Title: Bitter Rivals
Tagline: Will Elizabeth be forced to choose between Amy and Enid?
Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield is ecstatic. Her dearest childhood friend, Amy Sutton, is moving back to Sweet Valley. Elizabeth can’t wait to see her again and introduce Amy to her current best friend, Enid Rollins.
Amy is an undeniable hit at Sweet Valley high. She’s glamorous and vivacious, and she becomes the newest member of the cheerleading squad. But to Elizabeth’s shock, Amy and Enid seem to be heading for a showdown. Will the prospect of having two best friends leave Elizabeth with none?
It’s Amy Sutton! Who knew?!
Long-term fans of our output will be aware that I cut my recapping teeth back in the Twins series. In that series, there was no such thing as an “Enid Rollins”. No, it appears that this role was taken by one Amy Sutton.
Amy was a stalwart of Twins, before strangely disappearing before Junior High without a party, a fanfare or a reach around. As Elizabeth’s best friend, she had her own character. Yes, it was rather insipid, but it was her. She interacted with every character of note in the Sweet Valley Universe, and had books and stories of her own before riding into the sunset.
We, as a recapping collective, were no real fans of Amy Sutton at the time. While she did raise the odd cheer now and then, like the day she nearly razed the town to the ground in a fiery apocalypse, she pretty much detracted from the story without achieving much of anything. Very much in the Enid Rollins mode, I guess… it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we christened her a “lank-haired spunkwaffle”.
And now, this peripheral powerhouse from recaps past, this pillar of Team Boring since Day Fucking One, this lank-haired paragon of all that is spunkwaffley, is back to raise hell. Albeit, if the cover is to be believed, considerably less lank-haired than when she left.
Of course I’m excited. How could I not be?
[Dove: I am so excited to read Raven’s recap. That’s it. That’s my whole thoughts about this entire story: I want to read my husband’s take on it.]
[Wing: I said this last recap, I’ll say it again: I shrieked when I noticed Raven had the Return of Amy Sutton Fiasco book. Good times, good times.]
Pale green background, pale blue title, red series-and-author name. Customary porthole, with a pink-grey background, before which stand three Sweet Valley Teens. Front and centre is Elizabeth, wearing a pale blue polo shirt with a thin-but-wide-spaced horizontal navy pinstripe and gathered khaki slacks or skirt. One arm crosses her front to support her other chin-stroking arm, which frames her thoughtful, pensive stare. Behind her, at each shoulder and almost back to back, stand Amy and Enid, from left to right. Amy is blonde, wearing a rather shapeless pink dress with a loose belted waist. Enid, hair brown and permed, is replete in a green polo and sandy khaki panty skirty combi. Both girls have folded arms, and are firmly side-eying each other with pensive expressions. They both look as though they’ve suckled grapefruit juice from a rat’s anus.
It’s clear that something it about to go down, and that Elizabeth is caught in the middle. That, or this is a promo from the new adaptation of Charlie’s Angels done by the Westboro Baptist Church.
It’s funny, what sticks and what doesn’t.
Here at Sweet Valley Online, we’ve been recapping this glorious and despicable universe for over six years now. Six years?! I know, that’s ludicrous.
I’ve written sixty-eight recaps thus far, which makes this one… steady now! Cool your jets, you pervs.
[Wing: Rude. Don’t harsh my dirty jokes.]
Almost seventy recaps…. That’s a lot of words, covering a handful of characters and plots. I describe the action, crack a few jokes, say something vaguely rude, and move on.
Sometimes, a turn of phrase or a concept will stick with me, and I’ll use it more than once. Some early examples of this would be my parodied “twin-parisons” that were stalwart features of early recaps, which have waned of late as they’re tough to pitch well month after month.
Other running jokes? The constant reference to a naked Mr Nydick, literally spawned from a throwaway comment by Caroline Pearce on the first page of Book Fucking ONE. Our surreptitious links whenever we mention mysterious girls or trips to the mall. Jessica burying bodies in the Mercandy back yard, although by now I’m sure that’s been accepted as canon, and so on.
And some stuff doesn’t stick! Early on, I christened the Unicorns “The Unigibbons”, a name which hung around for a while before a collective agreement was reached that, this time at lease, Fetch was not going to happen.
One of my favourite phrases, one which has definitely hung around since its inception when recapping book 64 (book 64?! I thought it was much sooner) [Wing: I would have said within the first 10 books!] is…
It’s a classic of the genre that’s nominally classified as “British Put-Downs”.
Step 1: Make a negative comment about one aspect of the target’s appearance or character.
Step 2: Add a rude-word / mundane object portmanteau.
Step 3: Profit!
This works with almost any words, so why not go wild and create your own? Best one in the comments wins a (virtual) prize. And by “virtual”, we mean “not real”.
“Lank-Haired Spunkwaffle” works on a few levels. First, it’s evocative, in a negative and somewhat grubbily sexual way. Next, there’s a kernel of truth to it… while I can be generous and say that there’s no direct evidence that Amy is, in fact, a Spunkwaffle, there’s plenty to back up that she has lank hair.
But most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that, well, it’s a diss on Amy Sutton. It’s a bullseye on a wide target. Nobody likes Amy Sutton, right?
So here we are, in High. And there’s been no Lank-Haired Spunkwaffle for a full twenty-eight main series books. But for Book Twenty-Nine… she’s back.
Will she be as clumsy as she was in Twins? Will she still be twirling her baton? Will she still be a paid-up member of Team Boring? Will she hate Jessica, and Jessica her, as the original stories foretold?
But, mostly, will she be the same Lank-Haired Spunkwaffle we’ve missed for over two full years of recapping? [Wing: … did we though?]
I can’t deny that I’m not excited.
To the book!
We start in the Wakefield Compound, with Jessica and Elizabeth lounging poolside. Enid Rollins is also there.
Immediately, we’re into Twinparison territory. For old time’s sake, let’s crack a few off…
- If Amy is a Spunkwaffle, Elizabeth is a Kissbagel. If Elizabeth is a Kissbagel, Jessica is a Felchcrumpet.
- Elizabeth writes the “Eyes and Ears” gossip column for the high school paper. Jessica stars in the “Tits and Ass” section of a local top shelf magazine.
- Elizabeth is four minutes older than Jessica. This is because Jessica hung back to make the most dramatic entrance possible, while Elizabeth popped out first so she could assist the doctor with her sister’s delivery. [Wing: This one is just canon.]
Jessica, apparently, is trying to gain her sister’s attention for some shit or other, but Elizabeth is totally daydreaming about the return of Amy Sutton.
The girls discuss the upcoming plot. Apparently, the Suttons are due to move into the neighbourhood any time now. Enid mentions that she hopes that she’ll like Amy, as she’s the only one present who hasn’t met her.
“Enid Rollins!” Elizabeth exclaimed with mock horror, jumping up and running over to hug her friend. “Of course you’ll like each other! Amy Sutton is fabulous. She’s so vivacious, so bouncy, so much fun—”
“You make her sound like a trampoline,” Jessica cut in.
First up? Hah! That’s a quality clapback there, Jessica.
Second… Amy? Amy Sutton?
Amy Sutton is “so vivacious, so bouncy, so much fun”…?
Since fucking WHEN?
We read over one hundred books in which Amy was present (probably), and I don’t think I can name butt-fuck-ONE than actually presented Amy as consistently “vivacious, bouncy and fun”. [Dove: The nearest I can do is humbly submit the time that Amy wanted the Unicorns’ advice on how to win the romantica attention of Ken and they taught her how to act. She didn’t pull it off, but I’m certain that those words are at least synonyms for their direction.]
We skip into Jessica’s inner monologue, as she ponders Amy’s longtime status as “Elizabeth’s Best Friend” throughout Middle School, until just after sixth grade. Elizabeth was, allegedly, heartbroken.
Okay, so… this pans out, I guess? Although I don’t recall much gnashing and wailing from Liz as her bestie Amy decamped into the long dark night. Maybe I blacked it out, I dunno.
[Wing: … was she though? I thought part of the early SVT books was that Liz and Jess had been inseparable and only when Jess looked elsewhere did Liz find an additional BFF. It has been awhile, I could very well be wrong.]
There’s some backstory for Amy, who is at this point in the publication schedule a fresh and unknown character. We learn that Amy’s mother is a sportscast journalist, whose career initially took the Suttons away from Sweet Valley before returning them to the vicinity some years later.
(There’s also a little info on the departing cheerleader Helen Bradley, whose family move to LA creates the gap in the housing market that the Suttons have exploited.)
