Sweet Valley High #10: Wrong Kind of Girl

Sweet Valley High #10: Wrong Kind of Girl by Francine Pascal

Title: Wrong Kind of Girl

Tagline: Watch it, Annie Whitman! Jessica’s out to get you!

Summary: Jessica Wakefield has sworn never to allow Annie Whitman onto the Sweet Valley High cheering squad. Annie may have the beauty, talent and spirit to be a cheerleader, but she also has the worst reputation in school. She goes out with a different boy every night, and all the kids call her “Easy Annie” behind her back. Jessica’s pulling every devilish trick to keep Annie from ruining the cheerleaders’ image. [Dove: Actually, she doesn’t. She just keeps shouting “Annie Whitman will NEVER be a cheerleader.” But, sure, those words are “devilish tricks”.]

Only Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, knows what Annie’s really like. But can she change her sister’s mind before Jessica shatters Annie’s dreams?


Suicide. Depression. Speculation on dubious/complete lack of consent, slut shaming, bullying, my own foul and incendiary language in relation to all of these topics.

As always, Sweet Valley treats these topics with a complete lack of respect. I try to do better, but I’m an angry girl. I am trying to be very careful about what I say, what I quote and what I skip. But honestly, if you’re even slightly triggered by these topics, please don’t read this or listen to the podcast.

If you want to skip that part, I have put in skip links so you can avoid it completely.

On the topic of the suicide attempt, I’m going to limit my language and not mention the method. I ask that both recappers and commenters do the same.

If you need help, here are some UK hotlines.

Samaritans: 116 123

SP-UK (Suicide Prevention UK): 0800 689 5652

Papyrus (Prevention of Young Suicide): 0800 068 4141

[Wing: Here are some US resources:

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer Crisis Counselor

CDC Suicide Prevention Resources]

Initial Thoughts:

I remember this one from my youth. And my major thought was always, wait… the slutty girl didn’t sleep with the boys? Then how is she by any possible measure sluttier than Jessica, who also has a different boy for every page in this series? In fact, of all the times we’ve been up to Miller’s Point with Jessica, we’ve never seen Annie up there, so doesn’t that make Jessica even sluttier?

So basically, how on earth are we judging this girl for being a turbo slut when Jessica does exactly the same thing and the text expects us to understand that she isn’t one. (Naturally, I was Team Annie.)

Basically, I was too young to understand classism, even though I was already living it.

But I am interested to see how this plays out now that I’m an adult. Somehow I’ve merged Annie’s story with Louise from Making Out, which got really dark (Louise ended up in AA, and not in pom-poms), so I’ll be interested to see how this is dealt with, because Louise’s story was well done.

Finally: I hated this book when it was Power Play. I doubt I’m going to love it only six books later under a different title. How are we only ten books in and recycling plots multiple times already?

[Raven: I’ve a suspicion that Wrong Kind of Girl will be the Wrong Kind of Book.]

[Wing: I have very strong feelings about: mental health treatment, slut shaming, classism, and this series. I’m sure everyone can see where this is going.]


The book opens with Jessica being smug that everyone wants to be a cheerleader. Apropos of nothing, they’re holding try-outs. The ghostie didn’t even bother to have someone move away, it’s just time to add more cheerleaders, even though Robin just joined like five books ago. [Raven: I thought they were holding tryouts becuase both Cara and Lila were booted off the team for shenanigans, and now that Cara’s probation is up she can try out for her spot again…?] [Dove: Ok, that wasn’t explained. And it seems weird that they’ve been two short for the whole probation period… don’t they have alternates or backups?] [Wing: Wait, what? That’s the reason for tryouts? I think my rage is eating my brain.]

The ghostie gives us a quick rundown on how sexy every cheerleader is, but when she gets to the ethnic name, she’s got nothing. So she just breezes past Maria Santelli’s looks, and says she can do backflips. Which makes me wonder: 1) can’t everyone do backflips? I’ve seen Bring it On, that’s an entry level request, it’s like bragging that a secretary can touch-type; and 2) it’s so funny that girls with names like Robin Wilson, Helen Bradley and Jean West get attractive descriptors, but the ghostie is all out when she encounters something a little less WASPy.

[Wing: Based on this cheer stunt routine from 1980 (the internet really does provide), I’d say yes, they should probably all be doing flips, including backflips. Not the big stunts we see today, but at least that. FYI: I recommend muting the video if you watch it.]

Of course, they’re all festering corpses in comparison to the perfection of Jessica Wakefield. Oh god, the same-but-different paragraph in Twins was mockable, but I cannot stand the way the ghosties are pretty much fapping to Jessica. Especially when the twins on the front cover are really nothing special. No shade on the models, they’re pretty and I’m sure they’re wonderful people, but when the ghostie gushes for three paragraphs about how utterly perfect and ethereal the twins are, it’s hard to be wowed by regular attractive twins. [Raven: Yeah, it’s trowel-thick. It was never so gushing in Twins.]

And all the cheerleaders are pretty special. They have to be gorgeous, get good grades, be terrific cheerleaders, and also have some kind of special style. (Weird, I always thought Jean West was meant to be the ugly duckling in a later story…

am I confused, people?
Who is Jean West? I thought she was an uggo that needed a makeoever?x
Be as vague as possible, we like to keep away from the spoilers.)

tl;dr: Jessica has 75 hopefuls and only two slots on the roster. Oh woe is Jessica!

Elizabeth points out that there are five other cheerleaders that could help her with that decision, one of which is her co-captain, and that Jessica refuses their help because she has to control everything, which is an odd bit of spine from Elizabeth. Then Elizabeth points out that one of those spots has been promised to Cara Walker already.

Apparently Lila and Cara used to be on the team, but turned on the sprinklers during a Palisades game and were suspended. Lila went scorched earth and vowed to never cheer again – even smiling is a step too far, as you can see from all of her covers – but Cara can’t wait to get back. [Wing: I’m shocked Lila faced any consequences.]

Then Jessica spots a name on the list and throws a fit, how dare Annie Whitman try out? Elizabeth points out that Annie actually told Jessica she was going to, and Elizabeth has been tutoring her to get her grades up. Jessica says that’s irrelevant. Annie is known as “Easy Anne” and Jessica’s not having someone “like that” on the squad.

Elizabeth, like everyone else at Sweet Valley High, had heard the rumors about Annie. It was a sad situation. Annie was one of the most beautiful girls in town, but she had a very bad reputation. She seemed to fall deeply in love with one guy after another, but each deep love never lasted more than a night or two.

Holy shit. She’s fifteen. I want you to keep this in mind, because things are about to get horrible for her. Also, I suppose even though it doesn’t outright say that she had sex with them, the mention of “a night or two” certainly implies it. Tween me missed that one. [Raven: That line is terrible, and wholly not in keeping with the action that unfolds. She clearly has nothing more than dates with these boys, with not even hand-holding explicitly mentioned. She’s just lonely. Poor girl.] [Dove: Raven rants fully on this later, and he’s absolutely convinced me. I just took it at face value, but Raven’s understanding of the story makes far more sense than the story told.]

Elizabeth piously says that Annie is trying to change, and this could be just the thing she needs to turn her life around. Jessica says she’s not having her squad “tainted” by Annie. [Wing: But the Girl Who Cried Rape, totally fine.] Who, by the way, was running around all night with Rick Andover last night.

Annie is fifteen. Rick is in his twenties. Even if she gleefully said “yes”, she cannot consent to this.

Elizabeth says that couldn’t have been Annie, she was studying for an upcoming math test. Jessica says Caroline Pearce is rarely wrong. [Wing: Are you fucking kidding me? Caroline Pearce is pretty much always wrong. That’s how gossip in Sweet Valley works! As you have both learned more than once.]

And the next day, the halls are rife with slut-shaming towards Annie. Which is just baffling to me. This is the 80s. Toxic masculinity isn’t just a problem, it’s the default setting. Pretty much every guy should be bragging about his conquests and trashing a girl’s reputation, even if she refuses him. How on earth is Jessica somehow not constantly slut-shamed? It’s not as if Tom McKay is an enlightened soul (dear readers, shut up, I know…). Sure, Bill’s not a kiss and tell guy or a braggart, but he’s really not her type. She likes alpha male asshole types. Chads, to use the incel wording. And the kind of guy she dates is exactly the kind of asshole that would be bragging about how much sex they were having, especially if they weren’t. Hell, Bruce Patman did just that. And it was certainly assumed in my school that if a girl had sex with one boy, then she would have sex with any boy she liked enough to kiss.

So again I say: how is Jessica not being slut-shamed constantly?

And I don’t want her to be – oh, actually, I don’t care in this precise case, but generally speaking, I’m against slut-shaming. Guess that plot armour is well polished and keeping her safe from shame.

