Sweet Valley Twins #93: The Incredible Madame Jessica by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #93: The Incredible Madame Jessica by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Incredible Madame Jessica

Tagline: Good fortune or bad luck?

Summary: The mysterious powers of Jessica Wakefield…

Jessica Wakefield can see the future! She’s been saying so for months, and when she opens up a fortune-telling booth at the Sweet Valley Middle School fair, she finally proves it. Everything she predicts comes true—her studious twin sister, Elizabeth, flunks a history test, Patrick Morris breaks up with Sophia Rizzo, and Aaron Dallas gets suspended from the basketball team.

Jessica is elated—she’s the hottest act in town. The only problem is, she’s telling everyone exactly what they don’t want to hear—and the more she predicts, the more people blame her for their bad luck! Does Jessica have to lose her psychic powers to keep her friends?

Initial Thoughts:

Another psychic/fortune teller book? Are you kidding me? They really love coming back to this well, don’t they? [Raven: My thoughts exactly. Not AGAIN.]

I suppose this irritates me because I do not believe in fortune telling, ghosts, mediums, psychics, etc. Put them in a supernatural book where these things are real, and I’ll love the hell out of them if it works within the story, but when books are set in the real world? Nope.

Example:

The Conjuring movies. Absolutely love the fictional Ed and Lorraine Warren. They seem like sweet, generous people, motivated by God to help families suffering from spiritual torment. Lovely. (And the fact that Patrick Wilson plays Ed doesn’t hurt.)

Real life: Ed and Lorraine are complete scam artists, attaching themselves to high profile cases to give themselves some oomph.

Also, I might be a bit grumpy because I’ve left my recap to the last minute and have to use my weekend to get it down.

[Wing: On the one hand, I do believe in some supernatural things. On the other hand, Dove’s absolutely right in that most people who do it in the public eye are scammers. On the other other hand, I’m not looking forward to another repeat plot. On the other other other hand, it cannot be as bad as the last book.]

Recap:

Night, Jessica’s Room. We open with Jessica being astounded that she’s stayed up late to, of all things, read a book. But it’s not just any book. It’s a book about “real-life” psychics. I’m sorry, the sarcastic quotes have to be there. I’m compelled. She’s just read a chapter about Britta Hanes, who is the kind of person who just goes about her life, “eating her Corny-O’s” (foreshadowing), only to be interrupted by visions. Apparently she just calls up the police, they figure out where the crime she’s just seen is taking place, and boom, problem solved.

[Wing: I know this is some sort of Corn Pops/Cheerios cereal, but all I can think about: Booty-Os.

I love the New Day.] [Dove: That’s because… New! Day! Rocks! … New! Day! Rocks!]

I will believe a lot of what happens in Sweet Valley. I will believe that everyone except Maria Slater is white. I will believe that everyone except Lois Waller is slender and pretty. I will believe that everyone except Sophia Rizzo is wealthy. I will believe that everyone except Anna Reynolds is able-bodied. I will believe that Johnny Buck holds concerts at 3pm in this tiny slice of Americana. I will believe that movies are shot there. I will believe that Brooke’s mom is a pop star.

I will not believe in psychics*.

(*unless we’re in a Super Chiller, but even then, I’ll probably bitch about how it’s a cop-out.)

Jessica now thinks to herself that she gets visions too. Not crimes, but stuff. And they totes happen later. But nobody takes her seriously. She knows, though, that she is psychic, and one day people will take her seriously. [Raven: Like, where did this come from?! Oh sure, there have been a couple of Psychic Jessica books, but this whole into is phrased as though she constantly spaffs out predictions every day that meet wholesale derision. I fully expected it to end with “and they’ll pay… they’ll ALL pay….”]

Morning, Wakefield Kitchen. Jessica crows that she knew that Elizabeth was going to have Corny-O’s (foooooreeeeshadowing) for breakfast. Elizabeth is unimpressed by that reasoning. Apparently she has cereal for breakfast every day (I guess we’re forgetting all those days she’s had muffins, pancakes, donuts, bacon…) and Corny-O’s (foooooooooooooooorreeshadowing) is the only cereal in the pantry.

Also, I’m going to stop with the foreshadowing thing now, because I’ve just looked it up and the breakfast cereal books aren’t coming up for another four months. I was convinced they were next. Ignore me. I assumed with the constant reference to that “brand” that the commercial books were up next. [Wing: SPOILERS.]

Jessica tells her sister that she’s psychic and wonders if she should use her powers to help the police. You know, like that time she used her psychic powers to locate her missing twin in Psychic Sisters? Elizabeth points out there was a rational explanation for that, but Jessica is not deterred. She predicts that their brother will eat nine pancakes for breakfast. Everyone is shocked by the high number, despite Steven’s constant gluttony being his defining trait.

Steven does in fact eat nine pancakes. Jessica is slighted that the Wakefields are more impressed about how much food their human trash compactor can shove down his gullet in one sitting than Jessica’s incredible prediction. Then Steven eats another one to make sure her prediction didn’t come true. [Raven: I’m with Jessica here. She said Steven would eat nine pancakes. He did eat nine pancakes, on the way to eating ten pancakes. And that’s why psychics are bollocks… so woolly.]

Day, Sweet Valley Middle School Library. Elizabeth is raging because she wants to check out books to show how computers have changed their lives for a school paper, but the computer is showing that all the books are checked out, and long overdue. Pro-tip, Elizabeth, any book written about computers is out of date before it even hits publication. Also, don’t the Wakefields have a PC? Doesn’t the Sixers use a PC? Couldn’t you blag it with some personal (yet objectively written) data about how in this (decade-long) school year alone computers have changed lives for Sweet Valley Middle School?

The librarian, Ms Luster, says that she’s hoping the books will return at the school fair. Elizabeth has not heard of the school fair. Nobody cleared this shit with her, and heads are going to roll. Don’t they know that a Wakefield gives the OK to everything that happens in Sweet Valley?

Apparently this school fair is not taking place at the school (because why would it?), it’s taking place at the old fire station in the first three Saturdays of April. Of course. That makes perfect sense. [Raven: GHOSTBUSTERS!]

Wait. We’re in March? Ok, if you disregard the Super Chillers, does that mean a bit of coherency with the months? Before this we had Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day before that. Good lord, months are moving in the right direction, February then March. Who knew? [Wing: But Mother’s Day is in May in the USA. (Unintentional rhyme, but intentionally left.)] [Dove: What? I googled it, even specifying USA, and was convinced March was the right answer. FFS. Did I fail?]

Ms Luster explains that the money from the fair will fund the library, and she wants to replace missing books and maybe even get Encarta on disc! Elizabeth thinks to herself how nice it is to look up things on her family computer… so why are you at the library looking up books on computers then, you dimwit? Wouldn’t the computer be a great source of information about computers?

Ms Luster adds that they’re having a book amnesty, where all late fees are waived as long as the books come back, which sort of saves them money in the long run. Elizabeth, of course, has to personalise this, realising that the more books asshats keep, the more the library has to replace, which means the less money available to buy Amanda Howard books. For fuck’s sake, kid, buy your own damned books. I know that libraries are a great resource, but it just struck me as really petty that Elizabeth, who constantly has money saved up, only comprehended the situation when it was boiled down to ELIZABETH WAKEFIELD NO GET MYSTERY BOOK FOR FREE. [Raven: To be fair, Elizabeth says she DOES spend money on books, but she doesn’t have enough money to buy ALL THE BOOKS, and I feel for her there. We collect things, and sometimes we don’t have the money to collect ALL THE THINGS.] [Wing: Just here for library love. LIBRARIES. <3]

I mean, how many fucking books does Amanda Howard release? They come out in hardback and Amanda Howard does promotional book tours, we know that from The Wakefields Strike it Rich, which means that it’s not a book-a-month kind of series like Sweet Valley or Animorphs, but more of a Harry Potter release, so a book a year, maybe? We also know that Elizabeth literally will not read anything except Black Beauty and Amanda Howard (BIG for Christmas). We also know that Elizabeth nearly always has savings on hand, and that she bought the most recent book in hardback (again, Strike it Rich), and that she’s read everything that’s out. She and Amy frequently complain they have nothing to read because they’re up to date. So that assumes she has either read or owns all existing AH books, and nothing new is out, so… HOW THE FUCK DOES SHE NOT HAVE ENOUGH AMANDA HOWARD BOOKS? FUCKING EXPLAIN IT TO ME. WING, YOU EXPLAIN THIS TO ME RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE THIS IS STUPID. WING HAS TO EXPLAIN BECAUSE RAVEN WILL JUST BE UNHELPFUL AND SMUGLY AMUSING. [Raven: Maybe the series has been going for years, like Nancy Drew, and she needs to buy the back catalogue? Or if that’s too helpful, maybe she collects all editions and all covers and all special releases.] [Dove: Again, Nancy Drew is like Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club. Book-a-month, no hardback release, only one cover, and she’s always complaining that she’s waiting for the next one, so either she doesn’t care about buying the back-catalogue or she’s already bought them all.]

