Sweet Valley Junior High #2: One 2 Many

Sweet Valley Junior High #2: One 2 Many
Sweet Valley Junior High #2: One 2 Many

Title: One 2 Many

Summary: I don’t get it.

Lately, Jessica wants to hang out with me all the time. We’re talking 24/7. Not that I mind—she is my twin and my best friend, after all.

But it’s starting to get a little WEIRD.

The other day she even asked if I wanted to wear MATCHING outfits to school. I mean, we haven’t done that since we were in fifth grade…

What’s going on?

Initial Thoughts

Oh. My. God. That Free *NSYNC cassette offer is killing me. I didn’t even listen to them but the nostalgia here is off the charts.

Also: DIVERSITY? IN SWEET VALLEY? THE FUCK? (Yes, I know we already have some in SVJH, and we’ve had a bit elsewhere, but it is still shocking.)

The summary is adorable. Maybe I’m just predisposed to like this one, but I’m charmed. Elizabeth being aghast over the idea of matching outfits, that was so fifth grade, I cannot deal with that adorableness. I’m not even going to look into whether there’s continuity or not.

God, I hope this is as good as the first book, because that was fucking amazing, and I could really use a win.

[Dove: I’m strapped in for the long haul. This is going to be like Making Out where you have to regard the entire series as one long story, and even if there are weak parts, you don’t really remember it, because there’s so much going on, there’s always something going on with a characer/pairing/plotline you love. I am willing to love the hell out of this series and fight anyone who says it’s not the best in the SV canon.]

[Raven: I’m currently in Malta playing a gaming tournament, but I’m commenting on this book via my phone because this book is… SPOILERS!]


Jessica considers pretending to be sick so she can skip school. She never enjoys it, but she’s positively dreading it. She hates their new junior high, hates the unfriendly people, hates that no one rushed to be her friend. She doesn’t know how to make an effort to get people to like her, and she doesn’t know what to do without any friends.

She recaps her attempts to befriend Lacey Frells [Raven: Look at mah bloose with its Lacey Frells] and how she let Lacey assume Steven was her boyfriend. Now Jess feels all queasy and doesn’t want to deal with it.

This? This is fucking adorable. Jessica actually worried about what she’s done, Jessica caring about people, Jessica vulnerable and still her amazing self. I’ve missed you so fucking much! [Dove: Isn’t it lovely to see her accidentally let a lie run away due to ill-thought-out reasons, rather than jumping into a gigantic lie like “I’m related to an NFL player” and double/triple/quadrupling down without shame?]

Elizabeth, meanwhile, loves their new school and even has two new best friends, “El Salvador” and Anna. Jessica. Really. El Salvador. The fuck?

Jessica doesn’t know how to handle Elizabeth fitting in better than she does, but convinces herself to ask for help anyway, though it makes her feel strange.

“Have you ever—” I paused. “Have you ever told someone a lie or, well, not a lie, but a half-truth—not even a half-truth, but a misunderstanding that, um, got out of control?”

Elizabeth looked at me with a tiny line between her eyebrows. “What is this? A homework question?”

“No!” I said, exasperated. “This is my life we’re talking about.”

First of all, I LOVE HER. Second, dear god, girl, you have told so many lies, I mean half-truths, I mean misunderstandings. In SVH, yes, and you’re horrible but that’s in the future I’m ignoring. You did tell some not so terrible ones back in middle school. How quickly they are forgotten.

Though, and again, maybe this is because I want to like this book so much, it doesn’t read as lack of continuity, it reads as exactly something Jessica would do at this age. Yes, she’s gone through it before, but she’s never not fit in before, she’s struggling, of course everything feels brand new and confusing. [Dove: I have this weird feeling like the entire Wakefield clan gets a clean slate, fresh start, because so much has changed that they’re normal relatable people, and for that I will forgive any past sins. Including Steven and the fucking lawnmower.] [Raven: It’s amazing what a tiny hand-wave can achieve.]

Elizabeth tells her she should go to her friend and explain the misunderstanding, which is legit good advice. Jessica, of course, hates it, starting with the fact that Lacey isn’t her friend. She’d much rather: switch schools, enlist in the army, join the foreign legion, run away with the circus.

Oh my god, how much do I want to read about Jessica running away to the circus?! CAN YOU IMAGINE? All her dramatics and acting skill and (sometimes) singing skill and penchant for fabulousness — it would be the best fucking thing. [Raven: Either that, or the lion tamer would be dead within a week.] [Wing: JESSICA THE LION TAMER. Hearts and stars in my eyes.]

Jess decides she’s going to avoid Lacey and hope she forgets all about the “boyfriend.”

Luck is not on her side, though. Lacey waits at her locker, sneering at Ronald Rheece, Jessica’s locker partner and tiny little nerd.

Lacey is even more terrifying when she spots Jess and smiles at her.

Jessica starts to tell her the truth about Steven, but Lacey plans for them to sit together at lunch and gossip, and Jessica is so, so lonely and desperate to regain her popularity. The halls are too noisy and crowded to say anything true, anyway. Lunch would be better, when it’s just the two of them.

Lunch, or maybe the end of the week at the very, very latest.

I see now way in which this is going to blow up in your face, Jessica. And unlike your other lies, even lies by omission, this one has the chance to really, deeply damage your reputation. You’re going to end up publicly known as the Incest Queen of Sweet Valley, not just privately in Steven’s dreams.

(You know, I liked Steven so much in the first SVJH book that I feel a little bad about mocking him. Of course that happens when the incest jokes are literally right there in the text.)

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is entertained by new friend Salvador del Valle and her locker partner, Brian Rainey, having a ruler sword fight in the middle of the hall. Elizabeth’s other new friend, Anna Wang, is bemused by their antics.

I am bemused by Brian shouting “touché” when there appears to have been no hit, but whatever, they’re using rulers, it’s adorable. [Raven: I dunno, there’s still a part of me wanting to scream “stop twatting about, you bellends!”]

Seeing Anna and Salvador, who have been best friends forever, makes her wonder how her own best friend is doing. Jess isn’t having much fun at SVJH and she was weird on the bus. Elizabeth wishes she could make friends, too.

She probably could if she weren’t so obsessed with the people she thinks are a certain flavor of popular, which is a shame. This Jessica is delightful.

Once the bell rings and the fight ends, Salvador and Anna wait while Elizabeth gathers her things for class. Salvador jokes about the terrible cafeteria food hurting students. Last year, two students collapsed after eating chicken supreme, which the school refuses to serve now, and the school tried to cover it up by claiming they both had appendicitis. Elizabeth laughs at this, but Anna backs him up. What are the odds of two simultaneous attacks of appendicitis in one place, after all.

Charlie Roberts interrupts their laughter. She’s the editor of the Spectator, the school newspaper. Elizabeth thought she was cool when they first met, but now she thinks Charlie is conceited. Still intimidating, though.

Charlie has a special assignment for Elizabeth: she’s to interview Mrs Fransky.

Elizabeth and I have no clue who that is. Elizabeth doesn’t want to admit that. I turn to Dove and ask am I supposed to know who the fuck this is? [Dove: *shrugs* I got nothing, dude.]

Except since this is SVJH, my assumption is that I shouldn’t.

Charlie, of course, gives very little information. Elizabeth needs to skip her second class for the interview, and Mrs Fransky will be in room 224.


Now, I was on the newspaper staff during high school (and one of the two top editors my senior year), and I was able to leave class sometimes to cover stories and take photos (and I did have a pass to leave campus during newspaper class, which was a big deal as we were a closed campus), but I’m not sure I buy Charlie being able to order Elizabeth to skip a class with no warning and no care to whether Elizabeth even wants to miss that class, though she does, at least, give her a pass for it. [Raven: Yeah, that’s a crock of shit.]