Elizabeth catches up with Annie, who’s upset that she failed her math quiz, which was more like a final. She thought she knew everything, but she didn’t study last night, she went out, and now she’s sure she’s failed. (How do you fail maths? Did she literally forget how maths works? It’s not like English or History, where you have to pull out quotes or dates to back up what’s you’re saying, maths is maths. It’s binary. That’s why it’s so beautiful. Do a formula, get the result. It’s pure. Not like the woolly subjects.) I suppose her brain could have blanked on how to do the complicated bits.

[Wing: It’s easy to fail math. Do you know the right formula? Do you understand how to use it? Did you get nervous or have some issue with numbers and flipped them? Did you rush and not double check? Did you misread? Are you in, say, geometry and it’s not enough to get the correct result, you have to work the theorem in exactly the way the teacher expects? etc. I think you are more talented with math than you’re giving yourself credit. It is definitely not easy for everyone. And I’ve had math classes where I did have to back up exactly what I was claiming, so there’s that, too.]

Elizabeth asks her about her night, and Annie says she doesn’t like to be at her house, so when Rick came by to show his latest car, she went with him.

“Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes I think it’s not even worth trying, Liz. Sometimes I feel so worthless.”

“What?” Elizabeth said, truly surprised. “You? Why, Annie, you’re just about the most beautiful girl in Sweet Valley High.”

A becoming blush rose in Annie Whitman’s cheeks. “I am not, Liz. Oh, sometimes I think I’m sort of OK-looking, but—”

“OK-looking? Why, every boy in school is crazy about you.” Oh, no, why did I blurt that out? Elizabeth thought miserably. But Annie didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she perked up and smiled again.

Dear Saint Elizabeth, you fucking idiot, not everyone’s value is based on how pretty they are or how many boys want to fuck them. She has mentioned she is not happy at home. She said she felt worthless, not ugly. These are entirely different things. Sure, you may feel ugly when you feel worthless, but worthless is so much more than having a pimple or a bad hair day. You hateful fucking wench. She means that she feels utterly without value. That she’s not good, she’s not smart, she’s not fun, she’s not friendly, she’s not happy, she’s not anything enough to have value.

The fact that the “good” and “intelligent” twin can only see value in beauty is sickening.

I think anyone with an ounce of emotional intelligence and reasoning is now deeply worried about Annie. She does not like to be home. She feels worthless. She is promiscuous. Connect the dots, and I’m giving at least one of her parents/guardians the serious side-eye and never letting my imaginary kids go to that house, while wondering how much evidence is needed before Social Services can be called.

Annie says that yeah, boys like her. Girls don’t. They’re probably just jealous. [Raven: I have Things to Say on Annie’s dating record, but I’ll save it until the dance-off later. The one in the BOOK, not the one between the recappers. I’d crush that. *moonwalks away*] [Dove: *clutches pearls* What an ableist comment to your poor disabled wife! Thankfully, Wing will always crushes you on Dance Dance Revolution. Girl power!] [Wing: ‘Tis true, I’ll go head to head — feet to feet? — with Raven at DDR any day. Though, I can’t moonwalk, so he wins that.]

Oh good. I love it when that comes up. I’m sure it will be handled deftly by the experts we’ve got on the SVH Ghostie Team.

That afternoon, Elizabeth goes to Annie’s house to tutor her in maths. She lives in an ultra-modern apartment, and was watching for Elizabeth in the window. She is super psyched to have Elizabeth helping her. Elizabeth seems surprised that Annie’s home is so nice, and Annie says it’s too small for so many people, given that Johnny’s here all the time. Elizabeth, the idiot, is like, “Gosh, I didn’t know Annie had a brother.” Annie clarifies that she means her mother’s “very special friend” and Elizabeth blanches.

Don’t be talking to her about anything other than the American dream of white married parents with three adorable white children, and a dog that comes as goes as the plot demands, Annie. It’s distasteful. Have some class.

Annie is suitably embarrassed and apologises for being “a real jerk”. She knows Elizabeth isn’t interested in her personal life, and moves on to the maths homework.

[Wing: Annie, you are breaking my fucking heart. It’s perfectly fine to want people to listen to you, to talk to them about yourself, to want someone to really see you and hear you. You sweet, sweet girl.]

Elizabeth feels awkward, because it’s not that she’s not interested – we all know that nosy bitch is super interested in a non-traditional family that she can mould back into the “normal” setting – but she’s worried that Jessica might kill her. Not that she says any of this. And she – for no reason at all – wants to shake Annie. Why? Because her parents are separated? Because she needs help in maths? Because your sister is a fucking monster? WHAT IS YOUR THINKING, YOU FUCKING WEIRDO?

Elizabeth goes into shoulder-pat mode, and offers to listen to Annie’s problems.

Annie asks if Elizabeth ever gets lonely, and Elizabeth says of course. Then internally backtracks, because she has parents, siblings, a doting-but-not-attractive-enough-to-be-threatening best friend, and of course, Todd “the lip caresser” Wilkins. Just in case you thought she was relatable. She’s not. She’s so much better than Annie. Elizabeth thinks to herself that Annie would be a lot happier if she had a guy like Todd, then she wouldn’t need so many other guys.

No, she doesn’t, you fucking fool. She needs friends. More than one. And a support system. She needs the reassurance of having people – not just one stupid boring hot guy – have her back all the time. She needs parents she can rely on. She definitely needs not to have mom’s “very special friend” around, because he makes me worry.

As Elizabeth started to speak, Annie waved her hand. “Please, don’t tell me that a mother is a girl’s best friend. You don’t know my mother. She’s—she’s different. Oh, boy, is she different!”

Oh, honey. I know plenty of people who truly love their parents, but nobody should be besties with their parents at fifteen. Your parents should be the adults, the people who provide for you, support you, and set boundaries for you. And yes, there should be love, but a best friend should be your peer, your equal, someone at the same stage of life as you. Not the person who changed your nappies and decides whether your stomach ache is bad enough for you to miss school.

Annie explains that her mother gave birth to her at sixteen – the same age Elizabeth is now – and her father was seventeen. They got married but split up when Annie was two.

This causes Elizabeth to spiral.

Elizabeth tried to imagine what life would be like without her mother and father. Impossible, that’s what! She was so proud of her tall, dark-haired, good-looking father. Even though he was one of the busiest lawyers in the area, he always had time to be with his family. What would she do without his warm support, not to mention his sense of humor?

And Mom, she thought. Did Elizabeth remember to tell her how much she appreciated everything her mother did for her? Probably not. Even with her career, Alice Wakefield was always there when the girls needed her. And it made Elizabeth so proud whenever people said that she and Jessica looked like their mother.

Love that her first thought is how good-looking her family is. Also, has there ever even once been any evidence of Ned having a sense of humour [Raven:… … … … … … Ithig?]? [Wing: AHAHAHAHAHA. Best part of this book is that it made Raven reference his beloved ithig.] I would happily accept dad-jokes. But no. Everyone in this series is utterly devoid of humour. And Junior High doesn’t count. It hasn’t been written yet.

Also, of course Alice is always around. She works twelve hours a week. Let’s not pretend she’s working her ass off. And she’s one of the worst fictional parents on the planet. She never does anything. Even when her daughters are being the absolute worst, she just smiles indulgently.

Elizabeth asks why her grandparents don’t help. Annie says that they decided her mother was “bad” and there was no way they’d help. Sounds about right. I bet they’re forced-birthers too.

Elizabeth, by now, wishes she’d never pried. She has no idea how to deal with the very normal and everyday occurrence of dysfunctional families. She’s a Wakefield, after all.

Annie continues that she doesn’t see her dad. For awhile her mother made pretty good money modelling – well, of course, even dysfunction can’t be poor – and he came around asking for money when she was ten. They started fighting and Annie tried to break it up. Her dad then threw her down the stairs.

[Wing: Fuck.]

Annie notices that Elizabeth looks sick to her stomach and obligingly changes the subject. Can’t upset a Wakefield, after all. Annie says she did some modelling too. Elizabeth is much happier to discuss that. Looks are something she knows all about, so she compliments Annie’s prettiness.

Annie says that the modelling was fine, she felt fab while on the shoot, but nobody cared about her. She was just a product. And they all treated her like she was eighteen or nineteen, instead of thirteen.


Even I don’t want to prod that sentence too hard in case it explodes.

[Wing: F U C K.]

Anne finishes by saying she doesn’t really know how to make friends with girls her own age.

So, you’ve got this very pretty girl that was taught at an early age that her body and looks were her value – also being raised by someone not much older who learned the same lesson. She is treated like an adult because of her looks. And she has a lot of boyfriends. In fact, she thrives on male attention.

*steps away very carefully*

Yep. I’m just going to walk the fuck away from any underlying implications there.

Annie says that boys kind of suck. They don’t respect you after a break-up. This is why she’s bringing her grades up and trying to be a cheerleader. So that she will command respect.

Dude. It’s the 80s. Right now “cheerleader” is movie shorthand for “vapid whore”. But ok.

