Tagline: Can Cara make Steven forget Tricia Martin?
Summary: The Wakefield twins’ older brother, Steven, hasn’t dated anyone since his girlfriend died of leukemia. He can’t even look at another girl without thinking of his beloved Tricia.
But Steven is drawn to Cara Walker. Sweet Valley’s biggest flirt and gossip has changed. Her parents have divorced, and her father and brother have moved away. Cara understands the pain of losing somebody.
When Tricia’s sister Betsy sees Steven and Cara dancing together at a party, she accuses Steven of forgetting about Tricia. Steven is torn by Betsy’s bitter accusation. He can’t deny his attraction to Cara. But how can he ever love another girl after Tricia?
Orange background. Text in red (author) and blue (title). Standard porthole. Standard two-person snapshot within said standard porthole. Grey backdrop to the standard action.
The people in the porthole? Steven, wearing what looks like a lilac / purple velvet polo shirt. He’s haunted, and pensive, and distraught, and similar words. His eyes are downcast, to the right bottom of the cover. Maybe there’s something sad out of shot, like a baleful pet or and upturned plate of spaghetti.
The other person in shot is (presumably) Cara, who is staring at what’s presumably the tip of his soulful nose. She’s wearing a white jumper-hoodie combo, with blue stripes at the neck and on the cuffs. Her hand is placed on Steven’s chest, in the time-honoured pose on which this series is so keen. I’m guessing that Cara’s look is supposed to be supporting and emotive, but if I’m honest she looks as though she’s both vaguely constipated and smelling something unpleasant.
It’s a wholly uninspiring cover, the artwork firmly inside the metaphorical box. In a word? Standard.
I hate Steven.
To be more precise, we (as a team) all hate Steven. So another Steven book is not an exciting prospect.
Or, at least, that would be the case if we were still in Sweet Valley Twins.
In Sweet Valley High? Steven actually seems… *gasp*… decent.
I feel dirty typing that, believe me.
I guess that any book that AwfulJess ain’t front and centre is something to be lauded? Let’s read on and find out!
[Dove: I had almost no initial thoughts at all. Memories is hardly a descriptive title. And Steven is still not my favourite character. Although, right now, I’m not sure who is? Anyone?
[Wing: The cancer plotline just won’t let me go. Despite that, I don’t actually hate SVH Steven. He’s mostly okay and not nearly as annoying as he was in the second half of SVT. Not looking forward to the “time to move on” theme, but I don’t expect it to be a Goes Boom book, so we’ll see which way it falls.]
“Steven! What’s wrong?”
Ned Wakefield looked up from the book he was reading as his son streaked by the master bedroom.
Gotta say, that’s quite an opening image.
[Wing: I have been earwormed. It’s much faster in my head, though.]
This act of naked aggression leads into a pithy yet also overlong precis of the situation regarding Steven, Cara, Betsy and Tricia. In sum…
Steven: A Wakefield.
Tricia: Leukemia Girl.
Betsy: A drug-addled hussy come good.
Cara: Jessica’s best friend. Hot for Steven.
- Steven loved Tricia.
- Tricia died.
- Steven mourned.
- Steven moved on.
- Steven took Cara to a party.
- Betsy saw Cara and Steven.
- Betsy pitched a fit.
- Steven went home.
All very exciting, but pretty much the central non-Twin story from the previous slew of books. Recap unnecessary for us stalwarts!
The Elders watch as Steven decamps to his room, wherein he flop-flounces onto his bed and ruminates on the nature of grief and his actions. As we are at the start of the book, his position is one of a cotton-headed ninnymuggins.
He is wrong.
Betsy is right.
Tricia is dead.
His memories of her, like mosquitos in amber, are to be preserved above all else. His dalliance with Cara is a betrayal, and must never happen again.
And so we begin!
The next scene begins with the Sainted Alice talking to her girls over “a platter of eggs”. I don’t know why, but that phrasing amuses me.
Elizabeth is still beaming about seeing Todd at Lila’s party, as Todd’s family recently relocated to Vermont and she gets precious little time with her Ride or Die these days. Actually, that’s a good point: I hope Todd has bought himself a new motorbike now that he’s miles away from Elizabeth. The only way a Vermonto-Cycle could harm Liz is if it accidentally jettisoned itself from the courier plane en route to its buyer and landed on the Wakefield Compound.
The Egg Platter scene allows the reader to catch up on the character of the WANTON STUMPET Betsy Martin. She’s changed, sure, but she’s still likely got the Slut Gene, and the Poor Gene, at least according to Jessica. Most people saw Betsy and Steven’s connection over Tricia as offering mutual support, but Jess thinks Betsy is holding Steven’s ascent from the Mourning Pit back. [Dove: Although it’s mostly about Betsy being trash, rather than Steven’s mourning.] [Wing: I’m just thrilled that Jess is back on her classist, slut-shaming, judgmental high horse. Thrilled.]
Jessica goes to rouse a slumbering Steven with the following bon mot…
Jessica dropped the slice of toast she was buttering. “I’ll go up and get him,” she said eagerly.
“I suppose you could give it a try,” Mrs. Wakefield said.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll get him down. He won’t be able to resist me,” she joked. “No man can.” She gave the group a little wink and flounced out of the room.
Eww eww EEEEWWWWWW.
Liz then confirms with her parents the current state of her and Todd’s relationship: still together, trying hard to move on, both lost and lonely. Y’know, the usual shit.
Suddenly, a wild Besty Martin appears. She’s super inebriated!
(She’s not drunk. She’s just arrived at Steven’s apparent request, so that they can go be maudlin about Tricia in a cold and darkened room, or something.)
I appreciate that I’m being rather flippant about the Tricia / Steven and Tricia / Betsy mourning and dynamic.
Please be reassured that I obviously take real loss and mourning such as this with a supportive and sincere attitude. Cancer’s a shitshow, and losing someone close is No Fucking Joke.
When I enter a recap, cold, I’m never sure where my approach to it will spring from. Will I be laudatory, or scathing, or grandly indifferent? Will I empathise with the characters, or will I lambast them. Will I hate it? Will I love it? And will I, fingers crossed, be FUNNY?
It looks like, for this recap at least, I’ll be shovelling on the snark. Which is fine! Because that’s why I’m here, and it’s all make-believe.
Just know that, if you’re reading this (and reading this book) and it’s asking you difficult questions, I see you. And those questions are important, and valid.
But Steven can get in the fucking sea regardless.
After some gentle probing, [Wing: Dirty.] Steven and Betsy leave the Compound, and the familial gossip mill begins. Jessica sets her stall out strongly, claiming “thanks to Betsy Martin, my eggs are cold now.” Poor Jessica! After Steven had just warmed her eggs up, too.
