Title: Amy’s Secret Sister
Tagline: Amy has always wanted a sister…
Summary: The surprise of her life…
Amy Sutton has just made a discovery that will change her life forever: before her father married her mother, he was married to someone else. And not only that—he and his former wife had a baby. Amy has a sister!
Amy’s sister, Ashley, is only a year and a half older than Amy, and she’s coming to Sweet Valley to spend Thanksgiving with the Suttons. What will Ashley be like? How will she feel about Amy?
Amy is frantic with excitement and worry. Can an only child ever get used to having a sister?
Nice! Amy does Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s hope that Ashley is a little less annoying than Dawn. [Wing: HDU. Dawn is wonderful.]
Actually, that’d be a great crossover. Amy is activated as a Slayer, and both the Wakefield twins are devastated that neither of them are the Chosen Ones. It’d be sweet to see a lank-haired spunkwaffle become a kickass baton-twirling bringer of demonic destruction. [Wing: …I may be writing this as soon as I finish my comments here. Which are late, because I got swept up in work and completely forget. Sorry, all!]
Quick note on the cover: I’m presuming Ashley is in the middle (wearing a HIDEOUS dress), hugginh Amy on the left. That makes the red nodad-waistcoated atrocity on the right Elizabeth. Loving the way she’s slightly out of shot, as if the Sutton Sisters are tired of her meddling. There’s a little of the “I’m important too!” in her overly-wide eyes. [Dove: There was much mirth on a skype call when Wing and I realised that Liz isn’t wearing a really long pink tie. That is, in fact, a candle.] [Wing: I still see a tie whenever I look at it. Takes a second for the candle truth to click. Every. Single. Time.]
We start in Chez Sutton, with Mrs Sutton hoofing Liz out of her house a little early so the Elder Suttons can discuss Matters of Great Import with their baton-twirling gusset-fruit. As we learned in the last non-Chiller book, both Liz and Amy deduced that the OH NOES BAD NEWS was impending divorce cleaving Amy’s family in two, the thought of which is possibly the worst thing that can happen to anyone outside of a machete to the genitals or SuperAids.
Once Liz has fucked off home, Amy assumes the position and braces herself for the worst.
Bit wait! It’s not bad news… it’s GOOD NEWS.
Instead of getting divorced, the grand reveal is that Amy is not alone… she has a SISTER.
If this is a surprise to you, given the book’s title, you need to take a long hard look at yourself.
Without so much as a tuppenny fart, we cut to Jessica’s room. Elizabeth is lamenting on Amy’s plight to her disinterested sister. Why on earth Liz thinks Jess will have any empathy in book 83 when she’s had fuck all in books 1-82 is beyond me. [Dove: Actually, it’s 95 books so far, if we include all the special/super/magna/chiller editions.] [Wing: Look at our lives, look at our choices.]
Jessica looked back at her from where she stood at the mirror. “What do you think of my hair like this?” Jessica asked. She had pulled the two front sections of her long, shiny blond hair back with barrettes. “I’m trying out different hairstyles from that book of international hair that I bought. This is called a Greek Surprise.”
In what develops into a recurring motif, Jessica is twatting about with her hair. [Dove: Isn’t that the default Elizabeth style that Liz was never allowed to wear in the pre-separate twin days because Jessica hated it?] [Wing: Yes. Yes it is.] She names each style as she goes, which is pretty neat. I though it’d be fun to Google Image Search each hairstyle’s name, and post the most exciting image from the Top 10 results.
So, without further ado… a Greek Surprise!
As Jess proves she’s a bonafide Honey Badger, we have the boilerplate Same-But-Different schtick.
- When faced with a problem, Elizabeth asks WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)? When faced with a problem, Satan asks WWJD (What Would Jessica Do)?
- Elizabeth writes the papers. Jessica is IN the papers.
I’m rather refreshed by Jessica’s lack of empathy for Amy’s plight. Her reasoning it pretty astute.
“Yeah, I heard you,” Jessica said in a bored tone as she took out her barrettes and flipped her hair upside down. “I just don’t see what the point is of sitting around worrying whether Amy Sutton’s parents are getting a divorce. It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it.”
Next thing that happens in this whirlwind of emotion? Amy turns up to spill the beans on the whole sitch. Elizabeth, firmly expecting a tearful Amy to break down with news of The Big D, is shocked to the core by the real news. Amy explains that the foreshadowing from the previous book – in which the girls ransacked Mr Sutton’s office and found a sealed letter addressed to someone named Jane and a photo of her dad with his arm around some bint – was NOT in fact proof of her father’s extra-marital philandering, but WAS proof of her father’s PRE-marital philandering. Sort of.
Apparently, “Jane” was Mr Sutton’s high school sweetheart, and they married young. The flames of love flickered and died, and Mr Sutton’s career took him to Singapore while Jane stayed in America. Eventually, they divorced. Mr Sutton hooked up with Amy’s mum in Singapore, and BAM, Amy was born. [Wing: …So the implication here is that Mr Sutton hooked up with a white American woman he met in Singapore? I can’t believe we could have had some damn diversity in Amy, but NOOOOOO.]
When Amy was five, the Suttons heard from Jane, and were told about Ashley, the books titular Secret Sister. Ashley is 18 months older than Amy. The Elder Suttons waited for seven years (and 82 books) [Dove: 95.] before telling Amy anything about Ashley, only doing so some 500 words of this recap earlier. And apparently, they’d been morose of late because they were dreading Amy would take the news badly.
[Wing: Raven gets into some good issues below, so I’m going to stick this here rather than interrupt the flow of his rant: DO NOT FUCKING HIDE THINGS LIKE THIS. SIBLINGS, ADOPTION, ETC., DO NOT HIDE IT. IT WILL JUST CAUSE HARM LATER AND THERE IS NO. GODDAMN. REASON. TO. HIDE. IT. HERE. There could, I concede, because good reasons to keep specific people’s names out of it, or even a very strong likelihood that it will cause some pain, but this kind of stuff pretty much always comes out anyway and the damage is even worse. Stop lying to your kids, people.]
Okay, so I have issues. *pushed bridge of glasses up nose*
First, while it’s not inconceivable, If we take the dates at face value, it gives eighteen months for Mr Sutton to hook up with Mrs Sutton, fall in love enough to propose marriage, plan a wedding AND a move back to America from Singapore, then squeeze out a Baby Amy. Something’s not quite right here. I’m thinking Ashley was a drunken hookup with Jane while Mr Sutton was away on business a month or two before the wedding.
Second, I hope the story of Ashley’s mother and (presumed) stepfather comes up (hint: it doesn’t). At first I thought it was down to lack of diverse family makeup in Sweet Valley books, but looking into it there’s actually quite a lot of non-standard “mum dad, 2.4 kids” families. Lila Fowler, Nora Mercandy, Sophia Rizzo, Sarah Thomas… any more for any more? [Dove: By the time we get to Sweet Valley Confidential, two dads are bringing up a baby… #Representation]
Finally, may I direct your attention to the following section of my recap of Jumping to Conclusions, in which Amy has interviewed her mother about the time she met her father…
Amy […] has already interviewed her mother, and shares the story of her parent’s meet-cute.
