Sweet Valley High #4: Power Play
Title: Power Play
Tagline: The Wakefield twins have taken sides – against each other!
Summary: Elizabeth and Jessica in a tug of war…
Chubby Robin Wilson has been following Jessica around for months. First she wanted to be her friend – now she wants to join Pi Beta Alpha, Sweet Valley High’s snobby sorority.
When Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, nominates Robin for the sorority, Jessica is furious. Robin may be friendly and smart, but she’s certainly not beautiful or popular enough to be a Pi Beta. Jessica’s determined to find a way to keep Robin out.
But Elizabeth is just as determined to make Robin a sorority sister. Soon the twins are locked in a struggle that develops into the biggest power play at Sweet Valley High…
Urgh. This is going to suck.
First things first, I did the Junior High recap only a couple of days ago, so this has rolled around quick. Second, I’ve had a week off and this is the first day of freedom from other people’s plans that I’ve had… and what am I doing? Reading about toxic harpies bullying nice girls. Third, I really want to be rebuilding my MLP website, because it’s very slow loading, and learning new ways of making it work is far more interesting than Jessica’s bitch-crusade or Elizabeth’s saint crusade of the week.
So, with all that out of the way, let’s take a look at this nightmare that I dimly remember from childhood and then did my best to block out.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Fat phobia. Massive fucking rants. Repeated use of the word cunt. Brief examples of ugly things people say regarding rape and sexual assault. FUCKING RAGE.
If you need to tread carefully with any of these topics, I’m sorry, this recap is not for you. Go back and read Poor Lila! instead. That’s my favourite book. Or if you’re not feeling that, then run over to archive.org and read The Christmas Ghost, where a ghost stops all these things we’re reading about from happening. And here’s a link to all of the books by Jamie Suzanne on there. Take care of yourself.
All that said, if you just need a bit of a self-image pep-talk, I’ve always liked the lyrics from Not Perfect by Tim Minchin.
This is my body
And I live in it
And 6 months old
It’s changed a lot since it was new
It’s done stuff it wasn’t built to do
I often try to fill it up with wine
And the weirdest thing about it is
I spend so much time hating it
But it never says a bad word about me
Notes: this ghostie uses the “hundred and thirty-seven” tic all the way through. Also everyone calls Jessica “Jessie”. It’s enough to be eye-poking, but this saves me from derailing the recap every time it happens to mention it before we start. [Raven: Six years in and this is the fisrt I’ve heard of the “hundred and thirty-seven” tic. Every day’s a school day.] [Wing: Jessie and Steve are killing me. Completely minor compared to all the other bullshit, but I hate it, thanks.]
We start with an incredibly pretentious ramble about how Elizabeth had no idea what kind of hell she was unleashing when she opened the Pandora’s box of bitchiness running rampant in Pi Beta Alpha. It really does act as if Elizabeth has unwittingly pulled the sword from the stone and had no idea that she’s now King of England. Dude. You just said a girl’s name (and we haven’t even covered that bit yet). Have a word with yourself.
The narrative takes a moment to point out that Pi Beta Alphas are all gossipy bitches and Elizabeth is too good for that shit. She’s too busy curing cancer and saving rainforests. Wait. No. She’s too busy writing her bitchy gossipy little column, Eyes and Ears. But hers is the good kind of gossip. Not like Jessica’s. I hope you know the difference. It’s not about what is said. Or how it’s said. It’s about who is saying it. Basically, if anyone but Elizabeth says it, it’s bitchy vapid gossip, ok?
Then we take another wild swoop in the opposite direction to cover a phone call from Robin’s mum to Elizabeth. She’s trying to track down her daughter and thinks she’s running an errand for Jessica. She gushes about how being besties with the Wakefield twins is the bestest thing that’s ever happened to her daughter, but mum worries about her. Does Elizabeth think she’s ok? Elizabeth, having no clue and naturally assuming that while her sister is a dangerous monster who might one day kill a fatty for the sheer lolz of it, [Wing: She’s not wrong.] she’s probably not doing it right now, says something along the lines of, “Uh… I guess? I don’t really know her.”
Robin’s mum then nearly has a breakdown about how miserable Robin is and how she’s about to drop out of school because she’s so unhappy. Wow. I mean, sure, I guess parenting is hard, but wow. You just dropped that on a sixteen year old who just admitted she barely knows your kid. That’s certainly a choice. [Raven: This universe… it thrives on the basic premise that all the adults are completely entwined and embroiled with every little aspect of the kids’ lives. Like, no one is just “fuck off, $kid, I’m really stressed about the mortgage payments this month and Frank at work is being a prick, can you just sort this thing by yourself?” No, it’s always “we are involved in the very minutae of $kids life, including transcripts of all their conversations and intimate knowledge of their deepest fears and feelings.” Nobody is just winging it, or is living their own life outside the rails of the basic plot. So basic.]
[Wing: Oh god, the ghosties foresaw helicopter parenting. I’m afraid now. What else will they write bout that comes true?]
Apparently the thing that will solve everyone’s problems is Robin joining Pi Beta Alpha, and Mrs Wilson is aware that time is ticking on and she hasn’t been asked to join yet. Elizabeth says that the president moved away and Jessica has taken over – dude, she joined like three fucking weeks ago – so they’re getting back on top of things. [Raven: President… because OF COURSE SHE IS.]
Mrs Wilson comments that Jessica’s so busy, she might never get around to getting Robin into PBA. Then she says that Elizabeth must never speak of this conversation again and hangs up.
Elizabeth takes a minute to be wowed by the idea of Robin dropping out. So what if she’s fat, she’s really smart. Oh well, now on with the task of cleaning the entire house because Alice is throwing a dinner party, and we all know Jessica isn’t going to help because she just called with a line of excuses about library books and cleaning.
At this point, Robin shows up and she’s going to wait for Jessica. The first thing she does is unwrap an enormous chocolate bar and cram it in her face Steven Wakefield style. But because she’s fat, it’s gross. We should hate her. Elizabeth certainly does.
“You’re really lucky, Liz, having a terrific sister like Jessica.” The chocolate bar was disappearing fast.
“That’s me, all right, lucky Liz,” she replied dryly, hypnotized by Robin’s rhythmic chewing.
I can’t speak for all heavy people – and I think this might be more a girl thing, because we had more YA books reminding us that fat girls have no right to exist – but I have always hated eating in front of people. I’m very conscious of people around me judging me exactly what Elizabeth is right now.
It always astounded me when you’d see a fat girl on the page or TV, because she would be stuffing as much down her gullet as was humanly possible. She’d have pizza up her nose and pepperoni in her hair, and not give a shit because EATING RULEZ, AMIRIGHT? And if she wasn’t eating, she’s be asking where the food was. And all of my other heavy friends at school and I would just be sat there, cringing, thinking, we don’t do that.
First of all, just because we’re heavy, doesn’t mean we’re mannerless pigs. We don’t chew with our mouth open. We don’t cram in so much food our cheeks bulge. We don’t glug down soda like we’ve been walking through a desert for fifteen days. Second of all, if I had a chocolate bar and felt comfortable eating in front of a friend (Tiny and Twinkle are good examples), I’d share it, because I’ve got manners. Third, even those of us who make poor diet choices can manage to stop eating for hours at a time. We are not endlessly cramming it in.
And finally, Elizabeth knows fuck all about this girl – she just told Mrs Wilson as much. For all Elizabeth knows, Robin’s blood sugar dipped and she’s having to bring it up quickly. Yes, I know, Stacey in BSC handles it with apple juice and healthy options, but I have seen people – fat and thin – chow down a Kit-Kat and watched as their skin went from fag-ash grey back to healthy tones after the sugar boost.
I know she’s not diabetic, but Elizabeth doesn’t.
And she’s pretty damned quick to judge for one so saintly. And being Elizabeth, she can’t hold it in. She has to at least peevishly ask if all that chocolate doesn’t make Robin all spotty. No, says Robin. She just packs on the pounds. She was never meant to be thin. She’s got big bones and a poor metabolism.
Elizabeth looked at Robin dubiously. She was convinced Robin’s heaviness was due to the way she ate – especially if this was typical.
Though Elizabeth and Jessica certainly didn’t have Robin’s figure problems, they still watched their diets carefully.
Oh well, if Elizabeth thinks that, then it must be true.
And yes, annoyingly, she is correct. Robin is your very standard case of a girl who eats her feelings. As one myself, I feel for Robin, but I never deluded myself I was “big boned”. Actually, I’ve never heard any fat person say that. I’ve only ever heard thin people make fun of fat people for thinking they’ve got big bones. So I’m pretty sure this ghostie is slender.
But my point is: it’s none of your fucking business, Elizabeth. Unless you’re giving her piggy-back rides to school every day, or you’re a healthcare professional with the relevant qualifications specifically caring for Robin’s health, it’s absolutely fuck all to do with you. You’re not her friend. You literally told her mother that you barely know her, so you can get in the fucking sea with any pretence that you “care” for her and her health. You’re just a skinny bitch who doesn’t like looking at fat people. And here, I have two solutions for that: 1) look the other way; but if that’s super hard, 2) get some acid from the science class and pour it into your eyeballs. There. Problem fucking solved.
If Robin wants to lose weight, she can. But she doesn’t need your sanctimonious bullshit masquerading as advice. You know absolutely fuck all about health. If you did, you wouldn’t be visiting the Dairi Burger every few days and thinking that you “watch [your] diet carefully“. You absolute fucking waste of space.
[Raven: *round of applause*. What Dove said.
The fat shaming schtick is the thing I hate most about Sweet Valley. I know, spoken like a true fatty, right? All the points Dove raises above are bang on, but alongside this I’ve a few bits of my own. Perhaps my main complaint about this fat-shaming is that it’s endemic in every character and more. I get it as a villainous trait (Jessica, Lila, the PBA officers etc), as that’s a standard literary trope: Bad Guys do Bad Stuff and get punished with a Teachable Moment. But in SV, the Good Guys also have this trait (Liz being mesmerised by Robin’s eating, and so on). And Liz’s attitude is not questioned or rebutted AT ALL. Even when she’s going “so what if she’s fat, it doesn’t matter, she’s super smart”, there’s implied condemnation of fatness in the words being used. It’s clear that it’s not only the Good Guys and the Bad Guys that are fat-shaming here… it’s the Ghosties too, believing every word they are putting in their characters’ mouths. But the REAL kicker? Even ROBIN subscribes to the fat-shaming philosophy. About herself. Pretty much the only thing that’s NOT living the fat-shaming life is the fucking chocolate.
