Title: Super Edition #2: Holiday Mischief
Summary: The Sweet Valley Middle School Choral Group is off to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national choral championship. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield and their friend Anna can’t wait to go. For the twins, it’s their first big trip away from home. For Anna, it’s her chance to find her long-lost sister Leslie, who she has just discovered is living in Washington, D.C.
Jessica comes up with a brilliant plan to bring Anna and Leslie back together again. But they don’t realize that their dangerous escapade is about to become an international news event!
Tagline: Excitement and danger await the twins in Washington, D.C.!
I can’t even bring myself to make a political joke right now. That is how much the world has worn me down. I’ll be back to fine form next time, and I hope Raven has just as much vitriol to share for this super edition as he did during his recap of The Class Trip. [Raven: I promise nothing,]
Oh, wait, one thing: remind me, last time, were the twins able to sing or not able to sing? I know back in the musical book, they could, but I could have sworn there was something since then that said they couldn’t. We’re only 26 books in, and I already can’t keep it straight.
[Dove: In Sweet Valley High they can’t sing more often than not, but I find in Twins they more often can sing than not. Maybe the Jamie Suzannes thought girls’ voices change as well as boys and that explains it?]
Jessica Wakefield is dramatically waving so Elizabeth can find her in the crowd filling the Sweet Valley Middle School auditorium. I’ve never really pictured the Sweet Valley school district as all that big, and while they do have new students all the time, people also keep conveniently moving away, so the class size shouldn’t grow all that much.
Elizabeth might as well have been looking at her mirror image.
Yes, yes, Jessica is like a living, breathing, murderous reflection. [Dove: #BestJess]
Elizabeth is quiet and more serious (if by that you mean intrusive and nosey, I’ll give it to you), Jessica is the gossipy master of thinking up new schemes (if by that you mean … actually, no, you’ve pegged her pretty great there, ghost writer). (Elizabeth, we’re told, wants to be a writer someday, more than anything else, and that is why she joined the staff of the Sweet Valley Sixers, the sixth grade newspaper. I believe you’ll find, ghostwriter, that she did not so much “join the staff” as she did “create the newspaper and take charge”.)
Jessica has also recently become interested in boys (oh, that Bruce Patman is so dreamy and he’s smiling at her right this moment, joy and glee), but Elizabeth doesn’t give a fuck. She also hates Jessica’s besties, the Unicorn Club (or, per Elizabeth, the Snob Squad. Oh, Elizabeth, you can be more creative than that. Try Raven’s Unigibbons, perhaps), though we don’t get any hate from Jessica toward Elizabeth’s besties, Amy and Julie. [Dove: She usually thinks they’re “boring”, and she’s not exactly wrong. They’re Elizabeth’s yes-(wo)men. Nothing interesting there.]
Apparently, this is not a special assembly, this is the regular all-school assembly that happens every Monday without fail, whatever am I talking about, never heard of it before. We have always
been at war with eastasia read about this assembly. Normally, the news is boring (which is why you don’t have weekly all-school assemblies, oh my god), but Elizabeth has some gossip that this time is going to be a special announcement about the middle school coral group. And here I thought Jessica was the Gossip. [Raven: We had weekly school assemblies. They were crap. But they were weekly.] [Wing: Why? What in the world did they tell you each week?]
Mr Clark, the principal, tells them that the Sweet Valley Choral Group that has of course existed in every single book we’ve read so far has once again been selected to represent southern California in the annual National Middle School Chorus Competition held in Washington, D.C., in early December.
You … you’re going to take a bunch of socal kids and dump them in D.C. in December? OH THIS IS GONNA BE GOOD.
Jessica grumbles that they didn’t sign up for choir because they had too much else going on, and they’re both sorry they didn’t choose choir as one of their after school activities. I mean, where would they have fit them in between basketball and softball and newspaper and the Unicorns and riding lessons and trips to the Dairi Burger and dog-walking (or do I mean nearly dog-murdering) jobs and on and on and on. [Dove: Plus all that murdering of characters who have one scene and are never seen again… I swear the Wakefields are offing them.] [Raven: I took this to be a nod to the astute reader who thinks the Wakefields do too much already. In-jokes ftw!]
What’s that? An unhappy Wakefield in Sweet Valley? CONVENIENCE FAIRY TO THE RESCUE. Conveniently, because the other schools have larger choirs, the Sweet Valley choir needs to add 10 new members. GEE. HOW FUCKING CONVENIENT.
Ms McDonald, the music teacher, and Mr Stefan, the choir teacher, will hold auditions on Thursday. AGAIN, CONVENIENTLY, Jessica reminds Elizabeth that Ms McDonald told them they had great soprano voices and should join the choir, so I’m guessing there will be no question of whether the Wakefield twins get to join without doing any of the hard work that led to the choir being chosen in the first place.
Ellen, one of the Unicorns, tells Jessica she’ll have no trouble getting in, she’s just nervous for herself. Jessica hopes that she, Ellen, and Dana, who is already in the choir and is one of the star singers, all get to take the trip together. Dana, you can just push all the newcomers down the stairs, no one will tell.
A bunch of other side characters start turning up:
Julie: can’t sing.
Amy: Going to visit her grandparents in Seattle for Christmas, and doesn’t think her parents would want her to go away right before the holidays.
Nora: (NORA! I love you, Nora!) Considering it, wants to go to Washington. (Nice thing to say in front of the star of the choir who has worked her ass off to make this trip possible in the first place.)