In a wholly charming exchange, we learn that Mummy Amy and Daddy Amy met as seniors in High School. They were queuing for the Ferris Wheel at a local fair, when fate (and a ride attendant) placed them together in the same seat. Lo and behold, the Wheel got stuck while they crested the top, offering great views of Sweet Valley but scaring the actual shit out of Mummy Amy. Daddy Amy calmed her down, they got talking, one thing led to another, and nine months later Amy was born.
The Continuity Fairy has thrown in the towel and has no more fucks to give. [Dove: And as I said then, I’m pretty sure that also gets re-written in the Nightmare
on Elm Street Mansion mini-series (due for recap in August). Maybe the Suttons had a really shit meet-cute, and they just lie every time they’re asked about it.] [Wing: They met in Singapore! Surely they could spin that into a better meet-cute. ALSO, if their meeting can be rewritten here, we really could have gotten some goddamn diversity. Thanks, Sweet Valley.]
My headcanon here is that Amy’s mum, when cornered about how she and her husband met, went into full on secretive panic mode about the Secret Sister than she just brainfarted out any old gubbins to throw Amy off the scent.
The chapter ends with the revelation that Ashley is coming to Chez Sutton this coming Thursday, and staying for two whole weeks (in which she’ll attend Sweet Valley Middle School as a seventh grader, because WHY THE FUCK NOT). We also have Elizabeth showing her concern about Amy’s high-octane gung-ho happiness about her sister, because if anyone knows that having a sister ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s Elizabeth fucking Wakefield.
Except not, because Elizabeth and Jess are always the best of friends, and Liz constantly acquiesces to Jessica’s every whim and demand so there’s no conflict whatsoever. Seriously, if backbone was pate, Liz wouldn’t have enough to cover half a cracker.
So, the scene is set! Onwards to Chapter Two!
The chapter starts before Social Studies class, with Amy going Peak Creepy Sister, waxing lyrical to Elizabeth about her new matching bedspreads that will make her look sophisticated. Apparently, black and white stripes with red polka dots is the height of fashion in the late Eighties. [Dove: … uh, my super popular cousin – the one whose baby we call “sprout” – had the black/white/red/tragic mime bed set that was all the rage in the 80s. However, we are now in the 90s. So, fail.] [Wing: I have zero idea of what that looks like, but it sounds horrifying.]
Jessica flounces in, wearing Elizabeth’s new ruffled blue blouse, and we have a brief and tetchy conversation between the twins which serves to highlight that having a sister ain’t always a bed of roses. Of course, Amy is deep in the custard of Sister Love, and apparently can’t wait to argue like this with her very own Amy 2.
Skipping to lunchtime, we see Jessica bemoaning the fact that her friends hadn’t commented on her latest International Hairstyle… the Norwegian Lift.
[Dove: Ok, I’m loving this. I kind of wish Jessica did this every book.]
Tamara Chase (FUCK YOU Tamara Chase) declares that she‘s bored, and asks the group for something better to talk about. Jessica has an idea…
What a total bore this is, Jessica thought. Even though she loved being a Unicorn, she had to admit that eating lunch with the same people day after day sometimes got a little old. They were all so used to one another that they couldn’t recognize a really cool hairstyle when they saw one. Suddenly an idea popped into Jessica’s head. “I think we need some new blood.”
At first, everyone is NOT DOWN with that particular purple sickness. Janet and Lila in particular are unimpressed with the proposed widening of Unicorn enrolment. Eventually, however, the tide turns in Jessica’s favour, because that’s how plots work. Everyone is thusly tasked with keeping their eyes open for new Unicorn material.
Hmm… new girl in school for two weeks, coincidentally coinciding with a tiny Unicorn Membership Drive? I sense where this is going!
Next up, we’re in the Sixers office. Amy has news, and it’s something to do with Jessica.
Elizabeth looked up from the story she was editing. “Something we should put in the paper?”
“Maybe you should ask your sister about that,” Amy said.
“My sister? Why would I ever ask Jessica about what to put in the Sixers?” Elizabeth laughed. Jessica knew as much about newspapers as Elizabeth knew about soap operas—absolutely nothing.
Erm… didn’t the Unicorns run their own paper in The War Between The Twins? I mean, sure, they were colossally bad at it, but they don’t know absolutely nothing about newspapers.
The news is what we already know: The Unicorns want Fresh Purple Meat. Elizabeth predictably scoffs at their efforts, as she’s so fucking judgmental she should be called Judy Wakefield. Then comes the bombshell.
“Who would ever want to be a Unicorn?” [said Elizabeth.]
“I would,” Amy almost whispered.
Oh, FUCK OFF Amy. You’ve NEVER shown any inclination of being at all interested in joining the Unigibbons. She explains as much in the following exchange.
Elizabeth put down her pencil. “Excuse me, I must be hearing things today. I thought I heard you say you wanted to be a Unicorn.”
“You’re not hearing things,” Amy said with a laugh. “I know I’ve never been too interested in the Unicorns, but talking to Ashley on the phone last night made me change my mind.”
So it’s ASHLEY’S fault that Amy is acting all weird. Makes sense, I guess. The story dictates there be conflict somewhere… and let’s face it, there’s NO WHAT Lila and Janet will let Amy anywhere NEAR the Unicorns.
Elizabeth tries to talk her friend out of this out-of-character lapse of judgment, but Ashley has told Amy that she’s in a group similar to the Unicorns in her own school. Amy simply MUST be a Temporary Unicorn – a Henna Unicorn, ha! She asks Liz to put in a good word with Jessica, as if that would achieve anything more than the cube root of a fuck all.
Amy’s heart was beating fast and her palms were sweaty.
It’s Thursday already, and Sutton Collective are at the airport to draw the arriving Ashley into their bizarre theatre of cruelty. She eventually arrives.
Ashley was tall and slender, with reddish-brown hair, big blue eyes, and a perfect complexion. She looks like one of Mom’s porcelain dolls, Amy thought. She also looks a little like Dad, she realized in amazement.
Ashley approached them with an enormous smile and outstretched arms. “Dad!” she cried, flinging her arms around Mr. Sutton. “I could tell it was you right away from the pictures Mom showed me.”
Hmm. By association, Mrs Sutton’s porcelain dolls appear to be effigies of Mr Sutton. So weird voodoo shit going on there. Maybe Mrs Sutton hasn’t quite forgiven her husband’s life with the former Mrs Sutton.
Immediately, IMMEDIATELY, we get to the crux of this story. Amy’s confused jealousy.
Amy stood frozen as her father and this beautiful girl shared a warm embrace. Dad, she repeated to herself. She had a funny feeling in her stomach hearing her father called that by somebody else. She’d been the only person ever to call him that. But her father obviously didn’t mind. Amy saw that his eyes were filled with tears.
