Sweet Valley High #12: When Love Dies

Sweet Valley High #12: When Love Dies – Francine Pascal

Title: When Love Dies

Tagline: What terrible secret is Tricia keeping from Steven?

Summary: The Wakefield twins’ older brother, Steven, is heartbroken. His girlfriend, Tricia Martin, no longer seems interested in him. She breaks their dates and doesn’t return his calls. Steven can’t understand why Tricia’s feelings have changed so suddenly.

Jessica is thrilled that Steven isn’t dating Tricia anymore. She sees it as the perfect opportunity to pair him with her best friend, Cara Walker. Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, thinks that scheming, gossipy Cara is all wrong for Steven. She’s determined to find out the reason for Tricia’s strange behavior—and horrified when she discovers the awful truth.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve not talked about this publicly, and I wouldn’t be doing it now except for how much I think it’s going to impact my work, both on this recap and in comments for the next while; one of my sisters died a few days ago. Recapping a Sweet Valley book that appears to be about death is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but I want a distraction and writing is one of the best ways to do that. Usually.

Not sure I have a Goes Boom in me this week, but we’ll see.

Note from the future: When Dove realized which book we were on, she did offer to recap it for me. I started recapping earlier than normal and was already halfway through the recap at that point, though, and decided to finish it. Dove is the best, though.

[Dove: I’m really sorry I didn’t think about this sooner. I didn’t look at the upcoming book list.

As for this book, I think I might have read this at some point in the past but it made no lasting impact on me. Thanks to Twins I’ve got no love for Steven, and the only thing that really sticks with me is the cover. I have no idea why everyone looks 40 on these covers. And also I have no idea why Tricia is cosplaying as a Victorian lady.]

[Raven: This does not sound like the laugh-a-minute romp I was hoping for. Then again, with that title, what can I expect?]


We open on Steven unable to tell the twins apart, something that surprises Jessica even though the next paragraph talks about how impossible it is to tell them apart visually. They are the same but different, you know!

The same: They say “a double image of sun-kissed, all-American loveliness,” I say teenage children of the corn. [Dove: I love that the sentence you quoted is immediately followed by “Beneath the surface, however, it was a different matter.” Because yes. On the outside they’re hot. On the inside they’re the rotted souls of the damned.]

Different: Jessica loves metal shavings because they’re easy to make people swallow and Liz tries to avoid going down for her sister’s crimes.

Steven’s all emo and darkly brooding, and he’s grown a two-day beard on his handsome face. Sexy. Or at least that’s the impression Jessica gives. Aww, Wakefield incest pops up again. [Raven: Also, I love the whole “troubled men have stubble” trope, as if the chin is the window to the soul.] [Wing: I cackled.]

He’s upset because of his girlfriend, Tricia Martin. Jess is annoyed that he gives a flying fuck about his girlfriend, who is a nobody. No, worse than that, she’s trash. How can Steven like her at all? Jessica fumes and angrily peels a banana.

Steven. You might want to keep a close eye on your cock while she’s in this mood.

Liz comes home and Jess gives her all the gossip about Steven, which is: Jess hates his girlfriend. Tricia’s trouble just like her “whole grungy family.”

Elizabeth is having none of this. (Guess we’re still early enough in the book that she has a bit of a spine with Jessica.) If Jess cared about Steven at all, she would worry less about being right and more about Steven’s broken heart.

Jess does care about him, though, and he should have listened to her, dumped Tricia months ago, saved himself the heartache — hell, never dated her in the first place.

It’s just humiliating that he loves Tricia. The Martins are practically the worst family in Sweet Valley (depends on your definition of worst, first of all, and second, who the fuck do you think is worse? Are the Rizzos still around?). Steven should be ashamed to be seen with her.

Liz defends Tricia. She’s nice. She’s not like the rest of her family.

Oh boy. Love Liz’s benevolent classicism. [Dove: “She’s one of the good ones!”]

Tricia’s been blowing off Steven and none of them know why [Raven: She’s been what now?]. Liz suggests that she’s having trouble at home and is embarrassed to tell Steven.

Jess doesn’t understand how anything could be more embarrassing than what everyone already knows: dad’s a drunk and Betsy’s a criminal slut.

You fucking hypocrite. As fucking usual. God, someone bring back murderous Jessica from middle school, she was a billion times better than high school Jess.

Jess implies that Tricia must be as whorish as Betsy because they’re sisters and sisters have a lot in common. Elizabeth laughs and says she hopes that’s not true. You’re joking, but you really shouldn’t be. Jess is fucked up and she tries to drag you down with her. Or set you up in her place. Or both. [Dove: They do have a lot in common. They’re both hateful classist harpies who make everyone around them miserable. One just smiles more sweetly than the other while they destroy everything around them.]

Talk turns to Jess’s date with Aaron Dallas that night [Raven: Bless! They can talk about all their dates in middle school! /sarcasm]. Specifically that she wants to borrow Liz’s red shoes. Liz refuses because last time, she broke a strap and never paid her back. Jess promises she will, with interest, but Liz continues to refuse.