I’ll have a lot more on this subject as the recap unfolds, but for now, there’s one more thing to say. As a fat boy rather than a fat girl, I never really ascribed to Dove’s hatred of public eating. And when Robin inhales an entire large chocolate bar, I felt seen.]
[Wing: A book with better, more nuanced writing could do something very interesting with Robin’s internalized fat hate/self hate. It is easy to internalize the messages society pushes at us, intentionally or not, consciously or not, and there are some authors who would handle that with aplomb and care.
This ghostie, at least within the confines of a Sweet Valley High book, is not that author.]
Robin realises Jessica is not coming home, so she leaves the library books and cleaning (I assume clothes?) that were Jessica’s excuse for not being there with Elizabeth, and on the way out, she asks Elizabeth to remind Jessica to put her name forward for the sorority. It’s her last chance, she can’t pledge as a senior. Robin, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be stuck in this school year for possibly decades. You’ve got plenty of time.
Elizabeth fights with herself before valiantly throwing herself on the sword and telling Robin that although she’s a disgusting fat pig and Jessica would die before accepting a fatty into her precious sorority of thin sexy people, Elizabeth will do the right thing and put this foul fatty forward. Only moderately more tactfully than I just described it.
Robin is ecstatic, and calls her mum to celebrate. When she comes back from that call, she gushes:
Robin burst back into the room, all aflutter. “My mom is soooooo excited!” She always told me that being best friends with the Wakefield twins could be great for me,” she gushed. Searching through her bag, she found another candy bar and began unwrapping it.
That’s how important the twins are. Even middle-aged people are like, OMG teh WaKeFiEld tWinZ! [Raven: Absolute nonsense.]
And of course, this tiny non-event is worthy of another chocolate bar. Because that’s how we fatties are. Food, food and more food.
Just as Robin leaves, Jessica arrives, and Robin hugs her in delight, completely unaware of Jessica flinching away in horror like she’s Whitney from Married at First Sight when confronted with Duka. Yep, that’s a reference that’s gonna travel. Seriously, people. You like Sweet Valley drama? Married at First Sight UK, season 7. Whitney is Jessica Wakefield. Even Raven is fucking hooked, and he hates reality shows. [Raven: Do I? … Okay, if you say so. We’ve watched all of Catfish and Bake Off and Sewing Bee and The Circle and Married and countless property porn shows, but fine.] [Dove: OK, what I mean is, you do have a “Is this a kissing book?” vibe towards the ones that don’t have a mystery or competition as the primary driver.] [Wing: Just realized that I distinguish between competition reality and non-competition reality shows and I never knew it. My knee-jerk response was that GBBO and GBSB are not reality shows, but of course they are! (Also, Esme Young and Patrick Grant can get it. I spend a lot of time watching that show being very, very shallow. As my friend Kiwi [bird not fruit] says, middle-age thirst is real.)]
After Robin leaves, Jessica demands and explanation, and her demand is dripping in fat-hatred. Elizabeth first of all wants to know where Jessica was, and it is explained that she was with Lila. And now she has the scarf Lila gave her. Well. That explains that.
Elizabeth shook her head in wonder. The scarf was really beautiful, and obviously quite expensive. Do the rich always share the wealth like this? she wondered.
Yes, Elizabeth. Of course they do. It’s called trickle-down economics. It’s very in right now. Let me give a real-life example. Thanks to all the racists voting Brexit, we in the UK are more screwed than most of Europe when it comes to fuel. So, costs have been soaring, just check twitter for the people who’ve been estimated that their heating bill will be £700 a month for a 3 bedroom house. Now, what our illustrious Prime Minister Liz Truss has done is give a bail-out to the energy companies, so that they can continue to make billions in profit and… um… the tax-payers have to pay it back for them. And that’s trickle-down economics. It’s going to fix the world! See, if the rich get richer… something something… no more poverty. #WINNING
[Raven: It’s not funny because it’s true.]
Once we’ve established that the scarf is beautiful, we can move on with the plot. Elizabeth drops her bomb that she’s going to nominate Robin, and Jessica is not happy.
Elizabeth innocently points out that while Robin may be heavy, Jessica has no problem letting her carry her books or run errands for her.
“I like to be kind to everybody, Elizabeth,” Jessica cooed. “You know that. But pledging Pi Beta? Well, look – you know Robin’s only interested in studying. She’s taking about thirty-seven extra courses. I’m just not sure PBA is right for her.”
Anyone who didn’t know Jessica as well as Elizabeth did would have been totally convinced that Robin’s welfare was her first and only concern.
Let me fix that for you.
Even Elizabeth, who believed every single lie out of her sister’s mouth found it hard to believe that Robin’s welfare was Jessica’s first and only concern.
Jessica throws a foot-stamping tantrum – seriously, does anyone above the age of eight do that? – and then stomps off in a huff, while Elizabeth seems to be so genuinely thick, she cannot fathom why Jessica is cross about this. I guess she assumes her sister isn’t the toxic nightmare we all know her to be? *shrug*
[Wing: How? How does she assume that? How does she believe a single thing Jessica says, ever? Even if we ignore what happened in any of the previous books as the ghosties like to do, it’s clear they aren’t actually friends during high school. Why does Elizabeth ever trust her with anything?]
We cut to a Pi Beta Alpha meeting, where Jessica is delighted to see her sister is absent, and tries to rush through the meeting [Raven: Nice try, Cornelius Fudge]. At the point where she calls for New Business, Elizabeth rushes in and nominates Robin, making it very clear that Robin is a close personal friend of both Wakefield twins. I will give Elizabeth that, it was a good move. There’s a general mutter of disagreement, some people refer to her as “pudgy”, but Elizabeth knows that nobody would dare defy a Wakefield. I really hate their plot armour. It’s tiresome. We’ve got Robin’s mum wetting her pants that she got to talk to a Wakefield – that’s been on her bucket list ever since she moved to Sweet Valley – and now we have an entire fleet of girls who will blindly do whatever the twins say. And yes, peer pressure, but even so, there’s always going to be a few that are like, “Nope, I’m popular and secure enough to ride this out.” Lila Fowler springs to mind as one.
Anyway, nobody objects to the nomination. [Raven: If you buy into the nonsense that Jessica is now the sorority president, I guess not wanting to piss off the office rather than the incumbent is fair. I also like to see this as the PBAs not actually being as shitty as Jessica is making out, and the only ones so engrossed in Robin’s weight are Jessica and Elizabeth (and, later, Bruce I guess).]
After the meeting, Jessica is boiling with rage, causing Elizabeth to “cringe at the anger in her sister’s voice“. They have a back and forth, Elizabeth thinks Robin is nice, Jessica thinks she is fat. Both are actually true, but Jessica judges not on the content of one’s character, but the size of one’s dress. She makes a comment that Robin is surrounded by “two tons of fat!“ which Elizabeth finds funny because she’s not actually nice, she’s just nicer than Jessica, which is like saying that I’m thinner than Tess Holliday. It doesn’t mean I’m thin by any stretch of the imagination.
Basically, battle lines are drawn. Jessica makes it clear that Robin’s pledge tasks are going to be awful, and she will cut a bitch before letting a fatty in her skinny clubhouse. But since Elizabeth has her over a barrel, she’s at least going through the motions. Elizabeth, idiot that she is, is faintly disquieted that something may be amiss, but she has to meet Todd, so she’s sure it’ll be fine. What’s the worst that can happen when Jessica teams up with Lila and Cara to come up with pledge tasks? Ok, I’m underselling it. She is dubious, but she has to see her snuggy-pumpkin so Robin’s on her own on this one.
Though I just have to put this out there:
“I won’t hurt her feelings. You know it’s not in my nature to be nasty – even to a wimp like Robin.”
Dude. You literally cried rape because a boy didn’t fancy you. You destroyed a girl’s life for a plastic tiara with rhinestones. Not to mention all the shit you pulled in Middle School. [Raven: Yup, still hate this Jessica.]
Jessica is one of the most awful people in all fictional universes, and the fact that a ghostie had the nerve to put this in a book without Elizabeth laughing in her face is just insulting. Because I don’t think this is a sassy writer poking fun at the monster, it’s much too early in the series. It’s just bad writing.
We cut to Robin where she invites the three harpies of doom into her house (“Don’t ever invite a vampire into your house, you silly boy. It renders you powerless.”) and offers them lots of high calorie food. Because of course she does. Though we briefly head-hop to see that she was nervous and anxiously babbled.
Basically the Harpies of Doom tell her that’s she’s now a pledge and do their best to extinguish any enthusiasm she has. They tell her to meet them at the girls’ gym tomorrow right after school. And then Robin eats an entire cherry cheesecake to “calm her nerves”. *eye roll* [Raven: THIS. THIS IS THE WORST SHIT. It’s like the Ghostie isn’t even trying.]
I suppose I’d have been pissed off either way, because the other option for this ghostie’s view on fatties would be something like, “Robin felt so happy that for the first time in her ugly fat life, her belly didn’t feel empty.”
Back at the Wakefield compound, Jessica is exercising frantically in case fat is catching. Elizabeth interrogates her on how Robin took the news and Jessica, who is now obsessed with calling Robin “the wimp”, confirms that she nearly wet herself with joy. I don’t get “the wimp” as a nickname. She’s not frightened. She’s not a coward. She’s more of a clueless idiot, and even that’s negligible because Jessica keeps reeling her in with lovebombs often enough to make her put up with all the slights and rejections.
[Wing: If she was brave, she wouldn’t be fat?]
In other news, Jessica is wearing new gold earrings, another gift from Lila (via her aunt, Lila didn’t like them). Elizabeth is surprised at Lila’s newfound generosity, but Jessica’s already over it and suggests Elizabeth go to the track after school tomorrow.
Oh. So she’s not even going to hide her bullying. Cool. See, it’s things like this I’ve repressed.
After school the next day, Elizabeth is keen to see the unspecified spectacle Jessica promised unfold, but Todd wants to make out.
Elizabeth melted against him, happily allowing his lips to caress hers.