They settle down to work, and Elizabeth patronisingly thinks that poor Annie has no idea that the entire school thinks she’s a galloping slut, and that she genuinely believes that her boyfriends are true friends. She doesn’t do anything about it. She doesn’t tell Annie or give her any advice. She just thinks to herself that Annie deserves a chance, and that Saint Elizabeth will help her.

[Raven: This whole scene is pretty heartbreaking. Poor Annie! Not only is her life a complete shit-show, but the fact that she basically word-vomits it out to the first person who’s shown one iota of interest in her feelings is so depressing. I mean, I know it’s really just character exposition, but even so. Also, the very fact that she has no idea that anyone would even THINK that she’s a maneater is proof to me that her dates have been nothing but innocent. Maybe a kiss here or there, but nothing else.]

As Elizabeth is getting ready to leave, Annie’s mother and Johnny come home. Mrs Whitman is drunk and slurring her words, and Johnny is just as creepy as was implied with “very special friend”. Annie does her best to hurry Elizabeth out with minimal interaction, while Johnny sleazes over Elizabeth.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your pretty little tutor, kid?” The man lounging in the open doorway leered at Elizabeth, making her skin crawl. Annie was rigid with anger.

This is Johnny,” Annie said through clenched teeth.

“Hello, Mr.—?” Elizabeth wished she had left five minutes earlier.

“Just call me Johnny, sugar. All the cute little girls call me Johnny.”

*points upwards to the various sentences I just put out there and walked away from* [Raven: Ick.]

Over with the evil twin, she is personally coaching Cara to perfection to make sure she makes the squad. [Wing: So is she or is she not guaranteed a spot, Jessica? Sometimes you act like she is, sometimes you act like she isn’t. In the grand scheme of things in this book, it means very little, but everything else is so fucking terrible I grab for something that means very little.] They get into a bit of mockery about Sandra Bacon, before Steven shows up. And everyone calls him Steve, which really throws us recappers. It didn’t happen in Twins.

Cara is just besotted with him, and has nursed this crush for years. Jessica thinks to herself that Cara would be perfect for Steven. He just needs to dump trashy Tricia Martin (remember that plotline?).

Cara leaves and Steven seems preoccupied, so Jessica asks him about it. Apparently Tricia’s father “hit a woman on Palmetto Drive”. A page or so later, they clarify that he hit her with a car, not his fists or a beer bottle or whatever, and that he’s been arrested for drunk driving. Jessica, hideous non-human that she is, takes this moment where her brother is worried about the love of his life’s family situation, to say, “Hey, that family’s trash. Why don’t you date Cara?” Instead of drowning her in the pool, he just calls his girlfriend, while Jessica throws a tantrum. [Raven: And then that’s done. I mean, I’m not keen on the idea of a Steve(n) subplot, but it’s a bit OTT to just mention someone mowing down a pedestrian in passing and then just turn it off completely.] [Wing: There are, what, three “trashy” families in Sweet Valley? Maybe two now, if the Rizzos didn’t make the cut from SVT. Gotta get a reference in where you can.]

Next we cut to the first round of tryouts – I just want to remind you that the entire tryout, from beginning to end, when Robin joined was a single paragraph.

Jessica introduces Ricky Capaldo, who we Twins fans know as a nerdy boy that you give dialogue to if Winston Egbert, Randy Mason and Lloyd Benson aren’t available [Raven: I don’t remember this guy AT ALL.]. Ricky is apparently their manager. I have no idea why they have a manager now, they certainly didn’t in any of the previous books, but I suspect it’s because they needed a boy to be Annie’s Wun Twoo Luv who can purify her.

This is much more organised than Robin’s tryouts. Ricky hands out score sheets to all of the current cheerleaders and after day 1, they will whittle 75 girls down to 25. [Wing: SEVENTY-FIVE?! I still can’t wrap my head around this number. Once again, no one fucking knows how large SVH is as a school.] Jessica moves to the tail-end of the alphabet so she can make sure that Cara Walker makes it through. She sees Annie Whitman and is spitting feathers that someone who’s held hands with many boys dares to show her face… in a room filled with girls who do a lot of hand-holding.

Cara crushes her cheer, but Annie is even better, adding extra flourishes to everything she does.

It was apparent to everyone watching, except perhaps Jessica, that Annie was quite simply the most talented new girl there, and one of the prettiest as well.

Um, did you learn nothing from Madame André? Remember when she hated you for being a complete show-off, even though you were so much better than the rest of the dancers? Well, probably not, because it hasn’t been written yet. [Raven: Fuck Madame Andre. And fuck Jessica too.]

How can you miss talent? I hate it when someone I loathe is good at something, but I will grudgingly concede that they’re good – and usually also admit how much it pains me to say it. Like, whichever Paul brother is in WWE right now. Not a fan. The Paul brothers have done some genuinely awful stuff over the years. But damn, whichever one he is, he can wrestle.

Ricky compliments Annie after her routine and she blushes. See, he’s going to “save” her. He then points out that Jessica “forgot” to put Annie’s name on the score sheet. She snaps that she didn’t forget.

Annie then asks if she can go because she has a date. Ricky says yes and the list will be posted tomorrow. Jessica sees Tim Bradley, whom she has a mild interest in, waiting for Annie and seethes because he’s a senior and she’s only a sophomore. Or, to put it another way, she’s fifteen and he’s eighteen. She’s a child and he’s an adult. I know the Romeo and Juliet Law exists, but even so, that’s a noticeable age gap. These are important formative years, and it’s incredibly gross that an eighteen year old is thinking, “I’m going to take out that fifteen year old girl because everyone says she puts out.” [Raven: There’s part of me that calls bullshit on the claim that “everyone says she puts out.” There’s literally no one but Jessica who actually says that in the book, and only a few that even acknowledge that there are rumours. Admittedly, the fact that the 18-year-old Tim, and the 17-year-old Bruce, both have dates with this 15-year old is suspect, but she IS described as totally gorgeous and has been a model, so it’s not totally unbelievable that it’s just “wow she’s hot” and not “she’ll tickle my balls for sure”. The “fact” that her “reputation” doesn’t stop her getting to the final of the tryouts, and that everyone else is presented as going “wow, she’s a GREAT dancer and potential cheer star” is telling. As usual, I think most of this is in Jessica’s head, in particular the quadrant of her head that stores the needless drama.]

[Wing: This is a good point. We know Jessica is an unreliable narrator, and for some goddamn reason, Elizabeth listens to whatever her twin says. It very well could be that Annie overall doesn’t have a terrible reputation, though I can also see her absolutely having one, knowing how SVH goes and how high school gossip in general goes. It may even be that Jessica is the one creating the bad reputation for her, as much as she’s looking for it.]

Jessica snaps at Helen that she needs to keep an eye on her brother, or hasn’t she heard about Annie. Helen says she’s heard rumours, and Jessica says grimly that they’re not rumours. And internally adds that Annie will never be on the squad. [Wing: Jessica, you fucking hypocrite.]

Over with Elizabeth, she can see what her sister is thinking. Enid keeps trying to engage her in conversation, because Enid hasn’t realised that she’s a prop, not a person. Enid, please stop trying to say things, you are just something that sits silently next to Elizabeth, so that she looks pretty and popular. You are not important or valuable, which you should have noticed by the way she never once boosted you when your asshat boyfriend was running you down. Your voice is meaningless, so stop using it. All that matters is Saint Elizabeth.

Also, this scene is pointless. That’s all there is to it. Elizabeth glares and ignores Enid. Enid blathers until she realises that her life is irrelevant. So she asks Elizabeth what’s up, and Elizabeth lies and says nothing. Excellent storytelling, ghostie. That scene did nothing but show that Elizabeth still can’t bring herself to be friends with her friend. [Raven: There are a few too many examples of this scene in this book.]

The next day, Ricky is both molested and attacked by delighted or irate girls who have either made it or not to the next round of tryouts. When Annie kisses him, he says he’ll post a list every day. Gag.

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of being saved by a boy, she was saved by a girl. I’m not even being sapphic. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if friendship was magic, and not a date with a “cute boy”.

[Wing: Yes. This. For a series that is, per Pascal herself, intended to highlight girl power, why the fuck is it always a male love interest who fixes things?]

Annie bumps into Elizabeth and asks for help on her upcoming test, but not tonight, she’s got a date. Elizabeth asks if Annie and Tim should be the subject of Eyes and Ears, but Annie’s already over him, she wasn’t really into him. Elizabeth “jokingly” asks if her date is with Ricky, and Annie’s like OMG, I never think of him as a BOY. No. We’re JUST FRIENDS.

So, obviously he’s going to give her true love’s kiss when… the Sleeping Beauty portion of this story kicks in.

