Title: Spring Break
Tagline: Bon voyage…
Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are nearly bursting with excitement. Spring break has arrived, and the twins are off to the glamorous South of France! It’s the vacation of a lifetime: Elizabeth can’t wait to practice her French, but Jessica’s dying to meet those romantic French boys.
The Riviera turns out to be even more beautiful and wondrous than the twins had imagined, with its beach clubs, magnificent mansions, and the glittering Mediterranean Sea. But while the Frenchwoman with whom Jessica and Elizabeth are staying is a welcome hostess, her handsome son, René, is arrogant and rude. Can the twins figure out why René seems to despise them, or will he spoil their dream vacation?
Share the magic of France with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Take off for Spring Break!
White background, red lettering for Francine Pascal (in thin font) at the top and Sweet Valley High arched over the porthole image (in a sort of varsity font, squared and outlined). Red bar angled left to right across the bottom of the porthole with Super Edition in yet another font style. Spring Break in blue below that. Pink (or maybe red) thin line around the entire cover.
The porthole image has the Wakefield twins with fake as hell expressions. The one on the left is Elizabeth, I think, has her blonde hair partially pulled back, and wears some sort of weird green blouse with loose long sleeves. She reads a France travel brochure and has a strange expression that is a mix of forced shock and excitement. Her expression, especially around the mouth, looks a little like a surprisingly realistic blow-up doll. The twin on the right, who must be Jessica if I’m otherwise correct, has her blonde hair loose, and wears a pink(ish) button-down shirt under a … tan … blazer? Good god, the quality of the cover image I’m looking at (not the one which will be included with this recap, but I don’t have that one handy) is horrible. She gazes up into the air and her expression of joy and excitement is only slightly less forced but significantly less creepy than Liz’s.
The background has .. trees. Sky. Nothing about it says France.
We’ve already seen the twins take a dramatic trip to France! The trip of their lives, that summary said!
I am 100% certain this will be much, much worse than that book, and we all pretty much hated that book.
Really looking forward to this one. Truly. Obviously.
Note: I’ve written this across an entire week in 5-10 minute chunks because it’s been a long, busy, rough week. If it’s particularly disjointed, that’s why.
[Dove: I have no interest in this. I’m afraid Twins set the bar. I demand a plot in a Super Edition. Preferably with spies, theme parks, fabulous trips to Hawaii with locals pranking the tourists, a haunted campsite that culminates in a fire, a time loop… basically I want something to happen. I’m utterly bored of Boy Drama As Plot. This is just Boy Drama As Plot In A Different Location.]
[Raven: I like France, and the French, and French things. I suspect I will not like this book. Also, while I know that the time they went to France and got kidnapped by a serial killer hasn’t happened to them (in the past) yet, the fact that they patently won’t reference it is sure to piss me off a great deal. Allons y!]
We open with Liz and Jess already on the plane. Liz frantically waves goodbye to Alice, Ned, and Steven, who watch from a window back in the airport. Ah, for the days when you could accompany people all the way to the gate.
Jess mocks her because they obviously can’t even see her. It’s more for Liz than them. She wants just one more good-bye.
Jess mocks that, too, and is getting annoyed with her sister. They’re not going away forever, it’s only spring break, and she’s been away for longer periods of time.
This is a much bigger deal, Liz argues! California will be 6k miles away by the next morning! It’s a huge deal that has never, ever happened before. They’ve never been a part of a school-sponsored exchange program. Nope.
(At least this one is set in Cannes and the last one in Paris. That’s a bit of a change, at least.)
Neither Jess nor Liz can understand what people are saying near them when they speak in French. Their teacher, Ms Dalton, warned them it would take awhile for them to get used to hearing real French but they’ll catch on.
There is no way Jess should catch on. Even she admits she should have studied a little harder, which means she’s probably never cracked a goddamn book.
They will be in France for 10 days and they really are meant to practice their French. Jess is relieved most people there speak English or she’d be in big trouble. [Dove: I am hoping this is 50k words on the twins suffering from Paris Syndrome, where France basically goes, “Oh, so you’re identical size six beauties with eyes the exact shade of the Pacific Ocean? I give zero fucks. I have French things to do.” and the twins tailspin because the universe is not bending to their whims, much less translating to English.]
Alike but different!
Liz: Generous, open, honest, and loyal, sees the best in people
Jess: Dazzling, popular, loads of fun, very, very devious, will destroy people to get what she wants
This was far more fun in Twins, and it was pretty boring there. Fingers crossed Raven will have something good. [Raven: “Elizabeth is warm, strong and dependable, like French Bread. Jessica is forward, invasive, and all about tonguing, like French Kissing.”] [Wing: Perfect.]
Jess is not flying to France to practice the language but the kissing.
Liz takes this as Jess calling her a boring wimp. Touchy much?
They take a moment to make fun of a fat man sitting next to Jessica, because of course they did.
They have a two leg flight. First is about six and a half hours to NYC. Second is about seven hours to Cannes. Flying through JFK airport. Forty-five minute layover there, they can get off the plane for thirty minutes.
That feels like a real short time to reach the gate, allow through-passengers to disembark, and load all the through-passengers who disembarked and the new passengers boarding at JFK, but okay, whatever, rolling with it.
Announcement says it’s now time to fasten seatbelts, put seats in an upright position, and extinguish all smoking materials.
…holy shit, that’s right, there was a time you could smoke on a plane. Even when I was smoking, I would have hated that. [Dove: Apparent the air was cleaner then though. Because of the smoking, it had to be circulated/cleaned to a high standard. Now? Basically you’re breathing barely recycled farts.] [Raven: Yep. Six-time-filtered on smoking flights, only twice-filtered nowadays. Or so I read. Or maybe made up.]
Jess is a nervous flier, takeoff is smooth, and we’re off to France! The trip of a lifetime! For a second time!
The Glizes are their host family. Avery Glize, mother, 17-year-old son Rene, and sister Ferney, who is on her way to California for the exchange.
No Mr. Glize, and the Wakefields are incredibly nosey about why. At least so far they haven’t actually asked, but odds of Jess saying something awkward about it are high. Everyone knows a good family needs a mother and a father and no other combinations are valid.
Liz thinks Rene is cute, and Jess immediately starts teasing her about it. Realistic bit of sibling interaction, to be honest. She continues to encourage Liz to start dating again. Todd moved to Vermont ages and ages ago.