*flings self on floor*

Elizabeth suggests that they give a prize for the most overdue book, which will encourage kids to search for their late books and not shame them for keeping them so long. Ms Luster asks if Elizabeth wants to help with the booth, and Elizabeth quickly volunteers the rest of Team Boring (Amy and Maria, I guess we are fucking done with Julie Porter) to help. [Raven: I quite like the fact that neither Amy nor Maria appear to help with the stall at all. My headcanon has them both telling Liz to get fucked somewhere off screen.] [Wing: Well, Amy’s meant to show up to volunteer at it one afternoon, but I don’t think we actually get to see it happen.]

Ms Luster also tells her to tell everyone about the fair, because they need some cool booths to entice people to visit.

Uh… shouldn’t this be formally announced? Maybe if nobody knows the fair exists, you’re marketing wrong. If you need a good turnout, it’s probably a good idea to let people know. Maybe announce it during assembly, toss off one of the classes that doesn’t matter (probably Social Studies) and force the kids to come up with booth ideas, or whatever. Basically, whatever you guys did for The Love Potion. [Wing: Luster does have flyers that are going up and/or being passed out eventually, she just tells Elizabeth before everyone else. I assume there will be a morning announcement mention, too; I do not want to have to read morning announcements in every book, so don’t jump on that idea, ghosties. I say about a series that has been finished for ages.]

This school, man. Not a single member of staff could identify themselves in a mirror. That’s how fucking clueless they all are.

Afternoon, Casey’s Place. The Unicorns are sitting in a booth and Lila is not interested in the slightest about funding a library. Jessica is arguing that regardless of how boring libraries are, the Unicorn booth must be the best in the fair. This resonates with Janet, whose sole purpose in life is to ensure that things reflect well on the Unicorns. Jessica points out that if the library lacks funds, they may cancel the subscription to Teen Dream, their favourite magazine. Uh, wut? Are you telling me that while the library lacks actual reference books, they can still afford to keep kids in the loop of what’s cool to wear? Jesus fucking Christ. [Wing: To defend the library, money is often earmarked for specific things. Libraries aren’t just for educational purposes, and keeping magazines is just as valid a purchase. My issue here is that there is ZERO PERCENT that most of them don’t have their own subscriptions or at the very least pick one up every month. They always have a bunch of magazines handy any other time, and there’s no way most of them use the library for that.]

And, actually, Teen Dream gets coolness wrong. Tamara and Ellen both badmouth the top the cover girl wore last month. White lace is so over. Bit unfortunate that Janet is wearing a white blouse with a lace collar. They hastily backtrack.

Mandy suggests a fashion advice booth, but Tamara (look at you, Tamara, two lines of dialogue!) [Raven: She’s obviously calmed down since denouncing the Unicorns during the recent shipwreck.] says the boys won’t care. Jessica tries to make a booth for her JEM cookies. This is nearly a success, but Lila points out that a bunch of Unicorns in a kitchen will not be fun. Tamara suggests the love potion – after all, if we’re rehashing a plot, let’s totally rehash it – then talk turns to a dunking booth, but Jessica “foretells” lots of purple in the their future.

“Well, actually I was talking about a purple costume,” Jessica said. “A purple fortune-teller’s costume. I, of course, will be the fortune-teller. After all, I’m the one who’s psychic. And you can all be my assistants.”

You have to hand it to Jessica, you have to have balls to be so egotistical and talk so much bollocks all in a single breath.

But no. They’re going to stick to the dunk tank booth. But for a Unicorn spin, it’ll be filled with purple Jell-O, not water. So, a bunch of Unicorns in a kitchen then? Also, hands up if you can “foresee” that they’re going to have problems getting enough Jell-O to fill a dunk tank. [Raven: I reckon that’d be painful and weird too. Like, you could belly-flop-splat onto the surface of it and not sink at all.] [Wing: I’ve spent far too long considering the logistics of this, and I actually think it would work (provided they can make actual Jell-O). A dunk tank drops people basically straight down. They’d just slide into the Jell-O. Now, it wouldn’t remain Jell-O for long, at least not how they’re picturing it. Sitting without being chilled, body heat every time someone goes into it, that’ll be liquid almost immediately.]

Jessica secretly thinks to herself that she might go solo, she can imagine people lining up around the block to hear her amazing fortunes. And she’s probably right, given that this is exactly what happened the other eight billion times they did this plotline. Fuck, I’m so bored. I’m on page 9 of 78. It’s slow going.

Afternoon, Wakefield Compound. Jessica runs home to excitedly tell Elizabeth that she will be involved in Jessica’s fortune telling booth. She imagines that Elizabeth can hand out a 3-4 page pamphlet detailing Jessica’s amazing psychic feats to people as they wait. Elizabeth might even have to do crowd control. Elizabeth completely no-sells this and informs Jessica that she’s working on the book amnesty booth. Jessica tries to convince Elizabeth that she needs to work on Jessica’s booth because hers is boring, and she can totes get out of it, but Elizabeth barely listens and continues to work on the poster for her book booth. Jessica consoles herself that everyone says it’s lonely at the top.

Dinner, Wakefield Compound. Over dinner, Elizabeth explains her booth, and says that she’s hoping Guido’s will offer a gift certificate as a prize for the longest overdue book. This causes Steven to get to his feet and say he’s looking for overdue books. Oh how the Wakefields laughed at the hilarity of their eldest literally having a single personality trait! (I miss astronomy Steven.) Jessica then brings up her booth, and Steven is – miraculously – the voice of the people when he says, “Not that psychic stuff again!” but Jessica maintains she has a gift.

Friday afternoon, Sweet Valley Foods. The Unicorns are shopping for Jell-O and talking about Jessica’s absence. Janet thinks Jessica is uppity and will be delighted when she fails. Also, the Unicorns are going to have the best booth ever! Or they will, once it’s full of Jell-O. The regular box makes two cups of Jell-O. The booth holds 500 gallons. I am shocked that this is a problem.

They find the Institutional Foods aisle, which sounds sinister as fuck. [Raven: Why the hell would a regular supermarket have a Catering in Prison aisle? Wing, is this just ‘Murica? We have food wholesalers over here, like Costco, but they wouldn’t have the regular boxes of Jell-O.] [Wing: Institutional Foods just means foods served in bulk at certain places. Including schools. Yes, public schools and prisons get the same sort of category. I’m just going to leave that there. And also yes, a regular supermarket could have bulk foods. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve seen bulk pickles, mayonnaise, off-brand cereal, ketchup, and peanut butter. In fact, they’re often in larger sizes than at Costco.] They find a pack that makes 5 gallons of Jell-O. So, just need to make up 100 of them. Oh, and they can only find lime or strawberry, no grape. And these Unicorns are not willing to make Jell-O in any other colour than purple. Mandy says that they can mix them, green and red makes purple. Apparently nobody knows that red and green makes brown, and they all decide she is a genius. Heads are going to roll later. [Raven: The Uncorns – Dunking You In Shit Since 1986.]