Anna Barrett: Not actually a standard side character, but Elizabeth’s mettling case for this book, she told Nora she’s going to audition. [Dove: Yet another character that, after this book, is never seen again. Ever. We need a “Missing, presumed dead” tag for them.] [Wing: Love it.]
That night, they tell their parents, and of course, Ned and Alice say the twins can go if they are chosen to join the choir. I still think this is a bullshit setup. I’d rather they have been participating from the beginning without us knowing about it than trying to logic out this way that students are clearly abusing it to try to get a trip to D.C. without having done any of the work that it takes to get that far. I was a competitive musician in high school. I am raging right now.
[Dove: Being English, and therefore not competitive, I got my knowledge from an early season of Glee, where Shue recruits Mike Chang, who can’t sing, to mouth the words and dance to make up the numbers. By this logic, the twins should get ready for standing at the back and getting no attention.] [Wing: Ah, yes, the Fieldwakes, who are so shy and retiring.]
Jessica, of course, thinks they’re going to become stars, which is perfectly Jessica and the only thing redeeming this book for me: so far, the ghost writer seems to get Jessica fucking Wakefield, and I’m glad.
Elizabeth practices all week for auditions, though Jessica spends her time hanging out with the Unicorns, because she’s Jessica fucking Wakefield. [Raven: I’m surprised Liz hasn’t cottoned onto the “fuck it, let’s just wing everything” approach that Jess lives by. It’s demonstrably proven to work, time and time again.]
While waiting for auditions, Elizabeth befriends Anna, who is looking very nervous. Anna admits to Elizabeth that she can’t really sing at all, she’s only auditioning because it is her only chance to get to D.C. I’m a little surprised that anyone tells Elizabeth anything these days, but even more surprised when Anna then tells Jessica the same secret. DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW THE FUCK THINGS WORK AROUND HERE, ANNA? [Raven: Maybe she thought she was just repeating the secret to Elizabeth?]
She starts crying when she tells them that she was adopted when she was a baby, and she’s always known about it (with the implication that this has always been fine, which is good). But a couple weeks ago, she found a letter to her parents about someone named Leslie who was also adopted and who is now on her way to D.C. from Australia. Anna is certain Leslie is her real sister.
WHAT THE FUCK YOU MEAN — okay, you know what, I imagine this is far too early to go boom. I’ll simply say that “real” is a shitty word to throw around when talking about adopted families and birth families, GHOSTWRITER.
Anyway, Anna’s parents didn’t tell her anything about the letter, and even when she asked if she could go on the choir trip, they said yes and didn’t mention anything about Leslie then, either.
GEE. I wonder if Anna is jumping to conclusions. (Oh, wait, that was last book, and all of Raven’s joy.)
Despite Anna’s drive to get to D.C., she and Elizabeth both think that there has to be a good reason why her parents are keeping Leslie a secret. Leslie’s parents are with the Australian Consulate and will be living in D.C. at the embassy, so she thinks it will be easy to find them once she gets to D.C., but getting into the choir will be the hardest part.
She sings a little, and her voice is scratchy and off-key and terrible. UH OH. Whatever will the twins do?
Jessica comes up with a plan first, because she’s Jessica fucking Wakefield, and says that since four people audition at the same time, Amy can stand in between the twins and Anna can just mouth the words and the judges will think she’s singing. While I am pleased you are trying to help, Jessica, there is so little logic to that plan I don’t even know where to start. [Dove: Raven texted me at work about this. You are not alone in your rage.] [Raven: This makes SO LITTLE SENSE that the red mist of rage descended on my eyes when I read it.] [Wing: SAME.]
Elizabeth can’t come up with a better idea, so they go up together (with Ellen as their fourth), and have to sing two bars of “Oh, Holy Night.” Two bars? That seems like a very short amount, but sure.
WAIT. WAIT. WAIT.
This plan fucking works? THIS PLAN FUCKING WORKS? A CHOIR INSTRUCTOR CAN’T TELL THAT ONLY THREE VOICES ARE SINGING WHEN THERE SHOULD BE FOUR? ANNA IS A GREAT ACTOR WHO USES FACIAL EXPRESSIONS TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE SHE’S REALLY SINGING BUT AN ACTUAL FUCKING CHOIR INSTRUCTOR WHO HAS A CHOIR THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH TO BE CHOSEN TO REPRESENT THEIR PART OF THE STATE IN D.C. CAN’T TELL THAT THREE ARE SINGING WHEN FOUR SHOULD BE SINGING?!
WHAT. THE. EVER. LOVING. FUCK.
[Dove: That was the gist of Raven’s second text while I was working.] [Raven: First up, yay Wing Goes Boom! Second up, this is just awful. Why the HELL would a CHOIR look to audition people for the competition FOUR AT A TIME? I know I hate the staff of Sweet Valley Middle School, but this is something else. DO YOUR FUCKING JOBS, YOU MELONS. This competition is supposedly a Big Damn Deal, so ACT LIKE IT. The worst thing about it? They’re looking for TEN PEOPLE to join the choir. TEN IS NOT DIVISIBLE BY FOUR. “We’ll take Group B, Group F, and half of Group H.” If you’re going the lazy route, at least make it GROUPS OF FUCKING FIVE. This school must be so seriously underfunded, I doubt the teachers have shoes. Probably for the best, as if they did they’d only get confused each night and throw their shoes at the moon in an effort to scare it away.] [Wing: Yay, Raven Goes Boom! Also, damn it, when the moon takes out the sun today, it’ll be because the SVMS teachers drove it to sol-icide.]