Next, there’s a small recap of the last Cheerleading Tryout debacle, the one in which Jessica’s passive aggressive bullying caused Annie to attempt suicide. Tell me again why this series is so aspirational? [Dove: The way that it’s written implies that Annie pulled a 13 Reasons Why, not out of sadness, but as a calculated gamble because she wasn’t talented enough to get on the team, but knew a trick or two about manipulation that would guarantee her a spot.]
The rest of the scene is also depressingly Sutton-free. Apparently, Jessica and her best friend Cara are now columnists for the Oracle. No, it’s not Tits and Ass to run alongside Eyes and Ears, nor is it Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. It’s an apparent Agony Aunt column, where “Miss Lovelorn” fields anonymous letters from the student body and offers sage advice on relationships.
Erm… We’ve had this one already, in Twins, right? [Wing: The only column more fitting would be if Jess took over Eyes and Ears. And I suppose now that Cara is almost an honorary Wakefield, she too can dispense all sorts of advice.]
Anyway, Jessica shares a couple of letters with Elizabeth and Enid, the second of which is from “Sweet Valley Swinger”, and fun and laughter rings out.
Then the phone rings out. Elizabeth dashes to answer.
Liz reports back that the call was from Amy, with a few more details on their coming move. The Great Sutton Return is scheduled for a week on Sunday, which is all fine and dandy… until Elizabeth realises that this will clash with her plans to go skiing with Enid at her friend’s aunt’s lodge.
Man, I hate it when that happens… when my skiing plans are scuppered by the reappearance of a famous sportscaster’s kid.
Some details on the trip? Elizabeth and Enid, together, at Lake Tahoe, with Enid’s aunt Nancy. Aunt Nancy sounds great fun. The book describes her as twenty-eight, and almost like an older sister. I do find the series’ insistence that the adults are mere extensions of the children as upsetting and vaguely threatening. It almost feels like an attempt by the Ghosties to cling on to their own fleeting youth. Then again, the writers could be twelve for all I know. That would explain a lot. [Dove: I think it’s Francine’s again. Remember, she was around 50 at the time she dreamed up this series, she was fighting against no longer being young and hot.]
In what promises to be a recurring event, Elizabeth asks Enid if she can change the vacation weekend to run a few weeks later, so she can be present and correct when Family Sutton return to Sweet Valley. Enid doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.
(Hey, there’s one of those “running gag” things mentioned earlier! How cute! Seriously, I’ll never stop sharing this.)
In fact, Enid is so kind and generous she even suggests that Amy should come along too. What a lovely gesture. Alternately, what a perfect time to yeet her off a fucking chair lift. [Dove: Yes! I want that book! One of my favourite Point Horrors was The Window. Let’s have that!]
Liz thanks her fine friend, while Enid wonders if this Super-Duper Amy Sutton is actually going to be the cats pyjamas when all is said and done.
Chapter Two starts with a gaggle of SVH stalwarts wondering just how this “old but new girl” Amy Sutton will fit in. Winston, apparently, can’t remember a thing about her, although he was in the Twins books just as much as she was [Dove: They were in the Boosters together. They were in the Baby-Sitters Club together.]. At least Lila has some recollection of her best friend’s sister’s best friend, offering the following bon mot that’s pretty much on point:
“Wasn’t she kind of clumsy and tomboyish?” [Lila] asked, making it sound as though Amy were to be avoided at all costs.
Yeah, sounds like our Amy. Although Elizabeth goes and spoils it by claiming that Amy loves sports of all kinds.
Erm… no she doesn’t. She’s not Belinda Layton. I can’t remember a single book in which Amy proffered a love for a competitive ball game of any stripe or hue. Ah well, I’m sure she’ll be here soon, and all this bullshit will be cleared up.
Talk turns to pastures new. Specifically, Lila’s gorgeous cousin who’s due to breeze into Sweet Valley any day now. His name is Christopher, he’s a keen yachtsman from Kennebunkport in Maine, and he’s staying at Fowler Crest for three whole weeks.
Predictably, Lila is throwing a party in his honour. And it’s going to be the best party since the last fucking party, and until the next fucking party. Sweet Valley is a Discworld for jamborees… it’s truly parties all the way down.
[Dove: JC texted me her live reactions to reading the book. On this topic, she said: “Wow, Lila really sounds like she wants to bang her hot cousin, huh?” Yes, JC. That exactly.] [Wing: It’s California. She can marry first cousin on out. Get it, Lila. Get it.]
The party is to be held the following Saturday, meaning Amy Sutton can attend. Lila is magnanimous with her open invitations, even if she can’t resist a little barb.
The next section is an internal monologue from Enid, as she walks home from school by herself. It largely centres on her feelings for Elizabeth, and her concerns over the incoming Amy Sutton.
After a brief recap of Enid’s history with George for the reader joining the series fresh, we learn that Enid has never met Amy before as she didn’t arrive on the scene until eighth grade. We also learn that, to Enid, Elizabeth is pretty much the moon and the fucking stars. From her first friendship with Liz in the tenth grade, to the plane crash we all lived through, to the present day, Elizabeth has almost been like a sister to Enid. [Wing: The kind of sister you fuck. Enid sounds completely in love with Liz throughout this bit. Suppose Sweet Valley incest is one of those reoccurring themes around here.]
That bond comes with a modicum of jealousy. Not for Jessica, mind, as the twin relationship brooks no argument. But there’s a certain possessiveness there, stemming from their close proximity since both George and Todd have wended their way into the great relationship trash cloud in the sky. She admits that she’s now feeling a twinge of jealousy as far as Amy Sutton is concerned, but she knows the cut of Elizabeth’s jib, and her best friend would never drop her for the New Girl. Well, not for much longer than a book, at any rate, if history serves.
She concludes the section by wondering how things would go if she ended up disliking Amy Sutton, for some reason. Or maybe Amy wouldn’t like her. Who could dream of such a thing?
The Ghosties. The Ghosties dreamt of this exact thing. [Dove: Nope. Francine. Francine dreamt of this thing. Because she hates other women, and assumes every girl hates every other girl, and we long to be told, probably in a husky voice, “You’re not like other girls.” Before having our mouth carressed lightly with the lips of a cute boy.]
[Wing: Have a song, Francine. You fuckhead.]
The final section of the chapter deals with Jessica and Cara’s B Plot: the Miss Lovelorn column in The Oracle.
First up, we learn of the focus of this B Plot shenanigan. I’d usually say “shenanigans” plural here, but that would be giving the whole debacle a little too much credit. Apparently, Jessica is in love with some classmate called Jay McGuire. He’s perfect, she’d besotted, it’s fate, yadda yadda yadda, the whole kit and caboodle. [Wing: Wasn’t she gunning for Hot Cousin Christopher last time we saw her?]
The issue? Denise Hadley. Jay’s girlfriend.
Jay and Denise had been together for a couple of months. And even Jess can’t deny that Jay seems smitten with Denise, a red-headed senior at SVH with “almond-shaped brown eyes and a knockout figure.” Of course, Jessica knows in her heart that Jay is the one for her, and Jay would know it too, if only Denise was out of the picture…
So Jessica decides to murder Denise.
Figuratively. Not literally. In this instance, at least. [Wing: She ran out of space in the Mercandy backyard.]
In a rather depressing conversation with Cara, on the day they submit their first Miss Lovelorn column for publication, Jessica bewails her plight. Her friend is sympathetic, and suggests that maybe working on the column would take Jessica’s mind off Jay.
Of course, that fires up Jessica’s Evil Synapses, and she has an idea… what if she used the column to plan seeds of doubt in the JayNise pairing, ruining their dynamic and allowing her to swoop in for the kill?
So here’s the skinny: Jessica plans to plan false letters from an older girlfriend about her younger boyfriend, and vice versa, to convince both parties that they are incompatible.
It’s your standard evil machinations from Team Jessica, although I do think that this one is particularly mean spirited. I often forget that these schemes are playing out in in the arena of high school romances, and not in, say, a more stable and secure set of relationships. If Jess was breaking up marriages, we’d be horrified, but short-term high-school flings are fair game.
Right? That’s what we’re supposed to think?
Anyway, Cara does the barest minimum to steer her friend away from this manipulative course of action, before woe-betiding Jay for the shitstorm coming his way.
Nice work, Cara. Looks like your face turn with Steven isn’t a lasting conversion.