All Salvador tells her is that Mrs Franksy spits when she talks and that she’s boring. Anna adds that she’s the home-ec teacher and very, very old.

None of that explains why it’s so very urgent.

Anna thinks it’s because she’s retiring and Mr Desmond likely wants the Spec to run an article on her in the first issue. [Raven: Why on earth would they give an assignment to pen a retirement piece for a well loved teacher to a new fucking student?!]

They tease Elizabeth about getting the assignment because she is so mature and reliable. She asks for their help thinking up questions. Which is fair! I know we often talk about how we’re told Elizabeth is this excellent writer but we never see it. This could have been one of those situations. [Dove: In fact, most of SVT actively proved otherwise. First of all, she can’t write fiction to save her life. When she goes head to head with Jessica, her twin’s newspaper outsells her, and then she keeps messing up by not fact-checking and using second-hand anecdotes to biased stories to back up her points. And still we’re supposed to believe she’s a great writer. With this I believe she likes to write and is still learning.]

However, she knows nothing about the teacher! She’s new! Anna and Salvador have more background! They’re all friends and all work on the paper! [Raven: Exactly!] I love them teaming up to figure out questions that might help Mrs Franksy be a little less boring.

…it’s possible I loved the first book enough that it influences me into liking this more. Hell, it’s likely that’s going on. [Dove: Same. If I were pushed into being objective, I would say that this particular plotline was the least finessed out of everything else going on. Why the interview? Why do we are? Why do we care about the resolve? But mostly I like the book, so I can let it go.]

And I don’t give a fuck. That book was amazing, these characters are charming and adorable, we are seeing actual, real friendships, I’ll take it.

Salvador’s first offering is that she’ll be winning if she gets the recipe for her clam dip.

I was going to be disturbed by this, but California, access to fresh seafood, maybe. [Wing: Note from the future: Don’t back down, Wing. Don’t back down.]

At lunch, Lacey shows Jessica pictures of her boyfriend, Gel, so called because he wears so much gel in his hair.

Dear god, why? That would be miserable to touch. (Gel can do nice things for hair, I use it myself sometimes, but too much gel, and too much gel often enough that it’s his nickname? That’s horrible.)

Jess agrees with me. Lacey shows her a picture where Gel’s hair is touching Lacey’s face, and she wonders if Lacey got hair gel all over her. It was gross.

I love this you, Jessica Wakefield.

Lacey asks for Jess’s boyfriend’s name. She starts to say Steven Wakefield, which would be fucking hilarious if also humiliating (or might be played off as a joke), but catches herself in time to land on Steven Wakeman.

Yeah, that’s subtle.

Jess knows how ridiculous that name is and, delightfully, spins it into an adorable meet cute. They were both at Happy Burger (…McDonald’s?), they called the Wakefields to get their food, Steven Wakeman picked it up by mistake, and she chased him into the parking lot to get their food.

Fuck, this is adorable.

Lacey plans to ask Gel if he knows Steven, since they’re both sophomores, so Jessica has to quickly cover again. Oh, he’s not from around here, he lives out of town and goes to a different school.

Big Mesa, is that you I see in the distance?

Lacey demands to see a picture. Jess shows her one from last summer. Steven’s crossing his eyes in it. She doesn’t even have to lie that he always does that in pictures, because he does, and it annoys Alice to no end.

Lightbulb moment! Jess can use this. She calls him immature, which Lacey already agrees with, and says they might break up soon. Now that is quick thinking, Wakefield. Nicely done.

They sit together at an otherwise empty lunch table. Jessica’s disappointed, she hoped that they’d sit with Lacey’s other friends. It quickly becomes clear why Lacey is now interested in Jessica: She needs to use someone as a cover story for her parents when she goes out with Gel. She normally uses Kristin, but Kristin doesn’t like it when she does it too often.

Jessica’s terrified by this plan. Her story will fall apart immediately when Lacey calls the house and Steven answers the phone. She lies and says they can probably make something work.

Lacey then invites Jessica to hang out with her friends in Eyeball Alley before school the next morning.

Eyeball. Alley.

What the fuck. Why that name?

The actual explanation doesn’t make it better: Eyeball Alley is a hall in the back of the junior high with benches along the sides. The popular people sit on the benches and watch everyone else go by.

Does it sound perfectly Sweet Valley to have that kind of judgmental gauntlet? Yes. Does it sound perfectly Sweet Valley to call it Eyeball Alley? No, what the fuck. It doesn’t sound anything at all like something actual teen girls would call it. [Dove: Strong disagree. I think it’s a perfect name for it. We used to sit on The Noble Platform. Every time you arrived, you had to proclaim, “‘Tis noble!” and sit grandly. I can’t remember why. I love weird names for places, and Eyeball Alley sounds perfect for such a judgy area.] [Raven: Yeah, this feels like the perfect name, to be fair.] [Wing: Apparently, this book sounds like Brit teens and yet the series wasn’t even sold there. Big fail, publishers.]

Oh. Oh my god. OH MY GOD.

Then we get this exchange:

Lacey smiled and popped the fry into her mouth. “It’s really fun,” she said. “This morning some girl showed up wearing white pants and a white jacket. Can you believe that? So Justin said, ‘Hey, it’s the Good Humor man! Ding! Ding!’ and everyone else yelled, ‘Ding! Ding!’ and the girl ran into the bathroom to hide. It was so funny!”

I laughed, even though the story didn’t sound that funny to me. It sounded… well, it sounded kind of mean. But maybe you had to be there to get the humor. Besides, all the most popular kids sat on Eyeball Alley. And I wanted to be popular.

So many things here! Jessica thinking mocking someone sounds mean! Awareness of how other people feel! Self-awareness that even if it is mean, the popular kids do it, and she wants to be popular! She knows she’s giving into peer pressure here, even if she doesn’t call it that.

Also, and again: Jessica Wakefield thinks judging someone’s outfit sounds kind of mean.

Holy fucking shit, how far we’ve come from SVMS. (And even moreso from SVH.) [Raven: Something BIG must come down the pipe at some point to whiplash Jessica into High Jessica from these rarefied planes.]

Over to Salvador! Lunch is the only part of the day he understands because you eat and hang out with your friends. Everything else is terrible, especially since lunch allows him his new favorite hobby: starting at Elizabeth.

On the one hand, creepy. On the other hand, also kind of cute.

Elizabeth has a problem. Brian’s science experiment that involves sticking used chewing gum inside their locker to see if mold grows is working. HOLY FUCK THAT’S DISGUSTING. I’m a little ill right now.

Salvador doesn’t understand why Elizabeth and Anna are so disturbed. The only problem he sees is that Brian might get to spend time alone with Elizabeth to work on the experiment. He reminds himself over and over again that he and Elizabeth are “just friends.”

I’m glad that he’s aware of the line that currently exists, but also, “just friends” is such a bullshit phrase. It’s dismissive of the importance of friendship. It makes friendship sounds like a consolation prize. It’s a very Nice Guy thing to say.

Elizabeth feels bad telling Brian that his creation is gross because he’s so nice. Anna advises her to be honest and get the gum out before it develops a mind of its own and turns on them.

The Horror from the Locker!

I sense another movie coming on.

Salvador can’t stop staring at Elizabeth, making things awkward, and then when he notices she has a piece of lettuce stuck in her teeth, he picks it out.

What. the. Shit.