That afternoon, Elizabeth is excited about the trip, but worried about whether they’ve done the right thing for Anna, and how they have to find a way to keep Mr Stefan from finding out the truth. Elizabeth. He couldn’t tell that there were three voices when there should have been four. You are fine.
At home, Steven is “standing in his favorite spot, in front of the refrigerator.” (The twins don’t understand why girls are suddenly interested in him when they know he’s a royal pain. This is actually a step up for them, because awhile back, Jessica couldn’t even tell when Janet was using her to get closer to him.) [Raven: He’s a basketball star. All the girls like a boy with impressive “hang time.”]
They celebrate as a family; Elizabeth is worried about all the work they’ll have to do, because in addition to the Christmas carols they all know, there will be some international music and very old carols; and Jessica cares not for these concerns, but instead waltzes around the kitchen singing of a white Christmas. Not even Steven’s joke about how cold it is in D.C. can bring her down.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, Jessica, but you should really listen to Steven. D.C.? FUCKING COLD IN DECEMBER. [Dove: Wing, I know what you meant, but please could we put a blanket ban on the advice “listen to Steven” on this site? The guy’s an ass.] [Wing: Happy to, I still can’t believe I said it and want to wash my mouth out with soap. Or, I guess, set my fingers on fire, since it is something I typed.]
Our first Anna chapter has her running into her ranch-style home to tell her parents her news; they are hanging wallpaper. Mr Barrett is a writer who sometimes writes at night and works around the house during the day. (So … he doesn’t sleep?) We don’t yet learn what Mrs Barrett does, just that she’s in a thirties, a tall brunette with light green eyes, and she doesn’t look anything like Anna. People comment on it all the time.
Anna tells them her news, hoping they’ll mention Leslie, but though they are excited for her, and want to celebrate, they don’t say anything. She’s really confused as to why they just won’t tell her, and wonders if they are afraid she’ll start looking for her “real parents.”
MOTHER FUCKING WHAT.
Okay, it is probably still too early for this particular Wing Goes Boom moment, but it’s going to happen anyway. ADOPTED PARENTS ARE REAL FUCKING PARENTS. ADOPTED FAMILIES ARE REAL FUCKING FAMILIES. BLOOD DOES NOT EQUAL REAL OR BETTER OR BEST. BIRTH DOES NOT EQUAL REAL OR BETTER OR BEST.
Deciding whether to search for birth parents (or other birth family members) is sometimes a complicated, difficult decision for everyone emotionally involved. Mostly, this adoption storyline is being handled better than a lot I’ve read, if only because it isn’t a secret, surprise adoption. Anna’s parents have been open with her from the beginning and answer all her questions. Which is fantastic.
This whole “real parents” thing is going to stick in my craw.
Anyway, while her parents are getting ready, Anna goes through old photo albums looking for clues about Leslie. She doesn’t find anything at first, but then two small envelopes fall out of one of the album. The first contains her adoption papers, but they have no clues for her. (And also would probably be stored somewhere less likely to get lost or damaged, but I’m choosing to believe these are sentimental copies.)
The second envelope is a letter and a copy of what looks like someone else’s adoption papers. The copy isn’t clear enough to really read, but she can tell it says Leslie and 18 months, and it has the same date as her adoption papers.
The letter is less than useful; all it says is “perhaps these will be useful someday” and is signed from an M Linwood. The letter is postmarked from Australia.
Anna decides this definitely means Leslie is her sister, and she also starts to feel weird, as if she’d always known about Leslie, as if there was a part of her that had been missing all this time. Better watch out, Anna, the only weird sibling/twin feelings around here belong to the Wakefields.
She thought about Jessica and Elizabeth and how different they were. But they were still best friends. Just think, there’s someone in the world who probably looks a little like me, Anna told herself. And who probably has a lot in common with me, too.
Want to mock Anna repeating the first chapter they’re so different and yet still BFF crap, but the rest of this is sweet and a little painful and rings really true.
On Saturday, Jessica is the first one up, which pretty much never happens, but she desperately needs to figure out what she’s going to wear in Washington. She’s outgrown most of her heaviest sweaters and pants from last winter, and decides she just absolutely must have a new wardrobe for their trip. Elizabeth, too.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised at all to learn that Jessica gets her way, too, at least in part; after breakfast, Alice agrees to take them to the mall so they can each pick out a new outfit for their trip.
I wonder if Jessica has yet realised that if she picks something weather-appropriate for the outdoors in D.C. that she’ll never get to wear it in Sweet Valley without melting.
Jessica gets a purple sweater and skirt, Elizabeth a pink and yellow sweater and a pink skirt, and Alice picks out cold-weather boots for them.
A bunch of other choir members are buying new clothes as well. They see Bruce and Dana checking out cold weather boots (Jessica is not thrilled with how ugly they are), until a saleswoman says that they are in fashion, especially with bright colored socks. The second she shows them the boots in a popular magazine, Jessica is now thrilled.
“I love this,” Jessica breathed as they emerged from the store loaded down with packages “I wish I lived somewhere where the seasons change all the time. Just think of all the clothes we’d have to buy!”
I literally laughed out loud with delight, both because this is pure Jessica, and the thought of Jessica fucking Wakefield dealing with real, drastic weather changes is entertaining as hell. [Dove: *spellbound* Tell me what Jessica thinks of hail. And then drizzle, the kind that messes up your hair. And then gale-force winds. Tell me.] [Raven: And that’s all the weather.]
The next week is spent rehearsing choir songs after school (whatever happened to all those activities that were keeping them so busy, huh?) and being fitted for the black robes they will wear in the competition.
