Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2: Special Christmas

Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2 – Special Christmas by Francine Pascal (Square Cover)

Title: Special Christmas

Tagline: Deck the halls of Sweet Valley High…

Summary: The Wakefield twins and their friends at Sweet Valley High are in festive spirits. It’s Christmas vacation, the annual parade is just days away, Secret Santas are busy buying surprise gifts, and everyone’s talking about the holiday dance at the Patmans’ mansion. Jessica Wakefield is determined to be named Miss Christmastime, and Elizabeth is counting the days until she’s reunited with her faraway boyfriend, Todd Wilkins.

It seems nothing can spoil Jessica and Elizabeth’s holiday – until Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield announce the arrival of an unwelcome houseguest. Now it looks as though this Christmas might be the worst ever!

The Cover:

Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2 - Special Christmas by Francine Pascal (Circle Cover)
Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2 – Special Christmas by Francine Pascal (Circle Cover)

We have two versions of the cover, both have the same main picture, but one is the circle cover – white with the image in a circle, and a red “Super Edition” banner below on a diagonal tilt, with the title in aqua. The other has the same image, but it’s a full image, showing below the title, and “Super Edition” is a straight banner below. On the square cover, the text is in green.

Both images are the same, and show the Wakefield twins looking at a gif. Elizabeth is holding a gift box wrapped in red poinsettia paper with a white bow on it. Jessica looks over her shoulder, keen to see what’s inside when Elizabeth opens it. Elizabeth is wearing a fluffy white (angora?) sweater, and Jessica is wearing a pink shirt.

It’s a genuinely cute cover. Not very exciting and doesn’t really give much idea of what’s to come, but cute nonetheless.

Initial Thoughts:

On the one hand, a Christmas book.


The Rock storms through the WWE locker room, kicking chairs and flipping tables
Fuck this.

Also, I bet this is going to be the most boring Christmas book so far. In Twins we had: a trip to Washington where they find long-lost relatives and hunt down a spy; A Christmas Carol; the best ghost story in the entire franchise (The Carnival Ghost); a trip to Hawaii; a trip to a magical realm; BIG (for Christmas); and Groundhog Day on Christmas.

I dare Sweet Valley High to do better. This is just going to be silly boy drama, bitchy girl drama, and then everyone remembers that Christmas is magical and everyone gets snogged under the mistletoe.

[Raven: I’m vaguely excited for this. If I’m correct, this is the first Christmas book of the entire series, in order of writing? So very much the blueprint of what’s to come.]

[Wing: How do we already have another super edition? They are supposed to be special, not occurring every few books!]


We open with Mr Collins announcing that there’s no point trying to teach English on the last day before Christmas break. John Pfeifer is delighted about this. According to the book, John is known for his school spirit. Fandom disagrees. Fandom says John is known for something else. But working with the information we have so far, John is known for being one of the name soup people in The Oracle office. That’s it, ghostie. [Raven: I know you’re alluding to something yet to happen (NO SPOILERS), but even I know that John Pfeifer is the sports editor for The Oracle.]

Next up, Mr Collins’ handsomeness is described. Apparently he has wrinkles around his eyes when he smiles. Ghostie, I know you’re eighteen and have literally no life experience, but the man is 30 at the most. I know that’s ancient to you, but it’s not wrinkle time just yet. Oooh, unless Mr Collins was hugely overweight and lost all that weight in a very sudden and unhealthy way, leaving him with sagging skin? People, what do you think of this theory? I know Robin was the size of a cruise ship and skinnied down to a size zero in three weeks, but that was “healthy”, she did it with starvation and exercise. Maybe Mr Collins used speed? [Wing: I’ve seen people in their late twenties/early thirties with smile lines. Perhaps they’re just cheerier than the rest of us. Bah humbug.

I prefer the speed theory, though. It is the 80s.]

Elizabeth gets hit with a wad of paper, to the point where she says “ow!”, which means it was hurled with venom or Elizabeth has absolutely no pain tolerance. It’s a note from John asking her to be his Secret Santa.


You do realise that Secret Santa isn’t the same as Valentine’s, right? You don’t ask someone to be your Secret Santa, you get assigned them, and the secret is the point.

I tried to find a clip of Jamie Tartt failing to understand Secret Santa, but unfortunately YouTube let me down. Instead, just go and watch all of Ted Lasso. No seriously, it’s the exact opposite of Sweet Valley High. You have strong, amazing women who care for each other, men who are manly but not toxic, and when people are assholes, it’s because they’ve got reasons, not because the writer thinks that’s strength. It’s like a hug. But it’s a TV show.

[Wing: I risked spoilers to get this (I’ve only seen season one), but I’ve got you, Dove!]

Also, trying to make John “fun wacky guy” when I already hate Winston for doing this schtick isn’t working for me.

One of the reasons that Elizabeth is bursting with Yuletide cheer is that Todd is going to be visiting for Christmas. It has been “so long”. Dude, he visited the book before last. He’s been off screen longer because creative had nothing for him in the regular run before he moved to Vermont.

The twins are dressed identically because they’re recreating a photo from their childhood as their Christmas gift to their parents. Apparently this took a lot of effort on Elizabeth’s part to get Jessica to dress so conservatively (navy skirt, blue short-sleeved sweater) on the day of the school Christmas party. Um… why didn’t she dress with her usual fabulousness and then get changed before going to the studio for the picture? [Raven: I actually forgive this, as I do like this “remake a childhood photo” schtick. The Modern Family one is a highlight.] [Dove: I’m not harshing the gift, I’m just wondering why, if Jessica’s that bothered about her outfit, she didn’t get changed before the photo was taken.] [Wing: I’m surprised she didn’t have twenty outfits to try for the photo, recreating an old photo or not. Surely they have plenty of the twins being match-matchy and terrifying. After all, they dressed alike well into middle school, didn’t they.]

Anyway, back to Secret Santa.

Secret Santa was an important part of Christmastime at Sweet Valley High. Every student in the school was given another student’s name on a slip of paper. The idea was to be a Santa for the person whose name you were given—to buy presents or do special things for that person while keeping your identity a secret. At the same time someone else was being a Secret Santa for you. This went on for an entire week, until the Christmas dance, when all Santas revealed their identities at the stroke of midnight.

[Raven: I mean… this is way beyond any Secret Santa I’ve seen or been a part of. Usually it’s “buy your person something, cap the spend at a tenner, bosh.” This is so extra… is this a UK vs US thing?] [Wing: Maybe? I didn’t do it in school (church cult didn’t allow us to celebrate Christmas), but I’ve done it at work a few times, and at least one of them involved something like this. Still a spend limit, but we left little gifts for each other across a week or so, culminating in one large gift at the reveal.]

The Patmans are hosting the Christmas dance. So it will be fabulous. [Wing: Oh, good, the rapist is on his own turf. That’ll make it easier to roofie all the girls.]

The party is just paragraphs of the same reiterated information: Jessica is dressed conservatively; Elizabeth is excited Todd is visiting; students are happy; blah, blah, blah. The Secret Santa names are given out, and Jessica wants Hans, a German exchange student, to get her name. Instead he picks Lila’s. Oh noes.

On the drive home, the twins chat, and for once it seems like they’re actually friends. Jessica is in a feud with Lila, who has decided at the last minute to run for Miss Christmastime, which is a title Jessica particularly wants. She wants to ride on a float and wave at people. Dude, just go work for Disney as a cast member. Also, she’s pulled Bruce’s name for her Secret Santa. Elizabeth howls in despair! Jessica! The key word in Secret Santa IS SECRET! Elizabeth must rush to her room and pray to the deity of Wakefieldian truth about violating the sacred order of Secret Santa.

They walk into the house while Jessica talks about what can she possibly buy for Bruce. (How about Rohypnol? I bet his supply is running low.) And Steven answers the question, suggesting a Christmas hug.

I really hate this Sweet Valley trope. It’s how they always introduce either Steven or Ned.

The girls hug him in delight. They haven’t seen him for ages. Not since the last fucking book, where he was in Sweet Valley the whole fucking time. Actually, how has Steven not yet flunked out of SVU?