All three of them find this awkward and then hilarious. And it is! It’s also disgusting, fuck. I don’t know where your hands have been, kid, keep them out of my mouth. [Raven: Salvador’s creepiness is bound to escalate. Picking lettuce out of your crush’s teeth is just the tip of the iceberg. … … … *rimshot*]

And then we get people passing notes back and forth! I am so fucking nostalgic right now. My friends and I wrote so, so, so many notes back and forth. A couple of us even had dedicated notebooks that we passed around. I spent an entire semester writing long notes back and forth with my crush at the time and it was so fucking charming.

I think I still have some of the notes and notebooks packed away somewhere. [Dove: Same. I had a friend who spelled her name “Mell – that’s double-L with a silent Q as in carrot”, and I wouldn’t have remembered that, except I found a note from her explaining it in full when I was tidying up a few years ago.] [Wing: I’m dead. D E A D. One of my brothers liked to joke about giving his name to waiting lines as Benjamin with a Q and let people try to figure it out.]

Anyway, Jess and Lacey write back and forth about boring classes and double dates. It’s only two notes at this point, and I wish that ghostie used this part more. And maybe there will be more later! I’m recapping in my old way, in real time as I read it.

The next morning over breakfast. Elizabeth tells the family what Eyeball Alley is, Alice thinks it doesn’t sound like a very nice club, and Ned teases Jessica that if it’s where the cool kids sit, it’s all okay. Jess is annoyed when her parents get sarcastic.

Me? I’m charmed. It’s fun to see them like this kind of family.

Jess carefully chooses her outfit for her visit to Eyeball Alley: her favorite pair of jeans and a sleeveless white blouse. Exactly what Lacey wore on the first day of school.

Okay. First, boring. Second, I know Jessica wasn’t as fashionable as, say, Mandy, but what the fuck, you used to be so much better than this!

It’s excellent storytelling! We really get to see how uncomfortable she is in the new school, how desperate for friendship and approval. It’s heartbreaking and realistic and wonderful.

Jessica is such a sympathetic character in this series so far. A far, far cry from her in SVH.

Lacey welcomes Jessica to Eyeball Valley. Immediately, Sheila Watson calls hello to her. Who? Well, she was also apparently rezoned from SVMS, and Jessica vaguely knew her because they’d been partners for a history project once. Jess hadn’t known she was at the junior high, too, and thinks that if she’d known last week, she would have hung out with Sheila, but now she has Lacey. [Dove: The one thing I don’t get is why they’re making up all these new names to be SVMS alum. There were so many names in that series. Why not go with Patty Gilbert – she was never a Unicorn friend, or Ginny-Lu Culpepper… or check the character page for people who were never seen again.] [Wing: I think Ginny-Lu might be too distinct a character to do that, but you’re right, there were so, so, so many characters who weren’t quite so, er, memorable in ridiculous ways who could have been used.]

Lacey introduces Jess to Justin Campbell, a cute boy with blond hair, green eyes, and a nice smile. She doesn’t know if he’s popular, but assumes he is if he’s sitting in Eyeball Alley.

On the one hand, okay, sure, I can see why you’d make that assumption. On the other hand, you know you’re not currently popular and you’re sitting there.

Justin and Lacey start making snide comments about people. Jessica laughs, and decides it’s not really being mean. They can’t hear them after all, and she cares far more about what the cool people think of her than anyone else.

Self awareness! Terrible choices, but self awareness!

Jessica and Lacey work through some history homework, Lacey says some things that make me think she plans to cheat off Jessica, and then lo! A wild Steven Wakefield appears.

Or, you know, Steven who is Jessica’s hot boyfriend. [Raven: Oh noes!]

He’s being a kind big brother which would surprise me in SVT and maybe in SVH, but is absolutely believable here. She left her lunch at home, and he brought it to her.

She decides she can use this to her advantage. She spends a little extra time with him, leans into the car as if she’s going to tell him a secret, knowing that it will look like she kissed him. (She tells him he has egg in his teeth, inspired by Elizabeth’s lettuce in the teeth story, which is also fucking charming. Siblings! Talking! Being fun together! Sharing! Helping each other out!)

Jessica plans to tell Lacey on Friday that she and Steven had a heart-wrenching breakup. She’s starting to feel sick, pretending that Steven is her cool older boyfriend.

Time for Chekov’s Acquaintance!

Just after Jessica says he’s her boyfriend who stopped by to bring her something, Sheila Watson starts laughing. What does she mean, her boyfriend? That’s her brother Steven!

Everyone stops what they’re doing so they can stare at Jessica.

Sheila is confused and clearly doesn’t know that she’s blowing up Jessica’s lie.

Then Lacey and Justin start mocking Jessica: Lamefield, asking if her sister also dates her brother, Pathetic-field.

Lacey tells her to stay away from Eyeball Alley from now on, and says that she wouldn’t have been welcome once Kristin came back to school anyway.

Jessica hides in the bathroom until the bell rings and doesn’t want to leave.

Oh, honey. It was so, so obvious this would blow up in your face, but it is also heartbreaking. [Dove: Twins Jessica could’ve gotten away with this lie for a week. JH Jess is busted in less than 24 hours.] [Raven: This isn’t a teen coming-of-age book. This is an Origin Story.]

In less incestuous storylines, Salvador is unimpressed that it’s volleyball day in gym. At least he, Elizabeth, and Anna are on the same time and can hang out at the back to talk. Only one person can hit the ball that far back anyway.

Elizabeth thanks Salvador for mentioning the clam dip, because her interview with Mrs. Fransky went surprisingly well. She talked about how she invented the recipe, and Elizabeth thought it was actually interesting. Better than she expected, at least.

And apparently the secret ingredient is chocolate syrup.

Gross. So, so, so gross. [Raven: I dunno. Chocolate as an ingredient has a long and storied history. Chocolate in chilli, for example. And syrup is just sugar. I’m down for it, is all I’m saying.]

Unfortunately, Scarlett, that horrible gym teacher, notices that they’re not paying attention and calls them to her office. On the way, Elizabeth bumps into Matt Springmeier, who calls her Lamefield, which puzzles all of them.

Scarlett voluntells them to participate in the hospital dance-a-thon at the community center. Each hour they dance, $5 goes to charity.

Anna decides not to tell her parents about her punishment. Their family dinners are rare, awkward, and quiet since her brother Tim isn’t with them. He used to tell all sorts of stories, including about all his adventures at SVJH, but now that she’s there, nothing interesting happens to her.

Sal comes to visit and they hang out on the porch swing for awhile. Anna tries to relax, but keeps thinking about Tim, swinging with him, breaking her arm because she didn’t listen to him, how he carried her home and soothed her.

Sal distracts her from her thoughts but not with anything much better.

“Well, now that I have your complete attention.” Salvador gave an ahem. “I was just thinking about what it would take for us to get a special assignment on the Spec, like Elizabeth’s. Maybe we could do something on the dance-a-thon. Maybe Elizabeth could convince Charlie that we’re mature and reliable too. I wonder if Elizabeth would do that?”

I wondered why Salvador was saying Elizabeth’s name every two seconds.

Oh honey.

Anna still struggles with the idea that Sal might have a crush on Elizabeth, is still jealous even though she doesn’t think Elizabeth could ever “like like” Sal.

Holy fuck, that’s adorable. Like like.

Sal wants to take that sort of boring assignment and turn it into something interesting, like Elizabeth’s interview worked out so well.

He thinks Anna would be good at writing parodies. She’s funny. She should write one and submit it to the paper. They could work on it together, even.

Anna swoons a little. She thinks of Sal as the funny one and is pleased that he thinks that about her, too. She never noticed how handsome he is before, and now she can’t stop noticing.

And then he reminds her of Tim and she feels sad.