(With his penis. And the eggs are in Jessica’s ovaries.)
Talk turns to something akin to banter, in which Jessica declares that she wants to be a film star. I mean, I’m pretty sure she’s declared this multiple times in multiple books, no least The Twins Hit Hollywood in which they get to star in an ACTUAL FUCKING MOVIE. [Dove: Not to mention the other movie they were in. Or the other other one.]
We also learn that there’s a charity Volleyball Match between Sweet Valley High and Big Mesa, scheduled for sometime in this book. The twins had volunteered to be on the team, along with some of their friends.
Erm… wouldn’t the school have an actual competitive volleyball team already? Or is volleyball not a sport that would get such attention? I’d have thought there would have at least been tryouts, and the team would be merit-based, rather than “oooh, blonde twins in beach volleyball gear, you’re in!” [Dove: Well, Elizabeth was on the Middle School team. God that was dire. I started having flashbacks during this book.] [Wing: Spoiler: IT’S NOT EVEN BEACH VOLLEYBALL. Look, SVT, if you’re going to embrace the hot twins play volleyball thing, embrace it all the way and set it at the beach, goddamn.]
Anyway, there’s a dance after the game, because it’s Sweet Valley and there’s be a dance after a fucking famine in this goddamn town.
We then jump into Steven’s head, as he visits one of Tricia’s favourite spots with Betsy. They chat about Betsy’s boyfriend Jason, before Betsy apologises for her rather strident behaviour the night before.
Of course, Steven tells her she needn’t apologise, and that she’s right to “help him” keep Tricia at the forefront of his thoughts, and keep Cara away from his sperm-nozzle.
The chapter ends with the pair sharing Tricia-themed stories in an admittedly cute manner.
Chapter Two begins with the reason for Jessica’s declaration of Movie Stardom Aspirations. She’s hiding in a trash-pile at the centre of her hideous brown nest, when she overhears the Sainted Alice talking on the telephone to someone called… Sharon.
Jessica deduces that “Sharon” can only be Sharon Egbert, the mother of class clown Winston Egbert. I’ve a feeling that Dove will wade in here with some prime Mama Winston facts, culminating in the revelation that she is actually called Denise. [Dove: Nope, not me. Although our readers were discussing it over here.]
Jessica’s earwigging brings us the following salient points:
- Sharon Egbert is related to a movie director.
- Said movie director is set to visit the Egberts for some R&R.
- Said movie director is unlikely to want everyone to know said profession, as it would interfere with the said R&R.
This information sets Jessica scheming. As she steals her sisters one-piece bathing suit and tries it on, she decides to investigate the director further. At first, she plans to involve her friends Cara and Lila, before tossing them aside (in her mind) and keeping this gold for herself.
So we have a B Plot! And I’m here for it. I think.
But really? Siblings sharing intimate apparel like swimsuits? Is that a thing? Because I for one think it’s a little minging. Then again, I’m seven years older than my siblings, and would never have thought of doing (or had the opportunity to do) this. Maybe it’s fine…? [Dove: I was also dubious, but I’m an only child. That said, I never got swimwear handed down from my cousins.] [Wing: I’ve never shared swimsuits with my siblings, but I rarely share clothes with them at all. We tend to be different sizes at any given time. So I gave this some thought. On the one hand, it can be washed, just like most clothing, so should it really matter what part of the body it touches? On the other hand, there can be a culturally inherent eww reaction to the idea of sharing underwear with family. That, too, is just some sort of fabric that has been washed before being worn, though.
In the end, I landed here: Logically, it shouldn’t matter. It’s understandable when people find it weird, though.]
Hot skip to the mall, and Elizabeth is shopping for dresses with Enid. I actually find this quite nice, as it’s usually Jessica that gets the retail therapy. [Dove: But she was shopping at a designer shop called… The Designer Shop. So, this ghostie couldn’t even make up Sweet Valley Designs.]
After shopping is done, the girls head to Howard’s Delicatessen, which is a new venue I’ve not heard of before. There, they talk about the upcoming dance, and about Liz’s relationship with Todd, until Liz claims she saw someone the spitting image of Todd Wilkins exiting a nearby shoe emporium.
Is it Todd? Or is it his long-lost cousin, Tadd? Or, more believably, has Elizabeth finally succumbed to her demons and is seeing things? Only time will tell!
Anyway, after deducing that the only way to find out if it IS Todd is search the entire fucking mall for the Todd-shaped mystery shopper, the girls stomp around for a fruitless thirty before admitting defeat and calling it a day. It’s not Todd. Todd is on his way home to Vermont. [Dove: Yep, screw that cup of tea that Enid was enjoying, time to tromp the mall from end to end.] [Wing: In the version I read, which may or may not be the version Dove and Raven read, it was root beer, which is disgusting. I encourage them tossing it to chase after fake!Todd.]
Why they couldn’t just phone him, I’ve no idea.
Chapter three, and it’s Monday! The Elder Wakefields are already gone, while the twins are readying themselves for school. Steven’s there, going slower than usual, still in a fugue / funk from grief.
The girls quiz their brother on his whereabouts the day before. He was with Betsy, he admits. Jessica is pissed by this, while Elizabeth is her usual circumspect self. Their circular conversations are interrupted when Steven breaks away to call Betsy and thank her for the previous day,
Steven and Betsy plan to spend some more Tricia-based time the following weekend.
Next, the girls head to school in their little red Fiat. Elizabeth is driving. Jessica, of course, is trying to use the rear view mirror to fix her makeup, which is one of the most hackneyed and cliched tropes I can think of. [Wing: And yet, it happens. Though most cars now have mirrors on the … crap, what are those things called, actually had to look it up, fuck, Wing’s brain … sun visor, which is far more useful.]
Talk turns to the B Plot, and Jessica internally monologues on her Grand Plan: get chummy with Winston Egbert, for he is the Gateway to his Hollywood-centric relative. She’d use her wiles and guile to rekindle Winston’s dormant desire for her, finagle herself an invitation to the post-volleyball dance, and from there worm her way into his home to hook up with Director-Man. Easy as pie!
Naturally, she’s rather enigmatic about her scheme to her sister. She merely mentions that she’s going to hook up a date with a “Mystery Man” for that coming weekend. Elizabeth, amused, promises that if Jessica does finagle a date from this mystery man, she can borrow Elizabeth’s new dress for the occasion.
Yeah, as if not getting a date would stop Jessica. If forced to fly solo, Jessica would shank her sister for a sweaty sock if she thought it would do her a single ounce of good.
