Title: Deadly Voyage
Summary: It’s the best field trip of the year: identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their classmates from Sweet Valley Middle School are taking a ferry to a Pacific island, where they’ll get to see porpoises and unusual birds. But soon after they set sail, the twins discover that their teachers have been left behind!
Desperate to get back to shore, the girls search for the captain—and find him bound and gagged! The boat is in the hands of thieves, and the twins and their friends are in serious danger!
Well, the premise sounds interesting, at least. The twins, hijacked on a school trip! Gotta beat Ithig, or books about one of the countless School Dances.
The premise also promises the Sweet Valley Twins cast at war with “thieves” … perhaps this could be Jamie Suzanne’s version of Die Hard?
Every time Die Hard comes up, I hear this now. Every. Time.]
One point: This is the first part in a two-part series (or, as it says on the cover, a “sequence”) . As the second part of the sequence is called Escape from Terror Island, I’m presuming Part One ends with the SVT Crew marooned on the aforementioned Island of Terror…
Maybe the voyage won’t be as deadly as advertised. Or maybe Ellen Riteman will get killed. Who knows?!
This book starts off in Opposite World.
Elizabeth Wakefield tried to ignore the insistent tugging on her shoulder. Shutting her eyes more tightly, she snuggled deeper under the covers. After all, it was Saturday.
That’s right, folks. It’s Saturday morning and Elizabeth is the one shirking in bed, while Jessica tries to cajole her sister into action.
Apparently, this slight change in character is explained by the fact that a) it’s not a school day, and b) a designated Class Trip is on the cards.
I have issues with books about Class Trips.
Hopefully this will be better. Hell, at this point, I’d settle for coherent, never mind better.
The trip apparently contains some form of watersports (steady!), as Jessica asks to borrow Elizabeth’s scuba fins as they frantically prepare for departure. To be honest, this pissed me off more than it should. Jessica’s character dictates that she leech many things off her sister, but this one is a bit rich. By taking Elizabeth’s scuba fins, it leaves Liz without any fins of her own, as she surely doesn’t own two pairs of fins. At least when Jessica has borrowed things in the past, it’s been stuff like socks or sweaters or pants, stuff which is replaced with other instances of the item (“Oh, you’ve nicked my purple sweater? Okay, I’ll wear this green one.”). This time, it’s just stopping Elizabeth from scuba fun herself.
[Wing: And this bullshit:
She could tell Jessica no. She could tell Jessica to get out of her closet. But it wouldn’t do any good. Her twin sister was a force of nature, kind of like a small, cheerful hurricane. It was usually best—and always easiest—just to give in.
Come on, Elizabeth. COME. ON. You have a spine. Fucking use it!]
We learn that Jessica’s own fins clash with her new bikini (so I guess Elizabeth could borrow Jessica’s pair in return), before we head into the murky depths of Twin Comparison Literature. Let’s crank some out, for old time’s sake.
- While they look alike, the twins’ personalities couldn’t be more different. For example, Jessica’s friends are very much a reflection of her: pretty, bitchy, vacuous wastes of skin, while Elizabeth’s friends reflect her to perfection: boring, sanctimonious spunkwaffles.
- Elizabeth enjoys reading mystery novels, and revels in solving the fictitious crimes within. Jessica enjoys committing actual crimes, and revels in evading capture while succumbing to her murderous urges.
- Even though they were so very different, the twins had one beautiful thing in common: Steven would fuck them both.
There’s some fashion gubbins and teenage banter, during which we learn the purpose of the Class Trip.
For Elizabeth, and I suspect for the teachers, it’s an educational jaunt via boat to a nearby island in order to catalogue the flora and fauna in the region. FOR SCIENCE!
For Jessica, it’s an opportunity sunbathe, chat shit with her spikey-headed chums, work on her tan, and look fabulous. FOR… erm… FOR THE GLORY OF THE UNICORNS!
The Sainted Alice informs the twins that the boat departs in less than an hour, and Jessica – still dallying with her packing – springs the news that Alice is duty-bound to collect the Unicorns from their homes and transport them all to the dockside. Yep, Jess has promised her friends that her mother would act as chauffeur for the purple throng that morning. More thoughtlessness from our favourite psychopath.
