Sweet Valley High #14: Deceptions

Cover Description: Pink background, blue writing. Usual porthole in the centre, housing two figures. The first, Elizabeth, wearing a blue short-sleeved blouse, eyes at the reader, right hand clutching at her imaginary pearls in an example of demure surprise. Behind her, looking down into her eyes, is presumably Nicholas Morrow. Short, side-parted brown hair, white long-sleeved collared shirt. It's probably his first glimpse of Elziabeth, so there's love in the air, and likely a boner happening off-screen.
Sweet Valley High #14: Deceptions by Francine Pascal

Title: Deceptions

Tagline: Has Elizabeth found a new love?

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield is stunned when Nicholas Morrow asks her for a date. A newcomer to Sweet Valley, Nicholas is fabulously wealthy and extremely handsome. Even though Elizabeth would never cheat on Todd Wilkins, her steady boyfriend, Nicholas is so attractive and sincere that she agrees to go out with him just once.

To make matters worse, Jessica, Elizabeth’s scheming twin, announces that Nicholas Morrow is the boy for her. Suddenly Nicholas is the only thing on Jessica’s mind. Elizabeth is terrified to think what will happen if Todd or her twin finds out about her date with Nicholas. But who can keep a secret from Jessica Wakefield?

Initial Thoughts:

Wow! Now here’s a surprise! A Sweet Valley High book set in the Transformers universe!

I’m surprised, but I’m here for it. I wonder how it’ll pan out? Maybe Caroline Pearce will befriend Bumblebee, or perhaps Randy Mason will unlock a segment of the Allspark. Lila Fowler could try to buy Optimus Prime! And Jessica will flirt with Megatron, that’s for sure.

… … What’s that?

… … Deceptions?

So… … not Decepticons?

*wangs book into the sea*

[Dove: It’s hard to have initial thoughts about this. Oh, it’s a love triangle. How fascinating. They’ve been flooding the market for decades and you’re either into them or you’re not. I’m not. Pretty sure Wing is not. And Raven regards most things with “Is this a kissing book?” Oh well, at least this is the start of the “Elizabeth would never cheat on her beloved Todd… except with this boy, but she’s not a slut like Jessica” storylines. Although, to be fair, that’s not quite what we’ve got here. It’s far more pathetic than that.]

[Wing: I’m not into love triangles. Almost always I come away from them thinking (a) it’s not a triangle unless all three points are connected and (b) instead of the point, usually a woman, choosing either arm, usually men, either none of them should be together or all of them should be together.

I have no other initial thoughts.]


Okay, so this book starts beat-for-beat where the previous one left off. Let’s catch up!

It’s the immediate aftermath of Elizabeth’s kidnapping, and there’s a Glad You’re Not Dead party at the Wakefield Compound. [Wing: The kidnapping that meant basically nothing.] Liz has just opened the front door to one Nicholas Morrow, the Rich and Handsome New Boy, and he’s become immediately smitten with her.

That’s the power of Elizabeth Wakefield, folks. Just one look, is all it takes. Even if you’ve already met her identical twin earlier and not had the same visceral and frankly unfathomable reaction.

So yeah. Nicholas Morrow is at the door, and has fallen in love, at first sight, with Elizabeth.


In Dove’s great recap for Kidnapped, I made the comment that Nicholas Morrow came across like a shitty tween vampire, all brooding seriousness and lingering looks. My fellow recappers (well, Dove) claimed this was something they’d not really seen, and I was maybe inventing a characteristic where none existed.

Well, I feel vindicated in the opening chapters of this book, because Nicholas Morrow? One hundred percent CREEPY FUCKING CULLEN.

His whole demeanour at this party has Twilight Vamp Nonsense written all over it. And honestly, it made me hate this book. At first. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

[Dove: Sooo… who wants to dare Raven to read/recap Twilight. Maybe even just send him straight into Midnight Sun and recap the whole mess from Edward’s POV?] [Raven: HARD PASS.]

[Wing: I’ll recap it if it it means Raven has to read the books and comment. (Though, tbh, nothing will top Cleolinda’s discussions of Twilight, particularly her Movies in 15 Minutes for them. I bought Breaking Dawn while working in Washington state specifically because of her liveread of it.)]

Let’s get back to the action!

End aside.

Elizabeth greets the newcomer with a ravishing smile, which isn’t really appropriate but whatever. Perhaps it was this that make Nicholas Morrow go weak at his Adonis-like chiselled knees. He stares at her, mesmerised. Y’know, like what happens in those teen vampire books, innit. [Wing: Love at first sight not limited to teen vampire books, though.]

Liz evaluates the boy. He’s super-hot, and apparently she can tell he’s also super-intelligent because she has looked into his eyes and seen, I dunno, the reflection of pi to a thousand decimal places or something. We also have an oddly-placed flashback to a conversation between her and Jessica on the subject of this new cutie-patootie.

(Oh, and apparently this conversation happened less than an hour after she was rescued from her kidnap ordeal. I’m all for ploughing through and carrying on regardless, but a little time to process, surely?!)

Jessica’s take? Nicholas Morrow is rich. Nicholas Morrow is handsome. Nicholas Morrow is new, and exciting, and Nicholas Morrow is ONLY to be addressed by his full name, NicholasMorrow. In fact, NicholasMorrow’s pronouns are NicholasMorrow/NicholasMorrow.

Seriously, the words “Nicholas Morrow” appear in this book so frequently they’ve lost any semblance of meaning. [Wing: Makes it easy, though. Copy, paste, you’re good.]

Also, NicholasMorrow has a sister: Regina Morrow. She’s deaf. Upon hearing this, Elizabeth’s reaction is…

“Deaf? How awful!”

Go fuck yourself, you patronising cow.

Suddenly, we’re back in the room. And Elizabeth is inviting NicholasMorrow into her home.


Oops, too late. NicholasMorrow is soon in the living room. Also there? The Droids, playing up a storm. And Todd, and Jess, and Cara, and loads of others. It’s a party. Use your imagination.

On her way to answer a freshly-rang doorbell, Jess gives NicholasMorrow a dazzling smile. He responds, perfunctorily. There’s your problem, Jess. NicolasMorrow feeds off RAVISHING smiles, not DAZZLING smiles.

The Droids change from fast rock to slow schmaltz [Dove: Oh, cool, the Droids are back together, thanks to the power of homework. So glad that one was resolved.], right on cue. NicholasMorrow asks Elizabeth to dance. Although steady with Todd, and desiring nothing more than to dance with Todd, Liz posits that, as she’s the hostess, she’s duty-bound to dance with NicholasMorrow in order that he feel welcome. [Dove: This “dance with” thing, I’m just imagining them all waltzing or something. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party at someone’s house where anyone dances (well, except for that one attention-seeker who’s dancing on a table, drunkenly slurring, “This is MY song, it’s ALL ABOUT ME!”). Is every party a Prom, regardless of venue?]

[Wing: I went to parties in high school where people danced and parties where they didn’t. It’s not uncommon, but not every single party, like it is in Sweet Valley, though, really, everything they love happens every single time for them.]

Elizabeth Wakefield, you owe him nothing of the sort. Get that toxic idea out of your head, right now.

(She doesn’t, of course. Because this “desire to please” is at the heart of the whole damn book.)

[Dove: It was around now that I realised that Elizabeth is not a victim of Jessica’s abuse, she’s in a symbiotic relationship with the abuse. She absolutely thrives on “having” to do things for other people. She realises that without her martyr complex, she is merely “the twin of that horrifying monster”, which is not a great way to be remembered. She has to be the saint, because it makes her “the nice one”. She absolutely fucking loves “being forced” to do chores that Jessica won’t do, host pushy asshats that normal girls would tell to fuck off, she even has an abusive boyfriend (if you guys drank every time Todd goes into TODD-SMASH mode over her talking to another boy, you’d die of alcohol poisoning). She is a complete mess. And yes, maybe Jessica broke her and she was once a victim, but now she’s thriving in that role.

How else do you explain that she came straight out of being kidnapped by a man who thought he was in love with her, to immediately sticking like glue to a boy who has fallen hopelessly in love with her at once glance? Any normal girl would run screaming to the bathroom where she would lock herself in, call the police and demand that everyone fuck off, and at least one person fetch her a qualified therapist to work through her shit. Liz’s reaction? Trauma? lol nope. (But I will go on TV to talk about it.) This dude seems obsessive. I’m gonna be friends with him. Because I “have to”.]

