Sweet Valley High #16: Rags to Riches

I say this as someone who loves the colour pink: this is the ugliest shade of pink I’ve ever seen. It’s a bit too red and a bit too grey to be vibrant. And it clashes horribly with the red text of Francine’s name. And I have no idea why they went with greyish-brown for the title. This is such an ugly colour choice.It still has the standard porthole cover. A twin and a boy are visible from the waist up. He’s wearing a suit and looking over your left shoulder with a pained smile on his face. The twin is wearing a pink tank top a few shades wrong to go with the cover. She looks sneaky and pleased and is glancing at the boy. It’s boring and uninspired.
Sweet Valley High #16: Rags to Riches by Francine Pascal

Title: Rags to Riches

Tagline: Look who’s after Roger Barrett!

Summary: No one would have guessed that Roger Barrett, the poorest boy in Sweet Valley, was really one of the Patmans, the wealthiest family in town. But when Roger’s mother dies, the secret of his birth is revealed, and overnight he becomes a millionaire!

Immediately Jessica Wakefield sets her sights on Roger and his newfound wealth. Only one thing stands in her way – Olivia Davidson, Roger’s longtime girlfriend. But not for long. Jessica has a surefire plan to take care of her!

Initial Thoughts:

So, a cute boy has gone from poor to rich. And everyone is a shallow vapid harpy in this book. It’s going to be like the Hunger Games over a boy. And wow, can’t wait. You all know how much I love a story where girls backstab girls. Over boys.

Personally, I hope Olivia stands in front of him with a fiery sword and proclaims, “YOU MAY NOT TAKE MY MAN!” and then slays them all. I mean, it’s still a bad message. Your man is either your man or down to smash other people, and killing other girls won’t swing it in either direction. But if I had to pick out of the array of bad messages that Sweet Valley High loves, I’d pick one where an “ugly nerd” kills the harpies with a fiery sword every time.

[Raven: *blinks* … I think that might be a Super Edition.]

[Wing: Bad message or not, I want Olivia with a goddamn fiery sword. That’s what this series needs: more werewolves and more fiery swords.]

The Cover

I say this as someone who loves the colour pink: this is the ugliest shade of pink I’ve ever seen. It’s a bit too red and a bit too grey to be vibrant. And it clashes horribly with the red text of Francine’s name. And I have no idea why they went with greyish-brown for the title. This is such an ugly colour choice.

It still has the standard porthole cover. A twin and a boy are visible from the waist up. He’s wearing a suit and looking over your left shoulder with a pained smile on his face. The twin is wearing a pink tank top a few shades wrong to go with the cover. She looks sneaky and pleased and is glancing at the boy.

It’s boring and uninspired.

[Wing: Boy is staring off into the distance to the right of the porthole, and he looks goofy, like he’s been drugged up. The twin behind him looks like she’s going to kill him and take his fortune any minute now, so I assume that’s Jessica. Love those horrible shades of pink, if by love I mean hate. And I do.]


“So, how does it feel to turn into a millionaire’s son overnight?” Olivia Davidson asked Roger Barrett. They were eating lunch together in the crowded cafeteria of Sweet Valley High,

This is a brilliant opening sentence. The first sentence of a story should do a lot of things. It should hook your interest. It should convey the world you’re about to deal with. It should set the stage for the upcoming story.

And this does all of that. It’s a tacky gauche question casually asked over lunch in front of other people. Ok, it’s not very interesting to me, but it has conveyed everything. We are in a stupid universe, this is a stupid story, and everyone is basic as fuck.

Ghostie, you crushed it.

It reminds me of when, at a family dinner, my uncle asked me, “Are you going to leave your boyfriend? After all, he did beat you, and he’s not very smart.” Lovely. Just the topic for a table full of near-strangers who have no right to hear about the askee’s most pressing inner turmoil.

(For clarity, I did leave him. And about two weeks later, I was involved with Raven. I’ll happily share that with the internet, but my family can get in the sea.) [Raven: Dove’s Uncle, ladies and gents. So blunt he’s actually a sphere.]

Roger says he can’t believe he’s finally alone with Olivia. *points to bolded part of quote above* I can only assume that, despite the crowded nature of a school lunchroom, they have managed to find a secluded table for two, because that’s a thing you can do at lunch. Our tables held a minimum of four, and usually were set up for eight, because space is a premium.

[Wing: I expect tables for two with fancy tablecloths and candles in Sweet Valley, though we’ve seen them having full cafeteria tables that would fit, say, the entire Unicorn Club, so really, this is just a stupid arrangement. I might have bought that no one wanted to sit near the nerds — might have — except Roger’s the talk of the school, no one would be avoiding him.]

Just to bring you up to speed, Roger’s mother has been dead a week, and Henry Patman has claimed Roger as his nephew (the son of Henry’s brother), meaning he’s now super rich. Which is not at all how probate law works, and all my years in probate taught me that rich people really like to tie up their assets so that the bits of family they don’t like and have never had contact with can’t get to it. But sure, all it takes is Henry going, “Actually, that’s my neffy-poo,” and suddenly, he’s a millionaire.

I also don’t get why this was triggered on his mother’s death, not his father’s. Was she an executor of the trust? It’s very clear that Henry and Paul Patman knew about Roger, so what? They just let the kid wallow in poverty, coming to school in rags, running in dress shoes because he can’t afford sneakers, and were like, “this is fine”, but now he’s an orphan, it’s time to step in? [Raven: I had the same misgivings, but the book does cover it later. And so does Dove, in the recap, so yay!]

Olivia muses on the “long history” of her relationship. Six books ago, people made fun of him for being poor and working as a janitor, but she saw his inner light [Raven: Also, free cleaning supplies!]. And now they’re in love. She thinks it’s like a rollercoaster, because she had to teach him that she didn’t care that he was poor, and now he’s rich! Just like a rollercoaster.

Ghostie, this is not Olivia’s rollercoaster. It’s Roger’s. He was poor. Then he was an orphan. Now he’s rich. And living in the Patman mansion. With his bully. While dealing with his grief.

It’s not about how generous his girlfriend is for deigning to date a poor boy.

Olivia asks for the story. And it’s soooo romantic. *dead eyed stare*

Paul Patman [Wing: Who the fuck names their child Paul Patman?] was married to a horrible woman whom everyone hated. Roger’s mother worked for the Patmans. She fell in love with Paul. [Wing: Yes, yes, I’m sure it was love and not an employer with power over his employee taking advantage of it. Obviously it was love.] She moved away when she found out she was pregnant. Paul apparently wanted to divorce his horrible wife to marry the lovely Mrs Barrett (who doesn’t have a name, just FYI), but before he could do anything about it, he died in a plane crash.


I’m not hearing a word about how much Paul loves her. I’m hearing excuses. Oh sure, he wanted to divorce his wife. They always want to divorce their wives. And the wives are always horrible, not like you, sidepiece who has my heart. And he wasn’t even travelling to her. He was on business.

Oh, now we get clarification. Ok, maybe I’m wrong. Paul left his entire estate to Roger, to inherit at 21, unless something happened to his mother, in which case it would kick in then. And apparently Mrs Barrett refused any money Henry offered her.

Dude… no. I’m sorry, there’s pride and then there’s “I feel so strongly about this, I will send my child to school/PE in unsuitable clothing because I can’t afford it, and my child must suffer because of it.”

