeth especially reflecting an adult sensibility and maturity, which is often galling and always overworked.

[Dove: I think what galls me about Elizabeth’s maturity is when she does something very much like this, and it doesn’t tarnish her maturity because she threw a toddler-style tantrum about something less vapid than Jessica’s interests. However, I do like seeing Liz act like a brat. I also really like seeing Amy tell her to strongly do one.]

So yay for hissy-fits and tantrums, like proper pre-teens!

End aside.

At the same time, Jessica is scanning the new edition of the Sixers. Well, she’s scanning the six pages of personal ads at the very least. As she’s had no luck with her own ad, maybe one of the newly-placed ads will bear sexier fruits.

Lo and behold, one particular paragraph catches her eye.

“Athletic guy seeks fun-loving girlfriend. Likes faded Levi’s, Johnny Buck, haunted houses, and pineapple pizza. Hates electric toothbrushes, movies with subtitles, diet anything. Respond to Box #23.”

Jessica’s heart skipped a beat. Someone else out there loved pineapple pizza? She had thought she was the only one. In fact, she had pretty much given up trying to talk people into ordering it. Now she usually only ate it on her birthday, when her father always bought her a whole pizza for herself.

Pineapple on pizza? BEGONE, FOUL DEMON! [Dove: I love pineapple pizza. And so does @OGWNostalgia. We are not alone, and we will no longer be silent. PINEAPPLE IS OUR RIGHT.] [Raven: Pineapple on pizza is like wanking in an elevator: wrong on so many levels.] [Wing: Pineapple on pizza is one of the best toppings. I’m sorry you’re so wrong in this recap, Raven.]

Wing, I believe pineapple on a pizza is called a “Hawaiian”, right? *ducks for cover*

[Wing: Sadly true. Pretty much any food called “Hawaiian” on the mainland will involve pineapples.]

Lila is also extremely pleased with the whole personal ad debacle. It seems she’s had a gaggle of responses to her own ad, as has Janet.

Lila squeezed Jessica’s arm. “Isn’t this great? I have to hand it to you, Jessica. It looks as though you’ve started a new fad.”

Jessica Wakefield, trendsetter. There’s the girl we know and love.

That night, Jessica pens the perfect response to “Athletic Guy”, on the perfect perfumed pink paper. After a few false starts, she settles on this:

“Dear Athletic Guy, Wow! I thought I was the only person in the world who liked pineapple pizza! …What else do you like? If we’re as much alike as I think, I’ll bet you like roller coasters (especially the ones with loops), horror movies (ones with lots of sequels), and strawberry Pop-Tarts with icing. I hope I’m right.”

She signs it Gorgeous Blonde, and vows to post it the following morning. [Wing: She’s so damn adorable.]

Yet again, we skip forward in time. It’s now two days later (seriously, this book has a real time skipping fetish going on). We’re back in the offices of the Sweet Valley Sixers, and Elizabeth is still being irritated by students popping in and out to check their fucking response boxes. Sure, she’s somewhat used to it by now, but having not yet made up with Amy makes things feel much worse.

Suddenly, a wild Todd Wilkins appears!

Elizabeth looked up, and her heart sank. It was Todd Wilkins, her boyfriend. She and Todd had liked each other for a long time, but he didn’t usually stop in to see her in the Sixers office. Could that mean…? Oh, no. She couldn’t help but suspect the worst.

“Hi, Todd,” she said glumly. “I guess you’re here to check a response box.”

Todd looked shocked. “Elizabeth! Why would I want to do that?”

Attaboy, Todd. Keep your philandering ways a secret. You’d be an idiot to send a personal ad to the Sixers. Don’t shit on your own doorstep.

To be fair, Todd serves a valuable purpose for once. In one of their usual sickeningly cute exchanges, Todd both helps Elizabeth come to terms with the personal ads by reinforcing the notion that there’s no such thing a bad publicity, and gives Elizabeth a legitimately decent idea…

The Sixers should run a special personals edition, charging one dollar per ad.

Jessica enters as Elizabeth dashes off to see Mr Bowman to get permission for the special edition, and they appear to have soothed the waters over their recent disagreements. Nothing like the promise of making money to pour oil on troubled waters, I guess. America!

Our favourite twin scans her response box, looking for anything from Athletic Guy. No luck. Sure, there are a few new notes, one from the intriguingly named Magic Man, but Jess only has eyes for an Athletic Guy prize, and no manner of card trick or coin palm would get her bean a’ twitching.