Then Jess pulls out her dramatic storytelling: “In that case, I guess I’ll just have to go barefoot. I’ll probably end up stepping on a piece of broken glass and bleeding to death, and it’ll be all your fault.” Jessica rose from her chair with a wounded expression. “If you can live with that on your conscience…”

And of course Elizabeth gives in. She claims it’s because Jessica’s performance deserves a reward, but this is true to Liz from the very beginning.

Continuity! Hateful continuity, but continuity!

Way back in SVT #1, Elizabeth allowed Jessica to literally take the shoes from her feet.


That night while the twins prep for their dates, Steve talks to them about how worried he is about Tricia. Jess, of course, tries to break them up as she always does because she can’t possibly allow anyone to ever pay more attention to anyone else instead of her, especially her beloved brother.

Steve heads a few miles away to where the poor people live. It is, of course, an entirely different world with weeds and an uneven road and broken glass.

His sweet Tricia deserves more than that mess. Her trashy family can have it, but she’s not like the rest of them.

(To his credit, Steven doesn’t actually think that, but the book itself clearly does.)

Mr Martin tries to send him away but Steven pushes his way into the house and storms back to Tricia’s room, throwing open the door without even knocking.

Fucking hell, dude, I don’t care how angry you are, that’s some bullshit boundary breaking.

Tricia tells him something came up and she has to go out of town. He rages at her for not telling him, the guy she supposedly loves, what’s going on. She takes this to mean that he wants to break up and is gentle with it, says she understands and it’s better this way.

What? How could she possibly think Steven wants to break up when he’s shouting at her and demanding she prove her love for him? How? What sort of misunderstanding does she have going on? Goodness, Trish, why would you ever think that? [Dove: Even though the whole plot hinges on Trish being a living being, I just get robot-that-misfired vibes from her.]

He doesn’t want to break up with her, he loves her, he just wants answers, damn it, and storming into her house, into her room, is a totally reasonable way to deal with this.

She tells him that she thinks they shouldn’t see each other so often. She’s sure that there are plenty of college girls he could go out with.

He demands to know if she’s met someone else. She doesn’t answer, and he decides silence is an admission of guilt. He shouts at her that she found someone else, she’s going away with him, he trusted her and loved her and this is how she treats him. It feels like a part of him is dying.

She repeats that it’s better this way, everything about her flat, mechanical.

When he’s gone, Tricia collapses onto her bed and sobs. She’s in a circle of light from the bare bulb on the ceiling, because of course poor people can’t afford lamps or lamp shades or whatever.

She can’t tell Steven the truth. She can’t. It’s better that he hates her than know the truth.

She didn’t know it would hurt so much to lose him, and hurting him is almost more than she can handle, but the truth will hurt him worse. After all, the doctors gave it to her straight: she has leukemia and with treatment maybe six months. Whether that is six month of treatments before they can determine a timeline or six months to live even with treatment isn’t clear, though I bet we’re supposed to read it as six months to live, full stop. [Dove: That’s how I read it, given that all medical treatment we have encountered thus far boils down to Jessica talking to the ill person until they get well.] [Raven: Yep. Six months to live was how I read it too.]

Her mother died of leukemia. Tricia remembers how it was watching her waste away to a dull-eyed skeleton. When she died, her father turned to drink to numb the pain. Tricia doesn’t want that to happen to Steven. If he knew the truth, he would only cling to her and it would be more painful for him in the long run.

Cara, one of the (many, including oh so sanctimonious Liz with her gossip column) gossips at SVH, asks Jess if it’s true that Steven and Tricia broke up. Jess makes it very clear that Steven broke up with Tricia, because there’s no possible way a Wakefield could ever be dumped by a poor, trashy Martin.

Cara wants all the details, of course, to feed the gossip machine even though Steven is a couple years out of high school already and truly people would have moved on. Guess a Wakefield will always be at the heart of things. [Raven: I suppose her crush on Steven would also drive her curiosity.]

Jess decides this is the chance to make sure Steven never goes back to Tricia, who she knows calls creepy. Because being poor is some sort of disease and of course poor people are terrible, creepy and slutty drunkards and liars.

She tells Cara that she doesn’t know all the details but Steven said he’s definitely over Tricia. Maybe now he’ll find a girlfriend “from a decent family.”

Fuck you, Jessica Wakefield. Fuck. You. [Dove: I have no idea why she cares so much about this. It’s not as if a single person has ever even mentioned that Steven is dating someone from a bad family. The only person who keeps bringing it up is Jessica. All of this nonsense is in her head.] [Raven: There seems to be a lot of drama and bullshit in HighJess’s head. Maybe she’s the actual personification of Bleak Valley? (For all new readers, go check out a Twins podcast for a Bleak Valley example.)] [Wing: …oh god, did we mentally tap into the future when we started Bleak Valley? I am horrified for us.]

Jess makes Cara admit to her crush on Steven and agrees to help them get together.