But Steven is not just here for the twins to gaze at his handsomeness. No. He brings plot to the table. Suzanne Devlin – yes, the not!Jessica herself – is coming to stay with them for two weeks, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Elizabeth goes up to her room to think and recap for us. She remembers that the Devlins wanted to daughter-swap, and how she won the coin toss. She fondly recalls how Jessica threatened to fuck her boyfriend if she went, and how funny it was when Elizabeth meekly handed over her spine so Jessica could go to New York instead.

Then she remembers what a toxic manipulative bitch Suzanne is. She hit on Mr Collins and claimed he raped her when he rebuffed her flirtations. What a monster. And she stole Elizabeth’s necklace.

And it would be truly worrying that she was visiting, if Elizabeth didn’t already live with someone who cried rape when a boy didn’t want her and constantly stole her clothes, makeup and jewellery.

Honestly? I’d prefer Suzanne. At least she makes the effort to be liked, and hides the snarling monster under pretty manners. Far better than Jessica and her screaming wall-kicking tantrums. Suzanne also does chores. [Raven: Yeah, Suzanne was a good villain, until the Ghostie of her book botched the landing. Bring it on!]

It made Elizabeth sick to think about it. I hate her, she thought furiously, sitting up and brushing her hair from her face. I absolutely hate her!

Elizabeth had never felt so strongly about anyone. She wasn’t used to disliking people. But what Suzanne had tried to do to Mr. Collins was horrible, and it was dishonest. And Elizabeth hated dishonesty.

Uh-huh. But you forgive your sister for pulling the exact same false rape allegation trick on your beloved boyfriend? And I can’t really remember a time when Jessica wasn’t lying about something. But sure, your morals are offended.

Bored now.

CONFAB COUNT: 1 (around chapter 9 I realised that this book was nothing but confabs, and retrospectively added a confab count)

Jessica and Steven rush in. They’re not going to take this, it’s time to tell the parents how much they hate Suzanne. Elizabeth says no, Steven barely knows her and Jessica never met her. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Jessica says that if her friends are anything to go by, Suzanne must be dreadful. Her go-to example is the fact that one of her friends has wasted a lot of money on plastic surgery. And not the fact that her boyfriend tried to rape Jessica.

Steven says the best plan is to calmly converse over dinner and lay out their feelings, using lots of “I feel worried because…” style statements. Jessica demonstrates that she hasn’t heard a word and is going to throw the mother of all tantrums.

We cut go Guido’s, where Jessica is indeed throwing the mother of all tantrums. But then we pause to comment how hot and young Alice is, like a sister, not the mother, of the twins. Urgh. I get it, they’re hot. Don’t interrupt an argument to swoon over her.

Basically, the clueless berks that are allegedly parenting say that they’ve spoken to Suzanne, and they think it’s going to be fine. And what is Christmas all about, if not goodwill to all (wo)men? Nobody takes this particularly wall, stating that Suzanne burned a lot of bridges and she’s going to ruin a lot of Christmases, which I think is a good point well made – particularly because it comes from Jessica. I thought she’d be an angry moron, but colour me shocked, she’s the only one who’s managed to articulate beyond “I don’t waaaaaaaaaaaaant her here!”

[Raven: Absolutely hated the Elder Wakefields here. Such bad fucking parenting…. “we don’t like it, but we have to go along with it.” I get the Season of Goodwill bullshit, but you need to listen to your kids.]


Later, the Wakefield kids reconvene to build a plan. Jessica comes up with a terrific idea.

Are you ready for this?

They want to call her and have Elizabeth say mean things to her about how awful the visit will be.


Mean things.

It goes exactly as you’d expect. The meanest thing Elizabeth can come up with is “you’ll be bored, because we’re kind of busy”. Suzanne is super excited to visit. Yay!

So, plan 2 is that they’re going to bully her. I mean, Elizabeth and Steven can just put their feet up. Jessica has got this. She’s already given one girl and eating disorder and sent another to the hospital. She’s got this.

Over breakfast the next day, Elizabeth and Steven talk about Todd. Apparently, since the last book, where they were snogging and being heartbroken, Elizabeth’s jets have considerably cooled. He’s still her “best male friend” (her words and emphasis), but has the magic gone?

And with that in mind, what should she buy him for Christmas? Nothing silly, because he’s far too important. But is it now appropriate to buy him a lavish gift if his snogging leaves her anything but tingling? I’ve got to say, this is a massive turnabout from chapter one, where she was like, “OMG, my real life boyfriend will be here! We’re going to do so much handholding he’ll get blisters!”

Then Jessica arrives:

Jessica was dressed as an elf. She was wearing kelly-green tights and green slippers with curled-up toes and bells jangling from their tips. She had made a strange little suit out of a green plastic garbage bag, cutting leg holes in the bottom and arm holes in the sides and stapling the whole thing up at the shoulders. Something—probably newspaper, from the look of it—was being used as stuffing to make her look round. Underneath the sack she wore a red long-sleeved T-shirt. There was green paint on her face. “I need some sort of hat,” Jessica announced calmly, ignoring the looks on her brother’s and sister’s faces. “What’s the matter?” she added, taking a small green plastic tomato basket out of the trash and tying long red ribbons on each side. “Hasn’t either of you ever seen an elf before?”

It turns out that she’s being an elf at the mall and helping Santa give out gifts. Cara had signed up for it, but now she’s got a cold. If this is a mall event, why aren’t they supplying costumes? Who is paying for kids to have some teenager in a bin bag giving out gifts? [Raven: Such a contrivance, and one that leads to perhaps the weakest sort-of-b-plot ending I’ve ever seen. But I’m getting ahead of myself.] [Dove: He’s not wrong.] [Wing: I am cackling at the teenager + bin bag + gift giving of Dove’s commentary, which is by far the best moment of my experience with this book.]

This outfit, btw, reduces Steven and Elizabeth to literal tears of mirth.

They find a gift for Jessica on their porch. It turns out to be a wooden music box that plays Fur Elise. Jessica is convinced it’s from Hans, because who else would buy such a classy present? *shrugs* I have no idea, Jessica. Nobody in Sweet Valley has a personality, so I’ve got no clue why anyone would buy anything. And I do mean anything. Everyone’s so bland, I can’t even fathom who might buy a spoon.

The elf gig turns out to be an elaborate ploy. You see, Cara never signed up, Lila told her to sign Jessica up, and Cara understood it would only be for a couple of hours, and the jape was that Jessica would have to wear green paint. The real jape lies in the fact that it will go on so long that Jessica will miss the Miss Christmastime meeting. Jessica, to her credit, doesn’t even think for a second about bailing, because it will disappoint kids at Christmas. Which I find baffling. Who is this Jessica that understand that other people exist?

Jessica vows to go Black Christmas Xmas on Lila’s ass. The first remake, not the original. The one with the stupid plot but more gore. (And not the second remake either. I can’t even think of a witty way to express my hatred for that one.)

At the end of her shift, Santa commends her on a job well done, and Jessica can’t help but tell him the whole sorry story. He’s genuinely upset that she’s missed her chance, and offers her something else. Would she like to keep her bin bag costume and wear it again on his float? Jessica internally thinks she’d rather die. Then she gets a brilliant and vengeful idea and thanks Santa profusely.

Jessica gets home and rants to her sister as she fills the bath to soak off her green makeup, and explains her brilliant plan. On the day of the parade, Jessica will steal Lila’s crown, get on that float and leave Lila to be the elf. Elizabeth fights the urge to laugh. [Raven: Sounds like great fun! I can’t wait to read all the madcap scheming that leads to this payoff. #sarcasm]

At this point, Alice comes in – because why not pack all the Wakefield women into a bathroom where one teen is trying to bathe? – and asks Jessica if she’ll move out of her room and give it over for Suzanne.

Alice. For fuck’s sake. Let her sleep in the den, you fucking muppet. When you inform your children that someone they absolutely hate is coming to visit, and no matter how many times they point out that she is a toxic harpy they do not want to engage with you refuse to hear them out, DO NOT add insult to injury by forcing your unfavourite to give up her personal sanctuary.