Hang on… has Mr Sutton never met Ashley before? Despite knowing about her for seven years? Talk about a deadbeat dad. I hope Jane made him pay child support.
Heh, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe Jane hasn’t let him have contact until now. I can see Mr Sutton climbing onto the roof of Casey’s Place, dressed as Batman, as a form of protest. Fathers 4 Justice!
[Dove: I can’t help but point out that nobody has a legal right to see their kids. Their kids have a right to see them. These are not the same. Sorry, that one always bugs me.] [Wing: Not actually true here. While custodial arrangements are focused on what is best for the child, the law is written to grant rights to the parent, not the child, and the physical right to have time with the child is a parental right. It’s also been expanded to grandparents and other interested parties sometimes. All of this varies by state, too.]
Back in Amy’s sophisticated black-and-white-stripe-and-red-polka-dot room, Ashley appears to be the picture of courtesy. She praises the décor, and thanks her host for, well, hosting.
This can go one of two ways.
Ashley can be a bellend, or Ashely can be a dream.
It’s binary. There is no third way.
Amy and Ashley share an admittedly sweet conversation, in which Amy tells her new sister all about her life (“I’m basically pretty average. I like sports, I write for the school newspaper, and I guess I’m a pretty good student.”), and Ashley is suitably impressed.
Talk moves onto boys, as it ALWAYS FUCKING DOES in these books, and once Amy has told Ashley about her “sort-of” boyfriend Ken Matthews, Ashley whips her metaphorical cock out and flexes in Amy’s face.
She gets out a PHOTO ALBUM of cute boys, and claims they are all her sort-of boyfriends.
Quick spoiler? Ashely turns out to be very sweet indeed. But at first, I called obvious bullshit on the model boyfriend portfolio, suspecting shit to go down a la Amy’s boastful Pen Pal. Thankfully, this book doesn’t tread those well-worn boards. [Dove: I thought the same. I figured it would be like Robin, who claimed she was dating that dude, when actually they’d never met.]
Once we’ve established that Ashley is a playa, we return to some gushy dialogue in which both girls admit to having imaginary sisters when they were young, and Amy’s heart, like the Grinch’s, grows three sizes. Will this last? FUCK no.
Later that night, the Sutton Collective enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies before retiring to bed. The conversation is as sweet as the sugary treats they are consuming. In it, we learn that Ashley is a shit-hot ballerina, and to showcase this Mrs Sutton has signed her step-daughter up for Madame André’s Dance Class. FUCK Madame André. [Dove: How? That woman holds recitals and lessons at her own incoherent whims and calls in her students two minutes before the start. How on earth is Ashley supposed to attend?]
The Fam discuss the various merits of both New York (Ashley’s home) and Sweet Valley, with Ashley saying all the right things and being thoroughly charming. For those of us waiting for the other shoe to drop, I have some bad news for ya. Ashley genuinely IS this nice.
Mr Sutton makes a passing suggestion that Ashley could spend a summer in Sweet Valley, and Amy loves the idea.
Amy felt a little thrill as she imagined spending the summer hanging out at the beach with her sister. In fact, she liked the idea of hanging out with Ashley year-round. She was already feeling that she didn’t want Ashley to leave.
However, when Mr Sutton tells his “sweetheart” to take an extra blanket to bed, and his “sweetheart” turns out to be Ashley and not Amy, Amy is immediately ready to cut a bitch.
Thanks, Dad, Amy was about to say as she got up from the table. But when she looked up, the words died in her throat. Her dad was talking to Ashley, not to her. Amy looked down, feeling a flush creep over her cheeks.
Mr Sutton kisses Ashley on the cheek. Amy feels threatened.
Ashley tells her they’re going to be the best of friends. Amy is ecstatic.
And this is the emotional tennis match at the heart of this book.
We next have a brief “sisters are awful” scene between an exasperated Liz and a hair-styling Jessica, which only serves to a) underline the assertion that sisterhood isn’t a golden garden of chocolate and boobs, and b) present us the next international hairdo… a Swiss Heidi.
Fun Fact: Had I been born a girl, I would have been named Heidi. And not Raven. *cough*
Not so fun fact: Steven is a prick.
“I’d be careful about leaving this house looking like that,” Steven said, staring incredulously at Jessica’s hair. “Someone might think you escaped from the Sweet Valley Mental Institution. They’ll probably put you in a straitjacket and have you committed.”
Nice language there, Steve. Asshat.
After a brief exchange in which Amy lends her new sister some clothes, because that’s what sisters do, we’re into Chapter Four.
It’s Friday morning, and already it seems that Ashley is a big hit. All the horny young sixth-graders want a piece of that New York Slice. And Jessica is very impressed by this glamorous newcomer.
Who’s not impressed? Amy. But don’t worry, she’ll flip back in a minute. She changes her outlook more often than Big Show turns face / heel.
To be fair to ol’ spunk-waffle, Jessica does pile it on a bit thick. She praises Ashley for a myriad of different things, the concludes with this gem, to Amy:
“You know, it’s pretty hard to imagine that you two are really sisters,” Jessica said.
Nice work, you little sociopath. Empathy is for other people.
It’s lunch, and Ashley receives the school’s highest honour: Lila asks her to join them at the Unicorner. Apparently, she and Lila bonded in the girls’ room, and we discover that the New York branch of the Unicorns is called the Butterflies.
Sorry, but that’s a fucking weak name. It’s even worse than the Jaguars. Sorry, the Jag-wahs.
Ashley does the nice thing: she tries to include Amy into the invitation. Lila, being Lila, doesn’t bite. Amy tells Ashley that she was hoping she’d sit with her and Elizabeth for lunch, but Ashley was free to sit where she pleases. After yet more sass from Lila, Ashley does the right thing, and sits with her sister… and she’s very happy to do so.
“Maybe you should sit with the Unicorns,” Amy said as soon as Lila was out of hearing distance. “They are the most popular girls in the school. It’s kind of an honor to be asked to eat with them.”
Ashley shook her head. “I think it’s a bigger honor to sit with my new sister.”
Look, I know it’s schmaltzy, but dammit, I’m charmed. [Wing: I love her.]
As the Terrific Trio eat (mom’s) spaghetti and discuss teen literature, Bruce Patman sashays into view. This magnificent dickturd doers his level best to worm his way into Ashley’s affections, who rebuffs him smartly but kindly.
As the girls giggle over how cute-but-crap Bruce is, another boy approaches to kneel at the feet of the Gorgeous New Girl. This time, it’s Denny Jacobson. Man, Janet Howell is gonna be so pissed. Before he can stick the landing, however, Amy tells him to fuck off.
Amy put down her fork. “We are trying to eat our lunch here.”
“Sorry,” Denny said. He flashed a big smile at Ashley. “I’ll see you around.”
“Wow,” Elizabeth said as Denny walked away. “Not even my sister attracts so much attention from guys.”
Ashley waved her hand dismissively. “It’s probably just because I’m a new face around here. By tomorrow, it’ll wear off.”