Cara gives her more gossip, this time about Jeremy Frank, host of popular local talk show Frankly Speaking. He’s tall, dark, and gorgeous, with eyes more beautiful than Paul Newman. That’s a relevant reference for them. What sixteen-year-old girl doesn’t love a nearly sixty-year-old actor?

It’s absolutely tragic what happened to him: he ran into a tree while he was skiing and broke his leg. He’s at Fowler Memorial healing right now. [Dove: Where was he skiing? In the alps of Valley Heights? Why wasn’t he sent to the nearest hospital to wherever he was skiing? And finally, it’s a broken fucking leg. Cast it, give him crutches, and discharge him. We don’t need to monitor him in case it falls off. It’s broken. I had my entire hip replaced and I was only in hospital for two nights. He doesn’t need weeks in hospital for a broken leg.] [Raven: I dunno, maybe when you’re a rich celebrity you can pay for longer / more comprehensive treatment? I was in hospital once for an overnight stay, and there was a bloke on my ward who’d broken both thighbones, and was in a massive cast. He was definitely there for the long haul.] [Wing: I think some of this might come down to advances in technology. I vaguely remember people being in traction back in the 80s when they broke their legs. (Also, “traction” is the word I could not remember during the original recap. Helpful, brain!) He’s rich, he can afford the best treatment, and maybe it’s a terrible break. I can see him staying in the hospital for awhile back then when he’d be sent home now because he wouldn’t need to be in traction.]

Jess immediately reminds Cara that she’s interested in Steven, so she shouldn’t be thinking about anyone else.

Jessica Wakefield, though, can think about Jeremy Frank’s handsome face all she wants.

Cara has even more gossip: Someone’s moving into the Godfrey mansion. The family’s fabulously rich and the eighteen-year-old son is a real hunk. The family name begins with an M — Morrow, Cara thinks.

Jess thinks Ned mentioned that name before. He was Godfrey’s lawyer until Godfrey’s death a few years ago and handled the Godfrey estate.

Do we get to start playing What’s Ned Practicing Now? You know how much we love that.

(…fuck, I’m only a little sarcastic, his ridiculous range of legal practice makes me laugh sometimes.)

The Godfrey mansion is the most fabulous house in Sweet Valley, even better than the Fowler mansion. (And the Patman mansion?) It’s more like a palace than a mansion, with marble arches, an indoor swimming pool, and servants’ quarters.

Cara expects Jess to start her plan immediately, but Jess has tossed it aside before she even gets off the bus. After all, she has something far more important to do now. [Dove: Why are they on the bus? I thought that was only for poor people?] [Wing: They use it when it is convenient (for the ghostwriter).]

She recruits Liz by telling her how boring and meaningless and narrow their lives are. They should volunteer as candy stripers at the hospital in order to expand their lives and give back to people.

Liz of course knows that it has to be about a boy, though Jess talks her around easily enough because, as we know, Liz has no spine.

(Liz tells Jess she should be a lawyer. Been there, done that.)

Somehow, as if she’s never met her sister a day in her life, Liz thinks this might be Jess showing a more serious side than she’s ever shown before. It’s very generous for her to volunteer her time to a worthwhile cause. Maybe there’s hope for her yet.

Yup. Absolutely. Jess has totally changed her stripes. [Raven: Boom! Joke!] [Wing: I’m funniest when I have no fucking clue what I’ve done.]

(At dinner they talk about Alice’s time as a candy striper when she was a teenager, all of which is pretty boring if a cute family time, but the important thing is that Jess painted her room a hideous brown color. They call it The Hershey Bar, but all I can picture is shit brown. Fitting for a shitty person.)

Ned does have gossip about the Morrows: Sweet Valley gains a genuine celebrity when they do, because Kurt Morrow played football for the Hawks, was their star quarterback. He started his own computer company a few years ago and it made him a millionaire several times over. They have a son Steven’s age, and a daughter the twins’ age who will join them at SVH.

A beautiful rich girl with a famous parent? I’m sure that will go over real well at SVH.

Liz and Jess go volunteer at the Joshua Fowler Memorial Hospital [Raven: The what? Who the fuck is Joshua Fowler? NO SPOILERS!]. They’re both silent as they enter the building. Liz because she remembers nearly dying after that motorcycle accident. Jess because Annie Whitman tried to kill herself when she didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Jess even feels a twinge of guilt every time she passes the hospital. After all, it was utterly painful for her to admit she had a teensy weensy itty bitty part in driving Annie to do so.

As candy stripers, the twins will give patients nonmedical needs such as drinks, books and magazines, and the gifts and notions cart. The what now? I know of notions in the sewing context, but not this phrase. Does the cart have little things for sale like paper, pens, etc.?

They also do light clerical work and other tasks the nurses assign them, including running errands and keeping patients company.

I’m not real comfortable with what “light clerical work” might mean in a hospital setting. Sounds a little too much like giving them access to patient files for, say, making copies. [Dove: This. But then again, privacy laws don’t exist in Sweet Valley.] [Raven: Perhaps they mean Clerical in the D&D sense? Clerics are healers, after all.]