Chapter three sees Jessica in bed on a fine Saturday morning, with Liz about to head to the beach to meet Enid. Of course, it’s time for the plot to kick in and shit to go down. Best laid plans, and all that.
The phone rings. It’s Amy. She’s in Sweet Valley, a full day early!
Immediately, I warm to Amy. She’s excited to be back, and it comes through in her chat. And Liz is excited too. She asks Amy if she can come over right away, reckoning she’d still have time to meet Enid at the beach in half an hour, as per their plan. [Wing: This is pretty cute.]
So Elizabeth dashes to Amy’s house in the reed Fiat Spider, and they have a reunion meetup full of hugs and smiles.
So, Amy? Here’s how she’s described:
When Amy had left Sweet Valley after sixth grade, she was a skinny kid who needed braces. Now… well, Elizabeth could hardly believe her eyes. Amy was an inch or two taller than Elizabeth and slender, with dark-blond hair that fell to her shoulders. Her eyes, a slate-gray color, were outlined with gray pencil. Her smile was flawless. She looked, Elizabeth thought with admiration, like a fashion model. She was wearing a cotton miniskirt and a T-shirt, and even in that outfit she would have looked at home in any of the top fashion magazines.
Immediate alarm bells.
First up, I don’t recall that TwinsAmy was particularly skinny, or in need of orthodontic work. But whatever, she was never portrayed (as so many of the other kids were) as God’s Gift to Beauty. I do remember them mentioning that her hair wasn’t particularly lustrous, hence our use of the word “lank” in the soubriquet “Lank-Haired Spunkwaffle”. [Dove: I believe that she may have been described as taller than the other girls during a ballet lesson, and that she’s kind of gawky with it, hence all the clumsiness that her mother was trying to ballet out of her.]
But hey, I guess glowing up through a growth spurt is a thing, so fair enough. If Amy Sutton is now fashion-model-hot, good on her. She’ll just join the ranks of all the other ugly ducklings that become perfection in this fucking series. Big Yawn.
The reunion is pretty cute, with both girls getting a little carried away in their giddiness. Elizabeth immediately invites Amy to the Compound, to stay the night that evening. Amy readily agrees, and parental buy-in is granted from the Elder Suttons immediately.
Obviously, Amy and Elizabeth are lost in their conversation, and Elizabeth completely forgets about poor Enid at the beach until it’s too late. When she does remember, at eleven-thirty, she facepalms before telling Amy all about her New Best Friend.
As Elizabeth waxes lyrical about Enid, and introduces the idea that the three of them should go skiing with Aunt Nancy, Amy breaks in with the following:
“Ski trip?” Amy smiled. “Liz, I’ve got to tell you about this fabulous guy I met when I was skiing in Vermont. His name’s John Norton. He’s such a doll!”
More alarm bells.
I don’t remember TwinsAmy being so boy-centric?
Amy blathers on about Norton as they arrive at the Compound, at which point she is reintroduced to Jessica. Elizabeth leaves the pair together to go call Enid and apologise. Enid doesn’t answer. This makes Liz feel a little odd, and in conflict about how to handle the and when Elizabeth returns she finds Amy and Jess jabbering away together, talking a mile a minute. Liz does feel a weird twinge at this, but puts it aside before joining the conversation as the section ends. [Dove: If only there was continuity that made sense between these books, because if there was, she could remember that last time this happened, Amy processed her trauma about her house burning down by befriending the Unicorns and becoming a bit vapid.
Side note: as someone who was staunchly Twins, but occasionally read High whenever they were available at the library, because Twins never were, I knew that Amy was in High and was Jessica’s friend, and I had no idea why. I was utterly convinced that the split happened in Twins, during Amy Moves In, and that was the moment Amy became a Unicorn and dropped Liz, and maybe Enid would move to Sweet Valley to help her pick up the pieces. Boy did I have strong hopes for continuity and world-building when I was a tween.] [Wing: To be fair to tween Dove, we often have strong hopes for continuity and world-building despite being grown ass adults who have read enough of these books we really should know better.]
So here we have the crux of the matter. This scene is pretty much a microcosm of the book as a whole. Let’s look at some of the salient deductions we can make.
- Elizabeth is going to neglect Enid, which Enid will not appreciate.
- Elizabeth is not going to like Amy as much as she did, but she’ll initially ignore the signs.
- Jessica and Amy are going to get on much better than Elizabeth and Amy.
- Amy Sutton is now a different girl.
These are long-term plot points, I’m sure, but for now, things are relatively peachy. At the sleepover that evening, the twins and Amy giggle over old grade school and junior high yearbooks. Liz has had a lovely day reconnecting with Amy, and is pleased to see that Jess and Amy are getting on far better than they did in the past. One point to note: all of Amy’s stories seem to involve romance and boys.
So I guess that this is as good a place as any…
I know it’s early days, and that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the book so far, but this Amy… she’s Not Right.
I can make allowances for any physical differences. As I’ve said, glowing up through growth spurts does happen. And I can understand that as people age, priorities and personality changes. So in a way, everything presented here (now and for the rest of the book) is wholly believable and fine. I should be able to reconcile TwinsAmy with this new HighAmy, and go about my day.
Unfortunately, I can’t.
The reason for this stems from the way the character has developed, as the progression is entirely ass-backwards by design. HighAmy came first, and TwinsAmy came from that, with character choices and decisions made that are, quite frankly, baffling.
For example, and I apologise for any spoilers on the remainder of this book, we have the fact that pretty much no one remembers Amy from Middle School. Sure, there’s a little comment from Lila, but nothing more than that. Choosing to have TwinsAmy as an integral (if peripheral) part of the series is odd, without some major hoop-jumping. But I suppose that the TwinsGhosties were written into somewhat of a corner with this book clearly proclaiming that Amy and Liz were inseparable in Middle School… if they then write a book about the Twins in Middle School, then Amy needs a place. I think it’d have been better served with Amy being a variation on Best Friend Of The Week, with a few books before there’s something more tangible made of her departure, but that’s just me.
Also, just as we saw with Liz, and Jess, the fact that the TwinsGhosties decided to pair up the main cast with characters from High without fully appreciating that this series clearly has those characters interacting and “meeting” in ways that make no sense if that were the case, the same thing happens with Amy. Todd was Liz’s middle school squeeze, despite Book 1 of this series claiming they’d never spoken before High School. Jessica spent a lot of boy-time with Aaron Dallas in Twins, but he’s a mere afterthought in High [Dove: Don’t worry, in Confidential, Francine herself actually states that Jessica barely knew him and never spoke to him. Aaron is a very baffling character to her.], and bow we have Amy’s relationship with Ken Matthews not even MENTIONED in this book despite Ken being rather a Big Deal on Campus.
And the main thing that grinds my gears about this is that HighAmy is a bit of a bitch, which we’ll see in time, but TwinsAmy was anything but that, and there’s no real solid reason for this change given here. I can accept that Amy’s personality has become more Jessicafied as far as interests are concerned… I have a harder time accepting that she’s become a manipulative cow, one who would shank her long-time childhood bestie in a heartbeat, without some sort of narrative reasoning at the core of it.
The super-galling thing about this? It’s entirely the fault of the Twins series. All the changes to her character, all the mental gymnastic required to keep the series connected and together? Every one was a conscious decision by the creators of Twins to erode the fabric of the series as-was to fit their new box and pattern. And I like Twins! I prefer it to High, as things stand, due to the weight of history. And while a lot of the changes were well meant and likely for the better, they’re still changes, and they do create disconnects with the series and the contents. Maybe this is something that can’t be avoided, but it’s certainly something I think that could have been done, well, better.
So, yeah. I don’t like Amy Sutton here. She’s gone from interesting to beige fucking paint, just like all the other characters, another boring Jessica clone. Such a pity.
[Dove: This is such a good point. It would have been so much better if Amy had filled the Julie Porter role in Twins. What do we know about Julie after reading 150+ books about her, most of which she gets name-dropped as being present in at least once scene per book? If your answer is a half-hearted, “Uh… she eats lunch with Elizabeth?”, well done. That’s the only information we have on her. Yet if you read the first 50 books (basically the pre-Maria Slater era) and I asked, “Who are Elizabeth’s best friends?”, you answer would be “Amy Sutton and Julie Porter.” This could have been easily done. Leave a note, “Julie is Liz’s super bestie, but Amy is always present, keep her low-key.” You could swap Amy and Julie’s names in all the Twins books and it wouldn’t change the plot at all, except the Nightmare Mansion series, where Dyan Sutton helped kill a kid. But since the big reveal is that the kid never died… uh, win?]