Annie has two dates. She’s going to the Dairi Burger with Billy and then a night swim with Rick Andover. I don’t know who Billy is. Elizabeth is aghast that Annie has such a bad reputation and still keeps slutting. Dude. You never told her about her reputation. Remember yesterday when you realised she has no clue people talk behind her back? That’s still true, you fucking box of challenged rocks. [Raven: Second date with Rick Andover…? Interesting. Will say more later. #vaguecommenting]

[Wing: I will say this. Annie’s struggling so much with school, or at least math, that in her place, I would be more worried about studying than dating, whatever level of heat involved in those dates. However, I also had parents who were 100% behind education being a top priority. I never once questioned what was the point of studying because I didn’t have to question it, I had support. Annie does not. It might help her grades if she wasn’t going on multiple dates a night or dates every night or whatever, but this seems to be the only way she can have someone’s attention that isn’t creepy Special Friend. She is hurting and harmed at home (emotionally at the very least based on exactly what’s on the page, even if it is nothing more than that, but Dove makes a good point that the implications are dire). She has no friends, no familial support, no support from Elizabeth Something Must Be Done Wakefield, apparently no support from teachers, nothing. This girl.]

Elizabeth decides not to mention Annie’s date in her gossip column, but instead mentions that she, Cara and Sandra Bacon are the favourites for the squad. [Raven: If the headline isn’t “Bacon Sizzles in Cheer Tryouts”, Elizabeth is doing her job wrong.] [Dove: How many times do I have to explain that Liz doesn’t understand sarcasm, metaphor or hyperbole? You really think she can bring wit and homonyms to her headlines?]

Naturally, this comes down on her like a 5’6’ size-six ton of sun-streaked bricks. Jessica is not happy. She knows for certain that Annie will not make the squad. Liz is like, “How can you possibly know that?” which is one of the dimmest moment’s of Elizabeth’s life – and keep in mind, the last book I recapped demonstrated she doesn’t understand sarcasm, hyperbole or metaphor. I have a very low opinion of Elizabeth’s alleged intelligence.

How does she know, you muppet? Well, she has final say. For fuck’s sake. How can you actually be this thick and still be described as “intelligent”?

Elizabeth consoles herself that maybe one of Annie’s boyfriends will take her mind off not making the squad, but weirdly, even to someone as mentally limited as Elizabeth, that seems unlikely.

Smash cut to some time later. Elizabeth has tutored Annie twice more, hiding this from Jessica. Last time a neighbour asked Annie to find her glasses, and Elizabeth was left alone in the apartment when Mrs Whitman came in.

Mrs Whitman, is too drunk to remember Elizabeth’s name, but still manages to fawn all over in the standard OMG teh WaKeFiEld tWinZ! way, and badmouths her rude daughter for leaving Elizabeth alone.

“No, it’s all right, Mrs. Whitman. Really it is,” Elizabeth protested. “I think it’s nice of Annie to help out like that.” You could probably learn something from your daughter, she added silently.

“Well, of course,” said Mrs. Whitman, changing her viewpoint at once. “That’s my Annie. She’s so sweet, so generous with her time. I’ve always encouraged her to be kind to everyone.”

I’ll bet you have, Elizabeth thought as she watched Mrs. Whitman sink gracefully into a dark blue, velour-covered chair. The blue was a perfect backdrop for Mrs. Whitman’s white slacks and long-sleeved, white silk shirt. No one could deny that she had the looks and poise of a professional model.

So judgy, Elizabeth. I love the way the narrative is glowingly describing how gorgeous Mrs Whitman is, but with a tone of, “Isn’t it awful that these good looks have been wasted on this drunken slut?” [Raven: Give Liz a break, Dove. She’s probably flashing back to her own mother, off her tits on gin.]

Mrs Whitman, like all parents, decides to start discussing her daughter with a Wakefield, because that’s just how it goes in Sweet Valley. I’m sure if I had a kid I was worried about, I’d just hunt down an identical twin and start spilling my daughter’s deepest, darkest secrets. I mean, Mrs Wilson did that, and now her daughter is a thin cheerleader, so it totally works!

Elizabeth thinks to herself – with the wisdom that comes with being a carefree wealthy sixteen year old, living the American dream in a perfectly idyllic family and not being a full-time working single parent – that Mrs Whitman really needs to knuckle down and parent. She has to stop being so wrapped up in herself and actually pay attention to Annie.

Which I think is a breathtakingly arrogant take from someone who is never parented by her own mostly absent moron of a mother, who never once calls out her children’s bad behaviour. Especially since said mother only works twelve hours a week for pocket money and self-worth, and is not desperately trying to hold together a single-parent household in a wealthy area on one wage. And sure, Ned might as well not exist for all the parenting he does, but he’s a named partner in a law firm, so his wages definitely take the financial pressure off Alice and she still doesn’t fucking parent.

Mrs Whitman asks if Annie is well-liked, and Elizabeth carefully answers that she sure is popular, reasoning that slutty is just like popular if you squint. Mrs Whitman then asks Elizabeth if she thinks Annie should have friends over and have parties.

“Well, I think that’s up to Annie, Mrs. Whitman.” Elizabeth knew that if she were Annie, she wouldn’t want to invite her friends to this home.

Dearest snob, you make it sound like Annie lives in a storage-locker-turned-meth-den. She lives in a gorgeous, well-furnished, well-decorated apartment – so nice, in fact, that you complimented it in great surprise the first time you saw it. Focus on her worry about her mother and her sleazy boyfriend, and stop implying things that aren’t there.

Just to be clear, I’m not minimising Annie’s problems – I think the book is though – I’m just pissed off at Elizabeth’s snobbery being so intense that it seems everything Annie touches is tainted by foulness. Let’s not make up extra problems when the real ones aren’t close to being resolved.

[Wing: Elizabeth’s at least a little judgmental toward how Jessica says Annie taints things and yet does the same fucking things. You fucking hypocrite.]

Back to the now, which is some time later, Elizabeth wonders why she has gotten herself involved with someone that Jessica wants dead. I don’t know. Probably for the same reason you got involved with Robin. Because you’re a meddling she-beast. [Wing: She-beast makes her sound so cool. She’s not.]

She and Todd “let loose” at the Beach Disco. I suspect this means that Elizabeth gets a teeny umbrella in her diet coke and Todd probably rolls his beige button-down shirt sleeves up to his forearms.

Jessica is wearing a teeny outfit and is on a date with Skip Harmon… possibly a brother of Colin?

Readers? Help!
Who the fuck is Skip Harmon, and is he related to Colin?x

Annie walks in also wearing a teeny outfit and on the arm of Bruce Patman, whom Elizabeth recalls as Jessica’s “deadly enemy” and that their relationship had been “a battle of wits”, instead of as a would-be rapist who abused her sister. Remember, Elizabeth is super good at English!

[Wing: Jesus fucking christ, the softening of Bruce Patman the abusive rapist (and for that matter, Jessica the Girl Who Cried Rape) is horrifying. What the fuck did you think you were doing, Pascal? Ghosties? Publishers? WTF.]

Todd asks why Elizabeth is so preoccupied, and then, before she can answer, snaps that it must be Jessica, it’s always Jessica. She’s about to do something or be in trouble, and Elizabeth is wondering how to bail her out.

Elizabeth snaps that’s not fair and that he should give her the benefit of the doubt. You know, like Elizabeth didn’t when her sister falsely accused him of rape.

Todd agrees that he’s an asshole and he can’t help being a dumb jock. He really needs to get over that rape thing, and so what if Jessica is constantly lying and destroying people, she might not be right this second, and that’s what’s important. [Raven: It’s weird, because in the morass of hateful things about this series, I honestly think it’s Elizabeth’s blind devotion to the utter wrongun that is her sister Jessica that will likely define this series for me. Such a shame. Roll on the hijinks, they should mask this particular horror.]

Next comes a really cheesy dance-off, and naturally as couples drop out, we’re left with Jessica/Skip and Annie/Bruce. After much cheering and applause, it is declared a draw, and Annie is delighted to share the spotlight with Jessica. Jessica is ready to cut a bitch.

Annie bubbles happily to Elizabeth, proud that she “showed Jessica” her moves, but Elizabeth thinks to herself that Annie showed Jessica up. Dude, she didn’t. If Jessica couldn’t dance and had been bragging about it, and then got out there and did nothing, that would show her up. But they tied. Sharing first is not the same as being deliberately and maliciously destroyed.

However, by Monday she’s figured it out, and is now defending Annie to Jessica on the way to school. Jessica has somehow screeched herself into a seething rage about how Annie made a fool of herself and that’s a good reason to not let her be a cheerleader.

I’ve figured out why I hate this series so much. It’s like watching my mother’s brain work.

The short version is that Jessica openly admits that Annie is beneath them, and Elizabeth does not dispute this. Jessica hopes that Annie will flunk her tests, because then she’d automatically be excluded. Which implies that Jessica understands that snobbery is not a valid reason to exclude her, but honestly, I don’t think she’s that evolved.

Elizabeth makes token protests that Annie is changing and that will make her good enough.