“Why not?” Jessica said, aggrieved. “Everything else in the whole world is going so well, why shouldn’t I get kicked out of my room for the whole vacation?”

“Please.” Mrs. Wakefield sighed. “You’re not making this any easier. It’s the best place, Jess.”

“She stayed in my room last time,” Jessica reminded her mother, “and the place smelled like perfume for months.”

“Jess,” Mrs. Wakefield said firmly, “you’ve got to try cleaning it up tonight. Honestly. The way it looks right now, I couldn’t ask anyone to stay in there. Clothes all over the floor, your entire dresser emptied onto the bed…”

You know what, Alice? If you insist on Jessica’s bedroom being tidy, but you never fucking enforce it, that’s on you. You’re just teaching your kid that rules and boundaries don’t apply to them. And the reason it’s not tidy now? Because you haven’t enforced that rule, and Jessica doesn’t want it tidy. The book has mentioned twice already that Jessica works in mess and likes it that way, and sure, let’s go with that.


I can’t believe I’m sitting here vehemently defending (1) Jessica; and (2) her right to live in a bug-infested hovel. And yet here we fucking are. [Raven: The Elder Wakefields are the literal worst in this book. Until the end, when they get yeeted into second place by… but again, I’m getting ahead of myself.]


When Alice leaves, Jessica decides to maliciously comply. Yes, she will prepare the room for Suzanne. With burned out light bulbs and shorted-sheets. Well, I’m assuming she actually means broken light tubes under the bottom sheet, and a duvet full of scorpions and venomous tarantulas, but the former is how she sells it to Elizabeth, who thinks it’s a wonderful plan.

The twins then go to the Dairi Burger. Actually, this seems like a very normal teenage scene. There’s some chat and banter, and Winston makes a point of asking Jessica how she liked her Secret Santa gift, while elbowing Ken. Jessica sneers that it was perfect, while implying that both boys can drop dead for not being good enough. Everyone else talks about the gifts they’ve received so far… and it seems kind of like a 12 days of Christmas thing, because everyone’s acting as if this is the first of many gifts. Fucking rich people, dude.

Then they drop the bombshell that Suzanne is visiting. Jessica riles up the crowd and gets them baying for blood, while Elizabeth has an internal freakout. It’s one thing for them to bully Suzanne, but when you stir up a lynch mob, things have gone too far.



Here is where you draw the line, Elizabeth?


Not when your sister bullied an innocent girl – and your alleged best friend – about her drug history?

Not when your sister bullied an innocent girl into an eating disorder?

Not when your sister bullied an innocent girl into the hospital for holding hands with nearly as many boys as Jessica has held hands with?

Not when your sister bullied an innocent girl whose sister had just died because she’s poor and her dad’s an alcoholic?

Just checking that here is the line, Elizabeth. Here. Where your sister is encouraging people to rage against a toxic liar who stole from them and cried rape because a teacher didn’t want to snuggle her?


Ok. That’s a fucking choice.

Obviously, the lynch mob mentality is not a good response to anything. My argument is merely that since Elizabeth has indulged and allowed this previously, it’s certainly a choice to draw the line when the victim is – for the very first time ever – not an innocent girl.

Then the diner falls silent as the swim team enters.

The guys were wearing only bathing suits! Each had a towel around his neck, and they were walking together in a line, each with his hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of him. It was the most hilarious performance Elizabeth had ever seen.

Tell me you’ve never seen anything funny without using those words. [Raven: The twins often see “the funniest thing they’ve ever seen” in this series. What a sheltered life they must be leading.]

First Elizabeth is reduced to tears at the sight of her sister in an elf costume, and now she has never witnessed anything more hysterical than like twelve dudes in budgie smugglers walking in a line.

The swim team then serenades Olivia with Christmas carols from her Secret Santa.

Then Ken “jokes” that Elizabeth can’t wait for Todd to arrive. Why is that a joke? Does he know that she’s having all these secret doubts? Is Ken psychic? Or are we still eight and girls have cooties?

Enid notices Elizabeth’s reluctance to engage with the topic and asks her about it later. Elizabeth waffles. I think what she means is, “I still love him, but am I in love with him now?” But because she’s Elizabeth it’s less concise.

On the drive home, Jessica asks a bunch of questions to let the reader know what we already know about the Toddibeth long-distance ship. Then she asks a stumper: how would Elizabeth feel if Todd fell in love with someone in Vermont?

The narrative tries to explain that this is a very hard question to answer, but the vibe Elizabeth is putting out is: she would be relieved.

We cut to Alice picking up Suzanne from the airport and musing to herself that she can’t blame her kids for not wanting to deal with Suzanne. But y’know, she’s mysteriously ill, so there’s that. Of course, Alice knows the full deets, but the narrative is way too vague with her thoughts. So, Suzanne is dying and desperate to make amends. Who didn’t see that coming? Well, probably 50% of the readership, who is aware of the way that certain people imprint on the Wakefields as their nemeses and keep coming back and coming back and coming back to fuck with them.

Wing, Raven, which side did you come down on, given that you’re both (mostly) blissfully unaware of the completely bonkers upcoming nonsense we have to wade through? [Raven: Personally, I was super disappointed we were actually getting a repentant Suzanne rather than a vengeful Suzanne. And more illness / death? Give us a fucking break, please. It’s meant to be escapism.] [Wing: Knew it was an illness driving her sincere repentance from nearly the first moment. Feels like a Christmas story trope and therefore perfect for Sweet Valley to somehow make even more trite.]

Suzanne, despite having less silky hair and much paler skin, due to her illness, is still gorgeous. Thank god. Nobody likes an ugly terminal. That’s why the Unicorns bought Mandy a wig. It wasn’t altruism, it was that bald girls give them the heebie-jeebies. Please tell me that word is not racist. *googles* Oh thank god. It’s not. It was coined by a cartoonist and has only ever meant what it means now.

The drive home is pleasant, and Alice marvels at how nice Suzanne is to speak to. What a change. Nope. You thought she was fantastic before, remember? Suzanne had the smarts to hide her toxic behaviour under charming manners. This means nothing.

In fact I really hope this is all a big work.

I’m coming back for revenge. I shall pretend to have seen the light after receiving a terminal diagnosis of (unspecified but scary medical thing). Of course, I won’t tell you that I’m dying. I’ll just leave a few clues around – probably a posterboard that reads TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS OF SUZANNE DEVLIN (WHO IS REALLY REALLY REALLY DYING) stapled to Elizabeth’s “clever” little face – and humbly admit that yes, tragic woe, I am not long for this world. Oh, the sadness and forgiveness. PLOT TWIST! I’M NOT DYING. I DON’T EVEN HAVE HAYFEVER, BITCHES! I’M GOING TO FUCK YOU SWEET VALLEY ASSHATS UP TWICE AS HARD.

I really want to read that book. I don’t want to read the sad tragic woe of Suzanne making amends. Fuck amends, they’re boring. [Raven: ONE HUNDRED PERCENT THIS. *swoons*]

But back with the book I’m actually reading, Alice thinks to herself that knowing her kids, Suzanne is not going to win this battle.

Uh, Alice… are you acknowledging that your children are monsters? If so, big kudos for noticing. Now the next step is admitting that it’s your fault for being a shitty parent.


When they get home, Jessica has instructed them to act as if they completely forgot Suzanne was visiting. She goes in first, and – I hate to admit this – is a complete fucking delight. She acts as if she has no idea Suzanne was visiting, then pretends she thought she was from Florida (which I’m pretty sure is the biggest insult you can toss at an Upper East Sider), and then throws herself into Suzanne’s old role of over-selling everything.

“Your friends,” Jessica said, flinging herself down on the sofa and reaching for a piece of candy from the bowl on the coffee table, “were the most fascinating, the most wonderful—”


Mrs. Wakefield shook her head. “Suzanne, I’m going to take your bag upstairs,” she said flatly. “We’re going to put you in Jessica’s room again, if that’s OK.”