[Wing: How much were the Twins ghosties given when it comes to High? We know they had a sort of poorly done Sweet Valley bible thanks to that great Q&A Dove had with one half of #bestjaimesuzanne. That seemed far more plot (for some vague definition) focused than any details within Twins itself, much less High. I’m not convinced these books were actually meant to be read as one overarching series. It’s even worse than the standard Sweet Valley Time aspect of this sort of series. All of this to say, I’m not sure any of the weird choices made between High and twins were actually intentional decisions and not just whatever felt right at that moment.
They should have traveled through time and hired us as continuity editors. Obviously.]
Anyway, we have more jabber from Amy, saying that while she likes John Norton, she’s a free spirit that can’t be tied down by one boy. Y’know, basic Jessica bullshit. She also worries about how she’ll do as she doesn’t know “anyone” at school (BULLSHIT), and that she’ll probably be terrible shy (MORE BULLSHIT), and so on. Jessica is lapping it up, and so is Elizabeth to an extent, but at least Elizabeth has the grace to have a nagging worry about her shoddy treatment of Enid. The chapter ends with her vowing to make Enid forgive her for ditching their plans.
Chapter Four begins the following morning, with Elizabeth greeting the Elder Wakefields before she tries Enid’s phone once more. Before doing so, she decides to invite Enid to brunch with herself and Amy, because all teenagers love a good brunch, right?
We cut to the vinegar strokes of Elizabeth’s phoned apology-cum-invite, and it’s clear that Enid is far from mollified by her best friend’s uncharacteristic thoughtlessness. But after a sharp bout of frenzied pleading, she cracks into laughter and all is forgiven. She does, however, manage to give voice to her fears about Amy, and Change, and Friendship. This is largely done by invoking the old chestnut that Two’s Company, while Three’s a Crowd.
Elizabeth suggests that Enid needn’t worry, as she is her best friend in all the world. Also, brunch?
On the journey to the Pancake House – not to be confused with the Waffle House, which is in turn not to be confused with the Spunkwaffle House – Liz remarks on how glamorous Amy looks in her black jumpsuit and boots. Amy claims that the quest for love requires Constant Vigilance, and that they might meet a movie star on the way there.
Also, while Elizabeth spends the journey trying to tell Amy all about Enid, Amy doesn’t give a rat’s fat ass. Instead, she turns all conversation on to the subject of boys.
She’s appalling, isn’t she? We don’t need Jessica 2.0, TYVM. #NotMySpunkwaffle.
Once at brunch, things begin badly. Amy orders grapefruit and a black coffee, which is giving me flashbacks to Cousin Robin and the Jag-Wahs. Her reason? Well, it pretty much consigns her to the fucking bin, as far as I’m concerned.
Amy smiled. “I have to be careful,” she told them. “I really hate myself if I weigh a single ounce over one-hundred and ten pounds.”
Enid gulped. Her own order—blueberry pancakes, orange juice, and tea—seemed huge in comparison.
Yeah, Amy can fuck off, and anyone who’s read even one of our other recaps will know exactly why. I’m Team Enid for life. Also, Elizabeth orders pancakes in solidarity with her bestie, so yay.
[Dove: I expected a little more performance from Amy at being nice to Enid. At least on the first meeting. At least follow it up with an effusive (but not genuine), “Oh, of course, I didn’t mean anything by that. You’re so lucky you can eat whatever you want.” Which is still kind of a dick move, but comes across as tactless, rather than outright rude.]
Amy and Elizabeth share some fun reminisces about eating candy and cookies in middle school, and Enid feels a little left out. Sorry Enid, but there’s nothing wrong with friends sharing memories together. You’re in the wrong here.
Enid asks Amy how she feels about returning to Sweet Valley, and Amy’s answer seems insincere. When Enid’s talk turns to schoolwork, Amy responds thusly:
“Schoolwork?” Amy stared at her, her gray eyes round with incredulity. “Who cares about schoolwork?” She tossed her hair back and gave Enid a charming smile. “No,” she confided, “I guess I’m just a little shy, that’s all.”
Shy, Enid thought skeptically. Who is she trying to kid?
Honestly? This should be a massive red flag for Elizabeth, and Enid flags that… but Liz appears unconcerned with such an uncharacteristic proclamation. I’m happy that Enid has seen through this glib and posturing Amy Sutton, and I guess Elizabeth coming to the same conclusion is the meat of this book, so it gets a pass for now. But if she grasps the idiot ball overlong, into the sea she will be yeeted.
Elizabeth offers to show Amy around the Oracle offices the following day, saying it’s much better than the “sixth grade paper [they] put together”.
That’s the SWEET VALLEY SIXERS. Put some respect on its fucking name.
(Also, nice continuity from the Twins writers, having Amy a sometime staff writer there.) [Dove: Having just looked it up, by the time this was written, we had only got up to Choosing Sides – the book where Amy joins the Boosters – in the Twins franchise.] [Wing: Oh no, now I want to map what actual continuity we should complain isn’t there for every single book.]
Amy replies with the tiniest amount of sincerity visible without using the Hubble fucking Telescope, before nipping off for a shit. Good luck unhooking your trendy black jumpsuit, you egregious cleft. #NotMySpunkwaffle
In Amy’s absence, Elizabeth speaks to Enid about how great the returning Sutton is for everyone present. Unlike Mark Morrison, however, Enid does not look upon the Return of the Lank with any particular joy or fondness. Surely Elizabeth can see that Amy is a stone-cold dud?
Apparently not. Not yet, at any rate. When we get to page, I dunno, 134 or so, I’m sure she’ll wise up. Just in time for the foreshadowing for the next book.
Chapter Five snapcuts to Wednesday, lunchtime, on the lawns outside the school cafeteria. Lila Fowler is pontificating on Amy Sutton’s seamless integration with the SVH great and good.
Elizabeth is happy, because it seems that Amy has been welcomed by everyone. One fly in the ointment, however, is Jessica. Amy and Jessica seem to be getting along a little too well for Elizabeth’s liking. It’s Jessica showing Amy around the school, it’s Jessica introducing Amy to her (Jessica’s) friends, and it’s Jessica who’s showing Amy a ton of trivial bullshit like cheerleading and sorority and boys. Amy surely isn’t interested in bollocks such as that! [Dove: Except she was, Liz, even going by publish dates. Amy was a cheerleader in middle school.]
Way to be a judgemental asshole, Liz. But I actually agree with you in part. And of course, we know that HighAmy is far more suited to Jessica’s likes and lifestyle than she is to Elizabeth’s.
Enid rocks up as Lila sashays away after dropping another barbed comment. Talk between her and Liz centres on the new plans for Lake Tahoe and skiing with Aunt Nancy. The best for all Rollinses involved is that the trip should occur that coming Saturday. This, however, clashes with Lila Fowler’s upcoming party for her cousin Christopher. Whatever. Both Enid and Elizabeth aren’t arsed about Yet Another Fowler Party, and I for one can’t blame them.
At the end of the conversation, Enid brings up the tricky question of Amy. Does Elizabeth still want Amy to come?
There’s a cagey standoff as both girls fail to articulate their misgivings. A bit like when a loving couple take an hour to choose a restaurant or takeout venue. “Where should we eat?” … “I don’t mind, where do you fancy?” … “Whatever’s good for you.” … “Okay so you choose.” … “I’m easy, your call” … and so on, and so on, and so on, until both parties starve to fucking death.
Either way, Elizabeth is happy and excited to invite Amy to the ski trip, despite the fact that every reader on the planet knows she’ll look to toss it off in order to go to the Fowler Party. She feels a tinge of unease, again, when she spots Amy chattering away with Jessica, Cara, and the other sorority girls, but this feeling will pass… won’t it?
Next, we’re into B Plot territory, looking at the aftermath of the Miss Lovelorn column. The student body are agog at the two letters in the latest edition. The first is from a boy who has a girlfriend one year older than him, asking if he’s right to feel he’s uneasy at their age difference. He’s advised to kick her to the curb asap, and search for more age appropriate meat. The second is from a girl with a boyfriend who’s a year younger, who’s looking for guidance about her feelings that the relationship is doomed as she’s heading to college soon. The advice here is similar: the boy is not Mr Right, ditch him and find someone more suitable.
Jessica wrote all letters and responses, naturally. And, naturally, the readership all immediately conclude that the anonymous couple are, in fact, Jay McGuire and Denise Hadley.