But here’s another thought: so what if she dates a lot or even that she has a lot of sex with different guys? If she’s literally the best at cheerleading – and the text certainly implies that she is – that’s what’s important. Unless she gets too pregnant to balance safely on top of the Wolf Wall, her sex life is completely fucking irrelevant and none of your goddamned business.

And, on a personal note, even if Annie had some kind of sexual dalliance with literally every character we’ve ever met*, she’s still a more decent and moral person than almost everyone in Sweet Valley, particularly the twins, who are vapid, toxic harpies who destroy lives.

(* consensually and non-minors, obv)

The next round of tryouts will cut down from 25 to eight. Jessica knows that Cara and Sandra will make the cut, and that Annie won’t. She’s not prejudiced, she tells herself, she just knows Annie will fail. Again, book, I honestly don’t think Jessica is evolved enough to understand prejudice. This is a person with the emotional range of a two year old, as evidenced by all the tantrums.

Over with Elizabeth, she’s working on Eyes and Ears, [Wing: How long does it take her to write this column? Does she write one every day? It seems like every other chapter has her writing one, and often struggling to write one.] and Jessica tries to give her the final eight names before tryouts. Elizabeth snootily says that she’ll take that list after the tryouts… as if that makes any difference. If her sister is openly admitting to favouritism now, why on earth would the list look any different after tryouts if she’s the only person who gets a say? [Note from the future: she’s not.]

Also, isn’t it terrific that Robin was made co-captain? You’d think a girl who was given an eating disorder by Jessica might use that position to protect anyone that catches Jessica’s vengeful eye. In fact, you might even think that someone would be so petty as to actively champion the one Jessica wants the least.

But no, she’s hot and thin now, so fuck the underdogs. [Raven: Remember, Robin’s story ended with her being a soulless husk of a girl. She’s broken now.]

Annie bursts in to thank Elizabeth for tutoring her, and then trots out, cheerfully unaware that siblicide is about to take place in The Oracle’s office.

Oh, apparently I’m wrong. Jessica lets out a shouted sentence and then flounces out. Thankfully Robert Redford Jr is here to help! Mr Collins, the text tells us, is much beloved for his terrific advice. So what insight does he have? “Be a friend to both sides.” Thanks, you tit. She can’t even be a friend to her friends. [Raven: In my canon, Mr Collins imparts his wisdom in each book before decamping to a supply cupboard to rub one out.] [Wing: Raven, I love you and your humour and insights, but sometimes I worry about your teacher headcanons.]

At the tryouts, Sandra, Cara and Annie are crushing it. Annie goes the extra mile and does her routine with pom-poms. She’s so good that Robin Wilson deigns to care and applauds.

[Wing: … why is using pom-poms going the extra mile?!]

As it turns out, this round relies on scorecards from the entire cheerleading group. And Jessica seems to think that endlessly slut-shaming Annie will be enough to make everyone not score her well. And yes, that seems reasonable, since she tried the same thing to keep Robin out of Pi Beta Alpha, but she’d also pitched herself as Robin’s BFF, so everyone voted for her to please Jessica.

Although it does make me wonder why she didn’t try to keep Robin out of the cheerleaders? I suppose that book was really badly written and paced. Maybe this was supposed to be part of the plot, but the ghostie was so awful they just had to publish the half-arsed mess they word-vomited out?

Anyway, Annie makes the cut. [Raven: See? NO-ONE BUT JESSICA CARES ABOUT HER “REPUTATION.”]

Head-hop to Ricky. He’s got a crush on Annie. Yeah, I know. You’re a boy, she’s a girl. That’s all that matters in Sweet Valley.

Over with Annie, she’s starting to think she has value and she didn’t before, and when she says as much to Elizabeth, she replies, “That’s silly.”

Do not do this. Do not belittle someone’s journey to self-worth. Annie has mentioned more than once that she believed herself to be “worthless”, and now she believes she has value. And Elizabeth is like, “stooopid”. No, Elizabeth. You’re stupid if you cannot understand that you are actually taking away some of the value she has just gained by making fun of her thoughts and feelings.

“I think I’m going to cut down on my dating,” Annie said. “I used to need a lot of attention. You know, to make up for that empty feeling inside. But boys aren’t always the answer. I’ve made a lot of mistakes with boys, I guess.”

Elizabeth let that one go by silently.

What exactly does that mean? Does it mean Annie’s wrong? Or that she’s so right it’s obvious and you are graciously not pointing out how fucking thick she is for finally realising it? What is your silent tolerance all about, you stuck-up harpy?

Also, how about heaping some of those mistakes on the boys? If a boy is slutting around or using a girl for sex and it’s bad when a girl does it, pour that judgement back on the boys. Or, y’know, just stop entirely because other people having sex is nothing to do with you.

But certainly point out that Annie didn’t invite herself out on these dates and then never ask her out again.

Or you could focus on that “empty feeling” Annie has inside, and maybe not take it as some kind of personal failing in Annie, and instead think of it as something someone is failing to give her (e.g. the demonstrably absent parental support) or acknowledge that it could be a mental illness, like depression.

Or you could simply congratulate her on breaking through whatever was holding her down, and reassure her that she has value.

Or, finally, you could snootily say nothing and judge her hard, like the haughty cow you are.

[Raven: This was a weird one. I don’t care for the undertone of “yes, I know I’m being promiscuous, but now I’m close to being a cheerleader then I realise that boys are not what I need.” If she’s innocent about her actions with boys thus far, as she’s been presented, why does she now think it’s a problem? This feels like a mis-step by the Ghostie. Overall though, I just feel that Annie needs a friend. Which Elizabeth could be. And why the hell is this version of Elizabeth unable to tactfully inform Annie of the rumours, other than for plot reasons? The usual Elizabeth would have no such compunctions.]

[Wing: I think it can still be read that she is innocent with her actions, but she’s figuring out that dating isn’t the only way to get attention. Maybe she can make friends if she has this group project together. After all, it sort of seems like she and Elizabeth are maybe becoming friends (or at least it would from her point of view) because of the tutoring, i.e., having a project together. If a date is the thing that allows her to connect with a boy, I can see her looking at cheerleading/tutoring/etc. being the thing that allows her to connect with a girl, allows her to make friends. And if she can connect to people that way, she doesn’t need to date all the time. (The “mistake” language is more difficult to read into this version, though still possible. A ghostie misstep more than likely.)]

Annie asks how Elizabeth and Todd have such a healthy relationship (*hysterical laughter from literally anyone who’s ever had any kind of relationship and knows that Elizabeth/Todd is not healthy, given that they break up every couple of days*). Elizabeth thoughtfully says that it’s based on friendship and respect.

Show, don’t tell, ghosties. They’re not friends. All they do is break up and kiss. That’s not friendship. That’s hormones.

[Wing: Friendship doesn’t exist in Sweet Valley.]

Annie says that no boy has respected her, and she doesn’t think she respected them either, but that’s all changing now. She’s almost a cheerleader.

[Wing: I want more on that point: Annie doesn’t think she respects any of the boys, either. Why? Is it because they pay attention to her? Do they bore her? Do they not connect and leave her still feeling empty? Does she judge them for spending time with her? Does she not respect boys because the only men she’s had in her life are awful?]

Elizabeth and Enid go the Dairi Burger, and have burgers and milkshakes. Remember when Elizabeth says she watches her diet carefully? Well, Elizabeth doesn’t.

Enid, my queen, brings up the fact that Elizabeth has no time for her and isn’t interested when she talks. YESSS! Fandom, if you hate her, WHY?

Elizabeth quickly reassures her with a single sentence, saying that Enid is her best friend in the whole wide world. Well, that’s that sorted.

After deliberating, Elizabeth shares her woes. Has Enid heard the rumours about Annie. Enid says that if Elizabeth says she’s nice, she’s sure she is, and rumours in this school are a way of life, it doesn’t make them true. Elizabeth feels she’s hit a nerve, but Enid is quick to let her know that she has a boyfriend, so everything’s good now.

Elizabeth talks in careful sentences, and Enid quickly deciphers the ingenious code she’s using, but realises that her friendship hinges on never mentioning Jessica’s billions of flaws, so says nothing. She eventually says that only Annie can change her life, which is such bollocks, because if Jessica wants her to fail, she will, and Enid knows this, but she doesn’t even acknowledge it.

Ok, fandom, is this why you hate her? Because she’s so sycophantic to Elizabeth that she can’t even think her own opinions about Jessica in case it disappoints Elizabeth?

Enid then adds that having a great friend makes all the difference, and Elizabeth is a terrific friend.

Ok, fandom. I get it. I’m sorry
Tell me your feelings about Enid, because I just cycled through all of them in the space of four paragraphs.x

That was a journey over about twelve paragraphs, wasn’t it?

