Sweet Valley High #13: Kidnapped!

Yellow background, aqua text, usual porthole cover, with an image in the circle. The image contains Elizabeth, wearing beige slacks and a blue-and-white striped t-shirt. She is side on, looking over her shoulder in horror as an unfeasibly long wrist and hand stretches out to her. Also, the perspective is off on Elizabeth, her elbow comes down below her hip and her hand is slightly too big. All in all, an excellent example of SVH covers.
Sweet Valley High #13: Kidnapped by Francine Pascal

Title: Kidnapped!

Tagline: Elizabeth’s nightmare is about to begin…

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield never imagined that her evening of volunteer work at Sweet Valley’s hospital would turn into the most horrifying night of her life. But when a strong hand clamps a chloroformed rag over her mouth and she is pulled from her car, Elizabeth’s hellish ordeal begins.

When she regains consciousness, Elizabeth find herself tied to a chair in an isolated shack. She has been kidnapped—by Carl, a lonely and disturbed orderly from the hospital. Elizabeth doesn’t know what Carl want from her, but it’s clear he’s on the brink of insanity. Somehow Elizabeth must escape—before it’s too late!

Initial Thoughts:

Finally! We’ve finally got past all the triggering shit. We have gone past: gaslighting/emotional abuse, destroying lives for lolz, bullying girls into eating disorders and worse, not to mention all the false rape allegations which pair beautifully with all the times that consent is ignored but that’s treated as if it’s normal.

Now we’re on to the fairly wholesome topic of Elizabeth being kidnapped.

Only in Sweet Valley.

As a side note, hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. My well-informed sister-in-law bought me the graphic novel of Best Friends (and also a Rocktopus, which is breathtaking), so Raven and I will be reading that soon and sharing our thoughts. Probably not a page-by-page, but just an overview of whether you need it. (Although, even if it’s garbage, you do need it if you’re a Sweet Valley collector, right?)

Did anyone else get the graphic novels for Crimbo?
Did anyone else get the graphic novels for Crimbo?x
And should we also tackle the dubious Sweet Valley High graphic novel?

[Wing: In excellent timing, I bought myself a copy several weeks ago and planned to do something fun for our Patrons, but then my sister and one of my bffs died, and I’ve not been in a place to create fun things. We’ll see what I end up doing, if anything.

That being said, yay, a kidnapping! Hope it brings some fun to 2023, which must be better than 2022 or I’m setting it on fire.]

[Raven: After the debauchery of Christmas, it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned kidnapping! I’m excited for this one, let’s hope it’s fun.]


Wait. Spoke to soon.

We open with incest. A barely-dressed Jessica is rummaging around in Steven’s bed for her brother, because she cannot zip up a dress without his assistance. Steve is not in bed, but comes out of the bathroom, with nowt but a towel slung around him and, I assume, billowing clouds of steam, for added 80s-style sexiness.

“Could you zip up my dress, please?” she asked again, making her voice as sweet as maple syrup.

This, fellow recappers, is the iconic scene where all of fandom went:


We don’t know why they’re shipping Steven/Jessica, but we now have proof that they are.

[Wing: I can’t believe that we called this all the way back in SVT without knowing what was in store for us in SVH. We are gods.

Gods with a very useless power, but still.]

[Raven: The ick is strong with this one.]

They discuss where Elizabeth is, as her absence facilitated this squicky scene. Jessica thinks she is a fool for agreeing to work when there is a big party tonight – the event of the season (for the hundred and thirty-seventh time this season). Apparently she’s covering for a nurse who’s on vacation. No, ghostie, she’s not. She’s a sixteen year old moron who refills water jugs. Also, that wasn’t mentioned in the last book.

Anyway, talking about Elizabeth is boring, when Jessica is wearing something Steven agrees is both “sexy” and “alluring”. The boy whose attention she wants now is Nicholas Morrow. Ok, so she hasn’t met him, but Nicholas and Regina (18 and 16 respectively), are super-rich and have moved into a huge mansion, so that’s all Jessica needs. Steven asks what if he’s a nerd. Jessica is sure that he isn’t. He’s rich, after all. [Raven: This fucking town… a mall, a middle school and a metric fuck-ton of mansions.]

Remember, people, these twins are aspirational.

The siblings then secretly loathe each other. Steven thinks Jessica is a vapid whore. Jessica thinks Steven dates poor trashy people, but at least Tricia will die soon.


Jessica goes back to her room to paint her nails. Which is exactly the order normal people get ready. Naturally you shower, put on your dress and makeup, then you start the three-layer process required for the best nail polish finish, a process which requires let’s say a 30 minute drying time for each layer at least.

[Wing: I was going to argue with the timing for nail polish and then remembered this was the 80s. It probably did take 30 minutes for each layer. Damn. (Nail polish in the 80s, not something I was allowed to have. Church cult for the win.)] [Dove: Yep, no gel and UV lights here. We’re old school.]

She thinks about how gorgeous Nicholas Morrow must be, based on how big his house is. She knows all about it, because Ned currently does property law and handled the estate. I mean, it might be equity and tax law, if the property is held in a trust. Let’s just go with personal finance as his current discipline. This dude changes speciality more than my law student nephew, who spent Christmas bragging to me how rarely he sleeps, based on trying to take on as many law modules as possible at once, while also working a 40 hour week at Nando’s.

(Don’t worry. I warned him that once he hits 40, it’ll all catch up with him, and he’ll fall asleep on the sofa right after dinner every night. He said that was fine.)

Steven stops by her room to let her know he’s going out now and he asks her how he looks. The incest continues.

“Nice,” she said, parroting his earlier remark, though she really thought her brother was the most handsome guy in Sweet Valley. Steven was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt. His black-leather aviator jacket was flung over his shoulder.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

As a person without siblings, I can’t say for certain that this is abnormal, but it certainly reads as not the usual way siblings think about each other. Particularly teenage ones. A friend had a brother, and several people in the group opined he was good looking. She responded something along the lines of, “Him? He looks like a coathanger wearing skin.”

[Wing: I tell my siblings when they look good (complimented Brother Owl’s beard Friday night, actually), but not with this undercurrent of so hot I wanna fuck that the Wakefields have going on.]

[Raven: I think I’d have a whole lot more respect for this series if they had a fourth sibling who was cool and successful, but always described as a complete car wreck. “Eldest brother James looked like someone had plucked an owl and rolled it through Hot Topic.”]

Jessica waits for Elizabeth, despite being offered a lift to the party from Steven. At some point she gets a cold shiver. She does her best to shake it off, and even manages to use some logic. Elizabeth is supposed to tutor Max after work, and if she calls him, it will only interrupt them – and since Elizabeth is already late, it’s probably not going well, therefore an interruption will only disturb the process and delay them further.

I love the fact that logic and decency are so alien to Jessica that I’m going to have to say that Jessica is deeply out of character here.

