Title: BIG for Christmas
Tagline: A wish come true…
Summary: A Christmas miracle…
Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield have been invited to the biggest, best Christmas party of the year. They can’t wait. Even high school kids will be there. They’ve already planned the perfect outfits when they hear the terrible news: their parents forbid them to go. Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield insist they’re too young.
The twins are absolutely furious. They go to bed that night, wishing more than anything that they were grown-ups with the freedom to do whatever they wanted.
The next morning, Jessica and Elizabeth wake up and discover that the most amazing thing has happened…
I love Big, it’s one of my feel-good movies – I especially like the story I heard that De Niro was up for the lead role, and actually spent some time with Jared Rushton (the kid who played Billy) to get into the role. Rushton apparently spent this time yelling, “Come on, De Niro, keep up!” and hounding him into rough-housing.
And I love – I guess? – Sweet Valley.
Among the things I also love? Christmas. I would watch Hallmark Christmas movies year round if it didn’t make them less special.
So this has to be a winner, right? I mean, look at how awesome The Christmas Ghost was.
PS: Fuck these stupid covers. Here, have mine instead. [Raven: Lovely cover!]
[Wing: Dove’s covers are always so wonderful. I’m looking forward to all the rest. As for the rest of the things, I’m not as big (ahem) a fan of Big as Dove, but I saw a stage show of it once and there was a scene with beautiful stars as a gift, and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen on stage, so I am inordinately fond of Big now.]
We open with a Unicorn meeting, Janet is very festively dressed and asserts that even though they’re probably exhausted from the exams (they have exams?) there is something very special on the horizon now that the Christmas break has started. [Wing: End of semester exams (more likely to be called finals, though). Usually the end of the semester coincides with winter break, though where I went to school, we took finals in January inside.]
While Janet relishes in the build-up, Jessica thinks to herself how much she loves Christmas, especially the presents, and wonders how much she should spend on Janet’s gift. They’re not best friends, but she knows that Janet will cut a bitch who tries to give her a cheapskate gift.
After twirling around to show off her new outfit – at this, Mandy mutters to Jessica that the new outfit might be the sole reason she invited them over, and they both have to stifle sniggers – Janet finally reveals that the great surprise is that she and Joe, her brother, a freshman at Sweet Valley High, are co-hosting a party. Middle and high schoolers will mix.
This is wacky hijinks of the highest order! Cats and dogs living together, etc., but in a good way.
Everyone is delighted by this turn of events. How fabulous to rub shoulders with high school boys. Except, y’know, literally two books ago Janet and Jessica both dated high schoolers and didn’t like it, but we’ve all been here long enough to know that continuity is as desirable as cellulite in Sweet Valley.
The excitement is so great that Tamara and Kimberley start grinding on each other and they nearly smash the figurines of the Three Wise Men. Janet reminds them, with a steely glint in her eye, that the desecration of porcelain tat does not reflect well on the Unicorns and tells them to calm the fuck down. She does, however, accept the round of applause they give her.
Then she tells them that they can’t dress like kids, this is a party with high schoolers. No velvet, no lace, no bows. So that rules out the goths and the kawaii kids, but neither exists in Sweet Valley. [Raven: So did middle-school kids at parties wear velvet and lace in the late eighties / early nineties? Seems a bit weird. Where they all cosplaying as Austin Powers?] [Wing: Oh, lord, this is what we get from the dude’s perspective. Yes, velvet and lace were incredibly popular in the 80s and 90s. Some of my favourite party dresses in the 90s were velvet, in fact. Dark green for one, dark blue for another. I suppose I can’t say for certain what people wore to Christmas parties because I wasn’t allowed to celebrate Christmas growing up (church cult), but velvet and lace, totally in.] [Dove: See the above render – I do mention this later in the recap – but yeah, that’s quite a childish dress, but super popular.] Also, last month Wing and I both ruefully eyed a lovely red velvet dress that neither of us could justify buying, since we both refused to go to any Christmas parties. (Shopping for clothes with Wing is a newly discovered passion. It’s expensive, but awesome.) [Wing: Weirdest part of this is that I don’t like shopping or fashion and yet I have a wonderful time shopping for clothes with Dove.]
She models her own outfit, red mini-skirt, fitted vest and an oversized red leather belt, and says this is the kind of thing they should strive for. Lila also does well in black jeans and a silk shirt. Mandy asks what about the less affluent, and Janet says that Mandy’s outfit is good too – chenille (probably great-looking) sweater, red and white striped leggings and a black felt hat.
Jessica suddenly panics, because she is wearing white jeans and a purple t-shirt with a Unicorn on. My headcanon says this is the logo on the front of her t-shirt:
(Fun Dove fact: I collect mugs. I don’t mean to. It’s not an active hobby. But whenever people come over, they’re like, “Wow, Dove, got enough mugs?” and I have to concede that having 24 in rotation is excessive for a household of two.)
Jessica is not the only one who has noticed her poor choices, Janet singles her out as a great example of a “fashion don’t”, saying she needs to wear bootcut jeans with boots, not sneakers (see, we’re in the 90s now), and if a t-shirt is that faded and “practically falling apart” you should use it to wash the dog, not to represent the Unicorns.
Jessica is suitably humiliated, but can’t defend herself because Janet has a point. Mandy whispers that Janet’s just jealous that Jessica looks effortlessly pretty. Mandy is fucking awesome.
Jessica vows to look so mature that she’ll be mistaken for a senior citizen at the party.
[Wing: My first question about this scene was this: Aren’t they supposed to try to wear something purple every day? Therefore of the outfits that are described, Jessica is the only one being true to the Unicorn fashion rules. How does that reflect on the Unicorns, JANET? HUH?]
We cut to Elizabeth at school. I assume this is the next day, and the Unicorns weren’t just bunking off for the lolz, but the cut is really quite abrupt. Elizabeth and Amy discuss how hard the English exam was, which makes me wonder if Jessica is actually a genius. Because I’m under the impression that if you do super badly all year you either have to do summer school or you’re held back in the US, at least in the 80s/90s. So while Elizabeth slogs for her top marks, Jessica does fuck all but gets by. She’s probably smarter than Elizabeth. She probably absorbs more without paying much attention. [Raven: Of course. That’s just undervaluing Top Marks, I guess. They’re of identical intelligence, with wildy different priorities.] [Wing: Eh, sometimes you’d just get passed along to the next grade because the teachers didn’t want to deal with you again. I can see that happening to Jessica, though I think you’re both right and Jessica is at least as smart as, if not smarter than, Elizabeth, she just focuses on different things.]
Anyway, before I got sidetracked with another ramble about why #TeamJessica is where it’s at, we get a quick same-but-different recap about the twins, and then Team Boring quickly discuss Amanda Howard. Elizabeth has to return the latest book to the library, and Amy is eager to read it until she realises that she’s read that one already. Apparently Elizabeth got her hooked on the mystery and now she’s jonesing for her next fix.
Elizabeth suggests other books she can read but Amy’s over it all: Sadie’s Summer in Seattle (too childish); War in the Kitchen (too depressing) [Raven: How can a book called War in the Kitchen be too depressing?!]; Zen and the Art of Hopscotch (Triple B: Bland, boring, banal – which is fucking rich from Amy fucking Sutton). And now Amy’s bummed out, her entire Christmas break is ruined because she has no books to read. Because apparently there are only those three books and the Amanda Howard series in the world. Good to know.
Elizabeth grins to herself because now she knows what to buy Amy for Christmas.
They catch up with Jessica on the way home, and she tells them about the Howell Christmas party. Elizabeth says she might feel self-conscious being around such older boys, but Jessica says that she’s going to pick such awesome outfits no-one will know they’re only twelve.
Then there is an odd segue where they hear a strange noise and Amy asks if it was Elizabeth’s stomach. It actually turns out to be an elephant. But y’know, those things sound really the same. They bike towards the noise and realise that it’s a Christmas carnival, and they’re quite excited about it, until the guy they ask about it calls them “kiddies”. [Raven: If there’s a bloody carnival coming to town, why the hell isn’t the Sweet Valley Sixers all over that shit?] [Dove: That is such a good point.]
Amy wants to go first thing tomorrow. Bad idea, Amy. Last time there was a carnival here at Christmas, Elizabeth nearly died. Also, reminding me of a better book and the lack of continuity is probably not a good move. [Wing: I’ll just be off rereading that story instead of this one.]
Both Jessica and Elizabeth say they can’t, they have shopping to do, but Elizabeth says they might go in the evening, while Jessica thinks to herself she’s too mature for “that kiddie stuff”.
Over breakfast the next morning, the twins inform the fam that they’re going shopping today, and Ned says that he has to meet with Mr Porter, a very important client who is visiting from London. At first I wondered what that was all about, given that English laws are different to the US, but then I figured maybe he has a branch of whatever he does in California, so I’ll grudgingly let it slide, but I do like to pick apart Ned’s prowess as a lawyer.
Ned adds that he’ll be busy today and tomorrow and Friday… so, I guess we’re on Wednesday now? Anyway, Friday evening will be a good evening to get the Christmas tree. The twins can’t wait, but Steven grunts that it’s kids’ stuff and he’s over it. Both twins bristle at the implication that they’re childish for wanting to get the tree, and Elizabeth notes that her father looks hurt by Steven’s indifference. She pleads with him to go with them, and he mumbles a disinterested agreement.
When Ned leaves, Steven says there’s a carnival in town and asks if they’re going. The twins hedge that they haven’t decided, and Steven again says it’s just for kids, and he’s not going. There is this though:
“Those carnivals are for kids. They never even have roller coasters or anything. Just little Ferris wheels and stuff like that. You know—your kind of thing,” he added, gesturing toward the twins.
Way to sensitively reference the time Elizabeth nearly fell to her death from a Ferris wheel at a Christmas carnival.
[Wing: I laughed so hard at this comment, Dove, that I scared Monster Dog into falling off the sofa.]
The twins, however, are much more offended by his tone and point out that he’s treating them like dumb little kids. He tells them they’re being sensitive and when they object, he thoughtfully replies with a well-reasoned, “Whatever.”