Perfectly reasonable response from Ashley, but Amy is in Heel Mode. She claims urgent homework, and leaves the cafeteria.
Elizabeth felt a chill as she watched Amy walk off. It looks like Amy’s having a harder time with this sister thing than I’d even imagined.
Well, sure, for the next twenty minutes or so. Then it’ll be Face Turn and Yayzorz and Sistas Before Mistas. Then another twenty minutes and a Heel Turn and Why Me and Evanescence and Goth Makeup. And back and forth we go through the circle of self-loathing.
[Wing: I find this a believable reaction, honestly. It’s not well-written because nothing really is at this point in Sweet Valley, but her whiplash emotions are understandable. And yet one reason why lying to your kids about this kind of stuff is bullshit.]
In Social Studies later that afternoon, Ashley and Jessica whisper about boys under the gimlet gaze of The Hairnet. Jess points out Aaron Dallas, but The Hairnet overhears. Undeterred, Jess witters on as Killjoy Elizabeth listens in.
Jess compares herself and Liz to Ashley and Amy: one fun sister, one dull sister. As always, Ashley sticks up for her newfound family member, which is, again, delightful.
“Our sisters are definitely the nerds of the family,” Jessica said to Ashley. “And we’re the fun ones.”
“Amy’s a lot of fun,” Ashley whispered back.
I like Ashley a lot. I mean, not in a Bruce Patman way. She’s just… nice. And apparently operating at face value.
The Hairnet then tosses off a homework assignment straight out of Alice Wakefield’s Gin-Soaked School of Interior Design:
“Now, you all have an exciting assignment due Thursday after next,” Mrs. Arnette continued. “I want everyone to write an essay about the person you admire the most and why you admire him or her.”
*golfclap* Stellar work, Arnette. Really phoning the lesson plan in today.
After class, a select group discuss the subject of their assignment. Jessica chooses Johnny Buck, naturally. Ashley decides to write her essay on Mr Sutton. Amy is NOT PLEASED.
Ashley’s known Dad for less than a week, she thought unhappily. What could she possibly write about him? It isn’t enough that Ashley is prettier and more popular than me, Amy found herself thinking as she walked numbly back to her locker. She wants to be the best daughter, too.
To be fair, I think I side with Amy here. This does come across as a desperate cry for attention. I understand the necessity of this for PLOT, but it makes no real sense as a character development. She would have actually picked some, I dunno, famous ballerina or something. Although this exchange would have been great:
“Are you going to write your essay about Johnny Buck?” Amy asked Ashley, hoping she would say no.
Ashley shook her head. She had a thoughtful look on her face. “I was actually thinking I might do my essay about Dad. No hang on, not Dad… Robert Mugabe.”
We’re now in Madame Andre’s Dance Class, and yes, it appears that Ashley’s Ballerina Skills ARE all that and a bag of dick-tips. As usual, Madame Andre is a complete horse’s ass about the whole thing.
“Attention, ladies!” Madame André, the ballet instructor, announced, clapping her hands. “I see that we have an exceptional dancer here today. Ashley, would you please show the class the routine we just went through. I want you to all pay close attention to her movements. Her line is exquisite.”
Jessica watched in awe as Ashley leaped and twirled around the studio gracefully and effortlessly. “Bravo!” Madame André exclaimed. “That, my girls, is what ballet is supposed to be.”
The subtext here is DRIPPING with passive aggressive cockery. “Watch this, you miserable wastes of skin. THIS is how you do it. Not like you lot, with your spasmodic and delirious lurches, like you’re a wounded jellyfish reaching an unsatisfactory sexual climax. Get out! Then come back in, and get out once more!” [Dove: I really did think Madame André’s studio burned to the ground before this book. Apparently that was just Raven’s suggestion, and I liked it so much it overrode canon.]
Jessica is wonderfully Jessica with her reaction.
All the girls, including Jessica, applauded loudly. Normally, Jessica would have been jealous. If anyone was going to get a lot of attention, Jessica wanted it to be her. But Ashley wasn’t at all like Lila, who’d go around bragging for the next six months if anyone paid her the smallest compliment. Ashley was totally nice and modest. Besides, Ashley would be leaving Sweet Valley soon, so she wasn’t a real threat.
Killer last line, Ghostie. Kudos. [Wing: And if she sticks around, well, there’s always room for one more in the mass grave.]
The scene ends with Jessica concluding that Ashley would be perfect Temporary Unicorn material. PLOT!
Next, we have the Wakefield Twins and the Sutton Siblings shopping at the mall, and we have Heel Amy who’s annoyed that Jessica is fawning over Ashley. It seems Ashley and Jess have a lot of things in common, like shopping and ballet. Talk turns to ballet, and Jessica gushes over just how great Ashley’s performance in the Dance Studio had been earlier that day. And again, the lovely Ashley tries to draw Amy into the conversation.
“Speaking of ballet, you should have seen your sister in class today,” Jessica said to Amy as she pulled the dress on over her head. “She was unbelievable. I’ve never seen Madame André get so excited about anything before.”
Ashley laughed modestly. “It wasn’t that big a deal. Amy, did you ever take ballet lessons?”
Amy played with the buckle on her backpack. “Yeah, I did for a little while, but it didn’t really work out,” she said. “Ballet isn’t exactly my thing.” Because I was absolutely terrible at it, she added silently.
Elizabeth brings up the fact that Nana Sutton was an expert ballet dancer back in the day, and comments are made that while Ashley had inherited Nana Sutton’s ability, poor Amy hadn’t exactly been beaten with the Ballet Stick.
Ashley was a great ballerina, just like Grandma Sutton. Ashley had inherited all the talent in the family, and Amy had inherited none of it.
We now cut to the Wakefield Compound for a rather pointless scene in which there’s bickering at the dinner table. It’s largely about Elizabeth’s Social Studies Essay, for which she’s decided to write about the First Lady, which is perfect. Let’s hope the First Lady in question is more Michelle and less Melania. [Wing: It was Clinton, at least if we go by real world politics. So definitely less Melania, but she comes with her own pros and cons. Though, I still mourn for not having a President H Clinton instead of the actual bullshit we got.]
The true point of the scene, and the banter, is to further establish that siblings are a fucking nightmare. Point made, Ghostie. Move on.
The chapter ends with a poolside scene involving Elizabeth, Jessica, Amy and Ashley. Ashley is statuesque in a bikini, while Amy feels babyish in a one-piece suit.
Steven wanders in, and achieves instant partial boner when he sets eyes on Ashley. He flirts outrageously, but his sisters shut him down immediately with some pointed comments regarding Cathy, his girlfriend. Nice work! [Dove: Why does Steven so frequently salivate over kids two years younger than him?] [Wing: Sublimated attraction for Jessica.]
Ashley, however, is drawn to the manly Steven… much to the annoyance of Heel Amy.