Jessica then decides to help her sister out by picking her outfit. She picks out a full length skirt and a high necked blouse and thinks her sister will look hot. I know fuck all about fashion and it’s been a long time since I went to a party, but I do think it’s wild that Elizabeth’s outfit is about as revealing as a nun’s habit, and Jessica is basically wearing a string bikini. It’s like they took the advice “don’t show off your boobs and legs at the same time” (this advice came from teen mags in the 90s which then proceeded to shame a bunch of celebs, so ignore it), and Jessica was like, “Well, if I cover my sister from head to toe, that means I can basically be starkers, but we’re still mathematically sound, only two boobs and two legs out of four will be on show.”

[Wing: I love this logic.]

[Raven: What about one boob and one leg? Would that work?] [Dove: No, Raven. Boobs or legs. Those are the options.]

She then adds “her sister’s turquoise tank suit”. Someone, literally anyone, explain to me what this means. Because right now I’m imagining something like this:

Turquoise Tank Suit

I mean, it is the kind of thing Elizabeth would wear. So demure.

[Wing: It’s something like this, one of the most basic swimsuit shapes.] [Raven: Typical Californian healthy types, using swimwear as the basis for an outfit. No one in Leeds is going “y’know what, I’ll fashion a look around these manky budgie smugglers.”]

And finally Jessica is back to normal. She calls Cara and asks for a ride to the party. Adding, even though Cara didn’t ask, that Elizabeth just called and said she’ll be late. This girl lies when she has no need. She is a damaged human being. I mean aspirational.

She leaves a note for Elizabeth saying she got a ride with Cara.

Cara picks her up and is delighted that Jessica is interested in Nicholas after the whole Jeremy Frank thing. Dude, that wasn’t her trauma. She made a tit of herself in front of a celebrity. Her trauma was being emotionally abused by Bruce Patman. #SweetValleyPriorities, I guess.

You will be glad to know that these besties have a girl code. They do not go after the same guy. Although Jessica knows she’s hotter, so it wouldn’t be a problem, despite the fact that Cara is quite pretty. Such healthy attitudes!

Then Jessica throws out this gem:

“Look, it’s not my fault my stupid brother can’t see how good you’d be for him. Maybe after Tricia dies, you two could start over again.”

I can’t even right now.

[Raven: Gotta say, I lolled. Jessica’s a monster.]

And that’s fine, because Jessica moves on, stating that she hopes she and Regina will be friends, then they can double-date. Even Cara has to rein her in there, saying he hasn’t even asked her out yet. Dude, SHE HASN’T EVEN MET HIM. This epic love story? It’s all in her head. She is deeply damaged. It’s not funny, it’s scary.

Reverse the roles. You, an eighteen year old girl, move to a new town. You throw a party with your younger sibling to meet your peers. You meet a man who has no personality at all, yet the entire town does his bidding and appears to love him. This man already thinks you’re in a relationship and wants to be your sibling’s bestie so you can double date. Oh, and this man? He knows all about you because his dad is your dad’s lawyer.


(And that’s before you find out that behind this man lies a broken ex-addict, a girl with an eating disorder, and a suicide attempt. And all of that has happened in the space of a couple of months.)

Kamie waving red flags
Red flags as far as they eye can see.

(Yes, I know that Jessica isn’t actually the bad guy of this particular book. But the book hasn’t got there yet, so I’m just working with what I have.)

They vapidly swoon over the house and the cars, and Jessica says she’d do anything to live in such luxury. Don’t get me wrong, I swoon over houses too, but these girls are so gold-diggery about it. [Raven: I’m guessing that the housing porn IS aspirational…?]

Next they meets a beautiful set of parents. The narrative doesn’t say, but I think that they might even be hotter than Ned and Alice. It says, “Jessica was transfixed momentarily by the magnetism of the man’s bright-blue eyes.” I take that to mean that Jessica is seriously considering boinking a friend’s parent for the first time ever.

[Wing: … are we sure it’s for the first time ever? Sounds like a very SVH Jessica thing to do. After all, Fowler and Patman parent(s) exist.]

A butler then takes them down to the party. They’re the first to arrive. [Wing: BULLSHIT. BULL. SHIT. Jessica Fucking Wakefield would not be the first to arrive even if she is trying to sweep a guy off his feet. It is completely uncool to arrive on time*, much less early, and she would never do this. You are reflecting poorly on the Unicorns Pi Beta Alphas, Jessica. (*Yes, I know, Dove’s head is exploding right now. On time is late, early is on time, etc.)] [Raven: I am one hundred percent behind this comment. Jessica would definitely arrive at the optimal time to make the best possible entrance. This would NOT be when there’s no-one else there.] Moments later, they meet Regina, who is, obviously, beautiful. And also wearing a silk jumpsuit. My only thought on that is that Nikki Bella said she got the mad “boob sweats” wearing one. It’s good nobody sweats in Sweet Valley, outside of boys doing sport.

Regina introduces herself to Cara and Jessica is alarmed that Regina seems to be pouring all of her attention on Cara. She stands at Regina’s side and says something. She is ignored. Jessica immediately assumes that Regina is drunk. She taps Regina on the shoulder and asks where the booze is. Regina says it’s not that kind of party.

This is dragged out further, but plot twist, Regina is deaf. Imagine! Someone so hot can be disabled. MIND = BLOWN.

Now, because sixth grade hasn’t happened yet, this is the first time Jessica has ever met a deaf person, despite having known Anna when she was twelve. [Raven: I too made this connection.] God I love Sweet Valley time.

Regina seemed so good-natured about her handicap that Jessica could hardly believe it. Then a horrible thought entered her mind. “Is Nicholas deaf, too?” she asked.

Oh absolutely fuck off to hell, you ableist cunt.

There are only two sentences in that, and yet I’m offended by every word. I’m sure Raven will supply the link for “inspiration porn”, which is very satisfying [Raven: Can’t find it, sadly]. I hate this “one of the good ones” vibe that Regina is written with. I like Benjamin from Making Out. He’s kind of an asshat and is nobody’s inspirational story. And he absolutely delights in making people feel uncomfortable after saying stupid shit like that. (I admit, I would be thrown by some of his tests because I’m so goddamned socially awkward, but I’ll take an ornery sass-meister than a beautiful inspirational tragedy.)

Nicholas takes this moment to enter and answer the question. In addition to being utterly beautiful (this word loses all meaning in Sweet Valley, if everyone is beautiful, doesn’t that mean that nobody is?), his ears work perfectly. OH THANK GOD! Jessica’s completely imaginary romance can continue unimpeded by the unsexiness of disability.

Nicholas thanks her for her honesty and says he’s heard a lot worse.

Remember, disabled people: you’re not just here for inspiration. You’re a teachable moment. And if non-disabled people say something awful, you need to thank them for their interest. You should be grateful. Normal people would just ignore you. This is why you have to be one of the good ones.