Does anyone actually read that sentence as romantic? Because my innards are just curling up in horror after reading that. This might be a me thing. I have almost zero patience for romance, particularly the effusive gushy bits.
[Wing: I’ve certainly read sentences like that in romances, in pro writing and fanfic alike. It doesn’t bother me the way it does Dove, though I think it could be much better written.]
Anyway, Elizabeth busts out the ultimate boner-killer word for Todd: Jessica. And then adds that some kind of trouble is going down.
They rush over to the track where they find Robin doing laps (or “lumbering”, if you’re the judgemental twig that wrote this book), while the most spiteful bit of the student body jeer and catcall. Bruce Patman is present and, naturally, makes some basic-ass comment about her weight.
Elizabeth goes over to Robin, who is now leaning against a fence. She manages to make a self-deprecating joke about how she looks in shorts, and then reveals that she must run around the track five times, every day this week. In shorts and a tank top. While people mock. And that’s totes cool because she’s way devoted to being a Pi Beta Alpha. Elizabeth is shocked and tries to explain that Pi Beta Alpha isn’t that big a deal, which from someone who’s in the club is a smidge on the insensitive and lacking-empathy scale. [Raven: Did the Twins have to do any pledge tasks? I’m assumng not, and that the “tasks” thing is just New For Robin. If that’s indeed the case, I’m surprised she didn’t point that out in passing before donning her running shoes.] [Dove: Yes, in book 1 they shared their tasks. Jessica ordered a pizza to be delivered to science class under Liz’s name.] [Wing: Liz and Jess’s pledge tasks were easier than the ones they did in Twins.]
We cut to the end of the week, and Elizabeth is congratulating Robin on her running. She’s surprised that Robin isn’t more made up that she’s done all that running. But it turns out that her next task is go to the beach and play volleyball in a bikini.
Jessica and her harpies are literally the worst. Making anyone who is self-conscious about their body deliberately emphasise the aspect they are most concerned about is just cruel.
Although wouldn’t it be wonderful if they pulled this shit on a plus-size girl who was completely at home in her body and was like, “Yeah, ok. Do you have a preferred colour for the bikini? My favourite’s the red, but I have this really cute purple one…” and the harpies are just there, jaws on floor, completely broken. Oh for that to happen. [Raven: I was so hoping for this to be Robin’s takeaway from this whole affair… but no.]
Elizabeth wonders how she can help. It doesn’t occur to her to march up to her sister and say, “Hey, remember when you cried rape because a boy didn’t fancy you? That’s going in the Eyes and Ears. IN FONT SIZE 30 ALL IN CAPS. Shut this bullying shit down right this second, apologise to Robin and beg that girl to join your pack of bitchery. Or I go public.” It would work. I’m not sure anyone would care about the false rape allegations, but Jessica would hate to admit a boy didn’t fancy her.
Instead Elizabeth offers to drive Robin to the beach. A+ support!
The actual day is covered in a few paragraphs, mostly congratulating Elizabeth, Todd, Enid and George for their support of Robin, and not Robin’s bravery to keep a smile on her face while the entire school makes spiteful blubbery comments. And I think we’re supposed to see that Jessica is wrong here, but I think we’re also supposed to think that Bruce Patman is worse, because the mean jabs are always attributed to him. Like, sure, Jessica set this up, but Bruce is commenting on it. He’s worse.
No, literally everybody sucks here. The only good guy is Robin, who is somehow getting through a day full of ridicule without crying.
At the end of the day, the harpies offer Robin a lift home so that they can give her the final task.
Robin Wilson must attend the Discomarathon as Bruce Patman’s date. [Wing: How many marathon dances do these people have?]
By the way, that was the end of chapter 2. If you want to know what the pacing is like in this book? Awful. So much of Elizabeth’s outrage, rather than Robin’s feelings. And then the actual action is summarised in a couple of paragraphs. [Raven: The pacing is weird indeed, but I do like the fact that it’s proper shifting along.]
At school, Elizabeth sees Robin sitting under a tree, the picture of misery. She’s crying and upset about the pledge tasks and notes that nobody else has been humiliated in the same way, and now she has the impossible task of going with Bruce.
Oh, how I’d like to get even with those snobs! Elizabeth thought.
Yes, Elizabeth. You’re the victim who needs justice here.
This is even worse than when she “got justice” for Lois in Twins. At least that time you could vaguely argue that, as Jessica impersonated her, her character had been impugned, so her revenge scheme (which, I’d like to remind you all, did not target Jessica at all) should have involved her.
No, wait. Even that doesn’t hold up. If she wants revenge for someone impersonating her, why did she get revenge on the impersonator’s best friend? I take it back. Elizabeth has always been a pushy, sanctimonious cow who inflicts her poor morals on everyone else, and they let her because she’s moderately less of a thundercunt than her sister.
Also, Elizabeth is the smart twin. Just think how thick Jessica must be:
“I might as well ask Elvis Presley!”
“Robin,” Elizabeth reminded her gently, “Elvis has been dead for—”
“That’s just my point. I’d have a better chance with a dead superstar than a live Bruce Patman!”
Robin, it’s not on you to explain hyperbole and sarcasm to a “writer”. Run away from these toxic harpies. The ones that aren’t trying to kill you with spite will smother you in stupidity. Here, this is Ellen Riteman’s phone number. She’s a bit daffy, but fundamentally decent, and will follow a leader if you assert enough dominance. Get yourselves to Big Mesa.
Elizabeth, again showing she’s thick as pig shit, makes Robin promise to ask Bruce for a date. For fuck’s sake. This isn’t good versus evil, this is aggressive evil and passive-aggressive evil tag-teaming to push a girl to suicide.
Oh, ok, she has a plan. She’s not quite as stupid/naïve as I thought. She bribes Bruce with an article with a really big photo of him in The Oracle if he goes with Robin to the dance. [Raven: THIS IS BOUND TO END WELL FOR ALL INVOLVED.]
Elizabeth gets home full of joy that she has beaten her sister. She’s had fun matching wits with Satan, and who cares who gets caught in the cross-hairs. Elizabeth then uses her new knowledge to bet two weeks of laundry duty that Robin will complete her task. Both twins laugh, thinking they have the upper hand.
Jessica then leaves to get in the pool, and Lila arrives. Before Lila heads out to the pool area, Elizabeth asks about the infamous aunt who’s passing on all the expensive gifts. Lila has no clue what she’s talking about for far too long, before catching herself and saying she’s fine.
I mean, I know where this is heading, but I’d be much happier with a story where Jessica is stealing, rather than Lila, because it’s such a Jessica thing to assume that she’s entitled to the pretty things she wants. And honestly, given what we know of her (lack of) morals, what is actually stopping her from shoplifting? Seriously, answer in the comments section:
Elizabeth comments on a ring that Lila’s wearing. It sounds gauche as fuck, “It was magnificently crafted, with an Egyptian pharaoh’s head carved on it” and nothing like she’d usually wear. Lila takes the compliment impatiently then goes to find Jessica.
[Wing: Good god, that ring is horrifying. WTF Lila, I expect better fashion from you.]
Elizabeth worries to herself that something is going on. Then reassures herself that Lila is probably just buying Jessica’s friendship. And so she should. It’s not as if Jessica has a soul. She’s not capable of friendship. It must be a transaction where Jessica is monetarily remunerated well. [Raven: It’s nice to see Lila featuring more, albeit in this total cockwomble of a book.]
Next up is a phone call between Elizabeth and Robin, and since almost none of the dialogue is attributed, it reads like some kind of ransom call.
“Robin, it’s Liz Wakefield. Have you kept your promise?”
“Have you asked Bruce Patman to the Discomarathon?”
Well done, ghostie. You took a fairly normal conversation and made it completely threatening. It ends with Robin hanging up on Elizabeth. I think our girl has realised that both of the twins are rotten to the core and is peacing out. Good for you, Robin!
On Tuesday, Robin finally asks Bruce out and he says yes, and Robin is delighted with the outcome. She spends the rest of the week spamming the Wakefield household with phonecalls of gratitude to Elizabeth for giving her the confidence to ask.
Then we do get a delightful scene. Elizabeth skips gaily into Jessica’s room to gushingly remind her that Robin will be attending the Discomarathon with the much-coveted Bruce Patman. Isn’t that miraculous? Perhaps Jessica should ponder the miracle while she does all that laundry.
Yeah, ok, that did make me smirk.
Next up is the dance, fuck me this is moving at a clip, isn’t it? And even so, we’ve spent more time watching the twins bitch at each other than on the actual plot. Anyway, Elizabeth is having her usual fantastic time at the dance that Sweet Valley High throws weekly. Then Bruce and Robin walk in. She’s wearing “a prettier tent dress than usual”. I googled it. Knowing nothing about fashion, I though it was a joke, like, “ha ha, this fatty is so big clothes don’t fit her, we have to use a 6 man tent!” but apparently it’s a style of dress. One I may invest in for summer. It looks very breezy. And as a person who lives in an aircon-less world, breezy is good.
Bruce and Robin make their way to the dance floor, and when there’s a lull in the music, Bruce says clearly:
“OK, that’s it. I brought you to the dance, Tubby. I’ve got better things to do now. Hey! Anybody want to steer the Queen Mary around the floor tonight? She’s all yours!”
[Raven: And there it is. Bruce, get in the fucking sea.]
Robin freezes for a moment, then makes a break for freedom. Elizabeth catches up with her, and drags her into the girls’ room for some shoulder-patting.
As a side note, the Queen Mary is my favourite ship. She’s absolutely beautiful and a complete icon. She served during the war, and then starred in movies, and is spending her retirement letting small exclusive groups of people visit her as she permits. And sometimes, if she doesn’t like them, she sets her ghosts on them. In my world, getting to touch even a part of the Queen Mary would be a fucking honour. If there was a GODDESS of ships, it’s her. So fuck your nasty digs, Bruce Patman, you absolute shit. To take this analogy further, Robin is the only classy lady in this pool of tacky hotels on boats. And you, Bruce? At best you’re a day-ferry. Everyone’s tried it at least once, but nobody dreams of getting on a day ferry, do they? [Wing: I think calling Bruce a day ferry might be too kind to him. I love a day ferry. I’d love to set Bruce on fire.]
