Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Haunted Burial Ground

Tagline: Haunted…or tricked?

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?

Initial Thoughts

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.

There has been some interesting analysis as to why the trope came into existance in the 80s. Here are a couple of links to get this started: TvTropes’ Indian Burial Ground, Jana Schmieding’s Bury My Guilt in an Indian Burial Ground, AVClub’s Read This: Digging up the origins of the “Indian burial ground” trope}, Atlas Obscura’s Why Every Horror Film of the 1980s Was Built On “Indian Burial Grounds”, and Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Horror Older Than America: Whitewashing Native Tales For A Mass-Market Audience.

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.

Super Chiller 7 – The Haunted Burial Ground (cover by Dove)

[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.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #82: Steven’s Enemy

Sweet Valley Twins #82: Steven’s Enemy book cover
Sweet Valley Twins #82: Steven’s Enemy by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Steven’s Enemy

Tagline: Ben likes Jessica, Steven hates Ben…

Summary: Family feud…

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!

Initial Thoughts:

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.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won’t Someone Help Anna?

Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won't Someone Help Anna by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won’t Someone Help Anna by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Won’t Someone Help Anna?

Tagline: Can Cammi help Anna survive at Middle School?

Summary: From the minute she arrives at Sweet Valley Middle School, everybody loves Anna Reynolds. She’s outgoing and funny—and almost as boy-crazy as the Unicorns! All of Anna’s new friends are especially impressed that she can handle the pressures of school as a hearing-impaired student.

The only one who isn’t impressed is Cammi Adams. For some reason, Cammi is convinced that Anna won’t last long at their school. When her prediction starts to come true. Cammi realizes that she may be the only one who can help Anna. But if she does, it will mean revealing a secret she wants to keep hidden forever!

Initial Thoughts:

ALERT! ALERT! A MINORITY HAS BREACHED THE TOWN DEFENSES!

DEPLOY THE WAKEFIELD AGENTS! JESSICA001 TO BULLY THE MINORITY INTO LEAVING, AND ELIZABETH001 TO BEFRIEND AND TERRIFY THE MINORITY. IF THEY DON’T SUCCEED, DEPLOY NYDICK001 WITH OPTIONAL WHIRLYCOCK ATTACHMENT.

*ahem*

[Dove: You missed out she’s a twofer. She’s both Asian and disabled. Sweet Valley will not tolerate this. The wall building will commence shortly.]

[Wing: Obligatory BURN SWEET VALLEY TO THE GROUND just to get us off on the right foot.]

To the text!

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley!

Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley! by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #60: Ciao, Sweet Valley! by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Ciao, Sweet Valley!

Tagline: Just how welcome is Giovanna in Sweet Valley? [Dove: Well, given how well they usually take outsiders, I reckon it will go: 1) excited and welcoming; 2) cool and snooty as soon as she doesn’t bow down and worship the perfection of Sweet Valley; and then 3) EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield and her twin sister, Elizabeth, are looking forward to having an exchange student named Giovanna come and live with them for three weeks, Jessica can’t wait to show the Italian country girl all the great things about Sweet Valley. But when the Wakefields finally meet Giovanna, Jessica is in for a shock. Giovanna is gorgeous and sophisticated—and Sweet Valley bores her to death!

When Giovanna arrives at Sweet Valley Middle School, she’s rude to Jessica’s friends in the Unicorn Club, she talks constantly about how great Italy is, and she flirts with the cutest boys in school. As far as Jessica is concerned, Giovanna has worn out her welcome. How will she ever get through the next three weeks?

Initial Thoughts:

I hate this book. I don’t want to read it. There’s a reason I never bothered to buy it back in the day. I borrowed it from a friend and decided I didn’t need a copy. It was one of the last ones I bought when I was filling in the gaps in my collection.

I utterly loathe this book. The only reason I didn’t swap with someone is because: 1) Raven knows better than to swap with me after he got burned by The Class Trip; and 2) despite my deep desire to not recap this, I thought Wing would like The Ghost in the Bell Tower (and I thought she’d probably burn our servers to the ground on this one), also; 3) I was pretty sure that Wing wouldn’t swap with me unless I made a very good case for it. My co-recappers are (rightly) very suspicious when I try to swap.

Note from the future: When I rage at Giovanna’s attitude, I am aware that the rage should be (and is) directed at the current Jamie Suzanne’s lack of knowledge about Italy and apparent xenophobia. But for shorthand, I rage at Giovanna.

Note from even further into the future: I completely forgot the Rizzo family is Italian. It’s ok, so did the author. You’d have thought Giovanna might have approved of them, especially with Mrs Rizzo speaking Italian as her first language, but yeah, no, that never happens. Giovanna never even meets Sophia.

Apology to any Italian readers: Hi. I’m really sorry that this Jamie Suzanne is being so offensive about your country with pretty much every sentence Giovanna utters.