Jessica studied Nicholas as he talked. It was not just his physical features that made him so appealing; Nicholas’s primary attractiveness came from within. He had an aura of intelligence that showed in the self-assured way he carried himself and spoke. There was no trace of the artificial exuberance of someone out to prove how rich and handsome he was.

He literally just explained that Regina went to “a special school” and now she’s going to “regular school”, but sure, wet your knickers over his cleverness. He just recited a fact, but sure… wait, maybe that’s it. Jessica doesn’t really do facts. She only does feelings. Her feelings trump facts. Maybe facts are so alien to her that she thinks they’re clever?

[Wing: I suppose compared to her previous SVH boyfriends, he hasn’t shown his ass yet.]

Jessica says she’s president of Pi Beta Alpha and will get Regina in. 1) Nicholas says Regina doesn’t need her pity; 2) guess that whole “this is my last chance to join” from Robin was just bullshit then? [Wing: Duh. Robin didn’t have a brother Jessica is trying to impress. Plus, you know, fattie.]

Naturally, Jessica turns it around with Nicholas and he thinks she’s just lovely.

[Raven: The whole scene that introduces Nicholas Morrow has serious Interview With A Vampire vibes. He’s a creepy fucking doyle that stinks of super-serious Lestat, shimmying down the mansion’s wide staircase clad in ruffs and brocade.]

Now we get to Elizabeth. We get a reminder of how she was kidnapped, but not of her assailant. This time around, it’s freezing cold though. They’ve made a big deal of how cold it is at the moment, with Elizabeth having to blow on her hands to warm them up. This is how we know it’s serious. Sweet Valley only breaks out the cold/windy/rainy weather for the scary plots.

It takes her a moment to figure out that she’s got her hands tied behind her back and she thinks she’s in the boot of a car. Apparently if this happens, there are some things you should do. First of all, most modern cars have an opening latch on the inside. Older cars won’t, but you will find it easier to kick out the tail lights. If your hands are free, you should start waving.

Basically watch The Call. Although skip all the stupidity required to drag the plot out longer. You’re trying to save yourself, not fill 90 minutes with a paper-thin plot. (And it should go without saying, but don’t take your top off to do the final beatdown of your abductor in your bra. You can be empowered just fine with a shirt on.)

Oh. She’s in the back of a van. Well, that’s easy. Wiggle your legs through your tied hands – remember, Elizabeth claims that she takes good care of her body, so she won’t have any problem with that – bite the ropes untied, and swing open the van door and start screaming. Hell, you don’t even need your hands untied for that.

Oh. She tries to scream and passes out instead. Weakling.

(You guys know that if it was any other series, I’d be more respectful and not victim-blamey, right?)

[Raven: The whole Kidnapping portion of this book is profoundly dull. Such a shame.]

Now it cuts to Max Dellon waiting for his tutor to show up. An hour ago. You see Jessica got to the party at eight, and now it’s 7:00pm. Oooh, it’s so high-octane with the smash-cuts. Max reads a line from Othello and feels stupid. Raven and Wing can tell me if Othello has any relevance to a white girl getting kidnapped by a hospital orderly. [Raven: Nah. It’s about jealousy and betrayal, and not incest.]

The chapter then wastes 1,200 words detailing why Max requires tutoring. I’ll summarise for you: he slacks off at school because he’s super into music.

By 9:40pm he is very worried. He’s totes going to fail his last-chance English test on Othello if Elizabeth doesn’t show up soon.

Also. Bit worrying. That girl is a saint, I tell you. A SAINT THAT CAN TELL TIME.

He sneaks off on his motorbike to find her.

(Wouldn’t it be delightfully lolzy if he got into a motorbike accident? I mean, we’ve got the Super Chiller bad weather going on right now. And Todd managed to drag Elizabeth’s helmetless skull along the tarmac in perfect conditions.)

Backwards timeskip to 9pm. Jessica is having a wonderful time. She’s held Nicholas in her thrall for most of the night, except for a cursory check on his guests. During one of these checks, she sees Caroline Pearce and decides that her pink dress is super prissy, even though she picked out an outfit for her sister that literally covers her from chin to ankle. Jessica knows Caroline is into Winston, so tells her that pink is Winston’s favourite colour and that he’s been eyeballing her all night. Caroline dashes off to find him.

We’re only thirteen books in, but it feels like Jessica is forever pointing some girl she hates at Winston. [Raven: Maybe that was Winston’s grand plan all along… declare that he “fancies” Jessica and then bask in her attempts to deflect him onto every girl she sees.] [Dove: Headcanon accepted. That’s fucking genius.]

Nicholas returns and they flirt a bit. Jessica is disappointed to learn that the flashy car is Daddy Morrow’s, not Nicholas’. Apparently Regina is “not allowed” to drive. She’s the same age as the twins. So I can only assume this is more ableist shite. Having googled it, there are no limitations on deaf drivers. Possibly this was different in the 80s, but honestly, I think it’s just lazy assumptions from an ableist ghostie.

[Wing: It could be foreshadowing that the parents are super overprotective of her with a longer storyline to come, but I have my doubts this series, at least at this point, would pull off something like that.]

Todd then comes up and asks to talk to her. She blows him off, so he grabs her arm. Nicholas grabs Todd’s arm. Oooh, the testosterone. Isn’t it manly? I bet it makes you swoon that Todd, who is so good and clever, cannot use his words? Men who go from zero to grabby anger are sooooo cute. Said no woman ever.

Todd asks where Elizabeth is. Jessica feels that shiver again, but realise that Lila is a slutty whore who will steal her man the minute she turns her back, so she lies to him. She says that Elizabeth is baby-sitting for Mr Collins.

What the fuck is wrong with her? Why do her lies have to be so stupid? Why didn’t she just say, “I don’t know where she is, we came to the party separately.” And leave Todd to hunt her down. I mean, he’s met Jessica, he wouldn’t expect her to give a fuck her identical twin was missing.

Todd walks away thinking to himself that the story doesn’t make sense, but it also does make sense, and Jessica doesn’t usually lie about her sister (?!?!?!?!?!?!), [Wing: TODD, YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF RIGHT NOW.] but he has a worry. And all he can do is sit and wait for her.

Over with Elizabeth. She wakes up, realises she’s tied to a chair and starts crying as she ponders her mortality.

The kidnapper approaches and Elizabeth begins to pray, hoping he won’t physically torture her, as the past few moments have been more than she can psychologically bear. Which is odd. You’d think after sixteen years with Jessica – not to mention spending nine months in the womb trying not to be eaten – this would be rather mundane to her.

Her captor, by the way, is Carl the orderly. Sorry, I can’t be bothered to hide the obvious perpetrator. Who else would it be but the one creepy working class person that was obsessed with Elizabeth in the last book? For fuck’s sake. Even Point Horror do better red herrings than this. Which is to say that, like Sweet Valley, every character is a complete asshole, but unlike Sweet Valley, every character also has the opportunity and a motive to do the bad thing. Sweet Valley is like “HE’S WORKING CLASS! FUCKING WRONGUN RIGHT HERE!” [Raven: I mean, was this even a red herring? I thought the last book ended with “… and Carl kidnaps Elizabeth”. It was just a fact.] [Dove: So why did they waste four chapters concealing his identity? Urgh. The awful writing in this book. (Also, I’ve just realised, it names him as the abductor in the summary on the back of the book. Sigh.)]