I could point out that he’s an asshat, but at the moment, this is a much more acceptable asshat than the one in Steven’s Enemy. This is just big brother asshattery, not “grooms twelve year olds, cheats on his girlfriend and wants to violently assault a younger kid who is more talented than him” asshattery. So, y’know, it’s a step up.
We cut to Jessica shopping in Kendalls, which is tarted up for Christmas, and she’s having a lovely time soaking in the atmosphere. She spies some hats and thinks to herself that hats will look sophisticated. Unfortunately, they are adult hats, which mean they’re far too big and the brim comes down to her nose. [Raven: Big Hat or Small Hat?]
I am now picturing the twins as having improbably small heads like in Beetlejuice, because when I was around twelve, I would occasionally put on my dad’s hat, because it was just lying around and being twelve and bored is usually a good motivation to do random shit. It was a bit big, but not ridiculous. I could’ve worn it, if I was willing to occasionally shove it back into position. And also if I wanted to wear a farmer’s hat covered in muck and grime and sunbleached from wear. Which, as a goth, I did not.
The next hat comes down to her chin.
Oh. Maybe Sweet Valley adults have really big heads? That’s more probable. I all that smugness and terrible parenting has to live somewhere.
A sales lady suggests she tries the kid section, they have cute berets with pom-poms, and Jessica sneers internally at this suggestion. Jessica drifts away from the hats and spies a sign saying “Free Makeovers”. The makeup artist is sucking up to an adult, saying she doesn’t have to buy anything now. Jessica thinks that’s a brilliant idea – she can get the makeover, note the colours and then buy cheaper versions. It’s a good plan, except for the makeup artist. She calls Jessica a little girl and tells her to play somewhere else. Then she complains to the adult she’s making up that parents treat the mall like a day care.
I think that’s a bit fucking nasty, to be honest. Being twelve to sixteen is rubbish. You can’t go anywhere except “nice” places – so basically, the mall and the cinema. Maybe you’re lucky and you have an ice rink or something else to do, but in my town, we didn’t even have a mall. So it was go to the shops and then hang out on the benches at the bus station. And twelve is the perfect age to pointlessly hang around places. It’s not day care, it’s a failed swing for independence – and I’m probably older than the makeup artist, and I still remember this.
Jessica walks away in disgust, heading for the dress department, looking forward to a successful end to her shopping trip.
We cut to Steven who is furious with Joe Howell for allowing Janet to co-host the party. Steven is taking it personally that his best friend is responding to his parents’ decree that they didn’t want two parties, so they had to combine them. I guess nobody’s as oppressed as Steven. [Raven: Steven and the twins had a joint party at the Wakefield Compound while their parents were away, so I donmm’t know what he’s fucking worried about.]
Joe doesn’t see the big deal – it’ll just mean some eighth graders will be there and – according to @ogwnostalgia and Wing – that means they’re the same age as the high school Freshmen. [Wing: Well, depends on where birthdays fall and what not, but yes, they’re within a year of each other, and some freshmen will be the same age as some eighth graders if the freshmen are the youngest in their grade and the eighth graders the oldest.]
Okay, so. I know continuity isn't exactly top priority in Sweet Valley, but there's a very simple thing they *should* have been able to keep track of from one series (SV High, Twins, & Kids) to another – ages! Stay with me here: . . . .
— Oh God Why?! Nostalgia Reviews (@ogwnostalgia) January 28, 2020
Joe still doesn’t care when Steven points out that sixth graders will be there, including his hellspawn twins. Steven expands that the twins will make fun of him every time he tries to talk to a girl. I guess this ghostie doesn’t know that Steven’s dating Cathy Connors so his sisters won’t be killing his chances of impressing a girl. Then again, in the past two book (non special edition) books he dated Veronica, a sixth grader, and swooned over Ashley, a seventh grader. So, actually, keep going twinsies, you kill his “game”.
Joe tries to placate him by saying Tony Rizzo and his sixth-grade sister, Sophia, will be there. But Steven points out that Jessica lives to be noticed and she’ll do anything to stand out. [Wing: I’m shocked that Steven wants to go to any party that will include Tony Rizzo. Maybe he’s completely turned around from his VCR-stealing days, since I’m pretty sure the Wakefields were snobby as shit over that.]
Over with Elizabeth, she’s shopping for Amy’s present/book. She rejected horror outright and asks if the salesman if he’s sure there aren’t any new Amanda Howards and he reiterates that The Case of the Missing Ballpoint (which is the actual title, and not me mocking the ghostie) is the most recent one. He offers the same three books that Elizabeth suggested to Amy earlier, and she rejects them by quoting Amy’s response.
And that rules out everything in the tween/teen section of the book store. Elizabeth is unwilling to consider anything in the plucky girl detective genre because it won’t be as good as Amanda Howard, and she won’t read any other genre because she doesn’t like it. Boy, Elizabeth is going to have real issues if Amanda Howard stops writing.
Hang on, wait.
Are you telling me that Elizabeth has literally read nothing but Amanda Howard? Or that anything else was universally shit? What about her horse phase, when she read National Velvet and Black Beauty? Did they suck? Doesn’t she love Huck Finn?
Fuck off Elizabeth with your “there’s nothing to read”. My experience at twelve was there were a billion things to read, but with only £3 in my pocket, I could only afford one book (Stephen King books were two weeks’ pocket money and an “Oh, all right, here’s an extra quid” from my mum). Or at the library, because I was a kid, I could only take out four books, not like the adults who could have eight.
The salesman is equally infuriated by Elizabeth’s ONE AUTHOR TO RULE THEM ALL attitude and suggests she tries the adult department. So Elizabeth trundles off and buys Amy “Suzie Sucks Sweet Valley”. Well, not quite.
Carolyn Farnsworth-Smythe, daughter of an eccentric millionaire in New York, follows her true love west. Along the trail, she meets love, lust, passion, greed, and violence. Can she make her way over the punishing roads that lead the way west? Can she survive the brutalities of man and nature? Will handsome gunslinger William Carlton put down his gun and learn to push a plow? Marion Plotkin’s riveting romance will capture your imagination and refuse to let it go.
Elizabeth has bypassed all of the decent books in the entire adult section and gone straight to Mills & Boone (Rosey has a fantastic database of their titles). After gazing hopelessly at the sections that are least like Amy (Philosophy, Religion, Art, etc.) she sees the biography section and decides that is exactly Amy’s thing. I suppose it is, she did buy her Johnny Buck’s Unauthorised Biography in The Wakefields Strike it Rich.
She bumps into a saleswoman who calls her “little girl”, which nobody has ever done before this book, and she tries to help Elizabeth, who wants to buy a biography but has no idea about what. The saleswoman is either trolling Elizabeth or doesn’t know many twelve year olds because her recommendations are: The Life of Franklin T. Jones: Memoirs of an Industrialist (fascinating), Vivian Ryan: Up Close and Candid (she’s a star from the silent movies era) or The Life of Churchill.
Thankfully, Elizabeth spies something she wants: A Pictorial History of the Horse. Way to buy Amy something she wants, kid. It’s all going well, Elizabeth feels very grown up buying it, she thinks Amy will feel grown up when she receives it, and it looks lovely as it gets gift wrapped… and then the price turns out to be $65.42, which is out of Elizabeth’s budget.
Wow. That is a lot. When I read these as a kid, I was astounded by the price difference. Back then my understanding of the currency conversion was: $3 = £2, roughly. So £40 for a book? In 1992? What the fuck, America? How can you justify that? [Raven: I’m guessing that it’s a “coffee table” style book, which can get pretty pricey. Something like this.] [Wing: Yes, that’s it exactly. Though why that’s in biography, I have no fucking idea.] I begged and pleaded with my mother to buy me Stephen King’s Insomnia in hardback for £13.99 and she kept saying no, it was too expensive, then bought it for me “for Easter” in 1995. (And I finally got through it in 2016. It was awful. Mum was right.)
As Elizabeth makes her humiliated exit, she hears the saleswoman comment, “Believe me, the next time a little kid tries to buy a book from me, I’m sending them straight to the children’s department.”
She tells herself that the saleswoman was just grouchy, and no, not really, you wasted her time. You should have asked the price before the woman wasted her time gift wrapping it. It’s a few days before Christmas, it’s a busy time for everyone. [Wing: That part is 100% on that salesperson. You don’t wrap the fucking book until after the customer has paid for it. I speak from bookstore experience (and actually, I learned to wrap gifts because of wrapping books at that job. Yes, Elizabeth should have been smart enough to look at the price first, though.]
Elizabeth starts to see the funny side of it as she walks away, and ends up giggling hysterically sat on a curb, which is where Steven finds her and is mortified. She asks what’s up and he says she and Jessica will humiliate him at the party. After all, the neighbours probably think she’s drunk. Drunk? Elizabeth? A twelve year old drunk in Sweet Valley? What the fuck, Steven? Why would they think that? It’s not like she’s Betsy Martin!
Elizabeth is offended by this and demands an apology for 1) being an asshat to her; and 2) hurting their dad’s feelings over breakfast this morning. Steven counters that because Elizabeth is twelve, she doesn’t know anything, and he’s totally mature and knows everything. Oh, and on that topic, can she not come to Joe Howell’s Christmas party, he’ll do her chores for two weeks.
Elizabeth felt a stab in her stomach. She had been really excited about the party and it hurt her feelings that Steven didn’t want her there. But she wasn’t about to let Steven know how upset she was. “It’s Janet’s party too, you know,” she said stiffly.
“Don’t remind me,” Steven groaned. “It’s bad enough that I’ll probably have Janet hanging around me all evening. Add you and Jessica, and it’s like I’ll be baby-sitting all night.” He turned and began to walk away, his shoulders slumped.
Elizabeth stared after him. Finally, she threw her purse down and cupped her hands around her mouth like a megaphone. “And a very merry Christmas to you too!” she yelled sarcastically.
Holy shit. Elizabeth has a spine. Good for you, Saint Wakefield. I mean, she didn’t achieve anything, but she didn’t sit on her feelings until she exploded and ended up living in New York behind five locks.