[Raven: “Enid, we never really knew each other anyway…”


Jessica takes Helen Bradley out to Casey’s place and buys her a soda (really going all out with these bribes, aren’t you?), before laying things out: Annie is a whore. If she joins the squad, every single one of us will be labelled whores. Now, wouldn’t it be great to have Cara back? Yes. Excellent. And how about Sandra? Ok, she might be less flashy than Annie, but she’s not a whore who will destroy our reputations. Now, this all rests on you, because I’m voting for Sandra. Jean West is her bestie, so she will vote for her. One more vote and that’s the majority. No more Annie. I’m glad we had this talk. Vote whoreless or I’ll cut you.

Over with Annie, she’s developing a crush on Ricky. He’s blushy at first, but she’s getting through to him, but no date yet. She asks Elizabeth about it. Elizabeth laughs and says that Annie doesn’t usually have trouble getting male attention (oh fuck off, Elizabeth).

“Oh, I don’t. Not most of them, anyway. Bruce Patman calls me up all the time, but I’ve decided I don’t like him. I’ve been waiting for a different type of boy to ask me out. I’m waiting for one particular different boy.”

One charming thing about Annie: she has no clue that Elizabeth is being so judgmental and just laughs everything off. Another charming thing? She appears to keep telling Bruce to fuck off. You go, girl!

[Raven: Okay. So here’s my thing about Annie. She’s entirely innocent. And, frankly, she’s better at dating than Jessica. Why? Let’s look at the evidence.

First, there’s Rick Andover. On Jessica’s “date” with Rick, she ends up at a roadhouse, where there’s a fist fight. She’s arrested. And later in the story, Rick tries to kill her and her sister by running them down.

Annie’s two dates with Rick? He shows her his car, and then he takes her swimming. And there’s no drama, no police, no murder attempts. Are they shagging, which could be a calming influence on the firebrand Rick? I don’t think so, because…

… there’s Bruce Patman. He takes Annie to the dance party, where they tie-win the dance off. After that, she declares that she doesn’t like him, and keeps him at arm’s length, despite his many calls after her. As Bruce has been described as a hit-it-and-quit-it guy, the fact that he’s still calling tells me that he nas not, in fact, hit it. Otherwise, you see, he would have quit it. While JESSICA, on the other hand, became entirely consumed by this prick and almost lost herself in his web of lies and deception. I’m not one for victim-blaming, but the evidence does suggest that Annie comports herself through the Dating Minefield with much more grace and strength than Jessica does.

So yeah. Annie dates boys. But she doesn’t “put out”, and she’s much more genre-savvy than the self-proclaimed queen of the scene, Jessica Wakefield. In all honesty, I think that Jessica is just jealous. It wouldn’t surprise me if SHE was the one who started the rumours in the first place, becuase the book doesn’t show us one single boy badmouthing Annie, or boastfully claiming her as a conquest, or anything.

You go, Annie. You’re awesome. Fuck those jealous bitches.] [Dove: This is what I was talking about. He’s convinced me. Jessica made everything up. She really does just do a lot of hand-holding, and that’s not a euphemism.] [Wing: I hadn’t read this when earlier I said Jessica’s obsession is creating the bad reputation, and this is even more believable. Jessica intentionally tearing her down via slut shaming makes perfect sense, because Jessica Wakefield in SVH is the fucking worst.]

Annie can’t figure out why nice guys don’t ask her out, has Elizabeth heard anyone talking about her?

For the third time, Elizabeth realises that Annie has no clue about her reputation. She side-steps the question.

When she gets home, she finds Jessica socialising by the pool with Jean and Helen and realises that Jessica has engineered the votes so that Sandra will be chosen over Annie. Annie will be devastated.

Elizabeth goes to Todd’s house, where we get a sentence that implies the Wilkins family is having cake for dinner.

The smell of homemade cake wafted in from the kitchen, where Mrs. Wilkins was preparing dinner.

I take it back. Todd’s fam are far more exciting than I could have ever dreamed. I thought they’d never get any wilder than killing a small child for the lolz and occasionally choosing biscuit instead of beige for their walls.

And then they break up.

No, I’m kidding. They nearly break up. Todd, weenie that he is, once again shows his galloping insecurity by noting her preoccupation and deducing that she’s seeing someone else. No, not just seeing, he assumes she’s fallen in love with someone else.

How many times are we going to have to watch this argument play out? Every book has a kid with a problem, every book Elizabeth will try to fix that problem to the detriment of her relationships with Todd and Enid. Enid meekly accepts it, and Todd assumes she’s cheating. This is not a healthy relationship. [Raven: Don’t forget the associated “It’s Jessica!” – “How dare you say it’s Jessica” substrand of bullshittery.] [Wing: With an occasional variation when Elizabeth thinks Todd is falling in love with someone else.]

Once reassured, he tells her to spill her guts – a reasonable request from a partner in a supposed healthy relationship – and she skirts around it.

Todd, just like Enid, deciphers her code immediately. Todd, unlike Enid, voices his displeasure with Jessica.

They have a row, which is broken up by Mrs Wilkins, who pleads with them, won’t someone please think of the cake? No, seriously, I’ll prove it:

“Discussions are fine,” she said wryly. “But in the interest of the cake in the oven, keep the discussion down to a low roar, OK?”

[Wing: Is she making a cake or a fucking soufflé?]

Over with Ricky, he’s now in love with Annie. But he doesn’t stand a chance. Even though he acknowledges that she seems to like him. Still don’t care.

Over at the tryouts, everyone knows that even though there are eight girls, only three are serious contenders: Cara, Sandra and Annie. They go alphabetically, and Sandra faceplants hard. Cara does well and Annie crushes it. Everyone else is fine but they don’t have that extra zing. [Raven: Poor Sandra. At lease ONE member of the Bacon family can dance…


After that, it’s voting time. Cara Walker is a no-brainer. (That sentence works on a number of levels. I’ve read Sweet Valley Confidential. Peach pie is her life.) The divide happens over Sandra. Jean votes for her, because besties. Robin and Maria vote for Annie. Jessica votes for Sandra. Helen cannot justify voting for a girl who fell on her face over a very talented cheerleader.

Jessica breaks out the emergency hammer. Annie is a slut, and if they vote her onto the squad, she’s quitting.

“But, Jess!” wailed a distraught Helen Bradley. “You’re the heart and soul of the squad. Without you, it wouldn’t be the Sweet Valley cheerleaders at all!”

Oh do shut up, you pointless shill. Where the fuck were you in Twins? You passed a note to Jessica in one book. So get in the fucking sea, you irrelevant bastard.

We cut to the Wakefield Compound, where Jessica comes home smug, and no matter how much Elizabeth badgers her, she won’t give up the names of the new cheerleaders.

The Wakefield parents come home full of excitement. There’s going to be a house guest, isn’t that marvellous? Well, given how the last one turned out (hint: neglected and consistently ignored, despite being literal children in elementary school), no, Alice and Ned. That’s not a good thing. You two are the worst hosts ever.

Ned’s old roommate, who is now an ambassador, will be abandoning his sixteen year old daughter at the Compound for two weeks. She’s called Suzanne, and she usually lives in New York and Paris and London. Which is a weird place to “usually” live. Elizabeth exclaims that Suzanne has “been all over”, and I weep for the Sweet Valley schooling system. Because an honours student thinks that New York, London and Paris are all of the countries evah. I suppose I should be impressed that London and Paris were separated, and not just referred to as “the country of Europe”.

Ok, now things get weird.

While Suzanne stays here, one twin gets to go to New York. What is this, kid swap?

The parents aren’t going to decide which twin now. I would use this to eke out decent behaviour from my monster kids, but Alice and Ned see nothing wrong with their little darlings.

Hey readers: I dare you to post a Sweet Valley plot to Am I The Asshole on Reddit from the point of view of Jessica. Not this book. Not Power Play. Pick something less incendiary. Anyone up for it?

[Wing: Hearts and stars in my eyes. Hearts and stars.]

Later Jessica approaches Elizabeth to suggest they set Steven up with Suzanne, because Tricia Martin is a gross poor person with a drunk father. Y’know, just in case you forgot that Jessica is the worst snob on the planet.

Then they have a pillow fight. Elizabeth wonders who on earth Jessica picked, which proves that she really might be the dimmest bulb on the planet. If Jessica had been outvoted, do you think she’d be scheming to set up her brother and indulging in pillow fights, you brainless muppet? No. She’d be out burying Annie in the Mercandy backyard. [Raven: I fucking HATED this entire scene, from the moment Jessica returned home until the end of their pillow fight. The whole foreshadowing for the next book was fine, but Jessica’s incessant I’m-not-telling bullshit really ground my gears hard.]

Over with Annie the next day, she’s a bundle of nerves. They are not posting the names, they are having Ricky deliver notes personally as he bumps into people, which just seems like such an asshole way to do it. Just post the goddamned names. Why draw it out?

Anyway, she gets a note saying she hasn’t made it. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

Annie can’t believe it. She was so sure – everyone applauded her, she hit every mark. Overcome, she runs out of the halls, across the football field and to the top of the bleachers to sob her heart out. Ricky follows her and comforts her. He says that she was great and he spoke up for her.