… I thought we were done with the strange incestuous undertones.

She reassures herself that she’s not going to lose Sal, that he’s her best friend, that he would tell her if he had a crush on Elizabeth.

Oh, honey. Sweetheart. I love you.

OMG even more strange incestuous undertones.

Anna writes a poem about this one time she and her brother dressed their cat in a sweater, put her in a baby carriage, and walked her around. Whenever anyone looked at the cat, Tim would put his arm around her and say, “Me and the missus are awfully proud of our little one.”

These ridiculous fucking people. I love them.

The poem ends noting that things like this aren’t mentioned at funerals, but they should be.

They should. We made sure the weird stories were mentioned at Dad’s funeral. I don’t want a funeral, but whatever memorial happens, I want people to tell stupid stories (if no one mentions the giant meatball from Vegas, I will come back and haunt everyone) and laugh more than cry and remember me as the weirdo I am. [Dove: We recently attended my aunt’s funeral, and it actually changed my whole outlook on them. I hate funerals. Every one I’ve attended seemed to be an apology to God for not being better. This one was all about my aunt. It was funny, and charming and heartfelt, and then I nearly broke when my uncle spoke. It was actually about the person in question, and it was a really loving send-off. We need more goodbyes like that, that celebrate the life as well as mourn the loss (and unless the deceased was super into God, maybe leave him out of it).]

Far too many people are calling Jessica Lamefield and laughing at her. She’s embarrassed and upset because of it and because she thinks she should be used to it by now, it’s been happening all day. [Dove: Jessica and I now have been called the same surname as an insult. There’s something I never thought I’d share with a Wakefield twin. I was lame because I limped though. Deep thinkers at my school.] [Raven: I was just called Buddha. Y’know, because fat.]

She quickly sits in the front row, not daring to walk all the way to the back in case someone trips her. She’s never had to worry about things like that.

Hmm, guess all those times you mocked people back in middle school aren’t so fun anymore. [Raven: Well, yes. But also, this.]

Ronald sits next to her, and Jessica is happier about it than she expects. [Dove: Not as happy as this devout shipper. I’ll take platonic besties, but I really want slow burn romance.] [Wing: You’ve made me invest in it, too.]

Toward the end of class, their geography teacher calls Jessica up to the map to identify where the Maritime Provinces are. The rest of the class laughs at her, Mr Harriman defends her, and Ronald is sympathetic and understanding, like they’re the same.

Except they’re not, Jessica thinks, because no one laughed at him when he went to the map.

Oh, Jess, honey. Ouch.

Anna and Sal write a satirical list of what teachers mean when they say certain things, and it ties nicely into the previous scene because the first on the list is:

When teachers say…

“Do you have something you’d like to share with the class?”

They really mean…

“Please repeat whatever embarrassing thing you were saying.”

It’s a pretty cute list, to be honest.

Oh, hell, I know it’s not available to many readers, I’ll include the whole thing.


by Salvador C. del Valle and Anna Wang

When teachers say…

“Do you have something you’d like to share with the class?”

They really mean…

“Please repeat whatever embarrassing thing you were saying.”

When teachers say…

“Are you paying attention?”

They really mean…

“I lost my train of thought.”

When teachers say…

“Does anyone want extra credit?”

They really mean…

“I have some yard work I need done.”

When teachers say…

“That’s an interesting question.”

They really mean…

“I have no idea.”

When teachers say…

“What’s so funny?”

They really mean…

“Do I have food in my teeth?”

When teachers say…

“Jason, will you watch the class for a few minutes?”

They really mean…

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

When teachers say…

“Class will be dismissed ten minutes early today.”

They really mean…

“I need a cigarette.”

When teachers say…

“Today we’re going to watch a video.”

They really mean…

“I need a nap.”

When teachers say…

“Please show your appreciation for our guest lecturer.”

They really mean…

“Clap or else.”

Elizabeth, Anna, and Sal talk about the dance-a-thon. She thinks it sounds kind of fun, though Sal doesn’t really agree. Sal went to a dance at the community center a few years ago and the music was provided by a high school marching band.




Anna and Elizabeth laugh all over themselves. You sweet weirdos. It’s not that funny.

Elizabeth notices how cute he is, and then is shocked, because she meant to think how funny he is. Not cute, funny.

Oh, honey.

Elizabeth can’t stop thinking about Sal and how cute he is, and funny and friendly and nice and easy to talk to and interesting and — okay, yes, all sorts of things, but not cute.

This distracts her enough that for a long time she doesn’t notice that Jessica isn’t on the bus.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s hiding in the bathroom again, counting down until she can run to make the bus. She manages to make it all the way to her locker before anyone sees her, and then it is Justin and Matt who have cans of shaving cream to decorate her locker. Her books are already out of it, but Ronald’s stuff will be ruined and she doesn’t want that for him.

Not because they’re friends but because he was the only person who was nice to her all day. [Dove: No, it’s because he’s your friend.]

She tries to stop them, tries to get the shaving cream away from them, but they’re too big and fast. Then an even taller boy steps in and stops them. Jessica can’t help but start crying.

Justin and Matt run off, the tall boy picks up her books and wipes away her tears. She’s touched that he’s so kind to her, so handsome, someone who wants to get to know her — and then he calls her Elizabeth.

Elizabeth? Elizabeth? No wonder he had been so nice—he thought I was my sister! I should have known better than to think that anyone would stand up for Jessica Lamefield.

I felt tears welling up in my eyes again.

I turned and ran down the hall before he could see.

Oh sweetheart. This is heartbreaking.

I love the junior high books. I LOVE THEM.

Jessica’s so real here, nuanced and heartbroken and embarrassed and real. [Raven: Super-villain. Origin. Story.]

Elizabeth begs the bus driver not to leave before Jessica makes the bus. He refuses, but then they see Jessica running toward them. Elizabeth hears people laughing at her and doesn’t understand why, Jessica’s not the first one to have to run for the bus.

Jessica looks terrible, Elizabeth worries about her, a boy calls her Lamefield, and Elizabeth is embarrassed by it, but tries to ignore him like Jessica does.

Jessica tells her the entire story once they’re at the back of the bus together, and Elizabeth is furious. She doesn’t understand why Jessica always chooses the most obnoxious people to befriend, not nice, honest people like Sal and Anna.

Now, this is very judgmental Elizabeth. At the same time, though, she should be judging them. They’re awful! Jessica is desperate and lonely! Elizabeth should be worried about her sister.

Elizabeth takes her to I Scream after they get off the bus because ice cream makes everything better. (Elizabeth: mint chocolate chip cone; Jessica: hot fudge sundae. Elizabeth has the right idea.)

Jessica refuses to go back to school, will pretend to be sick for the rest of her life if she must (mono would do it, right? Jessica suggests. Mono, the kissing disease terror of the 80s and 90s).

Elizabeth offers to protect her at school, offers up Anna and Sal too. They’ll protect her. This is so fucking sweet.

They run into Kristin Seltzer, Lacey’s best friend, there with her mother. Kristin is nice to Jessica, but it means nothing to Jessica, because she was out with a cold and doesn’t know to hate her. Plus, “[e]ven a serial killer has to be nice to you if his mom is within earshot.” [Raven: “Mother knows best, Norman.”]

Well, you’d know, Wakefield.

(I am so fucking charmed.)

Elizabeth can’t argue with that, so they walk home in silence.

Anna tells the Doña, Sal’s grandmother, about the dance-a-thon, and she arranges for them to have a free dance class with her dance instructor Mr Fox.

Sal notices that the Doña dresses up, wears makeup, and he gets a weird feeling about it.