Disappointed, she heads for Boosters practice, where – you’ll never guess – the girls can do nothing but jabber on about personal ads.

Amy, Lila, Mandy and Janet had received identical poems… from Donald Zwerdling.

Damn, son. Gotta respect your work ethic. The scattergun approach… nice. [Wing: On the other hand, real work ethic would involve different poems for each one.]

It seems like everyone is loving the personal ad idea, and everyone has their own Athletic Guy.

  • Janet has Lonely Biker
  • Lila has Beach Bum
  • Kimberley Haver has Cool Rebel
  • Amy has Rock Jock

The collective twitter on about how Lonely Biker is so cool, how Rock Jock is so goofy, how they’re all so dishy and amazing and perfect and romantic, and here’s where I skip into the future a bit because of what I see is the fatal flaw in the story.

No one discusses who these partners might be.

The ads are going in the school paper. It’s a pretty small school, so the catchment area of the responses is small too. But everyone thinks their prospective partner is super-cool as well as super-hot. Well I’m sorry, but for every Bruce Patman there’s likely to be ten Winston Egberts. And no one’s bothering to consider the actual identities of anyone involved.

I just think that the anonymous nature of the ads would cause any group of kids to be uber-interested into the names and faces behind the words. If I were writing this book, it would literally be the biggest thing in the narrative. The kids would try to work out who they were actually corresponding with, and would theorise and discuss the permutations all the live long day, rather than just spouting endless variations on the “my partner is called Soupy McPissflap, and I bet he’s got thirty abs” theme. [Dove: You say that, but watch any episode of Catfish, and every muppet on that show is like, “Yeah, I’m totally talking to Eminem, and he can’t ever call me because he’s in the studio, and I totally know it’s him because he knew his daughter was called Hailie. No, I don’t think it’s suspicious that he only ever sends me professional publicly released photoshoot photos. Or that he’s a multi-millionaire, but he asked me to wire $3,000 to him. Every month.” Reality is boring. The lie is much more interesting.]

Still, I guess the story isn’t about that, so put away your quick quote quill, Caroline Pearce. Gossip is redundant today.

Later that afternoon, Amy and Elizabeth make up. Whatever. They plan the special edition.

The school day is rounded off with a despondent Jessica. Still no word from Athletic Guy.

The weekend disappears in one paragraph, and we’re back in the Sixers office on a balmy Monday afternoon. As they put their last minute flourishes to the edition on the school’s computer – crappy software and all – we see students rushing in to submit last-minute ads.

At the close of submissions, they count almost TWO HUNDRED ads.

Tallahassee would be so proud

As the Sixer Massive head off to run the photocopy machine, they are cornered by a frantic Jessica. As she’s still not had a response from Athletic Guy, she does her best to get an advanced copy of the special edition. At first Elizabeth stoically refuses to comply, but eventually she promises to hand the very first collated copy to Jessica while the ink is still fucking wet (metaphorically, unless it’s a fucking weird photocopier).

Elizabeth capitulating like the French… do we see a pattern here?

As a cross-legged Jessica impatiently waits outside the Sixers office for her copy, she daydreams about Athletic Guy.

They were inside a giant white limousine on their way to a Johnny Buck concert. The limo had purple leather upholstery and a TV tuned to a music video channel. There was also a small refrigerator stocked with sodas, mini heart-shaped chocolate bars wrapped in gold foil, and tons of packages of grape bubble gum.

As they rode along, Athletic Guy spread a white tablecloth between them on the back seat and then from the front seat produced a giant pineapple pizza. “You shouldn’t have,” Jessica said, helping herself to a piece.

“Oh, yes I should,” Athletic Guy said.

Man, if Jessica doesn’t wake up sat in a puddle of her own making, then she’s doing it wrong.

Finally, the special edition is complete, and Jessica is handed her copy. Sure enough, Athletic Guy has placed an ad, directly contacting Gorgeous Blonde.

It was an ad from Athletic Guy. And it was addressed to her! “Desperately seeking Gorgeous Blonde,” it said. “Thanks for the awesome letter. What’s your box number?”

Jessica, you IDIOT! You missed your box number off the reply. Rookie mistake!

Then again, you did sign it Gorgeous Blonde, who the whole school apparently knew was Box One, so maybe Athletic Guy hasn’t got the brains to match the brawn.

Jess pens him another letter, this time clearly stating her return address, and pops it in Box 23.

Next day, and Jessica has received no reply before lunch. She’s had another stalky letter from Optimus Nerd Donald Zwerdling, but that’s easily discarded.