After a quick smile at Todd, Elizabeth is whisked onto the dance floor by NicholasMorrow. NicholasMorrow announces that the song being played is about Elizabeth, and, after she hears the lyrics, Liz is in agreement.

Apparently, though, the song IS about Elizabeth, written by the Droids to welcome her back.

When did they write this song? I though Liz had only been back a few hours, and that this party was ad hoc and impromptu? Have I missed a memo?

Also, BAD FORM, GHOSTIE! You can’t just say “this song is about X!” and then not give any examples or indication that this is true. You need to give us some of the fucking chorus to read, at the very least!

Let’s see what we can do here…

The Ballad of a Kidnapped Candy Striper

Elizabeth Wakefield, only sixteen,
A typical blonde Californian teen,
Legs super-slender, teeth shiny-clean,
One delicate dimple, eyes aquamarine.

Spending her hours making hospital beds,
Rinsing out bedpans and keeping folks fed,
Fighting a burgeoning unforeseen dread
By conjuring sexual scenes in her head.

An orderly, Carl, had similar thoughts,
A grubby hand wormed down the front of his shorts.
He lusted for Lizzie, though crusted with warts,
Beset by the lie that love pairs all sorts.

Determined to act, he assembled a plan,
That made him feel somewhat more of a man.
In the car lot one night, as Liz sought her sedan,
Carl bundled her into the back of his van.

Abandoned alone in the spot she’d been dragged,
Abducted and terrified, wrist-bound and gagged,
Elizabeth waited, her energies sagged,
Distraught that she’d soon be inevitably shagged.

But Insecure Carl could not pull the trigger,
Despite Liz’s sensual smell and taut figure.
And thus, when Elizabeth’s friends applied rigour,
They brought Carl to task with unparalleled vigour.

Once he was caught and his crimes were digested,
Creepy prick Carl was adroitly arrested.
His sentence was light, his guilt uncontested,
Because, thank the Lord, Liz wasn’t molested.

Thus ends the tale of an abducted twin,
The motto? Beware those who would slither in.
And if you are fat? Bear your weight with a grin…
It’s harder to kidnap someone who’s not thin.

*record scratch*

That’s enough of that, thank you.

[Dove: On behalf of anyone who has read Sweet Valley Confidential, thank you, Raven, for using the word “taut” to describe Elizabeth’s figure. We are all blanching in disgust right now.]

[Wing: I think you should perform this for our Patrons, Raven.]

While dancing, the pair talk of NicholasMorrow’s expectations of Sweet Valley. We learn that he’s following in his father’s business footsteps, looking to join his computer business. Pretty modern for a vampire, but that’s progress for you.

The music stops. Elizabeth, having discharged her duty of care, makes an excuse and heads back to her friends.

She bumps into Robin Wilson, who is pleased to see her.

“Liz!” Robin cried out, hugging her. “It’s so wonderful that you’re home again.”

Elizabeth placed a finger on her friend’s lips. “Let’s not talk about the kidnapping anymore,” she said. Now that the ordeal was behind her she wanted to forget about it.

This line made me laugh so much. Unless there’s a later book in which Elizabeth spirals into oblivion when she’s forced to come to terms with her kidnapping, the whole “the time for talk of kidnapping has passed” nonsense is SO MUCH TRANSPARENT BULLSHIT. “The kidnapping was last book. Who cares?! We’ve got no time for that. NEXT!” [Dove: See!]

As the conversation shifts to The Droids, NicholasMorrow turns up and inserts himself. Liz is caught by surprise, but rallies in the face of burgeoning stalkerism. [Wing: Not like she’s ever had the thought that she should listen to herself when she notices some strange guy following her around. Oh, wait, NicholasMorrow is hot and Carl wasn’t.] As the conversation stalls between the group, NicholasMorrow grabs Elizabeth and demands another dance.

I think I hate NicholasMorrow. What a complete cleft!

The dance speeds by. Liz eyes Jessica, desperately trying to gain NicholasMorrow’s attention. She looks for Todd, and they share a warm smile and an unspoken promise that she’d join him soon.

After the dance, NicholasMorrow continues his low-key in-party kidnapping of Elizabeth. I’d have loved this book if Liz had just scream “NO!” or “I NEED AN ADULT!” or “IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN! LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU CREEPY FUCKER!”… but no, she simply goes along with his demands. This time, he whisks her off to meet Regina.

The catch up with the Deaf Girl on the patio, where she’s holding court with snob-magnets Cara and Lila. Elizabeth comments on how pretty Regina is, to NicholasMorrow. He is pleased that Regina will probably mingle with the non-deaffies in Sweet Valley perfectly. That’s right, she’ll make friends EVEN THOUGH SHE’S RIDDLED WITH BROKEN EARS. *shakes head*

Liz’s first words to the deaf Regina?

Elizabeth held out her hand. “Hi,” she said pleasantly. “I’m really glad to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”


Regina seems lovely. I think I’ll like her.

The two girls talk about school, particularly the school paper, and Liz’s column Eyes and Ears (REALLY?! Eyes and fucking EARS?! So offensive). [Dove: I can’t believe Regina has already read SVH’s shitty paper and is gushing over it. We’ve read Liz’s column. It’s awful.] [Raven: Does she eventually rotate away from this column? I think the short tenure of the EaE columnists was mentioned in book 1?]

Liz decides that she’s enjoying the party, and her new friends, and the fact that she’s not dead in a barrel at the hands of Carl. She links arms with the Morrows and leads them back into the Wakefield Compound.

Chapter two, later in the party, Elizabeth still being trailed by the lovesick tween vampire NicholasMorrow. She’s doing her best to keep everyone happy, but it’s hard work.,

Jessica decides to muscle in on the NicholasMorrow action, but again she only presents a Dazzling smile and not a Ravishing one, so he gives her the shortest of shrifts.


What the fuck is a “shrift”…?


Okay! It’s a confession, ostensibly to a priest. Thus, to get a short shrift is to be treated with little compassion or care.

With shrifts, as with many things, it’s the size that matters.

End aside.

Jessica drags NicholasMorrow off to meet the Elder Wakefields, and Steven. As she does so, she shoots a triumphant glare to her sister, who she erroneously surmises must also have the hots for NicholasMorrow. [Wing: Of course. Jess hates Todd (except when she wants him) and of course Liz would also want the Better Boy that Jess wants.]

So NicholasMorrow meets Alice and Ned, and Steven (who is pining in his room for the soon-to-be-deceased Tricia Martin). It’s all standard fare, including the bit in which it’s reinforced that Jessica hates all the Martins.

The couple head back to the living room. Jessica, in her super-sexy black pantsuit outfit [Dove: Americans, please can you explain this one, it says it’s a pantsuit with a plunging neckline, but I’ve always assumed that a pantsuit is a suit with pants instead of a skirt, and none of my pants or skirts come with plunging necklines.

How can a pantsuit have a plunging neckline?x
], [Wing: I pictured it as a jumpsuit, because pantsuit makes very little sense to me. You can have a plunging neckline on a suit, but that doesn’t seem like something Jess would wear even in the 80s.] does her best to hold NicholasMorrow in her thrall, but it’s clear (to NicholasMorrow) that NicholasMorrow only has eyes for Elizabeth. Eventually, after a minor confusion in which NicholasMorrow claims to be under the spell of the most beautiful girl in the world (meaning Elizabeth) which Jess takes to mean herself, she drags him to the dance floor.

They dance, he looks at his watch, and declares it’s time to leave. It’s late, big day in the morning, computers etc. Try as she might, Jessica can’t keep NicholasMorrow from leaving. He walks off, ostensibly to wish a goodnight to Elizabeth.

We skip to Liz, who’s chatting with Todd. He makes a dig about Jessica, for which he gets lightly admonished. He then leaves to fetch them both a root beer.

As soon as he’s gone, NicholasMorrow turns up. And, again, he appears mesmerised and tongue ties by Elizabeth’s presence.

Liz asks if he’s leaving, and NicholasMorrow says he has a few minutes… a few minutes in which he AWKWARDLY DECLARES AN UNDYING LOVE FOR HER.

I mean, if that’s not a straight-up SparkleVamp move, I don’t know what is!