“It’s fine with me,” Suzanne said, “if it’s OK with Jessica. I mean it’s—”

“I am honored,” Jessica insisted as her mother left the room, “Absolutely honored.”

A+ for Jessica using her bitchiness both for comedy and aiming at a deserving subject. (I don’t care if she’s dying. She still behaved badly and Jessica is working on the information she has thus far.)

Elizabeth immediately feels terrible about being rude and backtracks. Steven walks in and says “Hi.” Only “hi”. A+ for a sensible follow-up to Jessica’s effusive sarcasm. You two haven’t been my favourite at the same time since Jumping to Conclusions. Oh wait, no, Evil Elizabeth was a good Jessica and Steven book too.

Jessica mentions Suzanne’s boyfriend, who attempted to rape her, and Suzanne says that they’re not friends any more, and Jessica must feel “upset” about what happened. I’m not even blaming Suzanne for that, it’s probably in the Sweet Valley Bible: Rape is nearly ok. A bit disquieting, but mostly fine. Jessica just continues to mock Suzanne’s previous way of speaking, while adding that in boring old Sweet Valley, things like that don’t happen. Um, yes they do. They happened to your sister. By your ex. And also Enid’s ex, Ronnie, tried it. And a whole heap of books we haven’t read yet. Including one that tries to make us take it seriously, as if this one instance is any worse than all the other non-consensual behaviour thus far. [Raven: This is why I’d advocate for more lightness and frippery in a fun, long-running “reset at the end of each book” series. Because once you put this shit in Book Four, you can’t get the toothpaste back in the damn tube.]

Elizabeth feels awful for Suzanne, being openly mocked by her siblings. Suzanne excuses herself to freshen up, when it becomes apparent that Steven and Jessica aren’t giving an inch.


Once she’s gone, Elizabeth immediately tells them to back down. And they say no. So she backs down.

And then Jessica says something we’ve said so often there’s a goddamned tag for it.

Elizabeth sighed. “I guess you’re right,” she said slowly. “But—”

“No buts,” Jessica declared. “Come on, Liz. You’ve got to have a little backbone!”

Even the ghosties hate Elizabeth’s lack of spine.


The Wakefield Kids convene after dinner to discuss their plan. Suzanne has gone to bed, apparently tired from the flight. Jessica comments that she’s not that hot after all. She’s too thin now. Didn’t know you could be in Sweet Valley. Elizabeth said she asked about that – because that’s fucking normal – and Suzanne said that she’d been on a new diet, but she hopes not to lose any more weight. Elizabeth says she wants to be nice to Suzanne, Steven’s on the fence about it, and then suddenly he decides that the twins are “terrible” and he’s not ganging up with them against Suzanne any more.

Jeez, Steven, Elizabeth has done nothing but feebly mitigate any sass you two have laid down. Don’t lump her in with Jessica.

Jessica vows a scorched earth approach, while Elizabeth just bites her lip and internally wobbles.

She is saved from making any kind of decision by the phone ringing. It’s Todd. She breaks the news that Suzanne’s staying with them.

And then we just get a reiteration of plans that he’ll see her tomorrow. That was a worthwhile chapter. Thanks, ghostie.

Over with Todd, he’s having flashbacks. You see, now he’s in Vermont, he’s a skier. (Never mind that there’s a local ski slope that will feature in later books. I thought that was standard Sweet Valley nonsense, but apparently that’s the USA for you. You can have glorious sunshine at the beach and ski slopes in the same state. Who knew?) [Wing: Even Hawaii has skiing. On snow, not just water.] He bumped into Suzanne at Killington. Jerry, a friend of Todd’s was super into Suzanne and the three of them went for burgers, after Suzanne apologised.

Todd was taken aback with how chill Suzanne was about going to somewhere as low-rent as a the burger bar. And they had a jolly old time. Todd met her the next day, and they talked more. Oh, and the chemistry is off the charts. This guy sees stars every time he glances at her gorgeous countenance.

Nothing has happened. And he doesn’t want to hurt Elizabeth. But…

Ok, if beige paint and toxic harpy want to get together, I’m for it. Thank god Elizabeth has spent the entire book trying to wriggle out of her relationship while telling everyone that everything’s fine, otherwise there might be some real conflict in this book. [Raven: Like all of the foreshadoing in this book, it’s caked thick and trowelled on.]

Oh god. I’ve just realised that the lack of conflict won’t make things any easier. Elizabeth and Todd are two of the dimmest humans on the planet with the communication skills of a frying pan. So, at this point, there are 10 more chapters to go. Most of which will be Elizabeth and Todd faffing around their feelings and saying that they love each other, while both desperately want out.


Although I’m still rooting for the “it’s a work” twist. Come on, Sweet Valley, you can do it. Shock me.

The twins gossip that night. Jessica says that Lila is at a spa getting her thighs toned for $300 a day. They mention Suzanne’s weight loss again, saying Lila should ask her secret.

“Probably by being crafty, evil, and manipulative,” Jessica retorted. “That’ll make you lose weight any day.”

Huh. Fat-shaming burns calories. I guess that’s why people are such assholes the minute they see someone even a little chubby. Keeps them slim and smug.

The next morning, Elizabeth is about as erratic as I’ve ever seen her. First of all, she decides not to wake Jessica, deciding that poor Suzy needs an angst-free breakfast. Then she’s a complete bitch to Suzanne, shutting her down at every turn, saying one thing with her words, but letting her glares and tone say what she really means. And she boils with rage and cuts her off when Suzanne tries to explain about Mr Collins. (As far as I can tell: Daddy never came to my ball games.) She thinks to herself that Suzanne doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a job and responsibilities. She just gets everything from her parents.

Thanks for the reality check, Serena Van der Woodsen, tell me more about your personal experience of falling behind on your mortgage repayments and worrying that you’re going to lose your house.

Also, she caught Suzanne pocketing a bottle of pills as she walked in.

Jessica walks in and asks Suzanne – still in her emphatic overselling way – whether she’s seen Jessica’s new silk blouse. She just bought it from Lisette’s. See! I KNEW a ghostie had used it as a clothes store, not just a jewellery store. I feel less stupid knowing someone who was paid to write this and had a Sweet Valley Bible made the same mistake as me. Yeah, I have read this before. Back in the 90s. I can barely remember it, so I didn’t mention it earlier.

Elizabeth immediately picks up on Jessica’s meaning that Suzanne is stealing again, and switches sides again to defend Suzanne.

Seriously, Elizabeth, pick a goddamned lane.

Elizabeth leaves and Suzanne observes that Jessica really hates her. She tries to explain about Pete – that’s the would-be rapist’s name – apparently he has parent issues too. Cool. Glad we all understand that it’s not his fault. He just did a rape because he had painful fee-fees. Maybe we should send him a fruit basket or something? Hope he feels better soon.

Steven then enters and is friendly… and also gets his sister in a headlock. I don’t know if this is to demonstrate that he wants her to be nice, or just an excuse to touch her. *shrugs*

Then some daisies arrive for Jessica, and she talks philosophically about how beautiful flowers are, but some have thorns, amiright, Suzanne?


The twins have yet another confab about Suzanne. I don’t need to explain each twin’s viewpoint, right?

Both have seen that she has pills. Jessica thinks she must be a druggie, hence the weight loss. Elizabeth has no thoughts at all. Which is blissful for us.

Once back in the room, the following happens: Steven is polite; Suzanne asks to go to the Patmans’ party; Jessica says no; Suzanne cries; Todd shows up; Suzanne drops a vase and exits stage left in floods of tears. [Raven: Having read the entire book, I’m not really sure why she dropped this. Okay, so it could be symptomatic, but it’s definitely presented as an “oh Todd I love you” moment, when at this point such a thing was not in her wheelhouse. Rubbish.]

Suzanne returns – fuck me, this book is nothing but people in rooms, leaving rooms to do a thing, coming back to the room, only to find a new arrangement of people. I’M BORED OF MUSICAL ROOMS.

She claims to be getting headaches that make her dizzy. Jessica takes this as proof of a drug habit. Although I will concede, a high class one, not like Enid being a tweaker. A posh person’s addiction.