There are only enough packets to make 25 gallons, they need 500, so ask to speak to the manager. They ask if he can source enough Jell-O for them, even remembering to ask if he can get grape. He says grape doesn’t come in bulk, which is awfully convenient for the side-splitting B plot, but he can get lime and strawberry for them. They tell him what it’s for and he says, “Now I’ve heard it all.” Apparently falling into goop is mind-blowingly new in Sweet Valley. He says he might show up to the fair.

Sunday afternoon, Elizabeth’s room. Jessica makes a fabulous entrance showing off what she’s wearing to Bruce Patman’s pool party. It’s a billion bracelets, scarves and floaty things to make her look all ~mysterious~ and totally own the name The Incredible Madame Jessica. Elizabeth reminds her it’s a pool party. Elizabeth is wearing a swim suit, cover and shorts. She’s also carrying a bag that contains Sophia Rizzo’s birthday present for the second time this year. This may explain why the Rizzos are so poor. If you give each kid two birthdays a year, costs are going to mount up.

Jessica feigns a mystic voice and says that she has a vision that if she gets in the pool something terrible will happen. Elizabeth asks like what, and Jessica says she doesn’t know, she’d just rather tell fortunes.

Elizabeth panics. She’s seen this terrifying glint in her sister’s eyes before, and Elizabeth is worried Jessica will get carried away and Elizabeth will be caught up in everything. Wow. Elizabeth is finally learning.

Sunday afternoon, Patman pool deck. Jessica announces that The Incredible Madame Jessica has arrived. And everyone reacts just like you’d expect normal twelve year olds to. Bruce points out that Halloween is months away (true, it was Halloween three books ago, which means at least six more until it’s Halloween again). Jessica counters that the next three months will not be fun for him, she has foreseen it. Jessica adds that she’ll be telling fortunes at the fair, but will give previews now for $1. Bruce, Brian (yep, him, the Nazi), and Denny laugh. Brian cannonballs into the pool and gets Jessica’s shoes all wet.

She moves on to the Unicorns, and even they mock her. Even Ellen couldn’t care less. Ellen.

Just then, Ellen Riteman joined them. “Hey, Ellen,” Jessica said. “I’m giving a preview of my fortune-telling booth today. For just one dollar, I will gaze into your future—”

“That’s nice, Jessica,” Ellen said quickly, dismissing Jessica with a wave of her hand. “Did you guys hear about Sally Holcomb?”

Janet glanced at Ellen over her magazine. “What about her?”

“She went out with a high school boy!”

“So what?” Jessica said impatiently. “That’s old news. Now, about my fortune-telling—”

Holy shit. Sally Holcombe is still alive? I thought Jessica buried her in the Mercandy backyard for having the audacity to have boobs and talk to Billie Layton’s man. [Raven: I have literally no clue who she is.]

Jessica tells them they’re all jealous of her psychic abilities, and she’s going to have the best booth in the fair.

Sunday afternoon, Patman BBQ area. Patrick Morris (remember him? No. SEXY INSTRUMENTS, GUYS! Yeah, now you remember.) is manning the BBQ while Sophia looks on admiringly. He’s so helpful and sensitive. It’s not even his party and he’s cooking for everyone. Whatta man. He hasn’t said a word about her birthday yet, so it must be a fabulous surprise. Sophia is channelling Jessica, when she considers maybe it’s flowers or jewellery. I don’t know why these girls keep expecting boys to act like dudes in romance novels. These boys are basically on the level of “girls have cooties” and they’re barely a step away from sliding on their knees across the floor at dances. They are never going to sweep any girl off their feet. And you’d think practical Sophia might know that. Jessica arrives and offers to tell their fortune, but they’re not interested, even when she halves the price. Sophia and Patrick say they’re busy.

Sunday afternoon, Patman pool party. Jessica approaches Elizabeth and Todd and offers to tell Todd’s fortune. She offers him a “discount”, saying that she usually charges a dollar, and ignoring the fact that nobody has taken her up on it.

“Jessica!” Elizabeth said sharply. “This is a party. You shouldn’t be charging people.”

Jessica shrugged. “Everything has a price tag, Elizabeth. Do you think Bruce got all this food for free just because it was for a party? If I provide entertainment, I deserve to be paid.”

Jessica, never change. Elizabeth points out that Bruce didn’t hire her, but Jessica says that she is a saint, doing this for the library, and it will raise money for boring old books for boring people like Elizabeth, Todd and the rest of Team Boring. This wins Elizabeth over. BOOKS > MORALS.

Jessica approaches Peter DeHaven (which one is he???) and Sarah Thomas, but they’re not interested. She sees that Patrick Morris is by himself, so tells him that he agreed to have his fortune told after he was done cooking. He is worn down by her.

Jessica gleefully announces to the party that she has a victim and will tell his fortune in the pool house. For some reason, even though nobody cares in the slightest, they all follow her. [Raven: It was only a few people who were watching the volleyball, but your point stands regardless.]

After much showmanship (eyes closed, moaning, etc., make your own joke), she predicts a terrible fight with Sophia. Well, a girl with dark hair and initials S.R. Patrick says that he and Sophia don’t fight, they’re together. Jessica says they won’t be tomorrow.

Patrick is unimpressed and walks off. The crowd is losing interest and Jessica challenges them all to have their fortunes told. Nobody volunteers. Silently, Jessica wills Elizabeth to volunteer, and eventually she does. Jessica predicts that Elizabeth will flunk a history test this week.

Everyone announces that this is bollocks. They leave in disgust.

Sunday afternoon, Patman mansion. Sophia is waiting for her mother to pick her up. Patrick seems distracted, and he still hasn’t mentioned her birthday. Patrick asks why they would fight, and Sophia can think of one really big reason.

Monday morning, the halls of Sweet Valley Middle School. Sophia is furious. Patrick hasn’t even wished her a happy birthday. Ouch. Been there. It absolutely sucks. She sees Patrick, confronts him – calls him a cretin – and tells him it didn’t need to be a huge gesture, but just a little thing to show he cared enough to remember her birthday. Then she storms off.

Monday lunch, Unicorner. Jessica delights in telling everyone that Sophia and Patrick broke up. Lila – Lila? – points out that Jessica is being massively heartless by being happy about this. Aaron drops by their table to say it’s cool that she’s psychic, but the Unicorns are not convinced. Lila reminds her that she predicted Elizabeth would flunk a history test, and there’s no way that’s happening.

Tuesday morning, Mr Nydick’s class. Elizabeth waits for her graded paper to come back. So far everyone seems happy with their grades. Well, that stands to reason. It was pretty damned easy. So it’s a tad sobering that she receives a big red F. She flicks through the test and realises that she missed an entire page of questions. Lila asks if she’s ok, and Elizabeth explains the situation. Lila is now Starting To Believe.

[Wing: I have a hard time believing one page dropped her to an F and not a low C or high D.] [Dove: Very valid point. If there were only three pages, it would be a third of her grade, assuming she got the other two pages right, and she usually does. I would assume an F represents getting most questions wrong.]

Tuesday afternoon, Elizabeth’s room. Jessica tries hard to be sad for Elizabeth and her first ever F, but is elated that she accurately predicted the future. And literally nothing happens.

Thursday morning, school library. Amy thinks that it’s pretty unlikely that Jessica could have guessed two correct happenings. [Raven: I agree with Amy, but because it’s bad writing rather than because Jessica is psychic. I think this is one of the reasons I ultimately disliked the book. It’s full of predictions which come true, without them being sufficiently vague to be dismissed as coincidence, or sufficiently foreshadowed to Jessica in order for her to creatively deduce them. If we’d have had a few lines where Jess sees Liz give Sophia her present while also noticing that Patrick seems oblivious, or a few lines in which she and Liz discuss the history test and it’s obvious that Liz doesn’t remember some questions (or something), that’d be cool. But no, she plumps for wild stabs that Patrick and Sophia will be split up by the end of the day, and that the academically indestructible Elizabeth Wakefield actually fails a specific History test, without ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THEY WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN, and yet both come true. Too fucking much without giving us adequate explanation and reasoning, Ghostie. Poor.] Elizabeth is distracted by Jerry McAllister dropping a book in the drop-off box. Elizabeth marches over and asks him if the book is late. Then she yanks it out (is that possible? Ours used to be a box with a book-sized slot that only the librarian could open) and chastises him for it being two weeks overdue. Jerry counters that he’s not paying a fine, he didn’t read it at all on those late days. Elizabeth guilts him by saying nobody else could read it on those days either. Jerry grudgingly pays the fine while Elizabeth continues to lecture him.