They also receive the trip itinerary, which includes rehearsals every morning and an organized activity every afternoon. One chaperone for every six singers. No one allowed to leave the group without permission and an adult. All pretty standard.
One Big Difference between Jessica and Elizabeth that I loved is how they prep for travel. Elizabeth buys a map and a guidebook and settles down to take notes and doesn’t want to miss anything or waste a moment being lost. Jessica, on the other hand, does not understand why her sister won’t wait until they get there and be surprised. Two very different travel styles, two utterly charming ways to look at the world. (I am the Elizabeth here. This surprises no one.) [Dove: I’m Jessica. I don’t know what that says about me.] [Raven: Does that make me Steven? I do like a sandwich…] [Wing: *insert inappropriate comment about sandwiches needing matching slices of bread*]
At Wednesday’s rehearsal, Mr Stefan wants to hear Anna, Dana, and Jessica sing Silent Night. Anna freaks out, of course, and says that she’s not feeling well, asks to be excused. She stumbles off to the bathroom, and eventually, Elizabeth asks if she can check on her. Jessica points out that maybe Anna doesn’t want him to remember she’s gone, because it’s embarrassing having everyone know you’ve been in the bathroom for so long. That is really fucking astute, Jessica. And much kinder than you normally are.
Anna’s on her way back to the rehearsal room, looking pale, and tells Elizabeth that she really did get sick. Back at rehearsal, Mr Stefan says that he doesn’t want her to strain her voice, because it’s not worth it to push herself in rehearsal and then have no voice left over for the real event.
I am still headdesking over this entire setup, but I know I need to find a way to let it go (for fear of giving myself a concussion). It’s not infuriating, it’s just terrible plotting. Take it for what it is, Wing.
They leave for D.C. on Thursday. There’s a cute little exchange where Alice tells Jessica to put her hat and gloves in her carry-on bag because it will probably be cold when they get off the plane, Jessica says she won’t need it (but does anyway), and Steven teases that she’s going to bring the California weather with her. This is a tiny, but fun little family moment that made me, temporarily, fond of the Wakefields. [Dove: You just levelled up. Even I can’t get fond of the Wakefields. I can only love/hate Jessica.] [Wing: I can’t help it. They were being a normal, cute family. And also, you broke me with this damn series. This is all you.]
This is only exacerbated when Jessica tears up at the airport because she’s going to miss her parents so much, and even hugs Steven good-bye. Family. (Elizabeth tells Ned to take a picture because otherwise no one will believe it happened. Steven tells Jess to have lobster for him. I laughed both times. Oh god, what has happened.)
We head hop over to Anna saying good-bye to her parents. (Back in the days when people could go all the way to the gate in the airport without needing a plane ticket. It’s been such a long time.)
Anyway, as she gets on the plane, Anna feels like her parents are strangers, and doesn’t understand how they could keep Leslie a secret or why they don’t want her to be happy. She tries to believe they have a good reason for it, but is still hurt, and I’m with you, Anna. That’s heartbreaking. Thank god I know everything will be wrapped up in a neat little bow by the end of this book.
Not only are Jessica and Elizabeth sitting together, but they both want Anna to sit with them, too. So much for all those other best friends they each have. (Though I’m not actually sure whether any of their best friends are on this trip, so okay, I’ll let this go too.) [Dove: Ellen’s there. If I was Ellen, I’d be put out that my only Unicorn friend wasn’t sitting with me, especially since Unicorns are such snobs about mixing with non-Unicorns. But on the other side of this, I really love how in the Super Editions all the Unicorns and non-Unicorns get over that shit and just get along.]
It’s cold and dark when they get to D.C., but there’s no snow, though it is forecast soon. They drive past all of the major sights: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, etc. Basically, if you’ve ever seen a tv or movie do quick clips of D.C., you’ve seen everything this book lists.
They’re staying at the Whitney Hotel [Raven: I hope there’s a Whitney Hotel in Houston.] and Mrs Isaacs is the chaperone assigned to Jessica, Elizabeth, Ellen, Anna, and two other girls who don’t get named. The hotel is gorgeous, and Jessica in awe.
Jessica set down her bags and looked around the luxurious lobby. The dark red carpeting and heavy, gold-trimmed drapes looked very rich against the gold-and-glass chandeliers. There were glass-topped tables and antique brocade couches and chairs against the walls. Beautifully dressed men and women were sitting and talking or making their way toward the elevators.
“This place looks like something on TV,” Jessica whispered in awe. “The people are so perfect they don’t seem real.”
She then calls Sweet Valley an ordinary town, and Elizabeth is hurt. Oh my god.
Their disagreement over whether Jessica loves D.C. or not (oh my god, girls, get it together) is interrupted when they noticed a confident, pretty girl about their age nearby. She’s wearing a silky red dress with sequins around the neckline, and they think she looks very important. She’s probably from one of the other choirs, Elizabeth says; at least two other schools are staying at the same hotel, Grant Middle School from Columbus, Ohio (BOO OHIO), and Brent Middle School from Atlanta, Georgia. Those names are far too similar, ghostwriter.
Apparently Grant has won the competition for the past three years. But wait. Sweet Valley has been invited those years. Are you telling me a Sweet Valley team did not win something?! The hell you say!
Not to worry, now they have the Wakefields.