Elizabeth has to get changed because the vase splashed her, and Jessica has to put the smashed vase in the trash, leaving Todd and Suzanne alone. They have a furtive whispered conversation where they agree not to mention having met up, and Jessica hears just enough to put the pieces together and come up with “Suzanne 2: Boyfriend-Stealing Vengeance”.

She quickly moves on to, I KNEW IT! And Elizabeth will be DEVASTATED.

And then, naturally, WHERE’S MY LYNCH MOB AT?

She rounds up Aaron and Winston for a chat on the beach [Raven: Such an opportunity for an “A to Z posse”, from Aaron Dallas to Donald Zwerdling]. This is a double-purpose meeting: 1) rile up the locals about Suzanne; and 2) catch some rays that will look perfect against her missing silk blouse, which isn’t missing but hidden in Elizabeth’s closet, just to “keep Suzanne on her toes”.

Jessica elects not to go with the truth, and instead tells the boys that all Suzanne has done is run Sweet Valley down for being a hick town (put a pin in that one for a few Super Editions, where Jessica and Elizabeth have to visit a hick town and can barely deal with how hick it is), and complain about how the boys can’t please a woman. Oh, and also she’s off her tits on pills, “a hundred and thirty-seven pounds of them”.

So, now that she’s insulted their homes and their penises, would they like to be Suzanne’s Secret Santas with an evil twist?


Steven and Jessica talk about Suzanne. You know their viewpoints, right?

So much of this fucking book is two or more Wakefields arguing about Suzanne. I’m so bored. I’m sure it wouldn’t be so bad if I was just reading it, but good god, it’s every couple of pages!


Oh. Perfect. Be careful what you fucking wish for, Dove. You moron. Use your words more carefully.


Ok, when I said move the plot on, I meant put it on the page.

*cries again and gets flashbacks to Perfect Summer*

You see, Elizabeth is shopping, but she thinks back to seeing Todd. You know, the (in?) love of her life. The cause of her conflict. The fucking plot device. Yeah, well, it was weird. They talked about Suzanne on the drive to the Egberts, then didn’t talk all afternoon.

Then they were supposed to have a one-on-one date, but instead they went to the Beach Disco and also didn’t talk all night. They had plans to hand-hold on the way home, but Jessica needs a ride, so instead they have a chaperone.

But apparently, Todd’s coming over tonight to spend time with Ned and Alice who want to see him. Yeah, that’s not fucking weird at all. I mean, I hang out with Raven’s mum, but that’s because mine is a toxic mess, and also, we’ve been together for two decades. We say the “in-law” part really quiet and really quick at this point.

But is it normal for a parent to have one-on-one time with their kid’s romantic partner, when they’ve been dating for four months at the most (if school comes back in August, and we’re definitely in December now)? No, seriously, that’s a question. I have no clue what a normal family does. And Wing, I’m not sure your fam counts as normal, since your parents adopted me, sight unseen, along with pretty much every other friend of yours and your siblings. They’re above-and-beyond generous with their love. Contrast that to Ned and Alice who are 80% absent and 20% drunk. [Raven: …And 3% terrible at maths.] [Wing: … okay, fair, I’ll accept that perhaps my family is not normal either. Mom connected with my high school friends so much so that people I hadn’t talked to in more than a decade came to her funeral, if that says anything.]

But finally, Elizabeth thinks to herself that she’s feeling absolutely zero magic with Todd, and hopes that that will change when the get some alone time and can work themselves to a froth with all the hand holding and husky voices a Sweet Valley teen can handle.

A scene break later, Elizabeth finds Suzanne, and she’s very upset.

Elizabeth hurried over and scanned the piece of paper the girl had thrust out in her shaking hand. At once she could see why Suzanne was so upset. Someone had cut individual letters out of the newspaper, gluing them onto a piece of paper to look like a ransom note. “SUZY DEVLIN, GO HOME” the note said. “FROM YOUR SECRET SANTAS.”

Elizabeth’s Needy Person alarm goes off, and she forgets all of her earlier anger about her working class hero, Mr Collins. She gives Suzanne tea and sympathy. Oodles of it. Nobody deserves this. A single note containing two whole words. Not even a girl who cried rape and nearly left a single father without a job deserves such a terrible thing. This is just. Way. Too. Far.

Seriously, Elizabeth’s fucking morals.

Suzanne explains her situation. You see, she’s a poor little rich girl who has never been loved by her parents. Her boyfriend Pete wasn’t so great, but Mom loved him because he had the right surname. And she didn’t even get a choice about being sent to Sweet Valley. She is just full of woe and regret.

[Wing: I prefer the Poor Little Rich Girl story when it’s Lila.]

Suzanne deftly drops in that things have changed now, then awkwardly changes the subject, so it will get Elizabeth’s clever brain ticking over, and she will realise that Suzanne is dying. (Still rooting for that revenge story.)

Elizabeth then bolsters her up, saying that she believes Suzanne’s face turn, so maybe other people will. Suzanne lights up and says she’ll invite Aaron to lunch tomorrow. Elizabeth privately worries that Suzanne will get her heart broken when Aaron won’t buy into the New Suzanne.

Holy fucking shit, woman. USE YOUR FUCKING WORDS. Don’t tell her that everything’s fine and people will believe her if they won’t. You’re not being supportive, you’re being a brainless asshat that set her up for a fall.

Oooh, I’ll take Elizabeth playing the long game for her revenge. It’s not my first choice, but I’d take it.


Once again, the twins discuss Suzanne. Elizabeth says she thinks Suzanne might be sick, hence all the pills. She seems sleepy of an afternoon and she’s been complaining of foggy vision to Alice. Nope, says Jess, JUNKIE.

Aaron calls, returning Suzanne’s call, but she’s asleep. This provokes discussion. Jessica’s take: MAN-STEALING JUNKIE!

And then we hop heads to Jessica, to see that actually, she’s super worried about Elizabeth’s heart being broken, and also pissed off that one of her Secret Satans (although “go home” was so feeble, Satan is definitely overselling it) has switched teams so quickly. It is time to murder this bitch. [Raven: Secret Satans! Love it.]

Jessica calls Aaron to retell events. Elizabeth pretended to befriend Suzanne to get the skinny. Suzanne is desperate to boink Aaron, so she’s going to take him somewhere secluded for lunch and have her wicked way with him. And we all know how jealous Patsy gets. (Do we? I don’t believe we do. And if Patsy’s so jealous, why is Aaron allowed to keep being friends with Jessica, the turbo-flirt, who occasionally dates him?)

But don’t worry, Jessica has a plan. Tell Suzanne that he doesn’t have time this weekend, but he’d love to talk to her at a party his cousin is giving before the Patmans’ big gauche party. On the day of the party, claim to have a flat tire, say you’ll meet her there, and give her the address of a derelict building that is used for the wild kids to throw parties and might be haunted, so she might either be ravaged by ghost or just die because it’s structurally unsound. Brilliant, eh?

Naturally, Jessica doesn’t say the death part out loud, just says that Suzanne will feel humiliated. Aaron is worried for Suzanne’s safety, but Jessica pushes him into it. She thinks to herself that Aaron is smarter than she thought. I disagree, because she has to add a caveat about not talking about this plan to Elizabeth, because she’ll get “funny” about it. Dude. Red flag.

Over with Suzanne, she was two seconds away from calling it quits and going home when Aaron called. His enthusiasm gave her a second wind. Also she is dooooomed. She has no hope. Her only joy now is to make amends without people’s pity.

I really don’t think Sweet Valley should be tackling the BIG topics, y’know. If you have a terminal diagnosis – or a non-terminal life-changing one – you don’t have to do things the hardest way possible to win the admiration of all the people not dealing with all the new experiences and problems that this diagnosis has brought along. You do not have to be a brave plucky soul who doesn’t give an inch. You’re allowed to cry in the shower and scream at the sky that it’s not fair, because it’s not. You don’t have to hide your medication and be stoic and graceful. You can do this however it works for you.