I’m not saying that such people don’t exist, but she’s supposed to be a good and loving mother. Just take the minimum child support payments to keep your child from being ridiculed and doing sports in day clothes. For fuck’s sake. You don’t have to explain where the money comes from, you can just say you got a bonus at work or something. Not to mention you’d rather that your child is falling asleep in class, and falling behind in his studies, because he’s doing a janitor job to keep your household afloat and the money to help is right there. Fuck you, you awful woman.

That’s not self-respect or independence, galloping idiocy that punishes your child. [Raven: I mean, it’s a bit Potter, all this. Perhaps Roger will be revealed to be the Chosen One in a later book, who was forced to live in poverty with the Muggle Barretts until he came of age, lest he be destroyed by Jessimort, She Who Should Not Be Named.] [Dove: Write it!]

And sure, we could talk about the gender pay gap or the massive unfairness of the low wages given to “unskilled workers” (I hate that term). But if the money is to give your child a better start in life and the alternative is that your child has to take a job on top of high school to stop you from going bankrupt… I know what I’d choose.

“I mean it,” Roger said. “I’m proud of my mother, and I know she always did what she thought was the right thing, no matter how hard it was.”

Roger disagrees with me. He worries that he doesn’t know how she would want him to act now he has a new surname (yes, people are calling him Roger Patman at this point). Don’t worry, Rog, I’ve got this. She’d want you to refuse the money. Go talk to Andy and Melissa McCormick about how hard it is to run a household with no income. She’d be so proud of you if you were homeless. You ignore that money. You have your pride, after all.

Over with the harpies, Jessica and her friends are discussing how the money might change Roger. Jessica is keeping an eye out for Elizabeth, and also thinking to herself that now Roger is rich, he’s actually very fuckable, which is typical of her.

Talk now turns to “the biggest social event of the season, if not the whole year“, which is going to be a new tag, because I want to know how often the “biggest event of the year” happens per year. The Patmans are hosting a “welcome to the 1%” party at the country club, and everyone is going. Lila asks who Jessica is going with, and she says she hasn’t decided, gaze firmly fixed on Roger. Caroline Pearce arrives and everyone leaves. Way to clear a room there, Caroline. [Raven: If she doesn’t take over Eyes and Ears soon, we riot.]

Over with Elizabeth and Todd, Jessica catches up with them and asks for a ride home later. Then she fucks off again. Good. Glad that took up some paragraphs. Then they discuss Roger, while Elizabeth does saintly sighs and worries about his wellbeing, because he’s all alone and she’s not sure the Patman family is particularly loving. I mean, yeah, they suck, but since everyone just responds with “Oh, that Bruce!” every time he gaslights, manipulates, and emotionally abuses people – or attempts to rape them – without telling anyone, and I don’t mean the police, I mean just warn other girls, why are you suddenly concerned about Roger? Everyone else can fend for themselves, right?

Todd asks what’s up with Regina, has Elizabeth noticed anything strange? Elizabeth thinks to herself that Regina is marvellous, she’s rich, beautiful and deaf! And she’s so SOOPAH about her disability that she doesn’t require any “special treatment” (I take that to mean “reasonable adjustments”), and is flourishing in the honours programme. Just fuck off. Disabilities require accommodation, and writing a character that can overcome theirs with pluck is insulting. It is not a weakness to require a workaround that a non-disabled person would not need. Also, Anna Reynolds wants a word. She wants to know how the Sweet Valley High faculty can immediately accommodate Regina with the little things, like not giving vital teaching while facing away from the lip-reading student, when the middle school could not and instead relied on the happenstance of another student knowing ASL to get her through school. She wants to know if that accommodation was made to Regina because she’s white and super rich, whereas Anna is Asian and not super rich. [Raven: It’s amazing what having parents that will fund a new wing can get a girl.]

Elizabeth thinks to herself that everyone has “forgotten” that Regina is deaf, but they haven’t forgotten how beautiful she is. Which is an observation that squicks me in some way that I can’t quite pinpoint. [Wing: It bothers me at least in part because (a) she’s beautiful so her disability doesn’t bother them and/or (b) she can’t be beautiful without them overlooking her disability and/or (c) she can’t be beautiful or cared for or loved without them ignoring her disability, she can’t be a whole person, she has to be this thing (beautiful) or that thing (deaf), not both.]

Todd then mysteriously ends the conversation, apparently just to annoy Elizabeth. And, presumably, the reader, providing that someone out there gives a shit what Todd thinks.

Over with Roger, it seems Elizabeth’s worries were right. He is called into Mrs Patman’s room, where she informs him that they have the Fergusons visiting for dinner tomorrow, and he must be a good little pet and perform his manners well – if in doubt, copy Bruce, he’s so marvellous with table manners (not so much with consent, decency, respect, kindness, emotional maturity… but wow does this boy know which fork to use!), and also, don’t wear those ugly fucking running shoes tomorrow.

Also, Mrs Patman doesn’t get a name either.

Then he is amazed by the size of the house. Apparently, his bedroom has a four-poster bed in the middle of his room.

A double bed in the middle of a room, captioned "sorry but if your bed isn't against at least one wall, you're not valid".
Only weirdos do this.

The room is very grand but not at all homey, and contains nothing he’s interested in. This becomes even more true when Bruce swaggers in and starts mocking how strange Roger looks when he’s wearing nice clothes.

They go down to dinner and Roger thinks to himself that he prefers Bruce’s open hostility to the fake friendliness of Mrs Patman.

The Fergusons are no better. Mr is old with small eyes, and Mrs is young and looks “bored out of her mind”. Dinner is awful and awkward. And then it becomes a positive disaster when he uses the wrong fork, and Bruce loudly calls attention to it, and everyone regards Roger as the classless asshole there. [Raven: The whole “plebs use the wrong fork” thing is SUCH an overused trope. “Oh look, multiple forks and knives, how ever will one cope?!” It’s the defacto indicator of upper/lower class divide in literally everything. And it’s one fucking rule! Use the cutlery from the outside in. That’s the order of use. You don’t have to recognise a fucking Quince Spatula or anything, just always go for the silverware furthest from the fucking plate. Philistines.] [Dove: Also, no socially awkward person has ever written this scene. Do you know what socially awkward people do? They wait for someone else to start. And if they’re not sure what to do, they copy them. This is why on a meal out from work, I ended up ordering a meal I was allergic to, because the environment was so intimidating, I didn’t want to go against the other three people at the table who ordered ordered mushroom stir-fry.]

I think I’ve told this story before, but let’s go: Allegedly the Queen was having dinner with a reporter or some such person. Someone without the decades of breeding and studying of the etiquette the upper classes require. She noticed that he was scooping up peas on his fork. This is not the done thing. Apparently you’re supposed to mash them into mush against the back of your fork. The Queen immediately mimicked his way of eating them, knowing that everyone around her would do the same, so that he would never know that he was doing it wrong.

Now, I don’t know if that story is true, but it’s much circulated around the internet. And of course, now everyone knows that this commoner was eating peas wrong. But even if it’s just a made up story, it’s a great example of how you deal with a dinner faux pas. Silently. Not with a pagger of people yelling, “Oh how uncouth!”

Basically, the Patmans and the Fergusons are assholes. And it gets worse when Roger knocks over a glass of wine. A single drop his Mrs Ferguson’s dress and she starts shrieking about how her dress is ruined, while everyone else glares at Roger hatefully. #StayClassy #NewMoneyAsFuck #HopeYouAllDie

Roger excuses himself and flees to his room.