Those promised a ride? Lila, Mandy, Janet and Ellen. With Alice, Elizabeth and Jessica, that makes seven in the minivan. Plausible, I guess. [Dove: Except one of those kids has a fleet of limousines…]
Alice complains that this unplanned detour will make them late for launch. Jessica insists that it’s not a big deal, even though we’ve all seen Jurassic Park and know that the boat waits for no man, not even Ned(ry) Wakefield.
Of course, it IS a big deal, because if they delay the schedule in any way then they could hit an oncoming storm that’s due to his some time after dinner. OH WOW I WONDER IF THAT WILL BE RELEVENT AT ALL.
“I wish you had mentioned giving everyone rides earlier,” Mrs. Wakefield continued, stopping in front of Lila’s huge mansion and honking the horn. “You should have asked me, honey.”
“I did,” Jessica insisted in a small voice. In the backseat, she slunk down a little, still looking out the window. It was amazing how people got upset about the least little things. She noticed this all the time.
Huh. Alice actually being irritated by something Jessica has done? And Jessica realising her error but no-selling it to her own inner demons? Are these the budding signs of a decent book? OH FRABJOUS DAY! [Dove: None of my co-recappers will be surprised to know that my skin was prickling throughout this scene. I hate lateness. I hate last-minute changes. I hate faffers. One day, I waited in a car park for 20 minutes for someone to get out of a car because they were faffing. We get annoyed because our time is valuable too, you absolute twat.] [Wing: Wait, I am confused by this car park example. You were in the car with the person?]
In the ride to the marina, we learn a few things about the trips’ makeup. We have Janet “This Will Reflect Badly” Howell, Lila “I Can Have You Killed” Fowler, Mandy “Bald But Fucking Sassy, Yo” Miller and Ellen “Uncooked Batter Eater” Ritemen (collected by Alice), all fawning over Lila’s European import of the latest Johnny Buck song, Bucking the System (and Melody Power’s latest album, Power to the People).
I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to this, and of course Dove’s excellent Sweet Valley / Hunger Games crossover fic (this is a link to the final chapter, with links to all the previous ones… be sure to read them in the right order!). [Dove: Or read it at Archive of Our Own, where it has been cleaned up a bit.]
We’ve done the whole faux Johnny Buck albums to death, but Melody Power is new. Sadly, all I can come up with is Self-Raising Power. I must be tired. [Dove: Sweet and Power? Oooh, could she do a collab with AC/DC and call it Amped?] [Raven: Sweet and Power Sauce is a winner.]
Naturally, Elizabeth isn’t frothing over the Buckmeister. She’s keener on the wildlife that promises to be present on their island idyll. She’s such a nerd, lol. Animals are shit.
Hah! Joke. Animals are amazing, of course.
Elizabeth makes a comment about sea lions, otters and grey whales, and the five Unicorns look at her as though she’s got AIDS of the face. Jessica, why you gotta punk Whiskers like that?
To be honest, if Elizabeth had mentioned a fucking Narwhal or something, I reckon the Unicorns would have been much more interested. [Dove: Doubtful. If other kids have goldfish, Lila has a fleet of narwhals.]
The minivan eventually arrives at the marina, and we learn that there will be around twenty-five Sweet Valley Middle School kids attending the field trip. So, a full boat. Nice.
Immediately, we discover the natural foil to the Snob Squad – Team Boring – are a vital slice of the twenty-five. We have Amy “Lank Haired Spunkwaffle” Sutton, Maria “Child Actress But Can’t Operate A Camera” Slater, and Todd “Todd Wilkins” Wilkins, so at least Elizabeth can nerdgasm in company. Next, there’s Randy “Science Nerd” Mason, replete with a box of intricate science equipment with which to measure, I dunno, the oscillations of the local wildlife or something.
Q: How do you titillate an ocelot?
A: Oscillate its tit a lot.
[Dove: And the other version:
How do you cheer up a lemon?
You stimulate its cit-u-rus.]
[Wing: Or the version I know:
How do you cheer up a lemon?
You tickle its citrus.]
The growing gang admire the boat, one Island Dreamer, which is mid-sized and white, a cross between a small tugboat and a ferry. One cabin, and a raised pilothouse. I’ve just spent ten minutes googling boats, but can’t find a suitable analogue. Instead, here’s Sir David Attenborough’s aquatic bete noire (boat noire!)
The kids pile on the boat, leaving their collected parents to discuss the organisation with Mr Seigel, Sweet Valley Middle School’s science teacher and official trip chaperone, at dockside.