Um, Elizabeth, you don’t fucking work there. It’s not your job. Get back in your box.

Amy says that Elizabeth was pretty harsh, and at least he paid the fine, but Elizabeth is het up. Why should she be grateful that he paid something he was obligated to pay. Elizabeth now wonders if the amnesty plan is a good one. She is not about to let people off the hook.

Oh god, the return of Elizabeth the Impossible.

Kid, it’s not your job, it’s not your fair, you’re just manning the booth. You don’t get to make school policy. If someone’s not planning on returning a book, they’re not going to pay the fine either. So offering to waive the fine to get the book back is the best win you can get. With the fine in place, you get no book and no money. It sucks, but that’s how it is. Ms Luster fucking explained this to you.

Thursday lunchtime, the lunch room. Multiple people are now begging for Jessica’s fortune-telling skills. Jessica announces, in third person of course, that Madame Jessica will not see anyone until the school fair. She heads over to the Unicorner while complaining about her popularity. Janet says she made two lucky guesses [Raven: THEY WEREN’T GUESSES. THEY WERE FUCKING LUDICROUS IDEAS THAT HAD NO BUSINESS BEING TRUE.]. Jessica is in turbo Jessica mode and claims that she’s always been psychic but her parents wanted her to have a normal life. Lila seems to be buying this a little more. Because she wants to know who is going to ask her out. Jessica says she can do that and Lila, Ellen, Tamara and Kimberley are all won over. Jessica says no fortunes before the fair, it wouldn’t be fair on everyone else.

Janet snorted. “The only reason you won’t tell any fortunes before Saturday is because you know they won’t come true, and then you’ll be sitting in your booth all alone, wishing you’d stuck with the Unicorns!”

Eeeeyup. [Raven: I actually like her Keep ‘Em Keen marketing strategy. Go Jess!]

Morning, the first Saturday in (second) April, the old fire station. The twins are dropped off by Ned. Jessica wonders why they’re holding the fair for the middle school at the fire station. I think that’s an excellent question, but Elizabeth doesn’t because Jessica focuses on how dirty it will be inside. Elizabeth says they were lucky to find a place big enough to house all the booths.

*raises hand* I can think of two places: the main hall where they have all those dances, or the school field, which is now regulation size to play fucking football on. But sure, the abandoned fire station is literally the only place a school could host so many people. Oh, now they explain it. They’re going to leave all the booths set up between the weekly fairs. Ok. That makes more sense.

Saturday morning, Elizabeth’s booth. Elizabeth sets up her booth and Ms Luster comes up to her and asks if she can set up a notebook to track what books come back and how overdue they are. I feel that’s something that should’ve been organised beforehand. If it was now, I’d suggest a spreadsheet. Do an export of all overdue books and tick them off as they come in, get the sheet to total up the longest overdue and the highest cost. But since it’s then, a notepad with ruled lines. [Wing: For the older books, they would have been purged from the overdue list already, though. They’re not kept on the list indefinitely.] [Dove: THEN SEND AN OFFICE JUNIOR TO THE BASEMENT TO FETCH THE PRINTED OUT BACKUPS. I WILL HAVE PERFECT DATA GOING BACK TO THE DAWN OF HUMANITY.]

Elizabeth now starts to make a sign offering a free pizza to the most overdue book. Now? What the fuck is wrong with you? What on earth were you making a poster for last week when Jessica tried to get you involved in her silly nonsense? Why are you doing everything three seconds before people arrive? WING I CAN’T TAKE IT. I HATE DISORGANISED PEOPLE. I HATE PEOPLE WHO DO EVERYTHING LAST MINUTE. I HATE A LACK OF PREPARATION. I HATE THE LACK OF BUFFER BETWEEN NOW AND OPENING TIME. WHAT IF IT ALL GOES WRONG? WHY DIDN’T SHE PREP? I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW. [Wing: Seriously, what poster did she make last week? I get that at the time they were waiting to see if the prize would be pizza, but there has been plenty of time since then. I’m with Dove, total fail here.]

(Wing once wrote a character with several of my personality traits regarding organisation and lateness. She even managed to make them sound normal and reasonable. It was very pleasant for me.) [Wing: <3]

She is just stepping back to admire her hastily drawn and half-arsed sign (my skin is crawling) when Mr Bowman arrives to say that he’s had A Tale of Two Cities since the start of the school year. Which is at least a couple of years now.

Elizabeth now has to set up the notebook to record incoming books (WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU????) while Mr Bowman waits (WAITING! YOU’RE RUINING HIS ENTIRE PROCESS, YOU IDIOT!). And by this, I mean she writes some headings then makes him fill it in.

I cannot deal with Elizabeth right now. She’s last-minute, slap-dash and lazy. I’d rather be dealing with Elizabeth the Impossible right now. At least she prepared.

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth. Jessica is attempting to charge $5 per reading. Ms Luster calls her out on it and Jessica says professional psychics charge $25. Ms Luster insists on 50c per reading. Jessica plans to murder her later. When Jessica steps out to her booth, there’s a huge cheer. She has a line round the block and people are chanting “We want Madame Jessica!”, which is really hard to chant. Try it. See? It’s hard, right? The cadence is completely off. It would be easier to chant either, “We want Jess!” or “Mad–am Jessica” (say her name fast). [Raven: There’s also sign saying readings cost $5 apiece, which gets edited down despite the fact that there’s a fucking huge queue that have all seen the sign and are there anyway. Ms Luster has definitely missed a trick there. Also, the chant works as “We-Want-Ma-Dam-Jess-i-ca”, seven syllables of equal stress and length.] [Wing: What Raven said RE the chant. I like the marked-down sign. It makes people think they’re getting a deal (a sale price) even if they’re not.]

Aaron is her first customer. She sees him walking off the basketball court, being yelled at by the coach and being suspended.

Saturday morning, Elizabeth’s booth. Elizabeth is seconds away from murdering Tom McKay. That asshat has had a book for over a year. He found it last summer. LAST SUMMER. Elizabeth wants to stab stab stab! Tom says if he’d have known how much grief he’d have gotten, he wouldn’t have returned it at all. Ms Luster tries to calm things down by thanking him and saying he might win a free pizza from Guido’s for the longest overdue book. Elizabeth sulks. Not paying the fine should be reward enough. Bruce Patman says Tom should’ve kept the book until the end of the fair, what if someone brings something back that is overdue more than his by a week? [Wing: With the idea being that if they do, he should have just kept the book he clearly doesn’t actually want? Weird logic there, Patman.]

Elizabeth says to Ms Luster they shouldn’t be rewarding them with pizza. Ms Luster says again that anything to get the books back is worth doing.

Elizabeth is not placated.

[Wing: Elizabeth, wasn’t this entire booth your idea? Why are you being such a little shit over this?]

Saturday morning, Unicorn booth. Things are not going well. The Jell-O is not wibbly, it’s liquid. They ran out of boiling water, so they used cold. They were adding ice to make it set (really???) and the ice has melted. So basically they have purple water. Coach Cassels comes in and says they must be ready to go by now. Just use it as-is. Since nobody knew it was supposed to be Jell-O, this isn’t the end of the world. Coach mentions how popular Jessica’s booth is and this motivates Janet to go ahead with purple water.