Carl strokes her hair. I mentioned this in my recap of The Mall. PG-rated teen fiction likes hair stroking. It’s probably a metaphor for something I don’t want to think about because Sweet Valley doesn’t have the tact to tackle it.

He speaks to her, and she doesn’t initially place his voice, but when he uses her name, it falls into place. He says that everything will be ok, he knows she doesn’t understand, that’s why he brought her here.

And at this point, I think we all appreciate the change that Buffy brought to dialogue. In a post-Buffy world, Elizabeth would sass, “Oh yes, of course. Nothing says ‘I value your safety’ like a kidnapping.” Instead, she just asks, “Where am I?” [Raven: The kidnapping sections are badly-done The Collector fanfic. Now THAT’S a creepy fucking kidnapping book. John Fowles, 1963, gripping and disturbing in equal measure. Recommended.]

Elizabeth blames herself. Carl had creeped her out, but she’d kept it to herself. On the one hand, I hope she at least shared her worries with her precious journal – she is still writing that, right? – but on the other hand, yep. This is rape culture. Women are so often shut down when they report things like this. Personal story?

At work, some random guy in facilities called my extension. “I know where you live,” he said, foregoing any preamble. “Next time I visit my grandparents, you can make me dinner.”

I asked him how he knew where I lived, and he said he got my address from the internal database. I complained to my manager, and got told, “Oh, so we just have to take your address off the database, do we? How on earth are we supposed to address your payslip without that information?” Which was really not the point. To be honest, I don’t actually think he was propositioning me (there were loads of pretty girls on my floor, never mind the company), the vibe I got was that he had no social boundaries. Even so, I was creeped out. Thankfully, while he was on the phone, I had the presence of mind to snap, “I think my fiancé will have a problem with that.” Because, y’know, nothing makes men back away quicker than other men.

And now we’re back to a trope I don’t like. One of the reasons she didn’t report him is that even though he’s around 25, he seems so much younger than her, alone and vulnerable. You mean he has some kind of invisible disability? Yeah. I can’t even rag it that hard, when in 2013, Ryan fucking Murphy decided to do a school shooter episode of Glee, where the shooter was a girl with Downs Syndrome, because she’s so disabled she thought taking a gun to school was the only way to be “strong”.

This book is providing excellent representation of the disabled community. Inspirational or So Disabled That Morals Don’t Exist. Those are your options.

[Wing: I did not read it as an indirect way of showing him with a disability but tied to cycles of abuse where he has no concept of how to interact with other people because of what he learned was normal for a home. That is likely too nuanced for SVH, though, so I can also see your reading.] [Dove: It later mentions he can’t read, so I bundled that with this as evidence some kind of disability or limitation that, in Francine’s world, naturally translates to amoral behaviour.]

Elizabeth starts crying. Carl says he can’t untie her, but he will take the gag off. Elizabeth immediately starts screaming for help the moment he does.

Back with Todd, he’s deeply worried about his beloved now. Which is very enlightened of him. In any other book, he’d be working himself up into a jealous rage by assuming that she had “fallen in love” with some other guy and was leaving him.

He calls Mr Collins, after reasoning that speaking to Elizabeth will give him a better idea of when she will arrive, and then he can enjoy the party without worrying. Mr Collins is baffled by the call, Elizabeth is not here. Todd says it must be a misunderstanding and they end the call. Love the way that students know their teachers’ phone numbers by heart. I’m not even sure Todd’s in Mr Collins’ class.

Boiling with rage, Todd stomps over to the pool and violently shoves Jessica in. Now, I’m all for Jessica being treated with exactly the same kindness and respect she gives out, but I’m not all for yet another “good” character immediately jumping to childish and violent behaviour. Isn’t Todd meant to be sensitive and smart? He has the emotional maturity of a toddler on Christmas Eve off its face on sugar. [Raven: I’m fine with this. I’d be fine with it if he did this in every damn book.]

Nicholas immediately tells Todd to get out, noting that it’s the second time he’s aggressively bothered a perfectly nice girl. And yes, let’s all like Nicholas. From his point of view, that’s exactly what happened. He was chatting to a friendly girl and some grump, who she demonstrably does not like, keeps grabbing and shoving her. Throwing the guy out is the only play here.

Todd sneers that he’s going, but first does Jessica know what time it is. Jessica replies that she doesn’t even own a watch. See, it’s clever, because that descriptor is always used in the same-but-different paragraph. It’s 9:30pm. [Raven: Yep. Just about time that Jessica should be ARRIVING at this damn party.]

Jessica once again realises that she’s scum of the earth. She flashes back to the night of Elizabeth’s motorbike accident, and remembers that she vowed to be a better sister, and here she is being the same old asshole. The Fiat has been playing up, and Elizabeth might be stranded on some lonely road right now. She asks Nicholas where the phone is. They need to hunt her down right now.

We cut to the Wakefield parents. They’re just having a jolly old time after dinner with colleagues and they have doggie bags of steaks! But woe! Alice finds the note Jessica left for Elizabeth and worries. Ned says it sounds like business as usual that Jessica would flake on Elizabeth, but Alice is sober enough to Sherlock this shit. The note is folded. That means Elizabeth never read it. Oooh.

Ned, on the other hand, is horny, so manages to convince Alice it’s no big deal. Alice agrees because ever since the accident, she’s been jumping at shadows and tracking her daughters’ every movement, even though she knows she’s being irrational. However, without prying too much, she’s been able to track Elizabeth 24/7.

In her head, I assume. Without any external data.

Because outwardly she’s been the same feckless wastrel she’s always been. I mean, nothing says “helicopter parent” like agreeing to babysit a middle-grader and then fucking off to play bridge immediately without checking with any of your children – including the one you’re allegedly obsessed with – that they’ll be home to take care of the minor.

But then comes the ominous phone call! Oh noes! It’s Jessica, who informs them Elizabeth didn’t make it to the party. Alice wails in anguish. Ned demands Jessica comes home.

Jessica says that she and Todd will check the streets to see if Elizabeth broke down on the way. Ned says that he’ll call the hospital to see if she worked late.

The ghostie uses the phone call to head hop back to Jessica who now hates herself.

At what cost? she wondered bitterly as Todd pulled around the circular driveway and out the gates of the Morrow estate. Is Nicholasor any guy?worth the possibility of losing my sister?

Didn’t you literally have exactly the same realisation when Elizabeth’s brain matter was splattered along the road because you selfishly didn’t give her a lift to the next party? [Raven: This feels like the first in the series that’s been written by someone who has not read the preceding books. It also feels like a total shift in tone and focus… weird.]