Annie says if she can just understand why she didn’t make the cut, she can process it. Who did they pick? She’s shocked when she finds out it’s Sandra. She asks why and who voted against her, so reluctantly Ricky explains how everyone voted, emphasising that Robin and Maria were Team Annie hardcore, and it wasn’t so much the others voted against her, but simply for Sandra.

She’s shocked to find out that Jessica voted for Sandra. Which is weird. Unlike Robin, Jessica has made no effort to hide her loathing of Annie. There was not a moment when Jessica could be mistaken for friendly, but with Robin there were hugs and shopping trips, so you could understand why Robin would think they were super close.

Also, I’d like just one person to encounter Jessica and immediately get chills. (Apparently some people do have that biological reaction to psychopaths.) But ignoring that extreme, I think we’ve all met someone and just thought, “Oh no. Nope. You are not my friend. I will keep you at a distance, because I do not trust you,” and then been completely unshocked when that same person screwed over you or your friends.

But of course Francine is too busy fapping over her self-inserts to realise that normal girls would not like these monsters, and immediately labels them as “jealous”.

Ricky’s busy trying to bolster Annie and lets it slip that Helen spoke up for her, which alerts her to the fact that someone made Helen change her mind. She asks who. And why.

And Ricky is really not ready for this, so he reluctantly tells her how it went down.

Annie is visibly heartbroken, then takes off running and does not stop. [Raven: Poor girl!]

Ricky spends the rest of the school day kicking himself. And I feel for him here, because it wasn’t like Annie was going to let it go, but it was heartbreaking news to give her. And, unlike Elizabeth, he had no idea she hadn’t heard the nasty gossip going around about her.

He can’t stand how happy Sandra and Cara are, even though it’s not their fault – and that’s a normal reaction. He’d have been that annoyed if his favourite hadn’t got through because she’d been the one who fell. So humanity is capturable in these books, just not very often.

He approaches Jessica, who refuses to talk about it and openly states that Annie will never be a cheerleader and she’s not discussing it any further.

He buys a card for Annie to give her in class, but she doesn’t show up. She’s not at school the next day.

Ricky violates her privacy by looking up her phone number on the application form and calls her – and on this occasion, I’m fine with it. She’s obviously taken the news hard, and he’s worried about her emotions, not his penis. No answer though.

On the third day, he approaches Elizabeth and spills his guts.

Elizabeth has literally no reaction to who made the squad, even though she was dying to know before the names were given out. I guess when she heard she just sighed and thought, “Oh, Jess…” and moved on with her life. After all, what can you do when your evil wench of a twin destroys yet another life? [Raven: Elizabeth is the worst thing in this series. And this series includes Jessica, for fuck’s sake.] [Dove: Right?!]

Ricky asks Elizabeth to speak to Jessica about it.

“Is it true,” Enid asked Elizabeth between classes, “that Jessica called Annie Whitman ‘Easy Annie’ to her face?”

“No, no, of course not,” Elizabeth said.

“That’s that I heard from Emily Mayer.”

“Well, Emily’s wrong.”

How do you know? You weren’t there. That’s exactly the type of nastiness your twin would say.

Over with Jessica, she’s hearing rumours too. Susan Steward asks if it’s true Jessica and Annie threw down after Jessica called her “the tramp of the school”. Jessica likes this rumour, so doesn’t deny it.

Like… what? How on earth is this character aspirational, Francine? She’s the most pointless, stupid, basic, spiteful bitch on the planet. She’s so warped that she is proud that people think she’s a bully.


Back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica lazes in the pool, and Elizabeth asks if she really called Annie “Easy Annie” to her face. Oh, so you didn’t know. You just lied when asked about it.

Jessica turned over onto her stomach, being careful not to slide off into the turquoise water. She glanced at her sister. “Lizzie, do you think I’m an absolute, total beast without feelings?”

“Don’t make me answer that one, Jess. Just tell me—yes or no?”

*cries* It’s “funny” because it’s true.

Elizabeth seems to think Jessica’s hate is just fine, as long as she didn’t say it to Annie’s face. Yes, that’s how decency works. She asks Jessica to reconsider, and Jessica throws a screaming tantrum.


(if that link isn’t working, CTRL F and search for “IT’S OK FROM HERE”)








We cut to Monday afternoon… not sure from when, but y’know, it’s Monday now. Elizabeth receives a call from Ricky, he’s frantic because Annie’s been rushed to hospital after attempting suicide. [Raven: Well, that escalated quickly. I’m still not used to the darker peaks of High compared to Twins.]

Elizabeth says they have to go to the hospital. Jessica says no, Annie wouldn’t want her there. And Elizabeth is like “fuck that bitch, I want you there!” which is like the least empathetic thing any human could possibly do.

“Gosh, this has really upset me. I’m going to need the malicious bully who pushed this poor girl into this tragic path as my support system.”


I’m not going into the method that brought Annie here, please do the same in the comments. It’s only mentioned briefly, and I’m not comfortable talking about it at all, since discussions of methods can trigger looping thoughts about it.

They see Ricky in the emergency waiting room, and he says that doesn’t know how she’s doing yet. He infantilises her by saying she’s just a kid, and this has been very difficult for her. Dude, you want to date her. She’s not a toddler. Also, age or maturity has nothing to do with how depression affects you. Depression can hit if she was a successful CEO millionaire with a loving husband.

Ricky is very disturbed by his experience – he was the one to call the paramedics, which is also fair. It must have been very frightening.

He suddenly rages what kind of monsters did this to her. Then immediately apologises to Jessica.

And on the one hand, do not apologise to her. This girl is ceaselessly spiteful and everyone just enables it. On the other hand, while that might’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back, there were other additional issues leading up to this (not that the book ever admits it – the book treats it as if it’s all about cheerleading and, as such, can be fixed by cheerleading), such as when she told Elizabeth she felt “worthless”, and her obvious dislike of her mother’s drinking and Johnny’s… whatever he does.

Jessica, to acknowledge her response, cries, taking full responsibility for her snobbery. And this is probably the one time where she’s crying without an angle.

Although she’s such a badly written character, I don’t actually care or believe this guilt.

[Wing: I zero percent believe she’s actually taking responsibility here and these aren’t just crocodile tears.]

Mrs Whitman and Johnny arrive. Mrs Whitman is an emotional mess. She asks a lot of questions, gets no answers, and then sits down and smokes. Let’s all just take a moment of levity and behold the 80s. When you could smoke inside a hospital.

Mrs Whitman is pleased that Ricky is here, and she recognises at least one of the twins [Raven: She could’ve been seeeing double due to being drunk, I suppose]. She largely ignores them and talks to Ricky, which pleases my petty self. She asks Ricky what happened and why, and he recounts. Mrs Whitman wants to know why someone would keep her off the cheer squad, and Jessica stares out of the window like a zombie.

A nurse comes over to say that Annie is being moved to a room and they will know where they stand when she wakes up. They drink coffee, have the same conversations, and then they speak to a doctor.

Mrs Whitman is allowed to see Annie, who is still asleep. The others peer in and see how pale she looks. Moments later, Mrs Whitman calls out that she’s awake. She mumbled something that Mrs Whitman didn’t catch.

Mrs Whitman is ushered out and smokes another cigarette on the ward. Moments later, the doctor reappears to say that she’s in and out of consciousness, and right now she’s out.

He further expands that she has “no will to live”. He doesn’t say anything medical. Nothing about her vital signs or if any damage was done. Literally just about her emotions. I know they have a tight turnaround so research is hard, but it does give the impression that Sweet Valley medical professionals treat only people’s feelings with talking and literally no medicine.

[Raven: This is where I started laughing hysterically. The ending to this fucking book is ridiculous, and the doctors / hospital shit is completely laughable. Due to the disturbing subject matter, I won’t be opining too much on this, but suffice to say that the Doctor and his particular brand of care was written by someone who has obviously never set foot in a hospital or seen a doctor in real life. His conduct and medical advice is entirely akin to a soap character like Doctor Drake Ramoray on Days of our Lives. It’s completely and utterly nonsensical. Then again, with the state of the US health system, and the costs involved for the most basic of care, maybe the Ghostie actually HADN’T seen a doctor before… who knows?]

Jessica hears this and does not take it well. I mean, seriously, did she miss why Annie’s in hospital right now? How do you think that happens, you feelingless harpy?

She runs out of the hospital and decides to run away to LA. Ok, bye then! [Wing: I hope you get hit by a bus.]

Elizabeth appears to completely enable her.

One might posit that this could have been the moment Jessica turned it around. Where she realised that her actions have consequences. She acknowledges exactly how spiteful and vindictive her behaviour was, and how she knew how important it was to Annie and still chose to destroy her. She takes a long hard look at herself and finds her character deeply lacking.

Then Elizabeth reassures her that she’s just terrific, and that Jessica was only doing what she thought was right.