Elizabeth didn’t know who she was maddest at—Bruce Patman for being totally disgusting; Jessica, Lila, and Cara for thinking up the stunt; herself for bribing Bruce into going; or Robin for wanting to get into PBA so desperately in the first place.
Here, let me fix that for you:
Elizabeth didn’t know who she was maddest at—Bruce Patman for being totally disgusting; Jessica, Lila, and Cara for thinking up the stunt; herself for bribing Bruce into going and not anticipating the worst boy in the entire school – the one who emotionally abused her own twin only weeks ago for the lolz – would pull some kind of shit; not to mention the psychopath twin, who had already destroyed lives and cried rape to get her way. Only a fucking idiot wouldn’t realise that if Bruce didn’t destroy Robin, Jessica would. This girl was fucking doomed from the start; or Robin for wanting to get into PBA so desperately in the first place.
Yeah, let’s blame Robin for this. The amount of things I have dropped out of because someone was mean to me is pretty high, and I told myself I made the right choice, if they didn’t want me there, then I wasn’t going to waste my time being there. On the other hand, there are so many stories about an unwanted person standing their ground and tumbling the established order to the ground, and rebuilding a kinder place. How was Robin to know which option was the right one? We’ve all seen Elizabeth tell people to stay put as they have a right to be here. Hell, in Secrets, that was the resolve. Enid and Ms. Dalton had to face their bullies, heads held high and take their rightful place in the world. [Raven: Excellent point.]
So fuck you, Elizabeth and fuck you, ghosties, because the message is bloody inconsistent. Not to mention that we all witnessed in the last book that Jessica was doing the cling/drop approach with Robin’s friendship. This girl is an emotional mess and not one single person has her back. Fuck you all with sandpaper that is on fire.
Robin is a tearful mess, and Elizabeth takes an aggressive and bossy approach, telling her to “stop feeling sorry for herself” – which I think is magnificently rich from someone who spent the opening book sighing soulfully and being four seconds away from floods of tears because a boy she’d never talked to hadn’t asked her out yet. You entitled fucking cow. I hate you. I hate your sister. I hate literally everyone except for Robin. And probably still Enid, who hasn’t said much for two books.
Elizabeth says that Bruce has nothing going for him except his money. Then she forces Robin to look in the mirror and starts complimenting her. Then she’s surprised to note that actually, Robin is pretty, if you can force yourself to look past all the fat. Am I supposed to be impressed with Elizabeth here? I’m fucking not. Plenty of heavy people are pretty. Plenty of slender people are ugly. And beauty is utterly subjective. Stop patting yourself on the back for forcing yourself not to judge her entire existence by her weight. You already learned this lesson when you realised that, despite how massively unfuckable he was, Winston had value. [Raven: I loathe the hackneyed “pretty under the fat” bullshit that always gets trotted out in crap like this. See also “this bookish goth girl becomes a bombshell when she takes off her glasses and puts on a great looking sweater”. Fucking insulting and insensitive.]
Oh. My. God. When Robin says she’s going home, Elizabeth makes her stay. She deserves to be here. She must stand tall, hold her head high, etc.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, YOU TOXIC BASTARD?
This is literally the message that Robin was following when trying to get into Pi Beta Alpha and you FUCKING DESPISED HER FOR IT.
After softening towards Elizabeth in various books, Jessica’s No Angel, No Escape!, and even Double Love, she is back on my list of people I hate. And since Jessica has yet to do anything but be a nightmare or a victim, she’s no better. This is one of the rare occasions when I utterly loathe both twins passionately and equally.
Enid sticks her head in the door and says there’s a queue of girls waiting to pee and they must leave. Dude, they’ve been in there three minutes. Also, if the door’s not locked to keep you out, then the only think keeping these girls from the toilet stalls is stupidity or prissiness. Tell them to piss on the floor. I don’t care.
At this distraction, Robin runs off, and Enid says that Bruce and Todd are eyeball-to-eyeball and ready to throw punches. For fuck’s sake, stop being such a drama queen, Todd. Either hoof him or don’t. You don’t need Elizabeth to be there. If he’s so rude you need to punch him, then punch him. If he’s not, and this is all performative bullshit, then just fuck off to Vermont or something. [Wing: Why do you hate Vermont?!]
Elizabeth bumps into someone called Allen Walters and sends him after Robin. Cool. Yeah. If I’m upset and making a tearful exit, I totally want a strange man following me by order of the fucking Wakefields.
And when he catches up with her, Robin is rude and incredulous, which is perfectly natural. She has no idea why a stranger is following her. And when asked about it, he’s not too clear either. He manages to say that he thought she needed help and that Elizabeth sent him. She just explodes at him, saying that her life is a mess and is he going to magically fix it? He walks off, hurt by this, and she realises that she’s “no better than Bruce Patman”.
Fuck that shit, Robin. Yes, you vented your anger at a stranger, and to be honest, I’m a bit dismissive of some random dude we’ve never met being at Saint Elizabeth’s beck and call. But I do value kindness over rudeness. So yes, you were rude. But as bad as Bruce Patman? The spoiled baby who bullies his girlfriends and cheats on them, not to mention all the dubious (at best) consent in his future. FUCK THAT.
She calls him back and apologises and they bond over a love of old movies. Then Allen confides that he doesn’t like dances, they’re not for him. Robin gives him Saint Elizabeth’s “you belong” speech, and that convinces him to stay, on the condition that she stays with him.
After a bit of faffing, they go in, do one dance, and they both hate it, so they leave together. And Robin now has a crush on him.
Cool. I mean, he seems nice. But I hate that Elizabeth basically grabbed a random student and was like, “Fix the girl I helped break.” And somehow it worked. [Raven: That whole thing was so badly actualised, it’s laughable. I get where the Ghsotie was, and I get where the Ghostie wanted to get to, but this was DEFINITLEY NOT the best way to get from A to B. It’s like they just went “fuck it, throw a boy at it, that’ll do” before sauntering off to the pub. No thought, no skill, and not even funny like Joey and Mike (Paul Rudd) in Friends.]
[Wing: I do like that they give the dance a try, still hate it, and fuck off. That’s almost like standing up for themselves and doing what they want instead of what Elizabeth has bullied them into doing.]
That night at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica is raging… I don’t even care at this point what her frankly unhinged logic is. I think no matter what Robin does, her being fat will always rankle Jessica, so let’s just assume everything Robin does is wrong. Elizabeth is feeling bad about how things went down, but says that Jessica can’t keep Robin out now. Jessica ignores her several times, and finally says that she is not the only member of Pi Beta Alpha. Elizabeth is too tired to figure out what that means.
Which I take to mean she’s too thick. Or wilfully ignorant. But certainly not tired.
The next day Jessica has vanished, and Elizabeth has to run an errand for her mother to the mall. She spots a new shop – Lisette’s, which I always thought was a clothing store, but it actually does jewellery – and recognises a few pieces. She spots a scarf that matches the one Jessica got from Lila. When she shows interest, the sales assistant starts being overzealous. The scarf costs $95, and she is so shocked she knocks a tray of gold jewellery over, and when she tries to pick it up, she recognises the gauche as fuck ring Lila had. The sales assistant curtly tells her to stay put, leave everything alone, and not move until everything is accounted for. [Raven: What sort of store just has trays of gold jewellery just lying about to be stoled or knocked over?] [Dove: I rage about this later. Hang tight. I bring maths to the table.]
The sales assistant pointedly rattles off how their security has been upped, and they’re very much aware of what has been stolen, including the twin of that incredibly exclusive scarf. Elizabeth is “terrified” by the implications.
The next morning, Elizabeth is agonising over what to do. Raise it with Jessica? Raise it with Lila? Tell a parent? I don’t care. Let it take care of itself. They’ve upped the security, let the thief get arrested. I don’t give a shit. [Raven: Bizarrely, this is the only part in which I DID give a shit. the whole fat plot can fuck off, but this is actually pretty decent. Does it save the book? Does it fuck.] [Wing: In a different book, I’d be interested in this b plot. It has potential, what with Elizabeth having a real moral crisis, Jessica understandably being the prime suspect (as Dove said earlier, why in the world doesn’t Jessica steal all sorts of shit), and, spoiler, Lila doing this because of her daddy issues. In a different book.]
Elizabeth decides the best way to deal with things is to tell Jessica the scarf makes her skin look yellow. Boom. Problem solved the Wakefield way.
They talk about the vote on the new pledges, it’s taking place at Cara’s house tonight at eight. Jessica is irritated that Elizabeth has found out about it… even though Elizabeth literally just asked her when and where it was because she didn’t know and Jessica told her… oh, I don’t care. Fuck this badly written book. Anyway, the vote is tonight and Jessica is being evasive.
Elizabeth spends a tortured day at school agonising (off-screen, naturally) about the stolen swag issue. They waste a scene where she says cryptic things to Todd and then runs off. Cool. I definitely want this book to tread water even further.
Let’s skip to the vote. It’s all very archaic and a box gets passed around where each member either drops a white or black marble in, and it has to be a universal pass to get someone into this pack of harpies. Ordinarily I’d be interested in this, but since it’s wallpaper-paste-eating levels of weird to have a Greek system in a high school but not at the university, I don’t care.
Robin gets blackballed, which sounds so much more dramatic than receiving one single black marble. [Raven: The whole Blackballing thing rings a bell with me, from something else. I think it’s a common device, and I do like it. Again, it gives credence to my theory that it’s only Liz and Jess who are in any part bothered by Robin’s weight. And Bruce, becuase Bruce.]
[Wing: I like the visual of the black and white marbles. I know I’ve seen it in at least one movie with Greek life, but I can’t think of the title.]
Elizabeth, to my utter amazement, immediately knows for certain that the blackball came from Jessica. Blimey. Her intelligence just climbed a few points. Look out world, the dimmest person in the room just stopped sticking a wet fork in the electric socket.
The expression on Jessica’s lovely face was that of a martyr facing the lions in the Roman Colosseum. “I’ll tell her personally,” she said oh-so-bravely. “She’s my friend. It’s my responsibility.”
“I’ll go with you,” volunteered Elizabeth quickly. “Somebody had better be there to pick up the pieces.”
They go to Casey’s place and Jessica gives a lengthy speech in which her tone is patronising and satisfied.
“I know you feel it leaves you out of everything worth having at Sweet Valley High,” said Jessica sweetly, “but I’ll still be your best friend.”