Back with Jessica, the only dresses she can find are adorable, and not in a good way. Lace, velvet and bows all the way. A woman comments that a dress is “cute” which Jessica thinks is the kiss of death, and immediately thinks that Elizabeth’s clothes are “cute” – nice, sweet, babyish. Then she lists all of the clothes she has an issue with. Yeah, still doesn’t stop her stealing them every single book though, does it?
A saleswoman manages to find a dress without velvet, lace or bows, a red dress with a patent leather belt. Jessica tries it on, only to come face-to-face with a nine-year-old wearing the very same outfit. That kills the mood, so the saleswoman suggests she try the petite department.
This is a win. Everything is exactly what she is looking for, unfortunately, the smallest size hangs off her, and the saleswoman in that department suggests she try the kids department.
[Wing: I find the clothes part very interesting, which surprised me. I was exceptionally tall around their age (I’d grown almost into my full height by then, and was delighted when other people caught up with me), and I was fat, so I moved into adult clothes before a lot of my peers. And adult clothes sucked. There was nothing fun for tweens or teens. It’s interesting to me that the twins are having the same issue from the other direction. Also, I have friends who are petite enough to still shop in the kids department, and they find the most fun, adorable clothes ever. And the shoes, oh my god, the shoes.] [Dove: I had the opposite experience. My mother would just keep stuffing me in clothes that were too small, as if she could force me to be slender by buying small clothes. It’s probably why everything I buy now is two sizes too large and has no style or flair at all.] [Wing: Ugh, moms and bodies. My mom was generally wonderful, but she had a lot of body shame about gaining weight, and though she hardcore kept other people from body shaming me or the rest of the younger siblings, she did have us on weird diets sometimes. RE the clothes, I think that’s exactly what your mother was doing, and it is bullshit, people, though I’d argue you have a solid style of your own now. For me, and again in large part because of church cult, tight clothes weren’t going to happen. We couldn’t show skin or wear things like that, and loose was better to hide your body anyway. Which is also bullshit. I mean, wear what you want to wear. If you (general you here) like baggy, wear baggy. If you like revealing, wear revealing. If you want to wear certain things because of your religion, or not wear others for the same reason, do that. Just stop judging other people’s bodies and clothing and demanding they look how you think they should look.]
We cut to Elizabeth telling Jessica about the exchange she and Steven had, and Jessica internally sides with Steven. Unfortunately, she lets that slip, and Elizabeth confronts her about it and Jessica tells her that they will look like babies – she had a problem finding sophisticated dresses for them.
They’re trying to make “triple [letter]” happen in this book. Or maybe it was even a passing fad in California around 1992… though you think Clueless would’ve used it if it was. Jessica calls Elizabeth’s party dresses, “Triple-D dresses,” which is “Drippy. Dorky. Dweeby.” This tough love approach works and Elizabeth agrees that her dresses are triple-D. [Raven: There’s a boob joke in here somewhere, but I’ll leave it to the philosophers.]
Jessica gets called away to the phone and we swap to Elizabeth’s point of view as she rummages through her closet, hating literally everything in there.
What’s really amusing about this whole “Our clothes suck” thing is that when I rendered the front cover, I had to hunt high and low for dresses that were suitable for twelve year old girls, because in the render community, most female clothing is limited to thongs, nipple clamps and 7” stiletto heels. (For those that are interested: Wilmaps is a great creator of “normal” clothing and provides them free.) The only thing I could find that were suitable were the dresses you see (the dresses Jessica is avoiding like the plague) – with wide collars. And I added velvet shaders because it’s fucking Christmas.
Elizabeth gets more and more wound up as she thinks of the humiliation at the book store and Steven’s callous request. She ends up crying, then hating herself because she’s better than Jessica, who is the type of person who cries over clothes.
Jessica comes back and says she just spoke to Lila. Her chauffeur will be driving her to LA tomorrow to clothes shop and Jessica has been invited. She plans to go to the outlet mall while Lila destroys the designer clothes with her credit card.
And finally, they’re going to the carnival. It’s not a babyish idea, because it was Janet Howell’s!
At the carnival, Elizabeth is caught up in the Christmassy atmosphere (and, presumably, lack of Claire Calder, RIP), the decorations, her sister’s happiness, and even the Unicorns’ lack of bitchiness.
The twins decide to get hot chestnuts while the rest of the group queues for the merry-go-round.
Wing mentioned something odd with the last carnival book, not sure if she did on the podcast though. The books are written in American-English, z instead of s, no sign of the letter u in words like colour or flavour, and yet they change carousel to merry-go-round for the British release. It’s an odd choice. [Wing: I still think this, too!]
The chestnuts are sold by someone dressed as an elf, who Elizabeth thinks look like he’s come straight from Santa’s Workshop. He calls them “ma’am” and treats them respectfully, which the twins revel in after all the “little girl” comments they’ve had recently. [Raven: I love roasted chestnuts… not had them since I was a kid, ironically.] [Wing: I don’t think I’ve ever had roasted chestnuts.]
Elizabeth stares at him, and he meets her eyes and there’s a flash of light, like the flash of a camera. She looks at her sister, but Jessica didn’t seem to notice the flash. Jessica pays the elf and he tosses a quarter into a wishing well behind him.
“I’m making a Christmas wish,” the vendor said with a smile. “I’m wishing the two of you an unforgettable Christmas.”
Elizabeth smiled back. “Thank you. I hope your Christmas is a happy one, too.”
“Happy and unforgettable aren’t always the same thing,” he answered with an enigmatic smile. Then he pulled on the handles of his cart and began wheeling it away and into the crowd. “Chestnuts!” he cried. “Hot chestnuts!”
Elizabeth thinks it’s a strange thing to say – maybe he didn’t get the Sweet Valley Welcome Pack that informs all newcomers that the Wakefields are the centre of the universe, and you should always wish them well. Otherwise Jessica will kill you and bury you in the Mercandy backyard.
They walk away and spot Steven. Jessica’s first instinct is to go over and embarrass him, but Elizabeth reins her in, saying that will only prove his point. Jessica says they should go over there and not embarrass him then. And of course, there’s a new hot boy standing next to Steven. Good god, how many high schoolers can she crush on back-to-back?
Jessica says hi to Steven, using her more grownup voice, and Steven mimics it back at her.
Jessica shot Steven a dark look. “I thought you said Christmas carnivals were for babies.”
Steven paled a little. “Which explains what you two are doing here,” he retorted.
Jessica’s cheeks reddened again, and Elizabeth felt sorry for her sister and angry at Steven at the same time. “We just wanted to say hello,” she told him in a clipped tone.
“Hello and good-bye,” Steven said, starting to turn away.
As they try to leave, hot boy talks to them. He’s called Tim Reed, and he compliments their pretty names and asks if they pull tricks on Steven. Jessica says yes, and tells them about the great twin switch they used to catch a jewel thief ring. He looks impressed and says it’s just like an Amanda Howard book. Both twins are delighted by the attention and the overlapping interests. I would say swooning, but neither are acting silly, and since that’s the point of this book, I thought I’d better be clear.
The Unicorns call to the twins, saying they’re near the front of the line, and Jessica covers quickly saying they don’t usually go on merry-go-rounds, but Tim says they should, it’s awesome, and asks if he can join them. Steven groans.
Head-hop to Steven, who warns Tim that now he’s pretended to like the twins and laugh at their jokes, they’ll be hanging around all the time. Tim isn’t bothered – though unlike most boys in Sweet Valley, he’s not trying to date them. He just thinks they’re nice girls.
Steven is just in a grump, he’s worried that he’ll do something stupid at the party and make a fool of himself, but he can’t tell anyone because he’s supposed to be cool.
If I just randomly picked up this book, I’d be fine with a big brother acting like a tool because he’s a jumble of nerves himself, but since it’s Steven and the last book I recapped was stuck in his entitled, bratty and violent head, I don’t care. Fuck off and stop being an asshole. [Wing: Agreed. This is a pleasantly nuanced look at Steven, but since he’s been a jackass in almost all the prior books, I have no sympathy.]
Over with the Unicorns, they’re all sighing wistfully because Tim asked Jessica to save the first dance for him at the party. He also spent a good deal of time talking to Elizabeth about books too. The actual moment is a little foggy in Jessica’s mind, because she glimpsed the elf selling chestnuts, and got a flash of light in her eyes as she met his gaze.
Talk turns to party outfits, and Jessica says it’s under control. Janet gets snooty about it, and Jessica consoles herself that she always looks good, and she already has a dance with a cute boy lined up, and Janet never got that far with Steven, who has ignored Janet all night, instead “staring dismally out into the night”. So, Janet’s back to that crush, is she? He’s got a girlfriend. I know dancing isn’t dating, but it’s a good excuse. “Oh, sorry, Janet, I can’t. After that time I actually dated a twelve year old behind my girlfriend’s back, she and the police decided it’s best I don’t have any physical contact with anyone younger than me.” [Raven: Yeah, this whole “we haven’t got girlfriends / boyfriends” in this book is definitely through lack of continuity rather than by choice. Weak.] [Wing: Even worse because they do bring up Janet’s boyfriend later in the book!]
Back to Steven’s head – there’s a lot of head-hopping here for very little reason – Steven thinks to himself that he’s glad Joe and Tim suggested the carnival because he wanted to go, but he wouldn’t want to suggest something babyish, but actually he’s having a shit time because his sisters are bugging him.
It seemed as though every time he turned around, Jessica had developed a crush on one of his friends and then come up with one crazy, complicated plan after another to attract the friend’s attention.
That I’ll give him. That’s been the plot of the past 25 or so books. We’re all sick of it, Steven, not just you.
He buys chestnuts and gets a flash of light in his eyes from the vendor.
We cut to the next afternoon, where Jessica returns home laden down with bags. This girl has done well, there are all sorts of outfits, and nary a bow to be seen. Elizabeth is shocked by the quantity and shrewdly asks if her sister stole their mom’s credit card. Jessica says no, actually while Lila was desperately trying to find something decent in the designer stores (apparently their clothes were worse than Kendalls), she was being driving to the outlet mall when she spotted a garage sale. The sale was held by a very small woman, roughly the same size as the twins, who looked like Mrs Santa Claus. She had never been able to find what she wanted in her size so she designed and sewed the clothes herself.