As for Elizabeth’s plans for the dance? None. Flying solo, if going at all.
At school, Jessica catches up with two of the Droids (SVH’s premium student band), in English class. While this is actually nothing but clumsy foreshadowing, and of little interest in the Grand Scheme of this book, it does have the following fun segment…
“Hey, Emily,” she said, “you look like you’ve been staying up late. Practicing hard?”
Emily gave a short, humorless laugh. “Hardly. How can I study or sleep when Karen is up all night, crying?”
“Is your stepmother upset about something?” Jessica asked, confused.
“Not that Karen,” Guy put in. “Her new baby sister is named Karen, too.”
“Half-sister,” Emily said sullenly.
“Oh, that’s right,” Jessica said, remembering. “Your father and stepmother just had a baby.”
“Yeah, so now instead of one Karen messing up my life, I’ve got two,” Emily complained.
“Is it really that bad?” Jessica asked.
“Worse,” Emily answered. “I thought once the baby was born it would at least get Karen off my back. But now she has even more to complain about. She says I don’t help enough. I never offer to baby-sit. It seems I can’t do anything right.”
Karen’s gotta Karen, amirite?
[Dove: Maybe Emily could hire a Karen to deal with all of her Karens?] [Wing: Pretty sure we’ll be meant to hate adult!Karen, but I can’t help admiring her for leaning into the Karen Sr. and Karen Jr. thing. Women don’t do that too often in the US. I say, as someone who was named after both parents.]
Anyway, it seems that the next book is about Emily. Whatevs.
Class soon begins, and immediately Jessica has a chance to get closer to Winston. The term project is a study of individual America authors, with each student able to pick an author on whom they can hinge their project. If students choose the same author, they can work together.
Despite Lila trying to influence Jessica towards Hemingway, once Winston has selected F Scott Fitzgerald then Jessica has no other option. She too declares for FSF, and the die is cast.
[Wing: Bullshit that Lila would prefer Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Glitz and debauchery amongst the elite? Lila would be all over that, if she was going to have a strong opinion about her choice of author in the first place.]
After class, Jessica waves away Lila’s complaints and makes a beeline for The Mighty Egbert. He seems dazed to have Jessica as a study buddy, buy thankfully doesn’t fall immediately into the dewey-eyed patsy mould that Jessica so often courts. She does her best to work her way to immediate access at the Egbert Retreat, but he bats her off (unknowingly) with sound logic. They can’t start work at his house immediately, because the Egberts are expecting guests.
Jessica is set back, but unbowed. She’ll snag her man, she’s sure of it.
The chapter ends with Elizabeth chatting about the school paper and the volleyball match with editor Penny Ayala. She heads to the team coach’s office to get his final selection lists for publication, but as she arrives she sees…
A naked Mr Nydick!
No, what she actually sees is even more surprising. She sees…
A clothed Mr Nydick!
(hyuk hyuk hyuk.)
In reality, she sees…
Todd Wilkins?! Coming out of the coach’s office?!
Fighting her way through inexplicable crowds, she rushes to the office door. Of course, when she gets there, “Todd” (or Tadd or Robo-Todd or whatever) is long gone. She spots him climbing into a blue convertible.
It’s not Todd. It’s not his car, for starters. But the boy has Todd’s frame, and Todd’s gait, and Todd’s hair, and Todd’s confidence. He may even have Todd’s severed genitals, in a box under his bed, who knows?
Elizabeth is intrigued beyond measure. If she can’t have Todd, it seems she’ll do her best to investigate “Tadd”. Because at least “Tadd” is still in Sweet Valley.
This is a very Jessica plot, methinks. But sure, if Ross ain’t about, why not hook up with Russ?
Chapter Four starts with Jessica chatting to Cara on the Compound Telephone. Cara, it seems, is still concerned about Steven. She’s not spoken to a Wakefield since Lila’s party. So much for being Jessica’s best friend, I guess. At least Lila is filling those shoes now.
Anyway, Jessica blames Steven’s behaviour on Betsy, and her insistence that Steven’s every waking thought be centred on her dead sister. She drops the nuggets that Steven and Betsy have been together all weekend, but Cara is much more forgiving and understanding that the vacuous Wakefield clone, due to her own dabblings with loneliness and loss. Perhaps this difference in viewpoint explains why Cara and Jess aren’t bosom brethren anymore. [Dove: Which would be interesting, if this series gave a stuff about friendships. It doesn’t.]
Jess tells Cara that Steven needs to start living again, and that if Cara wants Steven in her life then she’s got to go ahead and make it happen, because it sure as shit won’t happen on Steven’s watch alone. Cara is unconvinced, but takes the advice under advisement.
Next, Todd calls. He and Elizabeth chat on the phone too. That’s right, folks, a chapter with back-to-back expository phone-calls. How thrilling.
In this call, Todd huskily declares that he misses his Elizabeth [Dove: Since all boys say things huskily, I can only assume that they have these silly vapid conversations with the same sombre gravitas as Sam and Dean in Supernatural. Or, more accurately, all the people LARPing as them at the convention.]. He gives her his blessing to dance with others at the upcoming volleyball dance, and then spends the remainder of the call telling Liz what a great time he’s having in Vermont with his new friend called Gina.
Basically, Todd’s a prick.
The chapter ends after the pair declare their love for each other, and Liz’s eyes filling with tears as she realises that their long-distance relationship isn’t quite a strong as she’d thought it would be.
I mean, I guess this is interesting? Or at least it WOULD be if I didn’t know that Todd and Liz are a seminal through-line of this series from the start to the end.
Sure, he’s moved to Vermont. I reckon he’ll be back in Sweet Valley by Book 30, if not earlier. [Dove: If only Kimberly Haver could’ve stayed gone for that many books.]
So this shit? It feels like water-treading until the real plot kicks in.
I guess if you’d followed this series as it was released, there’d likely be more peril or intrigue here. I didn’t do that. So.
Chapter Five starts with Winston juggling. Because he’s funny. And because funny people juggle. Didn’t you know?
As he keeps things off the floor, Jessica enacts her plan to beguile Winston into getting a pass to Hollywood Egbert. She sidles up to him seductively. What does that look like? I dunno, maybe she cups a boob or something.
During a rather trite conversation, Jessica and Winston discuss their varied plans for the upcoming volleyball dance. Jessica does her best to swerve the conversation in an attempt to get Winston to pop the obvious question, but he’s either completely blind to her delights or he’s savvy to her charms and is making her squirm. While I suspect it’s the former, I choose to believe it’s the latter. [Wing: You’re probably correct, but at some point he does acknowledge he’s seen her manipulate too many other boys to look at her quite the same way as he used to, so it’s possible he’s doing some of the latter, at least subconsciously.]