(Also, yes, I know the Patmans are allegedly Old Money and they hate the Fowlers for being New Money, but I’ve watched Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham would never stand for this shit going on at his dinner table.) [Raven: There’s a whole damn episode in which Lord Grantham gives everyone at dinner the “you’ve got red on you” treatment…]

Over with the Wakefields, Jessica is exercising in Elizabeth’s room, because what Elizabeth’s is Jessica’s and what’s Jessica’s is Jessica’s. [Wing: To be fair, she’d break her neck if she tried to exercise in her pigsty of a room. Not like we can expect her to take care of her own space or anything.] She wants to know if Roger looks different to her twin.

“Maybe I’ll buy a new dress for the party,” Jessica said. “Something really elegant.” Already she was beginning to devise a plan. She pictured herself in a soft, full-length dress, dancing slowly in the arms of Roger Patman while the rest of the guests looked on and clapped. Olivia Davidson, she thought to herself, is hardly the right sort of girl to go out with Roger Patman. She may have been fine for Roger Barrett, but Roger Patman needs someone a little more exciting. Jessica grinned at her reflection in the mirror. She had a pretty good idea of who that more exciting girl might be.

Yes, now that he’s rich, he deserves you. And people will clap.

The phone rings and it’s Todd, ready to spill the Regina tea that he withheld earlier. Apparently she’s been leaving school early. How weird. Then he saw her in the parking lot after gym, when she saw him coming towards her, she left in a hurry.

Well, Todd, my personal take is: she’s leaving for reasons that are none of your business, and it’s obviously been ok’d with the school, since no teacher is bothered about it. As for the other thing, well… sorry hon, but you’re boring as fuck. I’d hurry away from you too.

They decide to meet up tomorrow, and Elizabeth should bring the car – apparently Todd, who doesn’t share his car with anyone, suddenly doesn’t have one. Todd will share his mysterious plan tomorrow.

I give zero fucks about this. There is nothing mysterious about a girl leaving school early. For all we know, she’s getting the dead skin eaten off her feet by piranhas. Sweet Valley is the kind of place where beauty is an acceptable reason to skip class. [Raven: I too wondered why anyone gave a pimply shit about this.]

The next morning is a Wakefield breakfast. There’s a C-plot where Jessica is making t-shirts for sale to fund the Cheerleaders’ Bitchery Fund or something. I’m not indulging it. If this was Twins Jessica, this would be some wild hi-jinks, where it turns out the dye she used affects the skin, and the school is furious with Jessica because they’ve all got blue skin, but then they realise it’s just in time to put on their Avatar-themed play about the environment penned by Elizabeth, so everything’s ok. And maybe there would even be a lolzy end, where the sprinklers go off, and everyone drips blue all over the stage!

But this is High. So I’m sure it’s just going to be bitchy. Maybe there will be a scene where Lois wants to buy one and she’s too fat for the shirt. Or maybe they’ll just be horrified that an ugly girl wants to wear their shirts. Anyway, unless it comes into the plot, I’m going to ignore it. [Note from the future: This is never mentioned again.] [Wing: I zero percent believe that they would handmake t-shirts for a fundraiser. Not sure I believe Sweet Valley High would even look at t-shirts as an adequate fundraisers but even if they did, they’d be fancy t-shirts ordered pre-decorated from a store.]

Over with Elizabeth, she enjoys the drive to school, while berating herself for using the car. She shouldn’t have asked. She only uses the car when she really needs it. Oh do fuck off. Your parents were fine with it. Stop martyring yourself over something that’s completely insignificant.

She sees Olivia and offers her a ride. She asks about Roger, but that’s largely irrelevant because the narrative can’t stop telling us how pretty Olivia is. She doesn’t even give an answer, other than “Most people wouldn’t think it would be hard to turn into a millionaire overnight. But—” Insightful. Thank you. But at least you’re pretty.

Elizabeth says that Olivia sure is a terrific girlfriend and is exactly what Roger needs right now.

Cool. That wasn’t an entirely pointless scene. Hey ghostie, loads of people can get by just fine without the validation of Elizabeth Wakefield.

Later that day, Elizabeth and Todd are camped out in her car, waiting for Regina to leave school. Elizabeth is feeling guilty about spying on her, but Todd thinks it’s the right thing to do because what if Regina’s in trouble?

Todd, you are a fucking moron. If she is in trouble, she’s in so much trouble that someone has gone to the trouble of clearing her absence with the school, which means, for all your angry punching, it’s beyond your capabilities to solve. And if she’s not in trouble, you are stalking a friend rather than asking her, “Hey, Regina, you leave early every day, why is that?” And if you’re not close enough to ask that question, then you need to learn to live with not knowing. You are not entitled to her privacy. [Raven: It’s weird, seeing Todd being the catalyst to justify Elizabeth’s interest / meddling in stuff. I guess it absolves her of any responsibility for interfering in the lives of others, but she didn’t need this human shield in Twins, that’s for sure.] [Wing: I think he tends to lean into the meddling unless it has to do with Jessica in which case he wants Liz to fuck the fuck off about it.]

They follow Regina. Just to convey how daft this is, she’s on foot, they’re in a car. I’m sure there’s nothing eye-catching about a student leaving school early, and being followed by a bright red Fiat Spider. Just a single human being crossing an otherwise empty parking lot and a bright red sports car following her. That’s very normal.

Regina boards a bus and they follow that. This is so intrusive. Just ask her, you fucking muppets. I’m sure this is leading to something that justifies their behaviour because that’s the kind of series we’re in, but in the real world, this is not a normal response.

[Wing: Bullshit. Regina with her rich parents would not ride the bus like this.]

Elizabeth refuses to plough through a red light and Todd shouts at her, then realises that he’s being a douche. For shouting at his girlfriend. He still thinks stalking a friend is totes normal.

Regina gets off the bus in front of Sweet Valley Medical Centre. She applies lipstick then a handsome man in his late thirties approaches her and leads her inside.

They both wonder what’s going on. Me? Well, everyone’s handsome in this series except for Lois Waller and the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth. So the handsome man is either a younger than expected dad – after all, Alice can allegedly pass for sixteen, despite being at least 36 (if she had Steven at 18 and he’s 18 now) – or he’s a friend/brother/uncle/whatever accompanying her to a very normal medical procedure.

They’re not having sex, because nobody has sex in this universe. Not even “Easy” Annie. And since the ghosties have no clue how any disability works, I’d say it’s entirely possible that she’s going for some kind of ongoing hearing test because Jessica talked to her, and we all know that Jessica talking fixes medical problems. Yeah, that sounds right.

They bump into Lila, who’s just come from the dentist, and she points out Roger and says that “everybody” is downtown right now (she didn’t see Regina). Yes. Four people is everybody.

Over with Roger, he’s being spoiled by Bruce’s father. New sports gear. Yay. And he thinks to himself that there are benefits to being a Patman.

I’m not sure why Henry is spoiling him if all the money from Paul – who was richer than Henry – came to Roger. Roger should have the money available to him, and shouldn’t need spoiling by another rich person, he is one. And it’s implied that Henry is paying because Roger mentions that Henry gave him a credit card. [Raven: Turns out? We like Henry. Who knew?!]

We cut to the Patmans’ barbeque, which I thought was the big “welcome to the fam” party, so haven’t mentioned it. But no, it’s a separate event. The party at the country club is the big event, this is the prelude.

The Wakefields are getting ready, Jessica is dressed all preppy, revising some of her looks from when she dated Bruce. She asks if Regina’s older man will be there. Everyone’s talking about it. Elizabeth wants more details, but all Jessica has is faux concern about Regina’s reputation.