Elizabeth couldn’t believe her ears. “Oh, Jess, shut up!”
Robin does not react well. She says it’s unfair. And basically tells them to fuck off. Elizabeth reaches out to shoulder-pat, and Robin snaps “Don’t touch me! I can’t stand it!” Which is very pleasing to me. Then then says in a hoarse voice, “There isn’t any reason for me to go on.”
Elizabeth snaps at Jessica, is she satisfied now. Jessica blithely retorts that she’s sure it didn’t mean exactly what she literally just said what it sounded like.
Elizabeth tries to call Robin, but ends up speaking to her mother… so… Robin’s just awol? Ok. Cool. She tells Mrs Wilson that Robin was blackballed, who then asks why they were so cruel. Elizabeth smugly wonders to herself why her twin is such a bitch, and why Robin is such an idiot to put up with it.
GOTTA LOVE THAT VICTIM-BLAMING. Especially from the person who forced her to go through with most of this nonsense. Robin was ready to pull out before the dance, but who pushed her back in? Why you, Elizabeth? You fucking bastard. But sure. It’s Robin’s fault.
[Wing: Not to mention, Elizabeth puts up with Jessica being a bitch to her all the goddamn time. You fucking hypocrite.]
The next day at school, Elizabeth asks Mr Collins why on earth people would exclude Robin because she’s been puzzling at it for days and she has no idea. Then before he can offer any wisdom, she gives him a lengthy lecture on the harpies’ motivations. They have no souls, they have no love or empathy, and they resent other creatures feeling love. The only way they can feel anything is to rip out another creature’s soul, and while they cannot keep the soul, they may feel a fleeting moment of peace that at least someone else is broken and fucked up like them.
Only not as insightful as me. Mostly she just stuck with, “Oh, it make them feel superior.” [Raven: As opposed to, “they are LITERALLY Dementors.”]
I’m not bragging about being smarter than Elizabeth. My cat Meep is smarter than Elizabeth. And he doesn’t believe in gravity.
She found herself writing a spirited article entitled, “Snobbery Is Alive and Well at Sweet Valley High.” It took her only an hour to complete, and she immediately gave it to Penny Ayala, the editor.
Elizabeth knew it was a public apology to Robin Wilson and a slap at the Three Witches of Pi Beta Alpha.
A whole hour. Wow. And yeah, that’ll fix everything. It doesn’t actually say whether or not she called out her sister, Lila and Cara by name, or just made vague veiled comments, like those annoying vague facebook posts. I’m assuming the latter. Which just makes it worse.
“‘People are bitchy in this bitchy school,’ anonymous bitch comments bitchily.” Spiffing. [Raven: “… anonymous bitch comments bitchily in her anonymous bitchy column.”]
Yep, it’s confirmed when Jessica comes flying in to rage about it. It does not say their names, but everybody knows she means Jessica.
Robin, by the way, is off school and refusing contact with anyone. So this is actually Elizabeth just feeling all justified to be as mean as her sister. She has no skin in this game. She’s in Pi Beta Alpha, she’s thin and pretty, and has a boyfriend that likes to punch people for performative reasons. How is her life better or worse if Robin is in the club or not? Especially since she heaps at least a portion of the blame at Robin’s door. Fuck off with your saintliness. It’s cringe as fuck.
The twins have a big fight where they both point fingers at each other, convinced of their own innocence, over who damaged Robin the most.
The next day, Elizabeth speaks to Robin’s mum, who says that Robin is in L.A. visiting an aunt and she doesn’t want anything to do with anyone in Pi Beta Alpha. Then she hung up. Jesus, even the parents are getting in on the drama. Listen, Mrs W., I know they’re Wakefields, and therefore the best humans ever, but stop fucking chasing them to just to snub them. It’s childish. [Raven: Sweet Valley is more childish than Perdido fucking Beach.] [Dove: Oh to see Dekka deal with these idiots. Hell, even Caine’s a better person than everyone here. And he’s the big bad for the entire series!]
The next day Elizabeth spots Robin at school who has no time for her. She snaps at Elizabeth, and makes her feel “like a bug pinned to the wall”. Yes. Isn’t it funny how the conversations are so much easier when you have all the power?
Elizabeth says she’s sorry and Robin shouldn’t let them get to her. Robin says it’s too late. She’s fine now.
Suddenly Jessica came through the doors and seeing them, hurried over. Her face was wreathed with sympathy.
“Robin,” she gushed. “Oh, I’m so happy to see you! I want to tell you…”
Jessica’s words evaporated on her lips. Robin had walked away.
“Well, did you see that?” Jessica fumed. “Of all the ungrateful, impossible—! Elizabeth Wakefield, what are you smiling at!”
Oh fuck off, Elizabeth. Even now, she’s still your pawn in this stupid thing you’ve got going with Jessica. Robin’s a person. [Raven: While I’m not enamoured with this book’s resolution, for reasons I’ll outline below, I must say it’s nice to see Robin metaphorically telling everyone to fuck off without actually telling everyone to fuck off.]
We get a timeskip in which it’s explained that Robin is changing, but Elizabeth can’t figure out what’s different. Again, just want to reiterate: this is the smart twin.
Also, so is Lila. She’s wearing lots of jewellery and new clothes and talks about moving to New York, boasting of how her father is so invested in her life.
You know what? I’m so fucking pissed off with this series that I can’t even invest in Lila drama. I literally don’t care what happens to her. I hope she moves to New York and gets trampled by an over-zealous crowd of Mamma Mia! fans. [Raven: I’m invested enough to partake in some Lila action, even if I think this book is all kinds of shovelled shite.]
Once again, the smart twin takes another run at the plot and trips over her feet only to faceplant in cow shit. She decides to confront Jessica about the jewellery that Lila keeps gifting her, saying that she asked about the aunt and Lila’s a terrible liar, and now she needs Jessica to solemnly promise – lol! Can you imagine such a thing? – that she didn’t steal them. Jessica is so shocked she threatens to tell Alice what Elizabeth said.
OK. I mean, if you think Alice will take your side. I know she just gives you an indulgent smile when you pull all this toxic shit, but if the saintly twin says you stole it, Alice will side with her. Can’t believe you don’t know this about your own ballbag of a mother.
The next day, Elizabeth goes to the mall, because she wants to get a gift for Todd. Elizabeth is a hip and happening teen, and she knows what all the cool boys want for their seventeenth birthday from their girlfriends… that’s right: a watch band.
That’s what that song “Things that make you go ‘ooooooh’” is about, right? Like, “ooooh, a watch band! What a terrific gift to receive!” [Raven: I’m pretty sure that whay the boys want from their girlfriends for their seventeenth birthday wouldn’t fly in this PG-13 environment.]
[Wing: It’s a shame she didn’t give him some sort of ring so I could make a cock ring joke.]
Anyway, now we’re done mocking Elizabeth’s adventurous gifting, back to the plot. She watches someone steal a gold bracelet from Lisette’s. OMG! PLOT TWIST! It’s Lila.
Well. I think we can all say that Lisette’s got ripped off by the firm that upgraded their security. Maybe they should instruct Ned to sue on their behalf?
Lila casually saunters off and Elizabeth follows her and watches her get in her lime green Triumph. Then for some reason, she walks back to Lisette’s, arriving just in time for the sales assistant to notice the bracelet missing and start yelling at Elizabeth.
And now, what the fuck Lisette’s? See, I assumed that somehow Lila was palming stuff – rather expertly – while they were showing her stuff. I assumed she caused confusion by flashing daddy’s wealth and wanting to see items from multiple trays, and being so rich that they’d break their protocols about one tray at a time. With multiple trays out, she’d palm a thing here and there, maybe buy something every once in awhile so they didn’t get too suspicious, and move on.
But what actually happened here is that Lila just grabbed a bangle and fucked off.
Not to victim-blame (especially in a book rife with it), but that’s on you, Lisette’s. If you leave tens of thousands of dollars of jewellery just randomly on display for every Jess, Cara and Lila to paw and try on, then fucking expect expensive shrinkage. Normal shrinkage (theft, loss or damage of items in the day to day running of the store) is just under 2%, and is usually budgeted for. However, most shops don’t have say $100,000 of tiny, easy to steal, merchandise freely available. In their case, that 2% is $2,000.
Lisette’s is run by idiots. Or this book is written by a moron. Take your pick. [Raven: EXACTLY! Well said, Dove. Bunch of amateurs.]
When Elizabeth gets home, she’s completely thrown. What to do! Oh the woes! She had only ever been able to ask Jessica about the items because deep down she had known her sister was innocent. And that is why I think you’re dim as a box of rocks, Elizabeth.
But now! Oh the woes. In tears she rushes to her twin and hugs her, saying that Jessica is a “great sister”. Box. Of. Rocks.
Talk turns to Robin, because Jessica takes this hug as a comprehensive apology and acceptance of responsibility for all things Robin from her sister.
Robin, nowadays, is “pale as a ghost” and dresses like a slur I can’t say here. I could if we were recapping the Famous Five, because that’s the official word used by this minority group in the UK, but in the US, where this book is set, it’s a slur. So. Um. I don’t really know what to do with that one.
Jessica is alarmed because Robin just gives her a thousand-yard stare. Jessica cannot comprehend someone that doesn’t look at her with admiration and love. [Wing: Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. Look around.] Robin now runs track every day, all the time. Elizabeth agrees to talk to her, y’know, since she’s now admitted everything was her fault.
Elizabeth accepted Jessica’s attitude that Robin Wilson was now her responsibility. She didn’t forget that Robin had been Jessica’s “best friend” and that it was the Pi Beta hazing and cruelty that had apparently affected Robin so deeply. But as it often happened with the Wakefield twins, Jessica worked very hard to convince herself and others that nothing that went wrong was her fault, while Elizabeth usually found herself having to mop up the mess, no matter who had caused it.
Yeah, that’s healthy. Nobody should ever step in and teach this dangerous girl that she’s not the centre of the world and put her in therapy until she can at least understand and mimic how a civilised society should act, even if she lacks any emotional follow-through. It’s best just to tip-toe around her and give her the world. “Bring out the fucking cake!” indeed.
Elizabeth then tells Jessica that she must promise to never see Lila again and not accept gifts from her because Elizabeth is being a good sister and only wants the best from her.