Steven plans to take Ferney around and introduce her to everyone. Take her to the Beach Disco, maybe. Last time Lila came back from France, she said all the teens there loved American music.
Liz is surprised this is Lila’s second trip to France. (Technically it’s her third.) Why? Why are you surprised about this? All we ever hear is that Lila is rich and her father spoils her to make her happy because he’s never around. I’m shocked this is only her third visit. [Raven: Yeah, I’m pretty Lila has been to Paris every month since she was six days old.]
But more important, THIS IS YOUR SECOND TRIP TO FRANCE.
I know SVH was written long before SVT, but good god, couldn’t SVT try to keep some sort of continuity so that anyone who read it first wouldn’t come and rage about all the inconsistencies between the series. There were so many other countries they could have gone to in Twins!
They fight over how much time Liz spends with Enid, who isn’t even on the damn trip but staying home to earn money. The horror. [Dove: It’s so weird how this fight shows up more often in the series than Enid does. It’s like Francine put a note on every book, “Don’t forget to have Jessica act like an insecure nightmare and throw a tantrum because her sister has one friend! PS: Not sure if we need Enid in this book. She’s a bit boring. Maybe leave her out? PPS:
I am Jessica is SO COOL!” Francine really hates “other girls”, doesn’t she? She’s ~nOt liKe OtHeR GirrLZ~]
Jess’s best friend, Cara, is also staying back in Sweet Valley, but she and Steven are glad to have time together. Plus, Jess isn’t really happy with her anymore. Cara’s changed, man. Changed!
Matured and spending time with Steven, Liz points out, after Jess spent a lot of time trying to get them together in the first place.
Jess and Liz have to race back to the plane in JFK because Jess spent too much time in the duty-free shop. AND BECAUSE THIRTY MINUTES ISN’T ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE IT WORTHWHILE TO DO ANYTHING BUT STRETCH YOUR LEGS AND USE THE RESTROOM CLOSEST TO THE GATE, IF THAT.
Liz struggles to do her daily diary writing. Though usually her thoughts flow easily, she’s excited enough she’s stuck without words.
They make fun of their terrible plane food, watch a movie together, and sleep for a good chunk of the flight.
Liz is utterly thrilled! Jess spends more time doing her makeup than anything else! How fun for everyone!
Jess drags Liz off the plane as fast as possible, ignoring, you know, the whole actual process. Fucking hell, I wouldn’t wish sharing a plane with Jess and Liz on anyone.
The airport feels foreign, Liz thinks, especially after she sees a little boy dressed in blue, knee-length shorts, crisp white shirt, suspenders, ankle socks, and navy oxfords. He looks exactly like the pictures in their French textbook.
…now, I’ve never been to France (I studied Spanish and was lucky enough to take a trip to Spain during high school), but this seems reaaaaaaaaaally stereotypical in a way that isn’t the standard French stereotype I’ve seen. [Dove: I’ve been to France multiple times, mostly in the 90s, so around the time these muppets are visiting. And nope. There were no cliche American French Book illustrations coming to life when I visited. Raven? Also, when I was learning German, in an affluent school, our German books were super dated (there’s no point in updating books just so the pictures are recent if the text is the same), so in the 90s, they were filled with 70s illustrations – massive flares on everyone. So I’m assuming this isn’t just an 80s cliche that’s come to life, but a 60s cliche instead. But sure, I’m certain there’s a little boy dressed identically to the picture in Liz’s book.] [Raven: In the mid-to-late Eighties, when I studied French, we used the Tricolore series of course books. I’ve tried googling them, but they’ve all been modernised. I’m pretty sure the illustrations were relatively normal an modern, no stripey-shirted onion salesmen or gruff men cupping gitanes to be seen.]
Jess, meanwhile, immediately clocks a gorgeous boy about their age.
Both of them are true to form, I see.
Elizabeth felt a smile stretching across her face. “Bonjour,” she returned, saying her first word of French in that land. She handed him her passport, and Jessica did the same.
“ah, Americames,” the man observed. “Votre premier voyage ici?” He spoke slowly and clearly, making it easy for Elizabeth to understand.
“Oui, monsieur.” She nodded.
“What did he say?” Jessica hissed.
“He wanted to know if this is our first trip here,” Elizabeth explained. “I said yes, sir.”
LIES YOU LIVE IN A HOUSE OF LIES.
Avery and Rene wait for them in the waiting area of the terminal. Avery is thrilled to meet them, even greets them with kisses on both cheeks “European style.” Rene is not so pleased. Stiff and icy, even.
Avery is also awed by how identical identical twins look.
… are there no twins in France? Has she never seen a picture of any? A television show? A movie? Anything? [Dove: Apparently there were identical twin TV presenters who were big in the 70s and 80s in France. I guess Avery has never heard of these household names? Or maybe it’s the fact these two are Califonian beauties, which is so much more impressive than being regular identical twins?] [Raven: That wiki is an interesting read. Both died of Covid, six days apart, aged 72, unvaccinated.]
Liz coos over tiny European cars, the architecture, the announcer on the radio, and on and on.
Jess is delighted by the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t fault her with that. It’s gorgeous.
Rene attended some of the movie screenings at the Cannes film festival because of a classmate. Rene doesn’t let Liz stumble through her French. Mocks American phrasing and how only Americans demand the world speak their one language, not even learn enough to say please or thank you in the local language.
He’s not wrong, though not just Americans.
Liz is embarrassed and wants to defend herself. She learned French specifically to practice and improve, but Rene immediately shut down her attempt and insulted her.
Jess, of course, is furious. Time to find a French burial ground! [Dove: Behold: Le cimetière de Mercandy.] [Raven: … Un Mr Nydick nu!]
Avery lectures Rene in French. Liz manages to catch some of it. Rene’s strong English is only because of his father. Ferney doesn’t speak much English. [Wing: Note from the future. Their father left when they were very, very young. Ferney remains in contact with him, while Rene refuses. WHY IS RENE’S EXCELLENT ENGLISH FROM HIS FATHER? WHY DOES FERNEY SPEAK LITTLE ENGLISH? If it was he studied harder or whatever, sure, but his good English comes from his father! The father he doesn’t talk to! The father Ferney does tlk to! This makes no sense, ghostie.] Rene continues to be furious, shouts about his father.
Jetlag hits both twins hard, and they sleep through the entire afternoon. When they wake, they enjoy the beautiful sea view from their balcony as the day fades into twilight.
