Sweet Valley High #7: Dear Sister

Sweet Valley High #7: Dear Sister by Francine Pascal

Title: Dear Sister

Tagline: Can Jessica face life without Elizabeth?

Summary: Sweet Valley is stunned by the news: Beautiful young Elizabeth Wakefield lies in a coma, on the brink of death after a horrible motorcycle accident.

Elizabeth’s boyfriend Todd is consumed by guilt; he was driving and escaped unharmed. He feels totally helpless. All he can do is wait for a change in Elizabeth’s condition – a change that might mean the loss of the only girl he’s ever loved.

But no one is more shattered than Elizabeth’s twin, Jessica. As she keeps watch over the silent body of her sister, she’s overwhelmed by despair. Without Elizabeth, can life go on?

Trigger Warnings: Dubious consent and outright lack of consent. An active choice to attempt rape. It will only be a paragraph or two and no rape takes place. But be aware this is coming.

Initial Thoughts:

Well, since I vaguely remember this one from my tween years, I dimly remember this has some amusing moments, but I am slightly worried that these amusing things will actually be horrifying when looked at with about 30 more years of life experience.

Also, I know for certain that the book summary will be obsolete by the end of chapter one. So there’s that.

[Wing: What. the. fuck. was. this. book.]

[Raven: *blinks*]


We open with Jessica sobbing over the comatose body of her twin. This forces the ghostie to do the weirdest same-but-different comparison ever, stating that usually the twins are absolute perfection, but one is half-dead and the other is a crying mess right now. But don’t forget how hot and perfect they usually are. Actually, don’t forget that despite the red eyes and blotchy skin, Jessica is way hotter than you could ever be. No, really, the ghostie takes a moment to tell you that Jessica is super hot, despite her anguish.

There are many paragraphs that all find a different way to say “Jessica is sad”, and, yes, I get that if I had a twin, I’d be a mess (not a hot one though) if she was in a coma, but the sadness is not very nuanced. Jessica is sad. She doesn’t feel guilty. She’s not really thinking or doing anything. She’s just being described as beautiful and sad.

Do better, ghostie. Make me care about something other than how shiny her hair is.

Suddenly, a neurosurgeon appears!

“Miss Wakefield?”


“I could see the resemblance. You’re both beautiful.”

Just in case you forgot how hot these girls are, the guy responsible for saving the life of the vegetable-twin is here to remind you. Because that’s appropriate.

[Wing: God, the inappropriate teachers have spread into the rest of the community now that we’re in high school.] [Raven: This guy is perhaps the most inappropriate doctor since Harold Shipman.]

He explains that Elizabeth is in a coma, and asks if Jessica understands what that means. Jessica, weirdly, does not. Even though she understood perfectly at the end of the previous book. Now she understand that it means Elizabeth is going to die, and she cries and wails prettily. For what it’s worth, I believe that Jessica is actually upset. It’s just we’ve had two pages going on about how hot she is, so I can’t really take her seriously after that. I mean, the ghostie made a choice: talk about how scary it is that her twin might die, or endlessly tell us that the alive-twin is fuckable, and despite the title and the brief, went with the latter option.

Jessica tells Dr Edwards that it’s all her fault because she didn’t give Elizabeth a ride to the club. Dr Edwards inappropriately cups her face, and reassures her that it’s not her fault. But! There is something she can do. While everyone is being silly and relying on all this medical nonsense, Jessica is her twin! She must use her twin bond to reach out to Elizabeth and convince her to come home.

Oh do fuck off.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s utterly plausible that someone in a coma could hear someone talking to them, and a familiar voice would absolutely be preferable. But when you go as far as this:

And right now, blame isn’t important. Guiding Elizabeth back to all of us is. That’s what we have to do. You and your brother and your parents have to bring Elizabeth back. I’ll help, Jessica, but it’s really up to you.

So basically, if Elizabeth dies, it’s Jessica’s fault for not “guiding” hard enough? Absolutely fuck off into the sun until you’re nothing but burning atoms. That’s a shitty thing to lay at the door of a terrified sixteen year old, even one as toxic as this one.

You think she’s awful now, just think how terrible she’d be if she was trying out outrun the death of her sister after a neurosurgeon said she was Elizabeth’s only hope.

[Wing: Fuck, I want to read that. Jessica the Sociopath on the rampage.] [Dove: There’s a NaNo project for you there!]

Jessica takes his advice, if not the implied threat, to heart and starts begging Elizabeth to wake up.

She gives us a recap of what happened to put Elizabeth in the coma, though nobody mentions that she wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time. I guess that’s one of those things that’s not worth bringing up, because basically, you get on a bike without a helmet, it’s kind of on you if you brain yourself. Ditto horses.

And anyway, it would get in the way of Jessica’s self-loathing.

Dr Edwards returns to say that he’s had an idea. Instead of all this whining, just talk to her as if things are normal, talk about boys and family and school.

“Remember the time I tried to take Todd away from you? I would have killed someone for doing that to me, but not you. You were willing to step aside if I was the one Todd really liked. But you were always the one he wanted, Liz. And he was right to pick you. No wonder everyone loves you. You’re good and kind, and you really care about other people. Take Enid Rollins, for example. She’s world-class dull, for heaven’s sake. But she’s your friend so you always stick up for her. When I blabbed her secret to everybody, you were right there defending her. Now I’m sorry for the way I acted, Liz, and I promise I’ll never make another crack about Enid, ever!


“Hey, remember that time I totally nearly got arrested at Kelly’s Roadhouse and let everyone think it was you? And how I just kept silent while everyone at school whispered about what a drunken slutbomb you were? Lol! Happy times. And hey! Remember when I accused your boyfriend of rape because he wouldn’t put out! That boy so grumpy. He still glares at me over that one! Hahahahaha! Oh, and remember that time I completely destroyed your best friend’s life for a tacky plastic tiara covered with Hobbycraft rhinestones? Yeah… that girl still glares at me. I don’t get it. Oh! And remember when I gave Robin Wilson an eating disorder! OMG, YOU MUST COME BACK BEFORE I KILL AGAIN.”

Actually, Jessica doesn’t even get to recap Playing with Fire, Power Play or All Night Long for us, because Elizabeth wakes up. Yes. The coma book features a coma that lasts two-thirds of the way through chapter one.

I mean, I know where this book is going, but I bet Raven and Wing are hurling books against walls right now.

[Wing: I’m unsurprised at the speed of this recovery. Not pleased, but unsurprised. Also glad that I held off on chucking the book anywhere, because oh, it gets so much worse.

And, again, Jessica and the ghostie make light of the bullshit she pulled when she was trying to take Todd away from Elizabeth. False rape allegation. Lying about her sister. Letting her sister take the fall for her nearly getting arrested. And so on.]

[Raven: Honestly, I’m not mad with it. They gave it one full chapter, full of reproach and doctors and shit, and then she woke up. And, albeit unbeknownst to me at this stage, the rest of the book is the story of how she hasn’t recovered from the trauma. I fully expected her recover to take, like, a paragraph or something, so a full chapter? That’s fine.

As for Jessica /the Ghostie making light of her behaviour fromearlier in the series? Also fine with that. It was obviously there to give a recap of the earlier books for newer readers, and I actually quite liked the way that Jessica explained away the previous action from her own viewpoint. It was also incredibly on-brand for her to talk to Liz “normally” but still be judgy and passive agressive.]

We cut to some unknown time later, where Jessica is bounding into her sister’s hospital room only to find Elizabeth crying her eyes out. Jessica panics, hoping her sister isn’t in pain. She quickly asks what’s wrong, only to have Elizabeth shout at her “Wouldn’t you cry if you looked like me?

Jessica bricks it. She uses a gentle and soothing tone to explain that they’re identical twins.

Elizabeth is offended by this. She’s not stupid or crazy, just because she got a bump on the head. She’s just feeling ugly. This makes Jessica happy on a number of levels. Yay, her sister isn’t relapsing, and double-yay, now they can have girly makeovers together. This is a bonding thing!

She says that Todd is on his way, but Jessica has a bag full of lotions and potions and dry-shampoo to make her look as pretty as a picture. Jessica gives her a full makeover and waits for praise. Elizabeth says her eyes look dead and re-does the makeup, making it much more strident.

As someone who remembers 80s makeup, I’m fully imagining blue eyeshadow right up to her eyebrows and blusher so intense she looks like a bronzed Ronald McDonald.