And sure, Suzanne could be doing exactly that. Maybe she is a bloody-minded person who needs to make amends without any allowances. But have you noticed that every single person in Sweet Valley who is outside the healthy norm is applauded because “You’d never know he/she was [deaf/dying/whatever]”?

Can we just have one person who’s like, “I’m mobility impaired, and sure, I could spent 40 minutes going up these six stairs without assistance, and pretending I’m fine, but the pain and the uncertainty and the high chance that I’ll fall is just not worth your admiration. I’m going up on my hands and knees because this piss-poor school has used the goddamned handrail to dangle a school banner from because all of the able-bodied assholes here forgot that it’s a useful tool for those of us with mobility issues and instead just think it’s a holder for decorations.”

I would have far more respect for these books if they had a “Wow, I never even thought about that being necessary. How sobering” moment for every, “Gosh, you’d never even know he/she was [disabled/dying]” one. [Raven: Excellent points, well made.]

Also, Suzanne is baffled by how awkward and curt Todd is being. Oh, so you’ve seen Todd, have you? He’s mostly been an off-page aside for us. Perhaps you should put the story in the book, rather than just endless repetitive confabs?

That evening, Todd comes over to watch TV with the Wakefields and, we are told, not shown, that he is curt to Suzanne. Elizabeth and Todd go outside to have a two-line argument about it, but then Todd huskily promises Elizabeth that they’ll never argue again. [Wing: And spineless Liz actually admits, at least to herself, that never arguing again is very unlikely. Growth! Of a sort.] Later Elizabeth realises that he never apologised for his bad behaviour, which is completely out of character.

… is it?

Do they actually apologise or do they just end up giggling that they had yet another argument over something silly? Also, Elizabeth is still not getting those magic tingles. She is not compelled to hold hands with him. Thank you for this brand new information that is not at all getting stale at this point.

The next morning Suzanne asks the twins to run her to the post office to pick up a special delivery package. It’s small and in a brown envelope and it seems to frighten her when she collects it.

Also, another Secret Satan gift arrives. An empty box. That sends a heartbroken Suzanne to her room to lie down.

Guys, you put more effort into crushing the spirit of Robin Wilson. But I suppose being fat is far worse a crime than framing a man for rape in Sweet Valley.


Elizabeth: Poorly precious angel.


Elizabeth: Seriously.

Jessica: *sigh* I will ease off by 3%.

Elizabeth: Yay. Going to the mall now. Byeeeee!

Jessica actually decides to stop fully. But then she gets involved in wrapping gifts, and the phone rings. She and Suzanne pick up at the same time, and it’s Todd. Jessica stays silent and overhears enough to think that they’re madly in love, thanks to Todd’s “husky” confessions of how awkward this all is. Well, fuck all of her half-hearted ideas about stopping the bullying. [Raven: GO JESSICA! RAMMING SPEED! FUCK THE CONSEQUENCES! TO THE HILT!]

Enid and Elizabeth have a chat at Casey’s Place about Elizabeth’s lack of spark with Todd.

Of course, there is this magical quote:

Elizabeth nodded. “I’ll never forget Todd,” she said softly, balling up the wrapper of her straw.

Dude, why would you forget him? How is that even a consideration? You’re not an old woman recollecting her short romance aboard the Titanic, who then went on to marry and have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You’re eighteen. He’s in town now. If you did forget him that would be a very serious medical condition. And since you’ve already had brain damage and still didn’t forget him, I think you’re good.

Elizabeth is just the dimmest character in this universe. The more they try to make her clever and profound the dimmer she seems.

Ultimately she wants to end it with Todd, but she wants it to be mutual. I mean, most people would love that luxury, but Elizabeth has the benefit of the plot working for her. So all of this is tiresome.

Over with Jessica, she’s having a wonderful time. They’re going to see Handel’s Messiah at the Civic Centre, which is one of her favourite things. I’d have thought seeing anything to do with her Adversary would cause her to explode in a ball of flame, but apparently not. They’ve also put up the tree, and – joy of joys – her Secret Santa has sent her a promise for a date to a fabulous restaurant. She’s still convinced her Secret Santa is Hans. Apparently the only person to come close for gifting is Lila’s Secret Santa (Hans), who has sent a promise that he will cook her a fabulous meal.

I just want to point out for context that Jessica, thus far, has bought Bruce jelly beans.

And I’m not sure Elizabeth has gifted anything at all. [Raven: That’s a damn fine point! Maybe she’s exempt becuase she’s doing the admin? This Secret Santa thing makes no sense, and it altogether a little too “romantic” for my liking.] [Dove: It was unclear, but I thought she was assigned Aaron at the beginning? Also, agreed with this romance. What if you’re given someone of the same gender as you? Because we all know that only [redacted], [redacted] and [redacted] can be gay. There are no lesbians in Sweet Valley. Ever.]

Jessica is making dinner – apparently we’ve forgiven her for the food poisoning. Suzanne wishes she had a family like this, where she has a sister her own age, and a mother who keeps the ugly ornaments they made as kids. Then Jessica tells her to get out, and her eyes fill with tears. Oh, the sadness.

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-Suzanne here. I am a bit bored with her eyes filling with tears every few pages. I’m definitely bored of Jessica’s histrionics. And I’m super over Elizabeth’s endless waffle about whether she and Todd have a spark. And my god, the endless confabs. But as a story, it’s fine. It’s just tiresome to recap because when you recap, you really realise how much treading water the Super Editions have to do to reach that 50k word count.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next Super Editions and seeing if I enjoy them more.

After dinner, they set about decorating the tree. They find a glass angel, and Alice says that Suzanne should place it because she’s never decorated a tree before. But Suzanne turns pale and goes dizzy before fainting. Elizabeth’s heart pounds with terror. Serious business.

They have to cancel Messiah because the Wakefield parents want to keep an eye on Suzanne. [Wing: … the twins and Steven could still go, you fools.] The parents explain that they are under strict instructions not to say anything, so… they’re saying nothing.

Elizabeth bounces between: OMG, SHE’S DYING and Huh, what if it’s an “hysterical illness” and nothing serious at all, but she’s super embarrassed about it?

Jessica thinks that there’s nothing wrong with Suzanne except she’s an attention-seeking junkie man-stealer.

Now we skip to the party. I have to describe this:

Suzanne was too distracted about the night’s party to realize she had never looked so beautiful in her entire life. The blue velvet dress she had borrowed from Elizabeth had a high neck, edged in cream-colored lace. It was much more subdued than anything Suzanne had ever owned, almost prim. But it looked amazingly good on her. It made her look like the heroine of a Victorian novel. A simple strand of pearls at her throat completed the look.

I love the way that Elizabeth’s sexy party dress makes her look Victorian. And then they add pearls.

Also, Suzanne is a Mary Sue. Her eyes are described as blue-purple. And finally, good to know that a terminal diagnosis that causes rapid weight loss makes you look more beautiful than you’ve ever looked before. That’s a good message. Very inspiring.

Suzanne’s mystery package that she was so terrified of? A prescription. Apparently all it contained is pills, which is strange because Suzanne was starting to get confused about what she could take with what, and there is nothing in there but the pills. Seriously, America, please tell me that even in the 80s it was legally mandated to have a legend with medication giving side-effects and instructions, and that the ghostie is just lying. I mean, I really hope that’s the case, but your healthcare system is deliberately set up to kill and bankrupt people, so maybe not. [Wing: Required since at least the 1960s, I think, with earlier attempts around it. I also find it odd that her doctor sent her medication to her in the mail versus sending a prescription to a nearby pharmacy. Actually, it’s even stranger that he had her start a new medication while she was traveling, especially when she’s had such a struggle with meds so far. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.]

She calls the doctor, but he’s not there because it’s 10pm in New York, so she leaves a message and takes a pill. Um… if this is new medication, how does she know how much to take and how often? Oh, whatever.