It does make you wonder why she’s selling them. If I managed to make awesome outfits, I’d keep ‘em. Then again, that mentality explains why Raven and I live in a four bedroom house but have no spare bedrooms (it’s not that extravagant: bedroom, office, hobby room each). Elizabeth can’t picture a Mrs Santa type wearing such snazzy outfits. She asks Jessica what Lila thought about the clothes. Lila refused to look at them, “She said shabby old clothes depress her.” Never change, you magnificent snob. Jessica then gleefully adds that Lila ended up buying a dress with velvet, lace and bows. She tried to make out that it was a great dress, but Jessica is pretty sure that Janet will not be impressed. [Raven: How will it reflect on the Unicorns?]
As the twins hold the clothes up against themselves, Elizabeth thinks of the mean stuff Steven said and asks Jessica to do her makeup for the party.
We cut to Ned and Steven buying delicious baked goods. Well, Ned’s having a nice time, Steven is fed up. Business as usual for Steven at the moment. He’s ansty because he wants to get the chore of buying tasty things over and done with so he can rush off to the Howells’ party.
And think of the devil, Mr Howell is there getting last-minute things for the party. Ned says he didn’t realise the Unicorns were such big eaters, and Mr Howell clarifies that he’s more worried about the six foot seniors on the basketball team. Ned is confused, why are there seniors at a Unicorn party?
It turns out that Ned was labouring under the frankly ludicrous delusion that the Unicorns were having a party and Steven was going over there to help the Howells host. Steven. Help. Are you fucking kidding me? Have you met your fucking son? He wouldn’t help the Unicorns if their lives depended on it.
Mr Howell reassures Ned that he and his wife will be home the whole time, but Ned is shocked that his sweet little twelve year olds will be partying with high schoolers!
Steven sees his chance and cashes in.
Steven studied his father. Hmmm, he thought, he’s definitely on the fence. All he needs is a little push in the right direction. “Don’t worry, Dad,” he said in a reassuring voice, “I’ll be there if things get too wild.”
“Wild?” Mr. Wakefield repeated. “Why would things get wild?”
Steven lifted his shoulders in a casual shrug. “Oh, you know how it is when you get a bunch of high school guys at a party—especially a bunch of athletes.”
Mr. Wakefield’s frown deepened, and Steven smiled inwardly at the thought of Joe’s well-behaved friends getting rowdy in someone else’s house. It wouldn’t happen in a million years.
But his father didn’t need to know that.
“And I’m sure there won’t be more than a hundred kids from the high school there anyway,” Steven continued in a light tone. More like fifty kids on the entire guest list, he added silently, not to mention the basketball coach and Joe’s uncle. But no need to bother his dad with those details.
Congratulating himself on technically not lying, he feels a twinge of guilt, but pushes it away. Ned thinks that the party is too grown up for the girls, but he’s sure the cookies will make up for the disappointment.
Clearly Ned has never met his own children.
Back home the twins are getting ready and Jessica is telling Elizabeth how fabulous the house looks – she’s been over at the Howells setting up all day. Elizabeth is wearing a green cashmere sweater with jewelled buttons, while Jessica wears a sequinned top with silver silk slacks.
Alice walks in and says their outfits are “fun” and she didn’t realise that Janet was holding a costume party. The twins ask for clarification – they’re not costumes, they’re clothes. Alice says the clothes aren’t suitable. She suggests their usual party clothes, and both twins baulk at this idea. Alice is visibly thrown by Elizabeth’s defiance.
Alice doesn’t know where to begin, so instead exclaims “Sequins! Feathers!” as if that explains everything and Jessica hasn’t worn sequins and feathers dozens of times throughout this series. She says the clothes aren’t suitable and they look “like something from a Mardi Gras parade”. I feel I’m watching the wrong movies about Mardi Gras. I’ve never seen anyone in a Christmas sweater at Mardi Gras, but clearly Alice has.
I don’t get this logic at all. However, I completely experienced it. I’m with the twins. Sometimes I would just headtilt at my mum and think, “What the fuck are you on about?”
Example: When I was ten or eleven I needed a new swimsuit. I picked out one I liked, but for some reason my mother got it in her head that it needed to be a bikini, so she actually wasted money employing a seamstress to change a swimsuit into a bikini. For the record, I did not want a bikini. I had been fat-shamed non-stop since… I dunno, birth? … and I knew that fat girls “aren’t allowed” bikinis. Not only that, I didn’t want one for functional reasons. I had quickly found out that when I dived underwater, I lost my bottoms – probably because they used to be a fucking swimsuit and were made smaller because of some bizarre fucking notion in my mother’s brain.
Anyway, we went on holiday, I kept squeezing myself into last year’s swimsuit because while it was a tad snug, at least I wasn’t flashing everyone every time I dived.
And then while walking home from the beach, I saw a t-shirt. It had a v-neck, and the bottom and the sleeves had been ripped – kind of like AJ Lee did with her ring gear. It covered everything, but instead of a neat hem at the bottom of the shirt and the sleeves, it had tassels. I desperately wanted it. Everyone was wearing it. [Wing: Oh my god, I remember those.] After about three days, I wore my mother down, but she insisted on safety pinning the neck closed near choking point, because “it’s not appropriate for a girl your age.”
DUDE. YOU PUT ME IN A BIKINI AGAINST MY WILL, BUT SURE, LET’S HIDE AN INCH OF NECK IN CASE SOME PEDE SEES IT.
And hypocrisy aside, my child thought process was, “I don’t wanna look stupid”, but as an adult, I’ve refined that to, “Why am I being punished because there might be bad people out there?”
So I get their reaction to this absolutely bullshit fucking rule. “Oh, it’s ok for you to wear that, but if you wait ten minutes, I’ll change my mind and make you feel like you’re too young to get my brilliant adult reasoning.”
And it’s not as if these clothes are revealing. A cashmere sweater, oooh, slutty. Silk trousers, total streetwalker attire. I would get it (sort of) if they were wearing sixties style skin-tight mini-dresses and platform boots, because that’s an outfit that does accentuate sexuality, providing that this was in line with Alice’s approved clothing historically. Which it wouldn’t be. Jessica is frequently wearing mini-skirts and mini-dresses, but still, that would have a thread of logic. Shaming and blame-the-victim logic, but nonetheless a very solid 80s/90s logic, perfectly at home in these books.
Alice: Parenting is for life, not just Christmas parties. Do better.
At this point the twins say that it is appropriate because there will be high schoolers there. Alice was labouring under the same idiotic delusion as her halfwit husband. She says she must call Mrs Howell to get to the bottom of this suddenly threatening situation.
However, Ned strides in at this moment, then tells the girls it’s Christmas, not Halloween. I’m sorry, but how is smart pants and a nice top somehow a costume? It’s not revealing or garish. Why are these parents such fuckwits? [Raven: The Elder Wakefields are very odd in this scene (and adjacent scenes). I thught Ned was quite cute when he got a bit wibbly at Steven’s distaste of the Tree Collection Tradition, and later in the book both Elders are largely charming once more (aside from something I’m sure will be raised later), but here? Total fucking arseholes.]
Long story short, the Wakefield parents suddenly realise they’ve done fuck all parenting in the past fourteen years, and try to do one big parent to make up for their previous indifference. The twins aren’t allowed to go to the party. They’re going to call the Howells to send their apologies.
Note: I can see the parents’ point of view, objectively. There is something massively odd about the concept of twelve year olds partying with eighteen year olds. That is sinister. And Ned has been pushed by Steven to think worst case scenario. So, I guess this leads to the question: “How badly do the Wakefields rate the Howells’ parenting skills?” (with the sub-question of: “And isn’t that a bit fucking rich from the Wakefields?”)
On the other hand, isn’t it very nearly as sinister to think of eighteen year olds partying with fourteen year olds? Like are those two years really that important. When someone’s a minor, they’re a minor, and sure, be more careful of the youngest ones, but if they’re that worried, why is it ok for Steven to go? Those kids are four years older than him, they can drive, they can… uh, can they drink? Whatever. They’re still older. [Raven: Maybe it’s a “same school, so it’s cool” thing?] [Wing: They cannot drink. [Dove: (Comment in a comment, wtf!), I had completely forgotten the age was 21 in the USA. Ignore me.] They can buy cigarettes, though. I’m torn on all of this, actually. There is no fucking way I would have wanted to party with middle schoolers when I was a senior (or in high school at all, really), but I did have plenty of friends who were younger. Not many who were freshmen, because outside marching band, the freshmen were in a different school than we were (my school district had a weird split where middle school was 5 – 7, junior high was 8 – 9, and high school was 10 – 12), but I did have freshmen friends in marching band. So I do see a big difference between an 18-year-old senior being friends with a 14-year-old freshmen than a senior being friends with a sixth grader. That being said, I would not have wanted to party with my youngest siblings’ friends.]
The twins are not happy, and Alice is fucking shocked that Elizabeth let’s out an anguished “MOM!” Alice says that she’s always relied on Elizabeth, she has good judgement, and she can’t believe Elizabeth is making a fuss.
Nice. So basically, “I never parented, because you did. And I can’t believe you’re making as big a fuss as your brat of a sister.” Fuck off, Alice.
Which is how Elizabeth feels. She asks Alice if they just assumed she’s such a boring stick-in-the-mud that she wouldn’t care about a party.
This “discussion” culminates with the twins fleeing to their respective rooms to cry.
Dinner isn’t much fun either. The twins are glum. Jessica imagines Mrs Howell announcing to the party that, “Their mother didn’t think they were mature enough to come”. She knows Mandy and Mary will be sorry she’s not there, but the rest of the Unicorns will tease her forever about it.
Steven calls out that he’s leaving, but gets called back. Since it’s going to be such a mature party he’s got to be home by eleven pm instead of midnight. Steven is mortified by this. The twins take some solace in this, but not much because Steven had looked so utterly smug before being given a new curfew.
“Gee, Mom,” Elizabeth said in a sarcastic tone, “maybe you should call Mrs. Howell and explain to her that Steven isn’t mature enough to stay out until twelve.”