Eventually, Winston tells Jess that he’d recently asked if she wanted to go to the dance with him in an entirely platonic capacity, as he knows she’d be missing Todd and it was a nice and friendly thing to do. Elizabeth turned him down, of course, but Jessica could hardly ask him to the dance after hearing that bombshell.
The scene ends abruptly, with Jessica unfulfilled. [Dove: This was utterly delightful. It was lovely to see someone immune to Jessica’s coy words and seductive sidling.]
Next up, we’re back at the Oracle offices. Penny and Elizabeth collide in passing, causing Penny to spill a collection of unused photographs, destined for the bin. All apologies, Elizabeth helps Penny gather them up. AS she does so, she spots a picture of the Toddalike… Tadd!
Penny tells Liz that the picture is of the Big Mesa volleyball team, destined to play in the Big Game that very weekend. Intrigued, Elizabeth asks Penny if she can keep the picture. She also learns Tadd’s real name… Michael Sellers.
I just Googled “Michael Sellers Volleyball” for a laugh, hoping to find a volleyball player called Michael Sellers or something, whose picture I could share.
Instead, I got a UK murder case, in which someone called Michael Sellers was the perpetrator. I’ll not link it here.
Why am I mentioning it? I don’t really know. Sometimes whimsy is hard.
After school, the girls return to the Compound. There, they discover Steven’s Volkswagen in the drive. Inside the house, their father is having a serious conversation with their brother. Elizabeth suggests they don’t eavesdrop, and for some reason Jessica acquiesces.
The conversation is about Tricia, and Betsy, and Cara, and grief. I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s the leitmotif of the book, after all. Ned is doing his best to impart wisdom to his son. This largely consist of him telling Steven that Tricia has gone and that Steven must move on.
Steven’s not particularly receptive to this tack, so Ned tells him a story instead…
“Let me tell you a story.” Mr. Wakefield sat down in a chair facing Steven. “When I was a junior in college, my best friend died in a car accident. I was devastated for weeks. I couldn’t study, couldn’t eat. Nothing seemed important.”
Steven nodded. He understood very well what his father had gone through.
Mr. Wakefield continued. “Finally I realized that grieving wasn’t helping my friend. He wouldn’t have wanted that for me either. That was when I came out of my depression, but I never forgot him. When you were born I named you Steven, after him.”
Well, this is the first I’ve heard about this. Isn’t it? If I’m honest, this is exactly the kind of thing that Dove will read and say “actually, we learnt all about this from page sixty-three of Twins book twelvety-fucking-seven, “Ned’s Mate Steven Dies In A Car Crash”, I can’t believe you don’t remember, are you even BOTHERED about this series, blah blah blah”, at which point I check out and do my best to ride the waves of disdain.
(I don’t actually check out.)
In all seriousness… Dove, is this canon? [Dove: Not so far, no. I’m deeply distrustful of the elder Wakefields’ backstories. They have about three different stories about how they met. I think they just lie constantly because they met at a sex party. Also, Steven’s now thinking, “I should get Cara pregnant and name our child Tricia.”] [Raven: Genius!]
Steven tells his dad that while he appreciates the chat, their situations weren’t the same. Ned asks his son to think on what he’s said, before heading into the living room and a barrage of questions from his daughters, none of which he answers.
“What’s Steve doing here?” Jessica demanded.
“Is he all right?” Elizabeth chimed in.
“He’s all right,” Mr. Wakefield assured them. “He’s just going through tough times. Listen girls, your mother’s car is in the shop, and I have to pick her up. Hold down the fort, will you?”
I’ll leave David Mitchell to was on the whole “Hold down the fort” debacle. Suffice to say, I agree with him.
Once Daddy departs, the girls decide that Steven needs some time alone to process. Then Elizabeth sets herself to watch a movie, and Jessica thinks “fuck giving him time to process, he needs to hear me out immediately.” Because sure. She’s Jessica Fucking Wakefield, and her word is fucking Gospel.
So Jess heads to Steven’s room and calls him out on his maudlin mourney-mourney bullshit. She informs him that he’s ruining things with Cara, that Betsy is no good for his calm, and that Steven needs to think about his own mental health.
How does he take it? Not well, that’s for sure. He storms out of Casa Wakafa in a mighty snit, much to Elizabeth’s popcorn-munching surprise.
In the ensuing aftermath, Jessica suggests that her brand of Tough Love is quite the desired tonic, and that a little bit of Cara cuddling could do Steven the world of good.
For some reason, though, Elizabeth is immediately down on her sister’s best friend.
“Cara? She’s a snob and a gossip. She’s totally wrong for Steve.”
“That’s not very nice,” Jessica pointed out.
“I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel. Steve’s too smart to be taken in by someone like Cara.”
I mean, what? This is Elizabeth, right? I thought Liz was designed to see the good in everybody? [Dove: She does. But only when she does it. If Jessica does it, it doesn’t count.]
Apparently not. Go Liz, show a little ass!
Scene ends with Elizabeth telling Jessica to back off a little.
Chapter Six, and we’re readying ourselves for the Big Volleyball Match, followed by the Big Volleyball Dance. The twins are setting their dance clothes out, so once they finish battling Big Mesa they can head back to the Compound and switcheroo their outfits toot sweet. The dance is being held at The Caravan, a local night spot that is obviously Sweet Valley’s analogue to The Bronze from Buffy.
Before heading off, they attempt to convince Steven to join them at either the volleyball match or the dance later that evening. Steven refuses, gracefully yet not without impatience.
At the Volleyball Game, we’re introduced to the rest of the team. It’s the Wakefield Twins, with captain Ken Matthews, Bruce Patman, Lila Fowler, and Oracle sports editor John Pfiefer. How fucking random!
Ken starts giving the collective his strategy team talk, which Elizabeth completely ignores in favour of gawking at Michael Sellers on the Big Mesa bench. He’s everything that Elizabeth is looking for, with the added bonus of not being in fucking Vermont.
After an overlong speech from Principal Collins, the match begins. It’s first to fifteen, best of three, and things start badly.
The sporty bits here are actually nicely done. The match builds, the action is well noted, and so on. [Dove: And weirdly? Much better than the entire book about volleyball.] [Raven: There was an entire book about volleyball?! Man, I hate getting old.]
They’re no real fun to recap, however.
So feel free to head to the actual text if you’re looking for more juice for your goose. I’ll be glossing over the finer details in favour of the broad strokes. [Wing: Wise. I had a lot of detail nitpicking to get into, but I’m clearly not going to recap that part myself in order to make them. No need for a Wing volleyball rabbit hole. Again.]