Jess is still annoyed at Rene, Liz makes excuses for his rudeness and wants to change his mind about Americans. Very true to form for both of them.
Jess takes herself exploring. Finds a telephone that has an extra earpiece on it so a third party can listen to the conversation. Of course, she wants one immediately. You and your sister would find that useful, gossip girls.
Unsurprisingly, Jess noses through Rene’s room when she finds it. There are pictures on his night table, including him with some cute friends, him playing tennis, and a younger him on a beach with Avery and his infant sister.
The composition of that picture is off balance, though. After a bit of an examination, Jess realises someone tore away a strip from the edge. Tore away a person. Rene purposely removed his father from the picture.
And then she finds one last picture and screams for Liz.
It’s a more recent photo of the family, and Avery? She looks exactly like Tricia Martin.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
DO NOT WANT MORE FOCUS ON TRICIA DYING FROM CANCER.
This segue was decent, though. [Raven: Was it, though? I mean, I guess this first time it was novel, but by the end of the book I was screaming at the damn page.] [Wing: I enjoyed them every time, but mostly because I enjoyed seeing how far ghostie could stretch it. I may be using a very broad definition of decent.] As soon as Liz says that, Steven picks up as the narrator, and he, too, is shocked by how much Ferney resembles Tricia. How much she’s like Tricia, too. She loves tennis, sails, rides horses, and her favorite subject is science.
He doesn’t ache over Tricia as often anymore, in part because of Cara, but there are still times when the hurt hits him. Ferney makes him feel like he has a part of Tricia with him again, and it makes him feel comfortable with her. Even the silence between them (because she speaks little English and he speaks basically no French) is comfortable, because it allows Steven to momentarily imagine Tricia has returned. He deserves a sweet fantasy sometimes, right?
And he’s at least a little attracted to her for the same reasons he was physically attracted to Tricia.
He does feel some guilt when he thinks about Cara, but convinces himself that she would understand. She knows a part of him will always belong to Tricia, and she’s not a substitute. She wouldn’t be too hurt that he’s a bit taken by Ferney’s resemblance to Tricia.
Parental Wakefields are real worried about Steven ever since he mentioned how much Ferney looks like Tricia. Wow, they’re actually paying enough attention to notice this. I’m shocked.
[Dove: But this is the sum total of their intervention. Basically, Alice says, “Uh, do you want to maybe stop staring at the girl who looks like your dead ex?” and when Steven ignores her, she moans to Ned that she’s done all she can to bring him back and he won’t talk to her, and then Ned agrees that the situation is absolutely beyond their control. This is abolutely shitty parenting and deserves no praise at all.
GET HIM A THERAPIST. That way you can do nothing, except occasionally pay, and he might have a chance at having some kind of closure and healthy way to process his grief. There are more things you can do for your grieving child than shrug helplessly, you useless fucking morons.]
Steven refuses to take a call from Cara so that he can be a good host for Ferney, show her all the fun things to do around Sweet Valley.
He’s certain Ferney’s brother is doing the same for his sisters.
Unsurprisingly, he is not. Jess in particular is annoyed that Rene isn’t polite enough to show them around. Avery has to work and Jess feels trapped in a gilded cage, stuck in the beautiful house without any help getting around or finding things in Cannes.
[Dove: Once again, the useless teachers at this hopeless school. I went on a German exchange trip. First of all, they paired us all up in the host houses, not just those of us who were twins. Second of all, they arranged daily trips and activities for us, so we were only the responsibility of the hosts from dinner overnight to breakfast. Also, they realised that having a bunch of teenagers running rampant in a foreign country where we barely spoke the language would be bad, so they wanted to keep us on a leash. And finally, these trips were educational, so we’d come away from the trip with more than unwanted pregnancies and hickeys.]
Because she has no spine, Liz continues to defend Rene, who left shortly after his mother did. Because she’s never happy, Jess continues to grumble.
Ghostie’s doing at least this one part of their characterizations right.
They go for a run to see the neighborhood. A short run. Liz teases Jess about only managing a dozen blocks despite all her sportiness. She’s not tired, she’s just being whiny.
True, but I don’t really blame her. Liz may love running, but Jess finds it boring as hell and doesn’t want to do it. I also find running boring as hell and would rather do almost any other kind of exercise. [Dove: Except, of course, Jessica spent Jr High on the track team and actually loves running. And Liz never does any exercise ever. She maintains her perfect size six figure with moral superiority alone. Elizabeth has never run in her life. In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen Liz exercise is when she was doing ballet, which she dropped really quickly, and when they were on the basketball team, which they both dropped the moment the book ended.] [Raven: Don’t forget that Elizabeth did teach Ken how to play basketball, using a tennis ball. Then again, Ken was so short I’m surprised she didn’t use a fucking acorn.] [Wing: You know how we have those paired tags the twins CAN sing and the twins CAN’T sing? We may need to do one about them being sporty.]
Jess marvels that if they weren’t identical, she would think one of them was switched at birth.
Ghostie. Don’t make me take back my (small) compliment earlier. (Google thinks I mean complement. I DO NOT. If you’re going to suggest changes, at least make sure they’re correct, my dude.)
She gets distracted by this thought and the beautiful views and houses. Meets a rich boy about her own age driving a silver Porsche (Raven: Un-Bruce-Un). He comes across as shy, she decides to be extra dazzling to get him to open up, it’s a little sweet, actu–oh, wait, she goes on to think that the sweet, quiet types were easy to wrap around her finger.
Not so sweet, a lot more manipulative.
Jess convinces him to offer to show her around, take her to the special beach club his family is a part of. Jess is certain it means the most exclusive beach club, very rich and fancy. After all, he has two Porsche in the garage and lives at this giant, beautiful house.
Liz is shocked that Jess has already met someone. She really shouldn’t be. Jess moves fast, and also she’s not looking for only one guy. Obviously she’ll use this guy to help her find other guys she likes more.
When Liz figures this out (because Jess tells her, not because she worked anything out for herself), she’s annoyed with Jess that Jess is shallow enough to only care about his money and also to not want to be with him because he’s not hot enough.
You’re there for less than two weeks! Exactly what do you want her to do? Marry the guy?