“Shut up, Elizabeth,” Steven said angrily.
Mr. Wakefield put down his water glass with an ominous thud. “If I hear one more unpleasant remark from anybody,” he said, “I’m going to send that person to their room and instruct them not to come out until New Year’s Day.”
Jessica wished her parents would just go to their room and not come out until New Year’s Day. As far as she was concerned, that would be the best Christmas present of all.
Ok, Elizabeth. You did it. I think you’ve just won “best sassy one-liner in this book”. Good for you. I think I’d like you more if you were this pissed off all the time.
OMG, the sass continues. I love the twins hating their parents.
“Why are you girls just sitting here doing nothing?” Mrs. Wakefield asked, appearing in the door of the den.
“We were just waiting for you to come in and tell us it’s bedtime,” Jessica said tightly. She looked at her watch. “Jeez, Elizabeth! It’s almost eight o’clock already.” She yawned elaborately. “Time to hit the hay, right?”
Alice then sits down with them and says that she knows that they’re really disappointed, but it’s actually really hard for her and Ned, they’ve never said no to their kids before and parenting is reallllllllly haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.
She tells them to be patient, and that twelve is a very special age when they’re not a girl, not yet a woman and before Alice can start crooning the chorus, Elizabeth walks out in disgust.
Elizabeth, for the past three pages, you have been my favourite twin. This is the first time ever that I have found Elizabeth sassier than her twin.
Alice tells Jessica to go after her, as nothing Alice says will help. Jessica couldn’t agree more.
Over with Elizabeth, she’s sobbing on her bed. Jessica comes in and says it’s very unlike Elizabeth to be so upset over a party. Elizabeth says it’s not the party, it’s that she’s not being trusted.
Jessica says for her it is about the party. So here’s what they’re going to do: party togs in a bag, some excuse about going to the Christmas carnival, and then PARTAY!
Elizabeth says what about Steven, he’ll tell on them. Jessica says she has a photo of him and Joe coming out of an R-rated movie.
For the sake of the story, sure, but that evidence is circumstantial at best. Basically, it’s a picture of them leaving the cinema, unless it was only showing a single movie the whole time, and even then, it’s not guarantee they saw the movie. She could have a picture of them leaving the cinema after trying and failing to see an R-rated movie. [Raven: Hah! maybe it was a porno cinema. Do they actually exist?]
Elizabeth wants to go, but isn’t sure about lying, so Jessica says she’ll do all the talking. If they get caught, they’ll probably get stuck with a lecture about “responsibility and trust and stuff like that”. That part resonates with Elizabeth, who is still sore that all the years of being the sensible twin has given her fuck all kudos.
Elizabeth togs up, this time in silk trousers and a ruffled blouse… ok, that sounds… um, not my cup of tea at all. Maybe like she should be wearing pearls with it. She puts on a sweat suit over the top, and her hair almost looks like a ponytail, but it’s not, it’s totes sophisticated. However, the parents will think it’s just a ponytail because it looks like one. Um, ok. Yeah. That sounds very double-bluffy, Elizabeth.
The twins attempt to make a break for it, but the clueless parents invite themselves along to the carnival, saying Christmas is for families. [Wing: I did not read it as clueless at all, more like: Huh, suddenly our pouting angry girls want to take off by themselves. I wonder if they will immediately go to the party. Let’s make sure they don’t.] Jessica counters that Steven will be upset to have missed the outing. The clueless parents counter that it’s not like anyone reads these books for him, and he’ll get over it.
The twins are even more grouchy at the carnival. Alice and Ned have basically ignored their kids all night, and are treating it light date night. They kiss, snuggle, giggle, and then ditch the twins so they can ride the Tunnel of Love.
The twins are utterly fed up and feel like they’re being treated like tagalongs. Elizabeth says it’s the principle of the thing. They insisted on coming, the least they could do is pay attention to the twins so they would notice the twins were ignoring them. I’m with her. [Raven: 100% this. I thought the whole “we’ll come too” schtick was savvy parents chaperoning their flight-risk kids, but this ignoring of the twins is some massively odd bullshit.] [Wing: Yeah, I’m not sure about the ignoring them part. That’s weird, though I do think it was still savvy chaperoning.]
Usually I advocate for acting like adults when it comes to a disagreement but I have two counters to my usual stance: 1) it wouldn’t work; and 2) Elizabeth is bloody awesome when she’s angry. God, I almost love her, never mind like.
The twins set off on their own, but this time the Christmas atmosphere isn’t moving Elizabeth. The trees smell musty and rotted, the “snow” looks fake and nasty, and she wishes they’d just stayed home. They decide to get chestnuts but they can’t find the vendor. Instead they both make wishes:
Well, they actually use the phrase, “I wish I were grown up” but we’ve all seen the movie.
We cut to Steven at the party. He can’t hear what Tim is saying to him because the music is so loud. Steven internally muses that he loves “rock and roll” turned up to an earsplitting level, and I’m thinking Buddy Holly, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Fats Domino, Elvis, etc. Because nobody of our era has ever said “rock and roll” to refer to rock music. You add “and roll” to rock, and you wind up in the 50s. [Raven: +2 to the word count! Nice padding, Ghostie.]
Tim asks where the twins are and Steven pretends he can’t hear because he doesn’t want to explain.
Basically, he’s having an awful time. People keep asking about the twins, and he’s actually sorry they’re not at the party. He thinks actually they’d have had a great time – all three of them. The middle and high schoolers are mixing nicely.
He decides to leave and wonders if he’ll be home in time to catch a movie with them. He’ll tell them the party was awful and vows to make it up to them.
Ok, I’ll give him a few points here. I appreciate his face turn, even if he is a colossal tool.
Speaking of colossal tools, we cut back to the Wakefield parents, who have decided that ignoring their kids in favour of snogging isn’t going far enough, so now they’re going to make fun of their kids.
I’ve never done this before, but I’m literally going to quote the whole scene:
“This has been the most miserable evening of my whole life,” Jessica muttered as she and Elizabeth climbed into the back of the Jeep after the carnival.
“Mine, too,” Elizabeth agreed softly.
“And they haven’t even noticed we’re not having a good time,” Jessica added.
“Yes, we have,” Mrs. Wakefield said as she got into her side of the Jeep and buckled her seat belt.
“We have what?” Mr. Wakefield asked as he slid into the front seat behind the wheel.
“Noticed that the girls weren’t having a good time,” Mrs. Wakefield told him.
Mr. Wakefield glanced at the girls in the rear-view mirror. “I wish you two would stop pouting over the party.”
“We’re not pouting,” Elizabeth protested.
“You certainly look like you’re pouting,” Mrs. Wakefield said, with a note of amusement in her voice.
“We’re not pouting,” Jessica repeated.
Mr. Wakefield glanced in the rearview mirror again. “Oh, excuse me,” he said with a look of mock chagrin. “How silly of me. Of course you’re not pouting. You’re scowling.” He looked at Mrs. Wakefield and shrugged his shoulders. “I make that mistake all the time.”
Mrs. Wakefield began to laugh in a high-pitched, girlish way.
Elizabeth and Jessica looked at each other, both frowning deeply.
“OK, OK,” their father said. “We’re sorry we invited ourselves along to the carnival, but what do we have to do to make it up to you?”
Quit humoring us as if we were ten years old, Elizabeth thought.
Jessica crossed her arms and bit her lip.
“Think they’ll get over this by tomorrow evening?” Mr. Wakefield asked his wife. “If they won’t talk, who are you going to argue with over the Christmas tree?”
Again, Mrs. Wakefield let out a delighted laugh.
Usually Elizabeth loved the sound of her mother’s laughter, but tonight it sounded awful.
Because tonight, for the first time in her life, Elizabeth felt that her mother was laughing at her, not with her.
I have two responses:
- Please can sassy Elizabeth and homicidal Jessica kill these muppets?; or
- grow the fuck up, Wakefield parents.
This teasing is wrong. Why? Because the air was not cleared. This is such a bad way to deal with a situation. The twins were still hurt over the party, so it feels like the parents invited themselves along in order to mock the twins for not getting over it fast enough.
You know what would have been cool? Let the twins go out, cool off, get all their angst out, and then wait until you were all friends again before making jokes about it. Making fun of them while they’re upset just trivialises their emotions.
Sure, when they’re 30 they’ll look back on it and be like, “Hey, remember the, like, fourteenth Christmas of our twelfth year when we didn’t go the party? Wow. I wish my problems were that small now!” (although, I’ve read Confidential/Sweet Life, their problems still are that small) but right now this is the end of the world and making fun of them when you’ve already disappointed them isn’t going to win you any points. You utter bag of dicks.
They get home and Steven is already in bed asleep. The twins hope he got sick.
The next morning Elizabeth awakes and is alarmed to note that her nightgown is choking her. When she gets up to take it off, it rips down the back. I’m wondering when Elizabeth started wearing skintight nightgowns, because she’s a slender kid now, and she grows up to be a perfect size six (back when six was borderline too small). Like, how much size difference is there? One of my BFFs, Tiny, is size 8, and we have a game “things we can fit Tiny in”. The answer? An envelope and up, basically. I can’t imagine that the growth would be so huge that it would rip her clothes off.
I think the ghostie just really liked the scene in Big and wanted to duplicate it. [Raven: Or they could be a secret Hulk fan. Elizabeth Smash!]
Next up Elizabeth notices that her feet are the size of skis! No, really, she makes that comparison. I’m imagining clown shoe feet. Again, whose feet grow that much? When I was twelve, I was size 5, and as an adult, I’m size 6 or 7, depending on where I’m buying from.
Honestly, if you go from twelve to twenty-something as a female, the first thing you’d notice is your boobs and your height.
Of course, Elizabeth doesn’t realise that’s what happened, she thinks she’s had a growth spurt.
She rushes to the bedroom and is frightened by a strange woman she sees in the mirror. She whirls around to confront this stranger, but nobody’s there. Two things:
- Elizabeth, the “smart” one, doesn’t realise that she is not present in the mirror, it just shows “the woman behind her”.
- Aren’t we endlessly told that Alice looks like the twins’ older sister? Why don’t they assume it’s Alice? Or one of their many identical cousins?