Liz is astounded. She points out, rightly so, that NicholasMorrow hardly knows ElizabethWakefield, but he’s having none of it. He won’t take no for an answer, which is unfortunately something of a calling card for the rest of this interminable section.

Liz does her best, to let him down gently. She has a boyfriend, after all. He’s called Todd goddamn Wilkins. NicholasMorrow’s brain sees something click into place. But who cares? She has a boyfriend… so what? He’s NicholasFuckingMorrow, and by Grabthar’s Hammer, she WILL be his.

Despite Liz’s glowing report of Todd and his silky skills on the court and between the sheets, NicholasMorrow knows what he wants. He battles on. Elizabeth says that while she likes NicholasMorrow, she could never be in love with NicholasMorrow.

“How can you tell? You don’t even know me!”

“I know that, though,” she said.

“Why?” he pressed her. “Am I really so unattractive?”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened in astonishment. Didn’t Nicholas Morrow know that he was great looking?

Fuck OFF, NicholasMorrow! I mean, who the fuck talks like that? “Am I really so unattractive?” Get in the fucking sea, you jebend.

[Dove: MUM?!?! This is right out of her playbook. “Can you visit tomorrow?” … “No, I’ve got work.” … “YOU WISH I WAS DEAD, DON’T YOU?”]

If you sliced this guy in half, his core would read “Property of Stephanie Meyer”.

NicholasMorrow then doubles down on this unattractive line by jokingly comparing himself to classic monsters of cinema. Frankenstein’s monster, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and… fucking DRACULA.


I am DED.

End aside.

He even acts out some vignettes, posing at these characters, much to Liz’s delight and amusement.

Elizabeth finally succumbs to the pressure, and declares that no, NicholasMorrow is not unattractive. NicholasMorrow is very attractive indeed. This leads him to press this advantage: if that’s the case, why not give him a chance?


Even this fails to dissuade him. She’s only sixteen. Why not play the field, see what’s out there? She’s too young to settle down. [Dove: She’s not “settling down”, she’s just in a relationship that works (within the narrative. From a normal perspective, it’s a toxic mess between two immature fools). Nothing they’ve said implies that they’re going to elope at sixteen, have babies and start saving for a second home in New York. When is this taking place? It’s cold, right? According to Google the coldest months in California are December to February. Let’s assume that school starts in August (again, light Googling), and even though Double Love demonstrably doesn’t take place in the first week of high school, let’s assume it did. This means they’ve been dating six months. We’ve got stuff in our fridge that’s been there longer than they’ve been dating. Six months is a fine amount of time for two sixteen year olds to date exclusively. And even if she’d been dating him since she was twelve, it’s not NicholasMorrow’s business to tell her how to live her life.]

Liz makes an excuse and extricates herself from this torment. NicholasMorrow declares he’ll await her return with interest.

As she does her duty and bid other friends farewell from the party (including Enid, her best friend, to whom she’s said diddly FUCK since returning from being fucking KIDNAPPED), she ponders NicholasMorrow’s statement. Is she too young to be tied to Todd? Should she be playing the field a little more? Apparently, her family were always saying this, despite us having read two hundred books in which nothing of the sort has even been mentioned. [Dove: It was lightly foreshadowed when Alice creepily watched Liz and Todd snog in the last book, and worried about how “intense” their relationship was. From which I can only infer that the magic is very much gone from the Ned/Alice ship and Alice hasn’t had a snog in years, if she thinks two blobs of beige paint cringily flirting is “intense”.]

At its core, though, Liz doesn’t come dirty. She loves Todd, she’s sure. She doesn’t want anyone else.

She returns to NicholasMorrow, ready to turn him down again. This time, he has a different, pre-emptive approach. Apparently, Elizabeth is simply scared.

I mean, OF COURSE she’s scared. You’re a fucking VAMPIRE! [Dove: Or, in the non-vampire intepretation: OF COURSE she’s scared, she’s LITERALLY JUST BEEN KIDNAPPED by some fucking moron WHO FELL IN LOVE WITH HER AT FIRST SIGHT!]

She tells him no. He asks again, and again.

She starts crying. He asks again. Just one dinner date, Elizabeth. Just one date.

Eventually, inevitably, she crumbles. So many Sweet Valley Girls would jump at a date with NicholasMorrow, after all. He is new in town, and likely needs a friend.

She relented at last, and agreed, giving him a bright smile. “OK, Nicholas, I’ll have dinner with you.”

That’s it. The terrorists have won.


At this point in the book, I was ready to kill it with fire.

I HATE NicholasMorrow.


I hate him here.

His approach is toxic, and tawdry, and self-centred, and abominable. And that’s before you consider that Elizabeth is vulnerable, a mere couple of hours from being kidnapped by a sex pest who also claimed he loved her. I honestly don’t care how excrementally attractive he is, he needs to be kicked into fucking space for this shit.

While unqualified to discuss this from a true female perspective, one only needs to look at it from a HUMAN perspective to see this is manipulation and coercion writ large. It’s atrocious. Even when you look at it from a male perspective (or, more accurately, a “LadsLadsLads” perspective), NicholasMorrow is breaking the Bro Code by sharking in on Todd’s deal. It’s Bro’s before Ho’s, dude!

(I also hate that phrase… the opposite, “Sisters before Misters”, is much classier.)

NicholasMorrow is a fucking asshole. Put it back in your pants, dickhead. Or, put it in Jessica and pretend she’s Elizabeth.

End aside.

(Aside addendum:

By the end of the book, after the obvious redemption arc, my feelings had changed. But it’s still worth noting here.

End Aside addendum.)

Liz immediately worries about Todd’s reaction to this development. She decides to tell him ASAP, as the truth is always best. She then spots Jessica chatting to Randy Mason, which is a development no one could have foreseen.

Overhearing their conversation, it seems that Jessica was pressing the usually tongue-tied Randy about Maths and Computers, two subjects in which he was fascinated. This has all the hallmarks of a sub-plot, and some of the hallmarks of a girl trying to glom vital information about her new “project” NicholasMorrow’s business interests. I wonder where this will go.

NicholasMorrow soon snaps Elizabeth back into the room. She apologises for daydreaming, and they cement their upcoming date for Sunday. Liz has a standing date with Todd on Saturday, but Sunday will be free as Todd will be with family to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

NicholasMorrow vows to call her to discuss detail on Wednesday, at which point Elizabeth is gripped with a feeling that all this nonsense will come to no good.

Yet she’d made a promise, and she’d have to keep it. Elizabeth could only hope that her fears were groundless.

She doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.


This is literally one of my favourite things, and I will link it multiple times whenever I have the chance.

End aside.

Chapter Three! Woo!

First, NicholasMorrow departs in his NicholasMorrowMobile. Then, back in the party zone, Jessica is still chatting computers with Randy Mason.


According to Google, Randy Mason is a Hip Hop DJ from the Bronx.

Go check him out here.


End aside.

Jess is laying on the flannel pretty thick. Computers are so scaaaaary, maths is so haaaaaard, and so on. She even declares that she has trouble with the multiplication tables.

Fuck off with that shit. I read Jessica the Nerd. She was a member of SOAR, for Christ’s sake!

As Liz moves off, she hears that Jessica has attained her goal: Randy Mason has offered to coach her wayward sister in all things Maths and Computers.

Eventually, Elizabeth finds her way to Todd. Predictably, he’s sullen. Which makes a change from NicholasMorrow, who was Cullen. *RIMSHOT*

Talk turns to NicholasMorrow, and how accommodating Elizabeth has been of him, all evening. Despite Elizabeth’s denials, Todd is proper jealous of NicholasMorrow’s Liz monopoly. Can’t say I blame him, to be honest, although I think I’d be more worried for Elizabeth’s safety than angry at her. After all, a mere few hours ago she was tied up and gagged in a pervert’s sex dungeon. Doesn’t anybody realise what the girl has been through?

Eventually, all is smoothed out with declarations of love and tender kisses. The entire party leaves, which means Jess and Liz are left to tidy in the afterglow. While Liz cleans, and Jess half-heartedly cleans, the pair have a conversation. A conversation in which Jessica declares that she’s in love with… drumroll… Nicholas “NicholasMorrow” Morrow.


What IS news, although not entirely out of character, is that Jessica is convinced that NicholasMorrow is in love with her. And not, as is the case, in love with her sister Elizabeth.