Mr Fox kisses the Doña’s hand when they arrive, which is so fucking adorable.

The Doña introduces Sal as her nephew, not her grandson, which makes Salvador cough-laugh until he can’t stop.

They try the waltz first, because Mr Fox says it’s simple, but it’s not. He switches them to the box step, and they manage that a little.

Sal thought it would be weird to dance with Anna, but it doesn’t feel it. He hardly ever thinks about Anna being a girl, but finds it convenient now, because he would feel like a dork dancing with, say, Brian.

Yeah, Salvador, boys dancing with boys, the horror.

Mr Fox and the Doña flirt, Sal can’t stop laughing, and Anna teases him about giving her a concussion when he crashes Anna into a pillar.

Before they all leave, Mr Fox and the Doña dance one final time together, and it’s like they forget they’re not alone. Anna thinks it utterly romantic.

Sal is all, ugh, girls, what the fuck.

I love this book.

Jessica refuses to leave the bus the next morning, but Elizabeth makes her and promises again to stay with her all day.

Except, you know, for all those classes they don’t have together.

No one calls either of them Lamefield. In fact, it’s like most of the students hadn’t yet figured out that they were twins.

Erm. HOW? I understand this is a crowded school, but many of these people have seen both of them and heard their different names. How does no one know?! [Dove: There was an identical twin in my class. I didn’t meet her sister for about six months into school. I never had a class with her twin in my life. And they at least shared a lunch break. Jess and Liz are on completely different schedules. Although, my school had a uniform, so I might have walked past L and thought she was S. *shrugs* I’d say it’s not impossible. Especially in the first week with so many new students. Most that know they’re twins are concentrating on being in a new school and learning their way around, and everyone else… is blissfully unaware of SVMS and their infamous twins.] [Wing: Fair.]

Lacey is the first person to call her Lamefield and tease her about hiding in the bathroom during lunch, tells her to come to the cafeteria. The cafeteria is the worst place in the world to be if you’re unpopular, Jessica thinks, and it’s worse because Elizabeth doesn’t have the same lunch period.

Again, how can you two promise to stay together all day when you don’t even share the same lunch?

I do love this book, but oh, these weirdos. Except it feels like believable weirdos, understandable weirdos. They’re awkward and ridiculous and they are sisters who actually love each other so damn much, which is an amazing thing after the bullshit that has been their “friendship” in SVH.

Kristin shows up, says Scarlett forced her to stick out her tongue to see if she had white spots on it because she’s been sick for two days, and Elizabeth and Kristin have a cute little exchange over it that confuses Lacey.

Jessica and Elizabeth linger in the hall a moment and Jessica sees the tall, cute boy who rescued her. Turns out, he’s Damon Ross who is on the newspaper with Elizabeth.

He sees the two of them, he smiles, and Jessica is absolutely certain that he knows Jessica was the one he helped. She has a good feeling about him. Fate.

Oh, Jess, you and your crushes delight me so much. And of course she already likes this guy. He saved her when she had been treated like shit all day and was only the second person to be nice to her.

Does this look like a giant mess waiting to happen? Yes. Am I looking forward to it anyway? Also yes.

Back to Anna. She wants to eat lunch with Elizabeth and Sal as they normally do now, but Liz has to study for her Spanish test in the library and Sal has detention from Mrs Pomfrey for teasing a substitute teacher.

Liz and Sal leave together, Sal teasing Liz about her Spanish accent. Anna feels a pang, convinces herself that she feels bad because she doesn’t want to have lunch without her two friends.

When she makes it to the cafeteria, though, Liz and Sal are at their table, laughing and telling stories.

Anna thinks Elizabeth stops laughing the moment she sees Anna.

Anna doesn’t mean to sound snippy when she asks them what they’re doing there, they were both busy. Spanish test is canceled because the Xerox machine is broken, and detention canceled because Mrs Pomfrey’s peptic ulcer is acting up. Only two things bother it: Tabasco and Sal.

Anna’s not sure if they’re lying to her or not. She worries that Sal set it all up so he and Liz could have lunch alone together. If she doesn’t have Sal as her best friend, she’ll be alone forever.

Oh, honey.

Then she considers that if they wanted to be alone together, they could have both gone to the library and not the cafeteria where they knew Anna would be.


Elizabeth checks to make sure Anna is okay, then invites both of them to dinner. Anna wants to shout that she doesn’t want to spend anymore time with them, but tells herself again that she shouldn’t be so jealous, they are both her friends.

More notes!

Lacey to Kristin explains about Lamefield, Jess pretending her brother was her boyfriend, and how Justin and Matt left her alone when she started crying, so Kristin and Lacey should spray shaving cream through the vents instead.

Kristin to Lacey tells Lacey that it’s not funny that they made Jessica cry, she doesn’t understand why Lacey hangs out with those assholes, and the boyfriend thing must be a misunderstanding.

Lacey to Kristin asks if she’s mad at her, promises to tell Justin to cut it out, asks if she’s still sleeping over on Friday, and shares gossip about how their French teacher made them sing nursery rhymes one at a time, the horror…

Elizabeth worries that her parents won’t like surprise guests, but Ned is thrilled about it. Er. Why? It’s not like she never brings home friends.

…okay, maybe he’s just being a good dad. My parents loved when my friends came over (except Ostrich; they were not a big fan of Ostrich when we first met. Last laugh is on him because he took better care of them in the last years before their deaths than any of the rest of us did). [Dove: And he listened when your dad read Facebook to him, which is just my favourite thing about both of them.] [Raven: Bless to all of this.]

Elizabeth is excited for Jessica to spend time with Sal and Anna, because she knows her sister will love them once she gets to know them. They’re smart and outgoing, just the kind of people Jessica should want to be friends with.

Starting to sound a little too judgmental there, Liz, but I’m going to ignore it again. The rest of the book is great, the last book was amazing, and I love her actual friendship with jessica, her worries for her sister.

Ned wants to take them out to dinner, Happy Burger maybe, and he wants Jessica to invite her friend from the movie theater. Jessica tries to find a threat to convince her father to never invite Ronald to the house but can’t come up with one dire enough. She calls him weird and nerdy, and Elizabeth’s not the only one who is being judgmental.

You just had a shitty day yesterday of people making fun of you and Ronald being the only person who was nice to you until the locker incident. The fuck are you doing? [Raven: Baby steps, I suppose.]

Jessica doesn’t want to go to dinner with Sal and Anna. Elizabeth is shocked. Flat out tells Jessica that she thought Jess wanted to make friends and that she’ll like Sal and Anna who are funny and nice.

She can’t read the look Jessica gives her and doesn’t understand why Jess can’t understand that Liz is doing this for her.

Please, please, please ghostie, don’t bring back Something Must Be Done.

And it’s a lie! Elizabeth really wants Jess to be friends with them because the twins have never really had the same group of friends before.

Okay, a lie and a continuity error. First of all, they did at times through SVT and the entire early premise of the Unicorn Club was that they were all friends. Wasn’t this series written and published after SVT? [Dove: To be fair, Kimberly Haver torpedoed that pretty fast. But we did always agree that the Super Editions/Chillers/whatever were best, because it would round up the best Unicorns and Team Boring and have them hang out, and we wanted more of that. So we can’t really blame Liz for wanting the same.]

Second, you clearly want Jess to befriend your friends because it will make you feel good. Which is fine! I like when my friends are friends with each other. But don’t try to spin this like a favor for Jess.