- Possibly a smidge triggering to say to someone who just got out of an emotionally abusive relationship; and
- Stop using Jessica’s lines against her. She’s evil. She knows these are lies you say to make people do what you want. Usually because you’re doing something evil to that person.
The next morning Elizabeth sees Robin running and notes that she looks “strong, almost athletic”. It turns out that Robin’s been running five miles a day. Elizabeth asks how Robin’s doing, and Robin says fine, and mentions a part in The Iliad, where the Greeks and Trojans came under the spell of the gods. Elizabeth should read it and take note of the part when they come out of their daze.
Elizabeth thinks this is proof positive that Robin’s mental health is taking a dangerous nosedive.
For fuck’s sake, Elizabeth. You’re allegedly a writer. You don’t understand hyperbole or sarcasm and now you think that using a metaphor is concrete proof of mental illness. What the fuck is wrong with you? How on earth are you this stupid? [Raven: I never really noticed Elizabeth’s extreme stupidity before this book, but it’s certainly front and fucking centre for this bucket of sick.]
And oh god, how boring must her articles be? “There was a bird on the tree. The tree was big.” And Mr Collins is like, “Good job, pretty girl! Big gold star for my cleverest girl! That’s front page news for sure!”
Annoyingly, Robin thinks that Elizabeth is the only person worth talking to, but I suppose a loathing for everyone else is a good start. And then she jogs off.
The conversation left Elizabeth more perplexed than ever, though one thing was for sure. Robin didn’t seem depressed. She was different, all right, but not in a negative way. Elizabeth was intrigued. Her reporter’s mind began searching for some clue that would explain what was taking place.
BOX. OF. ROCKS.
OMG, you are so fucking dim. A foetus could understand this. The girl was bullied right to hell, she bottomed out and realised you’re all a bunch of monsters, and actually, look at all this resilience she has. Watch her soar above you, utterly indifferent to your stupid petty existence.
Oh, wait. Of course she can’t understand this. Elizabeth’s version of a problem is a boy she’s never spoken to her hasn’t called her. And she’s never been bullied. And because she’s a Wakefield, there is some core workings missing in her soul and brain – she has neither. Of course she needs to puzzle this out.
Some days later, she begins to figure out what’s changed. And OMG, another fucking swing and a miss. OMG. I CANNOT EVEN DEAL RIGHT NOW WITH HOW THICK ELIZABETH IS. She notices that Robin is eating less and losing weight.
Oh god. I thought that went without saying. I thought she was trying to figure out the emotional difference, the new haunted maturity, but no. She literally took weeks to figure out that the fat girl is slimmer now.
Let’s just take a moment to point out that this is literally the worst ghostwriter of all time. Ok. They’re tied with whoever insisted on the lawnmower. But at least I get it was supposed to be comedic – and maybe it was, if you’ve only ever had comedy described to you by someone who doesn’t understand it either.
But this book utterly lacks humanity. JC has this ongoing theory that YA writer Jo Gibson is an alien, because all of her characters are just off. And I now have a theory that this book was written by Jo Gibson.
This is not a book about humans. Nobody is nice, nobody is decent, nobody is kind, nobody is funny, nobody even does evil things for human reasons, it just runs on the “fat = bad” rule. Everyone is awful. Elizabeth the smart writer doesn’t understand hyperbole, sarcasm or metaphors. Jessica doesn’t understand how to human. Lisette’s doesn’t understand how a jewellery store should run.
And here we are, in chapter 9 of 14, and Elizabeth is trying to figure out what’s different about Robin, who has undergone a major shift in personality from bubbly try-hard to ice-woman athlete, who is cool and zen and doing her own thing. And Elizabeth is like, “Yay! I solved it! She’s halved in size!”
Fuck me, you have to be thick to enjoy this book. Thick and without morals.
Elizabeth grinned excitedly. “Robin, you’re really losing weight.”
“Very observant,” Robin responded, a note of sarcasm in her voice.
“I hope you’re doing it the right way Robin.”
Oh fuck off, Elizabeth. What the fuck do you know about weight loss? What exactly are your qualifications for advising a girl your own age about her weight loss journey and physical health? Is it just that you’re thin and you somehow think you’re better than her? [Raven: Literally wanted to toss this book here.]
[Wing: Why, why, why didn’t we get more sarcastic!Robin and less fat shaming? W H Y?]
And I have seen this more times than I can count. It doesn’t matter what gets posted. Someone could be telling the heartbreaking story of their sexual assault, or the amazing time they did CPR on someone that was drowning, or just saying “I bought this t-shirt and I LOVE it!”, and if they’re anything from a little chubby to morbidly obese, 90% of the comments will be skinny people deriding their experience. “Who’d want to rape that fat whale?” or “Urgh, imagine being kissed by that, I’d have rather drowned!” or “You look fat! Stay inside until you look normal. Or just stay inside.”
For some reason, people just feel completely justified to say whatever they like about fat people, and couch it in “caring” because “fat people are unhealthy”. They almost never have any expertise in health or weight loss, let alone medical qualifications, they just seem to think that being slender is enough of a qualification to tell a person they know nothing about exactly what they need to do.
And look! Elizabeth is doing the same thing.
(Just to clarify, I’m not saying fat-phobia is the new racism or saying that fat people get any more hate than any other set of people that get hatred online. I’m just saying that it happens. And it’s really depressing that the story the fat person was sharing tends to get lost in a sea of “You should lose weight, I’m only saying that because I care.”)
[Raven: Again, I have things to say. And again, Dove has nailed it. *mwa*]
“Oh, Robin, I think you’re terrific.”
The expressionless eyes seemed to glow with a momentary warmth, but then the mask returned. Nodding a goodbye, Robin hurried down the stairs.
That pisses me off. Robin does not need your fucking validation, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth skips off home utterly happy. She vows to make time for Todd, who she’s been neglecting. You’re telling me, you went shopping for his birthday watch band weeks ago, and there’s been no update on that.
But the phone rings! Lila! The woe has been doubled! Jessica has been arrested!
Thank fuck. Book ends. Let’s go home.
What? No. No, arrest her for murder or something.
Elizabeth drives to the mall and speaks to Lila, who is very eager to get home. Apparently Jessica didn’t take anything, they’ve been waiting for her to come back to Lisette’s and they just arrested her. Um… I thought everyone knew the sensational Wakefield twins. Why did they need this sting operation? Does that mean that they’ve had a couple of bobbies in the back room of Lisette’s for months, waiting for a Wakefield to walk in? Fucking hell, no wonder they needed a tween Elizabeth to solve all their crimes. Sweet Valley police join the pile of massively thick people in this book.
Elizabeth harangues Lila until she admits the truth. Lila has been stealing. Her daddy doesn’t love her. He only gives her money, not love. Daddy never came to my ball games.
She’s telling Elizabeth all this because Elizabeth is the only person she can trust. Wow. Rock bottom. She thinks Elizabeth is going to fix everything, but she forgets that Elizabeth only does kind things as long as they don’t affect her sister. So instead she forces Lila to agree to admit what she’s done and pay them off. Lila agrees, providing Elizabeth never tells Jessica about this.
They go to mall security where Jessica is sobbing.
When she walked in, she heard Jessica’s heartrending sobs and immediately felt like crying herself. For once in her life, Jessica was being tormented for something she hadn’t done.
Oh absolutely fuck off to the hilt. As if she’s tormented when she has done something wrong. And it’s not like they’re waterboarding her. She’s just in a boring room where people aren’t kissing her feet. Oh boo fucking hoo. This isn’t as bad as any of the things she’s done to Robin in this book, never mind all the shit she’s pulled in the previous three.
There’s a “comedy of errors” where mall security… ok, so they’re not detectives, they were definitely called detectives earlier – are confused by twinsies. And more hilarity ensues when the sales assistant from Lisette’s says that Jessica is the one she saw stealing, and Elizabeth says, “No, that was me!” and then is utterly scornful when they take her at her word, that she stole the items, rather than she was the girl they saw. Again, writer. Use your fucking words you barely literate box of rocks.
Then Lila faints.
When she wakes up, daddy is there, and he’s paying off all the little guys and reassuring her. He owes Elizabeth a great debt – hey, just like the McCormick’s absent father, who wrote a song about Elizabeth, rather than his own kids. What can he do to repay her?
Dude. She did fuck all. She was merely present when your daughter fainted. She didn’t even try to catch her. And she was only there because her twin was in trouble. But sure, she’s a fucking saint.
Her only wish is that he will spend more time with Lila.
Great. Problem solved. Can this fucking book be over now? I hate it. When’s the next Junior High recap? I want to be there instead. [Raven: I didn’t mind the shoplifting subplot. Still hated the book, mind.]
Lila goes home with George, Jessica and Elizabeth take their car home. And Jessica throws a babyish tantrum in the car when Elizabeth tells her nothing that happened. I don’t know why she didn’t just say, “It was all a misunderstanding. We called George to pay them off,” rather than dealing with Jessica’s screaming and wailing and kicking the car (yes, she really does this). But I’m past caring about what motivates these bastards. Nothing human, that’s for sure.
The next day Elizabeth buys that watch band for Todd. Oh good, I’m so glad we’ve financially committed to such a boring present. [Raven: The best gifts are free, at that age.]
She gets a call from Lila saying that she needs to attend with the Fowlers at Juvenile Hall. Why? She was just a fucking bystander. She’s of no interest at all. I guess Juvie just found out how important the Wakefields are. I’m watching The Core right now. Basically the innards of the planet just stop functioning and a crack team of genius misfits team up to burrow into the centre of the planet to reboot it. 1) that’s a much better story than this book at it rated 5.5 on imdb; and 2) I’m pretty sure the opening scenes of the planet dying is exactly what happens if you leave a Wakefield out of anything that happens in Sweet Valley. No matter how fucking irrelevant they are.
Oh, she’s going as a character witness. Well, she is a Wakefield Twin, so of course she’s the perfect pick.
It all goes well and George suggests they go out to dinner. Elizabeth gets super excited about going to dinner at a posh restaurant, and completely forgets that Lila desperately wants to have one-on-one time with her father, so she does not bow out gracefully. She goes. Even though they’re not friends.
Then they eat “shrimp scampi, baby lamb chops, asparagus tips, and chocolate souffle, then topped off the dinner with a perfectly heavenly cappuccino”.