Elizabeth then asks about all the nonsense with Randy Mason. Jessica admits she is just pumping him for info about computers, in order to converse with NicholasMorrow on subjects on which he has shown interest. There’s no love or attraction there, at least from Jessica’s direction.


Yeah, we get it. Everyone fancies the Wakefields.

Just once, I’d love it if some spotty nerd was all like “Sorry Jess, you’re just not my type, I prefer chubby brunettes” or something. [Dove: THIS! Hell, I want the hot boy to be like, “Nope, I like geeky Enid with her amazing green eyes.” or “Have you seen how great Lois Waller’s smile is? That’s the girl for me!”] But no, every boy gets his fap on for the fucking twins. Including their own brother, and (presumably) the teachers. And Ned. And maybe even Alice. [Wing: Well, she is real worried about how close Todd and Liz are these days.]

End aside.

Elizabeth has also realised that she cannot tell Jessica about her upcoming date with NicholasMorrow. Why, that would crush her!

Thus begins one of a number of pretty much identical conversations between Elizabeth and Jessica, in which Jessica declares her love and lust for the hunky rich NicholasMorrow, wondering aloud just how amazing it would be to go on a date with him, while Elizabeth quails and vacillates about her actual upcoming date with NicholasMorrow, and decries that she can never discuss this with Jessica lest her gargantuan temper lay waste to the valley and surrounding environs. In this particular exchange, Jessica asks her sister just how amazing it would be to go on a date with NicholasMorrow, unbeknownst to her that NicholasMorrow has actually asked Elizabeth on a date!

Oh, the irony! Alanis would be so proud.

Next chapter, and it’s a school day. Elizabeth is driving the Little Red Fiat Spider, ferrying her sister to the titular Sweet Valley High school. Predictably, Jessica is late, and predictably, all she can talk about is NicholasMorrow.

The subject matter at hand causes Elizabeth to be a little snippy, and Jessica reacts in her usual slightly over-dramatic fashion. She notes that every time she mentions NicholasMorrow, Elizabeth bites her fucking head off.

During the conversation, we also learn that Jessica will be meeting Randy Mason after school for a god ol’ dose of B-Plot action, so she will not require a lift home.

Immediately, it seems that we have skipped to post-school, and Randy’s meeting with Jessica under the clock. He’s obviously a stammering and bumbling fool when under the gimlet glare of the JessicaBot, but I guess that’s standard nerd-writing for the Eighties.

Jessica piles on the bullshit, praising Randy for his nerd abilities and flirting with him outrageously. He laps it up pitifully. Poor fella. Why the hell shouldn’t he take this display at face value? Heaven forbid that someone should show a fucking nerd any love and affection. To hammer the point home, we have a Jessica monologue in which she underlines her duplicity and makes the reader totally aware that she could never really fall for a nerd like Randy.

After a short drive to the Mason Ranch, we are granted access to Randy’s inner sanctum. In particular to his awesome work centre… a computer, a terminal, and a printer.

Well, I suppose that might pass for super-cutting-edge in the Eighties, but I’m not really impressed. It’s not exactly Matthew Broderick’s room in Wargames. [Dove: … don’t the Wakefields have exactly the same setup? Or has that not happened yet?] [Raven: I think they had a decent computer setup in Twins, no?]

The only winnign move is not to date NicholasMorrow.

In a dated-yet-cute scene, Randy shows Jessica the properties of something called a “floppy disc”, with words such as “CP/M” and “FORTRAN”, and eventually lets Jessica run a program(me) for herself! All the while, she butters him up, and all the while he tells her that she’s incredible.

Eventually, talk turns back to Math(s), and Jessica wishes he could be her tutor. He offers, shyly, but Jessica pretends not to hear… she’s obviously playing the long con.

Quick skip to later that evening, at the Compound. The twins are talking about clothes, in particular about Jessica’s trait of borrowing and ruining Elizabeth’s garments. Despite being in the right as usual, Elizabeth ends up apologising, and Jessica ends up claiming that Elizabeth is the kindest and most understanding sister in the world. Man, I was sick of THAT in the fucking TWINS books, never mind in these. [Wing: Back then they were friends most of the time and that vaguely redeemed it. Here, they basically hate each other. Things that were annoying in Twins were at least set against things we liked, too. Not so this.]

As part of Jessica’s soft-soap routine, we learn that Elizabeth has written a puff piece for the Oracle that centres on KurtMorrow, the father of NicholasMorrow. KurtMorrow has recently donated a super-cool computer to Sweet Valley High administrators, for the purpose of digitalizing the records, grades and reports of the student body. Tomorrow’s technology, today!

The story actually serves two plot purposes. First, it reminds Elizabeth of her predicament with NicholasMorrow, and the fact that she had yet to tell Todd about the upcoming Sunday Date. And second, it gives Jessica her B-Plot idea…

Jessica has a failing math(s) grade. As such, she’s in danger of losing cheerleading privileges. But her “research” on computers has introduced her to the concept of hackers, people who could connect to remote computers and change the data stored upon them.

Could Randy be her hacker? Could he plug himself into the new school computer and change her math(s) grade from a fail to a pass…?

Suddenly, we’re at a date that evening, between Jessica and Randy. She’s putting her nefarious plans in action, and Randy the Patsy is lapping it up. This is just Phase 1, of course. She can’t really blurt out “Randy, can you commit a felony for me and alter my math(s) grade? I’ll give you a hand job if you do!” in the middle of the Dairi Burger. He’d spill a bit more than ketchup on his clams if she did, believe me.


Apparently, Randy puts ketchup on clams…?

I mean, is that a thing? That’s proper minging if it is.

Also, I’m actually enjoying this B-Plot, even if I’m hating the Nerd Cliché that is Randy Mason.

End Aside.

The extent of Phase One? Jessica asks Randy if he will tutor her at Math(s). He agrees, and a further date is set for Thursday. The plot begins to thicken!

[Wing: Even this b plot is a fucking repeat. We’ve already had the whole Jess manipulating people into doing illegal things to save her grade bullshit back when she had Robin steal a test. This is BOOK FOURTEEN. How have we had so many repetitive stories already.]

Suddenly, it’s Chapter Five. Jessica and Elizabeth are now shopping at the mall. If I’m honest, I’ve no fucking clue what day it is in this universe. I presume it’s before the Wednesday call from NicholasMorrow, or the Thursday tutelage of Jessica by Randy the Patsy.

As the girls head to Foxy Mama’s (hah!), they stumble across…

… a naked Mr Nydick!


Nope! They stumble across… NicholasMorrow! He’s taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Sweet Valley Mall, probably looking to buy it and turn it into a computer for his dad’s firm (or something).

Immediately, Elizabeth is distraught. What if he mentions their dinner date on Sunday, in earshot of Jessica?! The cat would be out of the bag and halfway up the fucking curtains before you could fetch the pack of Dreamies.

Happily for Liz, it seems the scene between the three teens is a tease and nothing more. The three share some banter, in which Jessica is Flirty, Elizabeth is Furtive, and NicholasMorrow is Furniture.

Once NicholasMorrow has departed, Jessica jumps to conclusions. The boy had been nice to her, so obviously he was ready to commit to her as boyfriend/girlfriend.

“Oh, Liz,” Jessica trilled. “Nicholas Morrow is the most adorable guy I’ve ever met. And he wants to go out with me! Isn’t that wonderful? Every girl in Sweet Valley will be jealous.”

I may hate the SVH Jessica, but man I wish I had a spoonful of her self-confidence.

Quick skip to Wednesday night. We’re back at the Compound, and Elizabeth is anxious for NicholasMorrow’s upcoming call. She’s poised to intercept Jessica when the phone finally does ring, only to discover it’s actually Randy Mason. He’s setting up a session of tutelage for the following afternoon, and Jessica is cool with that. Looks like Phase Two of the B-Plot is  primed and ready!

While Jessica cements plans with Randy, Elizabeth worries about her plight. She’s not told Todd, she’s not told Jess. She’s full of regret about accepting this date, yet she’s here awaiting his call.


This blurb for this book? It writes cheques that the narrative doesn’t cash.

The blurb suggests that Liz is torn between love for Todd and love for the beautiful NewBoy NicholasMorrow. But she ISN’T. She has no love at ALL for NicholasMorrow. She’s just doing her best not to annoy his “nice guy” toxic-ass persona by letting him down gently.