Amy’s face burned. She secretly thought Steven was cute, too, but it didn’t matter. He would never even notice she existed. He, along with practically every other male in Sweet Valley, was going nuts over her sister. It was bad enough when it was just the middle school, but now Ashley had captured the attention of a cute high-school guy. What was next?
Did I miss a memo? When the hell did Amy start fancying Steven? Is her desire to be a Wakefield so all-consuming that she’s decided to marry into the family? Enquiring minds want to know!
Next up, it’s science class, where Amy fluffs a question on ions. Ashley answers it, which makes Amy sad, despite Ashley telling her that she’s a year ahead of Amy so was taught all this stuff the year before. [Wing: WHY IS ASHLEY GOING TO SCHOOL? WHY IS SHE IN AMY’S CLASS? IF SHE’S JUST VISITING CLASS, WHICH IS A THING THAT USED TO HAPPEN, WHY IS SHE ANSWERING QUESTIONS? WHY DOES NOTHING MAKE SENSE? Oh, right, because Sweet Valley.] Ashley, as usual, is the paragon of sweetness, and offers to help Amy with science if Amy will help her write a newspaper article. Amy cheers up – Face Amy.
Ashley continues, admitting she’s not great at writing, and she wants to make her Social Studies Essay – on Mr Sutton – the best it can be. Apparently, it’s going well, but all improvement is welcome.
Amy’s good mood clouded over. This was too much. She couldn’t stand to hear Ashley acting as if she were some kind of authority on their father.
Amy is sad again – Heel Amy.
The Amy has an idea. If Ashley is a shit writer, then Amy can outshine her. She decides to ditch her planned essay on Martin Luther King. Instead, she too would write an essay on Mr Sutton.
Amy, that’s possibly the shittest idea you’ve ever had. And you’re a fucking melon.
At the Unicorner on Monday, Jessica is sporting a new International Hairstyle: the Italian Basilica.
There’s some banter about hair, before talk turns to the search for a new, temporary Unicorn. And Jessica suggests Ashley, to almost unanimous approval.
The only holdout? Lila Fowler.
Lila cleared her throat. “I’m not saying that Ashley wouldn’t be a good Unicorn, but I think we’re forgetting that we really don’t know her very well. I think we should all get to know her a little bit better before we let her join. After all, it is a privilege to be a Unicorn. It’s not like we can just invite any old stranger to spend time with us.”
Nice work, Lila. Exclusivity is one of your key traits, so you keep on being you.
Janet admits Lila has a point, so she plans to call Ashley that evening and invite her to “do something” with the Unicorns by way of an audition. To be fair, that’s a lot easier than the ridiculous initiation pranks that were performed by previous new recruits.
At Booster Practice the following afternoon, after Amy flapped and flailed at a new routine, Janet asks her for her phone number.
You, fair reader, have established that Janet wants the number for the Sutton Collective for one simple reason: to contact Ashley and invite her on a Unipicnic. Amy, of course, jump to the wrong conclusion, and for some reason she concludes that Janet will be calling to ask Amy to join the Unicorns. Of course she will, Amy, because that’s how the world works.
I’m fully aware that IS how the world works if your surname is Wakefield.
That night, and Ashley and (Face) Amy are giggling together while watching TV. Amy tells herself that any jealousy she’s been feeling of late is entirely unwarranted, and that Ashley is the best thing in the world. Ashley offers to do Amy’s hair in an exciting wavy way – Basic Sisters 101.
Then Janet calls. And asks Amy if she can speak to Ashley.
As we overhear the conversation, Janet asks Ashley to meet the Unicorns at Caseys the following day. The lovely Ashley makes sure that Amy is invited too, but Amy sees through the whole thing and realises that Amy’s presence is only accepted because Ashley asked for it to be.
So, $YayAmy to $DismayAmy, whiplashing heel and face turns again. Standard.
The next morning, the Sutton Collective enjoy blueberry panckaes made by…. A naked Mr Nydick! Careful sir, hot fat splashback kills three million Americans every day.
Actually, it’s Ashley, because there’s nothing she can’t do. Amy can’t cook, of course. Not even Spunkwaffles, which is ironic.
As the Elder Suttons gush, and Ashley says “Dad” with a squee, Amy is still in $DismayAmy mode. Naturally.
In math class that afternoon, Amy and Elizabeth point out a literally spitballing Ken Matthews and a literally being spitballed Todd Wilkins. Amy dubs them cute, but Amy is embarrassed by Ken’s tomfoolery. Then Caroline Pearce hands Ashley a note from Rick Hunter, which reads “You have a beautiful smile.”
Ashley turns pink, Caroline gushes, Amy snaps, everyone chats, Caroline says Amy is just jealous, Amy rants, Ken spitballs, and WHERE THE FUCK IS THE MATHS TEACHER?! Seriously Sweet Valley Middle School, get your shit together. [Dove: I’m so used to them doing fuck all at school, it never even occurred to me that there should be a teacher there to curtail this nonsense.]
“[Rick] happens to be one of the cutest and most popular guys in the school,” Caroline said. “You’re so lucky. Most girls would kill to have Rick send them a note.”
So fucking passive, Ghostie. I’m a bit bored of having the girls just hanging on the actions of the boys. I wish they’d be written with a bit more agency. I guess that’s why I like Jessica, she just does shit. And Elizabeth too, to be fair. Maybe it’s just a main character thing versus a badly-drawn peripheral.
BAM! We’re at Casey’s, and there’s a nice callback to Casey banning everyone because of a food fight a few books previous.
Amy is doing her best to fit in with the Unigibbons, but they are TOTAL bitches and just shut her down every time she opens her mouth. Ashley is sweet, as usual, but Lila and crew are having none of it. They want all talk to be on Ashley.
Ashley is nice, and tells them interesting stuff, and the Unicorns lap it up and chat back. Amy, who’s basically an eavesdropper at this point, concludes that the Unicorns are actual idiots, and her brief flirtation with painting her bum purple is now officially over.
Ashley tries to include Amy in the conversation, complementing her wavy hair and mentioning Amy’s cool article coming in the next edition of the Sixers, and while $DismayAmy is sad because there’s no take-up from the Unicorns, it’s clear that Ashley is being genuine and not acting out of pity for Amy. Way to go, Ashley. You’re lovely.
The next morning at the school lockers, Ashley (with Amy) tells Elizabeth that Jessica and the Unicorns are really nice. Elizabeth laughs it off and basically calls the Unicorns a bunch of purple twats. Ashley compares them to the Butterflies, who, by also doing voluntary work are Unicorn-adjacent with Team Boring leanings.
“I think the Unicorns are such a bore.” [said Amy.] “All they talked about yesterday at Casey’s was hair and clothes.”
“I thought you were having fun yesterday,” Ashley said, her eyes clouding over. “I’m sorry you had a bad time.”
Elizabeth then lets slip that Amy had been interested in becoming a Unicorn, and Amy is embarrassed. She stalks away, with Ashley and Elizabeth concerned about her behaviour. [Dove: Elizabeth really couldn’t be much more tactless here. With my hatred of her, I read it as her creating a situation in which Amy would be sad, so she could fix it, given that she’s been heartily let down by the Suttons not getting divorced, and she was really looking forward to being a superb best friend throughout the trauma.]