I just want to point out that the chocolate souffle and the cappuccino are dead calories, and for someone who is such an expert in healthy eating, I’m very shocked that Elizabeth made those choices. And let’s not even get into how fattening the breading/batter on the scampi is. Oh, and a pork chop has five times as much saturated fat as a chicken breast. But I’m sure you know that, because you’re so into healthy eating. And finally, who the fuck combos lamb chops with fish? Is this a thing people do, seafood and dark meat? [Raven: I’m presuming starter and main, not all mixed up in a nosebag. I’d go mismatched starter and main. Also, surf and turf exists.]
[Wing: Surf and turf usually means beef and seafood (generally lobster) though, doesn’t it? And of course Elizabeth can make those choices, she’s thin.]
Jessica throws another tantrum when Elizabeth gets home, sulking that Elizabeth has secrets with Lila. I am sick of this whiny baby stamping her foot and kicking things every couple of pages. Someone get Super Nanny on the case. Or that dog whisperer who fixed Cartman.
She goes on a date with Todd, who is utterly made up with his new watch band. Excellent. You two are made for each other. I’ve been with Raven for nearly two decades, the newness of our relationship has definitely rubbed off. And I would still throw myself in a volcano before I bought him a present as boring as a replacement utility that has worn out.
[Wing: Ostrich always wants socks as gifts. I refuse to give him socks for gifts. That is such a boring, utilitarian thing. For his last birthday, I had his new car tinted. Which is also fairly utilitarian, but somewhat better than socks or watch bands.]
The next day, Elizabeth sees the list for cheerleader tryouts. Robin’s name is at the top of the list.
If there was one thing Jessica Wakefield found totally unbearable, it was her twin sister’s Cheshire-cat grin. It meant that Elizabeth knew something Jessica didn’t know, and that was enough to drive Jessica into a screaming, clawing tantrum.
Even the author freely admits these are tantrums. Like, who the fuck thinks that’s something anyone wants to see? A sixteen year old screaming and kicking things, looking like a toddler on a meltdown. At least with toddlers you know that while it’s very loud and infuriating, they’re wired that way. They haven’t developed impulse control or conflict resolution. What’s Jessica’s excuse? Well, it’s the same thing. Except she’s sixteen. And this kind of behaviour is ~aspirational~ apparently.
When Jessica finds out that Robin is trying out for the cheerleaders – because mid-season tryouts are a thing at Sweet Valley – she naturally throws a fit.
“I don’t think it’s a bit fair,” Jessica pouted, reluctantly admitting Elizabeth was right. “I mean, a few weeks ago I could see she was a little less of a slob, but how could she possibly get so good-looking so fast? I mean we’re talking about Tubby here.”
Yes. It’s almost as if such a huge weight loss is definitely not possible and it’s powered by a fucking idiot writing a book to guidelines written by another fucking idiot.
And apparently Bruce is drooling over her now. So I guess Robin must feel validated. I have to keep quoting this nonsense.
“Beauty is only skin deep, Liz. Just remember that. It’s what’s underneath that really counts. And underneath, Robin Wilson is a deranged freak! Why she doesn’t like any of us after all we did for her, I’ll never know. But it’s the mark of a sick person.”
This Jessica is going to be one of those incoherent ragers on Facebook going on about Big Pharma, and “Mah Guns, Mah Freedumb”, and probably running an MLM. And absolutely she would be a forced-birther. The kind that have had at least one abortion that was totally justified but no other woman should have that freedom, because these circumstances are utterly unique and blah, blah, blah.
I am cheering on that earthquake. What? It’s not a spoiler. It’s the title of the penultimate book. [Wing: It is a spoiler if you don’t read book titles until you get there…]
We cut to tryouts when Robin is so hot that Bruce walks into a door while gawping at her. He has no idea who she is, even though the text literally told us three paragraphs ago that he’s been “drooling” over her already.
Tryouts are summarised thusly:
Most of the school jocks turned out for cheerleader tryouts, including Bruce, and Robin went through the routine as if she’d done it a thousand times before. Not only was she picked at once, but she was made co-captain with a completely astounded Jessica Wakefield.
Cool. The payoff of the book is resolved in 45 words. Well done, ghostie. You made me care about every jump, slip-up and out of bounds there. I understood how hard everyone was working. Who made the cut, who didn’t. Who lost a tooth. Who screwed up the basket tosses and the wolf wall. Oh wait, no, that was in Bring it On. There was fuck all in the above paragraph.
Elizabeth catches up with Robin, who reveals she has one more surprise.
They talk, and Robin tells it like it is. She says that Jessica is a scheming monster, and for awhile she thought Elizabeth was just as bad as her sister. Now she knows better. Elizabeth is a fucking moron who has no idea her sister is a monster. Elizabeth is upset by this, because surely Jessica didn’t blackball Robin.
I HATE THIS FUCKING BOOK. PAY ATTENTION TO THE SHIT YOU WROTE, YOU FUCKING DUMBASS.
Elizabeth by now is totally besties with Robin, and it’s funny because Bruce follows her around like the sexual predator and emotional abuser he is, refusing to respect her boundaries and ignoring all the cruel shit he’s said and done to her.
And that’s funny because he’s hot! lol!
Everybody at Sweet Valley High, even Elizabeth, gradually forgot there had ever been a fat and ugly Robin. But Robin would always remember.
OMG, you fucking idiots, it’s not been three decades since she was fat. It’s been a month or two. And actually, when someone slims down so dramatically, that’s kind of how you identify them. There was a woman at my work and I only know her as Slimming World [name]. First of all, she has a name that she shares with three others in her team. Second of all, she was Slimmer of the Year maybe eight years ago – she lost something like 16 stone (224 lbs). And still I think she’s a fucking rock star for her hard work. And I think idiotic skinny people think it’s funny or weird that she “let herself” get so fat when she could “easily” lose all that weight – this is the kind of person you find in Sweet Valley. [Raven: Must… resist… urge… to explode…
Nope. Let’s go for it.
Losing weight is hard. It takes a long time, and concerted effort, and it’s full of small victories and larger defeats and tears and sweat and more. Fatty and sugary food is chemically addictive, and can be linked with feelings of happiness and contentment and so on. You all know this.
Personally, my relationship with food is not a good one. I struggle with portion control, and overeating, and an inability to make healthy choices for a prolongued period. Weirdly, I don’t consider myself as someone with an addictive personality. I quit smoking, I don’t drink alcohol, I’m not one for drugs, or gambling, or any of those other story-book vices. But food? That’s my Achilles Heel.
“Why don’t you just stop eating that shit?” … “Don’t buy the chocolate, then you won’t be able to eat it.” … “It’s just a matter of will power, and you haven’t got any.” … “Do more excercise, that’s the problem.”
Well… no. One thing that most people don’t realise is that eating healthily is not like quitting smoking, or drinking, or similar. You can quit those cold turkey. No more ciggies! No more gin! You can’t go cold turkey on a food addiction. You still need three squares a day.
(And cold turkey addictions, like smoking and drinking? They’re super difficult to kick in themselves. I’m so lucky that I’m not wired that way, and I can largely drop those destructive habits… but when our lives revolve around food and consumption, and when all our advertising is focussed on the next new tasty thing? My will power doesn’t stretch that far. It’s impossible to avoid food, and so easy to turn to the darker options on display.)
Another issue with weight loss is that it takes FUCKING AGES. One WEEK of healthy eating, seven days of feeling hungry ALL THE TIME, will net you what, a healthy loss of two pounds of fat? Brilliant! Only another ninety-eight to go! Keep it up for TWO FUCKING YEARS, and you’ll be where you need to be! Oh, and don’t forget to exercise, and make sure your blood sugar levels don’t drop, and on, and on, and on. It’s exhausting. Compare that to the time I quit smoking? Smoked my last cigarette from a twenty-a-day habit, had off-and-on nausea cravings for around two weeks that faded with time, then Bosh! I’d quit smoking. Sure I could take it up again tomorrow, but after two weeks I was where I wanted to be. I’m not belittling those who struggle with it, just trying to highlight that the processes are in no way the same.
So we come to this book, where Robin’s appaling treatment at the hands of the SVH cast provides the impetus for her weight loss journey. Good on her, I say. Hate is an effective stimulus. But I have issues…
First, it takes what, a month, tops, for her to shed these “two tonnes of blubber”…? I call bullshit, unless we are dealing with someone perhaps half a stone overweight? And if THAT’S the case, a la Lois Waller in Twins, then where are the people saying she’s NOT fat, sticking up for her THAT way? Because everyone buys into her size issues, including her, including the fucking Ghostie, and if it’s really such a small problem then their attitudes stink in more ways that at face fucking value.
And second… okay, let’s concede that yes, she was very overweight, and that yes, she managed to miraculously ditch five stone in a month through Sweet Valley Willpower alone. Good for her. In doing this, all she’s done is pander to those that pointed the finger all along. She’s weaponised her hatred, sure, but she’s pointed the gun at herself and physically become exactly the person that Jessica, that the PBA, that Elizabeth and the Ghostie had demanded that she should become in order to fit in. She’s silently accepted that yes, fat IS shameful, fatties SHOULD be browbeaten to fit their socially-acceptable norms, that a person’s self-worth is based solely on what they look like, on the size of their waist rather than the strength of their heart. What should have been a powerful story in which Robin gained self-worth and confidence and happiness within herself, instead became a story in which Robin only gained those things be becoming everything that others demanded she should be. And all the people who’ve made her life a misery through their bullying? They’ve learned FUCK ALL.
This book begins, stood on a platform of fatphobia. And it ends, still stood on that very same platform, flying a flag that tells fatties that their size is something that’s “easy to fix,” and that if they run around a track five times a day, they could be a perfect size zero in a month’s time.
And that’s why this book can fuck off.]
[Dove: *applauds* Smart, angry and able to destroy this book in a page of well-reasoned arguments? That’s my husband. I married well.]
Is this book ever going to fucking end? We’ve resolved the fatness and the shoplifting, but no, we’ve still got two more chapters. And I suppose we’ve got Robin’s final surprise.
So, next up we have Elizabeth being thanked for her story submissions, but politely rejected. See above for all my rants on why Elizabeth is probably a terrible writer.
