Social studies class gets a lot more exciting when a visiting teacher, Mr. Levin, comes to Sweet Valley Middle School to teach the students a game. The rules are simple: Mr. Levin tells the pupils what to wear the next day, and they get points for obedience and demerits for disobedience. They get extra points for ratting on anyone who disobeys.
Everyone loves the game, especially Aaron Dallas, who is determined to be the best player of all. But Elizabeth Wakefield thinks that something is fishy. Why is it so important that everyone dress the exact same way? And if it’s just a game, why is everyone taking it so seriously?
Sweet Valley tackles the Holocaust.
I’m sure this will be sensitively done.
My only thought is that I’m glad Wing isn’t doing this one. Our servers can’t take two back-to-back explosions from her.
I only remember one thing about this book, and it isn’t the plot, so I will guess that despite the touchy subject, and the historic fails Jamie Suzanne(s) has with tackling sensitive subjects with grace and tact, that this was so bad I forgot everything about it. Kind of like Steven the Zombie. I remember it being offensive. I also remember that it was boring as fuck. I can’t actually remember the book.
Also, here’s my cover. I used as much tact as this Jamie Suzanne did:
While on the subject of my 3D renders, JC of Oh God Why?! Nostalgia and I got into a conversation on Twitter about how it really couldn’t happen here (Sweet Valley) because it’s perfectly aryan and middle class. This culminated in us agreeing it’s probably the town slogan. So, this was born:
Elizabeth Wakefield is thrilled when she hears the news: her teachers want to skip her to seventh grade! Everyone is proud of her—except her identical twin, Jessica, who wants her sister back in sixth grade where she belongs.
But Elizabeth vows to prove that she can make it as a seventh-grader—even if it means staying up all night to finish her homework, or sneaking out to a seventh-grade party.
Trying to meet everyone’s high expectations is turning Elizabeth into a zombie. Maybe she can make it as a seventh-grader, but does she want to?
I have so many questions. Where are we in the school year? Last book was Valentine’s Day, so we are at the earliest in the second half of February, which means well into spring semester. Elizabeth probably has about three months of school left for the year. And even if we stick to the main series books, the last one felt like a spring semester book. Flu season generally is the heaviest in the first part of the year, and Shakespeare makes me think of second semester English class for some reason. Why the fuck would they promote her now instead of waiting until next fall and having her skip seventh grade completely? Am I really supposed to believe that Elizabeth would be happy to leave her twin, her friends, and the Sixers? Am I supposed to believe that she’d be happy with all this extra pressure when at the end of the last main series book she was annoyed at how much pressure her parents put on her and how they expect too much and she can’t measure up to it? Are you trying to tell me that Elizabeth sneaks out to a seventh-grade party? Unless Jessica is egging her on (and from earlier in the blurb, it sounds like she won’t be), I will not believe this at all.
So many questions. I’m sure the answers will be just fine. Just. Fine.
[Dove: I really looked forward to Wing either explaining how this could or could not happen based on US logic, since skipping a school year isn’t a thing here. And she’s irritated before she’s even started. A good sign. Also, since we universally hate these ugly covers, have mine instead:]
Title: Sweet Valley Twins #84: Romeo and Two Juliets
Tagline: Will the real Juliet please stand up?
Summary: A battle for stardom…
Jessica Wakefield is dying to play the part of Juliet in the Sweet Valley Middle School production of Romeo and Juliet. But during the week of auditions, she comes down with an awful case of flu! The only way she can win the part now is by getting her twin, Elizabeth, to try out—pretending she’s Jessica!
Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. She has a great audition and wins the part for Jessica. But there’s a slight problem—Elizabeth falls in love with the part and won’t give it up!
Who will get to play Juliet?
I have been earwormed because of that tagline.
And now you have, too.
Also, the answer to that question of who will play Juliet? I’m 99.9% certain it will be Jessica, and that other .1% is that it will be both of them and they’ll take turns. In part because acting is Jessica’s thing, and Elizabeth’s thing is writing, but also because despite recent events, Elizabeth has no spine, especially when it comes to giving in to Jessica.
[Dove: I second Wing’s theory. Doesn’t Jessica always get what she wants? Also, enjoy the alternative cover by me.
Just so you all know: I loathe Shakespeare – the stories are fine, I hate the wording that everyone finds so magical. Probably because I was forced to memorise a full act of the play overnight because Mrs Martin, the worst teacher in the world, gave an exaggeratedly spiteful punishment for talking during class. And, the following day when I had spent all night memorising, hadn’t slept, was reciting it in the shower, on the bus, during assembly in preparation, she said, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to listen to you. Go away.” That’s the kind of thing that makes you hate Shakespeare. Not the fault of Shakespeare, obviously, and I enjoy modern-day retellings, but in its pure form, I loathe it. So this book was a bit of a problem for me when everyone’s like, “Yay, Shakespeare!” my brain just went, “I still fucking hate Mrs Martin.”]