Jess turns the attack on her, because Liz also only dates hot guys. She’s just as shallow as her sister. [Dove: Sure. After all, we’ve seen so much characterisation for Todd. I know for certain that she loves him because… *thinks hard for several long minutes* well, remember when she bought him a watch strap for his birthday? She wears a watch too. That’s why they’re in love. It’s not shallow. They have heaps in common! Watches. Yeah.]
This, of course, ends Liz’s annoyance, because she can’t stay annoyed at her sister, no matter how right she is.
Despite Jess’s encouragement, Liz stays around the house that morning making a list of all the places she wants to visit, including the beach. No judgment here. Even though Sweet Valley is a coastal city, every beach is different, every ocean, every sea.
Judgment that she didn’t just go to the beach that day, though. She went for a jog! She could have taken herself to the beach, even if she wasn’t certain how to find any of the other places she wanted to visit.
Avery and Rene return home at the same time, fighting about his rudeness again. He snaps that she knows how he feels about Americans and invited the twins anyway. He doesn’t understand what she thought she would prove. Even if people are the same no matter where they come from, good and bad qualities, some people are more selfish, some people only care about themselves.
Avery returns that argument onto him and his selfishness in leaving their guests alone.
Just like he left them, Rene argues.
This is getting real heavy handed.
The final argument Avery makes is that he wouldn’t want Ferney to receive the same treatment from the other Wakefields that he’s been giving the twins.
[Dove: Just putting this out there. If you know your kid hates a certain subset of humanity, and then you sign up for a situation where that subset will be living in your house and your kid will be responsible for entertaining them, you don’t get the moral high ground. What you’ve done is take that subset of humanity, and made them a teachable moment for your child. And you’ve ruined their vacation. You’re kind of an asshole too, Avery. Your son in an incel wastrel, but you’ve inflicted him on two (conceivably) innocent teens who are on holiday. Thank god, in your case, it’s two of the worst people in fiction, and they deserve all the misery they encounter.]
[Raven: Just for once, I’d like to see the people whom the Twins are visiting for their trip to be well-balanced and normal. Let’s have the drama come from somewhere other than the host fucking family next time.]
Another decent segue, actually, because Liz wonders how her family is reacting to someone who looks so much like a dead girl and we jump straight to Alice and Ned discussing their concerns about how Steven is reacting to Ferney. [Raven: You have far more tolerance of the segues than I do.] [Wing: They’re so entertaining!]
They’re worried this will end up being very dangerous for him. You’d probably best worry that it might prove dangerous to her too. He’s obsessing and we all know guys in Sweet Valley (and straight white guys in a lot of places) get away with everything.
Alice says they shouldn’t try to talk to him about it. He’s already snapped at her when she suggested he return Cara’s calls. Which, yeah, that has to be frustrating, but if you are this worried about him, talking to him about your real concerns, not just couching it in Cara, should still happen. [Dove: And that’s it. That’s as much effort as the Wakefield parents expend on their freak of a son who has imprinted on a girl, who barely speaks the language, and has ignored his girlfriend since meeting her.]
Liz and Rene have a charged moment in the car before he takes her on a whirlwind tour, driving too fast for her to truly see anything, until he stops at Palais des Festivals, where the Cannes film festival used to be held. He mocks the American tourists gathering in front of it, refuses to take Liz to the beach because he hates the beach and never swims, not anymore, and drags her to meet his friends at a cafe.
Liz can’t decide if he’s playing some warped game with her, showing true emotions sometimes then shutting down when she tries to reach out. It feels personal to her, and she grows furious — until she puts together that Avery said she lived in the US for awhile, Rene’s English is a gift from his father, and omg, his father must have been American and left them while Ferney was still a baby.
[Dove: Don’t care. A broken boy is not your problem. Ignore him when he’s rude. You are not his therapist. Sure, he may have hidden depths. Or he might be even more of an asshole when you dig deeper. Level 1: I hate Americans; Level 2 might be “I’m so broken and I just need a tearful hug from a good woman to erase Level 1” or it might be “I hate women/LGBTQIA+ people/certain ethnicities/etc” And you are under no obligation to scratch the surface and find out what’s underneath.]
[Raven: Also? Dad is American, and missing? Daughter looks uncommonly like Tricia Martin? I was seething inside, ready to explode when the missing father was revealed as Daddy Tricia at the end. (SPOILER: He wasn’t. Dodged a bullet there.)] [Wing: That’s exactly where I thought it was going, too.]
…but what about his hatred of the beach? Did his father do that, too? Maybe she’s reading too much into it, letting her writer’s imagination run away from her.
What writer’s imagination? You are the least imaginative person in the series, and that’s saying something. Literally the only thing we see you regularly write is a GOSSIP COLUMN and you don’t even make up the gossip yourself and one (1) short story that we briefly hear about on page.
Rene’s friends are Georges and Edouard. Edouard explains cafe life to her, that buying a drink is just an excuse to sit at the table.
…is … is that news to her?
(What am I saying, of course it is.)
Rene refuses to allow his friends to talk to Liz, turns the conversation to French all the time, and Liz loses all of her patience for him again. If she’s going to have any fun, she needs to be like Jess and make her own friends.
The few moments she’s left alone with his friends, the tell her as much as they know about the father situation, in that Avery returned to her maiden name after Rene’s father left them, it was a pretty ugly split, and Rene doesn’t talk about it much, but he’s full of resentment.
Liz takes herself for a bit of a walk until she finds a beautiful place to sit and write in her diary. She meets an adorable German shepherd puppy, Nykki, who tries to follow her. His tag has an address on it, and Liz takes him back to his home.
Apparently, Nykki belongs to the Countess de Willienich. The Countess is happy to speak fluent English with Liz, calls her absolutely charming, invites her in for a drink. Nykki is her sweet baby now that her children are grown, and she loves visiting with foreigners, especially when she learns that it’s Liz’s first trip to France.
(HOUSE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIES.)
They have a wonderful visit, the Countess invites her back for tea the next day, and Jess is slightly mocking that Liz wants to spend a gorgeous day inside, again, talking to an old lady.
The Countess is one of the most important people in France, per Avery, and a true honor to be chosen by her. Liz is utterly besotted.
Liz, get yourself a spring break MILF romance. Get it.