Elizabeth struggles to get Jessica to wake up the next morning, and finally only gets her out of bed when she says it’s snowing. She forgets how tired she is, dresses quickly (wool pants, heavy green sweater, where exactly did those clothes come from, since she bought a purple skirt and sweater and had outgrown all her other heavier clothes), and they rush to get ready. Jessica refuses to wear her hat because it’ll mess up her hair, even though Mrs Isaacs warns her that she’ll catch pneumonia. Oh god, Jessica, seriously, you can be both warm and fashionable. [Raven: When they say Jessica “outgrew her clothes”, they mean that Steven stole her clothes and used them as masturbatory aids, of course.]
They get to the rehearsal space, having a quick little snowball fight, and then someone hits Anna with a snowball. Even though the Sweet Valley students are also making snowballs, they assume this one came from the pretty girl they’d seen the night before. Ellen found out she’s Sherrie Dunston, Grant’s “superstar soprano.”
Jessica’s spirits fell. By looks alone, she knew the girl was her biggest competition. And now she found out she had a great voice, too. Sherrie Dunston would be hard to beat.
Two things. One, you’re not trying to beat her, you’re trying to beat her choir. One good voice does not a choir make. Two, how she looks has nothing to do with whether she’s your real competition. Stop being so fucking shallow, Wakefield. Sweet Valley.
Oh, right, this is why I hate these books. Good. Good. I feel back on steady ground.
Each school rehearses separately and takes turns using the stage. Sweet Valley is up first that day, and Mr Stefan says they’re now going to choose their soloists. You are literally at the competition and only just choosing your soloists? I’VE FOUND THE INFLUENCE FOR WILL FUCKING SCHUESTER ON GLEE. [Dove: Well, you can understand why he’s not chosen yet. No Rachel Berry.] [Raven: Yet more proof that the teachers at SVMS are ATROCIOUS.]
Jessica has a plan to stop Mr Stefan from asking Anna to sing; she squirts blue ink all over Anna’s sweater, which is her new favorite. Anna is relieved, though, and rushes of to get changed. Into what? How many sweaters are you carrying with you?
Oh, wait, Elizabeth and Anna are going back to the hotel together…wait. Where the fuck is their chaperone? We just had those — and there are — oh fuck it. I give up.
Elizabeth notices that Sherrie is staring at them, and wonders what she thinks of it. Why do you care? Except that, of course, the ghostwriter needs you to care for this oh so subtle writing.
Anna is sad about her sweater but super happy Jessica got her out of it when, lo and behold, the ink disappears. Jessica used disappearing ink. Anna calls her a genius. She is not wrong! That is delightful! [Dove: I love the idea that while Jess was packing her pretty clothes, she also had the foresight to think, “Ah, I may need several disruptive devices to protect Anna.” Evil powers, used for good.] [Raven: Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the eccentric founder of the UK intelligence agency MI6, championed the use of semen as an invisible ink. As he put it, “every man has his own stylo.” Perhaps Jessica milked her brother before departing for D.C.]
At the hotel, Mrs Isaacs is shocked that they managed to get the ink out and sends them back to rehearsal after Anna changes into a different sweater. UMM. This is all so fucking ridiculous.
Anyway, Jessica is singing the lead solo in the Little Drummer Boy, which is the biggest and most important piece in the whole program. Is it? IS IT REALLY?
Here is a high school choir performing it. (Warning: video has shaky first person camera work.) Wakefield, I’m going to assume this is you exaggerating as usual.
Anna and Elizabeth are back just in time for Elizabeth to sing a verse of What Child is This? (choir example). It is the last solo, and he just assigns it to her without asking Anna to sing. UMM. Okay, whatever, letting it go, remember. Letting it go.
As they’re leaving, they hear that Grant choir practicing, Sherrie’s clear soprano voice rising over it all. They are nervous, but determined to beat Grant.
Later, Sherrie insults Anna, saying that if her voice is anything like her manners, she’s in real trouble. When Anna questions her on this, which yeah, what the fuck does that mean, Sherrie says that anyone messy enough to get ink all over her sweater must be a lousy singer. Elizabeth says that’s nasty, and it wasn’t Anna’s fault; Sherrie is making the exact same sort of conclusions that Jessica does, and yet no one is calling her on that bullshit.
Jessica defends Anna, getting up into Sherrie’s face and mocking how she talks. Whatever else can be sad about Jessica (and there is so much), she’s pretty great when she’s defending people.
That afternoon, they take a bus tour of D.C., including a visit to the White House and the Smithsonian. Their tour guide, Mr Scope, is able to fill them in on pretty much everything they need to know, and Elizabeth barely has to reference her guidebook. UMM. Paid tour guide, Elizabeth. Don’t be so surprised.
They conveniently drive past the Australian Embassy, and Elizabeth gets back to work on figuring out how they’ll get away long enough to visit it. Considering you were just allowed to leave rehearsal with no chaperone, I think you’ll be fine.
After the tour, they all go sledding, and, of course, run into Sherrie again, who proposes a sled race between the two schools. Elizabeth points out that the Grant students are from Ohio, where they, you know, have actual winter and sledding. Jessica agrees, but also says that Anna is great, and they’ll be fine.
Jessica goes against Sherrie, even after Dana warns her that Sherrie will do anything to win. UMM. Dana. Did Sherrie slushy you or something last year?
Elizabeth almost manages a clean run, but then her sled tips and she lands in the snow. Not quite as easy as you thought, huh, Jessica. She doesn’t let herself act worried, though, not with Sherrie right there.
On their run, Sherrie angles her sled directly across Jessica’s path and Jessica ends up hitting a tree. A cute boy from Grant runs down to see if she’s hurt, and she’s flustered; he introduces himself as Matt Halpin, one of her enemies. She teases him that he’s the nicest enemy she’s ever had, and this is kind of adorable.