Raven and I had an excellent conversation with Wing today – during which we all agreed that literally nobody but Jessica gives a stuff about reputation. All of this “people will talk” is in her head. She is the only person on the planet who judges people on who dates whom. [Raven: For me, the fact that Jessica doesn’t really have a social circle yet means that all her “this is a terrible thing” bullshit is entirely self-centred. At least when she was a Unicorn, the things reflected badly on THEM and not just HER. She’s so much easier to dismiss when we can say “well, she’s just a petty bitch” and move on.] [Wing: It could be a meaningful story about how she is so self-conscious that she’s obsessed with other people’s opinions of her, but it’s not that at all.]

Elizabeth, meantime, worries about why Lila would spread such a disgusting rumour to spite someone. I wasn’t even aware Lila had seen her. And if you can understand why your sister does such monstrous things, then how dare you judge equally toxic people?

At the party, Jessica schmoozes the Patmans, but Elizabeth still hasn’t twigged what that means. George and Todd comment on the tiny bikini one girl is wearing, Elizabeth laughs along with that, and then her Needy Person alarm goes off and she realises that she needs to comfort a doleful looking Olivia. [Raven: I think the boys were commenting on the microscopic size of Bruce’s budgie smugglers, rather than a girl’s bikini.] [Dove: That’s actually much better. I am all for shaming Bruce’s moose knuckle.] [Wing: People don’t use the phrase moose knuckle nearly enough.]

It turns out that Roger invited her to come over early so that he could introduce her to his new family, and when Mrs Patman answered the door, she gave her a cold look and said, “And who might this be?

Elizabeth says a comforting sentence and that’s that.

Over with Jessica, she’s still sucking up to the adults, even agreeing with Mrs Ferguson that teenagers suck. There’s no reason for the Fergusons to be there in the text, so I think we can all agree that they must be swingers waiting for the hot tub to be freed up, or in some kind of poly relationship.

Neil Freemount, Jessica’s date, is pouty because she hasn’t spent a single minute with him. She has spent the entire time kissing the Patman/Ferguson quadrangle’s collective butts.

Mrs Patman finally gets a name – she’s called Marie. [Wing: Love that name. Too bad I fucking hate Mrs Patman.] She comments to Roger that Jessica is just lovely, and who was that lowly pleb who came to the house earlier? Roger feels the judgment and slinks off. Jessica continues to follow Marie around, and they have a conversation that validates Jessica’s work. Roger does running, Marie doesn’t like that. He likes Olivia, Marie doesn’t like that. Jessica likes tennis, Marie loves that. Jessica doesn’t like Olivia, Marie loves that.

Confidentially, Roger needs a suitable friend. Someone he can take to the party at the country club.

Now she just has to convince Roger of the same thing.

I’ve not forgotten any of the shit Jessica has pulled, particularly in the last book, but this is more interesting to read than “I’m going to scheme against that girl and shame her in every way I can because ‘reputation’!” She’s grafting. She’s still hideous, but she’s doing more than walking into a room, saying something spiteful and then getting her own way. [Raven: Yep. Still a bitch, but at least she’s an interesting bitch.] [Wing: This is the sort of creative, intelligent manipulation on her part that I can still hate but it doesn’t infuriate me. She’s terrible, but it’s an interesting, at least a little clever kind of terrible.]

Elizabeth overhears Lila asking Regina about her “older man”.

“Why would you want to keep it a secret? He looks just like Paul Newman,”

… said no teenager in the 80s ever. This book came out in 1985. They should be ogling Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Rob Lowe (he seems very Sweet Valley), Matthew Broderick, even the Brat Pack. Paul Newman was sixty at the time this was published. I mean, I know Lila has daddy issues, but how many seventeen year olds you know want to bone a pensioner?

I will freely admit I have no idea who the kids are into right now. I’m old enough to still think that One Direction are current. That’s why I like the fact that Twins makes up stars. Johnny Buck might throw a 3pm concert, but we can’t google him and complain that the tweens have crushes on someone in their forties.

Elizabeth shares her worries with Enid and Todd, and together they decide that Lila is deliberately spreading the rumour that Regina’s dating a 30 year old because she’s threatened by another rich beautiful girl moving to Sweet Valley.

Todd wants to continue stalking her – which is frankly disturbing – but Elizabeth vetoes this, as she realises that it’s none of their business and they might be making things worse.

I rarely wave my Elizabeth flag, but let’s wave it right now. She is be dim and useless most of the time, so we must praise her when she’s not.

They agree to be friends with Regina instead of stalking her and talking about her behind her back. Then they eat. Loads, apparently. Without shame. Because they’re not fat.

Over with Jessica, she and Olivia get talking, and Olivia comments that she wishes she was more confident like Jessica, who realises that “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is the perfect way to get shot of her. She manipulates Olivia into getting dessert when nobody else is, and the ghostie is way to clumsy for this to pay off.

Olivia is mortified when Bruce shames her for having two plates, but Jessica jumps up and invites her to sit next to her. Olivia is completely humiliated and even Roger is embarrassed for her.

After they eat and wait a bit, Jessica suggests a diving contest. She flawlessly dives in. Olivia belly flops.

Jessica is pleased with her results. Um, ok. How is this an evil plan? I know we can always count on Bruce to body-shame any woman, but you can’t count on him being in the right place at the right time to humiliate Olivia. And what if she was a top diving champion? Jessica knows fuck all about her. We know fuck all about her (except that she’s really pretty).

This is not an evil humiliation plan, this is taking credit for pure happenstance. [Raven: But at least it’s something more than a snide whisper campaign. I’m here for something with a little more invention. That’s the Jessica Wakefield way!]

Bruce wanders over and invites Jessica to play tennis. [Wing: Because things always go so well when she plays tennis with him. I hope she kicks his ass, except that would require continuity.] Her mind whirls and she says not now, but they can play doubles later that week, maybe with Roger and Olivia? He agrees to Tuesday, but tells her to give Olivia some pointers beforehand. Again, for all we know, she is some kind of junior tennis champ, but dropped it in high school to focus on her poetry.

New chapter, some time later. The twins are “watching a movie on the brand-new videocassette recorder their father had installed” which is the most 1985 sentence I’ve ever read [Raven: I LOLed at “installed”], when Olivia calls for Jessica. Elizabeth is still utterly clueless as to why her scheming twin is now besties with Olivia, who is way to bohemian for Jessica’s tastes. She buys Jessica’s lie that Lila is after Roger and Jessica is helping Olivia keep him, but is a little uneasy about it. Eventually she comes to the conclusion that apropos of nothing, Jessica has become “considerate”.

Jessica agrees to go shopping with Olivia on Monday after school, because Olivia isn’t sure what kind of look tennis needs. Jessica is completely supportive and doesn’t let the cracks show at all. This is a Jessica I can get behind. I still don’t like her, but damn is she working. Historically, her grafts have been, “Oh, yes, Robin, we’re totally besties, excuse me for a minute while I vomit because you’re so ugly. But don’t worry, we’re besties despite your fatness and ugliness.” This Jessica is coming across as warm and sincere.

I can live with a scheming Jessica that appears to be kind. That explains why everyone loves her. I’d love her to come across as a hotter Elizabeth, but evil underneath. For the general consensus to be “Those twins are so nice!” and not “Well, Elizabeth is nice, but Jessica knifed a girl in the throat at lunch for wearing the same nail polish as her. It wasn’t even the same shade. Just the same brand.” [Wing: Can’t stop rereading and laughing.]