Next up, we meet the next pair of swarthy SVMS shipmates: holy shit, it’s Bruce “Rohypnol” Patman and Jerry “No Distinguishing Features” McAllister. That’s right, girls, the party’s here!
Through the age-old medium of banter, we also learn of other attendees: Belinda “John Proctor” Layton (I’m proud of that joke, but WOW will no one get it) and Tamara “FUCK YOU” Chase. Bruce denigrates the Island Dreamer, comparing it unfavourably to his father’s fifty-foot cabin cruiser. Lila whispers to the others that the Patman junk ain’t all that. Rude.
Next, we see another gaggle of early-graders, helping load the boat with food. Who could it be? Why, it’s Aaron “Debbie Does” Dallas, Ken “Garden Gnome” Matthews and Donald “Revenge of the Nerds” Zwerdling! We also learn that the kids had been split into groups and each tasked with bringing food for the trip.
The Unicorns brought JEMS cookies, which is a nice bit of continuity.
Todd and Ken brought bags of chips.
Amy and Maria brought fruit.
Randy, Donald and Jerry brought shop-bought sandwiches.
Elizabeth and Winston “Butch Booster” Egbert brought fizzy drinks.
NOW! How come the Unicorns were the only group tasked with actually MAKING something to bring? As a veteran of many a Friday Fuddle / Pot Luck Lunch, the first two categories snatched up by the laziest were drinks (Liz and Winston) and crisps / chips (Todd and Ken). Also, I’m pretty sure the Unicorns never wanted to see another fucking faux-JEM cookie after the original cookie disaster, though I admit they may have changed their tune once the cookies hit the big time on the show.
Mr Seigel checks their names off a list and suggests they all board, before talking to Kimberley “I Am Also Present” Haver and her mother on the dockside about a missing permission slip. [Dove: I particularly liked the sass of Kimberley saying that of course she has permission, otherwise why would her mother have brought her here. I’ve never seen Kimberley have a personality.]
The kids dutifully file onto the boat.
On the deck, Jerry and Bruce discuss their plans to get to the island and then ditch the butterfly-hunting saps before partying hard with Bruce’s smuggled-in Boogie Board.
For those of us living in a land-locked city, here’s a Boogie Board:
How the HELL did Bruce manage to sneak THAT onto the ship? Please tell me it’s up his cavernous arse. [Wing: He apparently has a giant bag for it that looks not at all like a board bag and more like a duffel bag, which, okay. And I’m just going to get this out of the way now: the way he talks about it, he’s going to stand and surf on it. THAT’S NOT HOW YOU USE A BOOGIE BOARD! IT’S CALLED BODYBOARDING AND IT DOES NOT INVOLVE STANDING ON THE GODDAMN BOARD.]
As the engines fire up during this fatuous (yet believable) discourse, we learn that Bruce feels he could operate this boat with one cock tied behind his back. I wonder if this hubris will come back to bite him…
Elizabeth vocally doubts Bruce’s claims, much to his chagrin. He saunters off with a biting comment, Jerry in tow like a Californian Goyle.
Aaron and Team Boring poke gentle fun at the departing Bruce’s expense, when an adult head emerges from the pilothouse and instructs Aaron to cast off. Aaron obliges without question. Damn, kid. Such unthinking obedience. [Wing: Exactly what USA public schools try to teach. Excellent work there, SVMS.]
Maria pulls a camera out of her backpack and begins snapping happy pictures of the collective kids. Elizabeth asks if her finger is over the lens, which is a cute callback to Robbery at the Mall which raises a smile from me. Some good continuity in this one, colour me impressed. [Dove: I’m conflicted. +1 for continuity; -1 for reminding me of how shit Maria was in that whole book.]
The boat begins to shudder as Team Boring take their seats, gushing over the scientific endeavours what await them on MONSTER ISLAND.
As the boat shudders for a second time, Elizabeth becomes concerned. OF COURSE. Because that’s her default reaction to everything.
The boat begins to move! Elizabeth’s concern turns to panic.
“We’re moving!” she gasped, looking out to where Mr. Siegel, Mr. Slater, her mother, and a couple of classmates were still standing on shore. The dock was already a couple of feet away. “The boat is leaving!” she cried in alarm. “Mom!”
A school-organised trip goes horribly wrong.
WHAT A FUCKING SURPRISE.