Thursday night, Amy is working in the Sutton Study. Mr Sutton is working there too, and her tries to check up on Amy’s homework in a good-natured way. Her essay, of course, is about HIM, so Amy is coy about revealing. They chat about Ashley and Sisterhood, and $DismayAmy flips to $YayAmy because daddy loves his little girl.
Ashley enters, and tells everyone that Madame Andre has given her the lead in Sleeping Beauty after the incumbent was brought low by a pox of chickens. I mean, FUCK Madame Andre. That part should have gone to the actual understudy. If there wasn’t an understudy, give it to a regular student, not someone who’s there for two fucking weeks. I don’t care how excrementally good she is at dancing, you’re supposed to be TEACHING, not padding your own ego by getting performance plaudits. I hate her. [Dove: Dude, I’ve watched a few episodes of Dance Moms, and they would fucking flip tables if Abby brought in a ringer if Maddie was unable to dance. They pay good money to see their kids shine, not some out-of-towner on vacation.]
$YayAmy flips immediately back to $DismayAmy, and I’m now getting whiplash.
Friday at the Unicorner, and Ashley is there without her sister (or Elizabeth). She explains it’s because they are both Sixer-ing, so I don’t blame Ashley here.
The Unicorns applaud her for landing the role in Sleeping Beauty, and offer her temporary membership of the Unicorns! A high honour indeed.
Ashley thanks everyone for their consideration.
“It sounds like a great idea,” Ashley said. “But I’m going to have to think it over and talk to Amy about it.”
What’s there to think about? Jessica wondered. And why would Amy have anything important to say about it? Maybe Ashley doesn’t understand just how boring her sister is.
Ah, Jessica. Echoing the voice of the reader since 1986.
In the Sixers office, we discover that Elizabeth has decided to write a story about… Ashley! She spills the apparently exciting news to Amy. This immediately spins Amy’s Mood Wheel into firmly $DismayAmy territory. [Dove: See! Now she’s goading her “best friend” again. Elizabeth is a gaslighting harpy!]
“Seriously, I’m doing a story about your sister and how she’s dancing the lead in the ballet,” Elizabeth said. “People are always interested in visitors to the school. I thought I’d do an interview with her about her life in New York. What do you think?”
“Terrific,” Amy muttered.
[Wing: You should not have so many damn visitors to your school in the first place!]
Liz then offers to let Amy write the story herself, and Amy loses her shit. She slams books on tables, the shoots daggers from her eyes, and she declares she wants absolutely nothing to do with it.
I guess I do feel for Amy a little here. That article seems a dick move, and almost straight out of the Unicorn playbook. It’s a fluff piece at best. Like, I’m not expecting the Sixers to bring down Watergate every week, but even so.
Amy, sensing she overreacted, eventually asks the first pertinent question in the book.
“Do you ever get jealous of Jessica?”
What follows is a tender exchange of views and apologies. The actually feel like best friends for once, rather than Elizabeth Voldemort and Amy Wormtail.
Elizabeth tells Amy that sure, she was sometimes jealous of her sister. But that was okay. She still loved Jessica with all her heart. And it’s fine that they are not the same…
Uh oh, I feel a same-but-different bullet list coming on…
- Ashley is a member of the Butterflies. Amy is, at best, a caterpillar.
- Amy is a cheerleader. Ashley is a playa.
- Ashley is an East Coast hottie. Amy is a West Coast spunk-waffle.
The chapter ends with Elizabeth and Amy the best of friends once more. Which will hold until someone else new arrives in town, naturally.
We shift to Saturday morning, and Amy / Ashley are working on their “Dad is my Hero” Social Studies essays together. Amy’s is a struggle, but Ashely’s seems to be going gangbusters.
Ashley then leaves the room to fetch Lemonade, which prompts Amy to sneak a peek at Ashley’s work… almost. She backs away from Jessica territory just in time.
At ballet rehearsals that afternoon, Jessica and Ashley chat about ballet, Butterflies and Unicorns. Jess probes about Ashley’s intentions on Unicorn membership, and Ashley confides that Amy herself desired such a purple accolade just one week previous.
Jessica is gobsmacked, and lets Ashley know it. Amy, a Unicorn? Not a fucking chance in hell. Ashley then asks if the Unicorns would consider making Amy a Unicorn in Ashley’s place.
“Believe me, that won’t be happening in this lifetime,” Jessica said. Maybe Ashley’s just a little too nice for her own good, she thought. She really just doesn’t understand that Amy is nowhere near cool enough to be a Unicorn.
To be honest, I’m beginning to agree with you, Jess. Ashley might be too nice.
They join Lila outside of the Dance Studio, and Lila invites Ashley to Fowler Crest that evening, for pizza and movies with the other Unicorns. Ashley accepts, with a proviso: that Amy can come too.
Lila, to her credit, doesn’t laugh Ashley out of town. She accepts with all the grace she can muster:
“Hmmmm.” Lila made an expression as if she were trying to figure out a hard math problem. “I guess it would be OK to have her come.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Ashley said excitedly.
“If Ashley’s boring sister is coming, then my boring sister might as well come, too,” Jessica said. “They can keep each other company.”
“OK, you can both bring your sisters,” Lila said. “Just don’t let the word get around that I had non-Unicorns over to my house on a Saturday night. We do have a reputation to live up to.”
So. Team Boring and the Unicorns meet at a non-open-invite party. Cats and dogs living together. Ashley, what have you done? WHAT HAVE YOU DOOOONE! [Dove: I fucking loved Jessica for calling Elizabeth “my boring sister”. #BestJess]
Ashley also asks that Lila make the invite call to Amy herself, so to make Amy feel a little less lank-haired.
Sure enough, that evening, Amy goes full-on $YayAmy when she receives the off-screen invite. Ashley is thrilled for her, but of course Amy takes it all too far and thinks the invite is a sure-fire portent of the Unicorns inviting her to joining their swelling purple member…ship.
“I might be wrong about this,” Amy said, “but I have a feeling that maybe they’re inviting me because they want me to be a Unicorn. They’ve been looking for a new member. Why else would they invite me to hang out with them on a Saturday night?”
[Dove: I thought Amy was supposed to be smart?]
Ashley’s response to such a blathering pile of codswallop is a few notches south of ebullient, so $YayAmy immediately heads into $DismayAmy. All because Ashley didn’t laugh and smile and cheer.
Amy, you’re a fucking IDIOT.
We cut to Elizabeth’s room, were Jessica is obviously trying to persuade her sister to come to Lila’s Unicorn Social that evening. To her credit, Liz doesn’t want to play ball. Jessica tells her that Amy is going, so Elizabeth needs to go too. And for once, her Amanda Howard Mystery senses kick is immediately…
“Oh, I get it. Ashley’s bringing her boring sister, so you thought you’d bring your boring sister, and the two of us boring sisters could keep each other company,” Elizabeth said.