[Wing: Why are we doing yet another foreign exchange student story? Why are we doing yet another New Girl story? Why are we doing — huh, I guess the next question is why are we doing the recapping at all, but I have an answer for that one.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #51: Elizabeth the Impossible

Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Impossible

Tagline: Has Jessica created a monster? [Dove: Well, evil begets evil, I suppose.]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield is convinced that her sister, Elizabeth, is perfect. Who else is as smart, friendly, and creative as her identical twin? So when Sweet Valley Middle School announces it will be choosing a Model Student, Jessica launches a secret campaign to make sure Elizabeth wins.

But Jessica doesn’t count on what happens. As soon as word gets out about the contest, Elizabeth takes becoming a Model Student a bit too seriously. She starts telling everyone what to wear, what to eat, and how to act. Elizabeth’s become positively bossy! Jessica would do anything to get the old Elizabeth back. What will it take to turn Elizabeth the Impossible back into the girl everyone knows and loves.

Initial Thoughts:

I deliberately swapped for this one. This is a book I love. I think it’s a joy to poke fun at Elizabeth, and this book really delivers.

Also, if you read it with a cynical eye, it’s actually a story of dysfunctional relationships, and someone with no power socially using one single pressure point to take over another person entirely, to the point where they drop their friends and change their life to appease this one person. Basically, Elizabeth/Pamela is one fucked up ship. And it’s hella interesting. And once I get to a certain point in the story, I will go into that a bit more in depth.

Warning: As above, I’m going to liken the Pamela/Elizabeth friendship to an abusive relationship. While it’s going to be light, I will use phrases used by emotional abusers that may act as triggers. It’s light, but exercise good judgement.

Note: I’m going to quote a metric fucktonne of this book.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #50: Jessica and the Secret Star

Sweet Valley Twins 50: Jessica and the Secret Star, by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica and the Secret Star

Tagline: What’s the new girl hiding? [Raven: A cock?] [Dove: That she’s been there all along and the Wakefield twins are just really fucking unobservant?] [Wing: Backyards full of bodies. She’ll be Jessica’s new BFF.]

Summary: Maria Slater has been an actress since she was three years old, but now that she’s twelve she can’t find any work. So Maria hopes to forget her past and start life again at Sweet Valley Middle School, where she can play the role she has always wanted: the typical sixth-grader.

But for Maria, being typical becomes harder and harder, especially when Jessica Wakefield discovers Maria’s secret past Everyone wants to be friends with a movie star, but will anyone want to be friends with plain old Maria?

Initial Thoughts:

HOLY FUCK JESSICA’S HAND IS FUCKING HUGE.

Also, there’s a black girl in Sweet Valley. Unexpected. I can’t see this ending well.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica’s New Look

Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica's New Look by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #47: Jessica’s New Look by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s New Look

Tagline: Jessica’s got a new secret – will the whole school find out?

Summary: It’s the most exciting day of Jessica’s life—Aaron Dallas has asked her out! Nothing could ruin Jessica’s wonderful mood—except the fact that she has to start wearing glasses. Jessica is convinced that the Unicorns will drop her the second they see her. And Aaron is sure to change his mind about their date.

For Jessica there is just one solution—she’ll never leave her room again! How can Elizabeth help her sister realize that wearing glasses is definitely not a tragedy?

Initial Thoughts:

I’m going to be 100% honest here. I can’t get behind Jessica’s thinking at all. I actually misread the final line on an eye test deliberately when I was 11 because I was so desperate to wear glasses. I think they’re cool. So I just want to hoof Jess in the face because this is a major comedown from the #BestJess who ruined a billion outfits to save a baby seal.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Lucy Takes the Reins

Tagline: Can Elizabeth help Lucy face her toughest challenge? [Dove: Obv. Nothing is too hard for Saint Elizabeth.]

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield’s friend Ted Rogers is in big trouble. He’s fallen behind with his payments to Carson Stables for the care of his horse, Thunder. Unless he wins the prize money in a regional jumping championship, he’ll have to sell the magnificent animal.

With everything riding on this competition, Elizabeth offers to help Ted train. Soon they’re spending most afternoons at the stables. That’s where they meet a mysterious new girl named Lucy Benson. Lucy seems to know a lot about horses. And when Ted has a bad fall, only weeks before the competition, Elizabeth is convinced that Lucy can take his place. Elizabeth doesn’t know that a secret fear has kept Lucy off a horse for the past two years. But she does know that Lucy needs to compete – and to win – for Ted’s sake… and her own.

Initial Thoughts:

I was under the impression that I’d never read this before – the story seemed unfamiliar to me, but then Jessica referred to currycombs as “hairycombs” and I knew I had read it before. It just didn’t stick. So that’s a really good sign. [Wing: HAIRYCOMBS OH MY GOD.]