So, red and green makes purple, does it? I thought that was going to be the funny pay off. That the water would be brown. Ok, whatevs. [Raven: Explains why the SVMS Science Department is so fucking weak.]

Saturday morning, Elizabeth’s booth. There are a huge amount of returned books. Ms Luster is happy. Amy is amazed. Elizabeth wants to cut a bitch. A whole slew of bitches. A whole slew of low-down stinkin’ book-hoarding bitches. Charlie returns a magazine that puts him in the lead for most overdue book. Elizabeth is furious that this is SERIOUS BUSINESS and all people can think about is PIZZA like they’re being REWARDED for being SELFISH ASSHOLES.

Calm the fuck down, Karen. [Raven: I like this overblown Elizabeth. She’s almost a parody of her morally earnest usual self.]

A dude turns up with a Guinness Book of World Records from 1978 that he checked out in 1979. Charlie is alarmed that he won’t win now, surely it can’t go to a non-student, Charlie whines. Elizabeth says very snippily that avoiding the fine is reward enough.

Ms Luster pointedly says that Elizabeth has been working super hard and it’s probably time for a break.

Elizabeth glanced down at her feet. Maybe she was going a little overboard. But it bothered her to see people taking such advantage of the library amnesty project.

Dude. That is what amnesty is for. You don’t politely decline amnesty. Fuck off.

Saturday morning, somewhere with food. Todd and Elizabeth get hot dogs. Patrick walks over with his saxophone (SEXY INSTRUMENTS) and asks if they’ve seen Sophia. He blames Jessica for them not coming together. Now, we all agree that Jessica is a manipulative, self-absorbed, psychopath with no regard for anything beyond her own agenda, however, it was nothing to do with Jessica that Patrick forgot his girlfriend’s birthday. Even Elizabeth says so.

Patrick sadly walks off, and Todd tells Elizabeth that Jessica has been predicting nothing but doom and gloom, but people are eating it up regardless. Elizabeth says that she’ll take some food to her sister.

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth. Elizabeth overhears Jessica predicting that Bruce Patman will sprain his ankle. Then Sarah Thomas will get her braces tightened, and Anna Reynolds will lose the cute leather jacket she’s wearing. Then Jessica takes a lunch break. Elizabeth asks why all the fortunes are so gloomy, Jessica says the future is not always bright. [Raven: “I’m getting the word…. nonce.”

]

Saturday afternoon, Unicorn booth. Jessica wanders over to the booth after closing to mock the lack of Jell-O. Then she gloats she made $38 today, which means she told 76 fortunes? She must be quick. The Unicorns “barely made two”. Once again, battle lines are drawn, Jessica is smug, Janet is furious. It’s BATTLE OF THE BOOTHS!

Saturday evening, Wakefield kitchen. Elizabeth is still going on about how late the books were. One was checked out in 1972, which is “more than twenty years”. I mean, that’s technically true now, but it’s closer to fifty. Does everyone else feel old?

The parents are saying isn’t it wonderful the fair is working, but Elizabeth is fucking steaming. Steven points out that when her books are overdue, it’s only a couple of days, and she always pays the fines, she adds virtuously.

You wanna know whose library books have never been late? This girl. All that agitation and OCD up the page? Net result is no lateness.

[Wing: Until I started being able to check out ebooks, my library books were almost always late. I’m also bad at mailing things.] [Dove: But on the other hand, you rented a hotel room because you considered the logistics of getting to the airport on time too difficult, so we were all on time. Well, half a day early. It was excellent.]

My childhood library would argue that I once lost a library book, but actually I didn’t. I stole it and paid for it. It was a copy of The Neverending Story, which has been one of my favourite books of all time since the first time I read it as a kid. It was not available in the book shop. Ordering it would have to be in hardback and it was too expensive, I couldn’t afford the book and the ordering fee and the plastic book jacket that I always bought to keep my precious books tidy (oh yes, I’m one of those girls) and then someone told me that if you lose a library book the fine is a flat £7 on kids’ books. So I called the library and politely explained that the book had fallen out of my school bag and I no longer had it. They put a £7 charge on my account and I paid it when I next went in. And that’s how I “stole” The Neverending Story. I’m a little less of an asshole than Bastian Balthazar Bux was. Since then, I buy a copy any time I see it. I have several copies, but my holy grail copy would be a hardback, bound in copper silk, with the Auryn on the cover. I don’t think such a thing exists.

Back to this unending story, Jessica predicts that an even older book will surface. Talk then turns to the success of Jessica’s booth, and Jessica offers to predict Steven’s future. He says no, he’s heard about her fortune telling, and he wouldn’t want her to feel guilty if he got hurt. Jessica asks why would she feel guilty (ha), she only predicts the future, it’s not her fault when it happens.

Monday morning, school hallway. Sophia spots Patrick. It’s been seven days since they last spoke and she’s really hoping that he’s ready to apologise. He makes his way over and asks if she’s forgiven him yet. Maybe it’s not the Jamie’s intention, but it comes across as a very smug, “D’awww, are you over your little snit yet?” kind of thing.

Sophia had been hoping for more. Yeah. I know I said she was shooting for the stars by hoping he’d do something super mature and romantic for her birthday, but you’d think that at some point over the past seven days, he’d have realised that a birthday is an important date, and forgetting it makes you a complete tool, and perhaps saying a half-hearted sorry and then asking if she’s forgiven him, is not enough. But no, Patrick is clueless. He asks what more does she want, are they going to break up just because Jessica said so?

Sophia stopped walking. “Who said we’re going to break up because of Jessica?”

Patrick smiled. “So you do forgive me?”

No, asshole. She’s still mad. You didn’t explain why you forgot, so she’s working on the assumption that you don’t care, and since you don’t have a reason, I think she’s right. For fuck’s sake. Somebody throw this kid back into that condemned building. [Raven: It’d be amazing if he finally apologises by stripping to the waist, oiling up, and playing her Careless Whisper on his sax in the school canteen.]

Patrick asks for clarification and Sophia walks off without giving it to him. And for the sake of balance, if he’s too dim to catch on, she should either break up with him because she doesn’t want to deal with stuff like this, or she should explain it to him, because he’s clearly not getting it.

Monday, science class. This Jamie has no idea that Bruce is a year older than the sixth graders, because he’s in science class with Jessica. He’s on crutches and his leg is bandaged from toe to knee due to torn ligaments while sliding home in baseball.

Jessica gloats that she saw this coming. Bruce counters that she made it happen. Mr Siegel then walks in and class begins, apparently with both sixth and seventh graders present. I’m sure Wing will say this is plausible, and I won’t deny that. I’m saying we’ve been in science class before and Bruce wasn’t in it. [Wing: Not really plausible. They’d still be split by grade at that point in most schools. It’s just more lack of continuity.]

Jessica tries to derail class by talking about her psychic ability. Mr Siegel deals with it effortlessly, which makes him probably the most competent teacher in the entire school:

“Jessica, if you really are psychic, you should already know that this discussion is over,” Mr. Siegel said. “But for the rest of you who were not blessed with Jessica’s unique vision, let’s turn to page one seventy-eight in our texts.”

Monday, English class. Elizabeth notices that Anna Reynolds is crying. Since Anna is deaf, Asian and in distress, Elizabeth nearly explodes with joy at the trifecta of fuckupery she can set right through the power of should-pats. Also, Cammi Adams is present, except they’ve spelled her name wrong as “Cammie”. Super fail. Anna is upset because she’s lost her leather jacket. Elizabeth offers to look with Anna and Cammi for the jacket and as they’re ready to head to the locker room to check there, Jessica shows up and is tactlessly delighted that another of her predictions came true. [Raven: Again, too random. How about a story in which Jess tries to prove she’s psychic by predicting shit that she’s secretly doing behind the scenes? “You’re going to lose your jacket…” *yeets jacket into the sea when Cammi isn’t looking*]

Monday, locker room. Bizarre cut to them at the locker room – for the love of fuck, learn to transition better, then you don’t have to cut [Raven: Yeah, Ghostie! You could just start each paragraph with the day and location, in bold! *runs for cover*] [Dove: I have made a style choice, and it’s your own fault for not adopting it. Also, I did it once and then I thought I’d better stick to it. Doing it once would be weird.] – and there’s still no sign of it. Jessica is irritatingly gleeful and couldn’t care less when Elizabeth chides her for it.