Aside:

I feel, with the mention of Donald Zwerdling in this book and previous books, especially in relation to Jessica, that there’s something going on here.

The Twins books were largely written after the High books, and have a theory that this Zwerdling character could be a callback to his appearance in the High series, maybe as Jessica’s boyfriend at some point?

Meh, maybe I’m reading too much into it. [Dove: We can’t get continuity between books in the same series, you really think two separate series are going to pay any attention to each other? You’re so cute.]

End aside.

At lunch, the Unicorner is once more abuzz with talk of the personals.

  • We learn that some of the correspondents have officially paired up for the upcoming party at Rick Hunter’s house.
  • We also learn that Ellen has ditched someone called Tall Blond and Handsome for someone called Stupendous Stud. So Ellen’s a size queen. Nice. [Wing: S C R E A M I N G.]

Jessica, feeling adrift from the conversation as she’s had no response from her perfect date, checks out her response box once more… and bingo! Athletic Guy has replied!

In a rather sweet reply, AG confirms he likes roller coasters and bubble gum, and sets her a riddle…

“Since you’re such a good guesser, try figuring this one out: There’s a song on the new Johnny Buck CD that has made me think of you all week. Which one is it?” He signed the note, “Yours, AG.” At the bottom was a P.S. “This stationery is being brought to you courtesy of art class.”

Another genuine lol at the art class joke. Good work!

After some thought and independent input, she deduces the song in question must be Roller Coaster Romance. Here are the lyrics:

“Bringin’ me down
Bringin’ me up
Rockin’ me round
Just like a pup.”

“She’s my roller coaster baby
My roller coaster gal
See if you can catch her
My roller coaster pal…”

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

This is SO BAD.

“Rockin’ me round, just like a pup”… ?

What does that even MEAN? [Dove: It’s up there with Pink’s “You got me lit // like a candlestick.” (which sounds like “You got me living like a candlestick”, which is how everyone remembers it.]

And the lines that rhyme gal and pal should be swapped at the very least, if not re-written completely. Terrible.

For the record, I don’t blame the Ghostie. I blame Johnny Buck. Man can’t write lyrics for shit.

Jessica writes to Athletic Guy every day for the next four days, receiving romantic replies each time. She even shares some of the less raunchy passages with her twin. On Thursday before dinner, she recounts the following:

Jessica beamed. “He’s so perfect,” she said in a reverent tone. “Listen to this.” Still lying on her back, she began to read from the letter she was holding. “Dear Gorgeous: I think about you all the time. By this I mean at school, at practice, at home, and out with my friends. Wherever I go, I imagine your beautiful face, smiling at me. Whatever happens between us, I will always carry the thought of you in my heart. Forever yours, Athletic Guy.”

Elizabeth agrees that AG is a romantic soul, but Jess thinks his sentiment puts her in a quandry. How can she top such feelings herself? I mean, as a certified psychopath, she has no feelings herself, and I guess replying with “I caught a rabbit and smashed out its pelvis for you (enclosed)” is really only a one-shot deal.

In desperation, she askes her scholarly twin to help her pen something, a la Cyrano de Bergerac. Will Elizabeth crumple for the third time in this book?

Elizabeth thought for a moment. “I can’t,” she said finally.

“Why not?” Jessica demanded, beginning to pout.

“Because…” Elizabeth chose her words carefully. “Because it has to come from you. It’s the same thing as your not telling him about your family yet. This is your relationship, not mine. It wouldn’t sound the same coming from me.”

Jessica studied Elizabeth’s face. “You’re right,” she said finally. “And anyway, I’ve gotten this far, haven’t I?”

YAAAAAAAY!

WAY TO GO, ELIZABETH!

More days pass, more letters are exchanged between AG and GB. On Wednesday, Athletic Guy leaves a pink surprise in Jessica’s box (JOKE POTENTIAL)…

When she checked her box that morning, she found a freshly cut pink rose. “For you,” the tag said. “A favorite flower for my favorite girl.”

“Ohhh,” Jessica said. She held it to her nose and sniffed. This proved it—Athletic Guy was the most romantic boy she’d ever known in her whole life.

It’s definitely Aaron. There’s literally no other option at this point. UNLESS! It’d be great if Athletic Guy turned out to be Lila. I’m sure Dove and Wing will weigh in on THAT scenario. [Dove: Not for me, I want the Lila/Melissa or Amy/Ellen pairings. Although Jessica/Lila does have quite a few fics at ff.net.] [Wing: I wouldn’t mind Jessica/Lila, but I am way more interested in Jessica/Mandy. I would 100% be behind a good queer story using the personals, though.]