Jess had a boring afternoon, but, of course, talks it up because she wants to prove to Rene that she doesn’t need any help having a wonderful vacation. She was uncomfortable at the topless beach, but plays it off now. [Dove: I’m convinced the twins are like Barbie dolls. They have no nipples. And they’re sealed at the groin too. After all, do you really believe that girls as perfect as them have ever used the bathroom ever? Anyway, back on topic, I think that’s why Jess was uncomfortable. She was embarrassed she didn’t have nipples like all the real people.] [Raven: Thing is, while I respect your theory, we both know they ovulate, thanks to one Very Special Episode in SVT. Maybe that’s excreted as a pellet out of their bellybutton?]
Avery steps away from the table, Rene and the twins snarl at each other, and I am incredibly tired of all of this, even when Jess flat out declares Rene is her enemy. He’ll know her displeasure.
A French burial ground might make this more interesting.
The next day, Liz meets the Countess’s grandson, Jean-Claude de Willenich. He speaks little English but is incredibly flirty. Liz manages to speak French smoothly, in part because she watched a movie on television last night and learned more during the commercials than she did during two months of French classes.
To be fair, that’s likely true. Spanish media is one of the best ways I’ve found to learn, too.
(Though these days, mostly I read legislation in Spanish while doing internal research. Much less entertaining.)
They talk about Jean-Claude’s media-inspired beliefs about California, and it is cheesy but delightful for both of them. He offers to give her a tour of the city, and she finds him charming and flirty, if too much a lady’s man for her, but he’s handsome, nice, and fabulously wealthy, she should spend time with him. Not that his wealth means anything to her.
Nor his handsomeness, huh? You shallow fucking hypocrite.
They have a fun day and Jean-Claude wants to see her again the next day. She finds him incredibly confident, much like Jessica, and it makes her feel shy in comparison. She did have fun with him, and she does want to see more of the city, plus he’s intelligent and good company and attractive.
Of course she agrees, because she’s not one iota shallow.
Jean-Claude tells her another bit of information about Rene: several summers ago, Rene was with his best friend when his best friend drowned even though Rene frantically tried to save him.
Liz’s anger fades in her sympathy, and I can’t blame her. That’s a horrible thing for Rene to go through, and while it doesn’t excuse his complete and utter jackassery, it does make sense that he wouldn’t want to go near the beach no matter what.
Liz thinks about her own best friend and how worried she had been when Enid was in the plane crash [Dove: Or, y’know, that time she saved Denny Jacobson from drowning. #JustSayin’]. It would have been awful if she died, but at least she’s safe back in Sweet Valley.
Safe, but very worried about Cara Walker, who is listless, struggling to eat anything, and utterly heartbroken.
Enid can guess why. She saw Steven at the beach with Ferney, after all.
She encourages Cara to fight for him if she cares for him. He’s not a thing to win, first of all, and second, you should deal with Steven on this, not Ferney.
Cara says she can’t fight the dead, and his memories of Tricia are too much even with Ferney around, and now Ferney has driven him straight back into the obsessive grief he felt when Tricia died. [Raven: I’d read the shit out of a book in which Cara fought the reanimated corpse of Tricia Martin.]
Cara decides it’s best for her to forget about Steven once and for all. [Dove: To be honest, I think this is by far the best decision she could make. He needs help. I mean the theraputic kind. He didn’t talk to anyone about it when it happened, his parents are gormless tits who think that halfheartedly raising a topic once when he was halfway out the front door constitutes support, and he projecting all sorts of things on to someone who looks similar to his ex. He is not mentally healthy, and dating is not going to help now. Run away, Cara. Let him heal, and if he’s still cute when he’s not so broken, reconsider. But for now, drop him, for your own peace of mind. Also, yeah, I know how this all ends. I know. *bakes a cake*]
Jess tries to hide that she’s envious of Liz’s time with Jean-Claude. After all, Jess is far more likely to appreciate hooking up with a rich, important, good-looking guy. Liz isn’t really ready for romance, and even if she was, she doesn’t care about titles or money. It’s just not fair.
Unfortunately, Jess talked up Marc too much and doesn’t manage to make an excuse to cancel her plans with him just to meet Jean-Claude, at least not one that Liz accepts.
After Jess leaves, Avery calls looking for Rene. He’s already gone, though. She’s having an emergency. The druggist can’t deliver the medication the doctor ordered for her patient (Avery is in private nursing). Liz offers to deliver the medicine herself.
… I have SO MANY issues with this. The two main ones are sure, yes, allow some stranger to be involved in accessing your patient’s medicine surely there’s no way anyone might abuse that and SURE, YES, ALLOW THE GIRL WHO ISN’T ACTUALLY FLUENT IN FRENCH TO TRY TO CLEARLY COMMUNICATE WITH A PHARMACIST.
[Dove: This would have been a much less stupid reason if Liz was picking up an item – like a shawl that person always kept on them for good luck, or feeding a pet, or… literally doing anything except picking up medication. FFS.] [Raven: I mean, she’s just collecting a package, right? She’s not actually ordering the medication herself? The order has been done by Avery, directly, over the phone? I don’t see the issue.] [Wing: Obviously this won’t happen because it’s Liz Wakefield, but there are so many ways this could go wrong, from Liz fucking up the information and getting the wrong meds to tampering with the meds to losing them on the way to being mugged for them, etc. Not to mention the complete privacy invasion.]
Liz leaves a note on the door for Jean-Claude and hurries off to save the day.
Meanwhile, Jess is grumpy and snippy with Marc, and completely focused on how unfair it is that Liz gets to spend time with the grandson of a countess.
Jess ends up going home with a headache, finds the note Liz left for Jean-Claude, and is thrilled that she’ll be able to meet Jean-Claude while he waits for Liz.
… yes. I’m certain that’s how she will actually play it. Absolutely.
She finds Jean-Claude utterly gorgeous and she wants him, not any of the friends he might introduce her to. She starts to tell him the truth, right up until he tells her she looks even more beautiful now than she did the day before. She decides Liz would never stand in her way if she knew how Jess felt and so of course Jess can go off pretending to be Liz.
Everything takes longer than planned, right up until the bus taking her back to the house is delayed by a car accident. Liz goes to take a look at it. A small car crashed headlong into a huge tour bus. No one is hurt, but no one can agree as to whether they should move the car so it doesn’t block traffic.
Honestly, I expected Jess to be in that car, so I suppose kudos for tricking me, ghostie. That would have been the standard, dramatic SVH choice.