This next bit is incredibly tiresome as it hops from head to head and goes on far too long. Elizabeth comes face to face with “the strange woman” and she and the stranger ask each other, “What have you done to my twin!” until eventually they both realise that they grew up overnight.
And then Alice suddenly remembers that she’s a parent, and not a douchebag who mocks her kids. She hears their voices and calls through the bathroom door, asking if they’re ok because they sound hoarse, and maybe she should come in and check them. Just back off, you creepy weirdo. There’s nothing I hate more than someone jabbering at me before I’ve even brushed my teeth in the morning. To be honest, I’ll cut a bitch who talks to me before I’ve had a cup of tea. [Raven: I have many wounds to prove this.]
Once they finally convince Alice to fuck off, they marvel at being grown up. Then they realise they both wished the same thing. They need to get dressed, so Jessica tries a warm-up suit that’s usually too big for her, but she shreds it like Hulk. Jessica runs down the hall and steals a couple of outfits from her mom’s closet, a black jumpsuit with heels for Jessica (probably a nod to Sweet Valley High, since Jessica always wears jumpsuits), puts it on, and grabs a handful of stuff for Elizabeth. As she turns, she bumps into Alice, who is just walking into the room.
Alice wants to know what she’s doing. I think Jessica should have just stayed really still and pretended to be a mirror. Jessica asks for time to explain and calls Alice “Mom”, but Alice thinks the DTs have hit hard, and shrieks and runs for Ned.
Jessica runs back to the bathroom and briefly sees Steven, who asks who she is. She replies “Long story.” Then she throws the clothes at Elizabeth and tells her to climb out of the bathroom window once she’s dressed and meet Jessica round the corner. Jessica is going downstairs to distract them. Elizabeth picks a tweed suit, blouse and flat shoes, because even aged twelve, she dresses like a cliché of a spinster librarian.
Once they meet up and catch their breath, Jessica wants to call all the talk shows, because everyone will be amazed. They wonder how old they are, and guess maybe nineteen or twenty. And they’re totally beautiful, and a few inches taller than Alice. Jessica gloats that she has boobies now, and is pleased that she’s slender because she has to admit, she eats a lot of junk food.
SEE! FUCKING SEE! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO FAT-SHAME LOIS WHEN YOU WERE MERELY GIFTED A SLENDER BODY WITH NO FUCKING EFFORT. I mean, don’t fat-shame anyone for any reason, but it’s twice as obnoxious when you make no effort to stay slender, you just have a faster metabolism.
Just then, a hot guy in a red convertible drives past, honks at them, then nearly crashes into a van because he’s staring at the twins. Elizabeth accurately assesses that he’s a tool, Jessica says he’s cute. Elizabeth says he’s too old for her. Jessica says too old and too young. *shrugs* Freshmen frequently date the sixth grade, but I guess it’s creepy if the age difference is 18-20, rather than 12-14. They’re grownup now, they can go anywhere, eat what they want, and go to any party they want to. [Wing: They focus hard on the fact he’s in college. He very well could be older than them, even! I don’t get this too old and too young at the same time bullshit.] [Dove: Yeah, because the conversation starts with them thinking they’re mid-twenties, then comes down to nineteen, and they honestly don’t know. I think the Jamie just thought it was super clever and nobody would call her out on it.] [Wing: Little did she know that decades later, we would be doing this.]
Elizabeth brings it back to reality. They have nowhere to go, no money for food, and no friends to party with. Elizabeth starts crying, and won’t cheer up because she’s too hungry.
Jessica smells donuts and they follow the smell. As they arrive outside the donut shop, a dude with a clipboard is taking roll-call for his delivery drivers, because, apparently, that’s a thing. One name goes unanswered, and Jessica cashes in. She volunteers to drive the delivery truck.
She has never driven before. Even if it’s an automatic, only an idiot would attempt to drive with no clue how roads work. I’ll admit, I’m an anxious driver so Jessica’s breezy confidence is the antitheses of my existence, especially since my anxiety comes from worry about hurting someone else or worry that someone else’s carelessness will get me hurt. Jessica is exactly who I’m scared of on the road.
Jessica manages to get freebies by saying she’s heard their donuts suck, and the guy immediately opens the nearest box and lets them eat. After the first donut, Jessica wants variety, so she’s like “Meh, what else you got?”
And this works.
The twins trough about four donuts apiece for breakfast. Then he asks for their social security card, driving licence, references and all that other grownup shite.
We cut to Alice talking to a detective. They ask her if she recognised the woman. I’m finding it hard to believe that nobody said, “Well, she looks exactly like Alice Wakefield.” And maybe following it with, “Given how dominant our beautiful Aryan genes are, it’s probably a long-lost relative enacting a life-steal ploy… or maybe someone succeeded in stealing my face?”
Steven thinks the mysterious woman from earlier was vaguely familiar somehow.
HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU PEOPLE? EVERYONE IN THIS FAMILY LOOKS THE SAME: GIRLS LIKE ALICE, BOYS LIKE NED.
Then again, it’s not as if the police are any better – no wonder Elizabeth has to solve their crimes. They ask if the Wakefields are sure they didn’t let the strange woman into their home and then forget about it. Then they write off the disappearance of the twins as a “college hazing prank”. Twelve year olds. College hazing.
Even gin-soaked Alice points out the idiocy of that assumption. The Detective gives them his card and tells them to come down to the station to fill out paperwork, but y’know, it’s probably not worth it. Everything will be fine. The girls probably went out for breakfast or something. He asks if the girls could have run away. Were they upset or something? Cue frantic denial from the parents. He says that he’s got a couple of kids and they run away all the time when they’re upset, but they always come home.
I guess that’s why Lifetime never has made any movies. Because everyone always comes home.
Admitting defeat with the police – rightly so – the Wakefields disperse to manually search Sweet Valley themselves. Steven feels especially guilty. If he hadn’t pulled that stunt last night, the twins wouldn’t have been so upset. [Raven: The Police are fucking APPALLING here. It’s missing kids, for fuck’s sake. I guess this was before the Amber Alert thing, but even so. The adults in this series are colossal fuckwits to the core.] [Wing: It is before Amber Alert, which didn’t launch in California until 1999, and even before Amber Plan, which was developed in 1996 after a nine-year-old girl was abducted and murdered in Texas. People are so fucking terrible to each other.]
We cut back to the twins, who are now installed in the van and ready to drive the donuts. They skipped the whole paperwork thing by being hot and giving some feeble lie about having their purses snatched on a bus. I don’t care how hot you are, no licence, no drive my car. But I guess Sweet Valley works differently.
Between them they figure out how to insert the key and hit the gas. After far too many paragraphs where they careen forward and emergency stop, nearly kill other road users and finally cause a five-car pileup, the idiots ditch the van and run for their lives at the sight of a police officer.
I bet the owner of the donut shop is delighted that he was so stunned by hotness that his insurance is completely invalid, and he’s probably responsible for a whole bunch of repairs, not to mention “emotional distress” claims, and he’ll be easily traceable because the idiot twins left the van at the scene of the crime. I guess that’s karmic retribution for letting hotness override common sense.
The twins agree to split up and start running in opposite directions. Somehow Jessica is running in high heels. I’m not saying you can’t, but I am saying it’s a skill.
[Wing: WHICH LEADS US TO MOTHERFUCKING BULLSHIT LIKE IN JURASSIC WORLD.]
Jessica bumps into Steven as she flees the crime scene. As he’s asking who the hell she is and what she’s done with his sisters, Elizabeth runs up, and they can’t help but tease him, which feels very familiar to him. When they say who they are, Steven faints. When he comes to, he asks to be taken to the “nut hospital” because it’s the 90s, and mental health is funny.
The twins explain the situation, and after a few minutes of disbelief, he eventually concedes that it must be true. [Raven: I was totally expecting the ol’ “tell me something only the twins would know about me” routine, and have them mention some tired teddy bear he still sleeps with or something. Or knowledge of his Wank Sock Sanctuary.] He feels rotten that he pushed them into making the wish, but they say that it wasn’t just him, it was the parents, the sales clerks, everyone who made them feel little.
They realise they’re hungry and Steven gives them all the money he has – which is nice. For all my bitching about Steven, he’s been much more of a normal big brother in this book, rather than the entitled shit he has been in other books, or the barely functioning halfwit he will be in later books.
Between them, they agree that Steven will sneak their sleeping bags, toothbrushes and such like into the room above the garage (is that a thing? Sounds like a new extension to the Wakefield Compound), along with a couple of their dad’s shirts to sleep in, and they can sleep at home tonight.
Then Jessica insists they go for ice cream, because she’s ravenous. Somehow, Elizabeth manages to order scrambled eggs, toast and a fruit salad at the same time Jessica orders an ice cream sundae, a chocolate cake, vanilla pudding and a fudge brownie, all from the breakfast menu at 10am. Then again, ‘Murica, this is probably dead plausible in the USA.
[Wing: Depends on where they are, but yeah, if it’s, for example, a diner, they’ll have pies and such already made.]
A woman leaves her paper when she gets up from a nearby booth. Elizabeth asks if she can have it, and when the lady says yes, Elizabeth starts looking for jobs.
Back with the Wakefield parents, Steven returns home but is unable to tell Alice and Ned the truth, so they’re still distraught. It’s at this point Alice decides to call their friends. Two and a half hours after she noticed they were missing. A+.
Ned says he’ll call too on the second line – uh, the second line? No, presh, you guys have three-way calling, but not a second line. It’s been confirmed too many times.
Anyway, this situates the ‘rents where they can see the garage, so Steven’s going to have a tough time sneaking all the stuff the twins need into it. So he visits Joe and asks him to play ding-dong ditch at five-minute intervals at the Wakefields’ just to keep everyone occupied. Joe asks why, but when Steven says he can’t say, he agrees anyway. Because Joe seems like a nice dude overall.
Steven uses Joe’s doorbell ditching and a mirror to see round corners to get it done, and actually, it’s nice to see Steven using his powers of obnoxiousness for good. [Raven: The logistics of this whole scene confused the bejeesus out of me.]