Downstairs the twins, Steven, Todd and Suzanne all have a glass of champagne. Suzanne thinks maybe she shouldn’t, although her doctor hasn’t told her she can’t drink, only that she should limit it to one or two glasses. Isn’t the drinking age twenty-one? Oh, in 1984 it was nineteen, which she might be. [Wing: Nope, California, as it often does with laws that end up nationwide, adopted 21 much earlier, in the 1930s. I think the parental permission might apply, but only if they’re there.] [Dove: I googled New York, since that’s where Suzanne is from and her thoughts would be framed around her experience of whether or not drinking laws impact her life.] Also, standard caveats of if your parents let you. I just assumed that Sweet Valley was so pure that nobody would drink at all until they turned 21, because that’s a “responsible message” for young people. [Raven: Also, try pronouncing Champagne like you pronounce Lasagne. And then pronounce Lasagne like you pronounce Champagne. #FunWithWords] [Dove: … you broke me. My brain no longer works now.]

Suzanne gets the staged call from Aaron, telling her to drive herself to the party. Suzanne does not want to. She’s not a confident driver, and takes a large gulp of champagne to calm her nerves. And, speaking as probably the most nervous driver on the planet, fuck no. Truly anxious people do not do things that generate more anxiety about the thing they’re anxious about doing (except for when they put it off until tomorrow, making the deadline shorter).

If I go out driving by myself, my worries are: flat tire that I can’t deal with; a bump with someone else and the other person is an angry man who shouts and screams, like the asshole that bellowed hatefully at my 80+ years old mother; that another driver is drunk or reckless – basically, there is some kind of dangerous driver on the road; that I will have some kind of panic attack while driving and become the dangerous driver on the road… you get the point. The last thing I’d do is drink. Unless I had the brilliant idea of saying, “Oh, Aaron, I’d love to, but I’ve literally just drunk some champagne, so I’m over the limit.” In fact, that’s a great excuse. Suzanne, do that. Or ask the twins to drop you.

[Wing: I can see her drinking to try to calm herself. I’m not sure drunk driving = bad had really permeated teen culture in the 80s in the US. Hell, I’m not sure it has today in a lot of places.]

Elizabeth thinks this is weird. Suzanne claims she’s giving Aaron a ride to the Patman party, but Aaron has a jealous girlfriend, how strange. Even Steven and Todd find it odd. Um, all of you asshats are going to the Patman party. Why aren’t you all saying, “Oh, no worries, just ride over with us and we’ll pick up Aaron on the way.”? This plan should not be working at all. [Raven: Also, have we ever established whether Suzanne can actually drive? I guess it’s something assumed in the US, as everyone learns in school in about 20 minutes, right?] [Dove: Yes, it was specifically covered in a very awkward section where she nearly told them she passed her test in Vermont, which would put them on to her obviously definitely knowing someone else who also lives in Vermont.] [Raven: Oh, of course it was. Carry on!] [Wing: I’m shocked that she has a license at all, to be honest. She mainly lives in NYC, right? And her family is rich. They’d have a driver. Driving in NYC is a pain.]

The Wakefield parents return home from day drinking next door, and the phone rings. It’s Suzanne’s doctor, who breaks all sorts of privacy laws by telling Alice what’s going on. Thankfully, the doctor, despite not being appraised of the situation, gives a very salient piece of information: she should not mix her meds and drink. It could knock her out… or kill her. Dude. THIS IS WHY YOU PUT INSTRUCTIONS WITH MEDICATION. THIS IS ON YOU, YOU FECKLESS WASTREL. [Raven: Still laughing at “… or KILL HER.” Or kill her!]

Jessica realises that this is a major problem and immediately comes clean about her evil plan.

I present to you the entire Wakefield parenting arc:

“Jessica, how could you do such a thing?” Mr. Wakefield demanded. “Never mind,” he added shortly. “We’ve got to find her. With the combination of medication and alcohol in that girl’s body, she’ll be lucky if she makes it there alive!”

I know that the important thing right now is saving Suzanne, but this is pretty much how they tackle any issue with Jessica’s behaviour. “Bad Jessica!” followed by stomping off in disgust.

Over with Suzanne, her vision’s going foggy and she’s dozing off.

In shock the two officers watched the little sports car skid dangerously to the right, straighten out again, and suddenly bump off the road, turning over on its side.

Such description! It was like a scene from The Fast and the Furious franchise! Even I would put a smidge more effort in to the big crash scene. *glances at The Hunger Games* Ok, I’d add like four more words. Shut up. I’m trying to take the moral high ground here.

I don’t get why she just didn’t hit a tree. Why is she drifting and slipping about? Why doesn’t the road curve and the car doesn’t because she’s asleep? That makes far more sense than a nervous driver with bad vision somehow driving with lead foot and whooshing around corners like she’s in Tokyo Drift. Like, why did she flip over? Did Jessica install one of those really cool stunt flippers under the Fiat? If you want added drama, because fuck physics, have her hit a tree and let the tree fall down on top of the car.

Just can’t picture a car going at top speed and then suddenly flipping. What did it even hit? Cars don’t just flip. Although Ostrich told me that Isuzu Troopers were known for it, like you crash that, you’re gonna flip. And we all know how I feel about Isuzu Troopers. [Raven: No, I can see it. Too fast, clip a high kerb at an angle, up on two wheels, onto the side. Fiats are quite light. It’s not a five-star GTA flip, but it’s doable. Also, a tree would mean the car is ruined, but in this scenario they can handwave it away as “good as new”.] [Wing: Less a flip and more a tilt, I’m picturing. As in, there was a bit of a dropoff at the edge of the road or something or a curb as Raven suggested and the car ends up on one side or the other, depending on which it was. I didn’t get the sense of speeding, either, more like she can’t focus and she’s falling asleep, so the car is swerving as she fades in and out of consciousness and her arms move. And it’s not just Isuzu Troopers that will flip. Most SUVs, at least in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, are a flip risk because of weight distribution.]

All the Wakefields, plus Todd, but minus Alice, who stays home to man the phone, pile into Ned’s car and drive out to where Suzanne was headed. Ned quizzes Jessica and she starts dramatically wailing about how it’s all her fault, and boo-hoo and–

–Steven cuts her off demands simple answers. Has Jessica been behind the Secret Satans? Why?

Jessica says she just wanted justice for Suzanne’s victims, and how was she supposed to know that Suzanne was on medication and shouldn’t mix it with alcohol? Ned agrees, yes, this is all his and Alice’s fault. They were trusted with Suzanne. How were they supposed to know that their frankly unhinged daughter, who has bullied, threatened and manipulated innocent girls non-stop since birth, would unleash the kraken on someone she had a legitimate beef with?

Ned explains that Suzanne has multiple sclerosis, which may go into remission or may get worse. It may lead to the worst thing ever…

“A wheelchair!” Elizabeth exclaimed. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t imagine pretty, vivacious, independent Suzanne trapped in a wheelchair.

Can you imagine anything worse? Elizabeth surely can’t.

[Note from Future Dove: JC/ogwnostalgia got in contact and asked whether SVH had said that MS was terminal. After checking, no, they did not say that. I assumed she had some kind of terminal diagnosis from all the hints at the beginning of the book, hence all my comments above. However, SVH doesn’t say that MS is a terminal or fatal diagnosis. And since I knew about the big reveal that she wasn’t sick, I didn’t bother finding out anything about MS. However, just for clarity, it’s not a terminal diagnosis. Thank you, JC, for getting in touch.]

This is an absolutely sickening phrase. And while I can see that the contrast – current, functional Suzanne – is what is distressing to them, “trapped in a wheelchair” is just ableist as fuck. [Raven: ‘”A wheelchair!” Elizabeth exclaimed’ is now my favourite Out Of Context Sweet Valley Quote. A wheelchair!]

Annoyingly, I saw a great tumblr post, but did not bookmark it, about how disability aids are not “traps”, they’re freedom, complete with really cool artwork comparing the outside world’s view of mobility aids to the feeling of them, e.g. instead of someone sitting in a wheelchair, someone is sat in a fabulous spaceship, giving them the freedom to go wherever they want; instead of someone hobbling along on crutches, a badass with dual swords is ready to take on the world.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the post, I can’t even remember where I saw it, so if anyone has anything similar, please link it in the comments, because I’m sure by now multiple disabilities have now been addressed, and I’d love to see more of the artwork.