He admits that Sherrie is the best singer they have, but is also a horrible person who can be really nasty, but nobody on their team dares tell her off. Jessica is pleased he’s trusting her, and wants to be the one who tells her off, of course.
Sherrie and Jessica have a rematch, because no one will give Sherrie the point for winning the race after what she did, Jessica somehow manages to beat her handily. [Raven: SO weak. The Wakefields Must Win.] [Wing: Is this a tag yet? It needs to be.]
Over dinner, they’re trying to come up with a plan for how to get to the Australian Embassy when Sherrie overhears them talking about how if they’ll get caught, they’ll get kicked out of the competition. She tells them that they have to do something bad to get kicked out, and she knows that they kick people out if they can’t sing. That seems unlikely, but Anna absolutely believes her and is terrified that Sherrie has figured out her secret. (Understandably! She has this giant secret, of course she thinks about all the ways it could be found out.)
The next morning, Sherrie corners Anna outside and tries to get her to sing. Dana is on Anna’s side, but even some of her own classmates want her to sing to shut Sherrie up. Elizabeth rushes out and makes up a cover story about her being sick (which does tie back to earlier), but Sherrie is having none of it.
Jessica is angrier than ever, and decides it’s time to get back at Sherrie by playing some small trick on her. Elizabeth makes her promise to be careful, for whatever that’s worth, and they agree that Anna has laryngitis, or at least that’ll be their cover story.
That afternoon, Jessica and Ellen sneak out to a novelty shop and buy slimy, sticky plastic insects to use on Sherrie. She always carries a lozenge box with her, and they are going to swap it out for one filled with bugs.
They have a skating trip that afternoon, and then Elizabeth and Anna ask permission to go for a walk. Mrs Isaacs lets them go alone. Because there’s clearly no actual chaperoning going on in this book.
Anna talks to one of the guards at the Australian Embassy, who says it is closed early because they are getting ready for a big reception to welcome their newest arrivals from Australia.
Anna is now desperate to attend the reception, but certain that Mrs Isaacs will say no if she asks. Elizabeth suggests they tell her the truth, but Anna thinks she’s too strict to care and will probably get angry about Anna’s reasons for coming to D.C. You mean, for how you tricked everyone and took the place of someone who actually sings? And if she never lets anyone do anything, how the fuck are you out walking around without a chaperone right this fucking minute? [Dove: Wing, are you using logic on a Sweet Valley book?] [Wing: I can’t turn it off, Dove. My brain is just there, using logic. Maybe going boom.]
They go back to the hotel, Elizabeth is called off, and Anna ends up alone with Jessica — who instead of encouraging her, says that sneaking out is pretty dangerous. UMM. Jessica. Wakefield. is. against. someone. sneaking. out.
Is this twin magic? Did the author forget which one they’re writing?
This goes on for awhile, until Anna talks Jessica into going with her by talking about the big party, how glamorous it will be, all the fancy people — now there’s the Jessica we know and love.
The plan is that they will use the service elevator to get out of the hotel while everyone else is doing a choir performance downstairs. Elizabeth has been asked to lead it, which is a pretty big slap to the face for Dana, isn’t it? Who is supposed to be the best singer in the whole school, who put in all the work to get the choir to the competition, and keeps being pushed aside for people who have been in the choir for about 30 seconds. Mr Stefan really is the influence for Will fucking Schuester. [Dove: Also – spoilers – in high school, Dana is the lead singer of the Droids, the band that plays every school event. I hope she channels her rage into songs about this trip.] [Raven: I really hate that the New Choiristers get to sing the solos. They should surely be making-up-the-numbers-by-making-nice-noises-in-the-background, not displacing those students who DIDN’T originally think joining the choir was a waste of time.] [Wing: YES THANK YOU. (Also, I just had a moment of excitement about the high school books, thanks to Dana and the Droids. Damn it.]
Elizabeth has even convinced Mr Stefan to let them go caroling outside after the hotel presentation, and thinks this is how they can get to the embassy. Jessica thinks the embassy will never let carolers inside, but Elizabeth says that they might, especially if Anna is with them. That would mean Anna would have to tell someone the truth about why she’s there, though.
Sherrie conveniently comes to sit directly across from them and then turns to talk to her friends. Ellen switches out the lozenge box, and now Jessica is obsessively staring at Sherrie. Reaaaaaal subtle.
Sherrie freaks out over the bugs, there’s a lot of her accusing Elizabeth of actually being Jessica, Jessica and Anna sneak off, it’s all very rat-a-tat fast and somehow still boring.
Upstairs, Jessica and Anna quickly get dressed in taffeta and silk dresses. Why do they even have these dresses? No idea. They’re wearing robes in the competition, so I doubt the dresses are for that, and if there were other things planned, I can’t imagine Jessica wouldn’t have pushed for a new dress for it instead of settling on a sweater and skirt during the actual shopping scene earlier.
Their plan to use the service elevator fails when a maintenance worker sees them, and so they have to run down the stairs instead. They slip through the crowded lobby and then take off running once they’re outside.
Oh so conveniently, Sherrie “just happened to step out of the elevator at the exact instant that Jessica and Ana dashed out of the hotel.” I don’t even really need to point out the deus ex machina of this scene, the author is doing it for me.
Sherrie decides they’re sneaking out to meet boys, dressed the way they are, and goes to tell Ms McDonald what she saw, though she adds that she overheard them say they were going to meet boys. Ms McDonald then goes to confront Elizabeth about it to find out what she knows of her sister’s plans, because of course she does.