Then she refers to her hospital gown as a “tacky horror”. Jessica’s all, “Don’t worry, I got you,” and pulls out Elizabeth’s favourite nightshirt, a knit UCLA shirt that Jessica has always thought was ugly and boring, but she’s knows it’s her sister’s favourite. Until now. Elizabeth whines – and yes, Jessica recognises that it’s a “whiny voice” – that it’s not sexy enough. [Wing: Sexy enough for the hospital. Oh boy.] [Raven: Alarm bells…] Well, that’s what Jessica brought, so she’s going to have to live with it. She grudgingly agrees it will do for seeing Todd.

Jessica shows Todd in, telling him not to keep Elizabeth too long, she gets tired, and Todd thinks that Jessica is keeping something from him. She ushers him in without saying anything more revealing, like her sister has suddenly become her.

Todd’s visit lasts all of two seconds. Elizabeth bitches that she looks ugly. Todd says she’s gorgeous and then tries to apologise for the crash. Elizabeth says it’s in the past and she doesn’t want to talk about it, and she’s really tired, so BYE!

Todd speaks to Jessica afterwards and says that Elizabeth seemed bored by him. Which is a hell of a take. I mean, yes, fandom finds you incredibly boring, Todd, but you exchanged maybe three sentences with her and she said she was tired. And while I know she wasn’t, having to be hospitalised is exhausting. Your body is healing and that takes a lot of energy.

“Guys are really something!” Jessica said angrily. “Liz just came out of a coma, and you expect her to be laughing and smiling as if nothing happened.”

Just then the sound of Elizabeth’s laughter floated out to the hall.

“Yeah, Jess, and then again, maybe doctors are more interesting than basketball players.” Todd strode over to the elevator and punched the down button.

First of all, yes! Loving this sisters-before-misters vibe from Jessica (even if it is motivated by her not liking him much). Also, Todd, get the fuck over yourself. She nearly died while riding your motorbike. You don’t get to be angry because she’s talking to the brain doctor that literally saved her life. Even if she’s more engaged with him than you.

Taken on the surface level from Todd’s point of view: he visited Elizabeth as soon as he could once she woke up from her coma. She didn’t want to talk about the crash – which is her right – and said she was tired and asked him to leave. Her neurosurgeon then entered the room to check on the girl with the very recent and worrying brain injury, and Todd is throwing a temper tantrum because the doctor made her laugh. My doctor made me laugh after a hip replacement, when otherwise I was quite crabby due to the pain. Also, right this second? Elizabeth is sweetness personified as far as Todd’s concerned. He hasn’t read the next twelve chapters.

Basically, I took an entire paragraph to say: Todd is an entitled dickhead and deserves to be hoofed into the sea. [Raven: As an agent to highlight the change in her personality, I found his concern to be entirely fair.] [Dove: As a narrative device, that could strike Jess and the reader as odd, yes. From Todd’s point of view, not so much.]

And now we have a smash cut to three weeks later when Elizabeth has been released from the hospital. Even in the eighties, that seems like a long time to keep someone in, who appears to be otherwise healthy. Wouldn’t they send her home after a week or so and ask her to come back and check in regularly or hand her care over to a GP? Oh well, the privilege of Wakefieldness. I guess they can easily afford to have their child stay in hospital for a month.

She returns home to a banner (“Welcome Home, Liz”) and some balloons and Jessica seriously asks if she overdid it. Dude, you have made more effort throwing a birthday party for a girl you didn’t even like in sixth grade. But sure, kudos to the banner, I guess.

Alice is like, “Yay, you’re home! Go to bed.” And Elizabeth snaps at her before heading upstairs. Jessica is worried, but Ned reassures her that everything’s fine. Again, this seems like overkill. Does she actually need to be in bed 24/7? Or could she maybe sit outside and get some fresh air and read a book? Or hang out with her family in the living room? Or even – gasp – go for a walk? I’m not saying a brain injury isn’t serious, but it’s fucking weird that they’re like, “Ok, honey, it’s 2pm, time for nap-nap!”

I’ve lightly googled, and all the stages of recovery? Welp, Elizabeth has gone from 1 (Unresponsive/Coma) to 10 (Purposeful and Independence) without visiting any of the middle ones. And generally it’s advised that the patient engage in what they can at this stage, and be supported with anything that still gives them problems.

I’m pretty sure my two minutes of googling are more research than the ghostie or Francine bothered with.

Another time-skip and we have Jessica coming home from school to find Elizabeth repeating the word “Boring!” She’s done nothing but watch TV, and yeah, in a pre-Netflix/internet era, being stuck at home would be pretty dull, especially when you consider how uninteresting Ned and Alice are.

[Wing: Hard disagree, because books. Which, we’ll learn in just a second, Elizabeth no longer agrees with me about.] [Dove: Sorry, I forgot to add the caveat that I was thinking about it if I was a teen, living in my family home. Not a normal teen, living in a normal family. Because yes books. But also my mother.]

Jessica asks her why she hasn’t put a dent in all the books she’s never found time to read, and Elizabeth snaps that it’s not fun. Jessica tries to shrug it off, dude, you said it was fun, not me, I’m just going off what you said, and Elizabeth says yes, maybe it’s time to do more living and less reading.

Elizabeth says she needs a party. They should have a pool party and tell the parents it’s necessary because it will be “therapeutic” for Elizabeth. Jessica asks who they should invite. Elizabeth replies, why bother with girls, when the Wakefield Twins can service every boy in Sweet Valley.

Jessica is delighted. Now her sister is just as fun as her!

Oh, this is the end of chapter two.

We open with Jessica pointing out that they actually need to invite girls. Not because of friendship and all that guff, but because boys never throw parties, so if they don’t invite the girls, they’ll never be invited to another party as long as they live. And it takes her a good few minutes to come up with that reason, since she’s actually all for an orgy of Sweet Valley High boys with her twin.

Cool. Well, I’m glad that friendship isn’t anything meaningful in this series. Why do girls even need other girls? They’re just jealous bitches who will steal your man, ruin your dress, and laugh if you do something wrong. The only reason you have female friends is to stand next to someone who looks uglier than you, but not so ugly that boys think you’re a friendless loser who only hangs out with uggos, right?

(I feel like Francine might actually believe that. My respect for her dropped like a rock after reading High.)

[Wing: I WILL QUOTE HER NOTE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOKS (THIRTY YEARS LATER): The minute I came up with the idea of Sweet Valley High, now thirty years ago, I knew it was perfect. But I knew it needed something else. And that something else was girl power.

What the ever loving fuck, Pascal. What. the. ever. loving. fuck. are. you. talking. about.]

[Raven: I think Jessica’s logic is sound, given that it’s Jessica trying to convince Lizzica that girls are needed at the party.]

There’s a knock at the front door and Jessica says that will be Todd, who promised to stop by. Elizabeth immediately says that she doesn’t want to see him, and can Jessica get rid of him.

Jessica does. She invites Todd into the kitchen and they talk in whispers about how tired Elizabeth is. Todd is not happy. He’s only seen her once in the hospital, and he’s blown that one short meeting up into epic proportions, saying again that she wasn’t behaving like herself. Todd, seriously, shut the fuck up. After I had my tonsils out, I didn’t recognise my own mother. After having my hip replaced, I believed Raven when he told me we were getting a dog and I’d agreed to it. [Wing: I’m sad this turned out not to be true. More doggos please!] [Dove: Oh how the tables have turned. At the time, I said no because cats. Now I want a dog to placate our gigantic cat, and Raven’s hesitant to upset the delicate pet balance of our home.]

However, the fact it’s been three weeks and then some and they haven’t spoken at all on the phone? Yeah. That’s something worth bringing up. But the ghostie doesn’t. Instead he just harps on about how different she was at the hospital. Which makes me just think that Todd is a complete idiot. Or he was more damaged in the crash than anyone thought.

He says he’ll be back tomorrow, and Jessica lies and says the parents have decreed that Elizabeth is not to have visitors until she’s back at school, which is still a week away.

“Once Liz gets back to school, everything will return to normal. You know how much she likes school. She’ll probably have all the work made up and a dozen stories written for The Oracle before I finish that one stupid book report on Moby Dick. I mean, Todd, who really cares about whales?” Jessica asked in annoyance.

Todd did, but he let the comment slide by.

Ok, that made me chuckle. Todd then checks himself and says, yes, when she gets back, everything will be better. Elizabeth is wonderful and smart and gorgeous. Then he remembers he’s talking to her identical twin, and adds that he guesses that makes Jessica gorgeous too. It’s kind of cute. Providing you forget their history. And at some point we will have to let that go. [Wing: NEVER.]

Jessica sends him away in a way that’s friendly and gentle and starts dinner. Which is a lot harder than it looks, and she wonders how Elizabeth managed chores like this that Jessica shirked.

Another smash cut to Elizabeth’s first day of school. She’s wearing an amazing minidress that makes Jessica’s outfit look boring.