We cut to Monday after school where Elizabeth and Todd witness Regina’s older man pick her up from school. Lila and Caroline also see it happen. You are all so stupid. If this was cloak and dagger, do you think Regina would be dim enough to get picked up as school lets out? [Wing: How convenient that she is suddenly not walking and taking the bus.]

Olivia and Jessica go shopping, and Olivia tries on some tennis whites. She doesn’t like how she looks in it, and Jessica warmly applauds her, basically telling her that “sexy is confidence, if you have more confidence in your normal athletic wear, then you’re far sexier in that. Be your best and sexiest self the way that suits you!” which is amazingly empowering. Kind of galling that the one message given out in this series that I can wholeheartedly get behind is a work. [Raven: It’s weird that all the “scheming” schtick that Jessica spouts is actually great advice. Mostly.] [Dove: Yeah, it’s really something that the only time SV can give a healthy message is when they’re gaslighting someone.]

Olivia says she isn’t much of a player, and Jessica says that she hasn’t played for ages either, and she has asked Bruce to go easy on them. This is true, she did. And then she and Bruce had a big laugh about how they never go easy on people. But I’m here for this Jessica, so nicely done.

Next up, they go to a shop that carries designer lines. I know you all think it’s going to be called something like Sweet Valley Designs, but you’re all wrong. It’s called The Designer Shop. I bet you all feel very stupid about that now. [Wing: I can’t believe that’s actually creative in comparison.]

Jessica points out a gorgeous strapless gown that costs $290, which I think is a lot for a party, but adjusted for inflation, it’s actually $799.92, which is even worse. [Wing: Damn, I never spent more than $400 on my formal dance dresses (in today’s money, much less in 1990s money). I was going to say I never spent that on high school formal dance dresses, but I actually bought a very dramatic formal dress with a fucking cape a couple years ago for far less than Jessica just spent on that dress.]

Olivia has already bought fabric and plans to sew a gorgeous one of a kind dress, and even if she hadn’t, she hasn’t got $300 to drop on a dress she’ll wear once. To be honest, that seems a lot even for the Wakefields, right? That’s more of a Lila dress, I’d say.

Jessica then confides in Olivia that she overheard Roger and Todd talking, and Roger is having a hard time fitting in with the Patmans, and he wishes that things were easier. You know, if his girlfriend wasn’t so… well, if she cared about things normal people care about. Like clothes.

This hits Olivia hard, and Jessica adds that maybe Olivia needs to prioritise Roger’s feelings in this period of transition. There’s no fully nice way to drop that kind of info, but Jessica does come across as “that friend who’s really nice, but a bit painfully blunt”, rather than the toxic harpy she usually is.

Can we keep this ghostie please? She gets it. I don’t even hate Elizabeth right now.

The next day at lunch, Lila and Jessica giggle over Jessica’s scheming and Lila is very supportive, she can’t wait to see Roger with someone else. It might be self-serving, since she’s in a snit that he didn’t want her, but it also reads as actual friendship. Friendship between two scheming harpies who don’t care who they hurt, but friendship, nonetheless. [Wing: We were literally complaining on our call that one of the big problems with SVH compared to SVT is that there are no actual friendships and then holy shit we get this. We should complain about not having Buy An Island money next time.]

They gossip about Regina and her older man, and Lila says they were all over each other, which is very much not true. Then Caroline appears and Jessica does her best to shut it down because Caroline is a gossip, [Wing: As opposed to everyone else around you and yourself, Jess?] but Lila spills the tea eagerly.

Caroline then asks who they’re going to the Patman party with, but they say they’re undecided. Caroline then jumps in to tell them about her boyfriend, Adam. He’s the son of her father’s colleague. He lives two hours away, and they’re just besotted with each other. Unfortunately, he lives two hours away and can’t make the party because of the distance. [Raven: Ah, the good old Canadian Boyfriend trope. Lovely.]

Wing and I are forever jabbing at each other about how long an acceptable driving distance is, I’m basically at “5 minutes or less” and she’s somewhere around “as long as it’s less than a week”. But hyperbole aside, is this reasonable? Would Ostrich have driven two hours to go to “the biggest social event of the year” with you (assuming, in this alternate timeline at least one of you gives a stuff about that)? [Wing: Would and has. Actually, three hours at the time. I once drove twelve hours round trip to go to a book signing by an author I love. Look, it’s a big country and there are big states in this part of it and Ostrich and I both love to drive. In fact, we’re making a twelve hour round trip drive this weekend to attend a memorial service. We once drove for hours to get to a family holiday party. Normally a three hour drive, but there was an ice storm and we were stubborn and when you can’t drive more than 45 mph in four-wheel drive, a three hour drive more than doubles. So, in short: Yes, we drive long distances for each other and important events all the time.]

Over with Elizabeth and Todd, they decide to sit with Regina. As they approach, Caroline asks why she’s dating someone old enough to be her father. Regina runs off in response, it doesn’t really clarify whether she’s furious or upset, and I would actually like to know, because that would be relevant.

Also, what a major reaction. If someone said something that was so patently daft to me, I would fire up my best scornful tone and ask, “Who on earth told you such a ridiculous lie?” and then turn back to my lunch, utterly bored by the nonsense.

This heart-rending scene puts Elizabeth off her food. She is deeply worried about “the deaf girl”. Yeah, it does that quite often when talking about Regina. Don’t do this. You are defining her by her disability. In this description, she is deaf before she’s a girl.

We cut to Jessica arriving at the Patman Mansion, ready to play tennis on their courts. Olivia seems down, and comments that Roger has been showing her around. Her tone is “dry”, and this pings with Jessica. Roger, on the other hand, is having a wonderful time, telling them both how much he loves it here.

They walk down to the courts to meet Bruce. Three of them are in tennis whites, Olivia is wearing sweatpant shorts and a baggy t-shirt. Olivia comments to Jessica that she should’ve bought the tennis outfit, but Jessica reassures her.

Jessica then takes control of the situation, suggesting a battle of the genders. She eagerly pairs up with Olivia and tells her not to worry, if it’s a hard shot, she’ll cover it.

The first game is awful for Olivia, she misses everything and Jessica covers for her – still finding time to boost Olivia’s spirits.

Bruce trash talks his cousin, and although nobody says anything about Olivia’s abilities, she feels awful, whereas Roger seems unphased by Bruce’s asshattery.

For a couple of games, Jessica covers Olivia every single time, but she reaches a point where she changes strategy, and occasionally drops back and tells Olivia to take the shot. This culminates in Olivia being constantly confused, and eventually falls on her face, trying to hit the ball.

“Maybe we should take a break,” Jessica suggested.

Roger’s face fell. “You don’t want to stop, do you, Liv?” he asked.

Olivia shrugged. “I don’t care,” she said, her lower lip trembling.

“I think we should stop,” Jessica insisted. “You were terrific,” she told Olivia. “Wasn’t she terrific? I don’t know if I could have played that well when I first started.”

Behold Jessica, the super best friend. Roger is really disappointed that the games are ending, but Jessica stands by her super bestie and offers to drive her home, reasoning that if she leaves Olivia and Roger alone, they’ll make up. On the way home, she says that boys are so silly and competitive about sports, and Olivia is grateful for all the backup Jessica gave her.

Ok, I like this Jessica. I will take believable scheming Jessica over the shrieking Karen we’ve had so far. [Raven: Agreed. Again, she’s actually saying all the right things to Olivia. She’s encouraging her to be herself, then helping her in tennis by taking the hard shots at first before leaving the shots to Olivia to give her a chance to shine. And after the fact, she’s very supportive. It’s bizarrely satisfying.] [Wing: I like when Jess is clever in her manipulations and also may accidentally be doing some good.]