The blurb says “Has Elizabeth found new love?” … and the answer is No. No, she has not.

I think I’m okay with this. The blurb makes the book sound rubbish, while the book, so far, is… alright, I guess.

Aside in an aside:

For some reason, this reminds me of my favourite joke. From German comedian Hennig Wehn, playing on the stereotypes of his nation.

A young couple adopt a German newborn baby. They cherish their child, and pile on the love throughout his development. As the child grows, everything is wonderful, except one thing… the boy cannot speak.

Concerned, they take their German son to a development specialist. The doctor runs a barrage of tests, but can find nothing untoward. The parents are worried, but life continues.

One day, at the age of five, at lunchtime, the young child finally utters his first words… “Mother,” he says, “this soup is tepid.”

His parents are overjoyed. Their adoptive German son can speak!

“We’re so happy you can speak,” his delighted mother cries. “We thought you could not, but it appears you can. Why? Why did you never speak before today?”

“Because, mother,” said their German child, “up until now, everything has been satisfactory.”

End aside in an aside.

End aside.

When NicholasMorrow eventually calls, Liz is quick to answer. There’s some preliminary chitchat, before the meat of the call commences.

NicholasMorrow asks whether their date is still on.

There’s your chance, Elizabeth. Tell him to get fucked.

Obviously, she doesn’t. Sure, she pauses to consider, but eventually keeps this rigmarole going.

They agree to dinner, in the fabulously posh Cote d’Or, which is situated an hour’s drive from the Val so is unlikely to run into any busybodies or gossipmongers. And if she’s honest with herself, she’d fucking love to go to such a swanky place. [Dove: “Oh I am such a saint. I am being forced, against my will, to go to an eatery I’m dying to go to, with a very handsome boy, but I don’t want to, I’m such a martyr.” Don’t get me wrong, if he’s awful, and there is that need not to put yourself in danger by aggressively refusing a guy, but Liz is the exception. She loves this.]

Elizabeth smacks away his offer to pick her up, suggesting they meet there. Six thirty. Deal.

Once off the phone, she starts considering her outfit options for the opulent restaurant. This makes her anxious once more, so she puts it out of mind.

Thursday! And an afternoon off, as the high school staff are attending Mr Nydick’s parole hearing… *ahem* … a teachers’ conference. At home, Elizabeth decides she needs some wise counsel. So she calls her best friend Enid, who to be honest has done fuck all in a book that occurs mere minutes after a fucking kidnapping that should have seen her “best friend” in serious need of her shoulder to cry upon. [Dove: Seconded hard. If I’d been abducted, had my hair stroked by my kidnapper (and all that that might imply), and returned to life, only to find out that some other guy was obsessed with me, and I couldn’t bring it up with my boyfriend, then I absolutely would be having furtive meetings with my bestie to think my way out of this situation.]

Elizabeth spills the beans, and Enid is dumbfounded. Nicholas Morrow?! Oh, sorry, I mean NicholasMorrow?! What the fuck is going on?

Once all the facts are out (Liz loves Todd, Todd loves Liz, Jess loves NicholasMorrow, no one knows anything), Enid has the following sage advice:

“Oh, Liz!” Enid said sympathetically. There was another long pause as she considered her friend’s predicament. Finally she said, “I think you’ll just have to go out with Nicholas, Liz. And keep your fingers crossed and hope that Jessica doesn’t find out. But I also think it’s important that you tell Todd about this. Todd’s understanding.”

Elizabeth knows this is good advice, but she dreads telling Todd. She thinks he has an issue with him. Which, of course, he patently does. [Dove: This is a terrible take. She doesn’t have to go out with him. She can tell him to fuck off. And Todd is not understanding. He’s a jealous manchild who goes into TODD-SMASH mode every time she interacts with other boys.] [Raven: Okay, I’m getting that the whole TODD-SMASH thing is a fandom joke? This is the first time it’s been mentioned, no? If that’s the case, it’s fair to suggest that Todd is understanding, because up until no, he HAS been.] [Wing: Eh, we’ve seen him lose his temper quite a bit, too, and get jealous over nothing. Still, Liz hasn’t seen most of those times, and she claims to love and trust him, so her refusing to talk to him is simply forced conflict to make the book work. Or “work” because that’s a strong word for what this is doing. That being said, there is no goddamn reason she needs to go out with NicholasMarrow for any reason, even just friends having dinner. Enid, be a better best friend!]

Next, we’re with Jess and Randy at the Mason Ranch. Jessica still declares that she can’t Math and of the Math things, and Randy continues to tell her that her piss smells of lavender.

Eventually, Jessica turns talk to the things that truly fascinate her… computers! She asks if Randy knows anything about “plugging into other computers,” and like a dim little slave our Randy takes her through the Forbidden Door.

(No, not like that, you pervs.)

Even though he knows it’s illegal, Randy hacks into the computers of a selection of Sweet Valley businesses. A real-estate firm (Sweet Valley Real Estate), a lumber dealer (Sweet Valley Lumber), and a record company (Sweet Valley Records).

Jessica is impressed, but all this is preamble to her Big Kahuna. Carefully, she lays down the challenge…

And then, as if the idea had just occurred to her, she asked, “Could you actually plug into the computer at school? The one the Morrows gave them? The one that keeps track of grades?”

To his credit, Randy doesn’t immediately acquiesce. He does acquiesce, but it takes some cajoling from Jessica to Make It So

From there, it’s simple.

Get into the computer? Check.

Look at Jessica’s Math grade? Check (it’s an F).

Change Jessica’s Math grade? … … … another pause, but Check (it’s now a C-),

Hug him, back the truck up, get the fuck out of Dodge? Check, check and check.

At the vinegar strokes of this dastardly scheme, poor Randy asks Jessica for an actual date. Not tonight, she says, but sure, sometime. She even has the gall to ask for a lift home. [Dove: *head tilt* I don’t know whether something is an upcoming plot or just something I read in a fanfic, but it involves Randy, and now I know this was the inciting incident. Readers, if you know what I’m talking about, be coy in the comments to keep Wing and Raven spoiler-free. If you don’t, tell me you’ve got no idea, and I’ll know it was a fanfic plot.]

Not gonna lie, I quite enjoyed that section. It’s a cliché of a scene, sure, but I don’t mind that.

Chapter Six, and we’re back at the Compound. Elizabeth is sorting clothes, when Jessica saunters in with some great news. She’s passing Math(s)! Elizabeth is incredulous, but she doesn’t press it further.

Talk, again, turns to Jessica’s love for NicholasMorrow. Which is, of course, reciprocated in her mind. Or is it? Our plucky little sociopath is starting to suspect that NicholasMorrow may not have the hots for her after all. Why? Because he’s not called her to arrange a date, that’s why.

Liz vamps spectacularly, looking for a plausible reason for NicholasMorrow to not be head-over-tits in love with her sister. She settles on the idea that NicholasMorrow is far too busy caring for his deaf sister ReginaMorrow to be concerned with anything as mundane as “dating”.

Jessica doesn’t buy it. She wails at the sky declaiming that no one on earth cares for her the way they should. Right on cue, the phone rings… it’s Randy Mason.

Jessica takes the call, and, from the one-sided conversation we see, it’s clear that Jess is well and truly over her dalliance with the computer super-nerd. He’s served his purpose, so it’s time to move on. She slams down the phone and slumps on Liz’s bed, bored.

The phone rings again. And again, it’s Randy. But this time, Elizabeth doesn’t have chance to tell him that she’s not Jessica before he blurts out his truth.

He’s had second thoughts about the gravity of the recent shenanigans. His entire future is on the line. If they get caught, his chosen career path would be up in smoke. So he decided to reverse the grade change… only to discover that the password to access the school computer has been changed. The authorities are onto them! It’s time to make for the fucking border, post-haste!

Randy informs the incredulous “Jessica” that he’s going to do the honourable thing and confess all, throw himself on his sword. Then, voice choked with emotion, he asks “Jessica” if she’ll come with him. That’ll help, he posits.

When Randy finally stopped, Elizabeth did her best to calm him, although she was furious herself. “I’ll be there,” she promised. “I’ll definitely be there.”