And – again I smirked – when they arrive at school, Enid dashes over and throws her arms around Jessica, thinking she’s Elizabeth. In the ensuring confusion, Elizabeth slips away without even acknowledging her best friend. [Raven: So confirmation that no one can recognise the twins without hints from their clothes.]

This chapter, by the way, is confusingly written. The ghostie gleefully headhops between any character they damned well want, and doesn’t flag it. No section break, no sentence starting with the character’s name, just “she” as the descriptor, so while everyone is mixing the twins up in-universe, so am I, as the reader. On a more skilled writer, I might think the writer was playing with us, so we could be confused too. But let’s be honest, so far the ghosties for High have ranged from fine to “how on earth did you get this job?”, so no. It’s just laziness and bad writing.

[Wing: Oh damn, I would love competent writing using that trick to build the readers’ confusion just like the characters’ confusion. That’s clever. Not what’s happening here, of course, but clever.

I did like some of the different brief POVs, though. I’d like more of that handle in a better way.]

Over with Elizabeth, she goes to the Oracle office to flirt with Mr Collins. He mistakes her for Jessica, then says she looks good – which sort of implies that nobody but Elizabeth loves her beige slacks, beige t-shirt look – and she says he looks good too. She says the hospital had plenty of cute doctors to keep her occupied. And nurses for him, in case he’s interested in rigid gender norms that were changing even back in the 80s.

[Wing: Nothing like trying to help your hot teacher hook up, wink wink nudge nudge.]

All week people mix up the twins, and Jessica starts to wonder how many hot new outfits Alice bought for Elizabeth. Elizabeth tells her that it’s long overdue, since Jessica always demanded more clothes than her. Well, now Elizabeth wants new clothes. Jessica doesn’t like the sound of this.

She’s also feeling sorry for Todd, who gets stood up by Elizabeth when Jessica and her friends go to the beach on Saturday afternoon. Jessica even bolsters him up when he’s upset, saying she’s sure Elizabeth will have time for him at the party tonight. And just in the interest of fairness, it reads like she genuinely feels for him, and isn’t just brushing him off. Although it’s also worth saying that I doubt she understands that a firm brush-off rather than placating lies is a better response in the long run.

When Jessica gets home, she wonders if she should wake Elizabeth up to start prepping for their party. Then the phone rings. It’s Elizabeth. She’s at the mall doing something vitally important. And she’ll be home super soon. So can Jessica please just start setting up the party?

This, after 200 books in twins, is very bloody gratifying.

Jessica actually has to give herself a pep-talk over this. She tells herself that she’s pulled this stunt more times than she can count. There’s nothing weird about Elizabeth doing it once. In fact, knowing how saintly Elizabeth is, she’s probably getting a wonderful surprise at the mall.

Ok, let’s be honest. I love this Jessica. I love her a bit less than my younger self did, as when you’re twelve you really miss how evil Jessica has been thus far – particularly if you’re the kid who gets picked on. You just kind of nod and go, “Yeah, I mean, she has to bully the fatty. It’s our fault for being fat. That’s just how school is.” But regardless. I love the way Jessica has quickly fallen into this weird cycle of “Yay! Elizabeth is acting just like me!” immediately followed by “Oh no! Elizabeth is acting just like me!”

As far as plot mechanics go, it’s right up there with Rick Hunter throwing off her flirting game and being just difficult enough to make her heart flutter and infuriate her. Or, to use a slightly more recent example, it’s like her relationship with Ronald Rheece in Junior High. He gives zero fucks for how pretty she is and does not register her sarcasm or biting comments, leaving her completely floundering. She has no idea how to process this kind of behaviour, and it leaves her in a weaker position, therefore making her a nicer person.

So, long story short: Jessica’s default personality default sucks, and I love it when someone flummoxes her enough to be nice.

Huh. *headtilt* Now I’ve laid it out so simply, I’ve realised I don’t like Jessica. I just disliked her less than Elizabeth all the way through Twins.

[Wing: … uh. Dove. Have you been in a coma lately? Because this is about the last thing I expect from you when it comes to Jessica, at least the Jessica from Twins and Junior High.

I enjoyed Jessica’s moments of self-awareness throughout this. She knows how annoying it is! And now she has to deal with it anyway. And she’s aware that she’s a hypocrite over it. Self-awareness, in my Sweet Valley High? Who fucking knew?

Unfortunately, this does not last, nor does it save this book.]

[Raven: I too like the fact that Jessica is now suffering under the very familiar yoke of Lizzica. It’s very pleasing that she both realises that Liz is being very “Jessica”, and that being very “Jessica” is a fucking nightmare for those caught in the crossfire of selfishness.

I also think it’s funny to note that, to the Ghosties at least, Jessica is nothing more that Elizabeth with brain damage. You break Elizabeth, you get Jessica.] [Dove: Ouch. And true.]

Jessica then does the full set-up of the party, clear the pool of twigs/leaves, do the chlorine levels, [Wing: Zero percent believe the Wakefields don’t hire someone to do this regularly.] set up the stereo, prepare the snacks, etc, and finally when she’s ready to get in the shower, Elizabeth is in here. Jessica yells at her, and Elizabeth breezes out, says the party will be a hit, and Jessica really should shower, she looks awful, leaving Jessica speechless with fury.

When she gets downstairs, the party has started, and Elizabeth is wearing and even tinier bikini than Jessica and is the centre of attention, using Jessica’s laugh and flirting techniques to keep all eyes on her. [Wing: That moment when Jessica recognizes it as her laugh made me laugh.] Jessica is… less then delighted with this development. She finds herself standing next to Todd, who is equally upset.

“Well, I guess she’s feeling better,” Todd said with an effort, looking for something positive in this strange behavior.

“If she felt any better, she’d be orbiting the moon,” muttered Jessica.

Although Jessica is actually happy to see Elizabeth happy. Elizabeth is the centre of attention throughout the entire party, while Jessica and Todd watch dolefully from the sidelines. Except for when Jessica has to top up the sodas, chips or ice, because Elizabeth ain’t doing that menial shit.

Both Todd and Cara raise it with Jessica that Elizabeth is acting like… well, Jessica. Jessica is well aware of this, but feels like she has to deny it aggressively, and even try to convince herself that Elizabeth is still very Elizabeth-like. But the truth is that Elizabeth has out-Jessica’d her at every turn.

If she’s Jessica, she agonized, then who am I?

[Wing: This could have been such an interesting plot thread! And very fitting for her age, when things can change so quickly. And a nice continuation for the new school/new friends/help I’m changing bits from Twins and Junior High. (Yes, I am still aware this was published long before the other two series.)]

By the end of the party, everyone is eying the twins and they know that something is up. Although, weirdly, nobody thinks they’ve done a twin switch and Jessica is trying to steal her sister’s attention, which is something I could believe Sweet Valley High Jessica would definitely do.

Jessica is furious and resolves to talk to Elizabeth after the party. Except Elizabeth feigns a headache and wooziness, which makes Jessica panic and send her upstairs to bed. Elizabeth skips upstairs in delight as Jessica cleans up, and Jessica only realises afterwards that she’s been had.

Another jump cut to a different time [Raven: This book is BOUNCY!], and Jessica has just got home from school and is pissed off. Elizabeth has been flirting with everyone, sacking off the school work and ignoring Todd. She wants to share her worries with someone, but doesn’t know who. Not her parents, she doesn’t want to worry them. Todd is at basketball practice. She seriously considers Steven for the moment, but realises that he’ll just say that she’s jealous – as would anyone else.

And the thing is, she’s right. They would say that. Everyone is such a toxic mess in this series, that they would assume that Jessica is jealous, rather than worrying that Elizabeth’s personality is now living in Opposite World after a severe brain injury. She doesn’t think of Enid, but I think she’d be a good call. I mean, I know they hate each other, but this could be like The Carnival Ghost, where Amy and Jessica team up to find out why Elizabeth is all obsessed with Clare Calder.

Also, Jessica still feels guilty. If she’d just gone back for Elizabeth, this would never have happened.

Elizabeth gets home and snaps at her for staring. She gently suggests that Elizabeth slow down a little, and Elizabeth takes her head off, then breezes off to get changed before her next social engagement.

Over dinner, the gormless tits that created the twins ask Elizabeth how school is going. She says fine, and Jessica nearly chokes to death on a tomato because “Everyone knew Elizabeth was in trouble at school. Everyone except her parents, that is.

Um, yeah, I know her parents are gormless tits, but has nobody told them? And why haven’t the parents gotten in touch with the school. “Hi, yeah, my brainy child just scooted along the asphalt on her brain at 60mph recently. Let me know if this affects her school work, yeah?”