When questioned by Lila, Jessica denies all knowledge. She’s an old hand at this. There’s a bit of friendly banter between the pair, which is nice to see. We also learn that Cousin Christopher has fucked off to LA for a week. Must be sick of Lila’s bullshit.
Other things of note here: we learn that Lila’s upcoming shindig is a costume party, and that the plan to separate Jay and Denise appears to be working… they are spotted together in the cafeteria, and neither looks remotely happy. And of course, Jess is poised to step in and claim her prize.
Jessica’s a terrible bitch. But hey, we handwave it away because it’s Teen Love, right? Right? [Dove: I haven’t commented so far, but obviously I hate this plot line, and I will have more to say about it later.]
The final section of the chapter chronicles the continued crumbling of Amy and Elizabeth’s relationship. Liz catches up with a “busy” Amy in the school corridors, and we learn that Amy had stood Liz and Enid up at lunch that day. She apologises, sure, but it’s definitely a hollow gesture.
Elizabeth invites Amy to the ski trip that coming weekend, and Amy absent-mindedly agrees to come. She doesn’t look thrilled, or even interested. Elizabeth does clock this, but she shrugs it off after Amy supplies the barest minimum of faux excitement. Weak.
Suddenly, a wild Cara and Jessica hone into view in the distance. Amy takes this as a cue to escape from Elizabeth’s gimlet grasp. She has to go, apparently, as Cara and Jessica have promised to take her to cheerleading practice that afternoon. Elizabeth isn’t happy, as she’d been hoping to show Amy the Oracle offices, but Amy simply isn’t arsed with any of that bullshit. She tosses it off with a “some other time” before disappearing in a cloud of apathy.
To her credit, Elizabeth again notices that something is wrong. But she blames herself. It’s not Amy, no… Liz just needs to be kinder and more generous with her friend. That’s right, folks, she’s doubling down on being a sponge. That’s a tactic straight off the pages of Sweet Valley Twins, and no mistake!
I am quite enjoying this book, but I have to mention something:
There’s a LOT of repetition here.
It feels like there’s page after page of Amy being a horrible person, followed by Elizabeth flagging this nastiness to herself before blaming her own apparently poor attitude and vowing to be a Better Friend.
It gets tiresome, real quick.
Just so you know.
Chapter Six, and it’s Monday morning! Jessica and Elizabeth chat shit over breakfast.
Jessica reveals that she’s in love, with her new dialogue partner… Jay McGuire.
Elizabeth is puzzled, because he’s going steady with Denise… but then she immediately puts two and two together, and accuses her sister of fabricating the Miss Lovelorn letters to facilitate the breakup of a happy couple. She’s bang on, for once, but Jess denies all knowledge.
Jessica eventually reveals that the next stage of her plan involves persuading Jay to invite her to the Fowler Party that coming Saturday, at which point Elizabeth reveals that neither she, Enid nor Amy will be in attendance as they’ll bee skiing at Lake Tahoe.
Jessica is sceptical. How could anyone want to skip the bestest party ever, with the bestest non-Droids band ever (called Number One, apparently), in order to ski with the sad sack that is Enid bloody Rollins? She’s particularly interested in the fact that Elizabeth seems to believe that Amy is up for this plan too.
Changing the subject, Jessica then reveals that the cheerleader auditions that afternoon will feature one Amy Sutton. Elizabeth is gobsmacked, even when Jessica reminds her twin that Amy was a pretty good baton twirler in sixth grade. Which is true! Some nice continuity there, I definitely smiled on reading that. Also, Jess reveals that Amy was a cheerleader at her old school, further demonstrating that Liz knows fuck all about her old friend.
This news disappoints Elizabeth, partly because YuckCheerleaders, but mostly because she’s seen so little of her old friend that she feels like she’s missing out on re-bonding. Understandable, I guess, but there comes a time when you definitely need to cut your losses and move on. I guess that time will roll around by the end of the book.
Liz considers the facts that her old friend Amy Sutton has changed, a lot. They definitely don’t appear to have so much in common anymore. Sorry, Liz, but she’s just Not Your Spunkwaffle now. She’s Jessica’s Spunkwaffle.
But, again, the section ends with Elizabeth blaming herself, and vowing that she still needs to be the Best Friend she can be in the face of this surmounting asshattery.
The next section shows the fruit from this particular cursed tree. Enid is incredulous in the face of the news that Elizabeth is looking to spend her / their free time that afternoon watching the Cheerleading Auditions.
I definitely get her point. Who gives a shit? I mean, it’s not as if the auditions has the best cheerleading in it… the best cheerleaders are already cheerleaders, surely?
[Wing: To support your friends. Often auditions for things are closed to keep the audience down and the distractions to a minimum in the first place, but I’d go to watch a friend’s tryout.]
In Enid’s internal monologue, we discover that Enid has seen enough of Amy to deduce she’s certainly Not Enid’s Type. She can’t really say she’s Not Enid’s Spunkwaffle, as Enid is a rare character that never had a Spunkwaffle in the first instance.
She also flags the ways in which this spoiled, selfish and vain interloper is treating Elizabeth badly. Which is true, sure, but I find it pretty sad. We have upwards of one hundred books with the Twins variant of this spoiled, selfish and vain character, and it’s becoming clear that this book will end with a parting of the way between Liz and Amy, and that HighAmy will be an entirely different (and greatly reduced) beast to TwinAmy. It almost feels like a character’s death, but that character still hangs around with a different scent and stature.
If you’ve not guessed, I’m still a little bitter. #TeamFred
Eventually, all things are smoothed over when Elizabeth insists they still meet up to shop for ski gloves after the Cheerleading Auditions. Yay, glove shopping! How exciting!
The scene ends with Enid proclaiming that she’s really looking forward to the ski weekend, and Elizabeth suggesting that the three of them will have a great time, and that Amy and Enid will soon be getting on splendidly.
Enid remains unconvinced.
Now we’re at the cheerleading auditions, which are pretty cookie cutter and boilerplate. Amy Sutton’s routine is last, and is, of course, the best. She wins the spot.
The next scene centres on Jean West and Sandra Bacon, a pair of mysterious girls.
Who the fuck are Jean West and Sandra Bacon?
This is all foreshadowing for the next book, and has to do with sorority pledges and other bullshit, so you’ll forgive me if I sashay on past it today. [Dove: I think we should refer to this as “The Milk Trope”, where we momentarily dropped Emily’s attempt to run away, following the actions of her abusive stepmother, to have an entire chapter where Liz went to the supermarket and bought milk, in order to seed the next book.] [Raven: I work with milk, so this nomenclature is very confusing.]
The final section of the chapter sees Elizabeth congratulating Amy on her successful audition, and AMY simply blowing her off to go hand with Jess and Robin.
Stop it! Elizabeth told herself sharply. You’re being unbelievably childish. Amy doesn’t have to prove anything to you. That’s not what being a friend is all about!
FUCKING HELL, YOU ABSOLUE SPONGE! GET A FUCKING GRIP. AMY IS A FUCKING MONSTER.
She’s definitely Not Your Spunkwaffle, Liz.
Twins is over. We all miss it. High is a pale comparison. Peace out, move on. We have.
Elizabeth asks Amy if she’d like a pair of ski gloves from the mall. Amy says yes, but only as a placatory gesture to move things along so she can go chat with her new friends. She says she’ll meet Elizabeth at the Dairi Burger at five pm, and bounces.
All of a sudden Elizabeth wasn’t looking forward to the ski weekend quite as much as she had been that morning. She was wondering what it was going to be like, having to stay in a cabin with Amy Sutton for three days. She wasn’t one bit certain anymore that it was going to be fun.
Well, at least she’s wising up to the truth. High School Amy Sutton is a terrible person. I’m getting full-on Unicorn Club Kimberley Haver vibes here.
Chapter Seven skips us to the mall, where Elizabeth and Enid bond by laughing at a middle-aged couple buying ski-related ephemera. Standard, I suppose. [Dove: This is apparently one of Liz’s Top 10 Laughing Jags of All Time. For clarity, she and Enid saw a couple carrying lots of things. That’s it. That’s the hilarity. I guess you had to be there.]
Enid buys herself some quilted navy gloves, sale items that are dependable and thrifty. She’s definitely the right choice of best friend for boring old Elizabeth. Liz follows suit – boring and dependable to the core – and purchases an expensive and less practical pair of red gloves for Amy.
As usual, whenever the girls talk about things and Elizabeth brings up the topic of Amy, Enid’s demeanour droops and flattens. She’s making it clear where she stands on the suitability and friendliness of Amy fucking Sutton. When Amy suggests they go to the Dairi Burger, Enid is tempted at first, but once she learns Amy will be there too she makes her excuses and leaves.