While we are on the subject of wasted opportunities, ho about this one…

Later that morning, Jessica was on her way to third period. In one hand she clutched a bag of gumdrops that she’d just coaxed Winston Egbert into selling to her. She planned to drop them off in Athletic Guy’s box after lunch as a thank-you for the rose.

Damn, I wish this whole thing has been Winston Egbert’s masterplan…

Step 1) Buy a metric fuckton of gumdrops at a wholesale price.
Step 2) Reply to every single personal ad, flirtatiously mentioning your favourite thing ever is gumdrops.
Step 3) Sell a metric fuckton of gumdrops to the eager Sweet Valley Middle kids at an inflated price, so they can shower their newfound love with gifts.
Step 4) Collect all the motherfucking gifted gumdrops from your selection of false response boxes, for immediate resale to other gullible marks.

That would be EPIC. [Dove: *sigh* That would be awesome.]

After catching sight of Aaron – whom she is now TOTES over, obviously – she is accosted by Caroline Pearce. The resident SWMS Gossip Girl is looking for the true identities of the blind dated pairings for Rick Hunter’s upcoming party.

“Well, you probably already know about Janet and Lonely Biker, and Ellen and Stupendous Stud,” Caroline said, ticking each new couple off on her fingers. “And of course, there’s Lila and Beach Bum, Patrick Morris and Cute Chick, Jake Hamilton and Funny Girl, Sophia Rizzo and The Joker, Mandy Miller and Awesome Dude, Belinda Layton and Jumping Jack, Amy Sutton and Rock Jock… and plenty more. There are so many new couples, I’m having trouble keeping track of them all.”

I’m actually surprised Caroline hasn’t cracked a few codes yet. I mean, she seems to be cataloguing everyone’s pairings. Surely someone’s pseudonym can be guessed? Maybe Belinda is Sporty Gal or something, so once she finds out that Jim Sturbridge is paired with Sporty Gal, that makes him Jumping Jack, and so on.

Caroline enquires if Jessica’s pairing has invited her to the party yet, which needles Jess a little.

Snap-cut to the Sixers office, in which a few of the non-ad-placing staff such as Nora Mercandy and Julie Porter chat with the rest about their ads. All interesting stuff. We then discover what the cash from the Special Edition will be spent on… new computer software to rejuvenate future issues of the paper! How very sensible. I’m sure these days they’d just rip a torrented copy of something proprietary, like a cyberpunk Tony Rizzo, but whatevs. [Wing: They could, but schools get audited pretty often and most of the good proprietary layout programs are all web-based now and will shut your shit down. They could use something open-source, which is what Ostrich encourages in his district.]

Eventually, we skip to the moment Jessica has been waiting for… her party invite from the mysterious Athletic Guy. It comes in a now-expected dry slap of romanticism.

Athletic Guy has gifted his new love with a book of poetry, in which he’s highlighted a particular verse for special attention.

Of all the faces in the world
That I would like to see,
Yours is still the only one
That always comes to me.
For though I’ve traveled far and wide
And met with kings and queens,
Your golden laugh and sunny smile
Stay with me in my dreams.

Not bad, I guess. Certainly better than anything Johnny fucking Buck sings about. Predictably, Jessica’s heart melts, and she responds Athletic Guy’s enclosed party invite immediately.

We’re at the thin end now, and the stench of denouement hangs heavy in the air.

Chapter Eleven contains a few pages of the twins getting ready for Rick Hunter’s party. As it’s sentence after sentence of what I see as banal dressing detail such as this:

First, Jessica showered and washed her hair with her favorite herbal-scented shampoo.

And this:

Jessica tossed several skirts, a pair of black leggings, and a couple of shirts onto the bed.

And this:

Elizabeth had finished blow-drying her hair and was thinking about what to wear.

And this:

She held up a sleeveless white blouse that tied at the midriff and examined it with a critical eye.

I’m going to leave any associated squeezing, if any, to Wing and Dove. To be frank, such party-prep-porn ain’t my bag.

Eventually, the twins are ready. Elizabeth, looking extra foxy for the party, impresses Todd no end. Obviously, we don’t actually care that much about those insipid winnits. This is JESSICA’S Blind Date, not Elizabeth Gets Fingered At A Party.

Athletic Guy is due to collect his Gorgeous Blonde at 8pm sharp. Jessica is brimming with so much excitement, it’s literally seeping from her nose.