This cluelessness sits equally on the shoulders of the adults here – parents and teachers. Teenagers can worry a lot over irrational things. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Elizabeth – even without a personality transplant – might struggle at school and be worried that her parents might take extreme measures if she’s not as clever as she was pre-accident, so she and her sister might team up to cover these new problems in fear of being hospitalised or sent to a “special” school.

[Raven: It’s definitely odd that Elizabeth is suddenly doing badly at school and no-one flags ANYTHING with the parents. In the UK, if you get a knock on the bonce then the hospital advises you have someone check on you every two hours in case you have concussion or something, and that feels like the bare minimum. I’m sure that if you crack your head and then, I dunno, start speaking Portuguese without explanation, then someone would raise the alarm.]

Back to the story at hand, the Wakefields drop the bombshell that the Percys, friends of theirs, are going to Europe soon and will be leaving their twins with the Wakefields to babysit. Yes, that sounds like a good plan. You’ve got a toxic ticking timebomb and a saint that’s just had a brain injury. Definitely make them babysit some tweens. A+ parenting, you fucking assholes.

Elizabeth says she’d rather have a broken leg, which shocks Alice. Jessica covers by making a joke that they can make them do all the chores, which also shocks Alice.

Ned, the gormless tit, beams around the room, and says, “That’s my girl.”

Fucking imbeciles the lot of them.

I miss Junior High Wakefields, where Alice functions, Ned is an uncool but loving dad, Steven is a car-obsessed guy who secretly cares for his family, and the twins are actual besties.

OMG. I didn’t understand this at the time. The Wakefields aren’t like, “This is happening in the future.” No. Ned is literally leaving now to pick up the kids. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

It turns out that the Wakefield twins have never met the Percy twins, so that’s totally normal. I’d love it if my parents fucked off to the USA for a couple of weeks and left me with strangers I’d never met. Jesus. Even my mother wouldn’t do that to me.

The twins dress identically and are called Jean and Joan. Elizabeth opines that the parents are morons, and while I don’t usually side with Elizabeth, especially when she’s acting like Jessica, yes. Yes, Elizabeth, you are correct. Anyone who picks the Wakefields to take care of their beloved children is definitely not clever.

They settle the tween twins in Steven’s room, and the Wakefield parents leave to play bridge.


Oh. It gets better. Jessica actually has a date tonight. The Wakefield parents didn’t bother checking with their children. They were just like, “Oh yeah, we can look after your children. Well, I say ‘we’, I mean I’m going to fob them off on my irresponsible children. Are they busy? Hrmm? Dunno. I guess we’ll just have to wing it. I’m not missing my bridge evening for the world. Your kids can fucking die for all I care. I need to play cards.”


[Raven: So much jumping through Plot Hoops here. I hate it. Also, since when have the Elder Wakefields ever played Bridge?!] [Dove: I think they do. Usually when the plot wants them out of the way but can’t be bothered to think too hard about why.]

You know what sucks about them? The series insists they are good. These are good parents. They are the kind of parents you should aspire to be. They’re not good with children. They never offer advice. They raised terrible children and continue to make awful mistakes. But they’re better than you. And by better than you, I mean: they’re white, pretty, and financially stable. AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS.


Jesus Christ. Virginia Andrews writes healthier families than this. [Wing: It took me far, far too long to catch this was an incest queen V.C. Andrews reference. Far too long. WTF, Wing.] [Dove: Oh sorry, over here she was published as Virginia, not V.C.]

Jessica gets ready for her date, and Danny Stauffer, the guy from the last book, whom she’s giving a second chance (even though he did nothing wrong??), is here to pick her up. Elizabeth realises the parents have gone out and this means she’ll be left with the kids. She assures the tween twins that she’s also got a date tonight and she will not be looking after them. She tells the kids to go with Jessica on her date, they’re going to the movies. Jessica will love that.

The book briefly pauses to fat shame.

She checked the way her black pants and red blouse showed off her slender figure. “Good thing you lost those two pounds, Jess,” she told herself. “Dan wouldn’t want to put his arms around a blimpo.”

Yes. A size six carrying two extra pounds is a “blimpo”. For fuck’s sake, book. You are terrible and I hate you. It does make me wonder how many people had an unhappy relationship with food and body image after reading these kind of things in book after book after book. [Raven: It’s the casual sprinkling of this shit that grinds my gears. Like, what does that like actually do in this book? Precisely nothing.]

Jessica is horrified when the tween twins explain that Elizabeth said they were to accompany Jessica on her date.

Jessica considered and then immediately rejected the idea of leaving them on their own. Her parents would probably ground her until she was old enough to collect Social Security checks.

Well, that’s more sense than I thought Jessica was capable of. Wow, if only she hadn’t given Robin an eating disorder. Before she found her own spine, she would have happily babysat for Jessica. Also, fuck the Wakefield parents again. The kids are their responsibility, not Jessica or Elizabeth’s.

Danny does not take it well that there are going to be tween twins on his date. He threatens to leave, and the only way Jessica can get him to agree to stay is by offering him “anything” he wants later. Cool. That’s not massively unhealthy. Jessica: run! Danny is suddenly delighted to have the kids around. They’re getting him laid later.

We cut to Jessica getting home three hours later, utterly miserable. The gormless tit parents are so proud of their “little pumpkin” for taking such good care of the girls. Jessica explodes, saying that the tween twins are not what you think. They’re monsters.

“Jessica, those girls are our guests. They are sweet, shy, and quiet. It’s up to us to make them feel wanted and comfortable in our home.” He was wearing his grim don’t-talk-back-to-me face.


Basically, the kids demanded food, drink and attention all night, and never shut up once, and Jessica has had a miserable night. And it’s all Elizabeth’s fault because she went out on her date. Jessica tries to backtrack to cover for her twin, and says it’s just a mix-up.

Alice gormlessly agrees that’s a bit thoughtless, but Elizabeth does have a right to a good time. You know who also has a right to a good time, Alice? Those kids you promised to take care of. But no. You wanted to play bridge.

I am SO not letting this go.

I think it’s safe to say this has hit one of my triggers. I hate bad parenting. Behold how I am a good parent. I would not be good at it, so I do not have children. Therefore, I am an excellent parent. Alice is shit at it. Ned is even worse.

Jessica goes upstairs, apparently happy her useless parents are proud of her, and finds Elizabeth crying because she had a nightmare. So she comforts and reassures her. And I will say, for all my bitching, I do like that Jessica is putting Elizabeth first, even at the detriment of her own happiness. This is very inline with Twins Jessica, who would drive Elizabeth up the wall, but would do anything to save her in the Super Chillers.

We cut to the next morning where Alice has made French toast, Jessica’s favourite breakfast. Only two books ago, her favourite was pancakes, but I guess that’s Jessica for you.

“How am I supposed to fit into my cheerleading outfit, or anything else, if I stuff my face?”

Alice Wakefield smiled as she turned from the stove. “Oh, I think you’ve got a few pounds to go before people start calling you Tubby. Is Elizabeth on her way down?”

Oh, so there we have it. Alice is the reason that Jessica has such a bad attitude towards heaviness. A friend’s mum was always making breezy comments like that. The ones that sound like a compliment, but are actually a warning about getting heavy. Guess how healthy her relationship is with food and body image is. [Raven: More absolutely pointless fat-shaming bullshit. So bored of that.]

Elizabeth is upstairs drying her hair, and Alice takes this moment to talk to Jessica about Elizabeth. Jessica is relieved. She’s exhausted trying to cover and work around The New Normal, and… Alice just wants to reassure Jessica that they love her, even if they have been showing Elizabeth more attention recently.

Have you, Alice? How on earth have you been showing more attention to Elizabeth and not noticed that she’s acting like Jessica? Or when you say “attention”, do you mean it in the George Fowler sense in that you gave her money to buy nice things? [Wing: Yes.]

Jessica leaves the conversation dejected. How on earth can she bring it up when her parents are so clueless. And this is the Jessica I remembered from High. I did not remember the nightmare she’s been thus far. I just remember a manipulative schemer who was clearly second best to her twin.

At school, the twins walk around together. Jessica points out Enid and asks if her sister wants to stop and talk. No, says Elizabeth. Enid is boring. She’s dropped her. Jessica asks how are things with Todd and Elizabeth points out Jessica would know better than she, since Jessica is the one who’s always talking to him.

Jessica tries to change the subject to the upcoming French test. Elizabeth says she plans to have a headache that period. And she’s got to go, she’s just seen Lila. Off she runs, her broken brain filled with hot boys, sororities and other vapid things.

Jessica stays behind muttering darkly to herself. At this point, Enid approaches. Jessica is initially dismissive, but when Enid asks if Elizabeth is mad at her over anything, Jessica feels sympathy for her. She says no, she’s sure things are fine. She and Elizabeth are going to the Dairi Burger later, why doesn’t Enid join them?