Todd realises that Jessica is crying real tears, and not for attention, because Elizabeth is the thing she cannot live without. Oh, do shut up. I haven’t seen a single page where the twins are friends. I do not buy for a second they like each other. They are abuser and abused and they don’t give a shit about each other.

Maybe if we work as a team—just this once, Todd told himself, we’ll be able to bring Elizabeth home safe and sound

What about the time you worked together after the accident when she had Jessica’s personality? This is not a “just once” situation. Jessica is a selfish monster who will always put Elizabeth in danger so she can seduce a boy. You’re going to have to do this so many times that it will eventually fill the trope of “For me, it was Tuesday.”

Back with Elizabeth, Carl is cross with her for screaming. His grand plan?

Basically this:

“I’m gonna do what I should’ve done in the first place, I’ll find her, wherever she is, and I’ll tie her up and torture her until she likes me again!”

—Spike, Lover’s Walk, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There’s no point in screaming, Carl says, nobody will hear. And he’s just going to keep being nice to her until she’s happy. Because she’s staying here forever. “Here” being his house, which is a dusty, empty shell with only the minimum of amenities.

He loves her. This makes her pause. How can he love her, he knows nothing about her.

*points at Double Love, where Elizabeth thought she was in love with Todd, even though they had only had a single conversation about homework at that point*

*remembers that Elizabeth spent most of the book crying her eyes out over the depth of her feelings for a boy she knew fuck all about*

I’m not saying what Carl’s doing is ok. I’m just pointing out that everyone, hero or villain, is a vapid shallow idiot in this universe. [Raven: Yep. Elizabeth has no plans on how to escape, but that’s fine becuase Carl has no plans on how to maintain the kidnapped state. As the modern vernacular states… ESH.]

She wants to be untied but Carl says not yet. So she asks to go to the bathroom. She is surprised when he unties her from the chair, but leaves her hands and feet bound. He carries her to the bathroom, where he unties her, and then shuts her in.

Elizabeth takes this privacy to get her circulation going and make sure she can move. After all, she’s a Wakefield. It’s not like she has bodily functions. She stays in the bathroom as long as possible, and the process is reversed.

This time she asks to sit on the sofa instead of the hard chair she’d been on. Carl agrees. She looks around and the house is just as grim and dismal as any house level in Silent Hill. She is ravenous but refuses to ask Carl for anything. Dude, you asked to sit on a comfy chair like two seconds ago.

She realises that Carl doesn’t trust her because she screamed, so she’ll have to earn it back. Unfortunately, that takes time, which is something she doesn’t have.

… wut?

Dude. You’ve been abducted. You have nothing but time. He said you’re going to be here “forever”. You don’t have freedom, school, a job, a car, a boyfriend, a nice shake from Casey’s Place. You have nothing. Except time. It’s literally the only weapon you have.

Elizabeth logic puzzles him. Does he like her? Yes. Why? Because she’s nice. Well, she likes to be nice to people and he likes that she’s nice, so does she want to be nice to him, wouldn’t it make him sad if he caused her pain?

This leads to her asking him to take off the ropes. She only screamed earlier because she didn’t know that he’d brought her here because he loves her. She thought he was going to hurt her.

Her plan is to bolt the very second he unties her, after spending all of two minutes convincing him that she won’t leave. I would say wait for a more opportune moment. Stay put after being immediately untied, ask if she can walk around to get her circulation going. She freely admitted to him she has no clue where she is, and Carl isn’t bothered about her screaming so there’s nobody nearby to run to. I would say gently increase the freedom until you can get a better lay of the land. Or at least spot some kind of melee weapon. Something that will make a solid thwack when you brain him with it. Basically, you need him down so you can get a head start.

But Elizabeth goes for her plan, dashes to the door, throws it open and finds another bolted and boarded-up door behind it. It was a screened porch, but now it’s just a big fat barrier she can’t break through.

He catches up with her and throws her on the sofa. Elizabeth thinks she’s going to die. There are eight more chapters and this is a PG book. She’s fine.

[Raven: This was such a great opportunity for her to be resourceful and brilliant… I mean, I guess I understand that she’s far out of her comfort zone and in mortal danger, but I feel let down by the notes of this narrative.] [Dove: Same. It has the same energy as All Night Long, where it’s pitched as a big adventure, how does Jess get home after being stranded, and it’s actually just a really boring book where Liz takes a test.]

Back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica and Todd arrive home after checking all the streets for Elizabeth. Ned is “still on the phone with the hospital”, according to Alice, so I can only assume that they went upstairs for some grownup time before making calls, because somehow Jessica and Todd have scoured the streets of Sweet Valley for Elizabeth while Alice and Ned have… been frozen in time? Either Sweet Valley is tiny or Alice and Ned have done fuck all for about an hour here.

Ned returns. Apparently they’ve searched the entire hospital while he was on the phone, and she’s not there, and a nurse saw her leave around 6pm. Well, that’s a great use of medical professionals’ time, isn’t it?

Now it occurs to them to call Max Dellon. For fuck’s sake, why not work backwards? You guys will feel so fucking stupid if she’s tutoring Max right now. Or even if they skipped the tutoring and decided to get busy with the very tame hand-holding. This plot is so paper thin and it’s written by morons. I know we know that she’s in danger, but honestly, she’s a couple of hours late to a party, so why not call the place she was supposed to be immediately before the party to see if that ran long. Fucking idiots.

Pro Tip: If your characters have to act like idiots to make your plot work, your plot is too stupid to be a book. Workshop it.

They call Max’s house and find out that his parents haven’t seen Elizabeth at all today, and that Max isn’t at home.

At this point, Todd should be punching walls, assuming that they’ve fallen in love and disappeared into the night to passionately hold hands at Miller’s Point.

Instead, everyone just looks at each other in panicked horror.

Over with Max, he finally arrives at the hospital. This works out because the book was careful to point out the timeskips, but the arrangement of the scenes just makes it seem like he’s been driving to the hospital for hours – especially when Jessica and Todd swept the whole town offscreen between two back-to-back scenes.

He sees her car and assumes she’s working late. He kicks her car because it’s uniquely her fault he’s failing English, and she had no right to pick up an extra shift when his entire future is resting on this one upcoming test that he’s made absolutely zero effort to study for because he’s relying completely on her.

Why is everyone such a goddamned asshole in this series?

I could be playing Disney Dreamlight Valley right now. Yeah. That’s our new thing. Animal Crossing is over. (Not over, we’ve just played it as much as any human can before getting bored.)

Max then notices Elizabeth’s scarf on the ground, the driver door open and her sweater on the seat. Remember, guys, it’s REALLY COLD because the plot needs it to be.

With no thought of preserving the crime scene, Max hops into the driver’s seat and starts rummaging through her purse and the glove compartment.

And it’s at this point a squad car appears. Max looks particularly guilty, and the cops find it funny that he’s “a regular Sherlock Holmes”. And unfortunately, one of the cops previously accosted him outside a 7-11 for looking “suspicious”.