So Big Mesa manage to triumph in the first game, winning 15-13 after a slew of Liz-inspired errors. She simply can’t stop staring at Michael Sellers. For the second game, there’s more mistakes, but Sweet Valley hold on for a 15-11 win.
On the break, Jessica deduces her sister’s nerves are due to the Todd-alike on the opposite side of the net, and she tells her sister that perhaps he would notice Elizabeth more if she were playing better. Great advice, I actually laughed there.
The third game sees Big Mesa (and Michael Sellers) focussing their attack on the weakest player…. Elizabeth Wakefield. Of course, the Wakefields have a trick bluff play that manages to take the team to victory. They eke out a win by a single point, taking the match 2-1 and upholding the honour of the Sweet Valley Sportsball Federation (or whatever) for evermore!
The crowd goes wild, yaaaaaaaay!
\o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/
The crowd disperses, and the chapter ends with Elizabeth actually conversing with Michael Sellers, in accordance with the prophecy.
This conversation heads into Chapter Seven. The contents? Pretty standard for a burgeoning flirtation between two willing parties. But there’s a frisson, as Jessica butts in to act as the voice of the observational reader. And what she, and we, observe, is that Michael Sellers is something of an egotistical prick.
Okay, so that might be a spoiler of sorts, as Elizabeth herself takes a few pages to catch up, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
The “trio” make plans to meet at the dance in around an hour, and the girls head back to change.
Back at the Compound, we find that Steven has a visitor: his “old friend” Artie Western.
Pretty sure I’ve not hear of this bellend before, but maybe Dove has more details in her Sweet Valley Twins Roladex. Dove? [Dove: Utter nope. I’m so much better at Twins.]
He’s there, trying to persuade his friend that he should head to the Caravan for some fun. Because two college-age boys heading to a high school dance isn’t super-skeevy at all.
The girls change, and Steven finally agrees to attend the party. The four head over.
Once there, Jessica bumps into Cara. She immediately suggests that Cara approach Steven for some romance, before swanning off imperiously when Cara shows a little reticence.
Alone again, Cara begins to consider Jessica’s advice. After nothing more than a paragraph on soul-searching, she decides that perhaps she has what it takes to bring Steven from his torpor. So she rises to the challenge, and approaches.
We skip into Steven’s head. He’s minding his business, enjoying the fresh new Droid sound, when Cara appears on his horizon. His heart quickens, as he’s attracted to her, but he’s reluctant to admit his feelings in the spotlight of his love for Tricia.
Cara arrives, and is greeted rather coldly. Of course, it gets worse almost immediately, as Betsy Martin looms large once more, as if she’s a bloodhound for Steven’s musky lusty pheromone surge.
Now, Betsy… Betsy is greeted warmly. Steven whisks her off for some private time, undoubtedly to reminisce about Tricia and all her lovely ways when she wasn’t dead. Standard.
Cara, humiliated, stands dejected. But that doesn’t last long, as Artie Western, Steven’s Brand New Best Friend That He’s Always Had, decides that this is the time to shoot his shot.
He asks Cara to dance. She accepts.
He then asks Cara for a date the following night. Again, she accepts, although this time after a telling pause. [Wing: In which she tries to think of a reason to refuse. You have a reason! You don’t want to go! No is a complete answer!]
Cara looks around for Steven and Betsy, but they’re long gone.
Quick cut to Elizabeth, dancing with Michael Sellers. And it’s going swimmingly! This New Guy is altogether identical to the missing Todd, from his tousled hair to his muscular frame to the swelling in his pants that’s poking her thigh. Bliss.
That bliss is short-lived, because over a series of cringeworthy paragraphs, Michael Sellers reveals himself to be a Patman-sized dickwad of the highest order.
First, he’s very disparaging about Winston’s spread of party food. Elizabeth describes it as “lavish”, although there’s no real evidence to support or undermine this.
Second, he’s incredibly self-obsessed, with a massive ego as far as his own accomplishments are concerned. When given the opportunity to speak, he only talks about himself.
Third, he doesn’t bus his dirty plates, which if I’m honest is probably the most heinous crime thus far.
And finally, when Winston tries to cut in for a dance with “his” Elizabeth, young Michael is a rude, obnoxious cock-puffin.
Happily for all involved, Elizabeth shoots him down with a worthy rebuke before moving off to dance with Winston. It seems that Fake Todd isn’t as good as Real Todd after all.
[Wing: Why did this even happen? It adds nothing to this goddamn book. Not a damn thing.]
After the song, Liz meets up with Enid, and tells her all about how crappy Michael Sellers turned out to be. Enid lends her sage advice, there are hugs, all is well in the world.
Back with Michael Sellers? With Elizabeth out of the picture, he latches on to the Next Best Thing: Jessica Wakefield. And theyr’e dancing, and laughing, and fuck Liz, right?
Then Winston lurches into Jessica’s peripherals. Winston Egbert, relation of Hollywood Egbert, movie director to the stars (and blonde teenage wannabe-stars).
Jessica, looking for any excuse to extract herself from the windbag Michael Sellers, made her excuses and grabbed Winston by the metaphorical nuts to escape.
Michael Sellers, the Big Mesa Todd, ditched by both Wakefield twins for the same gangly nerd?! That’s gotta hurt! I do hope there’s a book somewhere down the line where he takes out half of Big Mesa in an impotent spree killing. [Dove: On a lighter side of this, I hope that a rumour sweeps Big Mesa that Winston is hung, and the entire boy-fancying population of the neighbouring town fall in instant crush with him. I mean, if both Wakefields want him, he must be AWESOME, right?]
Chapter Eight! It’s the morning after the dance, and high time that Jessica put the B Plot Scheme into full effect. She’d a day planned of “project work” at Winston’s house, hoping to gain access to the visiting Hollywood relation.
Before this happens, she catches up with her sister for the skinny about Michael Sellers. They both laugh at just how much of a cladge he was. I don’t know what a “cladge” is, but you can pick up the meaning contextually.
Once Jessica leaves, we’re left with Steven, cleaning his car. The page is then filled with more tormented internal monologuing. He loves Tricia. He likes Cara. He’s conflicted by Betsy’s involvement. And so on. And so on. Poor kid.
Eventually, he starts crying, and Elizabeth consoles him. It’s actually a nice segment, with real sibling love and care.
But who gives a fuck, right? Let’s head to Chez Egbert!
At the Egbert Abode, we meet Sharon Egbert. Apparently, she’s impossibly thin and elegant. She’s underdressed for the hostess of a movie director, at lkeast in Jessica’s mind. It appears that Marty, her cousin, has not yet arrived, and Sharon is doing chores to prepare for his imminent appearance.