When she finally arrives home, of course the note and Jean-Claude are gone. She finally figures out that, oh, hey, perhaps she should look up the Countess’s number through the operator (which works! It might not have, as important as the Countess is, but the fact that Liz never even considered trying to call and tell Jean-Claude what’s going on annoyed me to no end), and call the house, but neither the Countess nor Jean-Claude is home.
Jess struggles with Jean-Claude, of course, because she doesn’t speak French as well as Liz and also she’s done completely different things than Liz has and has no idea what Liz told Jean-Claude.
Jess, I know you look alike, but you two have to coordinate to do twin magic in English, much less in a language you barely speak.
Rene comes home and picks a fight with Liz, who is frustrated enough by her day to lash out at him again. For half a second. Then she tries to be sympathetic and tells him that she knows about his father. This, of course, makes things even worse. He doesn’t want her to ever mention his father again, she can’t possibly know what it’s like to know the pain of his imperfect family. The Wakefields aren’t perfect, she argues, they have good and bad things as well, and she feels for him, because that’s just the human thing to do.
Rene softens for a moment, then lashes out again, unwilling to believe that an American girl could possibly mean what she says.
[Dove: Again, I hate this. Ignore the rude boy. Stop giving him the benefit of the doubt. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want anything to do with you. Respect his boundaries. Especially because, for all you know, despite him being very good looking, he might like to hurt American girls to get payback on his walk-out daddy. Stop teaching girls we have to fix bad men.]
Liz tells herself to just give up on this battle she can’t win, especially because she doesn’t understand in the first place why she’s so determined to prove that she’s not the sort of person he assumes she is.
Back in Sweet Valley, Cara, too, tells herself to just give up. She can’t win, not when Steven held her, kissed her, and told her he was falling in love with her and then, a week later, changed his feelings so quickly.
Two of her friends from cheerleading, Maria Santelli and Robin Wilson, force her to meet them at Guido’s for pizza, even though the absolute last thing she wants to do is leave her room.
(I suppose now that Robin’s thin, it doesn’t matter if she eats pizza. Only the fatties should be mocked for it.)
And of course, Steven and Ferney are also at Guido’s, because there’s certainly not any other place to eat in Sweet Valley. Nope, not a damn place.
Steven actually invites her to join them. Cara moves through a fugue, tells him she’d love to join them but there’s no room for her, and walks the fuck out. Understandably!
Jess-as-Liz continues to flirt with Jean-Claude. They spent the day on the water and now are enjoying champagne and kissing at a chic little restaurant.
Everything is perfect — except for that pesky little thing where he keeps calling her by her sister’s name. Because he thinks she is Elizabeth. Because she is a lying liar who lies.
They still plan to play tennis the next day. Jess doesn’t want him to come by the house, of course, so she promises to meet him at his grandmother’s house. Grandmother is looking forward to seeing her again, which Jess takes into stride despite, you know, not having a single fucking idea who Grandmother is.
I see no way in which this will go badly. Not a single one.
Liz is miserable when Jess gets back to the house, and Jess actually feels guilty. Of course, she sets that aside, because if she feels guilty, she’ll tell Liz the truth, and if she tells Liz the truth, Liz will demand she tell Jean-Claude the truth because the thing Liz hates most is a lie (…is it though?), and if she tells Jean-Claude the truth, he might decide he doesn’t want to spend time with her anymore.
No way will she jeopardize their less than twenty-four hour romance. It’s too important.
Jess is in the middle of trying to convince Liz that she didn’t actually like Jean-Claude in the first place when Jean-Claude himself calls. He says he misses her, but he’s really calling because she left a message with his housekeeper apologizing for not being home when she was supposed to meet him.
[Raven: I hate Jessica. She’s just a bitch. And I hate the way Liz just rolls with it. I think my main issue is that we never see the Jessica that Liz apparently sees, the one who loves her sister without question, the one that is WORTHY of the love that Elizabeth sends out. I’ve read over two hundred books centred on these girls, and there’s EXACTLY NONE in which Jessica is shown from the outset as supportive and loving of her sister. She’s always the catalyst for chaos, only having a face turn when the shit hits the fan or when Liz is in actual physical danger. I’d love to see a book in which Liz, say, was having boy troubles, as the sole plot, and Jessica used her cunning and guile and sisterly love to support (and avenge) her supposed “best friend”, with no agenda or ulterior reasoning. But no, it’s all “Jessica does a super-shitty thing, Elizabeth forgives her no matter what” trime and time again. So hard to route for someone who only has her redeeming features told of in parables and folk tales.]
He is understandably confused, considering she was right there when he arrived. She convinces him it must all be a mistake.
Liz decides that Jean-Claude can’t actually be a good guy because he ghosted her, and they don’t talk about him again that night.
The next day, Liz imagines that Todd is with her, he never moved away, they never broke up, and he’s in France with her. She doesn’t exactly want him with there, but she wants somebody, anybody to be with her. Jess is off with her friend, Rene ignores Liz completely even though they have a lot in common, and Jean-Claude ghosted her because she was a little late to meet him.
French boys are so rude.
She reminds herself that she doesn’t want to be like Rene. They’re not assholes because they’re French, they’re assholes because they’re assholes, and there are certain nice French boys. Somewhere.
[Dove: Once again, if this school had organised activities instead of just dropping teens in France and leaving them to sink or swim, none of this would be happening. Also… is there no other SV teen in France? We didn’t see any at the airport or on the plane. Are there none locally that she can hang with? No. It’s almost as if this book is badly thought out and doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, isn’t it?] [Raven: Yeah, it’s a bit weird that the school visits seem to be all over France, rather than in one place.]
Liz decides that she’ll do the things she wants to do even if she has to do them alone. She’s always dreamed of being a writer in France (…has she though), so she’ll get a table at the Festival and write, have lunch in a little restaurant on the shore, and spend the afternoon in the sea.
Jess gets lucky. Grandmother is out for the day, which means not only does she not have to try to fake being Liz in front of someone who has spoken to her for longer but she and Jean-Claude have the mansion free to make out.
Liz very much enjoys her day out on her own. Gets the mail when she returns to the house and finds a letter addressed to Rene, no return address but a Boston postmark. She rushes to give it to him, certain he’ll want it right away, but, unsurprisingly, he refuses to read it.
He writes every month, and every month, Rene throws it away.
Liz finds this heartbreaking. He fights so hard to hide his emotions, and his father cares enough to write every month, and the two of them are both hurting each other.