“Well, not exactly, but sort of.”
She eventually agrees to attend in the name of scientific research.
Jessica then lets slip that she knows about Amy’s pointy-headed aspirations, which Jessica confirms that she believes that’s totally ridiculous. Elizabeth can see the coming hurricane… Amy is screwed.
At Lila’s that night, Amy gushes about Lila’s room (has she never been to Fowler Crest before? Surely for a party, or a Booster practice? I guess she could just be blathering through nervousness.). Again, the Unicorns are uninterested in Amy’s conversation and fixated on Ashley.
Ashley is cajoled into giving them a preview of her performance for Sleeping Beauty, which she does after a token protestation and some dance support from Jessica. Everyone loves it, and there is much praising.
Seeing how impressed everyone was by her sister’s performance, Amy had an image of her father at Ashley’s recital. She imagined his face glowing with pride and love as Ashley took her bow. The image made Amy feel sick to her stomach. How could she possibly endure that moment? Maybe I’m an evil person, Amy worried. I almost wish something would happen to keep Ashley from dancing in that recital.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE, Amy, you shitting lettuce. I’m getting pigball-sick of your constant mewling. If you love your sister, shut the hell up. If you hate your sister, stab her in the neck and move the fuck on.
The Unicorns then start messing with each other’s hair, trying out new hairstyles and shit. By “the Unicorns”, I mean “Jessica”. And by “each other’s”, I mean Mary Wallace and (eventually) Amy.
Mary Wallace gets a Romanian Roll.
And while Lila shows Ashley her closets – insert your own sexuality joke here – a jealous $DismayAmy gets a Moroccan Moment:
Amy’s (Moroccan) moment in the sun is short-lived, as OF COURSE her hair looks appalling. It’s all curls-bunched-up-like-a-pineapple, with everyone bar Ashley and Elizabeth howling with laughter. Lila calls her a poodle, and Amy’s embarrassment is complete. She timidly makes her excuses and leaves. [Dove: We are endlessly told that Amy’s hair is flat and lank. It’s almost impossible to poodle curl that kind of hair.]
Amy, you’ve gotta learn to roll with this shit. It’s a hairstyle done by a 12-year-old in a bedroom. There’s no scissors or permanence to it. Look in the mirror, laugh it up with the rest, shake out the bobby pins, and crack on with your day.
Sunday rolls around, and Jessica shares the opening to her “Why I’d Respect Johnny Buck’s Brains Out” essay to a supportive Elizabeth and an agog Steven. There’s banter from Steven, in the usual vein.
Jessica is proud of it. I’ve recreated it here, in its original glory, by extracting it from Jessica’s dialogue in the book itself.
Note: THIS IS ACTUALLY HER ESSAY. NOT A JOKE FROM ME.
Johnny Buck Is My Hero
Johnny Buck is the person I admire the most. I have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember. Not only is he a fabulous singer, but he’s also the best actor in the world.
I have every CD that Johnny Buck has ever recorded. When I hear his songs I feel like he’s singing to me. He has a beautiful voice and I think he’s the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.
And that, it seems, is that.
Steven howls, Elizabeth helps, the end.
What a COMPLETE waste of everyone’s time. When Elizabeth offers advice about skipping the “handsome” part, Jessica asks:
“What about the rest of the essay?”
Elizabeth should have replied “What about the rest of the essay? In fact, WHAT rest of the essay? There IS no ‘rest of the essay’. This is a sentence. It’s barely a post-it note. Get a fucking grip and put some effort in.”
Steven applies a ladle of appropriate mockery, until the girls throw him into the pool. True story.
Mirroring the writing advice over with the Sutton Collective, Amy is teaching Ashley how to write a newspaper article. Ashley’s idea: how clean Sweet Valley is in comparison to the Big Apple.
Amy actually offers some rather nice advice in this scene, which sees her back firmly into $YayAmy territory. Amy’s advice takes this:
“This is an article about how dirty New York City is compared with Sweet Valley. I’m going to talk about how gross the streets in New York are and how clean they are in Sweet Valley. I think it’s really a shame that people in New York don’t take better care of the city that they live in.”
And turns it into this:
“Sweet-smelling flowers, beautifully manicured green lawns, and children playing in the yard—these are what you find on a street in Sweet Valley. Wadded-up newspaper, empty fast-food containers, and soda cans in the gutter—that’s what you see on a street in New York.”
Only the most churlish amongst us would argue that the second is a much better opening.
One thing: this is yet another example of Sweet Valley Twins books bigging-up the noble art of writing. Usually it’s much more overblown, with the act of wordsmithery being described as something akin to a genius-level live-saving orgasm. This is a little more light of touch, so I’ll not knock it too much.
The following night, Ashley struggles to eat an artichoke at a fancy meal with the Sutton Collective. Amy teaches her the basics. So what if Amy can’t dance, or if her hair is shit, or if she can’t cook, or if she’s clumsy, or if her boyfriend is a tiny bellend… at least she can eat motherfucking ARTICHOKES, y0.
Talk turns to the upcoming ballet recital, and while Mama Sutton can’t make it due to work commitments, Papa Sutton affirms both he and Amy will be there. For some reason, he phrases it like thus:
“Amy and I will be there,” Mr. Sutton said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world—my own daughter dancing the lead in Sleeping Beauty.”
Predictably, this whips Amy into $DismayAmy mode, and she does her best to (arti)choke back her tears. The ballet recital is now something she’s actively dreading, and to be honest I don’t understand why. It’s not as if SHE was the chickenpoxed incumbent, or that Ashley’s triumph would in any way impact on how other people view her.
The following day, Amy bites Ashley’s head off (metaphorically) when her sister asks her how the Social Studies essay is going. As a thank you for help with the article writing the previous day, Ashley offers to return the favour with Amy’s science homework, but Amy shuns all help.
She’s getting on my tits now.
Eventually, she turns tail and flees from Ashley’s hurt and confused expression.
The chapter ends with a small scene in which Amy asks Elizabeth if she is ever jealous of the attention that Jessica receives. Liz says no, because she doesn’t value the same things as her sister. She’s happier when she’s recognised for things she values, such as writing a great article, or ascending to sainthood.
“You wouldn’t want to trade places with Jessica for even a day?”
Pretty sure, as identical twins, they have done that a few times before. In fact, they do it every April Fools’ Day, no?
On Wednesday morning, Amy wakes up in a flopsweat after a pernicious dream in which Ashley was a superstar ballerina receiving a standing ovation. In the dream, Amy tries to hug her sister in support, but she’s beaten to the punch by Papa Sutton, who treat Amy as though she’s invisible.
Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t tend to dream about, like actual events and things happening in my life. Or at least, if I do, they’re far more tangential and downright bizarre. There must be something in the Sweet Valley water that makes everyone dream in a super literal way. Amy’s dream should have been far more “I was flying to Mauritius with Ashley and Gunther from Friends, when my bronze kneecap reflected light right into the pilot’s eyes. We crashed on an island made of corduroy, and of course Terence the Comical Otter was there. Then Dad drove up in a motorised arse, and took us to iHop for karate lessons.”