Jessica pries for more info, an learns that “Marty” isn’t due to arrive for a couple of days. That’s disappointing, as Jess has committed to spending a lot of time with Winston to work on the Fitzgerald project, time that needn’t have been committed quite so readily.
Never mind, she muses. She’s in this for the long game, so she hunkers down for an afternoon of actual schoolwork with the Nerdy Winston.
Jessica Wakefield and Winston Egbert. Endgame, surely?
NO SPOILERS please.
I’m just calling it here.
[Dove: Oh, you sweet summer child. You cannot even begin to fathom…]
Chapter Nine begins with Artie asking for Steven’s advice about his upcoming date that evening with Cara. Steven helps as best he can, but he’s feeling a pang or two of jealousy, which is understandable.
Over pizza with his sisters, the talk turns to Cara, and to Steven’s love life. Naturally, Jessica is all for Cara hooking up with Steven, and soon. She makes it clear that Artie is not Cara’s type.
At this point, Elizabeth chelps in with her tainted tuppence. Cara is a wastrel, at least in Liz’s eyes, and she’s definitely not good enough for Steven.
Jessica abruptly put her glass down on the table. “Everybody thinks you’re so kind and generous, Liz.” She reached for another slice of pizza. “But you refuse to give Cara the benefit of the doubt.”
I mean, I’m Team Jessica 100% on this issue. Liz is a judgmental asshat as far as Cara is concerned.
The girls devolve into sniping, and eventually Steven snaps. He roasts Jessica for her pushiness, and lambasts Elizabeth for her insensitivity regarding Cara. [Dove: First of all, yes, Liz is such a snob at times, after all those years judging the Unicorns for being snobby. Second of all, I thought this was some kind of a work when I first read it. Like, if they argue over Cara… somehow Steven will… *shrugs* magically get over his grief? Like that time they borrowed a dog to invite Brooke to her own birthday party. The plan was completely unrelated to the resolve, but there was a resolve nonetheless.]
I can’t believe I’m saying this, so soon after declaring for Team Jessica… but I think I’m actually Team Steven. How positively wretched.
Elizabeth is embarrassed into silence, but Jessica is not going down without a fight. She continues her Tough Love offensive, doling out hard truth after hard truth. It soon turns from sniping to shouting, and culminates in this particular callous exchange…
Steven slammed his fist on the counter. “I’ve told you, Jess, stay out of it. I’ll live my life the way I want.”
“OK,” Jessica said. She shrugged. “But remember Cara’s got one advantage over Tricia. She’s alive.”
No coming back from that one, Jess.
Steven is stunned. He silently leaves the room. Once departed, Elizabeth lays into her sister, and rightly so. She admonishes Jess for her cruelty.
Oddly, Jessica agrees.
With a quiversome lip, she reveals that she was laying it on uber-thick in order to break her brother from his soporific state. She doesn’t use those big words, mind, but her intentions are clear. It’s actually nice to see the Ghostie actually give thought behind Jessica’s peak / trough moments, as you can be sure that other Ghosties would have had Jess say such things out of sheer malice and spite.
Elizabeth isn’t convinced that Jessica’s actions are warranted, but she’s somewhat mollified by her sister’s good intentions. As are we, the readers… right? [Dove: Yes. She has a point. Nobody else in the household is going to do anything other than sigh hopelessly as the catch sight of a 37 year old Steven, still wallowing in his grief, decades past Tricia’s death. And since therapy isn’t an option, let’s go nuclear.]
[Wing: Nope. Because it’s likely to work, to some extent at least, in this book, and that’s bullshit. Being cruel to try to “fix” someone isn’t right. She made some good points up until that last fucked up line.]
Outside, with Steven, we see an immediate payoff to Jessica’s apparent callousness. In his internal monologue, he admits that he knows deep down that Jessica is right, about both Cara and Elizabeth. This is also a nice touch, because Jessica is rarely projected as anything other than a feckless waste of skin. Steven also spends some of the page on considering Betsy Martin’s place in the narrative, before he decides to take the plunge and ask Cara for a date.
He calls Cara’s home, expecting to leave a message with her folks as Cara would be out with Artie… only to be connected to Cara herself! It seems Lady Walker had called a raincheck on her date, which now seems like a complete waste of ink. Why bother injecting Artie into the story at all?
Anyway, Steven takes the plunge and invites Cara out for a picnic the following day., She accepts with grace, and the meet cute is set. Although, immediately, Steven starts feeling pangs of unease about Betsy and Tricia. Standard.
The chapter ends with the date itself, which is a charming stroll through their time together at the local Zoo (presumably called the Sweet Valley Zoo). I am here for this, because animals are amazing, and a Zoo Date feels both cute and non-threatening, and entirely what I’d expect both Steven and Cara to enjoy given the narrative thus far. No pressure here, folks. If things get too real, just look at the fucking penguins.
[Dove: Also, for those of you who’ve read Confidential? Cara made her very first cake for their picnic. The baking begins…]
So, a successful date! And one that didn’t see Betsy Martin sashay into view, pointing her accusatory finger like Donald fucking Sutherland at the end of a zombie film.
Chapter Ten skips to Monday, with Jessica and Elizabeth discussing their brother’s Sunday itinerary. Jessica confirms that yes, Steven had spent the day on a date with Steven, but Cara had not supplied any more details as Steven had asked her to keep thing between themselves.
Steven’s happiness, and Jessica’s insistence, seems to have finally convinced Liz that Cara is actually a decent person, and that her interest in Steven is both good for him and seemingly mutual. So yay, growth for Judgey Twin! Way to go, Judgey Twin! You go, Glen Coco!
Jessica then attempts to spill all the glorious details of her B Plot Scheme, to get herself discovered by a Hollywood director. But before she gets a chance, she spots Winston in the school crowd, and decides that actually enacting her scheme is much more pressing than telling her sister about said scheme.
Liz then spends a paragraph wondering if Jessica and Winston are destined for a relationship (YES!), before she spots Cara.
In a display of self-awareness, Liz takes time to apologise to Cara for assuming she did not have the capacity to change. It’s nice to see Elizabeth actually admitting she is wrong for once, as she so often doubles down because, well, she’s presented as being right all the fucking time. So yay Liz for growth, and yay Cara for being gracious enough to accept the apology.
The rest of the chapter deals with the B Plot.
First, we discover that people have begun to notice the amount of time Jessica is spending with Winston of late, and it’s doing nothing for her popularity or her self esteem.
Then we see Jessica and Winston heading to the Egbert Residence, with Jessica quizzing Winston on their new house guests every step of the way.