Over with Jessica, she has a new goal. To be Football Queen. It’s another dance or title or something. I don’t give a fuck. Robin’s going to win, isn’t she? I’m skipping a whole scene of her talking about herself and then throwing yet another door-slamming tantrum because Elizabeth won’t unfairly lobby for her in the school paper. Just die, you bastard.
Apparently this nonsense is a big deal over school and every girl is making a special effort with her appearance. Then one day the signs appear all over school.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTEDIt has come to my attention that members of Pi Beta Alpha have forbidden any girl who is not a member to go out for Miss Sweet Valley High. I know all about the PBAs. They blackballed me. I accept their challenge. I ask for your vote. Robin Wilson
For once, PBA have not actually made such a decree. But they’ve pulled so much shit already that everyone believes that they have. Jessica and her harpies demand to know who Robin’s source is for their decree, and Robin says sure, she’ll name her source, just as soon as Jessica tells her who blackballed her.
The school follows Robin like the queen she is. [Raven: Good for Robin. Underhand tactics FTW.] [Wing: AGAIN, why didn’t we get more of Robin showing off this attitude and less of the fat hate and everything Dove and Raven have ranted about? WHY?]
And if you guessed that Jessica’s reaction would be to have a screaming toddler meltdown, well big gold star for you.
It’s now Jessica vs Robin for this pointless stupid title that’s so important the real news is interested, so Elizabeth offers to cover it for them, and boom, everyone’s living the dream.
We actually get more detail on all of this stupidity and the football game that leads up to the announcement on who’s won than we have on anything that led up to it. Robin’s emotionally scarring pledge tasks weren’t given this screen time, nor was her weight loss.
Anyway, Robin wins. I’m sure you were all shocked by that outcome.
Bruce is pretty sure that Robin is his date now. But first the procession. It’s customary for the winner to ride around the football field in a limo. That sounds kind of boring. In Making Out, the nominees for queen arrived riding in convertibles, so they could wave to the public. (And, as Nina pointed out, freeze to death.)
Robin asks if Bruce will drive her around in his Porsche. He is delighted to do so.
And then she asks if Allen Walters can be her escort. Basically demoting Bruce to driver. And that is fucking satisfying. Thank you so much. With this writer being so hopeless, I was genuinely worried that everything would be resolved by Robin dating Bruce.
[Wing: So fucking satisfying, shockingly. How the hell did ghostie manage that?]
Later, the Pi Beta Alphas invite Robin to join, but she tells them to drop dead. Elizabeth gets published. Robin is now dating Allen. Everyone is happy.
Lead in to the next book: Jessica thinks the Pi Beta Alphas are juvenile, and has her sights set on a paedophile college guy.
I hated every single thing about this book.
I can’t even be bothered to expand much beyond that. This was a complete soul suck. It was an awful story, created by a toxic woman and written by a fucking moron. This is, without a doubt, the worst book I’ve encountered so far. While the Nightmare Mansion series might be much longer and super boring, at least it wasn’t telling people to starve themselves for popularity or actively yelling the message that your personality is meaningless. You only have value if you fit into size six jeans.
And I never thought in this book I’d end up hating Elizabeth so much more than her sister.
FUCK THIS BOOK. FUCK THIS WRITER. AND FUCK FRANCINE PASCAL.
[Raven: Last recap, I asked for a book that let me feel something. Boy, I got that in spades.
Fuck this book. Fuck it hard in the face.
Everyone was shit in this. Even Robin. Even the Ghostie.
I’d like to fast forward to the later books in this series, the books which are supposed to be wacky hi-jinks fun? Because the books I’m reading now? They’re callous, and mean, and soulless, and awful.
Kill it with fucking fire.
*reaches for big bar of chocolate*]
[Wing: Raven cursed us. CURSED US.
Dove and Raven did great ranting and GOING BOOM, so I’ll leave you with two things:
My current fave comment is from Future Patman Widow (excellent name, too): I just want to say in advance that I cannot wait for the podcast for #4 because it needs a level below kill it with fire. Fire is too good for that hot steaming pile.
They are not wrong.
Second, fat is a descriptor, not a moral failing. You can choose to try to lose weight. You can choose not to. Fat and healthy are not mutually exclusive. You don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to your health. No one makes decisions about diets, exercising, etc. in a neutral environment because society is not neutral and often violently hates fat bodies.
Some links (fat people and yoga, hiking, fashion, writing, dancing, activism, music — living their lives): Marianne Kirby, Jessamyn Stanley, Fat Girls Hiking, Unlikely Hikers, Lizzo, Evelyn Tribole, Fat Girls in Fiction, Decolonizing Fitness, Carina Shero, Julie Duffy Dillon, and Roxane Gay.
Fuck this book, fuck fat hate, fuck the violence done to fat bodies, particularly fat bodies on multiple axis of oppression.]
She doesn’t have to- she just walks into a store and everyone falls over the wonderful Wakefield twin and gives her things for free!
Even as a kid, I thought everyone was acting horribly in this book- except for Robin. And Dove will probably remember the reasons but whoever is doing #10 my thoughts are with you because if you thought Jessica was terrible here then oh boy.
Dove is scheduled to do it, so she really has no one to blame but herself. Though if Jessica’s even worse in #10, none of us win. None of us.
Oh yes, I’m aware of book 10. JC and I worked out how awful the books are that are assigned to me. The others have no clue – which is good. We’ve done our best to keep the spoilers away from Wing and Raven so they can enjoy — enjoy??? — them as they experience them.
Jeeeesh, what a heck of a book! Love your rants. Glad I didn’t read this one as a tubby teenager – I was always convinced that if I just tried hard enough I could lose weight in a matter of weeks and this book would not have helped.
My lack of control makes so much more sense now I know I have ADHD but back then everything seemed such a struggle. I didn’t understand how all these people could STUDY never mind be thin.
Also, I don’t get how to quote on here but the bit about no one over a certain age stamping their feet made me laugh – a few years ago, one of the managers at work was trying to explain something to me and for some reason it just was not clicking in my brain and he got so frustrated, he actually did stamp his feet! Makes me snort whenever I remember it, he’s a fully grown man.
I will say that I’ve read equally terrible books for adults – Jemima J by Jane Green springs to mind. Someone sheds something like 7 stone over the course of a few weeks and somehow turns into a complete hardbody without an ounce of sagging skin or stretch marks, and suddenly everyone loves her and it’s basically Robin’s journey.
I can’t believe you’ve seen a grown man stamp his feet in temper. That’s amazing. I used to work for an equity partner at a law firm who used to sit in his office screaming like a toddler until someone popped their head in and asked if he was ok. It never occurred to him to use email. Or get off his arse.
To quote, copy and paste the text you want to quote, highlight it, and click the button with the speech marks on there.
I think I may have merged Jemima J with this one. Why do I keep finding these terrible books? That was definitely a pro-eating disorder book if there ever was one.
Yeah there is a book I read where a size 16 (UK) woman manages to be mistaken for a page 3 model in a matter of weeks because she was too sad to eat…
Foot stamper actually is a nice man normally haha. And I do also work for a law firm…..
I actually do like Bruce. The early books are more cruel in general, but Bruce ends up having hilarious repartee with Lila, Jessica, and others in the series, and he’s great when you need a standard villain.
I will look forward to that, but for now, I’m solidly loathing the dude.
Hell to the no
Ummm screen name. I hate him enough to marry him for the money and off him. The canning fortune will be mine!!!!!!
The glamorous, glamorous Old Money empire that is *checks notes* canning
Because then people might think she’s poor and the only thing worse than being poor in Sweet Valley is being fat. Obv.
I loved the recap but it sounds not as bad as I remember….
TRIGGER WARNING for disordered eating!
I remember ghostie commending Robin for eating little to nothing. Like she just eats lettuce for lunch or sometimes nothing at all. And then she runs around the track for hours every evening. Which is clearly not healthy. Maybe I’ve merged it in my mind with another fatphobic book or you were just too nice to add these horrifying details. But I distinctly got the impression that the moral of this book was Robin was bad because fat and Jessica did a wonderful thing in bullying Robin enough to hate herself, develop an eating disorder, and lose the weight and now her life is great. Yay bullying! If we don’t bully people into becoming their best selves, how will they conform with the rest of this harpy pool?
So yeah, absolutely the worst book in the series IMO. There are later books that are stupid or ridiculous and lord knows the bullies of SV tend to come out ahead, but this book was just hateful.
There is another book with heavy bullying coming up in a bit but it at least expresses that it might be a touch far. It doesn’t condemn it outright but there’s at least a little bit of a lesson learned so it’s not as bad as this hate-fest.
When I think of the bad books, this and the other come to mind. But you’re right, the next one is shown to be bad whereas this is a recipe for how to develop an eating disorder and don’t worry, it’ll be great! You’ll literally be worshiped for it! Then later, when they do actually address Robin’s ED it’s because she becomes too skinny. Shame about that
Unpretty by TLC is one of my favorite songs (favorite album by one of my favorite artists) and a song that Sweet Valley needs to hear. My mom was so against my reading these books because of their treatment of looks, which luckily went right over my head as a reader. SVH is (sadly) not alone in their fatphobia of that era but I think they are the worst. I listened to the Double Love podcast for this recently, and they keep stats so I know exactly how bad this one is going to be. Poor Robin. There’s a later book that posits her weight loss as a negative, which will probably make you go boom for too little, too late.
Wing, I also differentiate between competition vs reality, but the only shows that I do enjoy are ones where they create. I followed a couple seasons of Project Runway, and I love Making It (despite all the emotions!) and Nailed it.
Early Jessica has the emotional maturity and awareness of a toddler. Thankfully the ghosties (I’m assuming, since this is how Francine pictured Jess) realized this version of Jessica was going to torch book sales and they leaned more into her wackiness.
It’s how they stay so thin without bennies
Elizabeth’s Instagram profile pic is currently a black square
There are so many college and older men in this series. Gods, when that was socially acceptable (this blatantly)
They hit a lot of mean spirited points. I believe we’re off for a couple, then back on for a couple, with a really, really terrible apex, then it starts tapering off
Love that song. I also love “Not a Pretty Girl” by Ani Difranco.
No. But when he actually gets his own stories they’re always fun.
I am tentatively excited to see the terrible things he gets up to in his own stories, then.