Is this Twin Magic? Or is Elizabeth actually going to confront her fucking sister about her appalling treatment of Randy?

Happily for all involved, it’s the latter!

Liz storms into Jessica’s room, where her sister decamped when Randy made his second call. She comes at her fast, and hard.

Jessica does her best to underplay and deflect, but it’s clear that Elizabeth isn’t taking any shit today. Jessica please and cajoled, but eventually concedes to her angry avenging double.

Jessica IS going to see Principal Cooper, with Randy. And Elizabeth is coming too.

Elizabeth’s rage does not subside for the whole drive to high school. Jessica does her best to make light of the whole affair, but Liz ain’t buying it. I do like this Elizabeth, full of piss and spite and vinegar.

Once they arrive at the Principal’s office, they bundle themselves into his presence. He’s stood there, with an ashen-faced Randy, sporting a face like pure thunder.

When Mr Cooper clocks Jessica, he’s on the attack at once.


The following scene is annoying.

I’ve enjoyed the hacking B Plot and am sorry to see it end. However, the denouement is completely laughable. I’ll break it down for you.

  • Jessica feigns innocence and stupidity in the face of Mr Coopers approbation.
  • While accepting half of the blame, Jessica blithely insists that the whole affair was nothing serious.
  • Randy offers the square root of fuck all in his defence.
  • Elizabeth, with tears in her eyes, pleads for her sister’s reprieve. And Randy’s too, but less loudly.
  • Mr Cooper threatens to suspend them, which would likely ruin their chances of a good life…
  • … but decides not to, and I quote, because “Elizabeth has changed my mind”.


Mr Cooper declares that Elizabeth’s pleas have convinced him to not only turn a blind eye to this clusterfuck, but to also NOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT. Not the Elder Wakefields, not Old Man Mason, no one. He’ll change Jessica’s Math(s) grade back to an F, and continue about his fucking day. [Dove: Why are we surprised? Remember when Kimberly Haver stole Mary’s presentation, and nobody bothered to tell her parents that she was getting ahead by cheating and fraud. Because, like, why would you mention that?]

Absolute fucking BULLSHIT.

This whole endgame arc is so unbelievable, and it didn’t have to go down like this. Randy could have followed through on his twinge of conscience and changed the grade back without incident [Dove: That’s what I wanted to see. Jess expecting her C- and instead getting an F and being booted off the cheerleaders. And then Randy being all like, “I’m sorry, Jessica, I have no idea what you’re talking about. And if I did, what are you going to do about it, go to Chrome Dome and say ‘Randy illegally changed my grade and then changed it back again. It’s not faaaiirr!’? Good luck with that.” And then he peaces out like a boss.] [Wing: We’ve already seen a cheating plot end with no one getting expelled or even really punished. Fuck. Everything. Again.] (with Liz finding out in the same way to keep Jessica honest). Or they could have made it into school and had a mini adventure changing the grade back via the actual school computer. Or they could have gotten NicholasMorrow involved somehow, with his computer company knowledge somehow helping?

There were hundreds of alternate ways to handle this, and they fumbled the fucking ball immediately. Which is such a pity.

One aspect I did like? The fact that Jessica DID admit that she was co-accountable with Randy. It goes a long way to giving her some semblance of a redeemable character.

The rest can get in the sea.

End aside.

Once banished from the principal’s office without so much as a smacked arse, Elizabeth drives her sister home. Does Jessica have any semblance of remorse or guilt over what has transpired? I’ll let the Ghostie deliver the answer to that conundrum.

Jessica leaned back in her seat. As Elizabeth turned into the Wakefields’ street, Jessica burst out with, “Oh, Liz! I’m such a mess!”

Elizabeth reached out to stroke her sister’s hand. “No, you’re not,” she comforted. “We all make mistakes.”

“Yes, I am,” Jessica insisted. “Just look at me.”

Elizabeth turned to see Jessica staring into a tiny pocket mirror. “I am a mess,” she repeated, wailing. “I’ve absolutely ruined my eye makeup.”

I guess that’s a “no”.

Next up, it’s Chapter Seven. It’s Friday, and it’s school time! Elizabeth is doing her Good Deed for the Day, guiding ReginaMorrow to her next class. In doing so, she bumps into Enid, and updates her on the current situation.

Both Enid and Elizabeth are in agreement. Liz has one more opportunity to tell Todd about her date with NicholasMorrow on Sunday: at her date with Todd on Saturday night. As before, she doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.

Next, it’s date night! Not Date With NicholasMorrow, of course. Date With ToddWilkins.

After some kisses and banter, we discover their plans for the evening: a movie at eight. We also learn that Saturday is movie night, Sunday is Todd’s Mother’s Birthday Bash, and Monday is the Big Championship Basketball Game, in which Todd is the star player.

Elizabeth asks Todd what movie they are seeing. Turns out it’s a schlock Horror affair called Teenage Terror. Apparently, Todd loves Horror films. This does endear him to me, until he admits he only really likes them because he enjoys Elizabeth clutching at him when she is scared. It’s meant to be cute, but there’s a sheen of dick-in-a-popcorn-box all over it.

They watch the film, then head to Dairi Burger for, well, a Burger. The joint is packed, with kids, but the couple secure a booth after a short delay. [Dove: It was at this point I realised that the Dairi Burger had table service. It’s a fast-food joint constantly filled with children. Embrace the McDonald’s approach, you fools.] [Wing: Whereas I never doubted it had table service. It’s more diner than fast food joint.] And while munching down their burgers and shakes, the inestimable Betsy Martin arrives, with a drunken date, and demands to cut in line and get a booth. She is told to fuck off, in no uncertain terms, so off she (and her date) fuck. Foreshadowing for the next book, I suppose.

Todd is in a good mood, and he orders a second burger, because heaven forbid any of the teenage boys in this series NOT be a guzzling gannet. [Dove: Isn’t it funny how Liz could pour so much shame on Robin any time she ate in front of Liz, but when her boyfriend troughs a day’s calories twice in a row, her only thought is “lol, he’s so cute”.] As it appears like he’ll be receptive to her comments, Elizabeth begins to broach the subject of NicholasMorrow.

Predictably, it doesn’t go as plan.

She starts with the ReginaMorrow gambit, hoping to segue into talk of her brother NicholasMorrow. Unfortunately, he immediately mentions NicholasMorrow, and how much he dislikes him. He’s clear that any talk of NicholasMorrow would spoil and scupper an altogether pleasant evening.

So that’s that fucked, then.

She changes the subject, and asks where the Wilkins Family Celebrations for Mama Wilkins will be taking place. Todd does not inform her (or us) of where this party is happening, so of course it’ll be happening at Cote d’Or, at the exact time that Elizabeth and NicolasMorrow are entering the final acts of their sexual ballet.

Elizabeth decides that she would be an idiot to mention her date at this time, and resigns herself to the inevitable notion that she’d just have to stop Todd from finding out the awful truth.

More kisses, a drive home, and bedtime. Probably with a Koala in there somewhere.

Chapter Eight, and it’s finally Sunday. A day in which nothing of note happens before Elizabeth begins readying herself for her date with NicholasMorrow.

Her makeup? Subtle. Her style? Simple.

Her dress? A honey-gold shantung dress, apparently. Shantung is a type of silk plain weave fabric, often used for bridal gowns. Jeeze, go easy, Liz. It’s a first date, not a vow renewal.

Also, her dress is the same colour as her hair, and likely the same colour as her tanned skin. She’s dressing as an indistinct smudge.

Unfortunately for Elizabeth, who’d planned to escape the Compound before Jessica returned home from her latest killing spree, Jess saunters in just as Liz readies herself to leave. No matter, of course. Elizabeth’s “dressed to the nines” look would likely be considered slumming it by the racier Jessica. So she just throws on a summer coat, declares that she’s visiting Enid, and makes good her escape in the red Fiat Spider.

The hour-long drive up the coast to the Cote d’Or is uneventful. Elizabeth is feeling quite excited, as all she need do is get through this date with NicholasMorrow before returning home as quickly as possible. No need for Jess or Todd to know anything.

Once at the restaurant, Elizabeth is treated to an object lesson in How The Other Half Live. Valet parking, uniformed doorman, maitre d’hotel, doves in cages, bowls of tulip petals, gilded chairs, and so on, and so on, and so on. NicholasMorrow is there, and Elizabeth greets him warmly. This place, it seems, is perfection.