Once at the Egberts, we see a plot contrivance that sees Jess left with a run of the house as both Winston and Mama Sharon head off to fetch some catering for the evening’s planned cocktail party in Cousin Marty’s honour.
And then we conclude with Jessica bumping into said Cousin Marty, introducing herself as a friend of Winston, and sharing an oblique and obscure conversation in which she shows interest in Marty’s line of work without either party explicitly stating what line of work that may be. The section ends with Marty promising to show Jessica a project he is working on, this coming Saturday, which excites Jessica to no end.
She then makes her excuses and leaves, her mission apparently accomplished for the day.
So Marty is definitely not a Hollywood Director. But we know that.
What is his real profession?
I know, now, what profession that is. But at the time of reading, I imagined him working in pest control.
I’m not far wrong, but I wasn’t right.
Chapter Eleven, and we’re with Cara. It’s what, a week or so since the Zoo date? Apparently, it’s Cara’s birthday, and she’s readying herself for another date with Steven.
The week’s gone well, we’re told. Steven has been spending a lot of time and focus on Cara, which makes her feel very special. When he spotted her birthday was circled on her calendar, he asked her if she’d like to go to dinner that evening. She’d said yes, of course, and picked an out-of-town venue that felt in-keeping with Steven’s current fragility and caution.
When you invite someone to dinner, isn’t the venue something chosen by the invitee? Or at the very least it’s something that’s discussed by both parties? I know that a plot contrivance is needed for the next section to make sense, but this is still a bit weak nonetheless. Either way, Cara has picked the venue and Steven collects her for a romantic evening.
Things go badly, eventually. That much is to be expected. But first, Steven gifts his date a book by her favourite author, which is cute.
The downhill slope begins when Cara shares their venue for the evening ahead.
The Valley Inn.
The same restaurant enjoyed by Steven and Tricia before she died.
Because I can’t remember that happening. How about you, Dove? [Dove: No, but the books about these two were very much “Jessica and Elizabeth react to Steven and Tricia” and not so much “These books are about Steven and Tricia, let me show, not tell, you”.]
Steven swallows the existential dread down deep before saying yay, the Valley Inn sounds splendid. And off to the Valley Inn they go.
Once there, Cara asks Steven if he’d ever visited the place before. He white-lies and says yes, with his family, a few years previously. I can understand his dilemma here. He doesn’t want to bring the mood down by being a bummer.
Things get better. The food is nice, and the conversation flows. Soon, Steven is back at ease. It’s not such a bad night, or a depressing place, after all.
The pair get up to dance… and that’s when the wheels fall off. Because the band plays the song Always, which was apparently Tricia’s favourite song. [Dove: Bon Jovi. Man can write a ballad that hits teenage girls right in the feels.]
Suddenly, the air feels thin, and Steven can’t breathe. His distress is writ large, and Cara picks up on it. She asks Steven if he is okay.
Steven, blinded by loyalty to his dead girlfriend, makes the flimsiest excuses and leaves. Sure, he does the semi-decent thing and pays for the meal before he goes, but he does take the fucking car and leave his date stranded at an out-of-town restaurant. Dick move, Steven. I understand your pain here, but swallow it the fuck down and don’t act like a bellend.
Steven is gone, and Cara is alone. She’s riddled with embarrassment, but she retains as much poise as she can. She gathers her things, pays the bill, and takes a taxi home.
The chapter ends with her entering her house and answering the ringing phone immediately. It’s Steven, of course, and he’s apologising for his shoddy (and somewhat heart-breaking) behaviour.
Cara stands her ground as Steven stammers an apology. She’s been treated badly, no matter the circumstances, and Steven needs to realise this. [Dove: I was utterly shocked that Steven apologised as soon as he got home. And that Cara laid out her feelings. I was completely ready for him to not say a word and about a week later for her to hold him as he cried – but never explained himself – and she would make peace with the fact that she’s not a beautiful dead Trica, but a second-rate Cara instead. So, big fat kudos for surprising me here, ghostie.]
Eventually, Steven reveals the reason for his disappearing act. Cara takes the information on board, but it does little to melt her resolve. Eventually, we get to the crux of the issue, and Cara concisely gets to the heart of the matter:
After another pause, Steven said, “Cara, what can I do to make this up to you?”
Cara considered the question and then answered sadly. “Steve, I like you very much. You know I do. But you’re tied to Tricia in a way that I think is unhealthy for any relationship of ours. Tell me the truth, Steve. You don’t feel free to see other girls, do you?”
“Not really,” he admitted.
And there we have it. Poor Steven, and poor Cara.
Steven asks for one more chance, but Cara is resolute. She cares for him, and wants to help, but both of them know that Steven is not ready to move on from Tricia’s death.
And the chapter ends. Sad!
[Wing: Best part of this book: But I can’t compete with a ghost. And the truth is, I don’t even want to.
Cara, at this moment I loved you.]
Chapter Twelve starts the vinegar strokes of the story. It begins with Jessica arranging to head to Winston’s house, when Winston isn’t there, to speak to Marty about his “special project”. That sounds as sleazy as all hell, but I’m sure it’s something that’s simply tasteful and not, say, Brazzers.
Next, there’s a conversation between Alice and the twins in which the Elder Wakefield suggests that Steven has unfortunately relapsed into his mournful wallowing. We also learn that Steven has departed Casa Wakafa that very morning with Betsy Martin, apparently bent on a day of Tricia Time once more.
Jessica then heads off to Winston’s for the denouement of the B Plot. Without wanting to dwell on things too much, it seems that the project that Marty is looking to share involves… garbage collection.
That’s right, folks… Marty is a binman!
WE DID IT, EVERYONE!
The world is full of books in which the protagonist is a spy, or a marine, or a grizzled detective, or a wizard, or a superhero. Hell, even books about the hotshot lawyer or kickass doctor have an otherworldly feel.
As a reader, I’ve always maintained that the world needs more stories about normal, everyday people. My go-to phrasing to encapsulate this desire is…
“The world needs more books about binmen.”
Why? Because binmen can be honourable, and heroic, and inspiring too. Just as much as any spy, or marine, or detective.
AND THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT… A BINMAN!
Things won’t get much better than this!
(And yes, I know Marty’s actually a ‘Civil Engineer’. But I don’t care. He’s a binman to me, damnit!)
Jessica is crestfallen. All this scheming, for what? A bag of garbage?
Apparently, the director in the Egbert family is Cousin Phil, not Cousin Marty. Cousin Phil called off his visit at the eleventh hour, and Cousin Marty took his place. And this, a B Plot was born.