The next day, Regina approaches Elizabeth and asks her if she’s heard the rumours about her. Elizabeth says yes, but she knows they’re rubbish. Regina asks if they can talk after school.

Naturally, Todd wants to know all about it. Elizabeth thinks his obsession with Regina shows that he’s “sensitive” and is not a giant red flag.

Kamie (from Catfish) waving red flags
Red flags as far as they eye can see.

After school, Elizabeth and Regina hang out in Regina’s room. Where she also has a four poster bed in the centre of the room. Ghostie, are you ok? Only the weirdest of all weirdos doesn’t put their bed against at least one wall. Basically, the rule is: one wall: normal; two walls: single sleeper or accommodating partner; three walls: wtf?; Four walls: way too far; zero walls: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN AND WE ARE FRIGHTENED OF YOU. [Raven: I also worry about people without televisions. What do they point their furniture at?] [Wing: Each other? So they can talk? This is like that time a former boss of mine couldn’t understand what we did during dinner if we didn’t watch television. Also: if I had the space, I’d put my bed in the center of the room, especially if it was a big, dramatic bed.]

So, Roger and Regina are both not human, based on their avoidance of walls.

Sidenote: The Morrow house is much nicer than the Patman house. They’re both about the same size, but the Morrows decorate in a friendly and inviting way. The Patmans are stuck up assholes who paint “die plebs, die” on the walls.

Regina humble brags about how embarrassing the situation is. You see, Lane Townsend isn’t her older man boyfriend, he’s a talent scout who spotted her and is going to make her the next big thing in modelling. She’s going to be on the cover on Ingenue next month. How embarrassing.

Anyway, she got permission to leave school early for the shoots – didn’t I call this earlier? Of course you can leave early for beauty reasons.

Elizabeth must keep her secret. You see, Regina always vowed that nobody would fight her fights for her, you know, because she’s a plucky disabled, and so she’s not going to say anything, and then everyone will just find out that she wasn’t boning an old dude.

I mean, they won’t, Regina. They’ll see you on the cover of a magazine and assume that’s why you were boning an old dude. Girls don’t get anywhere on talent. Never happens. Literally every woman – particularly the pretty ones – got where they are by using sex.

Also, I’m 42. 30 is not old. I want to be 30 again.

Elizabeth asks if her family knows, and Regina says she told them when it was all finalised that she’d be a cover girl. Uh… isn’t she sixteen? Don’t you need to be eighteen to sign a contract? And if she hasn’t signed a contract, then she is being massively screwed over by whoever is getting paid for her pictures. [Wing: That might mean she told them when it came time to sign the contract she’d finalized, which likely means she was being screwed over, but I do hope her mom stepped up to fix things in it.]

Her mother used to be a cover girl too, quite a famous one, and she kept it up until Regina was born. Well, I would speculate, until Regina showed up as a bump. Apparently she was on medication while she was pregnant, and that may have caused Regina’s deafness.

Apparently, given that overview, she continued to model while pregnant with Nicholas, who was born two years before Regina. [Wing: She could have stopped modeling while pregnant, or she could have modeled for maternity lines, I guess.]

Regina smiled, her face clearing. “Anyway, I think the modeling became a kind of symbol for her of something she’d done that I could never do. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her as happy as the day I told her about the magazine cover.”

Why was it something Regina could never do? Because she’s deaf? I know it’s the 80s, but even so, that’s an ugly thing to say to your child, even couched in “it was a different time”. [Raven: I mean, I’m pretty sure I can’t look at someone and say “they look deaf.” … Unless they are brandishing an ornate ear trumpet, naturally. Fucking deaf hipsers.]

When Elizabeth gets home, she calls Todd to say that she’s spoken to Regina, but she can’t spill the tea. Todd gets incredibly sulky about it.

HE IS ENTITLED TO KNOW A GIRL’S SECRETS. HE’S LITERALLY NOT SPOKEN TO HER ONCE OR EVEN SHARED A SCENE WITH HER IN THIS BOOK (MAYBE EVER), BUT DAMNIT, SHE NEEDS TO SHARE HER FUCKING SECRETS WITH HIM. [Raven: I saw this more as a sulky snit at ELIZABETH’s secrecy, rather than Regina’s. Still not cool, but a little less batshit-weird.]

After school in the Oracle office, Elizabeth is unable to write Eyes and Ears because the only story she’s got is Regina’s, and she can’t publish that. Olivia is feeling self-conscious about her fashion choices and even Elizabeth’s validation doesn’t help. Then Jessica arrives. She and Olivia are going to hem her dress. Elizabeth knows that Jessica sucks at sewing but ultimately decides that on this occasion, she’s already been far too nosy, and she’s just going to let it play out.

I also like this Elizabeth. Well done. You are not responsible for Jessica’s nonsense. I just hope you also learn that you have no right to forgive it when you are not the victim.

Over at Olivia’s house, she has designed what I think sounds like a lovely dress in fabric (from Greece – and we just love Europe, don’t we!) in lilac with little flowers on it.

The dress didn’t seem to have much shape to it, though it was certainly long enough. Olivia had designed a deep neckline that plunged in a vee, and had made a soft, gathered sash in the same material to cover the waistline. The dress was sleeveless, and actually, Jessica thought, walking around the bed to get a good look at it, it wouldn’t look half bad as a bathing suit cover-up. But to wear to the biggest party of the season? She shuddered at the thought.

I’m not sure how a dress with a deep neckline pulled in at the waist has no shape, but then again, I suppose Jessica only wears spandex mini-dresses, where their shape comes from being skin-tight. Just to be clear, I’m not slut-shaming her choice, I’m brain-shaming her limited appreciation of clothing.

Also, deep fucking admiration for anyone who sews their own clothes. I’ve watched Sewing Bee. It’s hard. I can’t even make leg-warmers for my My Little Ponies.

Jessica couches her feedback in loving support. It’s lovely, but it’s a bit informal, she doesn’t want to show Roger up in this troubling time, and we all know what a snob Mrs Patman is, right? She once made Bruce’s date cry in a restaurant because she ate lobster wrong. Maybe we should go shopping and find something a bit dressier, so that when everyone sees her and Roger, they won’t find any fault.

This utterly defeats Olivia, who refuses the invitation to shop, and shows Jessica out, thanking her for her feedback and support. Then she loathes herself for being all wrong. She’s not right for Roger any more, and maybe it’s time to bow out.

Wow. This is awesome. I mean, not the slow deterioration of Olivia’s confidence, happiness and self-worth, but I love a more subtle Jessica that can do this without flashing eyes, silly screaming/kicking tantrums, or spiteful comments. [Raven: One thing that does annoy me is that Olivia is pretty much the fashion blueprint for Mandy Miller in Twins, who Jessica counted as a best friend and whose individuality was seen as a boon. But here, it’s clear that Jessica hates anyone who dresses at a right-angle to the norm.]

Over with Roger, Mrs Patman is interrogating him in a very cold manner under the guise of getting to know each other. She doesn’t like running, it’s ugly and sweaty and not social. I guess we can just ignore the fact that Roger was competing with Bruce for that scholarship in a track event. Also, she’s not keen on him being a doctor, it’s a bit messy. Oh fuck off. I’m all for posh people having weird takes on jobs, but what the fuck? [Raven: Huge Spoiled Rich vibes from Mrs Patman here.]

My understanding of rich people – having debated extensively with them on Quora – is that they don’t understand why someone who currently works three minimum wage jobs to support themselves and their two children, doesn’t just retrain as a doctor and get a much better income. It’s not that they don’t like doctors because it’s “messy”. [Wing: I don’t buy the not liking doctors because it’s a messy job, but I would buy being a doctor not being high-class enough for old money rich.]

She then moves on to Olivia, who’s an awkward mess. Roger feels torn on this, he wants to make them happy, but doesn’t want to ditch his girlfriend. He doesn’t actually ever describe her as such, just his “best friend”, which… ouch.

Then Henry appears and tells him that they’re happy to have him here, which pushes Roger further into the “I must make them happy” camp.

New chapter, some time later. In the lunch line Regina and Elizabeth talk about the upcoming magazine and how Regina needs to meet Lane again. Lila shows up just in time to overhear the latter.

That afternoon, Lila stalks Regina to Lane’s office. She manages to find out what’s going on and has the most arrogant reaction possible:

Lila couldn’t believe her ears. Regina Morrow was appearing in Ingenue magazine! Did that mean she wasn’t having an affair at all! Lila’s head reeled. She was so stunned she hardly knew what to think. There must be some way to convince Mr. Townsend not to print her picture, Lila thought wildly. He’ll take one look at me, she assured herself, and he’ll tear Regina’s pictures up and start from scratch. “When did you say I could see Mr. Townsend?” she asked the woman at the desk.

Also, no word on why Lila’s doing this yet, so I guess we’re still going with girls are jealous bitches. She makes an appointment to see Lane, assuming that after one glance at her, he’ll tear up every photo of Regina, declaring her as the ugliest girl he’s ever seen. [Raven: I think it was this part that soured the book for me. I’m all for Lila getting more page-time, but the Ghostie didn’t supply Reason One for her to be acting like such a tool. Why does she need to convice the agency to pull Regina’s picture? Give us something, and I’m for it. But nothing? it’s irrational and unbelievable and boring.] [Dove: Sometimes in life, people appear to have utterly inexplicable motives. That’s why we like books. Everyone has a reason for what they do. Why oh why is “because I want to” / “I guess we’ll never know why” the one realistic thing SV imported into their universe?]

Over with Roger and Olivia, she has come to the conclusion that she can’t go to the party as his date. This escalates into an argument, actually very reasonably. Olivia is feeling heartbroken and self-conscious and just not good enough. Roger is disappointed and feels obligated to defend the Patmans and their snobby opinions, and Olivia takes this as his feelings being more important than hers. He’s just upset that he’s going to look a fool if his date backs out on him. Roger feels that if she cared about his feelings, she wouldn’t be breaking the date.

Both walk away angrily, and only minutes later, the anger becomes sadness. Again, all very fair.

Over with the twins, Elizabeth has decided all of that staying out of things has gone far enough. It’s time to be nosy again.

“Jess, I just ran into her downtown,” Elizabeth told her sister, “and she looked absolutely terrible!”

“What was she wearing?” Jessica asked, looking interested at last.

Elizabeth gave her twin a dirty look. “That’s not what I meant,” she informed her.

Ok, I lol’d.

Apparently Elizabeth and Olivia chatted, and she’s now up to date on the breakup. Jessica is suitably worried about this development and jumps to her feet, claiming she’s going to offer her consolations.

I’m not sure why Elizabeth came in so furious to the conversation, this is the one time where Jessica is doing her plan so subtly that nobody has raised an eyebrow. Her victim hasn’t even noticed yet. And Jessica is still playing the part. Of all the times for Elizabeth to become suspicious of her sister’s behaviour, this is a really weird fucking choice.

As it turns out, Jessica is using the Exact Wording clause. She never said she’s going to see Olivia.

Jessica love bombs Roger with sympathy and understanding. She explains that since his change in circumstances, he’s become more outgoing, and it’s probably really hard for Olivia’s shyness. Then she becomes more overt: Olivia is jealous of your wealth and was going to stand you up just so people would laugh at you. Which is funny because everyone loves you. You’d find it so easy to find a new date. Oh, and poor me, I’m so unlike you, I don’t have a date yet. Woe. Sadness. Loneliness.

And now Jessica is Roger’s date, he thinks it’s all his idea, and he even thinks Mrs Patman was right all along.

Roger… is not very smart. [Raven: That’s janitors for ya. /joke]

He tells Mrs Patman about it, and she’s delighted. Suddenly, Roger pivots. He doesn’t want to make a beautiful and suitable couple, he wants to go with Olivia.

Back to Lila and her pointless bitchery. She has a meeting with Lane, and asks about the competition to find the Ingenue cover model. Lane says that the minute he saw Regina, he cancelled the competition, nobody could be prettier than her.

“She’s a pretty unusual girl,” Lane went on thoughtfully, not noticing the expression on Lila’s face. “Not only is she beautiful, and absolutely unspoiled as far as appearance goes—but it turns out that’s she’s managed to overcome a real handicap and live a normal life. More than normal, in fact. Ingenue was so impressed that they decided to use her on the cover of this month’s issue and run a full feature story about her inside.”

(bold mine)

How the fuck do live a “more than normal” life? Like, surely if your life is more than normal, it’s actually abnormal? Normal is normal. You can’t achieve more normal than someone else.

Oh, and one more thing: FUCK OFF. We disabled do not need your effusive validation.

Lila decides that Regina must be banging him, thinking “Wasn’t that how a lot of models and actresses got their start?” – so, everyone drink, I called it. He mentions that his wife was the one to spot Regina, and I’m honestly surprised this stops Lila’s thoughts. Like, if you assume a very pretty girl has to sleep her way to the front page, why on earth would you assume that marriage would stop that exploitative sex? And it’s the 80s, so it would be fine for Regina to be a marriage wrecking slut and the married man to be a helpless victim who in the throes of her reckless passion accidentally made the wrong call.

[Wing: Or she’s banging the wife.]

Lane ends the conversation with some feedback: while Lila is pretty, her facial structure is not right for modelling, she’d look all flat in photos.

I know this is a “ha ha! Let’s laugh at the arrogant pretty girl who’s not pretty enough! She got beaten by a deaf girl!” which an ugly message anyway, but I just want to point to the covers of these books and point out that Lila is very pretty. In my opinion, she’s the prettiest character we’ve seen so far. Therefore, her features look just find rendered in 2D. [Raven: As a counterpoint, I did laugh. But I have a thing for faces / heads that are weirdly proportioned.]

Anyway, Lila tears out of there swearing vengeance. On Regina, that is. Not the man who just said her looks weren’t right. Obviously. [Raven: Can we take a minute to appreciate Lila’s cunning plan to oust Regina from the Ingenue cover? It’s simply “turn up and look beautiful”. While I don’t rate her intelligence here, I can’t knock her fucking confidence.]

We cut to the afternoon of the party and Roger is in Mr Patman’s dressing room looking for cufflinks, when Mrs Patman comes in, talking on the phone to her friend Marjorie, who I’m just going to assume is Mrs Trophy Wife Ferguson because I find it impossible to believe Mrs Patman can have more than one friend.

Mrs Patman is delighted that Roger has ditched Olivia for Jessica. Now, she’s not sure how Jessica did it, but the two of them talked about how unsuitable Olivia was, and now she’s out and Jessica’s in, so RESULT.

Roger is shook, I tell you. SHOOK! He vows to tell Jessica to fuck off and get Olivia to understand what happened. [Raven: Yaaaaawn… Roger overhears the evil plan. How unimaginative.]

He forms a cunning plan. He invites himself over to the Wakefield Compound where he meets with the twins and claims that he’s had an epiphany: he can’t enjoy the party when Olivia is home alone so sad. He needs them both to come with him to explain it all to her and get her to forgive him. Also, naturally, he cannot be Jessica’s date.

Jessica nopes out of that one tout suite and calls Neil to be her date to the party instead.

Well, that was a terrific plan. Was that how it was supposed to go, you Machiavellian mastermind? What did that do? Was that your revenge? The momentary awkwardness as Jessica realised that you knew she’d manipulated things?

This is an even worse plan than when the twins borrowed a dog and all three of them wore silly bows to apologise to Brooke for pretending to be Jennifer, the third twin.

In both cases: utterly pointless. It’s much less a plan and more a way to pad out an extra chapter to hit the word count. [Raven: I expected so much more of a denouement here. Such a damp squib.]

A much better plan would be: I’ll no-show Jessica tonight. She’ll get all done up, expect to be the centre of attention, she’ll shoo away Todd and Elizabeth’s offer for a ride, because she wants to arrive with me. And then I don’t show up. She doesn’t get to go to the party with anyone, much less the boy she schemed for. And I’ll be there with Olivia, in her handmade dress. And we’ll have a rollicking good time.

Elizabeth and Roger go to Olivia’s house, where her mother immediately fawns all over Elizabeth. She’s a big fan of the Eyes and Ears column. Oh do fuck off. Is there no other newspaper in this goddamned town? Why are the adults such fans of the Wakefields. It’s cringe as fuck.

[Wing: What the fuck kind of parent supports the petty gossip that is Eyes and Ears in the SVH newspaper? … oh, well, a Sweet Valley parent, clearly.]

They talk to Olivia and reveal the dastardly plan. Elizabeth doesn’t even defend Jessica, which is progress. And then they both agree that if they hadn’t been so insecure, Jessica’s plan wouldn’t have worked.

No. Just fucking no. You don’t get to take half the blame for a shallow harpy splitting you up because she honed in on your low self-worth and chipped away at it while one of you is grieving for a lost parent, and the other is overwhelmed by how to support their partner.

Note: that said, Roger hasn’t mentioned his mother at all except for that quote very early on when he said he was proud of her. I don’t think he’s noticed she’s dead. He’s been too busy buying tennis clothes and feeling awkward about forks.

Olivia then takes Elizabeth to a side and requests her validation, both on the dress she made and her relationship with Roger. Because apparently she still trusts that face where both are concerned.

Elizabeth naturally gives her Wakefield blessing and Olivia is now allowed to do what she wants. [Raven: Becuase that’s what matters… twin-set-and-pearls Elizabeth Wakefield’s fashion advice.]

Elizabeth flies home in a rage and immediately hands over her spine when Jessica claims that she tried really hard to make Olivia feel better, but she was just really bad at it. Also, Jessica is furious that Regina’s on the front cover of a magazine and Elizabeth doesn’t seem surprised. Jessica virtuously says she never believed the rumours Lila was spreading about Regina. Also, Todd called for her and it’s important, something about Regina.


So, let’s summarise the party:

Roger makes a very lightly snide comment to Jessica, and that’s that.

Olivia and Roger are happy.

Jessica and Neil are happy.

Elizabeth and Todd are mostly happy, although he’s still a bit sulky about not being told about the magazine cover. Because his whole universe creepily revolves around Regina.

Mrs Patman and Mrs Ferguson (who is the Marjorie from earlier), are very rude to Olivia, Roger is polite back. Mrs Patman drags him off to reprimand him for being rude, and Mr Patman puts them all in their place. Roger is family, his friends are welcome here. And Mrs Ferguson is a galloping bitch who really needs to fuck off. He doesn’t phrase it that way, but that was very much the gist of his statement.

Mr Patman seems oddly nice, his wife a complete nightmare. Which is always how these things are written.

[Wing: God, I have a hard time believing Mr Patman is Bruce Patman’s father. How is the younger so terrible and the elder at least somewhat decent?]

We cut to Lila who still wants to murder Regina for the whole model thing. I don’t care.

And then we have the lead-in to the next book as Caroline gloats about how romantic the letters are from her boyfriend, Adam. He’s coming for a visit in the next week or two.

Final Thoughts:

I kind of liked it. It wasn’t as spiteful and basic as I was convinced it would be. Coming off the back of the previous book – which was so mean-spirited, I really wanted to walk out of the project – I thought this would be more of the same.

Instead we have a subtle manipulative Jessica. This is a well-written Jessica. I want to see more of this. I’d also like to see an upgraded Elizabeth. She still has no spine. She gave up at the first hurdle.

Or I’d have liked this to be the one time Elizabeth missed the evil and was resolutely standing by Jessica. “No, but they played tennis, they’re friends. I don’t get why you’re saying she was being mean.” Or “Well, Olivia, if she gave you feedback on the dress, it was your job to tell her she was being too blunt.” And completely missed the whole manipulation.

Either make her smart and moral and stick to it, or make her devotedly thinking the best of her sister with the limited information she has. Do not make her “smart”, allegedly moral, and then have her forgive Jessica’s behaviour against other people.

Basically, if I steal Wing’s writing and publish it under my name, Raven has no right to forgive me on behalf of Wing. I know we all know this, but Francine doesn’t.

Also, I hate Todd. His obsession with Regina was horrifying. What the actual fuck is going on there? And I have read recaps of every single book – admittedly, a decade ago – so to the best of my knowledge, this isn’t heading to a love triangle. This is just a guy who feels entitled to know an acquaintance’s secrets. Also on the topic of Regina, Lila’s motivation? Fuck you for asking. Because girls are mean, I guess.

I’m grading this as Good. Be aware that I’m grading on a curve. I would read every single Good in Twins before reading this. Probably more than once. But this is probably the best written and paced High so far. The characters are better fleshed out and seem to function well (aside from Elizabeth and her spongey spine).

[Raven: I liked parts of this.

The stuff I liked? Jessica Wakefield, which is a big surprise. Sure, she was still evil, but at least it was a considered and intelligent evil, and not just a screaming fit and basic bitchiness evil. I liked Papa Patman, and some of the Old Money shithousery. And I did like the fact that Lila had a fair few scenes in the sub-plot.

But the ending? Sucked monkey balls. The whole story just fizzled out like a catherine wheel drenched in piss. Roger overheard Queen Bitch Patmum spilling tho whole plot, and then… did what, exactly? Did the square root of diddly-fuck, yet still was lauded as the catalyst for the end of the narrative. His plan for revenge agains Jessica? Weak. His plan to big up Olivia and show a little ass with the Patmans? Weak. Oh, and having Lila act against Regina without rhyme or reason? Nah, not for me.

So overall, a meh. With a positive slant for some sort of Jessica redemption.]

[Wing: After my fury about Jessica in recent books, I can’t believe how much I enjoyed her in this book. She’s still terrible, but it’s the kind of terrible I enjoy reading about! She’s clever and manipulative and subtle (at least comparatively for Sweet Valley books), her motivations make sense, and she was a lot of fun to read.

The Lila thing came out of nowhere and added nothing to the book except for additional pages. I can see her being jealous someone else is getting attention, but this felt more focused rage without a reason why. Ableism, maybe? I’d expect that to be more blatant in SVH, though.

I’ll give it a meh, but a surprisingly good meh.]