Over with the twins, the power of Wakefield just keeps going. Elizabeth found a temp agency that gives them a $20 cash signing bonus.
Seriously? A cash signing bonus. For entry-level temp jobs? Really? How does that even work? I went for a job that paid serious money. You know what I got from the recruitment agency? A glass of water.
The agency is at the mall, so they get the bus. While they walk through the mall, they spot the Unicorns, gossiping about who danced with Denny at Janet’s party.
Jessica can’t help messing with them. She pretends to be out shopping for the perfect dress for Johnny Buck’s party. Elizabeth even plays along, saying she’s surprised Jessica has time because she’s so busy being a supermodel. This obviously gets the Unicorns’ attention and they approach, not a single one of them thinking, “Gosh, Alice looks good! She must have done a cleanse or something.” Lila asks how one gets to be a supermodel as she and Janet both have aspirations. Jessica takes great pleasure in emotionally scarring them by saying that “very plain little girls” can have supermodel careers.
Jessica strides away feeling fabulous. For about three seconds, then she realises she’d much rather join them and find out who had the nerve to dance with Janet’s man at her own party.
Elizabeth notes that it’s strange not to be recognised. HELL YES IT IS. You aged seven years. I look almost the same as I did when I was twelve, except plus crow’s feet and grey hair, and that’s a difference of twenty-seven years. [Wing: Huh, I’m not sure I look the same as I did at 12, and I’m not sure I would have recognised my friends had they suddenly grown up over night. Now, I certainly would have recognised Alice fucking Wakefield lookalikes.] [Dove: Ok, before we record the podcast, we’ll all exchange pics of us around the age of 12 and around 20, and see how different we look and report on the outcome?] [Wing: I’ll try to track some down. I’m pretty sure one of the siblings scanned all the old photos at some point.]
At the agency, the twins don’t fare particularly well, since even studious Elizabeth can only list working on the Sixers as her work experience. And even that she flubs because she says she founded the sixth grade paper and named it the Sixers, but the interviewer knows that the paper was only founded this year, so Elizabeth has to cover that her cousin goes to Sweet Valley Middle School, and she used the same name as Elizabeth’s paper.
Jessica is even worse, she’s interested in sweet fuck all, until they mention fashion.
Still, Elizabeth gets a job as a receptionist at Sweet Valley Publishing, while Jessica is heading to Y&C Clothing, and they’re both needed immediately. Sure. Ok.
We cut to Jessica on the bus. She pretends to be doing a photo shoot, striking an over-the-shoulder pose and accidentally making eye contact with the dude behind her. She tries to style it out and claims to be a supermodel on her way to a shoot – she’s using the bus because her limo broke down.
And of course, they head into the same workplace and she is quickly outed as being a temp by a snotty woman, Mrs Cook, who shouts at her for being late. The dude laughingly comments that her personal vehicle broke down.
Jessica is thrown in a room full of files and given the instructions:
“Organize the files in alphabetical order first,” Ms. Cook began. “Then check the numerical designation on the back tab. If the first four digits correspond to the first four digits of the preceding file, then combine the contents of the two files in a new file and put it in this stack here. Then take the two empty file folders, draw a line through the first eight digits, and refile them in alphabetical and numerical order. Any questions? No? Fine.”
Or, y’know, you could just file that shit alphabetically and use a spreadsheet to cross reference the rest of the pointless shite. [Wing: I legitimately cannot follow what the fuck is going on here.]
Jessica sits on the floor filing – she’s now been told off for doing it wrong once – and along the office she hears someone yelling at Mrs Cook, and is surprised that Mrs Cook takes it, given how stern she is with Jessica. Then someone yells at the yeller, and I’m wondering where the fuck HR is in this company? Why does everyone have to yell? Fucking America, you know how to really offend someone in the UK? Sign off with “Regards” instead of “Kind regards”. That’s how you know you’ve fucked up big time. Use the phrase, “If you could clarify…” and shit is going down. [Wing: Oh, man, I worked somewhere we used to shout at each other all the time. My boss walked around all “Where the fuck is my project?!” and we would shout back. Shit, I work in a place now where we shout between our offices sometimes. Yay shouting. Also, I don’t even add “regards” to my email anymore unless I’m in a sharp mood and have to say something like, “as we discussed in our last three emails” with the implied YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE. I think I may have just completely proven Dove’s point.]
And from my own personal collection: if I say “No worries” I literally mean that. If I say “sure” I will rip out your motherfucking spleen for wasting my time on something so obviously pointless. [Raven: If I start an email with “Jeff” rather than “Hi Jeff”, I am plotting Jeff’s demise.] [Wing: I just went to check my work email, and with identifying details cut (and not names, but a specific detail about the paperwork tied to the project), it basically read: Here’s the paperwork we discussed. We’re submitting it Tuesday afternoon, so I need your comments by EOB Monday. My automatic signature line includes my full name, title, and contact info, so I don’t usually sign off with anything else.] [Dove: And that’s probably why there is a notion that the UK regards the USA as rather rude. Because we’re super passive-aggressive over here.]
All up the office, the yellers get yelled at and become meek, and Jessica thinks that working for a living sucks. She imagines that at least the top exec of Y&C doesn’t get bossed around. Then she reads a snotty letter from a stockholder.
Mrs Cook strides in and thrusts some notes at Jessica and tells her to type them. Jessica says she doesn’t know how to use a computer, but Mrs Cook is already gone. How can you not know how to use a computer? I was twelve in 1992, so I’m from the same era. I come from an equally wealthy area (though I wasn’t wealthy, I’m more Sophia Rizzo than Lila Fowler), and we had computer lessons in the 80s. Admittedly, one computer between the whole primary school, but that was the 80s. And then in secondary school there were two or three computer labs, each with around 30 computers in.
Anyway, Jessica feebly pushes a button and somehow it takes down the entire computer system. Yeah, no. Actually impossible. You have to actively try to take down a network, especially in the early 90s. Here’s two examples I know about from personal experience:
- If you are crawling under your desk to retrieve a bit of paper that has fallen down between the desk and the wall and you headbutt the server* by mistake, you will: a) probably get a concussion; and b) take out the server if it’s a particularly delicate machine.
- If your idiot colleagues at a rather large national law firm decide that downloading an aquarium screensaver is far more important than company policy and that screensaver is riddled with viruses, then you can actually take down the entire company for three days straight.
(* Yes, they really did use a single computer as the server hub. And yes, it really was under my desk. Hung in a sling. Exactly the right place to skin your knee daily. And concuss you if you needed to get under the desk. Also, the desk wasn’t a desk. It was a door turned sideways and nailed to a wall.)
Pushing buttons at random will at the worst reboot your computer or put it in sleep mode. But y’know comedy and all that. It’s fucking funny. Laugh.
Elizabeth isn’t having any more fun at her job. She’s manning the phones, so she’s not a receptionist, she’s a switchboard administrator, which is a completely different job with a completely different skillset, and no firm in their right mind takes on someone with no experience. [Wing: Eh, here at a lot of places the receptionist also answers phones and transfers calls.] The lines are blowing up and she has no idea where to put the calls through to. Yeah, no, what would happen here is that someone in house with a bit of experience (someone has to cover that job every lunch) would get pulled off what they’re doing to cover, and the temp would cover their more generic job. But sure, let’s pretend this is likely. [Wing: Having hired temp workers to be a receptionist with this sort of task, yeah, it is likely. Though we would have given them a list of people and instructions on how to transfer.]
(Yes, I could manage an office. Just in case anyone was wondering. I’d be awesome at it.)
Both twins hate working for a living and wish they were twelve again. [Raven: Knowing how this pans out, they really should have ended the Nine-To-Five Spinoff right here.]
Back with the Wakefields, they’ve admitted defeat, and now they’re going to drive around and see if they can see the twins. Uh… whut? Weren’t you already doing that? You mean to say that the searching this morning was on foot? YOU FUCKING TOOLS!
Ned is getting ready to cancel his meeting with Mr Porter, his most important client, and Steven worries that it will affect Ned’s income, so he has to admit that he knows something but he can’t tell them. He gets grounded for not telling.
Jessica has been moved to hole punching stuff. Mrs Cook pointedly says that even she can’t cock that up – in front of everyone, including cute guy from the bus, who is called Chuck.
Jessica then experiences what every office worker has experienced: the sound of a hole punch pushed too far when testing with the guideline for how much paper you can punch at once. Don’t feel bad, Jessica. Literally everyone who has worked in an office has done this at least once. Even Wing. Even if she says she hasn’t. You can just tell. She’s got that kind of personality. [Wing: Are you kidding, of course I have. I broke a shredder because I kept adding more and more paper to what I fed through it. It should have handled more, I stand by that!]
Since the paper is jammed in and she can’t hole punch anything else, Jessica starts doodling ideas of clothes that she would like to wear. She considers that Alice was right, they were a step too far, but what if she toned them down, linen trousers instead of silk. (Am I still missing something here? Is silk synonymous with sluttitude in the US or something?) [Wing: Not that I’m aware of. Maybe adulthood? Though linen would be just as bad.]
Jessica is jerked out of her designing daze by Mrs Cook asking what the fuck she’s been doing for the past two hours, since it’s not hole punching. Another woman, Mrs Ferguson, with her calls Jessica incompetent, which she is, but fucking rude. Jessica asks them if they’re aware it’s Christmas and why are they all so mean. Weirdly, Mrs Ferguson actually explains to her.
They know it’s Christmas, they have a line for young girls and they don’t know what they want to wear. Well, that’s bloody handy, isn’t it? Within seconds, everyone is drooling over Jessica’s doodled designs and they’re going to launch The Jessica Collection with her as Assistant Design Consultant. Apparently the Y&C stands for “Young and Chic”, which Jessica is going to help them live up to. Oh, and Chuck asks her to dinner, but she says she already has plans because she wants to celebrate with Elizabeth.
WAKEFIELDS ALWAYS WIN, AMIRIGHT? [Raven; Seething.]
Well, just hold on, because it gets better.
Elizabeth is asked to join an editorial meeting to take notes. They too are floundering. They have a horror line that isn’t selling well – and it’s just occurred to me, is that a jab at Point Horror? In my local shop, Point Horror would share a shelf with Sweet Valley – and Elizabeth knows why horror isn’t selling, “all that blood and gore”.