[Raven: On the other side of the coin, I love Shakespeare. I studied film, theatre and television at University, and have acted in a fair few Shakespearian productions. Personally, I think that liking Shakespeare is a direct corrolation to having a good English teacher. As Dove demonstrates above.]
Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield have been invited to the biggest, best Christmas party of the year. They can’t wait. Even high school kids will be there. They’ve already planned the perfect outfits when they hear the terrible news: their parents forbid them to go. Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield insist they’re too young.
The twins are absolutely furious. They go to bed that night, wishing more than anything that they were grown-ups with the freedom to do whatever they wanted.
The next morning, Jessica and Elizabeth wake up and discover that the most amazing thing has happened…
I love Big, it’s one of my feel-good movies – I especially like the story I heard that De Niro was up for the lead role, and actually spent some time with Jared Rushton (the kid who played Billy) to get into the role. Rushton apparently spent this time yelling, “Come on, De Niro, keep up!” and hounding him into rough-housing.
And I love – I guess? – Sweet Valley.
Among the things I also love? Christmas. I would watch Hallmark Christmas movies year round if it didn’t make them less special.
So this has to be a winner, right? I mean, look at how awesome The Christmas Ghost was.
PS: Fuck these stupid covers. Here, have mine instead. [Raven: Lovely cover!]
[Wing: Dove’s covers are always so wonderful. I’m looking forward to all the rest. As for the rest of the things, I’m not as big (ahem) a fan of Big as Dove, but I saw a stage show of it once and there was a scene with beautiful stars as a gift, and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen on stage, so I am inordinately fond of Big now.]
Summary: The Unicorn Club is throwing the best Halloween party Sweet Valley Middle School has ever seen! Lila Fowler’s dad has lent the girls a rundown shack in the woods—a perfectly spooky place for the party.
But as the Unicorns are fixing the shack, strange and scary things happen: Ellen Riteman discovers a human skull, Jessica Wakefield gets lost in a cave full of bats, and a mysterious girl appears out of nowhere to relay ghostly warnings.
Then the twins hear that the shack was built over an ancient Native American burial ground. Could the shack really be haunted? Or are the Unicorns the victims of a terrifying Halloween trick?
Jesus fucking christ, that cover. That title. That summary. I know I went into The Unicorns Go Hawaiian expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised, but the haunted burial ground trope is even worse, and even if it turns out to be a terrifying Halloween trick (and, no lie, I expect it to be about 50/50 as to whether it is supernatural or mundane when it comes to the Super Chillers), the stereotypes are likely to be horrific and offensive.
From Schmieding’s piece (Schmieding is a Lakota writer):
All I know, from the point of view of one Lakota Native who enjoyed The Shining as much as you did but with one eyebrow raised, is that the only “ghost stories” I’ve ever heard from my own people are that of ancestors who carry wisdom, who aim to protect, who are considered sacred and powerful, and whose manifestations as malevolent only occur when they’re not talked about. When their story isn’t told. There’s a moral here that I hope you’re grasping. When someone tells you that their house is built on an Indian Burial Ground and it makes the hair stand up on your arms, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of? Am I afraid of Indigenous people because of pop culture’s portrayal of them as unholy, spurned beasts of the underworld? Or am I afraid of my own willful ignorance of settler colonialism and modern Native issues? Am I afraid that Natives’ stories haven’t actually been told?” I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s a mix of all. But until Native filmmakers and television writers get a chance to scare the shit out of mainstream audiences with our own stories, we’re all stuck with supernatural microaggressions and embarrassingly coded displays of white guilt.
With all that in mind, here we go.
[Dove: My brain says that the Super Chillers went downhill after the covers changed, but in all honesty, maybe Christmas and Carnival Ghosts just set the bar and everything since has been hopelessly flailing at that bar ever since.
On another note, I don’t know if I’ve ever made it clear publicly, but god knows poor Wing has to patiently listen to me bitching about “the new covers” and “the geocities covers” like they’re the worst thing in the world. Every week. Every time we skype, I bring it up. So, in an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I will be creating badge-style covers for the books from now on. Well, after this we have Amy’s Secret Sister, but after that we are officially switched over to the new covers. So, without further ado, here’s my first cover creation.
I’ve done much better covers after this – this was a bitch to render and I kind of screamed and gave up at some point. Elizabeth’s hair kept pushing through her face (don’t ask), and my computer kept falling over under the weight of the background. So, while it’s not the greatest cover, stick with me, I fully intend to get much better.]
[Wing: A billion times better than the actual cover for so many reasons.]
Steven Wakefield can’t stand Ben Oliver. First Ben stole Steven’s starting position on the basketball team, then he beat Steven in the election for class treasurer. Now Ben has developed a crush on Jessica, Steven’s own sister. Worst of all, Jessica is falling for Ben!
When Steven sees Ben at his house, he’s furious. He forbids Jessica ever to go out with Ben. But Jessica says no way. She’s not taking any orders from her big brother.
Steven’s determined to get back at Jessica. And he’s already thought of the perfect plan for revenge!
I hate Steven. I really hate Steven.