Monday night/Tuesday morning, Jessica’s dream. Jessica is being interviewed by scores of admiring reporters who want to know all the details on how she psychically located a bomb and save LA from going sky high. Unlike Final Destination, nobody thinks her “psychic ability” is actually down to the fact she planted the bomb.

Monday night/Tuesday morning, Jessica’s bedroom. Jessica bolts upright hearing thunder and congratulates herself for being so superbly psychic.

Wednesday morning, school hallway. Aaron repeatedly slams his locker door, drawing Janet’s ire. He’s pissed off because he’s been suspended from the team. He dropped below a C average. He should have listened to Jessica, who knew she had real powers?

Janet is like:

Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!

She mutters that she wouldn’t have her fortune read, it’s like having a curse put on you. Aaron, deep thinker that he is, takes her seriously and asks if she really thinks Jessica has that kind of power. Janet decides to be all vague and “Gosh, a lot of terrible things have happened lately, haven’t they?” *thoughtful chin tap* Aaron says he’ll spread the good word. His first port of call is Bruce Patman.

OH HOLY JESUS, PLEASE LET THIS END WITH A “BURN THE WITCH” SCENE. [Raven: All would be forgiven.]

Wednesday morning, school hallway (somewhere else). Jessica runs into someone, knocking books flying. She has sent a red-haired seventh grader over. The girl recognises her as the fortune teller. Jessica offers to read her future, but the girl nopes the hell out of there at warp speed.

Jessica spots Olivia Davidson, whom she was hoping would design a t-shirt for her, but Olivia runs off. She approaches Sarah Thomas instead, who’s running a design-your-own-t-shirt booth with Olivia. She asks about a custom t-shirt and Sarah is hesitant. Jessica offers to pay her in exposure with a reading, and Sarah takes off, also at warp speed.

Wednesday, unknown time, school library. Jerry McAllister gets Elizabeth’s attention where he asks her for a book on literally anyone who’s made a difference in the past hundred years. Elizabeth lists off computers and TV as things that have happened in the past hundred years, and Jerry asks her to help him find a book on the dude who invented TV. She looks up a book for him and tells him how to find it.

Then stops.

IS HE GOING TO BORROW A MOTHERFUCKING BOOK FROM THIS GODDAMNED LIBRARY? WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?

Elizabeth could take it no longer. How many damned times would she see someone carelessly check out one of her beloved books? She launched herself forward at full speed, landing heavily on Jerry. She saw the innocent book in his grimy hand, and thought, “Never again.”

As Jerry gaped at her in shock, Elizabeth lunged forward, teeth bared and bit out his throat. Jerry gurgled weakly on his own blood. He tried to speak – perhaps to apologise one last time for the overdue book fine he never paid – but all that came out were bubbles of blood.

Elizabeth got to her feet and looked down at him pityingly. “It didn’t have to be this way, Jer,” she said. She stooped and picked up the book. She cradled it lovingly in her arms before returning it to the shelf where it lived.

As she wiped the blood from her mouth, she muttered, “Another goddamn book saved. But it’s a ceaseless and senseless war. For every book I save, two more are lost. And I start to wonder, what’s the point? Some days I dream of burning this whole library to the ground. Better that the books die with their protector, than be taken away by the monstrous beasts that roam the desolate halls of Sweet Valley Middle School.” She hoisted her shotgun over her shoulder and staked out the card catalogue.

She caressed the zippo lighter in her pocket. “Soon.” And she knew it was not a mere idea.

It was a promise.

[Raven: *blinks* Nice.] [Wing: I’d read the hell out of that series.]

Well, obviously she doesn’t. She gives him a lengthy lecture about returning books on time. Jerry is deeply irritated. Not irritated enough to write parody dystopian fanfic about it, but nearly.

(And now I kind of want to commission someone to draw me dystopian Elizabeth in cammo gear, weapons at the ready, all for the love of her books, while she dreams of the purity of fire.)

Wednesday lunchtime, the Unicorner. Nobody is sitting with Jessica. She thinks it’s because she’s a celebrity, but that doesn’t explain where the Unicorns are. She can’t eat lunch alone, she’s a fucking star. She spots Elizabeth and Team Boring, plus Cammi Adams, Lloyd Benson and Winston Egbert. Still, boring is better than nothing. She joins them and everyone but Elizabeth immediately vacates the premises. They tell her not to say a word to them, they don’t want to know their futures.

Jessica asks what’s up with them and Elizabeth says they were worried she’d tell their futures. Jessica is aghast. As if she’d do that for free – for nerds of all people! Then she realises that they have scruples (a word synonymous to me with fandom_wank), they don’t want free fortunes, they want to pay for the good of the library. Elizabeth says no. Basically, Jessica is a witch and nobody wants to be cursed by her. Jessica is very… Jessica about it all.

“You didn’t hurt my feelings, Lizzie,” Jessica said, squaring her shoulders. “Some people have a hard time dealing with bad things. Is that my problem?”

Elizabeth gazed at her sister thoughtfully. “It is if nobody wants to have anything to do with you.”

Wednesday afternoon, school hallway. Jessica tries to catch up with Aaron, but he’s too quick. She walks past some Unicorns who make snide comments about how it’s lonely at the top. Jessica is near tears. She’s glad everyone’s taking her seriously, but damnit, she wants to be popular too. She vows to do something so that people are no longer afraid of her.

Wednesday afternoon, Elizabeth’s room. Jessica walks in and announces that she’s going to change her strategy, she’s only going to tell good fortunes from now on. She wants to test out her positive powers on Elizabeth. Elizabeth protests, but gets nowhere because her spine is like overcooked pasta. Jessica predicts that Elizabeth is going to find something of value that’s been lost for a long time.

Wednesday afternoon, Elizabeth’s room. After dinner when Elizabeth returns to her room, her math homework is missing. She hunts down Steven and asks him to help her move her dresser, she thinks it fell down the back. He grudgingly assists her and they find both her homework and her copy of Black Beauty. Actually, not her copy. This copy belongs to Sweet Valley Elementary School and should have been returned four years ago.

As Elizabeth grasped the book, the book that should not – could not – be, she realised that she was no better than the monsters she’d been fighting against.

She felt something go dark inside of her. The bright burning light that had always guided her so strongly. It was now a void – a black hole, even – and it was sucking her down into the darkness.

For so long she had been fighting. The last bastion of righteousness in the library. She had been so sure she was right.

She looked out of the library windows. She had always taken the twisted faces for those of the other students. She thought it was their hungry faces looking in on her, trying to take what was hers.

But it was just her reflection. Her own greed and hubris reflected back at her.

She waved, and the twisted person in the window waved with her. They were the same.

The book, Black Beauty, fell open, and Elizabeth’s eye scanned the page. A sentence jumped out at her. “I wish I may drop down dead at my work, and not be sent off to the knackers.

Well. The gods of the library had spoken.

Elizabeth reached for the zippo.

Actually, Elizabeth has her own flight of fancy too. Mine may have been pre-emptive. [Raven: You’ve found your NaNo.] [Wing: Please.]

Wednesday night/Thursday morning, Elizabeth’s dream. Elizabeth is in court, filthy and ugly. She is being sentenced for keeping the library book. The crowd demands she be hanged for it. [Wing: It’s no burn the witch, but we’re getting closer.]

Wednesday night/Thursday morning, Elizabeth’s bedroom. Black Beauty sits there like the tell-tale heart or whatever. Elizabeth is awash with shame over her hypocrisy. She thinks that maybe she could just sneak it into the pile of books for the book amnesty, and then this happens.

Elizabeth shivered. What’s happening to me? she thought. It’s like I’m becoming a hardened criminal or something.