Sal and Jess ride with Steven to Happy Burger, Anna and Elizabeth with Ned and Alice. What happened to that minivan that held everyone? Did I make that up? [Dove: Remember when Alice was a “Classroom Mother” to all of them? I still don’t know what that is and it never came up again. It’s probably with the minivan.] [Raven: I guess that they traded the minivan into something less practical in the year or so between books? I’m glad that WASN’T a plot point in another book, to be honest. Would have been better than Ithig, though.]

Liz expected Anna to be shy around her parents, but she’s charming and talkative. Elizabeth feels a little bad when she hears about the dance lesson Anna and Sal took. She starts wondering what it would be like to dance with Sal herself.

Steven drives fast, so there’s some teasing when they all arrive. Everyone but Jessica finds Sal and Steven funny.

Anna easily chats with Steven, too, which also surprises Elizabeth. Most of her friends are awkward around Steven unless they also have teenage brothers, but Anna, the only child, gets on well with him.

Oh honey. How little you know.

This makes me hurt for Anna so, so much.

Their waiter is a cute teen boy (with dark hair and eyes like Sal, Elizabeth is quick to tell us), and Jessica happily flirts with him, as she always does. He flirts back until Sal interrupts them to order a veggie burger.

Again, Jessica is annoyed and others laugh.

Anna and Steven talk about used cars, Steven’s favorite subject (thank fuck it’s no longer food and basketball), and Elizabeth is glad they get along but wish they’d help smooth over the tension between Jess and Sal.

It’s become real clear to her that Jess hates when anyone laughs at Sal’s jokes and Sal hates when Jess is the center of attention.

…but why?

I don’t ask that as a complaint! I think it’s cute. I just hope we get an explanation for it, because it will be such fun characterization. I say, when what I mean is so long as I trust the ghostie to pull it off. [Raven: Sal and Jess are endgame, surely? Or at least until Sal realises he loves Anna?]

You know what? Two books in, and I do trust the SVJH ghostie.

What fresh hell is this?

Friday morning, Jessica feels pretty optimistic. Thursday was fine, even when she ate lunch with Ronald at a table in the corner. The twin thing is working out well for her.

Jessica sees some of Elizabeth’s barrettes lying around and decides to try out Liz’s hairstyle. It looks great on her, which makes sense because, you know, identical twins.

You know, SVJH seems to like twins. Think they’re cool. And wouldn’t they be even cooler if they looked even more alike?

Oh boy, here we go.

Jessica slips into Liz’s room to see what she’s wearing (Liz lays out her clothes, which is fucking adorable): denim skirt, white blouse, green cardigan.

Jess manages to pull out a similar outfit, though her skirt is shorter and she doesn’t have a green cardigan, only a red one. That’ll be good enough.

The second Liz sees her, she starts talking about changing because they’re dressed alike. She’s surprised to hear that Jessica thinks it would be cool to stay dressed alike since it accidentally happened.

Sure. Accidentally.

This, THIS is an excellent, fun kind of manipulation from Jess and a giant relief after SVH. She’s adorable, manipulative without being cruel, and setting herself up for failure, but not in a life-shattering, false rape accusation way.

It blows up immediately when Jess then suggests it would be easy to switch places, they’d only have to exchange sweaters.

Elizabeth has no interest in switching places and, actually, none in dressing alike. They haven’t done that in a long time.

They snap at each other, and when Jess notices Liz is mad, she panics. What will she do without her sister, who will make her life bearable?

Jess changes into jeans and a long-sleeve green shirt. If they can’t dress alike, they can wear the same colors. [Dove: Bless Jess. She’s so sweet when she’s a normal person and not running on plot armour.]

Jess wants to do something after Liz’s Spec meeting, but, of course, it’s Friday and Friday is the “volunteer” dance-a-thon. Jess asks to go with them, but Liz doesn’t think that’s a good idea, either. Jess could have been nicer to Sal at dinner.

Jess snaps that he could have been nicer to her, too, which is true! She walks it back, though, swears she’ll be nice to him, points out it’s for charity, etc.

She’s really bending over backwards to keep Elizabeth happy, which is a change for them (though not in SVJH, in the other series), and it’s interesting that I don’t see this as Jess being spineless the same way we accuse Liz of being so often.

There are a few reasons for that, at least for me. Liz isn’t doing terrible things to Jess that cause Jess to back down. Jess’s pain is palpable in this book. She’s hurting and awkward and desperate, and she’s backing down to Liz for that reason, not because she refuses to defend herself.

She also wants to go to the newspaper meeting with Liz because even that is better than sitting alone, though she doesn’t tell Liz that part. Liz finally, reluctantly agrees she can do both.

Partway through this conversation, Jess realizes that Damon will be at the meeting, too, and she will have the chance to try to impress him.

Way to bounce back, sweetheart! I love you.

Lacey walks by when Jess is with Liz, Brian, Sal, and Anna at Liz’s locker. She sneers but doesn’t say anything, and Jess is thrilled. (Liz was ready to throw the fuck down for her sister, which warms my little heart. Have I mentioned how much I love their friendship in this series? Because I fucking love it.)

OMG adorable answering machine messages I am going to copy in full because I laughed and am utterly charmed. I love this sort of — it’s not mixed media, but I can’t think of the word I want. Love it.

“Hi, the del Valles’ answering machine is broken. This is their refrigerator speaking. Please leave a message.”


“Hello, you’ve reached the Wakefield residence, and we’re pleased to announce that Steven has been adopted into a new family and can no longer be reached at this num—argh! Steven, give me that! Steven!”


“Hi, this Lacey. Please leave a message and then wait by your phone until I call you back.”


“Greetings, you are communicating with the voice-mail system of the Wang family. Following this recording, there will be a medium-pitched sine wave, which is your signal to begin your message. Please be concise.”


[In a monster voice] “Hi, this is Brian Rainey, and I’m not myself right now…” [Horror-movie laughter]


“Hello, Wakefield residence. Unfortunately Jessica is in traction right now and will be unable to receive calls until Christmas. We’re all really broken up about it. If this is Kathy, I’ll pick you up at eight.” (Is that … is that minor continuity? Right girlfriend, wrong spelling?)


“Hi, this is Anna, and if anyone called earlier and heard my dad’s supernerdy outgoing message, please don’t think less of us.”


“Hi, this is Margie and Kristin Seltzer, and we’re screening our calls. At the beep start talking, and if we pick up, it means we’re willing to talk to you. If we don’t, we’re not home.”


“Hello, you have reached the abode of Alphonse Fox. Please be so kind as to leave a message at the beep.”


Damn, that’s a cute fucking way to rush through some characterization for characters we don’t see a lot of. [Raven: I actually used to use the refridgerator one myself. I ended mine with “Please leave a message, and I’ll stick it to my face with one of these little magnets.”]

At the Spec meeting that afternoon, Jess talks Charlie into letting her sit in on the meeting because she’s sooooooo fascinated by journalism. Elizabeth is surprised by that claim, but she shouldn’t be! Jess is a better writer than her, as we learned back when there were two competing newspapers at SVMS.

(Oh no, I’ve started to ship Charlie and Jessica for no real reason except they are both ridiculous and a little judgmental.)

Jess asks about Damon, but he’s missing that meeting. Jess is aghast. So is Liz when she figures out that Jess is only there because of Damon. Jess swears she’s just trying to make friends, and Liz lets things go.

Sort of.

She’s still angry and embarrassed.

Liz starts to write up her interview with Mrs Franksy, but gets interrupted when she starts transcribing what Jess says to Charlie. More than once.

Now, I’ve done this before, but only a word or two at a time, and not twice in a row. I thought you were good at focusing, Liz!

Charlie sets Jess to work typing up an article Charlie wrote about the new swimming pool. And Jessica does it! Even though she’s a “two-finger typist” per Liz. [Dove: Where exactly did Liz learn to touch-type? It was never covered.] [Wing: I can see her finding something to teach herself. I still love the typing games we used.]