First of all, have we ever had any indication that Elizabeth has ever read a horror book? Secondly, if she has, I doubt she read a tween/teen horror, because there shouldn’t be blood and gore in a book for that age range. Is it more possible that Elizabeth is talking out of her perfectly toned Wakefield ass?
Someone suggests and ice skating series, and someone else counters with a horse book, since girls love horses. Elizabeth again thinks this is wrong. She’s already read the only horse series that matters, and is completely unwilling to read anything else.
Uh… which one is that, presh. You’ve read Black Beauty, which isn’t a series, National Velvet, which is, but is not a child’s book… again, could it be that you’ve actually read more than your SINGLE DESIGNATED SERIES IN EACH GENRE and actually you’re just being a bit elitist that people read books that aren’t exactly what you read? (I miss sassy Elizabeth. Where the fuck is she? I loved her.)
The editors say they need something that girls can identify with, and we all know that literally everyone can identify with being an identical twin. Elizabeth can’t help but excitedly blurt out “What about a twins series?” the entire room fawns over this idea. She then adds the kicker, “Just ordinary sixth-grade girls who are twins”. [Raven: I’m So Meta, Even This Acronym.]
I wanted to use a gif of Elder Cunningham saying, “I’m interested” but no such gif exists, so instead let’s have this:
I wish I was a Wakefield. Wouldn’t it be great if Wing and I pitched our book by half-heartedly mumbling, “What about a black girl?” and the room went, “YES! TELL US MORE! THAT IS THE BEST IDEA EVER!”
[Wing: God, if only it were so easy. Though I do like our actual pitch.]
But that’s how it goes for Elizabeth, and they beg her for storylines, which she is happy to provide. Oh, and she’s offered an Executive Assistant role.
[Raven: I realise this is a reworking of the Big storyline, in which the kid inside Tom Hanks lands a design role at a toy comapny after mere days as a temp thanks to some conincidental serendipity. My issue is that in Big it took longer than a fucking hour and it was driven by Tom Hanks using the power of his childish outlook. This book tries to do that, but it’s far from a solid base hit, never mind a home run. And having it happen TWICE, both in the space of one afternoon, is frankly ludicrous. I guess that if anything hammers home this is a series for children is that ANY ADULT who’s ever had an office job will, when reading this, will simply mutter “oh fuck off with this bullshit” and wearily shake their head. I once temped for Yahoo Customer Services, answering calls and emails etc. I was one amongst about ten temps. I was measurably the most productive temp there (they kept stats on calls/emails answered per day, and I topped the table every day with almost three times more than the temp in second place), yet they still asked the agency to replace me with someone else because, and I quote, “your laugh is too loud.” So yeah. This section should have ended with the twins hating their jobs. OR I guess it could have ended with Elizabeth doing well because studious, and Jessica doing badly because flakey. OR better still, with Jessica doing well because complete lucksack chance, and Elizabeth doing badly through no fault of her own, because the REAL WORLD IS RANDOM AND SCARY. And this is probably my longest comment ever.]
The twins go for dinner, and Jessica excitedly babbles about The Jessica Collection, while Elizabeth bites back her own news because she is a fucking saint. And also, she really wants to be twelve again, no matter how well work went. Eventually, Elizabeth tells her news, and Jessica is excited for her, but she wants to be twelve too.
And then it just goes on for ages about how each twin wants to be young again, but they’re going to stay an adult because the other one is so happy.
Back with Steven, the parents invade his room and tell him that he needs to tell them where the twins are, because their safety is more important than his promise to them and it’s dark out now. He says that they haven’t run away but he can’t say more than that. They say he can’t leave his room until he tells them where the twins are.
And the minute they leave, he climbs out the window to meet the twins.
Jessica is talking about getting a car. She wants something low and sporty, while Elizabeth wants a Jeep, which is a nice nod to Sweet Valley High. For the benefit of Wing and Raven, the twins had a Fiat Spider (which to a Brit sounds so school run, but is actually quite a sexy car), but at some point the writers switched to a Jeep without explaining it, and the re-releases of old titles use Jeep throughout.
And we have another scene where everyone pretends they’re super happy that the twins are grownup because they think everyone else is so happy. They’re interrupted when they hear a choir. It’s their friends, which makes Elizabeth quite snappish.
Because the ghostie is drunk on the fact the end of this book must be in sight, the carollers are: Janet and Joe Howell, Lila Fowler, Andy and Melissa McCormick (or the ghostie, like me, believes that Lila and Melissa are actually best friends), Todd Wilkins and a bunch of unnamed others. That is an odd choice of names. I could believe the girls and their brothers, but Todd sticks out like a sore thumb.
Oh, and Elizabeth remembers that every year the twins sign so badly the neighbours complain about their cats being noisy. So in this book, the twins cannot sing.
Elizabeth spots Amy and can’t help but approach her and talk to her. Amy is aware of stranger danger, and just gets the hell out of there.
They head home and when Steven tells Elizabeth to remind Jessica not to turn the lights on, lest they tip off the parents, all the bubbling hurt wells up. Jessica snaps at Steven not to talk about her like she’s an idiot, Steven gets mad back, and Elizabeth tells them to shut up. They see through the bedroom window (uh, weren’t they in the garage?) that Alice and Ned are in Jessica’s room, and they’re crying.
Finally Steven calls the twins selfish for loving their new lives while leaving him and the parents behind. The twins hit back, reminding him of the nasty things he said before the party. He apologises and takes it back and begs them to come back to their normal ages, for their parents if not for him.
He then admits he was forcing cheer because they seemed so happy. And after much “I’ll say if you say”, the twins admit the same. Elizabeth is aghast her twin put Elizabeth’s happiness before her own for once. [Raven: I didn’t like this denouement to the realisation that they should both be Small again. If we’re going with the twins succeeding at their jobs as above (meh), then the logical and more dramatic end is to have them BOTH want to remain Big, until Steven and the sight of their sad parents make them change their minds. Like BIlly convincing Tom Hanks to grow the fuck up and shrink the fuck down.]
They decide to try wishing to go back and immediately set out to the carnival. There’s a bit of cute banter about not having to go to work on Monday, and Jessica moaning that her feet hurt (yeah, heels will do that to you), until they get to the carnival ground. The carnival is gone.
DRAMATIC CHAPTER BREAK.
Even though it’s midnight, a couple of city trash trucks roll up and conveniently inform them that the carnival has moved on to Littlefield, which is four hours away by bus.
And then we smash cut to them arriving at the grounds – the ghostie is as done in as me at this point – but nobody’s there. Uh… why would they be there? It’s four am. Probably closer to five, since Steven set out to meet the twins at midnight, they had a chat and a fight, then they walked to the carnival grounds, then they had to wait for a bus, and the bus took four hours. Also, why are buses running at midnight in the sleepy suburbs? [Raven: Ghostie is phoning it in at this point.]
They head towards the gate and are told to go away, the carnival doesn’t open until tomorrow (timekeeper Dove thinks it’s actually more like in four hours), and besides, the carnival is for kids. Elizabeth says they are kids, or they were until they made a wish.
A light switches on and they see two “elfin” people, one is the chestnut seller, the other sold the clothes to Jessica at the garage sale. [Note from the future: This is never explained. Just nod and smile and pretend you think the Jamie of the week is super clever.]
Elizabeth makes an impassioned plea that they need to come in and make a wish or they’ll have the most miserable Christmas ever. All lights are turned on, decorations are go, the gates open, and the elves vanish.
They all rush to the wishing well and realise they only have one quarter, and they hope a single quarter will work for three wishes. They carefully wish that both twins are twelve again and throw in the quarter.
They gloomily leave.
Another smash cut to arriving back at Sweet Valley (it’s probably around 9am now, since I’ve suddenly become obsessed with timekeeping). The twins had fallen asleep on the back seat, and Steven worries what his parents will say and do. He calls the twins and guess what? They’re twelve again! All is well.
They rush home and everyone is grounded until after Christmas, which means everyone has to spend the rest of their time doing Hallmark things like tree decorating, baking cookies, and generally being delighted that it’s Christmas.
All is well. [Raven: MOST ABRUPT ENDING EVER.]
It’s a bit up and down for me. I fucking loved sassy Elizabeth. Please can we have more of her? And to be honest, the dialogue was fun throughout. It does take half a book to get to the actual BIG part and it’s ridiculous – and not in a good way. Jessica scamming for donuts was cheap and nasty, and I’m sure she could have done it better, but the ghostie was on a deadline. The Wacky Races car bit was magnificently stupid.
And then when they got to work – I actually enjoyed them failing, because even the entry level stuff at an office is a skill, and reading the room of an office is something even adults fail at, so that was cool. But of course, wacky hijinks when Jessica destroyed the computer system by pressing a few buttons on solitary computer.
And, of course, Wakefields always win. Jessica’s made sense, she even has history of designing clothes, but Elizabeth’s win came by pure snobbery and a half-hearted, “What if you wrote about me?”
To be honest, the best part of this book was all the stuff that wasn’t about being BIG for Christmas (the capitals are obligatory, apparently). So, aside from the plot, this was fun!
[Raven: I enjoyed this book, mostly. The ending sucked big balls, though. Once the Twins escaped the Compound as nineteen-year-olds, I was pretty much constantly irritated. I did enjoy how Steven came across so young when dealing with $AdultTwins, but their entire Big Adventure part was underwhelming or overblown. I think what pisses me off most about this book is that it didn’t live up to the potential I thought it had in my head. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was actually looking forward to Janet and Joe’s party.]
[Wing: I liked the dialog and the twins struggling so hard to be grown up but people still treating them like kids, which is realistic for their age. All of this would have worked better for me outside of this series, though, because so much continuity had to be dropped to make this work, and also, I hate the Wakefields so much so often that it’s hard to feel sympathetic for them when that’s what I should feel, toward all of them, in this story. If I didn’t know Alice and Ned rarely parent and Steven is a jackass and the twins often annoying, I could have loved this. Except for that bullshit job ending. Just let them be failures, damn it.]
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.