… is Max black? Or is Sweet Valley so magnificently white that just owning a guitar will get you profiled by the police, regardless of whether it is on you when they see you.

[Wing: Since this is SVH and I assume he’s white unless we’re bashed in the head about it, this has the feel of adults being super judgmental of any guy in a black trench coat post-Columbine. Or a stereotypical “that rock and roll will corrupt your kids” feel from stories set in the 50s.]

[Raven: So the cops in Sweet Valley are just as useless as the rest of the adults. I find this strangely reassuring.]

Anyway, despite his attempt at politeness, it ends up with him being arrested because they assume that a girl stood him up so he’s stealing her car.

… wut?

Like, from a cop’s point of view, a guy was sitting in a car – that they had no way of knowing wasn’t his – and that was suspicious? It’s a hospital. People will be coming and going at all hours. There is literally nothing weird about someone sitting in a car outside a hospital.

I can only assume that Max is black here, given the amount of anecdotes I’ve read of people of colour being pulled over for driving “good” cars in “nice” neighbourhoods.

[Wing: Real world, yes, huge, deadly problem. Sweet Valley, there’s no way he’s black or we would have been told a hundred times in horrible ways.]

Back with Elizabeth, she wakes up. Yes. Last we left her, she was facing what she thought was certain death, and now we know it was just a nap. Not even an ether-driven one. She didn’t pass out either. She just fell asleep. She’s back on the hard chair, securely bound once more.

Apparently after her break for freedom, Carl burst into tears. He’s now asleep and snoring loudly. Also, he’s fat. Just in case you thought we hadn’t mentioned fat yet. Of course the evil kidnapper is ugly and fat.

She reasons that hopefully he’ll miss work tomorrow, which will raise eyebrows, and combined with her disappearance, people should be able to piece things together. Given how dim the police are in this town – arresting Max Dellon for sitting in a car, not to mention all the crimes they flubbed in Twins – I think she’s vastly overestimating their reasoning.

Elizabeth resolves to play nice. She will not play games or fight him, she will be docile and go along with him. This is an excellent plan. I think I mentioned it in one of JC’s recaps that one of my most hated tropes is the “strong woman”. In a hostage situation, there is always a “strong woman” who has way too much pride to back down. She glares at the gun-toting man with fire in her eyes and spits out that she will never obey him and that he’s a weak girly-man with a tiny penis. Filled with rage, the bad man shoots some barely-named extra to prove what a dangerous situation we’re in. “Strong women” are stupid as fuck. Actual strong women calculate the odds, and make a more sensible plan than gobbing off like you’re drunk outside Wetherspoons at 2am. [Raven: This is definitely a realistic plan. I just wish it was something a litle more… cinematic? For this story?]

There is no harm in playing along to save your own life (and/or others’ lives), especially if it will net you a better escape plan.

Of course, I grew up with my mother, so draw your own conclusions on why I feel this way.

When Carl walks in, Elizabeth greets him pleasantly and asks how he slept, as if they’re all great friends. Wonderfully done. He offers her breakfast – pancakes, he overheard her talking about how much she loves her mom’s pancakes – and feeds it to her, because she can’t have her hands untied yet.

He then presents her with three books from the hospital gift shop, (a book on investing, one of raising farm animals, and a kiddie bedtime storybook), [Wing: … hospital gift shop has some weird choices.] and Elizabeth thanks him for his kindness. He says he hopes she’ll like them, he can’t read, so he just picked the first three he saw. I can feel Wing’s organisation skills twitching in response to the idea that these three books were shelved together. [Wing: On the one hand, yes. On the other hand, people browsing books will pick them up and set them down somewhere else, so believable.]

[Wing: More importantly, he can’t read? Look, I know it’s the 80s, but I have a hard time believing a hospital would hire an orderly without ensuring he can read, considering orderlies move patients around, take vitals, etc.] [Raven: I too bugged out a little here.] [Dove: I was too pissed off with almost every other thing in the book to do anything other than shrug and say, “Sure, if you say so,” in response to his inability to read. I mean, it’s not like we’ve seen any evidence that they do medicine at Fowler Memorial. They just talk to people to heal them, so is reading really necessary?]

He leaves the room and returns a few minutes later in his work uniform. Elizabeth tries to get him to stay off work to spend the day with her, but he says that will raise suspicion. He puts a blanket around her and loosens the ropes around her wrists a little so she can turn the pages of her books, and then leaves.

Again I say, it’s a good thing that Wakefield’s don’t pee, because there would be a big puddle when he gets home otherwise.

She spends some time trying to wriggle out of the ropes but just can’t do it, and gives into tears. Fair.

Back with Max, he’s being threatened with Juvie.

… why is this part of the story? I’m so bored of this nonsense. I don’t give a shit about the Droids, Max’s English paper, or the cops’ obsession with busting him for existing. For all my comments, I’m pretty sure he’s white, because this series is strongly committed to describing non-white skin as food, and we keep a count of that. [Raven: This book has structural issues. For a book entitled Kidnapped, the focus isn’t really on a kidnapping. I don’t give a shit about Nicholas Morrow, and The Droids can fuck off into the sea.]

Somehow, everyone now knows – even though it has not been mentioned, not even in passing as an off-screen revelation – that Elizabeth is missing, and Max is being accused of having something to do with it. Uh… wut? OMG, this is so goddamned stupid.

So basically, at the point Max was arrested, nobody even knew that Elizabeth was missing, so he was just a dude in a car. But by the time they’re driving to the police station (only minutes later), he’s being threatened with juvie for… something? *shrugs in confusion* and they want to know how well he knows Elizabeth.

Holy shit, ghostie. I know you wrote this in uni between assignments, but at least have the decency to either write sober, or proofread your drunk writings. I can live with the head hopping – everyone fucks that up initially – but just because you, the writer, know something, doesn’t mean that the characters do.

Anyway, Max is released because they have no evidence. His parents are cross. I don’t care.

Over at the Wakefield Compound, Steven is back and he and Todd check the streets again for Elizabeth. When they get back, Todd is in TODD-SMASH mode and wants to murder Max Dellon, he can’t believe the police let him off so easily.



So you guys did call the police? In which case you know her car was found at the hospital with the door open and the keys in the ignition. Ok. And you think she’s just wandering around Sweet Valley but not coming home? Also, this means the cops knew that Elizabeth’s car was a crime scene, so why did they assume that Max had been stood up and was stealing her car?

My cat is smarter than everyone in this book. And he doesn’t believe in gravity. [Raven: Yeah, but he’s AMAZING.]

Steven – of all people – is the voice of reason here, telling Todd to calm down. Does he really think he will succeed where the police failed? Also, Max is a nice guy, and Todd knows that. Steven says they’ll go out again to look, and leaves unsaid that they might be looking for a dead body. Oh. Ok. The searching now makes sense. Sorry, because it was Sweet Valley I never for a moment bothered to consider she might die.