Meanwhile, Jessica is dazzled by the Australian Embassy, which she thinks looks like a fairy-tale castle decorated for the holidays. Anna’s not nearly as impressed, because she’s worried about how they are going to get inside because everyone either seems to know the doormen or has an invitation.
Jessica, of course, has a plan to hand. They are going to pretend they are the daughters of one of the couples and slip in behind them. And somehow, this works. No more tension than that.
Once they’re inside, Anna immediately finds the Linwooods, but their kids aren’t with them. There is a group of kids around the huge Christmas tree, but no one who looked like she could be Leslie.
They go upstairs, but can’t find any room that looks like a teenager lives in it. Instead they find what seems to be a secret office, and have to hide when someone walks into it.
CLIFF HANGER CHAPTER ENDING. Oh god, R. L. Stine has infected Sweet Valley. [Dove: We don’t know for absolute certain that he’s not a Jamie Suzanne.] [Wing: You’re correct, though I’m not sure I can buy him writing under someone else’s name.]
Back at the hotel (no, seriously, the chapter opens “Back at the hotel”), Elizabeth is miserable and Mr Stefan has cancelled the music presentation and the caroling because the girls are still gone.
Elizabeth begs Ms McDonald to ignore Sherrie’s story, claiming that Sherrie just wants to get Jessica and Anna into trouble. There’s no way Jessica would be out with boys (lies!) because she knows the rules and would never break them (SO MANY FUCKING LIES!). Ms McDonald points out that Jessica and Anna have broken the rules simply by leaving the hotel.
Despite how worried and upset the chaperones are, Elizabeth hasn’t yet told them that the girls aren’t actually missing and aren’t randomly wandering around D.C. Good lord, Elizabeth, I know you made a promise to Anna, but things have done been fucked up.
Finally, finally she tells them that she thinks they’re at the Australian Embassy, which is not far, and they’ve gone because they are looking for a long-lost relative.
Sherrie keeps sneaking over and hinting that Elizabeth should be punished and all three of them kicked out of the competition. Ms McDonald does keep shutting her down, at the very least, because it is really none of her business and they shouldn’t actually be doing this in a place she can overhear anyway.
Finally, they tell Elizabeth to go to her room while Mrs Isaacs and Mr Stefan go get the girls. Elizabeth wants them to wait until they come back on their own, which is ridiculous and absolutely not going to happen, why would you even try that at this point? She also asks to go with them, and I’m surprised they don’t let her. That seems pure Sweet Valley.
She’s also angry that she has to stay behind. Are you fucking kidding me? You didn’t want to sneak out in the first place! You withheld information! Why in the world would they let you go with them?
Jessica and Anna watch as a small man slips into the secret office. He keeps looking around as if he thinks someone is there (or as if he’s afraid of getting caught), and nervously steals some papers and keeps looking.
Jessica realises that if he doesn’t find what he wants at the desk, he’ll turn to the filing cabinets next, which is where the girls are hiding. Before they can try to find a way to escape, a cute teen boy shows them a hidden panel in the wall behind them.
Just as Jessica is trying to shut the panel, the man sees them and yanks it open. The kids flee down the hidden hallway, which isn’t tall enough for them to stand up straight, until the boy leads them to the Light Room, a room filled with chandeliers, because the previous ambassador collected them. [Raven: To be fair, that’s a pretty ambassadorial thing to collect. “I’m a king. I collect peasants.”]
The girls are relieved, but the boy says they’re not safe yet, and he leads them into a nursery and then into the attic through a hidden trap door.
The boy says the man is a spy, and when the girls tell him that the man took papers from the desk, the boy says that they could be dangerous and they have to stop him before he leaves.
The boy decides to take them to tell his father, and oh, look, it turns out that his father is Mr Linwood. Mr Linwood listens to his son and then has all the exits sealed. He’s very friendly to Jessica and Anna and asks them to help him find the spy, because they are the only ones who know what he looks like. UMM. Except for your son? And also these girls crashed the party. You don’t even know if they’re somehow involved with some other spy thing — you know what, again, nope. I’m just going to let it all go.
“Nobody looks like a spy,” Jessica replied knowledgeably. “Unless he’s wearing a trench coat.”
And you would certainly know.
Jessica manages to find the spy, who is dressed as a chef in the kitchen, based on the diamond ring she saw on his finger when he was in the secret office. She, of course, dramatically calls him out as the spy in front of everyone, he throws a turkey at her, and he runs. She’s more worried about the grease on her dress. Priorities. Jessica sticks to hers. [Dove: I love Jess right this second. Smart and fashionable.]
“You thought you’d get away with this, did you?” Mr. Linwood asked. “Well, you’re not as smart as you think you are. And thanks to these three young people, you’re not going to do any more damage for a long time.”
A cheer rose from all the people in the kitchen as the spy was led away.
From all this excitement, we jump back too Elizabeth, sulking in her room, worried about Jessica and Anna. Ellen brings her some food, which is very kind, and Elizabeth thinks it is strange that Ellen is being so nice. Yes, yes, the Unicorns can only be one-note gossipy snobs.
This scene adds nothing. [Dove: Except it makes me like Ellen again, because I read this more often than Out of Place.] [Wing: Fair point. It does make Ellen a fun side character again.]
Before Anna finds the right time to talk to the Linwoods about her sister, all the kids are called to the Christmas tree. Jessica wants to know when they will open the presents, the boy tells them that the embassy collects gifts for needy children all over the world, and every kid who attends the party brings a gift to put under the tree. They usually provide gifts that are useful for the specific recipient, and this is actually kind of great. Learn something, Jessica. Learn something.