The date is actually quite cute. Mostly.

One thing I didn’t like? This bit:

As a waiter arrived to take their order, Nicholas looked at Elizabeth over the top of his menu. “Have you decided what you’d like? Or would you rather have me order for you?”

Elizabeth closed her menu and handed it to the waiter. “I’d rather have you order,” she said.

“Good. I’ve been planning our meal ever since you said yes.”

The whole “order for someone else” crap leaves me fucking cold. “Shall I order for everyone?” … “Definitely not, you controlling prick.”

When I’m at a restaurant, I’m a stickler for, I dunno, CHOOSING MY OWN FUCKING FOOD.

Sure, I’ll take recommendations, and may even act on them, but my final choice is exactly that: mine. That’s the fun of dining out, surely? Perusing the menu, weighing up the options, making a choice.


When dining at a new place, I have a system.

I go for the weirdest-sounding thing on the menu. If it’s got an unusual name, I’ll order it. If there’s nothing with an unusual name, I’ll get the dish with the strangest ingredient. Often, these two options are in the same dish.

I figure I can have a Korma Curry or a Chicken Chow Mein from anywhere, but I’ll likely never have another opportunity to eat a dish called a Bidibangang.

(Yes, a Bidibangang is a real example. And yes, it was delicious.)

End aside.

The meal that NicholasMorrow orders?

Smoked salmon starter. Tournedos Rossini main. Puffed potatoes and haricots verts side. Wild-strawberry souffle dessert.

Sounds decent, for sure, in the Dream Menu ballpark. All we need to discover now is where they stand on Poppadoms or Bread?

Actually, a Tournedos Rossini? That’s this bullshit:

Yummy, the taste of suffering!

Foie Gras can get in the fucking sea.

So, the conversation is light, and friendly, and in no what geared towards Elizabeth leaving Todd to be with NicholasMorrow. I was legit surprised by this, given his awful toxicity in the early sections of this book, but I guess it’s the old bait-and-switch upon which this series thrives. Show someone as a wanker, then give them the opportunity for redemption. Like the earlier Evil Jessica missteps, perhaps this was also a little thick, but I’m looking at it with 21st Century eyes. (I realise this makes me sound like Geordi LaForge, but you feel me.)

We learn that NicholasMorrow generally prefers simpler options, such as the Dairi Burger, and that being rich and handsome and privileged isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (cry me a fucking river, you sparkling nightwalker) [Dove: See image below:]. We also learn that he likes to swim and play tennis, and this section of obvious padding reminds me of my GSCE French Oral.

"If you're not pretty and you're working class you have an easier time in terms of people's attitudes to you" -- Helena Bonham Carter explaining why acting has been tough for her."As a lifelong member of the non-pretty working classes, I would like to say to Helena Bonham-Carter, wholly pledged member of the very pretty upper-classes: shut up you stupid cunt." -- Kathy Burke
The oppression of wealth, beauty and a hand up in the industry is almost too much to bear!

The time passes quickly, and the conversation is smooth. Elizabeth realises that NicholasMorrow is just a regular guy, and she’s very happy that she took this opportunity to get to know him. Of course, when the subject eventually turns to the possibility of a second date, she’s clear (yet kind) with her response.

“I’m not in love with you,” Elizabeth said as gently as she could. “But I think you’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

I mean, can’t say fairer than that. [Dove: And she’s right. He is very much a “nice guy”.]

NicholasMorrow takes it on the chin like a trooper, but he’s obviously devastated. Don’t worry, mate, it’ll be a powerful cry-wank tonight.

To his credit, he thanks Liz for the opportunity, and pushes it no further. So, that’s that, for the date part of the plot at least… but we’re not done yet, dear me no.

Because, at that precise moment, who should come waltzing into Cote d’Or, but…

… A naked Mr Nydick!

(Never gets old, folks!)

Nope, it’s Todd and the rest of the Wilkins clan, out for a barnstorming evening of poshness to celebrate the matriarch’s birth.

Elizabeth realises what’s happened immediately, with her cat-like forensic skills. Truly, she is the Columbo of Sweet Valley High. The jig would well and truly be up should Todd catch her in flagrante with the delicious NicholasMorrow. What’s a girl to do?

As Todd approaches her table, oblivious to the oncoming storm, Elizabeth has a brainwave. As he spots her in shock, and croaks out her name, she rounds on him with a… Dazzling… smile.

Twin Magic, y’all!

With a tremendous effort, Elizabeth pulled herself together. Then, flashing her brightest Jessica smile at the boy she loved with all her heart, she said, “You must be kidding, Todd! You mean to say you still can’t tell the difference between Liz and me?” She wagged a finger at him coyly. “Wait until I tell Elizabeth. Then you’ll be in trouble. About a hundred and thirty-seven different kinds.”

After a pregnant pause in which Todd tries to reconcile his eyesight with his brain, it seems the dim-witted beau chooses to believe this declaration. Trick of the light, I guess. He chirrups a greeting to NicholasMorrow and “Jess”, and meanders on his way.

Obviously, NicholasMorrow is confused. What’s the matter, NM? Never seen a twin pretend to be her doppelganger in order to convince her boyfriend that she wasn’t two-timing him with a fucking vampire before?

Elizabeth apologises, and explains, and NicholasMorrow agrees that her actions were one hundred percent correct for that moment in time. I guess I agree, but only because I’ve agreed to jump through all the idiotic missteps along the way. Why not make that extra leap off the ledge?

NicholasMorrow pays the bill, and the couple leave. All’s well that ends well… right?

Chapter Nine, and beyond, says not.

We cut to Todd, mooning over Elizabeth in his parent’s car on the drive back from Cote d’Or. How on earth could he have mistaken Jessica for Elizabeth?

His parents, fresh from their evening of celebration, bellies full of fine food, request a penny for his thoughts. He evades the question.

Eventually, he decides that he needs to apologise to Elizabeth for thinking that Jessica was, in fact, her. And he needed to do it quickly, before Jessica spilled the beans to Liz in her flagrantly callous way.

So after the hour’s drive back from Cote’d’Or, he hops in his car and hot-foots it to the Wakefield Compound. Once there, he rings the doorbell frantically, and kisses the first Wakefield Twin that answers the door.

It’s Jessica, predictably, wearing naught but a robe, fresh from the shower. She purrs in appreciation as Todd lays on a smacker. Mama like!

Todd is mortified that he’s apparently made the same mistake twice. He blurts out the whole sorry scene from Cote d’Or earlier that evening, quickly reaching the correct conclusion that yes, it had been Elizabeth at the restaurant, and yes, she had been cheating on him by dining with NicholasMorrow.

To her credit, Jessica refuses to believe this nonsense. Elizabeth? Playing around? With NicholasMorrow? Surely some mistake!

Todd’s anger reaches a crescendo rather quickly, one which he spurts away by punching the doorjamb. [Dove: TODD-SMASH!] Jessica’s ire also began to take form, which is much more terrifying than anything Wilkins can muster. Sure, he’s punching the wall in impotent fury, but if Todd’s a grey cloud then Jessica’s a fucking Obscurus.

The scene concludes with Todd declaiming that it’s all over between himself and Elizabeth before driving away in a fury. Jessica, naturally, plans to serve her retribution on a colder platter, so she waits until her sister returns.


So, let me get this straight…

The Cote d’Or is an hour from Sweet Valley.

Elizabeth ate a three-course meal there, with NicholasMorrow.

As they finished, Todd and his family arrived for their family celebration. At which point there was an encounter.

Elizabeth and NicholasMorrow left.

And then, after Todd spent the evening with his family at the celebration, after which followed an hour of brooding in the car home, he jumped into his own car and popped to the Wakefield Compound. Where he arrived before Elizabeth made it home!

Sorry, Ghostie, but you didn’t think this through.

Unless… our saintly Elizabeth has been up on Make-Out Ridge with NicholasMorrow. The saucy minx! Todd, you’re well shot of her.

End aside.

Elizabeth arrives home at the start of Chapter Ten, and even though she’s sure she’s in the clear, shit hits the fan almost immediately.

As Elizabeth lounges in her room, Hurricane Jessica blasts in. At first, she keeps things coy, and asks about her sister’s pleasant evening with Enid. Elizabeth tries to maintain the pretence, but it falls to pieces all too quickly.