Elizabeth is understandably perturbed by Enid’s reluctance to spend time with Amy, but even though she’s having misgivings herself, she fails to put two and two together and get an actual number, never mind four.
So next we’re at Chez Sutton, with Amy and Elizabeth partaking in that classic Eighties teenage pastime… the make-up session. Elizabeth is, predictably, extremely bored by the whole affair, as Amy slathers her with a thick cake of product. We also learn how things went down at the Dairi Burger.
Apparently, Elizabeth turned up a little late for Amy’s liking, and Amy was quick to make her feelings known. And instead of getting a soda with her pal, it seems like Amy had simply arranged to meet Elizabeth to bum a lift home. So home they went, with Amy yabbering on about boys and cheerleading and so on, ad infinitum.
I’m torn here. Yes, the whole Dairi Burger shit is very manipulative, but afterwards? At Amy’s house? Here’s Amy doing things she likes with her old Best Friend. Just because her old Best Friend doesn’t like these things doesn’t mean that her heart isn’t in the right place. I know that we know it is, but Elizabeth is moaning that she never gets to spend quality time with Amy… and here she is, spending quality time with Amy from Amy’s point of view, and it’s still not enough.
[Wing: How could make-up and gossip be quality time? Gossip for Liz’s column, sure, that’s fine, but free range gossip? The horror.]
Amy dashes off to field a call from John Norton, and returns with news of his undying love. She then accepts the gift of red ski gloves with surprisingly good grace, before the inevitable clash about Skiing with Enid versus Partying with Lila rears its ugly head.
Amy, of course, wants to ditch the skiing plans in order to be present at the “party of the year”. Elizabeth, of course, wants to go skiing with Enid and Amy as originally planned and agreed. Amy‘s plan of manipulation involves pleading with Amy to convince Enid to postpone the Lake Tahoe Aunt Nancy trip for another week. Elizabeth capitulates, because ELIZABETH WAKEFIELD.
If I’m honest, while I know Elizabeth’s motivations in this book, I’m struggling to understand Amy’s. Why doesn’t she ditch Elizabeth properly? Why not suggest that Enid and Liz go skiing without her, and just become, for want of a better word, a Unicorn? I don’t get the impression that Amy had wistful memories of her friendship with Elizabeth in middle school, because if she does she’s doing fuck all of note to show it.
Action switches to Jess and Liz at the Compound, with Jess putting the finishing touches to the next stage of Operation Miss Lovelorn. Having spoken with Jay, her newest fake letter includes a lot of personal details to make it more believable and to drive Denise Hadley wild with fury.
After a terse exchange, Elizabeth confesses to Jess that the Amy Sutton and Enid Rollins debacle is causing her spectacular grief. It’s Conflict, and Elizabeth does not thrive in Conflict.
Thankfully, Jessica eats Conflict as an amuse bouche to a main course of Drama and a desert of Pathological Violence. She tells Elizabeth there’s nothing to worry about. And that, of course, Amy is 100% in the right.
Why? Because FUCK ENID ROLLINS, that’s why.
Jessica plants the seeds of doubt in Elizabeth’s mind. Amy is right to want to go to the party. Enid is being unreasonable, because she’s jealous. And so on.
Of course, Elizabeth eventually comes to believe Jessica’s complete nonsense, which is exactly what Jessica wants. We get a fleeting glimpse into her mind as she gloats over the ruse. Enid has no personality, while Amy is definitely Jessica’s Spunkwaffle.
She truly is a monster. I miss whimsical Jess, ngl. I’m so bored by the “but Enid is booooring” schtick, over and over. Change the fucking record, you sociopathic dullard.
[Dove: I honestly thought this plot point would escalate, but nope. This is the last time Jessica weighs in.]
Chapter Eight begins thusly:
“Enid,” Elizabeth said tentatively, unwrapping her roast beef sandwich, “I have a huge favor to ask you. Promise not to get mad at me, OK?”
Elizabeth has beef with Enid. It says so right there, people!
Elizabeth wastes no time in spilling the tea and asking if Enid can inconvenience her aunt, again. Amy want to party, and Amy gets what she wants, so can the ski trip be delayed another week?
Enid is not happy, and Elizabeth feels awful Enid suggests that they make the trip anyway, just the two of them. That was the original plan, so why not revert to it? Amy could join them another time.
Elizabeth knows that Enid is right in all she’s saying and suggesting, but she can’t shake the feeling that by doing that she’d be hurting Amy. WHY SHOULD THAT MATTER, YOU CLEFT? Amy has been nothing but a crushing bore and manipulative spackle-tit for this entire book. She’s calling everybody “doll” as if she’s in a Chicago speakeasy during prohibition, and she’s clearly not into Elizabeth any more.
Seriously, Liz. Take steps, shake hands, move on.
Enid eventually agrees, in a flat tone, with the caveat that this change is full and final and that the ski trip is happening, no matter what, the week after the Fowler Shindig. I mean, a 9/11 could happen in the coming week, but sure, whatever. Skiing no matter the circumstances. Gotcha.
As this rather depressing segment concludes, we learn that Enid both has the cut of Amy’s jib totally and completely, but she’s also clocked that Liz is also feeling dubious about Amy’s character… she’s just not brave enough to admit it to herself.
I actually really like Enid in this book. Poor girl. She’s displaying everything that Elizabeth should cherish and appreciate in a friend, but Liz is still smitten with her spunkwaffle and can’t move on.
We then skip to a B Plot section, where Jessica collars a lonesome Jay McGuire in the cafeteria. Jay moodily admits that his relationship with Denise is on the rocks, and Jessica does her best with flannel and soap to salve those weary wounds. Eventually, she asks him out that Friday, and he accepts the date with a shrug.
Success for Jess and her dastardly scheming! All that’s left is for her to manipulate Jay into asking her to the Fowler Party that weekend.
Oh, and she’s planning to attend dressed as Cleopatra. Which is nice.
In the school hallways, we see Elizabeth doing her best to attract Amy’s attention. Amy eventually hears her “friend”, and apologises for being away with the fairies. Apparently, cheerleader and sorority demands weigh heavily on the noggin. It also transpires that Amy stood Liz up for their pre-arranged lunch date earlier that day, and Elizabeth can’t help but sound peeved by that, despite her unblemished and innocent soul. [Dove: Also, she’s pledging Pi Beta Alpha. So… so much for Robin’s mum saying that this was the absolute last time that anyone could join this year, so it was Robin’s last chance to join.] [Wing: Maybe we’ve come full circle and we’re earlier in junior year?]
Liz forgives Amy when the latter says she could simply die for being so forgetful. I don’t know what this girl has to do to fall from Elizabeth’s grace, but it probably involves a stuffed koala and a garbage disposal.
Amy then declares she’s in love. Elizabeth asks if Johnny had called again, but it’s not Johnny that’s frothing Amy’s gusset… it’s Lila’s cousin, Christopher. She waxes lyrical about his beauty, before Elizabeth points out that he’s in LA, at which point Amy is forced to admit she’s not yet met him. That doesn’t matter to True Love, apparently, and the pairing has the blessings of matchmaker Lila Fowler, so it cannot be fought.
This is bullshit straight out of the Jessica Wakefield playbook, so I guess that Elizabeth is well-versed in handling it. She wishes Amy the best, while privately rolling her eyes.
The initial section of Chapter Nine sees Jessica and Jay on their date on Friday night. As such, it’s of scant interest to me here. I’m here for Amy and Elizabeth and Enid, not more of Jessica’s toxic manipulations.
They see a movie.
They head to Miller’s Point, a famous make-out spot.
Jay is reluctant, but Jessica is manipulative.
Jay pines for Denise.
Jessica lies that Denise is now courting someone else.
Jay is upset, and Jessica consoles him.
Jay and Jessica make out.
The world turns.
[Dove: Yeah, no. This is awful. Whether you respect Jay’s existing relationship or not, this is an absolute horror show. This is gaslighting. This is fraud. Jessica is a fucking monster who doesn’t deserve to endlessly get away with trampling on other people, and refusing to respect boundaries. I hope she dies. Imagine if Bruce Patman had convinced a girl that her boyfriend was having serious doubts about their relationship, and was cheating on her, and then kept forcing himself on her, piling lie upon lie until she eventually said yes, and they got up to enough shennanigans for her to sweat her makeup off (which Jess notes she has done when she gets home). This is fucking vile.]