Over with Alice the next morning, she’s just about dying from anxiety. I know this is spoilers, but I just want to say: when Jessica goes missing during book 54 Lost At Sea, Alice’s reaction is “ho-hum. I guess I’ll make cookies today.” I might hate Jessica right now, but she is definitely the unfavourite.

Alice is also burning with rage over the police’s implication that Elizabeth ran off.

Elizabeth had been so happy lately; what possible reason would she have to deliberately hurt her family this way?

deliberately hurt her family”? Yes, Alice. That’s why people run away. To be spiteful. It’s not about the kid being completely unable to function in the toxicity of their family life. It’s a pointed jab to make other people feel better. Ironically, that is exactly how NParents feel, which is exactly the type of parents who have runaway kids.

Alice realises that as long as the police – who are, admittedly, thick as pig shit – think Elizabeth ran away, they won’t bother to search for her. That’s why it’s up to Team Wakefield to save the day.

[Wing: Again, I call absolutely bullshit. Elizabeth is a nice white girl from a respected, well-off family, in a nice white neighborhood in a nice white town. Cops wouldn’t immediately jump to runaway for her. Bullshit.] [Raven: True. In America. But in Sweet Valley, where the adults are all colossal fuckwits? I can accept this.]

Jessica is still wallowing in self-pity. It’s all her fault. Even Max being arrested. It goes on for a few more paragraphs, but that’s the gist. I’d care more if by next book she wasn’t stealing the car, leaving her sister stranded, flirting with her boyfriend, whatever. Jessica’s realisations are just wasted words.

Back to Elizabeth. Sit rep: bored of sitting, uncomfortable, sad, lonely, etc. But hilariously, she feels terrible that Jessica must have missed the Morrows party on her account.

Ok, ghostie, that one made me proper lol. Occasionally drunk writing does lead to some golden lines.

The rest of the chapter is about Jessica. For a book about Elizabeth’s kidnap, I’d wager that no more than 3-5k of the 30k words is Elizabeth’s POV. When I finish this, I’ll do a word count. I’ll even provide a percentage. Everyone loves a percentage, right, JC?

Jessica is depressed. The house is full of: teachers, neighbours, Ned’s law partners (I’ve worked with equity partners for 20 years, an actual fire threatening their own lives can’t move them away from their desk while there are billable hours available, there’s no chance that someone’s missing teen will get it done), [Wing: Eh, I can think of a few partners I know who would show up if one of their partners had a missing kid, or even one of their associates. I say this as someone who tried to stay in her office through a tornado to keep billing hours, too.] and anxious Sweet Valley High students. She’s barricaded herself in her room.

[Work disclaimer: On the off-chance that this gets linked to my actual real name, I work for a PLC. We don’t have equity partners. Therefore this cannot reflect on my current role.]

Nicholas knocks on her door.

Twenty hours earlier the idea of Nicholas in her bedroom would have been fodder for scads of fantasies, but now that he was there, Jessica found herself not caring.

Well, isn’t that just typical of Jessica? Someone nearly dies in her selfish attempt to get a boy’s attention, and once she has it, she doesn’t want it.

Jessica explains that it’s all her fault, and Nicholas reassures her that it isn’t. And just like always:

Nicholas pulled Jessica toward him, trying to soothe her. “I think you’re being much too hard on yourself. Just look at what happened. Your sister probably disappeared a good hour before you even expected her home. You couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.”

SEE! SHE’S NOT A MONSTER! IT WAS BEYOND HER CONTROL. SHE DID LITERALLY NOTHING WRONG. JUST LIKE WITH ROBIN. AND ENID. AND ANNIE. TECHNICALLY IT WASN’T HER. YOU WILL FEEL SORRY FOR HER NOW. [Raven: The Vampire Morrow mesmerises his prey, whispering all the things she needs to hear to be in his eternal thrall.] [Dove: I really don’t get this vampire thing you’re seeing here.]

Nicholas then tells a story where he was babysitting Regina (ages 10 and 8). Their cabin caught fire. Nicholas ran outside and Regina didn’t follow and he was too scared to go back for her. It burned to the ground and he was convinced she died. His dad explained to him that nobody expected him to be a hero at the expense of his own life (uh… isn’t that exactly why heroes are heroes?).

By the way, Regina was never in the house, she’d wandered off to play in some caves and came back that evening. Cool.

Jessica then weeps prettily in Nicholas’ arms as she despairs that his sister came back but hers might not.

I am so cataclysmically bored. How can a story with a kidnapping be so breathtakingly dull?

Over with Elizabeth, she hears someone outside and thinks she’s saved, but it’s only Carl. He’s brought home fast food (she’s ravenous), and he bought her a blue cardigan. Elizabeth is utterly delighted. He’s done something that would raise suspicion – buy a girl’s sweater from the gift shop. He shuts down her hope, he bought it from a shop across the street.

Elizabeth pleasantly asks how was work, and he says fine except for the cops who were asking about Elizabeth. He, obviously, feigned ignorance. He then tells her about his plans. He’s found a place in the mountains where Elizabeth can live like a Disney character, singing to the birds and bathing in streams. She won’t need to be tied up there because there’s nowhere to run, and he’ll never let her out of his sight. He has vacation days coming up soon, so he’ll take off with her then, and even if the cops do figure it out, it’ll be too late.

Plan Disney Life takes place tomorrow night!

(I hope this is one of those books where the twins can sing, otherwise she’s going to have a horrible time trying to sing at the birds and deer and shit.)

Next up we have a scene at school, with yet again reiterates that Jessica is sad and Todd is mad and police give zero fucks about the missing girl. Lila suggests that Todd speak to Max about what happened, and it’s enough to make TODD-SMASH consider it.

Over with Max, he’s hating life. His parents are confident that he had nothing to do with Elizabeth’s disappearance, but they are done with him going out without permission and have been monitoring him constantly.

As it turns out, actually reading Othello has helped him understand what it’s about. Who’d have fucking thunk? It’s almost as if you cannot fathom an entire complex narrative by occasionally glancing at the front cover and wailing that you don’t understand. I hate Shakespeare as much as the next uncultured swine, but I just read the book, took the test and got a B. And I missed out a third of my final exam paper (it’s a funny story of broken fingers, lost spectacles and social anxiety). It seems like Max’s approach is do fuck all and be shocked that you don’t get an A and start whinging that it’s not fair.

Max is worried that he will not be able to convey what he has grasped to Mr Collins. Again, do fuck off. Mr Collins is a dream of a teacher. Try having one that accuses you of cheating every time you get an answer right, and tells the rest of the class how thick you are when you start getting things wrong (or pretend to get them wrong because you’re not a cheat and you’re sick of hearing it).

How is so much of this book about this pointless manchild? [Raven: Far too much.] [Dove: I should have done maths on all the points of view!]

I was really hoping a lynch mob would greet him at the school gates, but instead most people just ignore him. And as an antisocial bad boy (who no Wakefield fancies, so can’t be that cute), I can’t imagine that’s any different from a normal day for him.