But now that she knew she had kept a library book out for four whole years, it seemed as if she were capable of just about anything.

Apparently Elizabeth is just as fond of hyperbole as Jessica. [Raven: I actually like this Elizabeth. She’s truly the same as her sister, but different.]

Friday morning, school hallway. Jessica is wearing her floaty fortune-telling costume and has decided that chasing terrified people through the halls and trying to force her fortunes on them is going to make people less scared. It goes about as well as you might expect.

Friday lunchtime, the lunch room. Jessica goes to the middle of the room and loudly proclaims that she is telling only good fortunes now. Everyone studiously ignores her. She appeals to Patrick and Bruce, offering them good fortunes. Patrick runs for his life and Bruce tells her to strongly do one. Finally, Cammi steps forward. She’s already having a shit day, so it can’t get much worse.

Jessica predicts that Cammi is going to win a prize. Cammi seems happy with that. Randy Mason is next up. He gets told he’ll be let out of class early. Bruce and Jerry wish they’d gotten that one, so they volunteer to go next.

Friday afternoon, phys ed class. They’re playing volleyball, and Cammi sucks at it. Jessica tries to help, knowing that she owes Cammi for earlier, and sends a light ball her way. Cammi flails and it hits Belinda Layton on the head. Everyone says that Cammi gets the booby prize for playing. Cammi, near tears, thanks Jessica for her sucky fortune. [Raven: See, this one is fine, because they reference Jessica’s prediction when awarding the Booby Prize. A shame the others were all just unbelievably random.]

Friday afternoon, math class. Jessica is called on for an answer, but is interrupted by Randy having an asthma attack so severe that Ms Wyler has to call the office. Jessica is now two for two on her predictions. Also, Bruce Patman is in this class, even though he really shouldn’t be.

In the hallway as they leave class, Janet again makes a snide comment that Jessica is cursing everyone.

Saturday morning, school fair, Elizabeth’s booth. Elizabeth has the book ready and is waiting for her moment to sneak it in. Ms Luster says she’s going to get a cup of coffee, and Elizabeth gets ready to… be interrupted by Patrick Morris returning a book. They make awkward small talk about the nerve of some people returning books years late, before Patrick asks if Sophia’s mentioned him at all. He can’t believe he forgot her birthday. Elizabeth suggests he visit the booth selling flowers. He brightens. Then he suggests he try to win her a large stuffed animal. Elizabeth wishes he would just fuck off so she can stash the book. Also, it will take him forever to win it, but whatevs, she’s got books to stash.

And that’s when Aaron rocks up, ready to introduce his Grandma (not the dead one) who needs to return a book that she borrowed in 1962. The book? Black Beauty. Aaron asks if anyone has a book more overdue than this one, and Elizabeth says not so far.

And then Ms Luster returns, so Elizabeth’s evil plans are thwarted.

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth. Literally nobody is at Jessica’s booth. Everyone’s excited about the Unicorn booth. Now that they’ve worked out the kinks, it’s a big hit. Janet wanders past and they trade insults. In desperation, Jessica lowers her price to 5c. [Raven: Shoulda put the price UP. Make the crowd wonder what they are missing.]

Nothing happens all morning. Over lunch, Chinese food, Jessica decides to stop “using her powers” and just give fortunes like in fortune cookies.

At this point Jerry McAllister moseys over and says he might as well get his fortune read for the bargain price of 5c, since the line for the dunking booth is taking ages. Jessica employs her new strategy and tells Jerry it’s better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. He tells her she’s “off her rocker”.

Next up comes Peter Burns (which Peter? [Raven: This Peter.]), and the exchange amuses me.

Jessica put the nickel into her change box and took Peter’s hands. “Ask not, want not,” she told him in a serious voice.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Jessica shrugged. “My job is to give the fortune. Yours is to find meaning in it.”

“I see why you lowered the price to five cents,” Peter muttered as he walked away.

Saturday afternoon, Unicorn booth. Janet smugly notes that they’ve done far better than Jessica. Mr Siegel gets dunked by Peter Burns and the Unicorns agree they’ll be even busier when the principal, Mr Clark, is in the dunk seat next week.

Saturday afternoon, Elizabeth’s booth. Elizabeth tries to get Ms Luster a cup of coffee, but she only drinks coffee in the morning. Elizabeth tries to get her to take a break, but this only results in Ms Luster offering to man the booth while Elizabeth takes a break. Black Beauty remains in her bag.

Saturday afternoon, Jessica’s booth. Jessica’s in trouble. Jerry took her advice to heart and tried a pie eating contest. He lost and now he feels sick. This is her fault. He storms off and nearly knocks over Elizabeth, who asks what all that was about. Jessica explains the situation and Elizabeth tries to comfort her. She doesn’t actually point out that Jessica’s not psychic, she just shoulder-pats her.

Weekday (?), unknown time, school library. Jerry makes a big deal of returning his book and making it clear that it’s back early. Elizabeth apologises and then asks if he wants to keep the book longer. He says she’s weird.

Weekday, lunchtime, school hallway. Jessica sees Jerry, Peter Burns and Charlie in the halls. They avoid her like the plague. She heads outside, preferring not to be publicly alone, and finds a tree to sit under. Elizabeth is already under it. They talk. Jessica wonders if she’s cursing people even though she doesn’t mean to. Elizabeth finally confesses that she’s had a book since second grade. Jessica laughs at how feeble Elizabeth’s confession is and tells her just to put the book in the book amnesty booth. At least nobody hates her over it.

[Wing: I’d much rather this book be about Jessica accidentally cursing people, to be honest. Or intentionally cursing people.]

Weekday, unknown time, school library. Patrick announces he’s returned his book, Elizabeth tells him to put it in the drop box. Sophia enters. They eyeball each other then walk in different directions. Elizabeth feels her shoulder-pat urge coming on and asks Sophia what’s going on. Sophia says she really misses him, even though he forgot her birthday. Elizabeth says Patrick misses her too. Maybe Sophia should just say hi to him next time she sees him. [Raven: I also like how Liz was super distracted in this whole exchange. This Advice Offered schtick is her meat-and-two-veg, so it’s good to see her almost tossing it off because she has other things on her mind.]

Weekday, after school, Wakefield kitchen. Steven asks why the twins are so glum, Jessica’s sulking in the kitchen and Elizabeth is moping in the family room. Jessica says they have problems. Elizabeth’s is a no-brainer, but hers is terrible. Steven suggests they swap problems if it’s that easy. A murderously bright lightbulb goes off above Jessica’s head.

She charges into the family room and suggests they swap places. She’ll return the book and Elizabeth can tell fortunes. Because she’s not psychic, they won’t come true and everyone will stop hating Jessica. Elizabeth grudgingly agrees.

[Wing: Damn it, I was hoping that Jessica would switch to an advice booth, like being a live advice columnist.]

Saturday morning, Unicorn booth. Jerry McAllister is first in line to dunk Mr Clark and has a wad of bills to spend on his project. Unfortunately, Mr Clark is not there yet, and a huge line forms. Ms Langberg arrives and asks what the holdup is. When they tell her, she suggests one of the Unicorns get on the dunk seat. Janet is not a fan of this idea, but after a bit of arguing, she tells Ellen to get up there. (Finally, something that made me smile.) Mary suggests instead they draw straws. Lila ends up with the short straw. Lila is furious. She says she’ll sit up there for ten minutes, after that, someone else has to take over.

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth, manned by Elizabeth. Elizabeth is having last-minute doubts, but Jessica is overriding her. This plan will work.

Saturday morning, Unicorn booth. Lila goes in the water for the third time and demands someone else take over. Um, quick question, has that water been in the tank for three weeks? And it’s a Jell-O mix? So… sugar, flavouring, food colouring? All sitting there getting really gross for three weeks? I don’t blame Lila for wanting out. I bet it’s fucking foul. [Raven: Minging.] The crowd is baying for blood.