Anna says that the one thing she really wants is to meet her sister, and tells the boy that she thinks his sister is her long-lost sister. His sister is only two, though, and Anna is crushed, because she’s looking for a thirteen-year-old Leslie Linwood.
Oh, well, the boy’s name is Leslie, what a coincidence. [Raven: MY GHAST. IT IS FLABBERED.]
She examines him, and he has the same red, curly hair, the same blue eyes, and the same freckles. Gee, you never noticed that before? Not once? Not even after you knew he was a Linwood?
They sit down with the Linwoods and Anna tells them her story. They are surprised and overwhelmed, but before we can get much of anywhere, the teachers show up and start yelling. Mr Linwood calms them down by explaining the girls helped stop a spy, because of course they did. Photographers come take their pictures, Jessica knows this will annoy the hell out of Sherrie, Mr Stefan forgives Anna for lying to him and lets her out of the choir, and the Linwoods will be their guests at the competition. [Raven: I really liked the teachers showing up and being completely shit. It cements my theory that the school is run by bobblenoggins.]
All of that. In mere sentences. Fuck.
The next morning, Anna wakes up to the surprise that her parents flew in because the ambassador called them to let them know what happened. They’re going to all get together and tell Leslie and Anna the truth.
Dress rehearsal goes well, and then they’re off to dinner with the Linwoods. Turns out, they didn’t tell the siblings about each other because at the time of adoption, Mr Linwood had a top secret government post, and while it was a great opportunity, it required a lot of secrecy and brought a lot of danger, and to protect the Barretts, they didn’t want anyone to know that Anna had a brother.
When he left that position to become an ambassador, he told the Barretts what was happening. They didn’t say anything at first because they weren’t sure what to say since it had been a secret for so long. They thought they could all talk about it when the Linwoods arrived in the USA. All the parents apologise for keeping them a secret from each other, and this is kind of great (if mostly ridiculous). [Dove: Agreed, I liked that they actually gave a reason that worked (well, Sweet Valley worked), rather than, “Oh, we didn’t know how to tell you” or “We were waiting until you were older”.]
Sherrie is now sucking up to Jessica and Anna, until Jessica gets snippy with her, and then Sherrie calls her a liar, and they continue to bicker.
Anna sits with her family and the Linwoods, and is pleased that now she gets to be a part of a big family. I love that. Chosen family for the win, adopted families coming together, everything is great (if cheesy and over the top and ridiculous). Can the book just end here? No?
Dana, Jessica, and Elizabeth are named as the soloists; Dana is singing an old English ballad, and the twins are singing baroque Christmas pieces, and then they join the rest of the choir. UMM. If this is a choir competition, why are they singing entire songs by themselves?
Their solos go well, the other schools compete, Sherrie has great solos (during the fucking songs, not out on her own, because this is a goddamn choir competition), and then it is time for “Dueling Voices,” a solo competition open to any singer. Dana, Jessica, Ellen, and Winston Egbert enter from Sweet Valley. [Raven: Epic Rap Battles From History!]
Students from rival schools sing alternating passages of the same song, and while this sounds like a lot of fun, it came out of nowhere. Anyway, Jessica goes against Sherrie during the second song, and do so well that they end up singing two songs. Because that’s fair.
Johnson Middle School of Madison, Wisconsin, wins Best New Middle School Choral Group in America. Because that matters at all, since we’ve never heard of them or any of their students and didn’t even know that was a category. Grant Middle School takes second place in the Best American Middle School Choral Group category, with first place going to Sweet Valley, of course.
Elizabeth gets first prize, soprano soloist; Dana gets first prize, alto soloist; Dana also wins the Dueling Voices competition for alto; Tyrone Seeley of Johnson Middle School takes boys’ alto/counter-tenor first prize for Dueling Voices; and Jessica and Sherrie tie for Dueling Voices soprano first prize.
“Sweet Valley is a bright and shining new star this year – taking away many of the prizes. But I want to thank all of the groups who participated here tonight,” the conductor said in closing.
Except they’ve been attending for years! They’re not “new” by any definition. Words mean things, author!
Jessica plans to beat Sherrie next year, I bet this will never happen, Anna gives Jessica flowers from Leslie, and everyone agrees this is the most exciting thing that had ever happened.
The most unbelievable, maybe, and that’s including the weird fantasy thing from the last super edition.
Minus the whole thing about “real” family, I loved how adoption was handled in this book. It wasn’t a deep, dark family secret, the only thing that was kept a secret was kept for good reasons, and the awkwardness of trying to explain a lie after so many years made a lot of sense as to why Anna’s parents didn’t tell her anything even after the letter.
Everything else, unfortunately, is a load of unbelievable crap. There is not enough suspension of disbelief in the world to make this story work.
[Dove: For some reason, I really love the Super Editions. One of the key reasons is that they are the only books where the Unicorns and Liz and her friends can all get along, despite their differences. While the scene with Ellen being nice to Liz didn’t help the plot at all, I liked seeing it for the rarity value, and the Super Editions tend to have moments like that. They also tend to take the kids out of school, which changes things up a bit too. Oddly, Lila’s rarely in them, she always has a much better holiday to go on.]
[Raven: This was a massive improvement on the fucking Class Trip. Yes, it was hokey, and the plot was so full of holes the Swiss could make a cheese out of it. But it didn’t have Johnny Buck in flying limousine, so it’s okay by me.]
[Wing: At least Class Trip was supposed to be nonsensical and not realistic. UNLIKE THIS ONE, WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE ACTUALLY HAPPENED.]