Mr Collins pulls him aside to excuse him from the test, but Max is offended. He’s no quitter. Oh good, I really hope the character I give zero fucks about is going to take a test I don’t care about and get the results he wants so that he can continue to do all of this shit I have no interest in.

And yes, Max gets through the test, fairly confident he’s going to get an A.

i tried to care

Oh, here’s that lynch mob I ordered. Well, TODD-SMASH arrives. Alone. He threatens Max. Max says he wishes he knew what happened, because Elizabeth got him into a lot of trouble.


Max: … uh…


Todd does a bit of smashing [Raven: I believe he punches Max in the chin, whcih is vaguely unsettling]. Not in the Jersey Shore sense of the word. Then Jessica stops him by basically asking “What would Elizabeth Wakefield do?” She would not want a blood bath over her. And she and Max were friends. She was the one person willing to help his lazy ass, why would he spoil that by murdering her? Todd cools down.

And for once, Jessica was right—fighting was not his style.

I’m sorry, Todd, have you met you? You go TODD-SMASH over pretty much everything. Your first instinct is fisticuffs. Hell, you even grabbed and shoved Jessica, who should be protected by the “don’t hurt girls” rules in existence. You are an aggressive fighty asshole whose denial of self is almost as colossal as Jessica’s.

Well, now they’re all BFFs, they decide to go Plucky Boy/Girl Detectives on this shit and go to the crime scene.

(Is anyone else assuming that the police are so inept, they just left an open Fiat Spider with Elizabeth’s belongings in there, with the door open and the keys in the ignition?)

[Wing: Yes.] [Raven: Yeeeeees.]

Over to Elizabeth, she has scratched two marks on her chair to mark captivity. I mean, she’ll be moving tonight and there’s no guarantee the chair will come too, but ok. Then again, she’s had nothing else to do all day. She’s longing for a shower and to brush her teeth, but the idea that Carl might “help” her with those things turns her stomach. She’s dreading moving out of Sweet Valley, because when she does, it becomes less likely she’ll be seen again.

She remembers when they were thirteen, Jessica bought her a yellow sweater for her birthday. Elizabeth didn’t like it, but Jessica “borrowed” it all the time, and Elizabeth was surprised and hurt that her sociopath of a twin had done something so selfish. So she shrank it in the wash. This resulted in a big pillow fight.

Except, no. We’ve read the Unicorn Club. None of that happened. And if it happened in Junior High, then I’m calling bullshit, because those twins actually love each other, and would never be so selfish. In Junior High, Jessica actually leant Elizabeth her favourite velvet jacket to wear on a date (with a very amusing list of caveats and instructions in order to protect the jacket).

Seriously, read Junior High. It is without question the best of all Sweet Valley off-shoots.

The three Plucky Detectives reach the hospital and agree to split up to ask everyone they meet if they remember anything about Elizabeth. I’m not saying it’s not important, but these people are working. They’re busy. Doing kind of important stuff. And I’m sure the police couldn’t be so truly inept that they asked zero questions. I mean, look at Elizabeth, she’s white, pretty and wealthy. She ticks all the necessary boxes.

Max approaches a few people and decides to ask the orderly next. At the same time, Jessica comes out of a room and Carl calls Elizabeth’s name. In the few seconds it takes for Carl to grab her, Jessica realises that he thinks she’s Elizabeth. Carl says he doesn’t know how she escaped, but he’s got her now. [Raven: Oh, FUCK OFF. I know he’s an idiot, but this is fucking stupid. Blah blah blah twinny twins blah blah fucking BLAH. An entire book that draws out the boring kidnap scenes then tosses off the end without any forethought or planning. Fucking STANDARD. *deep sigh*]

MAX TO THE RESCUE! He knocks “the lumbering orderly” (remember, he’s fat and that’s how fat people walk, they lumber) over and pins him down. Max asks where Elizabeth is, and Carl says she’s right there. Jessica immediately switches over to her sister’s persona and way of speaking, and keeps him talking until the police arrive. Then she announces who she really is and tells him off in a very boring and uninspired way.

Carl spills his guts when he realises it’s over and the twins are reunited.

And, just like everything in Sweet Valley, it is resolved with a party. Alice watches her favourite daughter snog Todd and worry that they’re too serious.

Elizabeth gets a call from Jeremy Frank because he wants to exploit her ordeal. And since Elizabeth has no lasting trauma from being abducted and tied up and abused, she thinks that’s just dandy.

Jessica tries to be enthusiastic, but excuses herself as she hates being upstaged. Wow. Her “I’m an asshole” realisation didn’t even last to the end of the book.

The book ends with Elizabeth answering the door to Nicholas Morrow, who is immediately lovestruck in the face of Elizabeth. Elizabeth recognises the look and wonders if she’ll be tied to a chair and left in a cabin again once Jessica finds out her imaginary boyfriend has the hots for her twin.

Final Thoughts:

That was a really badly written book. Really badly. Endless head-hopping with no information coming in. It was written by a ghostie who knew how it had to end, and, as required to make the plot work, the facts just popped into existence with no paper trail.

I did the maths. The book length is (in word) 30,146, of which 8,600 were from Elizabeth’s point of view. What I’m saying is, only 29% of this book was about Elizabeth. And while that number is higher than I estimated (my guess was 3-5k), it’s pitifully low. This could have been a gripping story, but instead so much time was wasted on Max and his laziness. The fact that his school issues were resolved by him doing his fucking homework is absolutely ridiculous. That’s not a story. That’s not a trial he went through. That’s literally how school should work.

I know, I’m a hypocrite, I barely went and never studied or did my homework. You know what I also didn’t do? Bitch and moan that I didn’t get A grades.

To end on a happy note, I’ve seen a theory floated that in this book Elizabeth dies or is never found, and the rest of the books is just Jessica pretending to be both twins, and the entire town just goes along with it because they’re scared of her. Ok, so that’s not exactly happy, but it’s far more interesting than learning the valuable lesson that reading a book gives you insight into its contents.

[Wing: Oooooh, let’s bring back Bleak Valley for this one! Other than that, I’ve got nothing. It’s boring, there are offensive moments that even themselves managed to be flat, the pacing and focus are completely unbalanced, Jessica swings between moods but they are all, in the end, ways for her to be dramatic and ALL ABOUT ME ME ME as usual, and Elizabeth’s kidnapping was wrapped up way too quick.]

[Raven: This was the first book in the series that I was actively looking forward to, based on the premise. As such, it’s the worst book in the series thus far, because the gulf between my expectation and the shitty reality is huge.

No dynamism, no excitement, no peril, no thought. Sleepy fucking twaddle. Badly written, uninspired, boring tosh. Concentrated on all the wrong people and characters. Max? Fuck him. Carl? Fuck him. The Twins? Fuck ’em.

Dull dull dull dull DULL DULL DULL.]