Over with Elizabeth, she’s being followed by Todd, and it feels like we’re in his point of view, which is weird because when he sees Elizabeth flirt with Ken, he “blushed attractively”. Elizabeth fishes for an invite to some game or something, and says that she and Todd are “ancient history”. When Ken’s girlfriend, Susan, joins them, Elizabeth takes her leave and bumps into Todd. She avoids having a conversation with him by saying she has to see Mrs Green, the guidance counsellor. [Raven: Still can’t get past the “attractiveness” of Ken fucking Matthews.]

The meeting is to the point: Elizabeth needs to make up all the missing work from while she was in hospital. Why they didn’t send it over to her when she was confined to home rest, I have no idea. She wouldn’t have had to do it, but she was so bored she might have resorted to doing the odd essay.

Elizabeth says of course she’ll work on it, but she’s been busy, and she has awful headaches and dizzy spells. Mrs Green says she should go back to her doctor. Elizabeth says oh no, she’s spoken to him, and he’s basically like, “No, she won’t die, as long as she doesn’t do too much homework.”

Mrs Green accepts this. “Oh, in that case, just do it whenever you want. No deadlines. But you must do it.”

Every single adult has lower intelligence than bellybutton lint.

Elizabeth then goes to have lunch with Winston and manipulates him into giving her a copy of his A+ history essay, while claiming she may relapse if she doesn’t have some help. She changes a few paragraphs and turns it in as her own.

Mr Collins speaks to her after Winston leaves, saying 1) her Eyes and Ears is late; and 2) she’s failing three courses and needs to keep her grades up to be on The Oracle. Elizabeth blags her way through it and then spitefully writes a complete lie about Ken’s girlfriend cheating on him. [Raven: Gotta say, this ups the stakes. This Elizabeth is BRUTAL.]

Over with Todd, he’s boiling with rage. He’s heartbroken that it’s over with Elizabeth. Although he’s not pissed off that she’s hasn’t officially finished with him. I would be. Don’t ghost me when we go to the same school and share classes, you cowardly cow. But no, he’s upset because, well, here we go:

OK, then! Who needed Elizabeth Wakefield? He did, Todd knew without a doubt. He knew he couldn’t blame her for hating him. How could she help but hate him after what he had done to her? He couldn’t even blame her if she turned to someone else. But that’s what bothered him most. Elizabeth hadn’t turned to someone else. She had turned to everyone else, all at the same time. It didn’t make sense.

He flubbed the Big Mesa game recently. Elizabeth had been sat next to Ken, whose girlfriend Susan couldn’t make it. Todd spent the entire game gawping at Elizabeth, to the point where the Big Mesa players were taunting him about his love life. [Wing: On the one hand, I’m sure he’s obvious enough they figured it out. On the other hand, it also feels like Big Mesa is just that interested in the life and times of Sweet Valley High, particularly the Wakefield twins.] [Dove: Well, just to be fair – and I’m rarely fair with Todd – he’s the star player, so their coach may have told them to pay attention to him. And then noticed him eyeballing Liz.] And then Sweet Valley fans start booing him. Damn, Sweet Valley, that’s harsh. Todd reacted badly. He almost punched a Big Mesa player and got thrown out of the game.

The Coach tells him to get it together in a very long scene where the same lack of information (Todd is hung up on a girl) is repeated by various people. However, the Coach says that it’s out of character for Todd to punch a Big Mesan (uh… no, that sounds about right, Coach), so something is wrong. And if Todd’s girlfriend is acting out of character, then something must be wrong with/for her too.

Todd resolves that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

[Wing: OMG, Elizabeth is Jessica and Todd is Elizabeth. WHO IS JESSICA? She was right to question herself.] [Raven: Maybe Jessica is Ellen Riteman…?]

Over with Jessica, she’s having an awful time, because if Elizabeth is Jessica, then Jessica must be Elizabeth. [Wing: See above.] And people are complaining to her about Elizabeth’s behaviour. Which I think is weird, because people rarely complain about Jessica to Elizabeth. Only the people who have been really hurt by her in the past, and Elizabeth shuts that shit down with a callous, “That’s my sister you’re trashing” attitude.

Anyway, Lila wants Jessica to stop Elizabeth from slutting around with Lila’s boyfriend behind her back. Apparently the boyfriend is just an innocent bystander in all this cheating. Excellent girl power message there. [Wing: FUCK OFF, FRANCINE PASCAL. FUCK OFF INTO THE SEA.]

Cara tells Jessica that Ken’s girlfriend is furious with Elizabeth for her mean attempts to steal Ken Matthews. Once again, Ken is a helpless victim in all this.

Elizabeth has even tried to bang George right in front of Enid. [Raven: Now THAT’D be a Super Edition.]

Jessica is fed up because not only is she now dealing with endless complaints about Elizabeth, but she’s also covering for her, and she’s been stuck with the tween twins who still exist. And she feels like she has to just keep smiling because the accident was her fault.

Over with Elizabeth, she’s having a meeting with Mr Collins, who wants to know why she lied in her gossip column. Elizabeth is just like, “Oh, well, it’s not my fault Ken fancies me.” Mr Collins does not accept this, and says she cannot print lies. So based on that, and the fact she’s failing a bunch of classes, she’s fired. But he’s still her friend, so she should drop by any time. Elizabeth storms out in a tearful huff.

[Wing: Look, I know she lied to manipulate the situation, and readers know she lied to manipulate the situation, but from the in-universe perspective, she writes a fucking gossip column! Any given thing could be a lie! What the fuck is different about this?] [Raven: Good point, but this is self-serving bullshit from Elizabeth from the start. Having Collins point that out is needed for the plot, even though it’s totally illogical that he should care.]

She comes home to a partial intervention – only the parents and Jessica are there. No Steven or her friends. They’re furious with her for turning in a paper she copied from Winston. Also, they’re furious with Jessica for not telling them.

Yes! See, this is the Jessica I remember. On the rare occasions they get angry with her, it’s always for something she had no control over. They never ground her for her relentless bullying, or toxic behaviour. It’s always shit like this. No wonder she runs away later. (That’s not a spoiler, that’s the title of the book.)

And then we cut to another time. So… what I perceive as an important plot point, finally the fam are noticing Elizabeth’s behaviour, and we just… skip it.


Excellent choice.

And what’s annoying about that is the writing isn’t bad. I feel for Jessica. I want to hoof Elizabeth into the sun. (I don’t really care about Todd and doubt I ever really will. And the Wakefield parents can just fucking die.)

One of the tween twins asks Jessica if she can drive them to their flute auditions. Jessica snaps badly. [Raven: I do feel for Jean and Joan in this book. They get smacked with the Shit Stick over and over. Poor little Flutey Cuties.] [Dove: Yeah, they really get done over. Imagine being a child and Jessica is the Wakefield you trust most to not let you die.] She’s sick of everyone laying their angst at her feet and expecting her to fix it. She has no friends to help her through this. Gosh, it’s almost as if you should actually be friends with girls, instead of using them as props that make you look more attractive to boys.

The tween twin flees in horror, then Jessica flashes back to having a conversation with Mr Collins. I have no idea why we need a flashback to an hour ago. They did the same thing with Todd. This is a very clumsy ghostie who has not really understood the techniques they have applied.

The flashback resolves nothing. Jessica went to see Mr Collins. She burst into tears in front of him – partially due to her exhaustion, but mostly because Mr Collins agrees with her that Elizabeth has changed, and she finally has an adult on her side.

*pointedly glares at Ned and Alice, who preen and wave like they think I’m pleased to see them*

[Wing: True, though it’s not like Mr Collins was helpful, even if on her side.] [Dove: No, but I think at this point, she’s just relieved to have one adult who actually sees what’s going on. Even if he’s a useless tit.]

Jessica notices that Todd is sitting on the front steps of the Wakefield Compound. I guess the tween twins can just walk to their flute auditions, because we’re sure as hell not coming back to that. Ooh, unless Elizabeth decides to go full Jessica, and offers to drive them, but instead locks them in the car in a Walmart parking lot while she goes shopping and they die in there. That would certainly be interesting.

Anyway, Jessica sits next to him and they talk about How Things Are With Elizabeth. Jessica tries to bolster him again. And again, it’s pretty cute. Caveat, obv.

“We’ve got to keep cool. I just came from talking to Mr. Collins, and—”

You went to see Mr. Collins?”