Look at you go, Charlie!

Charlie looked at Jessica and said in a very cool voice, “If you want to make yourself useful—”

“I don’t particularly—,” Jessica started.

Yeah, I ship them.

Things seem to go well for the rest of the meeting, until Charlie ends it and sees the changes Jess made to her article.

I managed to finish my article on Mrs. Fransky and was just packing up my stuff when I heard Charlie start yelling.

“What are you talking about?” she stormed at Jessica, waving a sheet of paper. “There was ‘no mysterious fish possibly believed to be a piranha found in the wading pool’!”

“I’m just trying to increase sales,” Jessica replied. “Someday you’ll thank me—”

Fucking hell, I want to see them clash and angrily flirt and end up making out. Enemies to lovers right here. [Dove: A review of the Arcadia Inn, perhaps?]

Liz drags Jess away and out to their ride, reminding herself over and over that Jess is her sister and she loves her.

Fuck, this is adorable too. Realistic conflict between them! Emotions without them reacting in strange ways. Liz doesn’t simply back down but is keeping the peace.

Fuck I love this book.

Time for the dance-a-thon!

Anna is unimpressed. The gym is dark and smells of sweat socks. The only decoration is a banner reminding them they’re doing this for charity but in a kind of creepy way, Anna thinks: REMEMBER! YOU’RE DANCING FOR THEIR LIVES!

She’s … she’s not wrong about the creepy factor. Is this about to turn into a horror story? I’d read that!

(…Fuck, I might write that.)

Jess continues annoying Anna and Sal as they go through the dance-a-thon rules. Example: She can’t tuck in her shirt, it’s too short (and I find this a weird rule anyway, wtf). Liz talks her down and that annoys Anna, too. Why is Jess so rude? Why does Liz spend so much time taking care of her sister?

She likes Liz, but being her friend might not be worth dealing with Jess.

Oh, honey.

I love how we get to see different internal thoughts and interpretations of the same actions. They know each other, but they don’t know everything, and definitely not all the same things the reader knows. It adds a nice bit of nuance to their friendships.

Jess isn’t the only one being weird, though.

Brian tells Liz a joke, Sal gets annoyed that he’s whispering and making Liz laugh, and Sal starts trying to compete with Brian.

Anna realizes that Sal does like Elizabeth. She feels sick, tells them to go ahead to the refreshments without her, because she needs to get away from them.

Liz asks if she’s sure she doesn’t want to come because it was her idea in the first case. Anna looks straight at Sal when she says no. He can’t meet her gaze, and she’s glad for it. He’s a fake, he’s a liar.

Even Brian notices that Sal is being kind of weird.

Anna thinks it’s going to be a long, bad evening.

The second rule is that there will be only one five minute break after every 55 minutes of dancing. A referee calls Brian on resting outside that. He swears he’s just dancing slowly. Sure you are, Brian. Sure you are.

Rule three is no food or drinks on the dance floor. (Logical.) Sal gets called out for chewing gum. Asks Anna what food group gum belongs to. (He’s not wrong. Still logical to forbid it, though.)

Rule four is no body bashing, body surfing, or harmful behavior. Anna loses her balance and accidentally body surfs without knowing what it is. (Wait. What. How? Was she standing above people when she tripped? Do they pick her up from the floor?)

Rule five is no colliding with other dancers. (Maybe that should be intentional, or are you going to punish klutzy people?) Elizabeth and Brian slow dance at the same time Sal and Anna do. Sal’s too busy watching Liz and collides with another couple, knocking a bunch of people into each other.

Rule six is only feet can touch the dance floor. No sitting, kneeling, or crawling. (Headstands? Handstands? I mean, yes, only feet, but those are some boring examples.) Elizabeth gets caught crawling while she looks for her earring.

Rule seven is no bathroom breaks except during rest periods. Jess gets caught going to the bathroom. The referee reminds her it’s not a rest period. She asks: “Look, do you want a puddle on the floor or not?” (BEST FUCKING RESPONSE. I love her. And she’s right. I know why they have the rule, but it’s also a terrible one.)

Elizabeth is not nearly as entertained by this as I am, nor is the referee. He also doesn’t seem to recognize this is a shitty (ahahaha) rule.

Sal is annoyed with Jess for breaking the rule, she points out he’s broken a bunch of rules already, why is he arguing with her. Liz wants to strange Jess, tries to get them to stop, but the argument grows and grows and grows, until Jess wants to storm away and expects Liz to go with her.

Liz doesn’t want to leave her friends, but she knows if she doesn’t go with her, they’ll never have the same group of friends, they’ll go their own ways, Liz will fail at solving Jess’s problem of being lonely at school.

She can’t fix everything, though. She knows she can’t.


Liz tells Jess no. Tries not to cry when Jess storms away.

Sal apologizes to Liz because Jess was right, he does always pick on her. ERM, maybe that apology should be for Jess! He offers to go after her, but Liz thinks it’s probably better this way. ERM, Liz, maybe that apology should be for Jess!

Brian tells them they probably owe the hospital more money than his allowance covers and he’s already exhausted. [Dove: Now we know why all those rules exist. To make more money. Genius.] [Wing: …fuck. You’re right. And it is genius. Goddamn it, I wanted to mock them more.] [Raven: You say it’s genius, I STRONGLY disagree. The referees in this are all tinpot little dictators, and in NO way is the Dance-athon presented as a fun charity-helping event. It’s presented as DETENTION, as punishment. The rules do nothing but increase the misery on the participants. Perhaps if it was, like, FUN, peoplke would volunteer for it rather than be press-ganged into it. You can’t more flies with honey than with vinegar, is all I’m saying.] Anna comforts Liz, tells her that Jess will come around. Brian and Anna dance again. Liz is glad to have friends like them, and asks Sal to dance with her.

Jess calls Steven to ask if he’ll come get her. He does immediately, even though he doesn’t normally like being treated as a car service.

(It’s great that he comes to get her, excellent sibling stuff, but it’s not all out of the kindness of his heart. Kathy canceled their date and he was doing homework. Ha.)

Jess is frustrated and sad at the same time. She tried so hard to be nice and helpful at the Spec meeting, she tried to put up with Sal being terrible to her, she tried to act like Liz, but she just can’t, she doesn’t know how.

Things are going to be bad now, she knows. She’ll be lonely Lamefield again.

Damon comes out with two little girls. She greets him, he calls her Elizabeth, and she’s shocked because she thought he could tell them apart.

Jess is done with being known as Lacey’s friend or Elizabeth’s sister and says that she’s Jessica, not Elizabeth. Damon points out he thought she was Liz because of her hair, then introduces her to his two little sisters, Sally and Kaia. (That’s a cute name!)

Kaia reaches for one of Jess’s barrettes and Jess gives it to her (oh dear god, please don’t let that kid choke). She starts chewing on it immediately, and Damon gives it back to Jess before she destroys it.

Then, softly, tells her that he likes her hair better loose.

Fuck, that’s adorable.

Both their rides show up at the same time. They spend another moment just looking at each other before they separate, and Jess is utterly besotted.

Again I say, fuck this is adorable.

Back over to Sal. Now, I liked Sal better than Dove did in the first book, but after that adorable little flirtation, I have no interest in going back to this growing love triangle. [Dove: So far, Sal’s not winning for me. Again, I didn’t dislike him, he was just my least favourite thing in a good book. And yeah, another of my unfavourites are love triangles, so that’s unfortunate for him.]