One nice touch is that Jessica actually stayed around for an hour, listening to Marty’s garbage collection proposal. I think an early-book Jess would have screamed in his face, flipped him off and exited with a flounce. So growth for both Wakefield twins today! I’m very proud. [Dove: Again. My ghast was flabbered here. Score all round for all the Wakefields behaving decently (with caveats in Steven’s case).]
Chapter Thirteen sees Steven driving Elizabeth to the Dairi Burger, spilling his guts about the failure of the previous evening. He drops her off before heading to Betsy’s house, much to Elizabeth’s dismay.
At the Dairi Burger, Liz and Jess have a long discussion. Jess spills the beans about her B Plot Scheme, from top to tail, much to Elizabeth’s amusement. Jessica then disappears to chat to Lila, leaving Elizabeth to consider Steven’s current predicament.
It was awful that Steven was clinging so fiercely to Tricia’s memory. Tricia hadn’t wanted it to be that way. Elizabeth knew that for a fact. If only there were a way to make Steven and Betsy realize it.
Wait, Elizabeth thought to herself, I think I know how to do just that.
Yup. Elizabeth has a House Moment.
Chapter Fourteen! Onward!
Elizabeth has had her house moment, so she’s off to see Betsy to put the solution into action. As we’ve established before, she lives on the wrong side of the tracks.
Betsy is surprised to see Liz, but invites her into her clean but faded cliché of a home.
In the ensuing conversation, Elizabeth tells Betsy that she is taking too much of Steven’s time and attention. All in the name of Tricia Martin.
She tells Betsy of the promise she made Tricia, back before she died (obviously). [Wing: Liz sees dead people.] She’d promised that, upon discovering Tricia’s illness, she wouldn’t tell her brother about it. By keeping this secret, Tricia could convince Steven that they needed to split as a couple, leaving him free to get over her before the Leukemia took her.
As we know, Elizabeth kept that promise for half a book before changing her mind and telling Steven everything. This was a blessing and a curse, as it gave them precious time together before the end, but it also led to Steven’s current sorry state of affairs.
At this point, Elizabeth suggests that, with the benefit of hindsight, Tricia had been right.
It seems that Elizabeth is full of retractions in this book. Nice!
Betsy then realises that Elizabeth is “accusing” her of being an agent in Steven’s despair. Liz tells her she know Betsy isn’t doing it intentionally, but she is doing it nonetheless. And Liz makes a great point that frames the whole dilemma.
Tears began to spill down Betsy’s cheeks. “How could you think I would do anything to hurt Steve?”
“I don’t think you would—intentionally,” Elizabeth assured her, “but I think that’s what has happened. Steve can’t start looking forward to the future because you keep asking him to dwell on the past.”
“I never thought of it that way. I just feel this awesome responsibility to keep Tricia’s memory alive. And the only people who can do that are Steven and me.”
“Yes, Betsy, but it’s easy for you to hold Tricia close and go on with your life. There’s no conflict for you to have your memories of Tricia and a relationship with Jason as well. But it’s much more complicated for Steve.”
“I see what you mean,” Betsy said slowly. “Every time he tried to bring Cara into his life, I was right there, insisting he should be thinking about Tricia.”
This is emotional stuff, and well realised. Elizabeth makes some very valid points, and gently steers Betsy down the path of self-realisation.
She gets there, eventually, admitting that she is so focussed on being a good sister to the departed Tricia because, well, she was such a shitty one when the girl was actually alive.
Elizabeth then suggests that Betsy has an opportunity to make amends with Steven, and with Cara. Betsy agrees, and Elizabeth knows just the thing to help all parties heal…
Chapter Fifteen details Elizabeth plans.
First, she tricks both Cara and Steven into meeting at a local landmark by delivering fake messages from their respective mothers. So the pair meet under the school clock tower at seven pm.
Then, for some unfathomable reason, Mr Collins’s son Teddy is used as a courier to deliver gifts to both protagonists. I guess the Ghostie is going for cute here?
The gifts? Cara gets a beautiful pencil sketch of Steven. Steven gets a beautiful pencil sketch of Steven. Both sketched done by the beautiful pencils of Betsy Martin.
Accompanying these sketches? A poignant note from the artist herself…
I have finally come to realize what Tricia knew long ago: a wonderful person like you should be looking toward his future, not his past. You made my sister so happy while she was alive. Now it’s time for you to bring your kindness and affection to someone else. Do what Trish wanted, Steve: embrace life and all the beautiful things it has to offer.
So! All’s well that ends well. Steven and Cara are enamoured by the sketches, and the note, and each other, and end the chapter together in mind, body, and spirit. They feel that Tricia would be looking down upon them with a smile. And probably fapping.
So all that remains is Chapter 16, which is nothing more than a few paragraphs on Emily Droid’s plight. Apparently, her dad is sending her away from Sweet Valley, to a boarding school. Which seems all too similar to other books we’ve covered recently.
And that’s that!
This was okay. Nothing too horrible, but nothing overly exciting either.
Of the three stories in here (Liz and Michael, Steven and Cara, Jessica and Winston), I think I enjoyed Jessica and Winston the best. But all of them had their high points.
As usual, I find Jessica much more palatable when she’s not the focus of the book, as when she’s on the peripheral she can’t do much real damage. Elizabeth’s journey in this book was strangely compelling, and her constant re-evaluating her position on things was refreshing. And Steven? Steven is Sweet Valley is an actual, real-life decent guy. Thus far, at least. Talk about chalk and cheese from the shitty Steven in Twins.
I think we’re past the early-stage Sweet Valley High bullshit that made us so goddamn angry early on. And I’m please, because hating everything is so bloody exhausting. The series is still missing a sense of adventure, concentrating solely on love and relationship stuff, but hopefully that will come in time.
So, yeah. Meh. But a happy Meh.
[Dove: I also “meh”d at this book, but in a much more positive way than usual. There were some nice points where the ghostie neatly side-stepped pitfalls (and bad messages) that a more clumsy ghostie would have not just fallen in, but dived in deliberately. I hope this ghostie comes back again, because they’ve toned down all of the siblings’ toxic behaviour and forced the characters to work on themselves. Let’s face it, it’ll be back to normal by the next book, but for now, this was a good step forward. I just wasn’t that fussed about the actual story. Especially when I’m aware of upcoming storylines.]
[Wing: I’m also a meh, but a high meh. The pacing in the second half was ridiculous, I still carry fury at Jess’s “She’s alive” cruelty, and the fake!Todd subplot had no fucking point at all, but mostly this was fine, with moments of interesting character development, a bit of good sibling bonding, and awful volleyball playing that made me laugh and rant at the same time.]