[Wing: I don’t know the specific post Dove references, but I have seen plenty of them on Tumblr and Twitter. Here’s a sampling.]

Jessica has a massive heel realisation as she recalls the terrible (and, in my opinion, half-witted) things she’s done. A card that says “go home”, feigning a lost blouse, being sarcastically enthusiastic or cold to Suzanne. Wow. If only, like, there had been some kind of situation earlier in Jessica’s life where, perhaps, she had bullied someone too far and… maybe… just maybe… they had ended up in hospital, and Jessica had realised that she was wrong for bullying everyone. And – here’s the kicker – if perhaps her twin hadn’t gushingly reassured her that she did nothing wrong, maybe Jessica would have learned that bullying is bad, and has real-life devastating results.

Just a thought.

She also recognises the look on Todd’s face. It’s the same as it was when Elizabeth fell off the motorbike and broke her brain. It is… le gasp… the look of a man worried about the woman he loves.

Oh no. Poor Elizabeth and her heart.

Oh do absolutely fuck off with this stupid Toddibeth nonsense. Literally nobody cares.

Somehow they now know that Suzanne is in hospital. Ned said something about calling the police from a gas station, so I guess the police told him? *shrugs* He’s a Wakefield, Sweet Valley knows to give Wakefields all the deets.

Ned says that Suzanne may die, but silver lining the car isn’t even scratched.

You’re telling me that this:

A Fiat Spider from the 1980. A small red sports car, with open top, and all the heft on an empty Pepsi can.
The Wakemobile!

flipped upside down and the top didn’t buckle like Elizabeth’s spine? I can totally see why Suzanne is near death, I just can’t understand why the car isn’t. [Raven: Flipped onto its side, yes?] [Wing: Flipped onto its side is my take, yes. Though I also don’t believe it came away without a scratch. At the very least, a side mirror should have broken.]

Let the hospital scenes commence:

Ned and Alice are full of woe and feel so helpless. I don’t care. You’re awful 99% of the time.

Elizabeth is worried. I don’t care. You’re a spineless blob of goo.

Todd is in love with Suzanne and vows to tell her. I don’t care. I’ve never cared about Todd.

Jessica feels guilty. I do care. You should. She asks if Suzanne will live. Todd asks why she cares, since she’s the cause of this? Jessica hits back that since he’s the one in love with Suzanne, part of this falls on him too.

Elizabeth’s jaw drops. The story comes out, and people feel a lot less angry with Jessica when they realise that she’s only been bullying this girl to protect Elizabeth’s relationship. OMG, people, she did a bad thing, even if it was for her twisted version of “good reasons”. You need to explain to her, because she doesn’t understand good and bad.

The doctor comes back and reports that Suzanne is fine, cuts, bruises and a concussion. I admit, I know fuck all about medicine – and I am open to being schooled – but I find it hard to believe that you can mix those up with “OMG, she’s dying from the accident and OD-ing on pills/booze”. And I know over on PointHorror, I used to rant all the time that concussions are serious business, but that’s when they’re untreated. Utterly simplified: you have a head injury, you don’t treat it, you might die later. But being carted into the ER “near death” and then it being revealed that it’s just cuts and bruises and a head injury that they’re going to treat… *shrugs* [Raven: ABSOLUTE clown shoes. I expected an “it was touch and go, but she pulled through” narrative, not “lol we gave her a band-aid”.]

Well, now the panic is over, time to party at the Patmans. No, seriously. They’re going to party for the right reasons though. They’re going to do some serious PR on Suzanne’s image.

Well, Elizabeth and Steven are. Jessica has immediately reverted to type and wants to know who her Secret Santa is.

Elizabeth decides that the best way she can make it up to Suzanne is to stand aside and let her have Todd. Dude, I think she already does have him. You just need to officially break up.

At the party, Jessica comes clean and Elizabeth and Todd finally talk and break up amicably. Elizabeth claims that she’s not the jealous type.

Jessica’s Secret Santa turns out to be Winston. Who didn’t see that coming? And Jessica is furious that Lila will be having a romantic time with Hans. Bruce politely thanks Jessica for her gifts. Elizabeth… apparently never was involved in Secret Santa, or she just blanked whoever she got.

Jessica then gets a brilliant idea, so when Mr Collins – who is apparently at this private student party at a private residence… ok? – is giving a speech, she whispers in his ear, and he then announces that Suzanne never had a Secret Santa, so if you want to spend the next few days spoiling her, go on.

Then the parade happens and Jessica successfully steals Lila’s spot, leaving her to be the elf. It’s hysterical. [Raven: So much anger about this.] [Dove: For all the build-up this nonsense was given, it’s given about as much detail as I gave in this recap. Just a couple of half-arsed sentences.]

They visit Suzanne in the hospital, and she and Todd are holding hands when the twins walk in. It’s forgiveness and hugging all around.

Then the doctor walks in and – regardless of how many strangers are present – announces that, just like in Centre of Attention – it’s not a terminal disease, it’s mono.

Jesus fucking Christ. I know Raven spent the Twins run railing against the teachers, but for this series it’s definitely the medical profession. You guys don’t have a single degree between you, do you? There’s nothing we can do to save Annie. So Jessica has to talk her back to life. It’s weird, Enid can’t walk. We won’t do tests or push her in P.T., no we’ll just shrug and spend thousands on a wheelchair. And now, “You’re dying. Oh wait, no, you have the kissing disease.” For fuck’s sake.

[Raven: I actually stopped reading and shouted “OH FUCK OFF” at this point, which made Dove laugh like a loon. ATROCIOUS.]

Naturally there’s no talk of litigation, or what potential harm has been done to Suzanne by treating her for a condition she doesn’t have. Instead the swim team walks in and sings Silent Night.

Final Thoughts:

I am very tapped out from this one. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either. I think I’d have had much more fun reading it, because those bloody confabs were killing me. Pages and pages of reiterated information.

This could have been a lot more fun with an editor. If this was the normal length, we could have gotten rid of all the pages that gave us the same information, and I think it would have flowed a lot better.

Also, Suzanne’s “I’m not dying” reveal was just bullshit. I suppose it’s a lovely Christmas miracle and all that shit, but mostly it’s just trite nonsense. Also, nothing really happened.

I think Twins has broken me. I just expect lots of things to happen, rather than lots of conversations happen.

Meh. And that’s because I’m grading on a curve. If this was up against the Twins Christmas books, it would be a bad.

[Raven: This is a bad book.

The confabs were annoying (I call them conflabs), as Dove said. They seemed to replace a lot of action and actoal plot that was just recapped or revealed. Why the Ghostie couldn’t show us these happening, I’ve no idea.

The Secret Santa thing was just weird. Unless this is how things are in the US, I suppose. It felt so contrived, and “romantic”-themed, and just downright odd. And aside from this, there was precious little Christmas in this Special Christmas book.

There was also so little care taken with things of peripheral importance. The whole Hans thing? He literally did nothing front and centre. And the denouement to the Make Lila an Elf plot? Basically one paragraph that said “Jessica made Lila an elf”, before moving on. I hope you weren’t looking forward to Jessica’s cool fun scheme here, becuase THERE WASN’T ONE.

And most of all? Suzanne. I was ready for more evil scheming, and this is what we got? WEAKSAUCE.

The only bright spark, I think, is the end of Todd and Liz. Not becuase I hate them, but becuase I wasn’t expecting it. I’m quite excited about where it goes, because Todd and Liz haven’t been apart for the entire Twins-into-High run. A Brave New World is before us! Unless they just hand-wave it away.]

[Wing: Not nearly enough Christmas in a Christmas book, Jess was far too excited to see Todd considering how often they dislike each other, what the fuck was the point of the parade and elf boringness, and as predicted, SVH turned tropey illness drives seeking forgiveness story into something even more boring than it often is. As with Raven, though, I was surprised that Liz and Todd actually broke up. Like, fully. Completely. Actually stopped dating and returned to friendship. Did not see that coming.

All that being said, it’s a bad book for me. Too boring to be anything but a low meh, annoying enough it dropped to bad.]