Sal wanders through thoughts of dancing with different people as he tries to figure out how to describe dancing with Liz. (“But dancing with Anna is like, I don’t know… curling up in your favorite chair. Or maybe stepping into the kitchen when it’s cold outside. It was nice. It was easy.” Oh boy.)

Dancing with Liz makes him self-conscious and awkward and sweaty. Still, they dance closer and closer, until they’re close enough to kiss and he struggles to breathe.

Then he sees Anna looking at them from across the room, looking both hurt and angry. He’s seen that look on her before, but never directed at him.

This brings about a couple of realizations: One, he’s not acting like he and Liz are just friends the way he’s meant to be doing. Two, no matter how hard he’s tried to avoid it, he’s falling for her. Three, Anna knows and she’s mad.

He immediately wants to fix things. He tangos Liz across the gym to Brian and Anna, asks if he can cut in, and takes Brian for a spin, then switches to Anna. When Liz dances with Brian, he has to stop himself from shoving them apart.

Anna asks if he’s done acting weird. She’s missed having her best friend.

He resolves to get over Liz, stop acting weird, and be happy with his best friend again.

Diary entry from Jess! She feels like Lamefield sitting around alone, writing in her diary. Liz is still at the dance, why isn’t she home, etc. Lots of fluttering over Damon. Lacey isn’t all that great after all and neither is the cool crowd. Liz still isn’t home and Jess hates it. No, she’s glad, she’s still angry, how dare Liz choose Sal over her own sister. How dare she accuse Jess of being unreasonable! Though she could have been quieter at the newspaper, and maybe shouldn’t have argued with the judge, and probably shouldn’t have yelled at Sal, she even feels kind of bad about it. Liz is her twin and she doesn’t have to love Liz’s friends to love her. She sure does wish Liz would come home.

Oh my god my heart. MY HEART. This is so lovely and perfectly Jess and I adore it all.

Liz and Friends have to pay $20 to the charity for all their rule violations, and I laugh.

She’s distracted thinking about dancing with Sal. Though Brian’s a better dancer, it was nothing like dancing with Sal, who made her laugh and feel all tense and not even mind when he stepped on her.

When she gets home, she immediately starts worrying about facing Jess. Her parents invite her to watch The Beast with Five Fingers with them. I’m going to assume horror, though we could so, so easily spin that into an incest joke, adn I would except that I love this damn series.

Liz decides to face Jess first.

It goes better than she expects, and she and Jess join their parents to watch the movie even though Alice freaks out at scary movies.

Liz’s article is called The Secret of the Clam Dip which is kind of a terrible title but exactly the sort of title I’ve seen (and used) in a school paper. Quick summary: Mrs Fransky first made it by accident in the 1950s, adding things until the chocolate syrup added the right zip to it. She won a first prize of $1000 in a competition the next year, which was a lot of money at the time.

She also shares the entire recipe with the school as a going away gift, and that’s adorable as fuck. The article isn’t boring, either, to be honest.

Here’s the recipe. If you make it, dear readers, please, for the love of god, tell me how it is.

Eileen’s Clam Zip-Dip

1 4-ounce can of clams

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

2 tablespoons chocolate syrup

Chop clams and mix all ingredients well. Slip into something comfortable and serve with vegetables or crackers.

[Raven: I mean, I’d give it a shot, but Dove would not be down for Clams. Also, I don’t think they come in cans over in the UK.]

The next morning, Jess wakes up feeling light and free. She now knows she doesn’t have to be nice to Lacey, or Liz’s other half, or hang out with Liz’s friends, she could simply be herself.

Why be popular if she doesn’t like the people she befriends?


And she thinks she has a cool new friend in Damon.

Fucking adorable.

Alice asks Jess to get some chicken breasts from the butcher because they’re having people over for dinner. Liz went to the dry cleaners, so she can’t go. Jess snaps that she went to the pharmacy, even though it was three months ago.

She’s glad she doesn’t have to worry about being sugary sweet to Liz just because she needed a safety shield.

These two weirds. I love them.

My mom followed me to the door, giving me money and some instructions. “Now, tell the butcher that I wanted the plumpest, juiciest breasts he’s got,” Mom said.

I couldn’t believe my mom actually thought I was going to say that! “Sure, Mom,” I lied.

Fucking hell, Alice. I cackled.

Jess runs into Kristin and Lacey in line at the butcher. Kristin greets her all friendly, but Jess is still tense. Reminds herself that she doesn’t care what Lacey thinks. She’s not even sure she likes Lacey in the first place!


Kristin cuts off Lacey before she can call her Lamefield. Jess tries to figure out what Elizabeth would say in this situation, then decides she doesn’t know and it doesn’t matter, she’ll say whatever she wants to say.

So she says this:

I turned to Lacey and Kristin and whispered,

“My mom told me to ask the butcher for the plumpest, juiciest breasts he has, but I’d sooner kill myself.”

Lacey’s lips twisted into an ironic smile. “My stepmom said that I should be sure to ask for hand-carved ham.”

“What does she think he’s going to carve it with?” Kristin asked. “His foot?”

Goddamn, that’s actually cute and funny. Ghostie, I am impressed. [Dove: I loved this exchange. Just adorable and I love a clueless blurt that leads to a fun conversation.]

They even ride their bikes together a little when they leave, and talk about Damon. No one knows anything about him, Lacey says, he never tells anyone anything. Jess suggests he has a big secret, like maybe he’s in witness protection. She’s joking, but Lacey doesn’t seem to get that.

When they say goodbye, Lacey actually calls her Wakefield.

Garth Street is a long, straight street with a hill in the middle. I biked to the top of the hill and then took my hands off the handlebars and coasted down the other side, my arms held wide.

It was almost like flying.

Oh. my. god. That is too fucking cute. What a sweet, fun ending.

Final Thoughts


This was amazing. Even the frustrating parts are well done. These people are friends! And it’s clear they’re friends and why they’re friends! It’s a believable disagreement for the twins! Both of them have character growth! None of the other Wakefields are obnoxious and they’re actually a cute family.

Not even the love triangle is putting me off. I find it boring and want to see more of Jess and Damon at this point, but I really love Liz and Anna and like Sal well enough, and I want to see their friendships and how they navigate all of this.

That’s the core of it, I think. I’m hooked, I care about the characters, and I want more. I want to learn more about Tim and see Anna find comfort. I want to know why Damon’s so reserved. I want to see Liz figure out her emotions. I want Jess to make real friends. I want to learn why Kristin is so much nicer than Lacey.

I want this series to never end.

These characters I can care about and enjoy and want to read about. These characters make me wish we had them in all the other series, particularly SVH. They actually like each other! The conflicts are similar to the other series (romantic troubles! figuring out who they are outside of being twins! friends come and go! needing personal growth!), but these characters, unlike in SVH, aren’t awful to each other.

Ghostie, you made me care, damn you.

[Dove: Again, loved it. I’m here for the long haul. On a weaker book, I might rage about how pointless the clam recipe was or how it came out of nowhere, but I don’t really care. Sometimes things just happen, and for all we know, this was integral to something that happens later. Or maybe it isn’t. But by the time I read the next book, I won’t even care. I LOVE this series. I can’t wait to read the next one. I want to see more of Jessica and Damon, and obviously, my favourite, Ronald. Anna I definitely want to see more of. I even love Liz and… hell, even Steven. Bring it. I need more.]

[Raven: This book, like the first, was great, for everything that Wing and Dove have said above. Jessica is absolutely great, Elizabeth is excellent, the Extended Wakefields are the Best Version of Themselves, and I’ve genuine interest for the lives and loves of all the other characters. Hell, I even liked Mrs Fransky and her Clam Dip. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!]