Jess of course plans to keep Jeremy Frank company. Instead she’s assigned to the maternity ward under the oversight of Miss North, a grim-faced nurse who glowers at Jess and acts like it’s a personal insult that Jess doesn’t know anything about babies.

Now, I don’t envy you ending up with Jessica Wakefield as your volunteer, but she very clearly didn’t choose to be assigned to the maternity ward. Why the fuck would you expect her to have any experience with babies? For that matter, why the fuck would a candy striper need experience with babies? Surely you’re not letting her fucking hold them or anything! [Dove: Also, aren’t baby wards limited in who can access them? Maybe that’s a recent thing, but when I visited a friend who’d just had a baby, I had to produce ID and then be escorted to her by a nurse. I can’t see unvetted teens being allowed to come and go freely on such a ward.] [Wing: Even as late as the mid-2000s, I didn’t have to show ID to visit the maternity ward, so I can believe this.]

Her first task is to dispose of dirty diapers. She claims the jobs get worse from there, but her next job is taking flowers into a room. How the fuck is that worse than dirty diapers? Even if the mother wants you to coo over how beautiful her baby is and you think it looks like an angry red bundle (often my response to babies, too), that cannot be worse than dirty diapers. All you have to do is lie. You love to lie!

Liz spends the hour on the second floor and, of course, loves it. She even wants to write a piece on it for The Oracle. She met Jeremy Frank while she was passing around magazines, even talked to him.

Jess is, of course, horrified at the unfairness of the universe. How very dare Liz get to talk to the man Jess is there to woo.

He even had her sign his cast in case she ends up being famous someday.

Oh my god, Jess is going to explode.

She gets his room number out of Liz, and we get this insight into Jess:

Once Jessica had a certain male in her sights, Elizabeth knew there was no stopping her. She would do anything to get him.

Or do anything to keep anyone else from getting him, including false rape accusations, other lies, blaming people, pretending to be her sister to seduce them, and it goes on. Jesus fucking christ, how is she supposed to be a role model, Pascal? HOW?

Jess lets it slip that she knew Jeremy Frank was there and that’s why she wanted to volunteer. Jess, of course, runs away as Liz rants at her. She can’t believe she bought Jess’s lie about making sacrifices and doing good deeds.

You and me both, Liz. You and me both. How the fuck are you this stupid about your sister still?

Liz knocks into an orderly who is short, husky, around 25, and has the darkest eyes she’s ever seen. He stares at her and it makes her feel strange because of how intense it is.

His name is Carl.

Are you fucking kidding me, book? Seriously? (In short, not only is this book about death from cancer right after my sister died from cancer only a few days ago but it’s going to throw my dead dad’s name in my face after he died earlier this year. Good times.)

When he speaks, it sounds like it’s painful for him, and he rushes away from her. She thinks there’s something strange about him — or maybe that’s just her writer’s imagination getting out of hand.

What writer’s imagination? The thing we see you writing most is a fucking gossip column and you don’t even make it up yourself. [Raven: We have hundreds of Twins books in which Elizabeth’s “writer’s imagination” was proven to be absolutely non-existant.]

She runs into Tricia next (though not literally this time). Tricia looks terrified and also runs away from her.

Did you ever think it’s you, Liz? You’re why everyone runs?

Liz immediately starts to wonder if maybe she was visiting someone she doesn’t want Steven to know about, a new boyfriend or something. A lot of the orderlies are Steven’s age, after all.

Even if she was, why the fuck does it matter? They broke up!

Liz has to admit that Tricia looks as miserable as Steven does over the breakup. She’s lost weight, looks like she’s not sleeping.

Jess doubles back to visit Jeremy Frank, of course. He mistakes her for Liz at first, also of course.

She talks her way into signing his cast, too, but when she tries to find a clear spot to sign, she loses her balance, hits his other kneecap, and knocks his broken leg out of the cable contraption elevating it.

Despite this, she convinces herself it’s not hopeless. Surely she can find a way to show him how devoted she is and earn a guest spot on his show.

Friday, Steven comes home for the weekend (he sure does spend a lot of time at home for a college student who lives at school), and Jess tries to convince him to go to a party. She’s not subtle at all about wanting to fix him up with Cara Walker.

Again, apparently, though if we knew about that, I’ve completely blanked on it. [Dove: We did. Every time she’s around Steven, she tells him to break up with Tricia and date Cara instead.]

He doesn’t want to be cheered up, though. He’s even doing history homework on a Friday night. He can’t forget Tricia, no matter how hard he tries. Er, hasn’t it been like a week? Cut yourself a little slack there, Wakefield.

Jess won’t give up on him, though. He can’t keep moping like this. It reflects badly on the Wakefields. His reputation will take a hit. Only wimps sit around doing homework on Friday night instead of partying.

He’s not interested in his reputation at all, though.

Jess reminds him, again, that Cara’s interested and he should be happy to date her. After all, it’s not like she has two heads or, god forbid, weighs three hundred pounds. She’s fantastic-looking, not a multi-headed fattie.