He shouts at her, wishes she’d never come, demands she stay out of his private life, calls her another rude American.
Liz wants to snap back at him, but she remains calm. Asks what he has to lose by opening it if he’s so sure he’s right. Gently tells him that he can’t run from things forever. Gets through to him, even though he says nothing to her.
He’s just reaching for the letter when Jess walks in and interrupts.
Jess, of course, doesn’t notice anything. Babbles on about how great a day she was. Mocks Rene for being so afraid of a little water he hasn’t been near it in years, as cruel as she can be.
Then she tells him that Liz told her.
That, of course, ruins everything between Rene and Liz. He throws away the letter and storms out.
Liz and Jess argue over it. Jess defends herself that he deserved it because he was terrible to them both and even worse to Liz. Doesn’t give one flying fuck that Liz is mad at her. Storms off herself.
Liz knows that now things are worse than if she hadn’t tried at all.
Steven takes Ferney to meet his friend David, who is a French major. Steven hopes they can use him as a translator.
Steven doesn’t think it matters that they haven’t been able to really communicate. It’s all chemistry between them.
David points out that, you know, chemistry isn’t a language, and having chemistry isn’t actually getting to know each other. Steven has no idea what she’s like, and the same for her and him.
Steven is determined to prove him wrong. After all, he knows her now. She wants to be a scientist!
… except no. She loves science, but she doesn’t want to be a scientist. She likes experimenting in the lab. That’s far more fun than listening to a teacher. She even made a new lipstick color once, and loves it.
That’s not at all like Tricia’s noble aspirations to put science to good use.
Fucking snob. Makeup can certainly be put to good, meaningful use.
She’s having fun in Sweet Valley, plans to go to a new crepe place in Estrella Beach with some of the other French kids. Steven doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to try something she can’t get in France, but she says she likes crepes.
To be fair, I have my doubts that crepes in the Sweet Valley area will be anything like actual French food, but okay. [Dove: I would definitely try an American take on an English Sunday dinner if it was offered in a “traditional English pub”, just to see how far off the mark it was or if they nailed it. Maybe it’s that? Or she’s homesick as fuck, sick of some creepy college boy leering at her ever second of the day (and almost certainly calling her “Tricia” at least once a day), and is desperate to pretend she’s back home where she’s safe. Probably that, come to think of it.] [Raven: “Les Cadbury’s Fingres!“] [Wing: I suppose we did hit up that Authentic British Pub™ in Florida that one time.]
This goes on and on. Ferney prefers fashion magazines to the books Steven likes, shows none of the wit, intelligence, and maturity that he loved in Tricia.
Steven can’t take it any longer, stops with all the questions and takes them swimming.
He can’t believe the Ferney that he likes is all made up in his head, but now that David’s here, he’ll have to get to know the real Ferney. He’s not sure he wants to do that.
Oh, Steven, you fool.
Avery figures out that things aren’t going well between Liz and Rene, and feels guilty over it. She thought he was over his hatred of Americans, but this has really set him back. She blames herself, she really should have seen it coming.
I mean, she’s not wrong. That’s a hell of a leap to take, assuming your teenage son is going to set aside all the strong emotions he feels for his absent father just because you have two Americans staying with you for a couple weeks.
Avery tells Liz about Rene’s father, of course, because everyone just knows she can be relied upon to listen without judgment, to keep secrets, to do the right thing, blah blah blah. [Dove: OMG teh WaKeFiEld tWinZ! I must tell them all my secrets. That’s totally appropriate.]
Avery and the dude married too young, impulsively, and when they started fighting, too, because they were too young to have two infants, he impulsively left, too. She was furious with him for a long time, but he grew up and changed, and while that part blossomed too late for their relationship, it’s not too late for him to have a good relationship with his children.
Except that Rene took in too much of her hatred and anger and he won’t forgive his father at all.
Ferney doesn’t remember the pain when he left, and she plans to visit him in Cambridge on her way back from Sweet Valley. They’re in touch regularly. She’ll see him and meet her baby sister. [Raven: So, not Daddy Martin then.] [Wing: I was honestly surprised here. If only it was a good use of a successful plot twist.]
Liz says she understands why he struggles with this. He’d have to face the hurt before he can forgive his father, and that’s difficult.
Avery is impressed by how perceptive and sensitive she is. Rene should be glad to have her as a guest, be willing to take advantage of her care and careful listening.
Fucking Saint Elizabeth in the fucking house, I guess.
Steven and David hang out at the Dairi Burger with Avery, and Steven admits that he’s been a fool, trying to turn Ferney into Tricia just because they look alike.
David is sympathetic. It’s understandable, and even more important, he’s seeing the truth now.
Ferney is young and kind of silly, not his emotional equal the way Tricia was. The way Cara is now, though she wasn’t when he first met her.
You judgmental ass.
David encourages him to go to Cara, tell her how much she means to him, that he chooses her. [Dove: Or leave that poor girl the fuck alone and go to therapy.]
I’m sure she’ll forgive him, because he’s a Wakefield and this is Sweet Valley (…though Tricia did die despite his love, so maybe things will actually go wrong for him if not for the twins), but he’s been quite a shit to her. Maybe she should take some time away from him.
We’re only halfway through the two weeks in France, good lord, but on the plus side, we’re actually very close to the end because almost no Sweet Valley ghostie can pace a Sweet Valley story to save their life.
Liz finally meets Marc who has come to check on Jessica who has, of course, been sick for ages now.
However Liz thought she was off playing tennis with Marc and says so. He’s hurt when he realizes that she must have made plans with someone else and the implication that she’s been lying to him.
Liz feels badly for Marc and offers to go to the art exhibit with him, which is much more her type of thing than Liz. He’s sweet, and though she doesn’t feel any romantic interest toward him, she thinks he’ll be fun to spend the day with.
Rene shows up, accuses Liz of trying to steal Jessica’s boyfriend, and Liz almost lets herself get riled up but then lets it go.
Jess and Jean-Claude continue to spend time together sailing and romancing and living a rich life. Exactly what Jess wants from a beautiful boy. They finally have to turn back when a storm comes. Rene’s boat is too small to manage the big waves.