Todd goes on to say that Mr Collins is used to talking to the brainy twin and it must’ve been weird to speak to the murderous moron beside him. Jessica refrains from murdering him, [Wing: Showing real self restraint in this book.] and instead points out that everyone is picking on her nowadays, and she doesn’t need one more, because all the girls hate her because Elizabeth is hitting on their boyfriends and all the boys are treating her like a buddy, so actually fuck you – oh wait, she pulls back then because Todd is hurt that Elizabeth is snogging everyone who isn’t him.

Oh come on. I was cheering Jessica on for the first time ever in High. Screw Todd’s feelings! Jessica, unleash. For the first time ever, I’m with you.

Todd sulks that he’s the only guy on the planet that Elizabeth isn’t into. And I know that’s hurtful, but I just don’t yet care about Todd. Maybe if we have a Todd book, it’ll turn around, like Jessica has with this book. This is clearly the redemption book that I needed for Jessica.

While the two are both sad over The New Elizabeth, they are – gallingly – cut off by the roar of a motorcycle. Elizabeth is not a passenger. Elizabeth is driving it. Max Dellon (a Droid) is the passenger. He comments she’s “the fastest girl biker” he’s ever seen.

Usually Jessica liked Max. He was a good guitarist and was the perfect image of a rock musician. But at that moment she was furious.

“Girl biker? Elizabeth Wakefield, I’m going to tell Mom and Dad, and they’ll send you away to a convent for the rest of your life!” Jessica raged.

“Liz, I’ve got to talk to you,” Todd insisted, taking hold of her arm.

Elizabeth jerked her arm free and stood looking at her sister and Todd.

“You two are not being a whole lot of fun.”

[Wing: First of all, a girl biker is just a fucking biker, so fuck off, Max. Second of all, how the fuck has she not wrecked that bike? She’s barely ridden one ever and she’s not only the one balancing and steering it, she’s doing so with a fucking passenger? No fucking way.] [Raven: Gotta say, I like this Nuclear Option Elizabeth. Just getting on a bike again, No Fucks Given. Also, I feel for Todd in this story too. He’s a bystander to Elizabeth’s personality change, and he does his best to keep out of her “development” despite his misgivings.]

Elizabeth then tells Max not to go anywhere, and dashes in the house.

Jessica tells Todd he must stop Elizabeth from seeing all boys, not just Max. I’m not sure anyone has that power, and it doesn’t really solve the problem at hand, but ok.

Elizabeth comes out dressed in shorts. She and Max are going to the beach. Apparently she didn’t flay a load of skin off in the last bike accident she was in, despite wearing a dress, and has no fear that could happen again. She and Max roar off.

Jessica tells Todd he has to follow her. Largely because Elizabeth has been grounded indefinitely after the term paper thing, and they’ll be furious if they find out that she’s 1) out; and 2) out on a motorcycle. And you know what? That grounding information? Would’ve been better placed in the actual intervention, if the ghostie could be bothered to write it.

Also, Jessica thinks they’ll ground her if they find out. Which sucks. Wakefields, parent your fucking kids. Take care of the tween twins. Jessica is not the adult of the house. She’s a sixteen year old idiot, who up until this book, has never been trusted with anything more important than deciding what shade of pink is in this week. It’s not her fault your kids are awful. It’s yours.

[Wing: Honestly, this is the one place I did not believe Jessica wouldn’t tell her parents. She was horrified the entire last book over the mere thought of Elizabeth considering getting on a bike, her sister has since been in a motorcycle accident that nearly killed her, and now she’s riding one again, sometimes as the driver? Fucking hell, Jessica would tell her parents.]

Todd catches up with Elizabeth at a red light. He tries to reason with her, and when that fails, he grabs her and drags her off the bike and secures her in the passenger seat of his car. From Todd’s point of view, he just did a heroic thing. From the point of view of everyone else queued at the light, a young man in a beige Datsun just kidnapped a girl right off the back of her boyfriend’s bike. Nobody intervenes. #JustSaying

[Wing: That’s believable, even for a pretty rich white girl.] [Raven: Also, I like to think I’d intervene if that happened in front of me while I was driving to work, but would I? Like, I’d maybe grab my phone and film it, and I’d definitely call the police, but would I get out of the car and confront the “abducter”…? I’m probably a coward at my core. Let’s hope I never need to answer this question.] [Dove: Same feelings here. But in Sweet Valley, everyone is brave and honest and true, except for Bruce Patman and Rick Andover, so surely one of these brave souls should have waded in.]

As he drives, Elizabeth rages at him, saying she’s made it clear she wants nothing to do with him.

Todd drove on. “You’ve made it clear, all right. I’m just trying to keep you from breaking your neck! I’ve learned not to ride motorcycles anymore, but it doesn’t seem like you have. Why, Liz?”

“It’s fun, that’s why! Besides, Max Dellon is a safe driver,” Elizabeth taunted.

Ouch. Damn, there’s a line that cuts to the quick. [Raven: That’s a gut-shot, for sure.]

She demands he takes her home and he says he will, he just wants to talk. She doesn’t want to talk to him. Fine, then she can listen. He says that she’s changed. She’s behind on homework, she’s mean, she ignores her parents’ rules, she played that nasty trick on Ken and his girlfriend (less of a trick, Todd, and more of outright manipulation). Doesn’t she care?


Doesn’t she even care about Jessica? Jessica doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment.

(I mean… she kind of does.)

And that gets a reaction. She says that actually the two of them would make a great couple. (Hollow laughs from fandom.)

Once home, Elizabeth says she’s tired and Jessica anxiously tells her not to worry, she’ll cover with the parents and such like.

With Elizabeth out of earshot, she and Todd reconvene.

“I’ve got it,” Jessica said brightly. “We’ll talk to Mr. Collins again!”

“Do you think it’ll do any good?”

“Or maybe we could find that gorgeous hunk of a psychology professor who spoke at assembly last week.”

“Are you interested in advice or the gorgeous hunk?”

“With the way my life is going these days, if I got someone like him interested in me, Liz would just come along, smile, bat her eyelashes at him, and take him away from me.”

Todd looked at her in amazement. She jabbed him lightly in the ribs with her elbow. “That’s called laughing through the pain, Todd. I think it’s what you and I are supposed to do at a time like this.”

Todd grinned at this suddenly down-to-earth Jessica. “You know, Jess, you surprise me. Maybe you and I could become—”

“If you dare ask me to be your buddy, Todd Wilkins, I’ll slug you, I really will!”

I wish this would continue through the books. You know how after The Middle School Gets Married, Lila wants to check in with Todd to hear how his visit with his cousin went, and Ellen shares her brownie with Winston? If these guys could be friends after this and show actual progression, it would be a much better story. (Obv, CAVEAT.)

That night, the worst parents in the world decide that they still cannot find a single spare second to take care of the tween twins they promised to look after. Unfortunately said tweens need a lift to their flute auditions. Elizabeth is grounded, and the parents can’t be arsed, so thank god Jessica has been such a model kid of late. And besides, she’s basically been parenting these kids the whole time, so they probably think she’s their mom anyway.

Fucking terrible Wakefields. I hope they all die.


The twins are terrified of her – and this is even more harsh to the tweens, because everyone knows, including them, you avoid Jessica when she’s just woken up. So to be told by an adult to go into the room of a strange teen, wake her up way too early and tell her to drive you around is really intimidating. Alice is right downstairs right now. She could easily at least wake Jessica and ask her nicely if she can do it. But no. She parents in the laziest way possible.

Jessica realises that the tweens aren’t going anywhere and flounces out of bed, ready to speak to her mother and explain the tweens are bothering her, and she plans to snooze and then go out with Danny today.

A tween hands her a note from Alice saying that she just left and that Jessica has to take them.

The tweens reassure her that each audition only takes about five minutes. Jessica, with no life experience otherwise, imagines she can drive them over, leave about twenty minutes later, and then go on with her day as planned.

Nope. Hideous traffic. Impossible to park. She wants to drop them off out front and they’ll go in and do their thing. The kids nearly cry. Their mom always goes with them. I’m far enough removed from being twelve that I’m like, *headtilt* maybe they’re this nervous – I was incredibly anxious about new things, even as a child. But having read Twins, where the kids are basically free-roaming, I’m surprised they need a grownup when they have each other.

[Wing: I hated crowds back then, too, but I also didn’t want my parents around when I was auditioning for anything. Too much pressure. From me, not them, but still.]

The audition takes hours. She gets pulled over for speeding. And when she finally gets to the beach, still with the tweens in tow, Danny is snuggling a hot girl in a teeny white bikini. Jessica shoves her charges back into the car, and pulls out, seeing nothing but red mist. [Raven: I was soooo expecting the mystery girl to be Elizabeth.]

Naturally this leads to a fender-bender.

Jessica puts her face in her hands and sobs.