Fuck you, Wakefield. Fuck. You.

Fuck you Pascal, for that matter. Your fucking role models are bullies who get off on abusing people and you support this. You fucking asshole. [Dove: No. She doesn’t support this. She dictated this.] [Wing: I have my doubts about how much actual involvement she in these, no matter what people say, but fair.]

Jess decides to double down on making him forget about Tricia. Tells him she’s heard gossip that Tricia’s been cutting a lot of classes lately. Maybe she’s pulling a Betsy, who started hanging out with Rick Andover, dropout. Among other things, I guess. After that, she started flunking half her classes. Tricia must be going around with a loser too. A loser like her, since she’s, you know, poor and trashy and slutty, because sisters are absolutely alike always.

Steven defends her, and Jess doesn’t understand why. Tricia treated him terribly, she deserves to flunk out.

On the one hand, taking care of your siblings, here for it. On the other hand, fuck you, Wakefield. Fuck you.

She uses this gossip to convince him to go to the party so he can talk to Cara and learn more gossip about Tricia. Oh Steven, you great fool.

Cara, of course, is not throwing a party, because Jess is a lying liar who lies and everyone around her lets her get away with it.

Jess’s plan: Put out some potato chips, invite Liz and Todd, it’s a party. Liz will do it because it’s for Steven, even though Jess is clearly the only one who cares about the Wakefield reputation.

Yes, the lying, abusive monster, that’s quite a reputation to protect.

(Spoiler from a few paragraphs later: Liz refuses to have anything to do with setting up Steven and Cara.) [Raven: Honestly, I kind of respect that. Liz with a spine!]

The moment he sees Cara, Steven knows he made a mistake. He wants to find the nearest phone and call Tricia. Just the thought of her with someone else infuriates him. He spent the entire week trying to make himself hate her, but he can’t. She’s so golden-haired and fragile with misty blue eyes, he has to hold her, protect her —

— from what, though? He doesn’t know, and she doesn’t want his love or his protection. She told him so. [Dove: I am really sick of being told how delicate she is. Steven is supposedly in love, and yet the only thing he loves about her is how slender she is. That’s not love, that’s having a very strong body-type preference. There is never any talk about how they have the same sense of humour, or they both really love this particular band, that author, this TV show, etc. They just really like how each other look. Everyone is so goddamned shallow in this series. I know her weight loss is foreshadowing the plot, but it’s not just this book, it’s every time in books leading up to this. And if you think these ghosties can foreshadow for longer than a single chapter, you and I are obviously reading very different books.] [Raven: She’s always described as delicate, doll-like, porcelain, fragile. Even when they are talking about her before her illness was manifest. It all plays in to the Big Strong Male Protector crap that is just completely hackneyed and boring.]

But he can’t shake how she looked that night, as if it hurt her more than him, as if she still loved him.

The party is basically Jess and Aaron, Lila and Jim, and Cara and Steven.

Cara immediately starts gossiping about a different party they absolutely can’t miss. Regina Morrow, the new girl moving into the Godfrey mansion, is inviting the entire junior class over for a getting-to-know-you party. Regina’s mother told Cara’s mother, that’s how Cara knows about it.

There are beers, and dancing, and then the two couples go outside, leaving Cara and Steven alone. Steven asks if she’s ever talked to Tricia, but Cara says she doesn’t know her very well. She has heard that Tricia already has a new boyfriend. Caroline saw her with a guy down at the drugstore, and Tricia was draped all over her.

Steven then uses Cara to distract himself, dances with her, kisses her, but all he feels inside is cold and dead.

Later that night, Jess tells Liz that Steven was all over Cara. jess was right, as always.

Liz doesn’t know what happened, but knows that Jess did something to make Steven change his mind so quickly.

Cara’s not right for Steven, Liz says, but Jess disagrees. Cara’s fun, and: Being fun is what counts with guys. Steve deserves to have some fun after being around Miss Goody-Goody Martin for so long.

You goddamn motherfucking hypocrite. Up until this moment, you’ve talked about Tricia as a trashy whore. Fuck you, you fucking lying bullying bullshit hypocrite monster. [Raven: Yeah, that’s a completely weird u-turn there.]

Steve feels worse than ever after the party. Ned finds him making hot chocolate and offers to listen to him if he wants to talk about Tricia. He really doesn’t, though. Ned is sympathetic and a surprisingly decent parent. Tells him that even though Jess means well (fucking LIES), he shouldn’t let her push him into anything he’s not ready for yet.

Liz confronts Tricia at lunch on Monday. She feels sorry for her because of how miserable she looks, but just has to ask why she ran away from Liz at the hospital.

Tricia says she was upset because the friend she was visiting is really sick. Liz offers to visit her, of course, but Tricia says it’s one of those in and out things, a couple days of treatment, a couple days at home.

Liz wants to question her further but Tricia looks so fragile and sad that she doesn’t want to hurt her. She wants to do more, but she can’t think of anything.