[Wing: It truly is vile. We had a tiny bit of a break from the holy horror Jess we saw early in High, but she’s back in full form here.]
Eventually, the chapter moves back to the Elizabeth / Amy / Enid story, which is much more interesting. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
It’s Friday night, and Liz is at the Compound, silently seething. Amy has stood her up. Again. They were supposed to be going to the movies together, at eight, It was no nearly ten pm, and still no sign.
Al least this gave Elizabeth a chance to thing things over. At first, she made excuses. Then she called Amy’s house, multiple times, with no answer. Eventually, she concluded that Amy Has Changed, and that until now she’d been too blinded by hope and nostalgia to see it. She also realised that she’d been treating Enid terribly, and even tried making amends by calling her best friend to apologise and re-bond. But Enid has gone out with a gaggle of other friends.
So, at this point, it looks as thought the Amy Bubble has burst, and we can all get on with our lives. But no. Amy finally shows up, and spins an incredible tale involving dinner party errands and broken cars and more. Liz almost calls her bluff by pointing out inconsistencies in the tale, but she folds when Amy doubles down on the lie. [Dove: When exusing your absence, telling multiple stories makes it seem like a lie, Amy.]
Thing is, Liz just wants to believe Amy. Which I get. It’s hard to accept the truth when it hurts.
The chapter ends with Jessica returning home in the wee small hours, after securing an invitation to the Fowler Shindig from a newly-smitten Jay McGuire. It seems that everything is coming up Millhouse for Jessica… except…
Apparently, the Oracle offices received a slew of Miss Lovelorn letters over the past few days, from real kids with “real” problems. One of them were clearly from Denise Hadley, asking for advice on how to get back with her younger boyfriend. Another of them was clearly from Jay McGuire, asking for advice on how to get back with his older girlfriend. And as Jessica’s deceptions require disharmony between the two parties, she’d planned to put those letters in the bin before they saw the light of day.
But she forgot.
No matter, though. She could get to school early Monday morning and remove them from the Oracle in-tray for good.
She won’t, of course. This is the out to the B Plot, the fatal flaw, the literal error of her ways. I’m glad that her shit will not stick, and that there’ll be zero to no long-term consequences, but for once I’d still like to see Jess being called on her behaviour for longer than a single paragraph.
Chapter Ten, and it’s Party Night! Liz is getting ready in her bedroom. As a message to Enid, Elizabeth’s costume is… a skier.
[Wing: How in the world is this a comfortable costume for her in southern California when it is warm enough that other people are wearing fairly skimpy costumes? She would be melting in that costume.]
We also learn that Enid had backed out of getting a lift to Fowler Crest with Liz when she discovered that Amy had been added to the journey at the last minute.
Liz’s internal monologue reveals that she feels as though she has to choose between Amy and Enid. And she does. Thing is, it’s not really a choice. Amy is fucking appalling, which Enid is solid and surefire. At this point, I’m feeling that Elizabeth’s constant dithering between the two is getting repetitive and boring. Pick a lane, you bimbling quim.
As she sets off to the party, she feels a storm is brewing. And so she should. There’s only a few chapters left.
Suddenly, we’re at Amy’s for the pickup. Amy is dressed as a ballerina, and looks stunning. Amy then says perhaps the most asinine thing in this book:
“I hope Christopher likes ballerinas,” Amy said, readjusting her tiara and giggling nervously.
I mean, what the fuck? Christoper isn’t Billy fucking Elliot. I think you’d be hard pressed to find one sixteen-year-old boy in a crowd of a thousand that had a single thought either way on the subject of ballerinas. Aside from the fabulous boys, of course. [Dove: And on the other side, you’d be hard-pressed to find a boy who didn’t like to look at a pretty girl in a skin-tight leotard and a teeny skirt.] [Raven: Well, yeah. But all the girls are hot here, right?] [Wing: But some of them are in ski suits, not nearly as fun to ogle. Amy wearing toe shoes as party shoes is complete bullshit, though.]
The Fowler Party is wonderful, the best Fowler Party that ever Fowler Partied. Its full of the usual food and drinks and entertainment, in the usual opulent grounds of the sumptuous Fowler Crest.
As for costumes, there’s Jessica as Cleopatra, Cara and Steven as Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy, [Wing: Well holy shit, ghostie, I’m glad one of you finally acknowledged Steven’s ongoing desire for his sister, what with Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy being, you know, siblings. We really are down the incest tunnel in this book.] Winston as some sort of comedic flipper-clad buffoon, and a gaggle of celebs, rock stars, and aspirational vocationalists.
Oh, Lila Fowler as PRINCESS DIANA. Which is all kinds of epic and iconic, even if her costume is flagged as being a bit shit. [Wing: Not really a fun costume for what’s supposed to be a pretty sexy party, though.]
Amy is the only ballerina, but Liz is not the only skier. The other skier is…
… a naked Mr Nydick!
… of course it’s not. It’s Enid. Glove buddies!
As the two founder members of the High version of Team Boring reconnect, we’re finally introduced to Lila’s cousin Christopher. She makes an announcement, declaring him to be the reason for the entire party. Gotta say, that’s a pretty crappy theme, Lila. You properly phoned this one in.
After the announcement and introduction, Lila seems very keen to introduce Christopher to Amy, as part of her grand matchmaking plan. However, it appears that Christopher only has eyes for Enid, because he actually knows Enid from summer camp (or something). Enid and Chris catch up like proper old friends, allowing Elizabeth to saunter away with a smile, and putting a shitty boot into the stomach of Lila’s best laid plans.
Snap cut to one of the many Fowler Bathrooms, where Jessica is retouching her make-up. In storms Amy and Lila, incensed that Enid has apparently conspired to steal Chris away from the Lank Haired Spunkwaffle.
And finally, finally, we have text to replace the subtext…
“I can’t stand that girl,” Amy seethed, catching sight of herself in the mirror and fluffing her mane of gold hair. “First she tries to steal Liz away from me. And now Chris!”
So there it is. Amy’s soul, red in tooth and claw. [Dove: Is it really stealing when you leave something alone for four years, and don’t want it when it attempts to be around you?] [Wing: Jess would think it’s stealing, too. As if you can steal people in this way.]
Jess and Lila bolster Amy’s resolve. If she sets her mind on bagging Christopher, a simple sad-sack like Enid Rollins wouldn’t stand a chance. So out they go, back into the grounds, ready to kick ass and grab dick or whatever else is required.
However, once Jess is back amongst the party people, she’s waylaid by an irate Jay McGuire. Not only was he made to wait for too long by his Cleopatra, but he’s also clocked a resplendent Denise Hadley arm-in-arm with a New Boy who’s at least two years older than he is.
So he throws a snit and storms off toward home, declaring that everything is all too painful. Cara interjects and asks if Miss Lovelorn’s advice has finally backfired, which is an unwelcome snipe… in Jessica’s humble opinion, at least.
Next, we’re in Enid’s head. She’s having a lovely time, chatting and reconnecting with Camp Chris (easy now), dancing with him and legitimately falling into burgeoning state of love. It doesn’t last, because Amy Sutton appears and cuts in for a dance. Chris does his gentlemanly duty, before returning to Enid as his heart demands, but the evening becomes a hideous farce with Amy Sutton trailing them everywhere, cutting into their conversations unasked and looking for any excuse to separate the happy couple.
Then we get this, which is odd in a number of ways…
When Chris, looking exhausted, went up to the table to get Enid some dessert, Amy turned on her, her voice caustic. “Enid Rollins,” she said, her eyes flashing fire, “didn’t I tell you before just to get lost? Don’t you know you make me sick?” She looked so angry Enid felt almost afraid. “I told you this last week: You can’t steal people from me! I won’t let you steal Liz, and I’m not going to let you steal Chris, either! He’s mine,” she said savagely, leaning closer. “He’s mine, Enid. Now just stay away from him!”
Erm… Amy did what now?
Have I skipped a few pages?
Did Amy actually say any of the stuff she’s claiming here? Like, in the book? No?
Thought not. Yay for off-screen late-game twists… I guess? [Dove: I had the same reaction. So did JC. Holy-evil-out-of-nowhere, Batman!] [Wing: You know, you could have cut some of the wash-rinse-repeat of Liz doubting Amy then convincing herself it’s all her own fault and, you know, PUT THIS ON THE PAGE. We have Enid POVs!]
So we get more clear evidence that Amy is a complete wrongun, as if we needed it. Enid stands her ground and gives some back, which prompts Amy to declare that she is ready to both steal Chris and to destroy Enid’s relationship with Elizabeth. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA
Seriously? I’d be down for that. However, as I’ve already read the denouement, Amy’s “plan” is COMPLETELY SHIT and not even worthy of the word “scheme”. It’s barely worthy of the word “incident”.
The scene ends with Enid recounting that this wasn’t the first time that Amy had threatened her, even though it patently is. Is she going to tell Elizabeth about any of this? No. Because Liz needs to reach her own conclusions about the Lank-Haired Spunkwaffle. [Dove: Based on all the information, Enid. This is the kind of thing it’s ok to tell your bestie about.]
Soon, it’s the end of the night (I guess). Liz is ready to leave. She asks Enid is she wants a lift home. Enid reveals that Chris had offered her a ride home, so she’d be taking him up on that. Hopefully via Miller’s Point, but that’s just my conjecture.
Suddenly, Amy dashes up and drags Elizabeth away to speak. She tells her “friend” that Chris has offered to drive Amy home. Liz is sceptical, considering the news she just received from Enid. Laughingly, Amy tells Elizabeth that she told Chris that Elizabeth had told her there was no room left in her car, and that she was destined to walk unless Chris stepped up to the plate.
Finally, finally, FINALLY, Elizabeth loses her temper. How can Amy be so mean to Enid?
Amy put her hands over her ears. “I’ve had it,” she fumed. “Do you realize all I’ve heard since the day I moved back is how terrific you think Enid is? Don’t you realize”—her eyes flashed—“that I don’t care? I think she’s a total bore! And I’m sick and tired of having you try to ram her down my throat!”
And THERE we have it.
We didn’t have it before, that first time. Nor did we have it that second time.
But this time? We definitely have it,
Amy is a fucking abomination.
[Dove: When Amy said she had a plan to get rid of Enid, I honestly expected her to tearfully approach Elizabeth and explain that Enid had been bullying her. That the reason she kept changing the date about the ski trip was because Enid called her and told her to drop out, but she couldn’t because she loves hanging out with Liz sooooo much. That she blew hot and cold with Liz because Enid had been threatening her (I’m sure Jess has already spilled the tea about Enid’s meth-addled past and the bad kids she used to hang around, if she needed extra oomph). What I didn’t expect was for Amy to just flat out say, “I hate Enid.” and leave it at that. I thought she’d at least pull something out of the Jessica playbook.]
Anyway, Spunkwaffle runs off, crying, and Enid storms up. She’s angry too. She’s heard from Chris that Elizabeth has told Amy there’s no space in the Fiat, and concluded that Amy and Liz have conspired against her. It’s a fair conclusion, given the available evidence. She storms off before Elizabeth can defend herself.
Finally, we have a forlorn Jessica asking for a ride home. Her plan with Jay has backfired spectacularly.
So that’s the Big Scene… now for the aftermath. Can Elizabeth wrangle her friends back into line? Here’s hoping!
Chapter Eleven of Twelve, Sunday morning, Post-Party.
Liz phones Enid to set the record straight. Enid remains angry and aloof, and ends their conversation by saying they can talk in school the following day. [Wing: Enid says they need space. I love you, Enid. Hold that ground. Take the time you need.]
Next, she tries to connect with Amy. But that call is also unsuccessful, as Amy has decamped to the beach with Lila and Jessica.
In desperation, Elizabeth turns to getting advice from the Elder Wakefields. Specifically, the Sainted Alice.
Spoiler: it’s good advice, and it clears things up.
Further spoiler: It’s creepily good advice. Like, it’s the advice that the Ghostwriter would give, or the Reader would give. Advice from someone who knows everything that the reader or writer knows, not advice from two people hearing an emotion rendition of a single side of the story.
They label Amy as a very manipulative young lady, and deduce that Enid has likely been keeping her distance to preserve Liz’s feelings. They suggest Elizabeth may have been blind to Amy’s faults because of their former friendships. And then, inexplicably, they correctly deduce that Amy was likely being candy floss to Enid while in the presence of Elizabeth, but snaking her when they were alone. That’s an incredible leap of logic and deduction there, Alice. That’s the magic of Gin.
[Dove: That same gin also prevents her from noticing that her youngest daughter is almost certainly going to be the topic of dozens of true crime podcasts in the future, and at aged sixteen she very nearly has a body count already.]
The advice hits the spot, and Elizabeth knows exactly what must be done. She thanks her booze-addled mater and heads to Enid’s house with a giggle in her boobs.
Thankfully (I suppose) we’re spared the apologies and tearful hugs, but we do get the aftermath. Enid and Elizabeth are fast friends again, and they discuss their feelings in the warming glow of a new start. We also discover that Chris and Enid are back on track, as he’d called that morning to arrange a date. Also, he mentioned that Amy had been a proper Spunkwaffle during their journey home.
Enid then goes above and beyond and tells Elizabeth to invite Amy to the skiing trip anyway. She’s won, after all. Maybe it’s not actually an uncommon kindness… maybe it’s a baller’s power play. Go Enid!
Elizabeth thanks Enid for her generosity, and says she’ll offer that olive branch, but she fears it won’t be accepted.
For the final chapter, we’ll slalom toward the finish, fast and free.
First, there’s Jessica, failing to prevent the two Miss Lovelorn letters from Jay and Denise from seeing the light of publication. Apparently, as neither Cara nor Jessica had submitted a column, Elizabeth had stepped up and chose two letters to print (and advise upon) at random. Wouldn’t you know it, but the two letters are obviously the letters from Jay and Denise. And lo, they do the trick and fix all ills between the lovesick duo.
So back to the status quo. No hugging, no learning.
Next, there’s the final conversation between Elizabeth and Amy. Liz catches up with Amy as she’s writing a letter of attrition to the abandoned John.
Elizabeth asks if Amy would like to join her and Enid at Aunt Nacy’s ski lodge at Lake Tahoe that weekend. Amy politely declines, saying she’d feel bad “sharing” Liz with Enid. She also finally admits that Enid is simply not “her kind of people”.
And that’s enough for Elizabeth to finally find closure. She walks away from Amy, sad that their friendship cannot be what it once was, and determined to never take Enid’s friendship for granted ever again.
Now, that’d be a fine finale for the story, but there’s the overlong precursor to the next book to contend with. I’ll not dwell on any of it, as it deals with characters who I don’t give a pimply shit about. I’ll merely share the following line for all of our UK readers, who I guarantee will find it very funny indeed.
“Tuna,” Jean West said wearily.
Enigmatic? Sure. But legitimately the biggest laugh in this book.
This was better than I expected. But it wasn’t great.
This is the one book in this run for which I felt expectation. And on many levels, it fell flat. HighAmy did not feel like an organic evolution of TwinsAmy at all, but as the whole scenario was reverse engineered I guess it’s not surprising.
There were nice things! I liked the payoff of Amy’s baton twirling, even if I disliked her apparent love of sports. I just disliked HighAmy for being naught but a cheap clone of the Mean Girls we already have. There was scope for so much more that what we got.
Jessica’s B Plot angered me, as it was casually destructive and mean. Elizabeth’s constant hand-wringing over the situation was repetitive, and the frankly bizarre Deus Ex Machina from Alice, solving all Elizabeth’s problems with her saintly decree, felt lazy. But I did like Enid, and I did believe the feelings behind every character’s actions.
I’m feeling generous. I’ll give this a good. Even if this Amy was definitely…
[Dove: I agree with Raven’s take on this, although I was expecting more of a fight between Enid and Amy. Or at least, I was expecting Amy to be more underhand and Jessica-like in her tug of war over Liz. She was just flat-out rude to Enid at all points, we didn’t see her threaten Enid, so that felt like an ass-pull, and then her “plan” to get Enid gone once and for all was just to shout at Liz how much she hates Enid. Weak. It was better than a lot of the books in the series, but it was still kind of meh over all. I gave it a Good, because I’m grading on a curve. I don’t necessarily think that Good books are good, just that they are significantly better than the worst and second worst offerings of the series thus far. I just wanted more from this book than Amy constantly standing Liz up, and Liz convincing herself that this was perfectly normal.]
[Wing: Jessica was horrid, I wanted more manipulation from Amy, if this is the Amy we’re stuck with for High, and overall it was just fine. The wash-rinse-repeat of Liz seeing problems with Amy and then questioning herself took any sort of emotion out of what could have worked for me, at least on some level. Friendships change and reunions can be awkward. Unfortunately, this was boring.]