OMG, what the fuck is wrong with you, Elizabeth? A girl nearly died – she still might – how fucking DARE you tell Jessica she did the right thing? She is an awful terrible person who has never once in this fucking series chosen to do the right thing. She has no moral compass, and on the odd occasions she does something decent, it’s not because it’s good or right, it’s because any other option is less likely to net the result she selfishly wants. She is one of the worst characters in fiction – she’s not unlike Voldemort, she has a club of elitist bastards who give zero fucks about anyone who is not like them. She has shown that she can carelessly destroy lives and never once feel bad about it.



Now is the time to say, “Yes, you have been awful. There were a whole bunch of things that led to this, but unfortunately, you contributed. Remember how you feel right now and promise that you won’t ever do this again.”

And I’m not saying this should be a response to a normal person who feels guilt in the wake of this kind of event. This is specifically directed at Jessica, the girl who cried rape because a boy didn’t fancy her; that destroyed her sister’s best friend’s life for a plastic tiara (that she never won anyway); the girl who gave another girl an eating disorder and thinks that girl should be grateful to her because she’s hot now; the girl who constantly lies and lets everyone down and then gaslights them into believing it’s their fault.

Elizabeth idly notes that there’s nothing they can do. After all, the doctor’s diagnosis was what it was. If only she was interested in something…

What the actual fuck? No, seriously. What the motherfucking fuck? That is not the end. You treat her medically. You get her help – therapy, medication, you get her involved in things. You don’t give up three minutes after you get her to hospital with a rueful shrug of your shoulders.


However, Elizabeth’s dim-witted ruminations spark a thought for Jessica. She races up to see the doctor, who is surprised to see her. Mrs Whitman went home. I mean, when you’ve got a fatal diagnosis on par with “Gosh, I believe your daughter may be suffering from depression…” you might as well give up there and then.

These fucking assholes.

Anyway, Jessica tells him the full story, filled with self-hatred and taking full responsibility for Annie’s emotional state.

The doctor (who I’m refusing to name, by the way, because I don’t want you picturing an adorable character from another franchise when I’m this pissed off with him) suggests an experimental treatment. Perhaps if Annie was offered a place on the cheerleading squad… [Raven: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK?!]

Yeah. I mean. Why bother treating all those medical issues like depression and that? Fuck therapy and/or medication. Just make her join a club.

(Obviously getting involved in activities while depressed can be very therapeutic, but again, it’s the fact that Sweet Valley offers these things as the only treatment.)

Dr Asshat cautions Jessica that she’ll have to mean it, or Annie won’t come back.

They go to Annie’s room and Ricky is chatting away to her and reassuring her. Jessica comes in and starts to talk. She says there was a mix-up with the notes, and Ricky chips in that it was all his fault. Um, you guys are literally lying to her. Remember that whole scene where Ricky explained that Jessica blackballed her? Because I’m pretty sure that Annie does. And didn’t Dr Asshat literally just tell Jessica she had to mean it? But sure, start out with a lie.

Dr Asshat leaves to make sure the sainted Wakefield Twins can stay past visiting hours, because OMG teh WaKeFiEld tWinZ!

Elizabeth wakes up the next morning and it appears that Jessica and Ricky have been talking to her all night. Jessica has now clarified that the squad has expanded to eight, and she is the eight.

When Elizabeth says her sister’s name, Jessica thinks for a second it worked, and then when she realises it hasn’t, she gives up and cries. She knows Annie hates the sound of her voice.

Now we have a limbo scene. Annie is between worlds and has been listening to Ricky and Jessica, who have kept her from moving on. She felt Jessica’s hand all night and her reassuring voice.

Huh. Sorry, ghostie, but I don’t think Annie likes boys. She never seems distraught that they used her, does she? Maybe she’s just not into hims?










And Annie comes back to us! Joy and rapture, and everything’s water under the bridge. She thanks both of them for saving her life.

Given that Ricky called the ambulance and sat talking to her way before Jessica had her epiphany, I’d say he did the heavy lifting, but Wakefields MUST win.

Mrs Whitman comes in and explains that she too had an epiphany. She’s ditched Johnny, and she hadn’t realised how far apart they’d drifted, so they’re going to be super close now.

No mention of her drinking, so no word on whether that’s an addiction, or she’s just a “social drinker”. Well, she’s wearing a suit now, so that proves that she’s changed. (Except she was wearing a suit when she was drunk and talking to Elizabeth, so…?)

Elizabeth and Jessica leave so Annie can have breakfast. Elizabeth fawns all over Jessica, who leans into it, and it’s like character development literally never happened.

Theory: Elizabeth is the monster of Sweet Valley. [Raven: Abso-fucking-lutely.]

The twins and Ricky return with a gift of a Sweet Valley cheerleader sweater, which Annie tries on and looks beautiful in. Ricky says, as manager of the cheerleaders, he orders her to the window. She looks out and the rest of the cheerleaders are outside and they yell “Get well, Annie!”

I was pretty sure that anyone in Annie’s position had to be on a kind of lockdown for 24 (48?) hours after that event, but there’s no mention of that, or any kind of follow-up. I guess Dr Asshat’s experimental treatment of cheerleading was all she needed?

Anyway, now that’s all sorted out, the twins are now facing the decision, which of them will be going to New York?

Final Thoughts:

That was an awful book. Actually, it was a pretty well-written book up until the Sleeping Beauty portion of the story. We’ve had a lot of badly paced books where all the action promised is wrapped up in the first two chapters, but this one built well.

And then it became awful. It became a truly terrible because it definitely glorifies suicide, in the same way as 13 Reasons Why. Even though Annie doesn’t have the same kind of mentality as Hannah, who happily share the reasons with those people she held responsible, it ends the same: they got what they wanted.

I did some googling before doing this recap and it said that you should not linger on the act or the method, and nor should it be emphasised that the event netted desirable results. Which this unfortunately did.

I know it was written at a time when less was know about mental health, and also in the era of Very Special Episodes, so I can’t utterly fault it for that.

What I can fault it for is a complete lack of care regarding mental health. To treat someone only with a solitary social issue is just an idiotic way to treat mental health. Annie only got depressed because of cheerleading, ergo, become a cheerleader, no mental health issues. Except the book seeded unhappiness in her home life, and just because her mother kicked out Johnny, doesn’t mean any of that is fixed. You can’t just stop trauma and expect it to go away. You have to heal it. Not to mention, medication might be an option. Depression isn’t just a state of mind, it’s a chemical imbalance. You don’t treat a broken leg with “happy thoughts”, so why would you do that with your entire emotional wellbeing?

Anything helpful it did was completely undermined by Elizabeth’s reaction to Jessica’s guilt. And again, just in case you skipped that section, I am not talking about a regular person’s guilt. I am talking specifically about Jessica’s. Telling her she did the right thing was positively sickening, given where they were standing.

I cannot recommend this book, no matter how well-written/paced parts of it were.

Jessica is a monster, and this could have been her turning point. I’m very disappointed in how Elizabeth was written.

[Raven: I was actually enjoying this. Not greatly, mind, but enough for a high Meh or a low Good. Then we got to the hospital, and the whole thing collapsed like a mistimed souffle.

I’ve a theory about Jessica in High, versus Jessica in Twins. The scenarios in High are more mature, more polarising, more peak-and-trough, than those in Twins. Consequently, as the Agent of Malice in most of these scenarios, Jessica is protrayed as wildly bad before rollercoasting to wildly good in order to maintain the status quo. In that way, she’s GUARANTEED to piss us off as she’s far more monstrous than we’re used to, BY NECESSITY. Hopefully, once the series settles and becomes more self-aware and sassy, we’ll embrace this in a spirit of fun. But maybe the damage is done.

However, Elizabeth’s constant hand-wringing and defensive idiocy in the face of her sister’s malfeasance is getting boring REAL quick. This book is a fine example. She does NOTHING here to help Annie, other than to set her up for a fall without prior warning. And, as Dove points out, she totally washes her hands of the whole thing once the cheerleaders are announced, and she consoles her terrible sister in the very throes of the denoument. I’m positive that she’s the thing that will break the back of the series for me in the long run. [Dove: And as a consequence of these higher highs and lower lows, Elizabeth has to forgive much worse behaviour with just as much enthusiasm as she did when Jessica got peanut butter in her hairbrush. Thus making Elizabeth look like just as big a monster as Jessica.]

So it was largely Elizabeth’s awful behaviour, and the terrible finale, that took this from a Good to a low Meh. But the final nail, which took it down to a full-on Bad?

The fact that although everyone in the book professed concern for Annie, NOT ONE person asked her… “Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?”


[Wing: I fucking hate you, Raven. I’ll be earwormed forever.

I was all set to rant about this book, but the hospital section completely took the wind out of my sails (and then I was earwormed and distracted). It’s fucking ridiculous, even moreso than usual, and fucking terrible, even moreso than usual, and what’s the fucking point? Pascal thinks she did something amazing with these twins, and I can’t. I just can’t.]