Finally, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” she called out.

Jessica walked slowly to the door, worried that her heart was going to jump right out of her chest. Could Athletic Guy possibly be as wonderful as she thought he’d be? What if he was too short? Too weird? Nothing like he described himself? What if it was some nerd just pretending to be cool?

She reached for the doorknob. On the other hand, what if he really was the guy of her dreams?

A guy even more unbelievably wonderful than she was hoping?

Jessica took one final deep breath, then opened the door. She kept her eyes lowered flirtatiously for a second, then looked up to find herself staring at…

Aaron Dallas!

OF COURSE it’s Aaron Dallas. It was never going to be anyone else. Definitely not Lila… put those slash goggles away, for now at least.

Jessica is astounded, but immediately realises that Aaron is actually amazeballs. She forgets NeonShortGate, and DonaldDuckGate, and JessWessGate, and even SlurpySlurpyGate, and decides that she loves him very much indeed. And to be fair, he does scrub up well, in both appearance and deeds.

Jessica smiled. … “Before tonight, did you know it was me?”

“I figured it out about a week ago,” Aaron said. “I was glad it was you.”

Jessica’s heart began to pound. “I’m glad it’s you, too.”

Happily reconciled, the Athletic / Golden Couple head off to the sunset of Rick Hunter’s party, and I for one think it’s sweet. Bless them both!

[Wing: I was strangely delighted that they got back together and found all their letters adorable.]

The final chapter brings us the scene we all TRULY want to see – the big reveal of the school-wide pairings from the personal ads. The party itself is a massive bust, which is only to be expected, as not ONE SINGLE pairing outside of Jessaron was even REMOTELY successful. Here’s a rundown of all the players:

  • Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins. Elizatodd!
  • Jessica Wakefield and Aaron Dallas. Jessaron!
  • Sophia Rizzo and Rick Hunter. Soprick!
  • Kimberly Haver and Charlie Cashman. Kimberchar!
  • Melissa McCormick and Jim Strawbridge. Melijim!
  • Mary Wallace and Jerry McAllister. Marjerry!
  • Belinda Layton and Winston Egbert. Beliwin!
  • Janet Howell and Ken Matthews. Janeken!
  • Mandy Miller and Jake Hamilton. Manjake!
  • Lila Fowler and Denny Jacobson. Lidenny!
  • Ellen Riteman and…. Donald Zwerdling. Elledon!

All these exciting pairings. [Dove: I love the couple names.] They all sound like moderately powerful Pokemon, but my favourites are Soprick (hah!), Marjerry (hah hah!) and the all-powerful dinosaur, the RAMPAGING ELLEDON! Fear its vicious fangs and pointlessly tiny arms!

The story ends with Jessica and Aaron ditching Rick Hunter’s awful party to share a pizza for two at Guidos. Topping of choice? Pineapple.

That’s right, folks. Jessaron Goes Hawaiian. *ducks for cover again* [Wing: I hate you. <3]

We wrap up with some nonsense about three-way calling, which is the lead into the next book, The Gossip War. If Caroline Pearse isn’t front and centre for that motherfucker, I’m going to flip a table.

Final Thoughts:

This was okay, I guess. I liked parts, and disliked others.

Likes? The many pairings at the end, the fun ways in which Jessica quantified her irritation at the hands of Aaron early in the book, and the Unicorns being Unicorns as per usual.

Dislikes? The untapped potential of the situation by the peripheral characters, Elizabeth’s professional quandary (give me strength), the constant time skipping.

Also, there was a lot of repetition in this one. There’s only so many times I can take Jessica staring forlornly into a shoebox before I start imagining the box contains a freshly curled human faeces.

And the Johnny Buck lyrics? Fuck my hat.

I’ll give it a middling score, because some bits did make me chuckle. Next!

[Dove: I’m about the same. It’s kind of a rehash of The Great Boyfriend Switch, except this time nobody knows who they’ve switched to. I prefer the other book, to be fair, but it was quite cute, and was a lot better than the likes of Steven the Zombie. And, as I’ve said before, I always give kudos to a Jamie that writes Ellen well. Overall, pretty good, and I probably would have loved it if I’d have read it when I was the right age for it, since The Great Boyfriend Switch was one of my favourites.]

[Wing: I found this adorable and charming and laughed out loud multiple times. It’s not my favourite, but it’s a pretty solid entry for me and I liked it more than The Great Boyfriend Switch.

… I swear I’ve avoided drinking any kool-aid. What’s happened to me?!]

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

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