Saturday morning, Elizabeth’s booth, manned by Jessica. Jessica has a whole lengthy story prepped for the return of the book, involving a dear friend who moved away, and… well, she doesn’t have an ending, but she’s certain she will when she’s done talking. She hands the book to Ms Luster and that’s that. She thinks to herself that at least one of her predictions – that Elizabeth’s worries were over nothing – was right.

Saturday morning, Unicorn booth. Still no sign of Mr Clark. Bruce has dunked Lila, Mary and is going for Ellen now. Janet paces around in agitation. Pretty much every Unicorn has been in the chair and dunked. Any minute now they’re going to realise that Janet needs to take a turn, and she has no intention of being dunked. She’s out of here!

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth, manned by Elizabeth. Elizabeth is bored stiff. Thankfully, Janet arrives. Elizabeth remembers she’s supposed to be Jessica and tries to make conversation about the dunk tank. As they talk, Elizabeth realises that Janet is drawing out the moment to ensure she can’t go in the dunk tank, and Jessica would revel in this. She says that Janet either has to move or pay to have her fortune told. Elizabeth then tries to up the drama (quite Jessica-like, to be honest) and says that she sees Janet’s beautiful white blouse with a terrible stain on. A huge stain. Janet says if it comes true, “Jessica” is dead.

Saturday morning, Jessica’s booth, manned by Elizabeth. The twins catch each other up on what’s gone on and Jessica is mortified by Elizabeth’s prediction for Janet. What if it comes true and Janet thinks Jessica cursed her. She says they have to follow Janet to make sure it doesn’t come true.

Saturday morning, school fair. Patrick approaches Sophia with flowers and a toy bear (in pink. Pink. Sophia. Pink. Ok, Patrick.) and Sophia is charmed when she finds out that he won the toy bear for her, because he’s not really good at basketball and has been practicing every night. Also, he has a real present at home for her. And they’re back together. I don’t care, but at least the c-plot is over.

Saturday morning, school fair. The twins follow Janet to the hot dog booth. There’s some kind of kerfuffle with Sarah Thomas carrying paint (why? Fuck you for asking). The twins run towards her yelling, “Noooooooo!” and obviously this causes the clusterfuck. Paint everywhere. Except Janet’s blouse. The curse is broken. Yay.

Elizabeth says the predictions were nothing more than coincidences. Then a teacher shows up to disperse them. The Unicorns decide Janet needs to get in the dunk chair. It’s hysterical. Really. Laugh. [Raven: This is SUCH a weird ending.]

Saturday morning, Unicorn booth. Bruce and Jerry both fail to dunk Janet. Donald Zwerdling manages though. It’s funny because he’s a nerd. Oh the depth of the juxtaposition. Such clever. Many thinks.

Saturday afternoon, Wakefield bathroom. The twins are cleaning up after the fair, and Jessica says she’s going to keep her psychic predictions to herself.

Monday morning, school assembly. The fair raised over $400, $100 of which came from the Unicorns and $40 came from Jessica. Aaron’s grandmother wins the prize for the most overdue library book. The Unicorns and Jessica trash talk over who worked harder/raised more per headcount, etc., and then they see Coach Cassels talking to Brian Boyd (the Nazi). They wonder what he’s done wrong now… [Wing: I mean … Nazi.]

Final Thoughts:

I am so fucking done with books where Jessica thinks she’s psychic. Please let that be the last one. I’m so bored of this book over and over again. I don’t really have any final thoughts. I was bored and irritated throughout. I didn’t care about what was happening as I read and I barely remember what happened now I’ve finished (literally five minutes ago).

Boring as hell. But at least not offensive, like the voodoo or Holocaust ones. And that’s a really sad bar to have attached to the series.

[Raven: Overall, it’s a thumbs down from me. Sure, I enjoyed bits of it. Elizabeth the T-1000 Librarian was good value, as she was throughout the book to be honest, and Jessica’s massive overconfidence is always a pleasure, but the whole Psychic thing was so badly done that it left me very cold indeed. And quite frankly, it had such a bizarre and abrupt ending that I can only assume it went through serious cuts for length.

Oh, and why the hell was the school fair THREE SATURDAYS LONG?! Is that another ‘Murica thing? Seriously, for reality’s sake it would have been one single Saturday, or for Book Plot’s sake it could have comfortably been two.

Finally, four hundred dollars, for three Saturday’s of volunteer work from a set of middle school children and staff? It’s the early nineties, for fuck’s sake. I bet Lila has socks that cost more than that. Just tap up Daddy Fowler for a cheque and spare us this insipid nonsense.]

[Wing: I always wonder why Lila doesn’t wait and see whatever the largest amount of money is and then just have her dad top it. And no, I don’t understand why the school fair was three weekends in a row. That’s ridiculous and forced just for the plot to work. Or “work” as the case may be.

That being said, I didn’t dislike it the way Dove did. It’s a solid meh from me.]

I am Dove. I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror);  Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.

10 thoughts on “Sweet Valley Twins #93: The Incredible Madame Jessica

  1. “Mandy says that they can mix them, green and red makes purple. Apparently nobody knows that red and green makes brown, and they all decide she is a genius.”
    It bugged me so much that this never mattered. Apparently the ghostie failed kindergarten colors. I had not considered the ooze that this would have become over 3 weeks. (3 weekend carnival, totally not a thing.)

    I wish Liz knew how to look up information on a computer, then she could learn that eliminating late fees helps libraries.

    Your story about stealing The Neverending Story reminded me that I’ve done similar… I’ve found SV books listed as a general YA book, so I’ve checked them out, and returned other YA books in their place. Yes, I did that as an adult, so I rationalized that no one was reading them anymore *shame*

    I hope everyone is doing well <3

    1. Looking through my collection… Poor Lila is one of the uncataloged library books. I think you’ll approve lol.

  2. Regarding Lila and Janet,are they meant to be first cousins or second cousins,and on which side of the family?

    The Sweet Valley Book Club’s consensus,such as it is,is that they’re first cousins on the Fowler side. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    1. I always thought first cousins, but never gave it much thought to which side… It must be Fowler (George’s sister) because they couldn’t be related to absent mom Grace. That seems too cruel given how often Lila misses her mom.

      1. I side with Liz here. I always assumed first cousins. I figured if it was more complicated than that, they would have specified. I know that continuity isn’t a huge priority in this series, but given that they bring it up every book without fail, I’d assume they would have clarified if it was more complicated. Also, I dimly recall Janet calling Mr Fowler “Uncle George”, not that it particularly proves anything, but maybe if you squint, you can use it as evidence that she’s the daughter of one of his siblings?

        Basically, no evidence at all, just feelings and manipulating the text to back up my assumptions!

        1. I thought of something else – I believe Grace was an actress or model, which doesn’t line up as approved careers for an heiress, at least in the 80s.
          Given that Janet is also rich, she must be a Fowler.

          1. Ah! Surnames! That’s helpful. This could mean that Janet Howell is either the daughter of Mr Fowler’s sister – the man taking the woman’s name in the 80s is pretty much unheard of. For the sake of balance, she could equally be the daughter of Mrs Fowler’s sibling of either gender – do we know Mrs Fowler’s maiden name? If it’s not Howell, that narrows down things a bit further, but still imperfectly.

            Also, isn’t George Fowler “new money” according to the Patmans? So maybe he was only middle class before he made his millions?

            1. They are “new money,” and made their money through technology, I think some sort of chip, like Intel. I always thought it was odd that the hospital was named for Lila’s grandfather, but they could have bought naming rights at any time.

              It’s mostly the coincidence of two sides of the family being independently rich that I’m stuck on…

              A couple of the original prints of the first SVH books have a “special bonus” that have extra information about characters. Lila’s mom is only called Mrs Fowler and she’s described as having been a ‘bit actress’ in Hollywood before marrying George. There is also some juicy information about Lila that is not referenced again in the series.

              1. Reading SVH #125 in the pool:
                Specifies that Lila’s father was a self-made millionaire
                P.S. Wing, this book is “Camp Killer”: an urban legend come to life 😁🔪

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *