Sweet Valley High #23: Say Goodbye

Sweet Valley High #23: Say Goodbye by Francine Pascal

Title: Say Goodbye

Tagline: Can Elizabeth survived the heartache of losing Todd?

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield’s heart is breaking; Todd Wilkins, her longtime boyfriend, is leaving Sweet Valley and moving to Vermont. Todd and she have only one week left. After that the only boy Elizabeth has ever loved will be gone – forever.

The Cover:

Weird yellow color that clashes with the red font for Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High at the top of the cover and the purple Say Goodbye at the bottom. Within the SVH circle badge we have an extremely short blond girl clearly meant to be Liz and a very tall brunette boy who is therefore Todd. She wears a pink collared shirt, maybe a polo, and has her blond hair partially pulled back at the temples, and dramatically holds her hand to her temple. She stares off into the distance. He wears a black collared shirt, maybe also a polo, under a brown leather jacket (I think that’s what it is), stares down at Liz, and has his hand wrapped around her wrist in a way that looks more controlling than comforting.

Initial Thoughts

I’m still a little discombobulated from reading the books in the wrong order for our recaps. That super edition continues to throw me off, and I’m not sure why.

Anyway, I’m not looking forward to t  his one at all because I could not care less about Liz and Todd’s relationship. We already had to deal with a Wakefield sibling using the “love of their life” to death, I’m not sure a move is really going to make this story carry true emotional weight.

Ah well. Here we go.

[Dove: *crosses arms* I’ve seen this episode of Boy Meets World, and before I even started reading this, I knew every story beat. The difference between this and BMW, is that I care about Cory and Topanga. Todd and Liz? They can drown in the Pacific Ocean that matches her perfect size 6 eyes for all I care.]

[Raven: Is this a kissing book? I’ve a feeling that this is a kissing book. *runs away and hides*]


Jessica dramatically demands Elizabeth’s attention, as usual. Why is she so frantic to talk to her sister? Does she need the shoes from her feet? Does she need an alibi for all the people she’s buried in the Mercandy backyard? Does she want to pull some Twin Magic For Adults (Steven can only dream)?

Nope! Obviously she has the hot gossip that Todd is moving to Vermont and she must know the truth of things immediately!

Liz wails and sobs that it feels like part of her is dying, really giving Jess a run for Most Dramatic Wakefield. She’s heartbroken enough that Jess tears up in sympathy, since we know she’s capable of love and also gives a goddamn fuck about Todd.

(Okay, to be fair, she’s upset because she adores Liz [allegedly, still not convinced SVH has done enough — or anything — to build an actual friendship between them] and seeing her beloved sister break down makes her feel helpless.)

We do get a bit of continuity in that Jess admits she was interested in Todd herself before Liz and Todd started dating seriously. No mention of that false rape accusation. I know we’re supposed to pretend that never happened, and I know some readers like to remind us that Todd doesn’t know about it, but this is in Jess’s own head! She knows exactly what she did!

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is Jess, she wouldn’t admit she did wrong even if we were going with it as canon and it’s in character for her to ignore something she did wrong hard enough that she truly forgets it ever happened, but it happened! And I remember!) [Raven: I remember too. The annoying this is I think that the characters all remember too… but they just don’t care and make excuses for her appalling behaviour. #foreshadowing]

Despite how verklempt she is now over the idea of Todd and Liz not being a package deal any longer, and despite how she acknowledges his myriad of good points (like his rage whenever another guy so much as breathes near Liz? or his disgusted judgment when Liz tries to help her sister despite him not knowing all the truth of Jess?), she thinks he’s a little boring and has been trying to break them up for ages now. [Dove: Well, she’s right. He’s super boring. But so’s Liz, so leave ’em together. They can live boringly ever after.]

Whatever, moving on. (Picture me throwing up my hands at this point.)

Todd leaves in one week, and Liz is heartbroken.

Jess tries to cheer her up by suggesting that Todd might be able to commute back on weekends. After all, she read about a couple of executives who did that between California and New York.

Liz points out they are not executives and don’t have access to that kind of money. Vermont might as well be New Zealand for what it costs! [Raven: OH NO, NOT NEW ZEALAND?! Won’t somebody think of the Hobbits?!]

Damn, Liz, you deserve that Most Dramatic crown!

I do love that Jess has no concept of money, which is completely in character for her.

Jess tries to come up with another way to make her sister feel better and in only a few short moments talks herself around to the idea that Todd leaving is the best thing to happen because he’ll stop dragging down Liz’s social life and now Liz can start going on double dates with Jess, flirting with boys, having fun together.

Aw, there’s the self-serving Jess we all know.

(Note: Not love.)

(Note: Sometimes love, goddamnit.)

Todd drops by for a fifteen-minute visit between running errands and dinner. Liz clings to him as they moodily sit together.

Sorry, Todd, you’ll come in a distant third at Most Dramatic at best.

Liz can’t imagine life without Todd, and when she tries, all she feels is desolation and helplessness. They had so many plans, parties and sailboat races (…again?) and double dates and nothing matters without Todd.

Oy. I’m trying to be sympathetic here, because it sucks when someone you love moves away and it’s much harder to do things at a distance in the 80s and 90s, but come the fuck on, Liz. This is not the end of the world! In SVH continuity, you’ve barely known each other for a few months, much less been in love! Chill the fuck out. [Dove: Or! Or, since we’ve had Perfect Summer, they’ve actually been together a year and a couple of months, and everyone is politely not mentioning that the entire junior class flunked and is repeating junior year.]

(I’m failing at that whole sympathetic thing, I know.)

…wait, what. Todd reminds Liz how terrible they felt when they thought Liz was moving to San Francisco when Alice was offered an exciting job there. The twins changed her mind, though, and she postponed it.

Do I simply block out anything that doesn’t have to do with my rage over Jess and her false rape accusation and how we’re supposed to just ignore the fact she was the fuckin worst in the early books?

(To be fair, that does take up a lot of space in the SVO part of my brain.)

This is even worse because they will be so much farther apart and there’s no way Todd’s family will end up staying in Sweet Valley after all. His dad might lose his job if he tries to put it off any longer.

Enid, trying to help, is throwing a goodbye party for Todd at the Beach Disco on Saturday, right before he’s due to leave on Sunday. It’s a nice thought, but Liz can’t imagine enjoying anything, or even facing her friends with Todd’s leaving hanging over them. [Dove: Liz thinks to herself that Enid is like a sister to Todd, which makes me wonder… have they ever exchanged even a single sentence? I know there was at least a couple of scenes where both Enid and Todd were with Liz, but have they ever talked one-on-one?]

Fucking hell, Liz, if you decide your friends mean nothing to you without Todd, you’ll lose the little bit of sympathy I managed to scrounge up.

Wakefield dinner, featuring Steven home from college as he apparently does often now and Alice worrying that the fried chicken isn’t good enough but she was just so busy and had to work late — so, wait, is this a home cooked meal and therefore understandable that she’d worry or is it takeout of some sort in which case, why worry, it’s not like you should be expected to cook every night, and we know you don’t. [Raven: Yeah, weird vibe about the chicken here. Maybe she’s apologising becuase she couldn’t source the OG stuff from the Colonel and came home with, I dunno, JFC or something. Or, in all likelihood, a family bucket from Sweet Valley Fried Chicken. No! It’s from Chicken Licken at the (now not so) new food court from Robbery At The Mall.]

Whatever, again, moving on, Jess asks for a short term loan because her allowance just isn’t enough. Ned wants to talk to her about money anyway, because he’s now busted her for using their charge account at Lisette’s.

Oh no! Oh woe! She meant to pay them back. She was with Lila and there was no way she could admit she didn’t have the money for a cute outfit in front of Lila, god, can you even imagine?

Is having a charge account that doesn’t even require a minor have parental approval a normal thing? I can’t even imagine it.

Not only will Ned not lend her any money, but she’s responsible for the Lisette bill. God, how will she ever pay that, it has to be nearly $100!

… how did you think you were going to pay it back in the first place? You literally just said that was your intention.

(I know, I know, she never thinks about the practicalities.)

Gee, I wonder, how do Ned and Alice make their money, Alice asks. Why, they work, Jess admits, and there you go, there’s the trap.

Steven always had part-time jobs during high school, after all [Dove: *eyeballs Twins, The Unicorn Club and Junior High* Did he? Really? Point to the sentence where Steven worked. And no, that time he worked as Burger Boy (or whatever it was called) to buy a motorbike to impress Jill Hale does not count.] [Raven: Didn’t he do some lawnmowing at some point… *dodges flung brick*], and Jess worked at Ned’s law office for about thirty seconds.

Enid and Liz talk about Todd’s pending move because that’s the A plot the only thing that matters right now. I’m not actually mocking this time. Of course it’s the main thing Liz talks about with people, it’s apparently the biggest thing going on in her life. It makes perfect sense her best friend would talk about it with her, comfort her when Liz is putting on a brave face for everyone else.

… is she though?

Liz is determined that the core of their relationship and love for each other won’t change. Sure, they won’t be able to see each other daily, but that doesn’t mean things have to be different between them.

Date other people? What? No, Liz would never! [Raven: Not without a smack to the noggin’.]

Not that she’s talked to Todd about it. And not that Enid looks convinced. And not that Jess will let this happen, though Liz isn’t as privy to Jess’s thoughts as we are. (She should expect this of her twin, to be honest. Jess has already spent lots of energy trying to break them up when Todd is right there in front of them.)

Liz starts to worry that if even Enid doesn’t understand then … oh, this might be bad.

Liz refuses to be practical and reasonable about this situation. She will keep Todd or die trying, goddamnit, this is a matter of life or death!

Jess manages to quickly get a job as part-time receptionist at the Perfect Match Computer Dating Agency.








I am utterly beside myself with delight. This is going to go horribly wrong, and I cannot wait!

[Raven: Literally out of fucking nowhere. Who wrote this, Randy Orton?]

Mary Ann who runs the place says Jess is a natural. Steven mocks this at first, then decides that it’s a good thing, because if Jess is focused on everyone else, she’ll stop trying to set up her friends and family.

That’s optimistic.

Next Steven tries to cheer up Liz.

Liz, of course, doesn’t want to admit how sad she is to Steven because her boyfriend is moving away, Steven’s beloved girlfriend died. That’s much more final.

Surprisingly perceptive and sympathetic of her, considering how much she’s thought of this as life and death so far.

He convinces her to talk to him, though, at least in part because he, like Enid, wants to know if she plans on dating anyone else while Todd is gone.

Why, Steven, you after her now? Best stick with Jess who was literally just thinking how hot she finds you.

He doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to cling so tightly to a long-distance relationship. She doesn’t understand why first Enid and now her brother don’t agree with her.

Steven tells her about what he’s seen at college, all the people with their hometown honeys, and how the ones who expect their relationships to stay the same are the ones who break up because their expectations are too high.

Lots of jealousy happens, too, which of course won’t impact Liz and Todd because it’s not like either of them have ever shown a single sign of jealousy even when they are constantly together, nope. [Dove: I mean, maybe the break will be good for them. If Todd gets jealous every time she makes eye contact with another dude, maybe it’s a good thing he’s in a different state and can’t see her accidentally locking eyes with other men. Hard to TODDSMASH when you’ve got no idea you should.]

Saturday afternoon, Jess is alone in the front office at Perfect Match. Erm, hasn’t she been there about thirty seconds (or at least only since that morning)? And she’s already been left alone?

Mary Ann, you are a fool!

Jess is already bored. She felt glamorous for the first half hour, but her expectations that attractive men would be the ones calling have been dashed. It’s almost all women desperate to find out if they have dates that night.

Jess is frustrated that Mary Ann isn’t doing enough to help the women. Why, Steven could be dating any one of them right now. She could give his name and number to the next five women who call!

Except that wouldn’t be fair to him, to set him up willy nilly. She really needs to know more about the woman first.

…Jess, I’m shocked at your restraint.

Mary Ann catches her trying to find files to look at, but doesn’t care one whit and, in fact, gives her keys so she can come back any time to look at them.

Fucking hell, Mary Ann, you are a fool even more! [Raven: The whole dating agency is a complete clusterfuck. We’re talking the Air Jordans of clown shoes.]

This has to be a cover for something, because you are utterly incompetent.

Jess opens up to Mary Ann over the rest of the day, going so far to tell her about Liz and Todd and how Jess thinks Liz is wasting herself on him.

This talk leads Jess to decide that what she needs to do is convince Nicholas Marrow that Liz needs cheering up after Todd leaves. Nicholas adored Liz once, surely he’ll be down for this again after her rejection.

After all, if Jess can’t have him, Liz is the next best thing or something, I’m still not entirely convinced that Jess would give up on him.

She puts that plan into play at the going away party that night, even though Nicholas seems to have gotten even more attractive and sophisticated and oh how she wants him.

Meanwhile, Liz and Todd are miserable and slip away to have time alone together. They walk along the beach, hold each other, Todd gives her a tiny gold locket to remember him by.

Todd admits that he and his father talked and his father thinks it is selfish of Todd to try to have a long-distance relationship with Liz. She tells him that she’s heard the same thing from almost everyone in her life, too, though none of them have actually called her selfish.

Everyone else must be wrong, though. Only Todd and Liz know how they truly feel, and how they truly feel is that no one else will ever mean as much to them.

Todd swears that he’ll write every day and get a part-time job so he can call her often (oh, for the days when long-distance calls within the US cost a lot of money. I do not miss them. At one point when Ostrich and I were long distance, we had the setup where calls after 8 p.m. were free and so we always had to wait.

Todd doesn’t know what he’d do if he thought Liz loved another man, if he had to watch her from afar — Todd, you’d end up killing them both and probably yourself after in a terrible murder-suicide, because that’s the kind of fucker you become when Liz is even near another guy. [Dove: I really hope that’s the plot of one of the Super Thrillers.]

Jess spends Sunday afternoon looking through the files at Perfect Match searching for, well, Steven’s perfect match.

(So fucking cheesy and yet also one of the better cheesy Sweet Valley business names.)

A lot of the women aren’t right, but Jess does put together a few prospective matches:

Beatrice Barber, 43, self-described as beautiful, energetic, and a lot of fun, divorced from a wealthy banker so she must have a lot of money for herself — Steven would do good with an older woman.

… that’s quite a bit older, Jess. I don’t think Steven will be so pleased. [Dove: I’m not sure Beatrice would be happy either. As someone who’s only a few months away from being 43, I would be absolutely sickened if I got paired with a nineteen year old from an alleged reputable dating company. When you’re in your 40s, any teenager feels a child, even if they’re over the age of consent. There’s just too much life experience in the years between.]

Jordan MacGuire, who has a glamorous name, per Jess, interested in films, foreign accents, sports cars, and German philosophers, 20, which is just a little older than Steven.

So, wait, Steven is only 19? I forget that sometimes and it is even more ridiculous trying to set him up with a 43-year-old woman. I’m not quite there, but I cannot for the life of me imagine enjoying even one date with a 19-year-old straight boy.

Melissa Porter, who loves cooking, restaurants, eating, and all sorts of traditional things around the house. Steven hates dorm food and, as we saw particularly in SVT, loves to eat, so maybe she’ll cook great meals for him.

That’s … that’s it? All that work and you’ve found three women? At least two of which are wildly unsuitable, and probably all three. (Look, Melissa known as Missy is probably fat because this is Sweet Valley and for anyone not a Wakefield, food = fat and fat = terrible.) [Raven: Three is the correct number, narratively, 99% of the time. Why? Becuase it just IS, that’s why. #magicnumber]

Liz hangs out at the Wilkins house while they finish packing to head to the airport. She’s so miserable she doesn’t even notice when Mr Wilkins tells her that he expects she’ll see more of her friend than she thinks. [Dove: He also mentions that Winston Egbert’s father, Sam, is selling the house for them. I checked. He was Walter Egbert in Twins. FFS, did nobody write this shit down? This book came out 11 years before the Nightmare Mansion series in Twins, and still nobody had time to write down Winston’s dad’s name?]

Todd and Liz take one final moment together, sobbing, before Todd has to leave. He makes her leave first, because he can’t handle being the one who leaves her behind.

Oh boy.

[Raven: The book has too many pages of this horseshit.]

Liz tries to leave, then runs back to cling to him awhile longer, because of course she does. It’s suitably dramatic and sad, even if I couldn’t care less about them.

The entire Wakefield family is waiting for Liz when she returns home, wanting to help her through a heartbreaking time, but all she wants to do is lie down by herself for awhile.

Jess is horrified that Liz doesn’t even want dinner, god, it’s the end of the world. This makes her even more determined to save her sister with Nicholas’ help.

A week later, Liz continues to mope and mourn and struggle to stay on top of her responsibilities. Instead she spends all her time writing letters to Todd and not daring to leave the house outside of school hours in case Todd might call.

Jess is worried about her and lashing out because of it, but Liz is lost in her own world and doesn’t notice anything Jess does.

When Jess complains to her best friend, Cara Walker, Cara takes Liz’s side and says Jess is being incredibly insensitive.

Have to be honest, did not see that coming.

Nor did Jess, for that matter. Cara used to be fun, always filled with gossip and good humor, but ever since her parents started having problems, she’s become a real drag. God, it’s like everyone around Jess is acting depressed, how can she live like this?

Cara tells Jess that her dad finally moved out, but doesn’t want to say anything else. Continues to defend Liz’s pain.

Jess’s current plan: To have Mr Collins, Liz’s favorite teacher, give her a special newspaper assignment. Not get them together, like Cara immediately assumes. (To be fair, she’s horrified by the thought, but really? That’s where your mind goes first? Really? Guess SVMS did a number on you all. Thanks, Mr Nydick!) [Dove: Well, she is his favourite student.] [Raven: Hey, don’t blame Nydick! It’s because everything in this damn series is described as the apex of sexiness. Even the inanimate objects.]

The assignment: to cover the big sailing races and get a private interview with Nicholas Morrow after, who is one of the favorites in the race. [Raven: NicholasMorrow!]

Liz and Nicholas will fall in love, Liz will be the darling of the house, Nicholas will give her presents and invitations and Jessica, too, because of course, and they’ll even rename one of the wings of the house after her, they’ll be so grateful that Jess got Liz and Nicholas together.

Sometimes I absolutely adore your delusions of grandeur, Jessica Wakefield.

Nicholas drags his feet over all of this. He’s worried that Liz doesn’t really want to spend time with him because she hasn’t called him, Jess arranged for him to tell Liz he’ll pick her up for the regatta.

He’s extra worried because last time he tried to date her, he utterly failed, and she doesn’t seem any less in love with Todd now.

Jess assures him that Liz doesn’t love Todd, he’s just an addiction to her, and she’s having withdrawal symptoms. Nicholas can save her!

Lis hesitates, but agrees to go to ride to the marina with Nicholas. after all, she likes him as a friend and he knows how she feels about Todd and all of that flirtation is in the past.

Sure it is, honey. Sure it is.

For once, I’ll cut her some slack that she doesn’t notice or suspect that Jess will not let her plans drop, like she never does. Liz is understandably distracted from everything. Of course she doesn’t spare a thought of Jess’s manipulations.

Later, Liz brings some gossip to Jess: a weird older woman keeps calling Steven and asking him out to dinner. She’s almost as old as Ned, god, can you imagine Steven being interested in someone so oooooold?

Liz is highly entertained by this, and Jess worries that they’ll figure out that she’s involved. So far, nothing, though.

Jess decides Steven is simply too immature to really appreciate an older woman. After all, as we’ve seen time and time again, Jess loves her an older man. [Dove: Whereas, creepily, we have seen time and time again, that Steven would rather date his younger sisters’ friends. Even when they were twelve and he was fourteen. Why break that pattern?]

Liz gets all caught up in the suspense of the sailing races despite herself. Hey, I get it, races can be super exciting. I can see how a sailing race, especially one where she knows at least some of the entrants, would be a good distraction.

Two flies in the ointment: Jess keeps pushing for gossip about her time with Nicholas, and Nicholas keeps wanting her attention even though she’s supposed to be covering this for the paper.

Still, he gets her to check out his 20-foot sailboat. It has two names. The public name is Seabird. The private name is My Favorite Twin.

Cheesy and creepy at the same time, well done, Nicholas.

Liz doesn’t know what to do with it. She shouldn’t let him say such flirtatious things but she’s also flattered and a little glad that he still likes her. Not that she’ll do anything about it, she loves Todd, she reminds herself, but it is nice to be wanted by someone who is there.

Ugh, Bruce Fucking Patman, I knew we wouldn’t get away from that rapist. He trash talks Nicholas, Liz reminds us that he fell for Nicholas’s sister, Regina, and became all soft and nice, loves her enough to forget about her handicap like most of the students at SVH, and misses Regina who is off in Switzerland getting treatment to restore her hearing.

Nicholas wins the race, just beating out Bruce, and Liz is thrilled for him. They hug and he invites the twins to come to the party on the family boat that afternoon. Liz demurs, but Jess, of course, talks her into it.

Not that she has to twist Liz’s arm too much. After all, she’s not done something fun in ages, and maybe she can get special details for the story, and and and.

Sounds like a bunch of excuses, honey.

Nicholas acknowledges how much she misses Todd and offers her someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on if she ever needs it. [Raven: Classic tactic for buttering a gusset.]

I’d accept this as something nice in another series, but since this is SVH, he’s clearly trying to play the long game here and will probably turn this into some Friend Zone Nice Guy bullshit when Todd returns, as we all know he will. [Dove: To be fair, he was already there with his whole “Hey, I know you’ve literally just got back from being abducted by a strange man, so you’re probably super-wary of new men in your life, and you and I literally met four seconds ago, but I LOVE YOU, I WILL DIE FOR YOU, YOU MUST DATE ME AND I WON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. btw, hi, my name is Nicholas.” introduction.]

Nicholas then invites Liz and Jess to a bbq at his house the next day, too. Liz feels guilt over it but agrees. She needs company and after all, he just told her he wants to be friends. She always needs friends.

Even though Todd will be grumpy and won’t like it one bit.

The next day, Liz rereads Todd’s latest letter, looking for one section specifically. He keeps forgetting the things he wants to tell her when they finally do talk, he feels distant from her and yet like she’s right there with him, too, just out of sight. It’s hard for him and he worries it’s harder for her because she’s in all their old familiar places.

Her guilt grows stronger. Todd loves her and understands her so well, but she can’t deny that she had fun with Nicholas, and that she likes him, charming and handsome and sensitive, and she’s lonely. She has her friends and family, and she loves them, but she misses having a boy of her own, someone there to hold her and love her.

Jess met cousin Jeffrey [Raven: JeffreyMorrow!] at the race and considered falling in love with him but in the end decided not to. For one thing, he’s not from the side of the family with all the wealth, he talks too much about wanting to be an archaeologist, he looks like a hot librarian, and she really needs to focus on Liz.

Meanwhile, Liz has noticed that Nicholas acts like he’s still in love with her, and she has no idea what to do about it.

She tells him that she and Todd agreed not to date anyone else then turns around and says yes when he asks her to go to the movies with him. Maybe he’s just lonely and needs a friend, she tells herself, right up until kisses the tip of her nose.



The tip of her nose?

That’s weird, Nicholas.

[Dove: So, sidenote. One time I was talking to Ostrich, and he leaned down, checked where Wing was, and said, “If you ever want to see Wing short-circuit: lick her nose. Doesn’t matter if she’s happy, angry, upset. She completely shuts down and has to reboot.” Now, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t giving advice that I should utilise in the future, but yeah, this moment reminded me of that conversation, and how tickled he was by her confused reaction.

But back to the story, Nicholas, listen to the girl you allegedly love. She keeps telling you she’s not available, she’s staying faithful to Todd, even if she wasn’t, she has no room for you and your emotions, and you keep going, “Yeah, ok, I get that. But how about we just date, fall in love, get married and have babies.” LISTEN TO HER, YOU WEIRDO.]

[Raven: Top Tip! When leaning in for a first kiss with a new flame, as heads tilt to match lips, slip a cheeky tongue tip up your partner’s nostril and make a honking noise. If they laugh, marry them.]

Later, Liz admits to Jess that she’s worried about what’s going on between her and Nicholas. Jess, of course, plays dumb about everything, right up until Liz mentions Todd, and then Jess snaps that she can’t sit around and wait for his letters forever, she needs to have a life whether he lives in Sweet Valley or not.

And she’s right! Manipulative and selfish, but right!

Liz says that things have gone far enough with Nicholas. They can’t keep things natural and friendly, and it’s time to back off altogether.

This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what Jess wants and she doesn’t understand how her sister can make such terrible choices.

Ah, yes, because she is the only Wakefield known for making terrible decisions.

Jess decides that maybe things went south for Steven and Beatrice because she set them up via phone. If she has Jody drop by the house when Steven is home next, surely that will go better. He must be shy and afraid to make the first move himself.

Steven Wakefield? Shy? Afraid to make the first move?

You’re working hard to spin this web of self deceit, aren’t you.

She turns to figuring out how to keep Liz from sending Nicholas away. She doesn’t have any ideas until she answers a call from Todd. Liz is at Enid’s, so Jess doesn’t have a reason to lie, though that’s never stopped her before, but she doesn’t let that get her down.

Instead, she tells Todd how worried she is about Liz, how much their plan to stay together long distance is hurting Liz, and how Liz has given up on every other part of life and only writes letters to Todd and misses him.

…that’s barely a lie, at that. Look at you, learning how to manipulate with nicely selected truths.

She talks up Liz’s pain and how guilty she would feel if she were in Todd’s shoes, until he’s deeply worried for Liz and thinking that maybe he should let Liz go so she’ll stop burying herself in the past and giving up all the other things and people she loves.

That’s damn slick, Jess. [Raven: It’s also cold as ice, and I’m not pleased with it.]

Liz worries that something’s going on with Todd since he’s never around to take her calls now. Jess points out that he’s the new guy in school and certainly drawing a lot of attention the same way new kids do. [Dove: This plot needs everyone to be so stupid to function. Todd and Liz are always described as mature, sensitive and thoughtful, and yet Todd’s reaction is, “I shall ghost her for her own good.” Really, champ? You don’t think someone who’s living their life for your letters and calls and only them, might possibly react badly when they stop. For no reason. With no notification? Oh, you think that’s a good plan, do you? That’s what I like about you, Todd. You’re so sensitive and thoughtful. This in not the harebrained scheme of a fucking moron with the emotional intelligence of glue.] [Raven: Also, the person giving you this information? Jessica fucking Wakefield, who you’ve constantly said you don’t trust. But today? She’s the Oracle at fucking Delphi.]

Despite what she said earlier, and her guilt, Liz is still going to the movies with Nicholas. She’s acting completely above board, only friends with him, but she knows Todd won’t like it, and she’s not sure she likes it, either.

Though she does like Nicholas and she’s tired of sitting in her room waiting to hear from Todd.

Liz feels all nervous and jumpy at the movie, described in a way that really makes it seem more like a crush than anything else, lets Nicholas put his arm around her when she tears up, thinks of him as a big brother who makes her feel safe, and yet is very attracted to him when he drops her off at home.

Not much like a big brother at all, she thinks then. Unless your big brother is Steven, so I guess you’re well prepared for this part, at least.

Nicholas kisses her, and she kisses him back. It’s a wonderful, warm and tender kiss, and she doesn’t want to stop.

He draws away first. Promises her that he doesn’t want to hurt her for anything. She asks for some time to think, and he’s happy to give it to her, though he does ask to see her over the weekend, for ice cream or something else casual.

She doesn’t turn him down, even though she wishes she could, but she likes him too much to do that.

By Friday, Liz still hasn’t heard from Todd via phone or letter, and she’s starting to lose hope. Clearly she did something to upset him, though she doesn’t know what.

(He can’t possibly know about the Nicholas thing, I guess.)

So if she did nothing wrong, then Todd is caught up in his new life and doesn’t want to tell her the truth, that he’s found someone else.

Nicholas shows up to tell her that he’s felt weird since their kiss, worried about her, and wants to reassure her that no matter what else happens, he wants to be friends.

…okay, maybe I’ll believe his sincerity even in an SVH book. Maybe.

She responds by asking him out on a date. She wants him to give her another chance.

Honey, you’re playing with that poor boy, and it’s even worse than when Jess does it because you don’t even realize you’re toying with his emotions. At least when Jess hurts people it is usually intentional.

Saturday, Liz is relieved that she can talk to Steven about her problems.

(Setting up for later, I’m sure, we learn that all three Wakefield siblings will be at Lila’s big party the next weekend. Steven’s bringing his college friends to balance things out, because a college party went so well last time they had one.)

She tells Todd about how Todd started pulling away and Nicholas coming closer to her, paying her a lot of attention, and how good it feels to be someone’s priority.

Liz thinks it’s odd that Todd has drawn away and isn’t as convinced as Liz that it’s all over, a big turn from his warnings before that things couldn’t stay the same long distance.

They end up arguing, but it’s interrupted by the arrival of Jody! Who looks nothing at all like anyone Liz has seen in person before: black leather jacket, skintight leather trousers, six earrings in one ear, extra long fingernails — basically a punk rock movie extra. [Raven: I mean… what the fuck?]

Liz takes her out back when she asks for Steven.

Jody isn’t sure what to make of him. He’s not what she had in mind. Her intuition suggested he wasn’t right but she decided to give him a try anyway.

A try? Steven asks.

She talks about Plato’s theory of love, how every person is trying to find their other half and she was told that Steven is her perfect match.

And Jess’s secrets blow up in her face, finally.

Liz tries to calm Steven down but Jess gets home before she can. Liz leaves them to it, because when Steven’s on a rampage, it’s better to let his anger burn out than try to do anything about it.

Yeah, that sounds healthy. He’s just mad, Jess, he can’t control himself, boys will be boys.

Liz starts spending a lot of time with Nicholas, and everyone who warned her from trying to stay with Todd long distance now warn her that she’s moving too fast and Nicholas is just a rebound.

Which he is! That’s fair! But Liz is annoyed that they keep changing their tune.

She thinks about it for two days and decides that no, she’s not in love with Nicholas, even though she’s tried to convince herself she is, and she needs to tell him that she can’t see him for the wrong reasons.

She’ll go to Lila’s party with him still, because she can’t break a date on such short notice, but she’ll tell him after, even though she knows waiting will only make things harder. [Dove: Yes, it much better to dump him at a party, rather than before it. Urgh. The hoops the plot insists on.]

Surprise! Todd is back in Sweet Valley! [RAVEN: HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS HAPPENING? #sarcasm]

He’s there to do some things for his father, who was supposed to go with him but couldn’t at the last minute, and, of course, to avoid Liz because he’s still feeling terribly guilty over ruining her life.

(In a matter of pages, Todd goes from driving his father’s car to driving the Ebgerts’ car. That’s a huge if unimportant continuity fail, ghostie, damn.)

He’s too afraid to face Liz alone, so he’ll try to find her at the party and explain everything to her, including how much he misses her and how much he loves her.

Steven, too, is going to Lila’s party still, though he’d rather skip it. He’s worried about Liz and Nicholas and wants the chance to see what’s really going on.

He runs into Cara Walker (very nearly literally) when she’s parked partially in the road dealing with a flat tire. Steven changes it for her easily, warns her to keep the car completely off the road if she has to stop, and feels sorry when she starts crying from the stress of everything. He’s not used to seeing her so vulnerable, she’s always been that cold, perfect kind of girl Jess hangs out with, but she seems very different now.

Oh, good, Steven needs girls he can fix, love this so much for us. [Dove: This. Steven’s dating psychology is deeply flawed.]

He takes her to get coffee at the Whistle Stop, they bond over how much pain she’s in, not just her parents divorcing but they split the kids, too. Charlie went to Chicago with their dad, and Cara misses them both so much.

Steven realizes that this painful situation forced her to grow up. She’s no longer the spoiled, silly girl he knew but now a sensitive, intelligent young woman he wants to get to know better.


He invites her to Lila’s party and finds himself really looking forward to it. They’re both victims in a way and in pain and maybe they can help each other recover.

Thank god I’m almost done with this book, because what the fuck even is this? Fuck you, Steven, and fuck the idea that pain makes Cara into a person worth knowing, and fuck you ghostie.

Jess takes a stranger to Lila’s party, Spence Millgate, and his application at Perfect Match said he was interested in sports, movies, and having a good time, but really he’s scrawny and wants to be an undertaker, won’t stop talking about embalming.

Jess decides that she’s completely done with the Lonely Hearts agency, because it has apparently changed names now? Ghostie, come on, how are you fucking up the continuity in the same goddamn book?

She has enough to pay back her parents and she’s d o n e working. [Raven: What, that’s it? No “I’ve caught you going through classified shit and ruining the firm’s reputation by setting up dates for your skeevy brother, so you’re fucking fired”…? IT’S A WAREHOUSE OF CLOWN FOOTWEAR.]

Jess runs into Betsy Martin, who is angry that Steven is spending so much time with Cara. It’s far too soon after Trish’s death for him to spend time with another girl.

(Jess thinks Betsy has improved and looks almost respectable in a blue dress and high heels, not shabby and cheap as she used to. Fuck. You. Jessica. Wakefield. And fuck your classcist, misogynistic slut shaming self.)

Todd turns up just in time to see Liz slow dancing with Nicholas. She opens her eyes the moment Todd looks at her, Todd races off, and Liz can’t catch him before he disappears.

Nicholas comforts her, accepts that she’s still in love with Todd, and is absolutely willing to be friends with her instead but only if she stops waffling over what she wants from him. Totally fair!

And Liz is aware that she’s been an ass to him.

Jess is desperate to get to Liz before Todd does, because what if he tells Liz what she told him? She’s always meddling in her sister’s life, but she doesn’t think Liz will be quite so forgiving of this one.

I doubt that. She forgives you every fucking thing INCLUDING FALSELY ACCUSING HER BELOVED TODD OF RAPE. You’ll be fine.

She does reach Liz first and confesses. Liz does not blow up at her but goes in search of Todd. She’s furious with Jess and worried that Todd is furious with her, and heartbroken because of her.

Liz can’t find him anywhere until, on a whim, she goes to his home and finds him huddling on the lawn. They cling to each other, have a long talk in the Fiat, forgive each other and Jess, and decide they need to make their own separate lives while they’re far apart but they won’t stop loving each other.

By the end, they both feel a lot better and though Liz is furious at Jess, she’s also almost grateful. Since things worked out, she’ll just give Jess a warning rather than full blown revenge.

Yeah, right. You were never going to do anything to really punish Jess. You never, ever fucking do. [Raven: Absolutely hated this bit. Won’t someone hold Jessica accountable for SOMETHING?!]

Jess is more worried about the mess she’s made of everything, from Nicholas now being furious at her to Steven being furious at her to Liz being furious at her to the terrible date she went on and how bad the women she picked out for Steven were and god, she really fucked up.

Steven comes home and they do a quick recap of the Liz situation: she and Todd have talked things through, Liz will date but she’s not ready for something serious like Nicholas wants.

Steven refuses to talk more about Cara and is, in fact, angry and storms off when Jess brings it up. Lila explains that a bit later. Betsy Martin really lashed out at him and made a huge, nasty scene because of Tricia. Of course now Steven feels awful.

Liz is furious at Betsy for feeding Steven’s guilt and we’re set up for the next book where she might stand in the way of Steven and Cara’s happiness.

I fucking hope she does, because this whole, oh she’s sad and broken, now I want her bullshit from Steven is fucked the hell up.

Final Thoughts

Mostly I was bored? I guess? It was fine, on the whole. The Cara and Steven thing annoys the hell out of me and I’m not looking forward to the next book, and it sucks that Liz used Nicholas, but overall, there wasn’t really anything offensive or amazing here.

I did enjoy Liz taking the Most Dramatic Wakefield crown from Jess at least temporarily, and if I cared more about Todd and Liz, I probably would have enjoyed the melodrama of this. Or if I didn’t know he’s bound to return because I know we’ve not seen the last of the Liz and Todd Relationship of Boredom.

[Dove: Bored. So bored. Didn’t care. Wasn’t invested. Wasn’t fussed about any part of the storyline. Wished I was watching that episode of Boy Meets World instead. A galloping meh from me.]

[Raven: Bad book is bad.

Boring, repetitive, boring, repetitive, boring and boring and repetitive.

Oh, and I hated Jessica’s manipulation of her sister’s emotions for personal gain, displaying literally no empathy at all, about anything, a really shitty thing for Jessica to do. So from that point, you could take your witty sibplots and schemes and stick them up your arse.]