[Wing: I’m on some new bipolar meds, and I have had such realistic, grounded dreams lately. Intense, too. It’s freaky how much they feel like an actual day in the life. The other day, I dreamt that Dad had died, and I actually had to confirm with Ostrich that he hadn’t, because the dreams are just so solidly grounded in reality. It’s fucked up.]
At school, Ashley is the star of the cafeteria, as Elizabeth’s ill-judged article on the Prima Ballerina was the talk of the sixth grade. The Unicorns are gushing, the boys are requesting autographs, the whole nine yards. The only fly in the ointment? $DismayAmy, jealous as fuck.
To compound Amy’s mood, the deceitful little rat Ken Matthews gushes all over Amy. He receives an “accidental” lapful of milk for his cheek.
After school, still seething with jealousy, Amy pops home and discovers a note from Ashley:
Amy unfolded the note and read it. “Dear Amy and Dad—” Amy felt a chill go up her spine when she read that word. “The recital is now going to be held at the Sweet Valley High auditorium at seven thirty. There was a scheduling problem at the middle-school auditorium, so there was a last-minute change. I can’t wait to see you both there. All my love, Ashley.”
I wanna know what’s happening at the Middle School Auditorium now! Maybe it’s a Mr Bowman Special Coke and Acid Orgy, those are always gas. [Dove: THIS IS WHAT I’M FUCKING TALKING ABOUT MADAME FUCKING ANDRÉ! WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS MOVING SHIT AROUND? YOU FUCKING SUCK.]
Amy tries to dinish her Social Studies essay in the empty house, before she heads to the ballet recital. Thing is, the world and his ballsack keep interrupting her with phonecalls. Phonecalls for ASHLEY, to wish her well for her performance. After a dozen calls, Ashley herself calls to check is Amy has seen the note for “Dad” and her.”
Locked down in pure heel mode, Amy assures her new sister that sure, she’d pass on the message to Papa Sutton. But as soon as the call is terminated, Amy succumbs to the Dark Side, and throws the note into the trash.
We’re on the home straight now, and no mistake. What has Amy done?!
After a filler scene from Liz and Jess, including talk of hair and the Unicorns and Amy’s jealousy, it’s back to Amy’s house. Apparently, Amy is asleep, and wakes up an hour before the recital is due to start. Bit odd, her having a random nap, but PLOT I guess.
She immediately regrets throwing away the note as she’s rushing to change for the show. Hearing her father downstairs, who she realises will not have seen the note and thus won’t know about the venue change, she decides it more fucking important to locate her pink sweater than it is to, y’know, go tell her dad who is LITERALLY downstairs. [Dove: Yeah, I didn’t get this at all. Also, I thought Amy always wore blue and cream, Elizabeth’s favourite colours.]
Believing that Ashley is a sweater-stealing sister aka Jessica Wakefield, she stumbles around Ashley’s belongings, until she finds… a naked Mr Nydick!
Nope, she finds Ashley’s Social Studies essay, on the person that Ashley admires the most, which is (allegedly) Papa Sutton.
Without thinking, Amy opens the notebook and discovers that the essay isn’t about Dad.
It’s about Amy.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming a mile off.
And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Ashley’s compulsion to only admire family members she’s recently met rather than, I dunno, the single mother who seems to have raised a charming and sweet and generous thirteen-year-old daughter all by herself after Mr Sutton wiped his cock on the curtains and hopped an Uber..
It’s still rather charming nonetheless.
Aside from being woefully short, the essay itself is sweet, and it has the desired PLOT effect on Amy. She regrets the whole debacle, she officially loves her sister unconditionally, and she’s desperate to put things right.
Her Dad has left the building, of course.
[Wing: Aren’t they going to the recital together? Why the fuck would he leave her behind?]
Why the FUCK didn’t she speak to her Dad about the note BEFORE she read the essay? She was remorseful enough THEN, after all. I suppose because she’s a member of Team Boring, and a “good” person at her core, so she couldn’t go Full Asshat. If Jess was in her shoes, she’s have burnt the note and then slept like a fucking baby right through the damn recital.
Amy then deduces that the best way to find her father, who’d just set off to the Sweet Valley Middle School Auditorium to watch his daughter perform in a ballet, was to RANDOMLY CYCLE AROUND SWEET VALLEY, GOING TO BIZARRE PLACES IN THE HOPE THAT HE WAS THERE.
I mean, seriously? The bakers, the dry cleaners, EVERY PLACE SHE CAN THINK OF other than the place she KNOWS he’d be?
Elizabeth, why the fuck do you hang with this idiot?
Amy eventually cycles to the Wakefield Compound in desperation, and co-opts her friend into the search. Actually, she confesses all to Liz then leaver her with the task of locating Mr Sutton. After all, Amy had a recital to go watch. With a sister in it. Not like Elizabeth, dear me no.
Next, we see Amy watching a spectacular Ashley from the back of the newly-designated auditorium. She was so proud of her sister, yet so upset that Papa Sutton was missing this due to her pettiness.
But as the recital concludes, there’s one booming voice at the front of the room that’s leading the applause. Mr Sutton had made the show, and was proud of BOTH is daughters.
As we wind down, we learn a few things:
- Amy is no longer jealous of her sister.
- Ashley loves Amy with all her heart, and gives her a small porcelain ballerina as proof.
- Mr Sutton apologises to Amy for not being in tune with her feelings as the PLOT progressed, and he convinces Amy that she’s still loved.
- And finally, there’s an audition for a school production of Romeo and Juliet next week. So that’s the next book sorted.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected. I’m no great fan of Amy, truth be told, and you’ve probably gathered that her constant vacillation between Happiness and Despair, sometimes twice in the same scene, got on my nerves. That said, I did feel sorry for her whole “what am I, chopped liver” schtick.
And Ashley! Ashley was lovely. Kind, generous, outgoing, friendly. Maybe she was a bit TOO over the top. A little bit of me actually believes Jessica’s “you know, it’s pretty hard to imagine that you two are really sisters” bit. Maybe it’s a child support scam from Jane, and they are not related at all.
Anyway, yeah. Fun.
[Dove: I found this to be a reboot of Amy’s Pen Pal, and I wasn’t a huge fan of that, although at least Ashley was a genuine person, unlike Sam. I found it amazing that she could continue to be nice to Amy, all the while Amy sulked and seethed to her face. It wasn’t terrible, it didn’t make me angry like Steven’s Enemy, but the finale with Amy actively making every choice possible that ensured she wouldn’t manage to tell her dad where the recital was — I could go downstairs and tell him, but no; I could check where I know he’s going to be, but no — was really frustrating. I miss the Grapplegate ghosties.]
[Wing: I love Ashley. I thought Amy’s reactions were understandable. I still don’t like this book.]