Note: As someone who generally adores Ellen, the only way I can get through this is to pretend that the Ellen in any horse book is a completely different Ellen to the one we see at school. This isn’t me being a Malfoy apologist (“Jason Isaacs is hot, so Malfoy racism is excusable…” thinking), it’s just that the Ellen who rides horses is shrill, spiteful, vindictive and violent, whereas the one we see in school tends to be vague in her meanness. Absolutely she’s in the mean girls clique, but she has a strong follower stance. Yes, she’s mean, but she appears to take her cues from Lila and co. In this, she has no leader and she’s a real alpha bitch, not a beta one. If you look at Holiday Mischief, when Ellen is away from the rest of the Unicorns, it doesn’t occur to her to keep being mean, and she actually helps Anna hide her lack of singing ability. That’s why an Ellen sans Unicorns who leads two terror crusades against other horse riders seems so strange.

[Wing: This is the Ellen I love. She’s horrible and holds her own with Jessica and Lila.]

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #2: The Ghost in the Graveyard

Super Chiller 2: The Ghost in the Graveyard by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Super Chillers 2: The Ghost in the Graveyard

Tagline: Is Sweet Valley Haunted?

Summary: Strange things have been happening to Sam Sloane ever since he moved from San Francisco to Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s neighborhood in Sweet Valley. He can’t work out why everything in town looks so familiar—or why he’s mysteriously drawn to a crumbling old mansion in town. When he visits a cemetery in the dead of night and sees a ghost who looks just like him, he turns to Elizabeth and Jessica for help.

At first the twins think Sam is imagining things. After all, who believes in ghosts? But the more the girls get to know their new friend, the more they feel he’s telling the truth. Something is out there. The twins are going to have to do a little ghost hunting of their own. But what happens if they do discover the ghost? Or worse, what happens if it discovers them?

Initial Thoughts:

Although my chosen moniker is suitably gothic, I do not have a horror pedigree.

Sure, I like horror films. They are fun, and scary. And horror books? I love me a bit of Stephen King. I’ve screamed at Freddie and Jason, cowered from Samara, laughed at Chucky and was Finally Destined to face down Fate itself.

I enjoy it… but I don’t live and breathe it.

Both Wing and Dove have a much more visceral pull into the fright genre. They devour it whole, consuming all they can in a search for more thrills and for the love of the form. It’s a long love, from childhood, and it informs their nostalgia for this very site. Go check out all the fine work on point horror dot com for proof. [Wing: Well, he’s not wrong. Even our names come from a Point Horror book.]

But me? I’m a fairweather frightmeister. If pushed, I prefer a belly laugh or a pewpewpew space epic.

The point of this confession?  A mere FYI.

This Super Chiller isn’t really in my wheelhouse. So take all you read with a hefty pinch of salt.

Onward!

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #40: Danny Means Trouble

Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Danny Means Trouble

Tagline: How do you help a friend who doesn’t want to be helped? [Dove: I dunno, Elizabeth, maybe don’t? He’s not your friend and he doesn’t want your help, so how about you back the fuck off?]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield can’t wait to get to school to see what Danny Jackson will do next. He’s only been at Sweet Valley Middle School for a couple of months but he’s already well known as the best runner on the athletics team and as a major troublemaker. While Jessica is enjoying the effect Danny’s bad behavior is having on her classes, her sister Elizabeth is worried. Doesn’t Danny realize that his pranks are going to get him thrown off the team for good?

When Elizabeth writes a story on Danny and the team for the school paper, she discovers the real reason he’s been getting into trouble. It’s something he’s been hiding from everyone. Can Elizabeth help Danny without betraying him? [Raven: Is it drugs? It’s drugs. It’s drugs, isn’t it. Or, he’s actually a cauliflower!]

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t like this book. It’s not so much that I think Danny should wallow in his issues without help, I just want to stab Elizabeth for butting in. She’s such a busy-body I want to staple her to a wall and have people walk past, muttering about their issues, leaving her impotently unable to act. I think the stress of being incapable of interfering might be the only true way to kill her.

Also, Danny Jackson is not Denny Jacobson. Denny Jacobson is Pamela’s brother and Janet Howell’s love interest. This kid? No fucking clue. And this comes from someone who’s read almost every book in the Twins series. [Raven: Oh, I thought the book title was actually his name. “Hello, nice to meet you. the name’s Trouble. Danny Means Trouble.”]

[Wing: The only initial thought I had was that of course the girl on the cover is Elizabeth. Look at that outfit. JESSICA WOULD NEVER.]

The cover

Two things:

At work, someone once said to me, “Go see, $person. You know who she is, she’s the one with the proper twattable face.” And the thing was, even though I’d only been there for three weeks, I knew exactly who she meant. Elizabeth too has a “proper twattable face”.

Love the white socks/ankle-swinger trousers/brown loafers combo, Elizabeth. Could you look like more of a bell?

[Wing: I see I should have saved my comment for here.]

[Wing: NOTE: This recap contains vague references to abuse, including child abuse (within the text and in real world) as well as scientific violence to animals.]

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