Declaring she doesn’t like it one bit, Jessica admonishes Liz for having a date with “her boyfriend.” Talk about delusional!

Elizabeth crumbles immediately. Jess continues, telling her fallen sibling that she learnt of this heady betrayal from none other than Todd fucking Wilkins.

Liz now realises the game is up. She does her best to maintain a graceful poise, and tries to explain and apologise. Jessica, of course, refuses to listen. Until she does listen, at which point they both hug and make up.


Wow. That was a quick resolve. Not buying it.

End aside.

As soon as they are friends again, Jessica comes over all fox-and-sour-grapes. NicholasMorrow is actually a bellend, and not desirable in any way, shape or form. Well, maybe in his bat form, but in none of his other supernatural forms.

Their conversation ends with Jessica bringing more bad news about Tricia. Her time may be up. Steven took a call from ICU, where Tricia is currently residing. He dashed off to see her, but I guess this is for the next book.

The chapter ends with Liz phoning Todd to apologise and explain things, but getting blocked at the virtual gatehouse by Mama Wilkins. Sorry Liz, but Todd doesn’t want to know.

Chapter Eleven begins in school the following day. Monday, the day of the big Basketball game.

Elizabeth is having supreme issues in concentrating on her studies. She wants to speak to Todd, and clear up this whole sorry affair, but Wilkins is having none of it. He’s blanking her in the halls, and ghosting her in the lessons. And when she does manage to pin him down, he grunts a non-committal greeting before making a threadbare excuse and leaving the scene. [Dove: Everyone in this book is such an asshat. Everyone responds to any slight – real or imagined – with blanking someone. I find it impossible to believe that not one single human being in all of Sweet Valley has communication skills. Especially since we’re always told over and over how gentle and sensitive Todd is. If he was truly sensitive, he’d be like Dylan from Modern Family, and be crying on her doorstep over this. Or at least open to conversation to officially end their relationship like a grownup, instead of a toddler throwing a tantrum.]

To take her mind off things, Elizabeth rocks up to the offices of The Oracle. Maybe some writing will clear her fugue? Alas, the delectable Mr Collins has other ideas: he keeps her firmly in the centre of the action by cajoling her to be the Ace Reporter on the scene for the Big Championship Game that afternoon. Sweet Valley High versus Big Mesa, for all the marbles, with star player Todd Wilkins ready to kick ass and take names.

Elizabeth tries her best to extricate herself from the business, but it’s to no avail. She doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.

Forlornly, she heads to the gym to watch the action. Positioning herself with Enid “Not Really A Feature Of This Book” Rollins, she winces when Todd takes to the court without flashing her a smile and their usual pre-game thumbs up gesture.

For the first half of the match, it’s all Big Mesa. Todd Wilkins is playing like an absolute tube, obviously preoccupied by the state of his relationship with Elizabeth. When the half-time buzzer sounds, Big Mesa are living up to their name: they’ve gone Big, and are a full twenty-six points to the good.

So now’s the time for the inevitable turn around, right?

Yep. You’re right.

As Elizabeth sat brooding during the halftime break, who should join her but… NicholasMorrow!

NicholasMorrow starts with a subtle dig. So this is the big kahuna Todd Wilkins, is it? The guy’s an absolute bobbin. No skills on display on the basketball court, probably no skills in the bedroom either. What gives?

Elizabeth breaks down, and tells NicholasMorrow about how things have panned out. She loves Todd, but he’s not engaging with her because of her “betrayal” with NicholasMorrow, and so on.

Once NicholasMorrow realises that he’s at the centre of this emotional Twinkie, NicholasMorrow is all apologies. He vows to set things right.

So NicholasMorrow goes and talks to Todd, right? Smooths things over, gets the boy back on track?

Yep. Correct. That’s exactly what NicholasMorrow does.

At first, Todd wants nothing to do with him. How dare NicholasMorrow invade the gym locker room! The half-time break is nearly over, and Todd doesn’t care what NicholasMorrow has to say.

But of course, once Todd actually hears what NicholasMorrow has to say – that it’s all NicholasMorrow’s fault for pressuring Elizabeth into accepting a date when she patently didn’t want to, and that Elizabeth loves Todd Wilkins and not NicholasMorrow, and so on – Todd becomes immediate and fast friends with NicholasMorrow, and forgives Elizabeth for anything even approaching a transgression.

He also goes back onto court for the second half, and guides Sweet Valley High to victory with a superhuman performance and a buzzer-beater in the dying seconds.



I do love a good come-from-behind story, but this one it a little Teen Wolf. Without the important lesson.

When Todd plays badly, the team is a joke. When Todd plays well, the team is unstoppable. Todd Todd Todd Todd TODD.

There are OTHER players on the fucking team. Why don’t THEY have any impact on the score? Come to think of it, why don’t the Big Mesa players play a greater part here? Where’s the Todd of Big Mesa, who’s currently in love with the Jessica of Big Mesa, who gives him a Big Sloppy Mesa Kiss at half time and spurs THEM on to greatness?

Yeah, I know this is a series called Sweet Valley High, but the cliché is a little too contrived in this precise form.

I don’t hate it, though.

End aside.

So Sweet Valley High win the Championship, and the team (and crowd) dash off to an impromptu victory party at Cara’s house. Elizabeth, still unaware that Todd now loves her once more, declines to attend, choosing instead to mope like a moped in the now-empty gym.

The final chapter wraps everything up in a neat and tidy bow, before setting the scene for the next adventure.

First, Todd creeps up on Elizabeth in a dark parking lot and startles her. Erm… HELLO?! She’s a week past her fucking KIDNAPPING, in which she was abducted in a dark parking lot, and THIS IS THE WAY YOU APPROACH HER?! Man, I’m so looking forward to the book in which Elizabeth flips and batters everyone. [Dove: This just hammers my point home. I believe Liz is walking home alone in the dark because she wants to be abducted again. “And then I’ll sing my victim song.” Sorry, only Raven will get that reference. I think we were the only two people who watched Big Love.]

Elizabeth and Todd talk things through, and kiss, and all is well with the equilibrium of the universe once more.

Next, the once-more happy couple head to Cara’s party, at which Todd is the Hero of the Hour, and the Droid’s play some Sweet Valley songs in tribute. Whether they play Elizabeth’s Kidnap Anthem remains to be seen.

Then NicholasMorrow dances with Elizabeth, with Todd’s blessing, before the whole thing ends with a scary call from the Sainted Alice Wakefield, to both Elizabeth and Jessica… the rest of the family are at the hospital with Steven, as it appears that Tricia is nearing her last moments.

I reckon she’ll have about a book’s length left in her.

[Wing: Holy. Fucking. Shit. Do I have another dying of cancer book?!]

And that’s that!

Final Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about this book.

I proper hated it, at first. The whole “NicholasMorrow coercing Elizabeth into a date” was annoying, and tawdry, and dated, and triggering, and shit. I fucking detested NicholasMorrow, and all that he stood for.

But once I got over that hump, I had a lot more fun with it.

I enjoyed the B Plot, to a point. Jessica was suitably nefarious, but Randy was a tad too “nerd cliché” for me. Todd was a lot more three dimensional than he has been before, which was actually quite refreshing. And the date itself was actually rather sweet, so NicholasMorrow did achieve a semblance of redemption there.

My rating? I’d love to say it was a Good book, but I can’t quite stretch there. While I liked the fact that the ending didn’t seem too rushed, it still was a little rushed, and there’s a handful of pedantic points I can’t overlook for each of the fun times I had.

So, after ten thousand words of hopefully-witty deconstruction, all I can muster is a Meh.

Ah well. At least I didn’t hate it. Here’s to the next!

[Dove: Raven’s right. Not hating a book is a big step up, but it’s not Good. I agree with all of his points, and found the scene where Liz made an impassioned plea on Jessica (and technically Randy’s) behalf, and this was enough for him to go from “suspension and police involvement” to “this secret never leaves this room, go out and have fun, you wacky kids!”. It’s insufferable. As for the main plot, it only works if you accept that everyone involved is a fucking moron, and I’m sick of having to accept stupidity in order for books to work. Just workshop it harder.]

[Wing: Bored by the book and its plots we’ve already seen before, and now boggling that Sweet Valley apparently hates me as much as I hate it, what with all these cancer books.]