Before she can walk away, though, Cara and Jess come over so Cara can taunt Tricia that she’s dating Steven now.

Tricia very nearly cries but tries to hide it. She keeps telling herself it’s better that Steven finds someone else, but doesn’t believe it. She’s heartbroken and sad and hurting and everything feels blurred, voices fade into buzzing.

She wants nothing more than to call Steven, tell him she loves him, tell him the truth. But no, it’s better this way, he’ll forget about her and be happy, and she won’t care soon, either, because she’ll be gone soon.

Liz talks to Todd about Tricia. He tells her she’s too sensitive for her own good, but he’s also noticed that she seems to be mourning Steve even though it was her idea to split up.

Unsurprisingly, Liz wants to both figure out what’s going on and do something about it, combining Plucky Girl Detectives and Something Must Be Done. Honestly, I don’t hate this combination for her right now.

Instead of doing anything, though, they make out, Liz thinks his lips are a delicious combination of sweet and salty, and she thinks this must be why she cares so much about Tricia and Steven. Not because she loves her brother. Nope. It’s because she can’t handle the thought of losing Todd.

More candy striping! Jess is determined to make Jeremy notice her and prances straight into his room only to find him absolutely naked, receiving a sponge bath. ERM. Why the fuck was that door open then? And why isn’t there a curtain pulled around the bed? It sure seems like she walked straight into the room only to get a full-frontal view of Jeremy’s frankendong.

She promptly dumps ice-cold water on his stomach, once again causing him pain both from the cold and from the pain of his jerking around.

Jeremy and the nurse both shout at her and Jessica runs off. How can they be so upset over a little water? She was just trying to help, she didn’t do anything wrong!

Sure. Keep telling yourself that, Jess. [Raven: Also, not even a passing giggle about seeing Jeremy’s Jeremy…?] [Wing: Honestly, with SVH Jess, I’m surprised she didn’t kill the nurse and take him.]

When Liz hears the story, she finds yet another cause where Something Must Be Done. She has to figure out some way to get Jess to stop obsessing over Jeremy.

Liz keeps feeling like someone is watching her all throughout her shift, and she thinks it must be Carl. It still makes her nervous. She feels sorry for him, too, though, when one of the nurses tells her that Carl’s a loner and doesn’t have a friend in the world.

She doesn’t like that he stares, but why’s she so worried, she asks herself. No one was ever hurt because someone looked at them.

Yeah, tell that to everyone who caught Medusa’s gaze.

On Friday, Jess comes rushing in to show off the enormous bouquet of roses that Jeremy gave her. Someone from the TV station sent them over and he let her have them. He even asked her if she had a boyfriend. She’s absolutely certain he likes her, and Liz shouldn’t worry about the age difference. Girls mature faster, after all. No big deal between sixteen and twenty-five, right?

Later, Liz and Jeremy talk about how it was a defensive move on his part. He knows she means well, but he needs her to stop trying to help so much, and he knows how to make a big gesture.

She again sees Carl watching her and again feels weird.

That’s forgotten right quick, though, when she walks into her next room and finds Tricia in the bed, looking gaunt and bony in her hospital gown.

Tricia finally admits that she has leukemia and it’s fatal. She didn’t say anything because she doesn’t want Steven to know, it will hurt him too much.

Liz points out that of course Steven will want to know, he wouldn’t want her to go through it alone, he wouldn’t be more miserable if he knew the truth. They’d have each other at least for awhile, and that’s better than nothing.

Tricia admits it’s better for her, but he’ll be the one left behind and she won’t do that to him, won’t force him to sit by her side while she dies. She demands Liz promise her she won’t tell anyone, especially Steven.

It’s good that she knows, though, because she can tell Steven, far in the future, that Tricia did still love him and didn’t want to hurt him.

Okay, let’s talk about this. Tricia’s feelings are valid and understandable.

However, Liz has a good point, too. It hurts to sit and watch someone you love die, but I think most people would rather have that time, no matter how painful it is. I know I would. And have. Tricia’s still alert, she can communicate, she can have time with the people she loves.

Today I had to say basically this: I don’t think I can sit in a room and watch someone I love die for the third time this year.

And it’s true. I don’t think I can, if they can no longer communicate. I’m strong, but I don’t think I’m that strong.

But I’m still glad I was a part of their lives through to the end, the two who are dead and the one who is dying. I love them. Making sure they know that, supporting them, is more important than the pain of their death.

[Dove: What Liz doesn’t point out – and in fact fails to grasp – is that Tricia is denying Steven is agency in this. As Wing says, Tricia’s feelings are valid here, and if she honestly wanted to keep him way, “This is my exit, and I’m going to do it this way…”, then that would be something I could respect. But convincing yourself that your loved ones will just move on and be like, “Tricia died? How odd. Oh well. Are we having pancakes or bacon for breakfast?” is just idiotic.