I will say, this was a fun chapter. Not for Jessica, but it was perfectly reasonable inconveniences (initially set up by completely unreasonable circumstances).

Even after all the shit she’s pulled, I did feel sorry for her.

And then we just move on to talking about Lila’s party. I guess there’s no fall-out from the speeding ticket and crash.

Lila never gave a party without a theme, and this time she had combined two of her old favorites. The kids were told to come in costume and without a date to a “pickup party.” Everybody came single and picked up whomever they could. A lot of girls at Sweet Valley who thought they were going steady found themselves without boyfriends after one of Lila’s pickup bashes, and a lot of girls who wanted to get rid of guys did so that same night. Jessica liked the idea because it would give her a chance at just about every neat guy there.

[Wing: What. the. fuck. … oh, wait, this is prepping the new generation of Sweet Valley swingers and their key parties, isn’t it. Carry on then, you fuckers.] [Raven: I guess it was only a matter of time before Fowler Crest became the Playboy Mansion.]

Alice’s idiocy raises its ugly head again. She states that Elizabeth can’t go because she’s grounded. Which means no dates. No, Alice, you fucking imbecile, it means that she can’t leave the house outside of necessity. Jessica cashes in on her mother’s low intelligence by pointing out that the party demands no dating, so win.

The twins dress as matadors but with different accessories. One the one hand, is that cultural appropriation? On the other hand, who gives a fuck? It’s a foul fucking practice to taunt a bull until you kill it. And also that it was a practice started as a way for poor people to make money that might get them killed for entertainment. If you’re offended, go watch Ferdinand.

At the party, Lila tells Jessica to rein in her sister. I find all this weird, because what do they think when Jessica flirts with everyone? Or does Jessica have a vague enough girl code not to flirt with her friends’ boyfriends and crushes?

[Wing: Maybe they’re used to it from Jessica? It’s expected of “girls like her” but Elizabeth doing it has broken the norm and seems even worse?]

Elizabeth is dancing up a storm. She briefly runs into Todd, and whirls away. She finds herself in Bruce Patman’s arms. He thinks she’s Jessica for quite awhile. Oh, so I guess that comment in the last book that he was sniffing around Jessica again has paid off. Blimey, accidental foreshadowing for the win.

Bruce realises that he has Elizabeth and is amazed that she’s into fun now. He’d vaguely heard rumours that she’d gone wild, but hadn’t actually noticed anything. He drags her behind a palm tree and offers her something from a bottle. Elizabeth takes several quick gulps.

Jessica grabs her and tries to remind her that she, Elizabeth, hates Bruce, but Elizabeth has no recollection of that. She thinks he’s “wonderful” and tells Jessica to fuck off.

Although Jessica does her best to keep an eye on Elizabeth – to the point where she’s having no fun at all at the party – she loses them when Bruce invites Elizabeth to his dad’s club on the beach. Lila relays this information, and Jessica acts immediately. She tells Todd and the pair jump in a car to hunt down Elizabeth.

Over with Elizabeth, that alcohol’s hit her and she’s slurring her words. Now I thought she drank a spirit earlier, like vodka or whiskey or whatever men have in silver bottles. But apparently it was wine, because Elizabeth wants wine in a way that implies that she enjoyed it earlier. Wine in a hip flask? *shakes head* I don’t even drink and I know that’s wrong. [Wing: Pretentious and stupid as fuck, and therefore I’d believe it of Bruce. Though I do think he’d have some sort of top shelf liquor instead.] [Raven: Wine in a hip flask… He’d have whiskey for sure.]

“Have some wine, my sweet Liz.” He reached behind his seat and pulled out an already opened bottle, as well as a paper cup. Filling the cup, he handed it to her, then took a swig from the bottle.

What kind of freak has an open bottle of wine and paper cups in the back of their car? Like, it’s not even creepy. It’s just weird.

[Wing: Eh, some places it’s legal to drive with open containers (so long as the driver doesn’t have it), and I’ve lived those places and been in those cars, so this didn’t surprise me as much as it did you.] [Dove: It’s more the combo of wine and paper cups behind the passenger seat that he can just bust out as soon as a girl who might say no sits in his car. I don’t really care about the legality. I just think the paper cups are fucking weird.]

At this point, the car doors open and Elizabeth and Bruce are dragged bodily from the car. Todd has to carry Elizabeth to his car, because she’s so drunk. Drunk. Off maybe four sips of wine? Even if she drank it fast how on earth did she get falling-down-slurring-words drunk off four sips of wine?

Elizabeth comments that Todd is a party pooper, then passes out.


What the fuck was the wine made of? Paint thinner?

[Wing: I definitely thought she’d been drinking before she ended up with Bruce.] [Raven: I got a rohypnol vibe from the hip flask, so…]

Over with Jessica, presumably the next morning, the gormless tits who created her have finally noticed she got a speeding ticket. Apparently they just ignored the damage to the car for a few days? They are furious with her and want to know why she didn’t tell them.

Well, Alice and Ned, here’s why: 1) it wasn’t her responsibility to ferry around children that she is not responsible for, it was yours; 2) for all you know, she woke up sick, and drove badly because of it; 3) where the fuck were you all fucking day? When was she supposed to tell you?

Jessica does not go down this route. She lies and says she didn’t want to heap worries on to them when they’re so stressed already. They’re not stressed. They’re fucking oblivious. Elizabeth could murder everyone she’s ever met and they’d be none the wiser.

“Oh, all right! I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t see my side of it. I knew you would ground me. Why don’t you pass judgment and sentence me without going through the motions of a hearing?” Jessica said, somewhere between tears and anger.

You tell ‘em, kiddo.

(Yeah, I’m back on Team Jessica. Shut up.)

At this point the tween twins come in and say that there’s no way that Jessica was speeding. Her dad knows someone who clocked an oak tree going 40mph – which is a great anecdote. I don’t care if it’s impossible. You go tween twin. The other chimes in that she feels carsick at high speeds and she felt great that day. They add that the crash was the other guy’s fault. Jessica was being careful and he wasn’t looking where he was going.

You go, tween twins.

The parents relent but say a punishment is coming. What? Fuck off. You either believe the littles or you don’t. And all this is your fault. You don’t just fuck off into the world and then let a tween wake up your kid and inform them that, regardless of their plans, the day belongs to the tween now. [Raven: I didn’t really catch just how shitty the parents were in this book. What a pair of bellends.] [Dove: Don’t worry, I’m primed for that shit.]

Jessica, after being prompted, thanks the tween twins, and they say they’re sorry for being so much trouble, but they’ve had a fantastic time, and they can’t wait to tell all their friends about it.

… wait. Does that mean these kids haven’t been going to school the whole time they’ve been staying here? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

As the tween twins wander off, Jessica realises that she misses the closeness she used to have with Elizabeth. I can only imagine she’s referring to Twins or Junior High, since they’ve not been close a single second in High.

Over with Elizabeth, she bumps into Bill Chase, the surfer from Power Play. He’s a good friend of Todd’s, and then we get a flashback to a conversation he had with Todd about how Todd just wants her to be happy. If she finds someone special, great, but the acting mean and shallow and flitting from person to person sucks. Why does this need to be a flashback? Well, the ghostie just learned about them and wants to use them no matter how inappropriate.

Short version: Bill, despite being “close friends” with Todd asked Todd if he can date Elizabeth. Jesus, everyone sucks here. [Raven: I mean, Todd’s fine? I’d expect some sort of toxic ownership shit, but he doesn’t do that. He just feels a bit sad, and says Liz can do what she wants.] [Dove: In the “everybody” I meant all of Todd’s friends who are trying to grab a bit of Liz now she’s all broken and traumatised. As you say, Todd is very non-toxic and states he doesn’t have the right to say who Liz can or can’t date.]

He asks Elizabeth for a date on Saturday night and she says yes on the condition that he’ll take her surfing, way out into the ocean. And even though he says that’s dangerous for a newbie, he bows down to her flattery that she’ll be safe with him and actually believes it.

From this, I can only assume that Bill has been brained by a surfboard too many times, because I’m pretty sure anyone with experience would be like, “No, you tit. You can’t surf, so no, you can’t go way out into the big waves. You can make a fool of yourself where it’s safe with all the other newbies. You hurt your brain last month, and I’m not going to let you hurt it again.”

Only nicer, because he wants to bone her.

Then later that day, she calls Bruce and makes a date with him on Saturday night. Only he has to pick her up around the corner, because her parents might freak out.

On Saturday night, Bill arrives at the Wakefield Compound, and Elizabeth is not there. Jessica thinks she’s sleeping over at Enid’s, so she calls her, only to find out the truth. She’s wondering how to break the news to Bill when a brilliant idea hits her. Why should Elizabeth have all the fun?

