The summer holidays are here, and Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends have just arrived at sleep-away camp! On a hike through a dark, eerie cave, Elizabeth finds something incredible—a glowing pen! She can’t wait to use it to write an article for the camp newspaper.
But as she writes, Elizabeth is astonished to find herself composing a mystery full of scary twists and turns. And to her horror, little by little the mystery seems to be coming true! This isn’t just an ordinary pen. Could it be haunted?
On the one hand, I love some of the Super Chillers and enjoy the ideas behind almost all of them. On the other hand, Elizabeth. Unless a ghost is around to try to kill her, I’m not really feeling a book about her right now.
On the other other hand, the weather turned again, and I am once more cold enough that a story set in the summer is a pleasure.
Also, I don’t hate the USA cover, but damn, that other one is terrible.
[Note from the future: Y’ALL. THIS BOOK.]
[Dove: I saw no need for me to make a cover, since we have the USA one. Which is good, because my ideas were absent. The first time I read this, it immediately slipped out of my brain – I blame The Carnival Ghost, it just set the bar damned high – but this time around I enjoyed it a bit more. I do love the summer camp trope, and I’d completely forgotten that was the setting for this book.]
[Raven: Ooooh, a magic pen. Spooky! How very Stephen King…
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.]
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.]
The Unicorns are making a music video! Lila Fowler insists on being the singer, since it’s her video camera. But there’s one catch: Lila has a terrible voice, and she’ll be humiliated if anyone finds out.
As hard as Johanna Porter tries to coach her, Lila is hopeless. Johanna is shy, but she has a fabulous voice—which gives Lila a great idea: Johanna will do the real singing from backstage, while Lila lip-synchs on camera!
Their plan works perfectly. The video is so fantastic that the Unicorns submit it to a competition on RockTV, and Lila wins the chance to perform—live! Lila is terrified.
How will she ever get away with this one? [Raven: Is this summary just 75% of the damn book?!] [Wing: That means for once the summary isn’t a lie, though!]
This book bugs me. It’s available in two covers, as you can see. I ordered it multiple times, deliberately seeking out the pink badge cover, and always ended up with the ugly “it’s the 90s, this is our version of grown up” cover. Raven sensed my frustration (read: came home to find me raging about how it was unfair that people didn’t check their listings on eBay/didn’t clarify that the cover may be different to the image shown), and bought me a copy. It only took him one attempt to get the pink badge cover.
Or there are 73 of the 90s covers hidden somewhere in our house. Failing to spark joy. [Raven: Don’t look under the bed.]
After much seeking of this cover, I do love it. Lila looks fabulous and sparkly, she even has a smug little smirk, because she knows she’s better than… well, everyone. Jessica is displaying her double-jointed abilities/overlarge hand. And there are two other girls even I don’t recognise. One looks like bad fanart of Willow from Buffy (and either doesn’t have a left arm or is lightly caressing Lila’s buttocks). The other looks like Ruby from Supernatural. (The Ruby that married Sam in real life, not the other one.)
Maybe they’re Tamara Chase and Kimberley Haver, and that’s why I have no idea who they are. If so, Raven hates one of them with the fire of a thousand suns.
After seeing singer Melody Power in concert, Jessica is more convinced than ever that she too can become a rock star. And when she finds out that four of the cutest boys at Sweet Valley Middle School are forming a band and need a girl singer, she grabs the opportunity to launch her new career.
When Jessica starts rehearsing with the band, Elizabeth Wakefield thinks the whole thing is a nightmare! The more Jessica tries to sing like Melody Power, the worse she sounds. What can Elizabeth do to save her sister from total embarrassment? Jessica’s singing debut is about to become a rock ‘n’ roll disaster!
[Wing: I have so many questions, starting with why the boys need a girl singer, why the band can’t be made up of girls, and why Jessica is trying to sing like someone else instead of her own amazing self. She sure was confident last time we saw her singing.]
Tagline: Can Elizabeth keep her twin from putting on a terrible performance? [Wing: … why would it be terrible? The twins can sing.] [Raven: Singing’s only half the story.]
On the one hand, I love when Jessica is on stage and performing. On the other hand, I loved it when it was acting and hated it when it was singing last time. This very well could be a mess.
[Wing: My schedule is really fucking thrown off right now. This will go up without Dove and Raven’s comments, because I didn’t realise I was up this week until late Sunday night. Check back later for their delightful snark.]
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 just can’t stop her wild imagination. Her mother is very ill, and Jessica thinks it’s much worse – she might even be dying! Soon, the news spreads all over Sweet Valley Middle School. Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin sister, is furious, but Jessica loves being the center of all that attention.
Even the teachers feel sorry for Jessica, and they let her skip her homework and be excused from tests. And now, Jessica has a chance to get the lead in the school musical – if she can manage to take advantage of everyone’s sympathy just one more time.
Tagline: Has Jessica finally gone too far? [Wing: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, FINALLY?!]
Oh my god, I am going to hate everything about this. Not only does that premise sound terrible on its own, but I spent more than a decade watching my mother die a slow, painful death, so I am particularly touchy about sick mother/dead mother stories.
(At least I’ll probably be back to my hatred of all things Sweet Valley, which I understand a lot better than my unexpected moments of love for it.)
[Wing: Note from the future: It gets real in here, from the text and the recappers, especially about parental death, heart ache, and abusive childhoods.]