My own moronic family never told me that my dad was ill, and even after he died, never told me it was cancer. I found out about a decade later when I worked for the funeral company that arranged his cremation and was asked to go into the archives for something. Until then, I’d just assumed he spontaneously died from a tummy bug. Which is a great thing for a nine year old to believe and has in no way done lasting damage to my ability to process my friends’ illnesses in a reasonable and healthy manner. Obviously I came away from this new knowledge aware that my family is filled with lying idiots who cannot see a big picture. But I was also really pissed off with them because if I’d had the faintest clue that my dad wasn’t going to be around much longer, I’d have spent some time with him. I’d have done something so I could actually remember the guy, rather than just recognise him in pictures. They stole that from me, and I will never forgive them. And I include my dad in that too, because there must have been a conversation between my parents about deciding to lie. And if there wasn’t, that’s worse. They’re both fucking idiots.

And sure, it’s not exactly the same. Tricia and Steven are legally adults here, so Tricia is not lying to a child. But only a fucking idiot would think that lying to a loved one and then dying is the best alternative to the truth. Because there is nothing fucking worse than coming home on a perfectly normal day, only to find out that your loved one has died, appropos of nothing. Utterly out of nowhere.

Also, have they tried getting Jessica to talk to Tricia’s cancer? She’s already solved a coma and a… was it another coma? with her talking. Maybe she can talk Tricia’s cancer away.]

[Wing: I’ve spent some more time thinking about this, and I stand by my original words, but I want to add this: Various family members, including my dad and my sister, wanted to keep the seriousness of their illnesses a secret from other people, including family members, at different times. They had a lot of reasons, including wanting to protect the people who love them, and as Dove said, those reasons often take away the agency of the person they’re protecting.

That being said, they have every right to keep whatever they want private. Do I think it’s the wrong decision to hide the severity of an illness, the illness itself, from the people who care about you who you actually trust? Yes. (There are many other reasons, e.g., abusive situations, where keeping that private is imperative.) 

However, it can be difficult and painful to take on other people’s emotions when you bring them bad news. I can understand wanting to keep things to yourself so that you don’t have to carry the weight of that on top of everything else you have to carry. I think this is best as a short-term scenario, but people mourn and fight and hurt and deal with emotions in different ways that can be incomprehensible to other people.

I myself withdraw when I am in a depressive swing especially, or when I am deeply mourning, as I am now. There is too much else on me, I cannot accept comfort until I have made my way through the things I must do.

People are complicated and life is difficult.]

[Raven: I feel that I have little to offer in this conversation. The people in my life who have died did so suddenly, which is a whole different ballgame. So all I can do is offer hugs to my fellow recappers, and perhaps make a cup of tea (real or virtual). *hugs, tea*]

Liz fights with people who are insulting Tricia, sobs to Enid that she shouldn’t have promised to keep a secret. Enid reminds her that sometimes a secret shouldn’t be kept. Enid thinks she needs to tell someone, at least, someone who can help her through all her struggles over this.

She of course tells Mr Collins, faculty adviser for The Oracle. He listens without judgment, and tells her that he thinks Tricia’s making the wrong decision. She’ll likely end up hurting him even more this way. She can’t protect him from pain, not in something like this.

Liz decides her instincts are right; she has to tell Steven.

Jess is full of excitement at the hospital later. Jeremy asked her to come see him on her break. She’s certain he wants to ask her out. Or maybe offer her a contract to be his co-host. You know, totally believable things.

He puts on the charm, way over the top, and asks her to marry him.

Jess. fucking. panics. Flat-out runs away.

Jeremy, you are a goddamn king. [Dove: And you’re all probably gonna get #MeToo’d in a couple of decades, when Jessica decides to completely destroy a powerful movement designed to empower women against their abusers so Jessica can have five minutes of fame. I mean, she’s got form in this area.] [Raven: Sweet Valley, a town in which ALL relationships are sketchy.]

Liz wants to tell Steven about Tricia that night, but he’s in a hurry; he’s taking Cara to a party. Liz worries that he’s falling for Cara’s and Jess’s tricks.

Steven has a miserable time at the party. Cara, of course, doesn’t notice, and invites him to the Morrow party the next Saturday. That was the weekend he planned to take Tricia to Secca Lake for a picnic and a hike.

No matter how he tries, he can’t stop thinking about Tricia.

Cara accuses him of not paying attention to her, thinking about Tricia instead of him. He swears he isn’t, but then asks how Tricia’s doing. No one’s seen her for a week, Cara says, then tells him he’s too nice, he needs to stop worrying about Tricia, stop thinking about her, now that he and Cara are a couple.

Steven blows up at this, snaps that he wasn’t trying to replace Tricia so quickly, he still loves her.

Look, this is on you, Steven. You’ve been dating her. You know how she feels about you. You should have seen this coming.

Jess decides that she’s going to accept Jeremy’s proposal. She won’t marry him, though, she’ll just be engaged to a big celebrity and everyone will be jealous!

I’d say there’s no way the age difference wouldn’t blow up in his face, but as we saw with Mr Collins, no one gives a fuck about such accusations. [Dove: I was going to say this is dicey territory for a TV personality. But then I remembered it’s the 80s, so it’s pretty much the default.]