Ghostie takes far too many words over the stories that Jean-Claude tells Jess, because of course, we’re nearly to the end, there’s an entire week left, we’re still waiting for a confrontation, of course we should take the time to talk about stories that are far better than this story. Makes total sense. [Raven: This felt like malicious compliance in the face of editorial notes. “There’s not much ‘France’ in this book, could you mix in something more educational?” … “You got it, boss.” *asks-jeeves*]
Liz has an excellent time at the art exhibit, charms everyone, they coo over how smart she is, blah blah blah blah blah.
Jess isn’t home when she gets there, and nor is Rene. Avery is delayed with her patient again, and she doesn’t want the kids to wait for her for dinner.
Liz agrees to make dinner, and tries not to worry too much about Jess not being home yet. Avery picks up on it and worries too, which only makes Liz worry more.
She’s supposed to be home at 3:30, but when Rene comes in after 7, she’s still gone and the storm is wild. Liz tells him she’s worried and doesn’t know where she is. He accuses her of stealing Marc again, so of course Jess stole Jean-Claude. His friends told him they saw the two of them together. He also knows that Jean-Claude thinks that Jess is Liz.
Liz is shocked — shocked, I say — that Jess would do something like this.
I am mostly confused at what exactly Rene thinks is going on with this weird twin magic thing he seems to want to believe they’re pulling, rude twin Americans that they are.
Liz is furious with Jess but also determined to find her. Gets information from the Countess and asks Rene to help her. He’s shocked that she’s going to try to save her sister even when she’s mad at her.
There’s no time to be mad, Liz says, not when Jess could be in trouble and need her.
Of course there is more drama: Rene doesn’t own a car, only a moped, and a moped is very nearly a motorcycle, she says. And we know how the Wakefields feel about motorcycles! [Raven: I did like this continuity.]
She has no choice, not even in the raging rain, and they take off together while Liz prays they won’t be too late.
Transition to Steven praying he isn’t too late to make up with Cara.
They talk things through, Cara admits how much he hurt her and how she doesn’t feel she can follow Tricia in his life, he swears he loves her and no one person can replace another person and he cares about Cara for herself, not because of Tricia.
Cara asks for more time, for him to take his time to think about what he really wants, which is 100% what should happen. Of course it isn’t, he pushes his way back to her, and she gives up that space. All is right again. [Dove: I hate this toxic ship. Leave the girl alone, Steven. Leave all of the girls alone.]
Not so in Cannes!
Liz and Rene find a little boat struggling toward shore. As they watch in horror, it capsizes in the storm.
Liz rushes into the sea, but she can’t save both Jess and Jean-Claude. Rene joins her and between the two of them, they save both of them. [Raven: Is there no one else there? Like, no French coastguard or anything?]
Liz is shocked to see how much emotion there is between Jess and Jean-Claude, the way they cling to each other.
It doesn’t even matter any longer that Jess tricked her (and other people!) in a devious way. She’s alive, and safe, and Liz will forgive everything.
Liz introduces herself to Jean-Claude as Jessica, because of course she does. Why should anyone tell the truth?
After Avery takes a look at Jess to make sure she’s not really hurt, she borrows a purple shirt from Liz (…so much for all that Unicorn purple) and goes to dinner with Jean-Claude, swearing to take it easy with him.
Liz warns her that she talked to the Countess while they were missing and identified herself as Liz. Jess is furious that she wouldn’t just lie and say she was Jess, because god forbid Jess ever have to deal with her own lies and chaos.
Liz and Rene bond that night. She tells him how brave he was to face his fears, thanks him for saving everyone’s life. Promises him that what happened to his friend wasn’t his fault.
They both apologize for their behavior, and Rene tells her that he was ready to dislike her for being American and then he saw how pretty and nice she was when she arrived. He was afraid he could like her, and of course he refuses to like an American.
He agrees to read his father’s letter if she’ll spend the next day with him. They’ll go to breakfast with a girl Liz met at the art show and then to the beach and then to dinner, because of course Liz ends up with a date.
She tells him that when she arrived, she hoped they could be good — friends. Yes, friends.
It’s not too late, Rene promises.
Jess comes clean to Jean-Claude off page. Everything went well, Jean-Claude still likes her, the Countess thought she was intriguing, and Jess is pleased.
Jess is annoyed when she learns that Liz went to an art show with her Marc, which is exactly the kind of bullshit that she would pull.
She’s even more annoyed that Liz plans to spend all day with Rene.
But as soon as she decides there is romance growing between the two of them, she’s sly and teasing again, happy that her sister will be happy.
They only have a few more days left, but they’re both going to make the most of them.
THIS ISN’T THEIR FIRST TRIP TO FRANCE.
It’s not actually terrible. Slow, poorly paced, and filled with the standard things that annoy us, including Liz’s lack of a spine when it comes to Jess, but it’s not bad. It’s not good, either, but it’s also not as boring as some of the books have been. Nor as rage inducing. Textbook meh, I suppose.
I don’t really care about anything. I could have, I think, if it was better paced, but they’re trying to do too much when they add the Ferney-Steven-Cara thing, and the various storylines wrap up far too quickly and easily and, hell, mostly off page!
Much like Liz, I wish we would have seen more of France, the actual setting used in a better way, and I wish Jess ever faced repercussions for her bullshit, but I didn’t think it was a terrible book.
[Dove: I hated this book. There wasn’t a single thing I liked. I hated the Steven/Tricia Clone plot. Urgh. I wasn’t interested in the twins. I gave zero fucks about all the boys they met. And I don’t care about Rene and his daddy issues. I don’t care about the tragic death of his best friend.
I really don’t like that the moral of the story is, “Hey, see that boy who obviously hates you, and groups your behaviour with an entire class of people and vice-versa? That’s not bigotry, that’s just sadness. And sadness is just your feelings asking for a hug. Fix him.”
Awful book. Boring. Tedious. Repetitive. Terrible message. Badly written. No wit. It’s a fail all round. It’s close to a Kill it with fire, but it’s just too boring to merit it. Bad.]
[Raven: There’s too little France in this France book.
I think I too will brand this as Bad, although I feel I’m a little more easy on it than Dove. the main things I disliked were the fact that Jessica was, again, a complete asshat, and that every single French person was a Maguffin, pure and simple. Rene was a caricature, Ferney was an avatar, Avery was a plot agent, Jean-Claude was a trophy, and Marc was a limpet.
As usual, this could have used some input from the peripherals, like Lila (in France!), but that’s an issue with Special Editions in general. But overall, it just needed a little… je ne sais quoi?
Here’s hoping the next book is better.]