And you know what? Why fucking not? You dress up as your sister and date a cute boy. I mean, it’s fraud and I’d ordinarily be against this kind of deception, but Bill is a fucking idiot, so why not?

Over with Elizabeth, she’s at Bruce Patman’s beach house. Can someone please explain to me why the Patmans have a beach house when they live on the coast? Keep the explanation simple. After this book, I cannot handle complex things. [Wing: Too rich for their own good. For as much as they look down on the Fowlers for being new money (…I do have that right, don’t I?), they flash it around the same way.] [Raven: Maybe the Patman Empire gained it through nefarious business dealings, and the ex owners are dead in a ditch somewhere.]

There is a lot of snogging. Some gross (“probing kisses”) and some just cringe (he calls her “Sweet Liz”). From Bruce’s point of view, he can’t wait to brag about his conquest over the girl who always snubbed him. He takes her to the master bedroom and tells her to wait there, he’s going to fetch the wine. Because, I guess, enthusiastic consent is not as hot as a drunk, stumbling, word-slurring mess if you’re Bruce. [Wing: Obviously.]

Over with Jessica, she’s having a good time and getting even. Apparently she had a thing for Bill, but he never reciprocated. She even invited him to a Sadie Hawkins dance, but he turned her down.

Bill is having a lovely time, thinking Elizabeth fancies him as much as he fancies her.

And Todd. Todd is there. He came to the beach to clear his head, and seeing his friend and ex (he thinks she’s Elizabeth, and to be fair, that conclusion makes sense, since Bill asked him if he could date her), makes him super sad.

Oh honey, just write a poem about that. Do you still do poems? Tenses are hard in this franchise. Will you have done poems at any point in this series?

“Oh, Liz, I can’t keep it in any longer. I love you. I think I’ve always loved you!” Bill declared.

Britney Spears looks exaggerately confused

Someone laughing. A lot.

Nathan Fillion looks utterly baffled and speechless by the stupidity on display here
there are no words for the level of stupid here

Jessica says, no, he loves Jessica. He says he doesn’t even like her. Then there is implied snogging on the beach. Which is where this turns from lolzy Sweet Valley fun to creepy SA by fraud.

Back with Elizabeth, she’s suddenly frightened as she waits for Bruce alone. This, by the way, is the first Elizabeth point of view we’ve had all book, so we have no idea whether her behaviour is wacky funny plot amnesia. or just acting out and trying to show no fear after a near-death experience.

Also, I have no idea if she’s wasted again on a few off-page sips of wine, or if the ghostie has deliberately decided to infantilise her by making her thoughts very 1+1=2.

This was what she wanted to do, wasn’t it? Bruce, she thought, that was it. She knew she needed Bruce to make her feel good again, but he was gone.

She decides to get up and do her hair, and for some reason Bruce has left her in pitch darkness. To be honest, I would have thought Bruce was a lights-on dude, myself. I think it’s one of the Hellraiser movies that has an absolute arse of a man just lying there smoking a cigarette and looking bored while a hot girl does all the work on top of him. That, I should imagine, is Bruce’s style.

[Wing: Plus lights help the video cameras he at some point definitely hides around his room.]

Elizabeth trips over and hits her head, and suddenly she has no idea where she is or why she’s there. She initially thinks she’s at home, or maybe the hospital, but realises that’s not right. [Raven: FACTORY RESET!

Seriously though, what a terrible way to get back to the status quo. This isn’t Top Gear, and Elizabeth isn’t a carburettor that can be fixed with a whack from a spanner. Although I can’t really see a way in which they could successfully come down from such a ridiculous height, so I guess the issue is more fundamental that botching the damn landing.]

Bruce comes back carrying wine and two glasses. He thinks Elizabeth’s very obvious terror is some kind of game and tells her that wine will help.

“I don’t know what happened, but I want to go home,” she said.

He ignores her several times as she asks what’s going on and why’s she here when she doesn’t like him. He calls her a tease and moves “menacingly” towards her.

The text takes pains to show us that Bruce realises that the old Elizabeth is back, and that she doesn’t want any part of this.

Bruce Patman makes the active choice to rape Elizabeth Wakefield.

He does not have that specific thought, but that is exactly what it means when someone says no, and you “go for it” anyway.

He grabs her and forces a kiss on her. He threatens her, saying he’s got strong wrists – from tennis, not furious wanking, he’s quick to add – and tells her that if she doesn’t give him what she promised, he’s going to tell everyone about this.

He forces another kiss, while holding her so she can’t move, and she bites him. He’s so shocked he let’s go of her and holds both hands to his mouth.

“I never really knew what a coward you were until now,” she cried. “Is that what all your big love stories are about, Patman? Taking advantage of girls who either don’t know what they’re doing or are too drunk to care? I don’t know anybody lower than you are at this minute. And, listen, you want to tell this story all over? Go ahead! Because I’ve got one to tell, too, and you won’t look very good in it. You’re a coward, Bruce Patman!”

She’s right. If Bruce Patman takes when people say no, then he is a rapist.

Elizabeth runs out of the house and on to the beach, and thankfully she comes out right where Todd is sulking. They have a tearful reunion. While Elizabeth explains that she was scared and “he” wasn’t going to let her go, Todd takes this to mean Bill, and then all of a sudden they’re laughing because they realise that Jessica is out with Bill as Elizabeth. Because we’re all here for mood whiplash.

[Wing: Well fuck, it was Bruce? That’s nothing new, everyone knows it, no need to do anything about the fucking rapist who has now abused both Wakefield twins.

Thanks, Todd.]

Elizabeth remembers that Jessica swore vengeance when Bill turned her down, but Todd gives zero fucks because the dude broke bro code by attempting to date his ex. And I’m kind of with him on that.

(Though Bill has a right to know who he’s dating.)

[Wing: Then Todd should have told him he didn’t want him dating Elizabeth. Friends date friends’ exes all the time, especially in schools that feel as small as SVH does.]

Over with Jessica, she demands Bill say he loves her again.

“No, never. I couldn’t possibly love anyone but you.”

“What’s so special about me, Bill?”

“Your smile, your warmth, the sound of your voice, the touch of your lips, the feel of you in my arms. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.”

Dude, that just means she’s nice to hug and snog. That’s not love, that’s literally lust. You didn’t mention a thing about it that wasn’t physical.

Jessica reveals who she is, which is the lead-in to the next book. [Raven: Weird way to foreshadow, but okay, I guess.]

Final Thoughts:

Well, I think I’ve made it clear that I needed a Jessica redemption book before I could get into this series and give it the fair shot that I gave even the most dubious of the Twins series.

I got it. I rooted for Jessica basically from chapter three onwards. The first chapter was insufferable, going on about how hot she was, but after that it was a fun ride, and it was deeply satisfying to see Jessica have all of her shirking and manipulations turned on her. But it was also a bit sadder, because Elizabeth has no spine and really could have set boundaries at any time. This Jessica was working on guilt, so every time she wanted to set a boundary, she remembered it was all her fault, and just kept on trucking.

The Wakefield parents are absolutely awful. We’re talking Steven on a fucking lawnmower awful, and they’re never coming back from it.

Todd had very little to do, so I still don’t care much for him.

But overall, I cared about this book, and now I can get past the deep and powerful loathing I’ve had for Jessica since Double Love. I still think it was an awful choice to make her so utterly monstrous, but at least she’s been knocked down and I can sort of make an assessment on how I feel about her on a book-by-book basis.

[Wing: I don’t see this as a redemption book for Jessica, but I did like her in it. Mostly. She’s a better balance of being kind of terrible, actively trying to be a good sister and friend to Elizabeth, and getting hit with all that self-awareness of what a shit she is now that she has to go through it from the Elizabeth side.

It’s like this book is a microcosm of the ragey things from the other books: Fat shaming, attempted rape, sexual assault, horrific parenting, sketchy teacher-student relationships, bang bang bang, one right after another.

I am mostly left feeling flat about it. We’ll see if that changes when we record the podcast.]

[Raven: I liked this book. Elizabeth as Lizzica was fun, and it was cool seeing Jessica on the receiving end of such Jessica-style shenanigans.

But this recap has made me realise that yes, the Elder Wakefields were fucking monstrous throughout. I’m glad I didn’t notice when reading it, because if would have tarnished my enjoyment for sure.

I’m definitely enjoying the raising of the stakes that the series is bringing to the table, and I’d happy to see that Jessica has had a redemption of sorts here… although how much that sticks remains to be seen.

So yeah. Aside from the squicky doctor, and the rapiness, and the fucking terrible parenting, and the bonk-on-the-noggin ending, it’s a thumbs up from me!

Oh, and the throwaway fat-shaming. That too.]