When she visits him, though, he admits what he did and tells her that he’d be happy to marry her if she was ten years older, but she’s far too young now. She feels a little better at that, but still calls it a dirty trick. Jeremy offers to make it up to her, anyway she wants.

Jeremy. You idiot. What are you thinking? [Raven: What in the actual fuck?]

Steven returns home after his blowup with Cara, and Liz tells him the truth about Tricia. Steve is, of course, heartbroken, and rushes off to see her. She was sent home after her most recent treatment, and he goes straight there.

Tricia tries to act like she doesn’t want to see him, but she’s filled with happiness. He doesn’t let her lie to him and tells her he knows the truth.

She promptly collapses into his arms.

They cry, hold each other, talk about why she didn’t want to tell him. She didn’t want him to watch her die a little bit every day. It hurt so much when she watched her mother die the same way.

Steven tells her nothing could possibly hurt more than thinking he lost her love, and he’d much rather be there with her no matter what.

Tricia says she doesn’t fear death anymore because he makes her feel stronger, like she can face anything. This despite the fact that earlier she told Liz she didn’t fear death at that point already.

She decides that they might not have a long time to be together forever but when you love like they do, even a moment can be forever.

We jump from this sadness to Jess bragging about how great she was on Frankly Speaking. It won’t air for a few weeks, but she already feels like a celebrity.

Talk about tonal whiplash.

Liz is in a hurry when she leaves the hospital. She needs to change and drive Jess over to the Morrow party because Jess wants to be the first to meet the brother.

In such a hurry she doesn’t notice someone following her. The parking lot is empty, the wind blows hard, the air is chilly, all a perfect setting for a jump scare when someone knocks on the car window.

It’s Carl, of course. He tells her that she’s needed back in the hospital. When she gets out of the car, he overpowers her, tells her he doesn’t want to hurt her, he just wants to be with her, and chloroforms her.

He puts her into a van and everything goes black.

Another tonal whiplash, and I am somewhat skeptical that Liz would actually have gotten out of the car, not with how creepy she finds Carl. I’m also skeptical that he waited until she was inside the car to approach her. What if she didn’t believe your story? You seem prepared otherwise, how’d you fuck this up?

Anyway, there’s the next book for us, I guess. Foreshadowing was still heavy-handed but spread throughout more of this book than normal. Not terribly done.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I have very little to say about this that I haven’t already said. It sucks to watch someone you love die bit by bit, losing the things they love to do and be, losing themselves, but I still prefer it to not being there for them at all.

Mostly, this book left me flat. Meh, you can say. Though that’s probably in part because of the circumstances.

When I started this recap, I realized it was probably a bad idea to do the book about death from cancer because my sister just died from cancer. When I finished this recap less than twenty-four hours later, it’s after spending the day dealing with the knowledge that it looks like someone else I love is likely to die before the end of the year. From cancer.

Fuck 2022.

[Dove: I feel awful that I didn’t check the book order sooner. I’m sorry this landed on Wing.

As for the book itself. God it was boring. The problem with this story about Tricia, is that this story is nothing to do with Tricia. More screen time was wasted on Jess and Cara gossiping, or the “hilarious” japery with Jeremy Frank, and Tricia and Steven were just footnotes in their own story.

Be brave, little ghosties. If you need to step away from the twins to tell a story, step the fuck away. We don’t need to have the entire story be seen through their eyes. I was honestly expecting more of this story to be about Steven and Tricia, and I’d say about eight pages of it was. And it wasn’t particularly well told. On the plus side, it wasn’t (particularly) offensive either, so by virtue of that, it gets a middling score. But how bad is that? Because this didn’t make me angry, it’s better than average. What a low fucking bar. Especially when I have to allow a certain amount of manipulation, gaslighting and fat-shaming through, because if I didn’t, every book would be Kill it with fire.

Another fail.]

[Raven: This was a weird one. As both Wing and Dove have said, the tonal whiplash was huge, and not particularly pleasant.

Tricia and Steven? That happened, I guess. It seemed like a lot of real estate for very little story, if I’m honest. I’m not saying it wasn’t worth telling, because it surely was, but it felt like what was basically “Tricia won’t tell Steven, so Elizabeth tells Steven” could have been handled with fewer words, which gives the chance for more facets of the story to be told.

Jessica and Jeremy? That too happened, I guess. Wacky hi-jinks on a hospital ward to counteract the Big Sadness. I get it. I just don’t think it was handled well. And it was all manner of inappropriate. Also, the whole “well, Jessica, you’ve outsmarted me, name your price” ending was frankly (lol) incomprehensible.

Elizabeth and Carl? Well, THAT came out of left fucking field. A kidnapping! Actual excitement, and a proper cliffhanger ending. This was probably the most enjoyable thing for me here, as at least it means the next book won’t be another rehash of “I fancy him, he fancies her, let’s make up a sexual assault for the lols”.

Overall? Meh.]