I have never read this one. As has been long established, I read these back in the day, but began to taper off at the end of the Grapplegate run. I started to buy the missing books from eBay once I got it in my head that owning the whole collection was a life goal, and I started reading them in order as they arrived, starting from Poor Lila, because it’s the most awesome Lila book. (And I stopped around chapter 2 of Cammi’s Crush.)
This one I skipped. I hate Steven, so I put it at the bottom of my list, and it was one of the last cheap ones I bought. Some of this series, believe it or not, is very expensive. The Haunted Mansion quadrology set me back more money that I want to think about.
So, I’m dragging my feet. Also, we took a lot of months off, so I hope I still remember how to recap!
Warning from the future: I drop the c-bomb. Once censored, used in retelling a story. Once with venomous hatred towards a fictional character. [Raven: Wait, we’re warning for that?! Jees, best go hit the back catalogue.] [Wing: I think she’s giving the warning for me, because I hate it used as a pejorative but love it as a body part description.] [Dove: Correct.]
Raven: Hello! How the flippin’ ‘eck are ya? Yeah, it’s been a while. Have you been hitting the gym? You look good. Nice shoes!
In April, we declared a short break. Turns out, it was a long break. But we’re back! This week it’s a podcast, recorded pre-break (the last of our “banked” material). And next week, it’s a recap from moi which is, quite frankly, rather odd. Then there’s Wing, then there’s Dove, and we’re back in the groove.
More recaps, more podacts, and more snark. And then it’s Christmas! Yay!
Tagline: Three-way calls can be triple the trouble!
Summary: Making enemies and influencing people…
Jessica Wakefield and her twin sister, Elizabeth, have persuaded their parents to get three-way calling for their phone. Jessica is psyched – more gossiping, more matchmaking, more fun!
There’s just one problem. Jessica didn’t read the instructions carefully, [Wing: Is anyone surprised?] and when she thinks she’s dishing gossip to Lila Fowler, she’s also dishing it to Ellen Riteman. And the gossip is about Ellen. The gossip spreads until the entire Unicorn Club is in an all-out gossip war!
Can Jessica turn her telephone tricks around and win her friends back? [Raven: Ah, a comedy basic. Nice.]
Note: Thank you to @idecisivekepner who provided the last sentence of this book. More on that when we get there.
I read this a few years ago when it arrived from an eBay seller, but I honestly couldn’t remember much about it other than this was an Ellen book. And that she doesn’t get within 5 miles of a stable. This book is about Ellen, and not the shrill screamingharpy that she gets turned into when a Jamie gets confused by the brief of “write about Ellen”.
Let’s do this.
(For those of you who weren’t here for the past hundred books: I love Ellen. She is my favourite character. My love for her has infected Raven and Wing. So I suspect we’ve all set our hopes rather high.)
[Wing: Well I have now. Prior to this week, I didn’t know it was an Ellen book.]
Title: The Curse of the Golden Heart (or Curse Stories 2: Electric Boogaloo)
Tagline: Pirate treasure!
Summary: A broken heart…
It’s spring, and identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are taking a scuba diving course at Pirates Cove. On their first dive the twins discover the remains of an old pirate ship, and half a golden heart buried in the sand. [Wing: LIES. They’re only snorkeling at that point.]
Soon the twins receive spooky chain letters demanding that what was taken from the sea be returned. Jessica continues the chain; Elizabeth doesn’t. Suddenly terrible things start happening to Elizabeth. She finds threatening notes in her room and a live scorpion in her lunch bag.
Can Elizabeth discover the secret of the golden heart before the curse destroys her?
Please, ghostie, please don’t resort to pirate speak in this book. Please. I beg of you.
[Wing: Note from the future. Positive: no pirate speak. Negative: we’re rehashing old stories all over the place.]
While reading a book about old New Orleans, Jessica Wakefield learns all about voodoo and decides to try it out herself, She knows exactly who she’ll make a voodoo doll of—her brother, Steven, of course.
Incredibly, the doll works. Poor Steven is lurching and leaping and writhing for days. Jessica is exhilarated by her powers… until she loses control of them. Steven’s still moaning in pain, but Jessica’s not doing voodoo anymore. Now Steven’s a zombie, and it’s all her fault!
Sweet Valley is known for its sensitive approach to everything, so I’m certain that this won’t be 130 pages of exploitation. Right? *wide grin*
Also, if anyone’s been creeped out by the way Wing’s been all “OMG! I LOVE THIS SERIES! IT GIVES ME THE FEELS! I LOVE THIS CHARACTER! THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD!” etc., fingers crossed that this is the book that returns her to form. I have my explosion gif at the ready. [Raven: Marshmallows on sticks are go, people!] [Wing: Oh, god, the pressure. THE PRESSURE.]
Important Note: For anyone who wasn’t here for One of the Gang or skipped my lengthy intro there, I have a mobility disability. This means I use words that are off-limits to able-bodied people.
[Wing: I’m going to share a couple links here before any Wing Goes Boom moments may or may not happen. These talk about Halloween, because that’s when a lot of these conversations happen, but the application is broader.