The teachers at this FUCKING school are appalling.
Of course, there’ll be no repercussions on the staff.
Only Team Boring seem to have noticed the shoreline fubar. While Seigel and the collected parents hop about and bellow that the boat should stop immediately, Elizabeth, Todd, Maria and Amy worry about the situation. They deduce it’s a simple case of the captain jumping the gun, and said captain would surely realise their error and pilot the boat back to dock any second now.
“We’ll head back to the dock in a minute,” Amy said, a slight frown on her forehead. “No problem.”
“No problem at all,” Elizabeth repeated.
After all, they couldn’t be headed out to sea with no grown-ups on board, could they?
Strictly untrue, whatever the situation, unless the erroneous captain is actually a seven-year-old boating prodigy.
We cut to the Unicorn section of the deck, where the unaware purple posse are soaking up the sun. As they process the boat’s lurching movement, they squeal in delight. They’re off to their island paradise!
Their reverie is interrupted by Team Boring cluing them into their precarious situation.
At first, the Unicorns are confused, until Maria informs them that the adults have been left behind along with Kimberley Haver, Peter “Which Peter Are You?” Jennings [Dove: ANOTHER MOTHERFUCKING NEW PETER? FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU HARD! I HAVE LIMITS YOU KNOW!] [Raven: Wait! It’s actually Peter Jeffries. TOO MANY FUCKING PETERS.], and Brooke “Not A Bitch Any More” Dennis.
“You’re kidding!” Jessica exclaimed, getting up and running to the side of the Island Dreamer. Sure enough, there, looking like very small, very upset dolls, were her mother, Mr. Siegel, and Mr. Slater, back on the dock. Mrs. Wakefield was cupping her hands around her mouth, shouting something, and Mr. Slater was waving his arms excitedly. Jessica could see Kimberly stomping around angrily, watching the departing boat.
“I don’t believe this!” Jessica yelled, turning to the other Unicorns in delight. “We’re free!”
The other Unicorns agree with Jessica’s observation. No adults = no supervision, leading to more fun and frolics! Perfect Jessica logic. [Dove: Um… yeah. I’m with Jessica.]
Elizabeth is concerned, as we’ve mentioned. Jess shoots her down like slingshot on a balloon present.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Oh, Elizabeth, get a grip. What’s so bad about it? The captain knows we’re going to Santa Maria Island. So he’ll take us there. We’ll spend a fabulous day on the beach, have lunch, and come back home. No problems, no worries. And the best part is, it isn’t even our fault. We won’t get in any trouble for it.” She and Lila slapped high fives, and Tamara and Janet started doing a little jig.
“Jessica’s right, unbelievably enough,” Bruce said, swaggering up to where they were standing. “This couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it. Now we can just have a good time all day, without chasing a bunch of otters around.” He paused, frowning. “I hope we still get the extra science credit, though. My grade totally needs it.”
I fucking hate Bruce. But he’s well written in this book. Nice work, Ghostie!
Team Boring are acting for the Defence, and Maria assets that she’s off to speak to the Captain. Elizabeth agrees with her decision, and they dash of to Set Things Right. Jessica, embarrassed by her sister’s uncool outlook, tries to handwave it away as Just Elizabeth. Standard.
At the pilothouse, Team Boring politely knock on the closed door. It doesn’t open, but a pair of brisk voices from within tell them not to worry. They’d be at the island in an hour, never fear.
Elizabeth starts to get angry. Don’t they realise that something has Gone Wrong?
Before she hulks out and smashes the door with her green Wakefield fists, the voice from within send out a final placatory message.
“Listen, kids,” the voice called from inside the pilothouse. “Everything’s cool. We radioed your, uh, parents and told them to meet us at the island. They’re not worried. They’ll just take another boat there. OK? Now, just relax.”
Elizabeth, Maria and Todd are joined by Amy, Jessica, Janet and Bruce, who are brought up to speed. One half of the collective believe that the voices from the pilothouse do not understand the seriousness of the situation, and that things are officially Off Kilter. The other half of the collective believe there’s Nothing Worry About, and that the captain has everything under control, and why do you have to ruin everything Elizabeth you goody-goody bellend?
Eventually, the Voices of Evil win out, with a spineless Elizabeth concluding that they are probably right, and that they are not getting sold into slavery by a bunch of human traffickers. They all decide to drink smoothies and enjoy the journey to what will either be an island paradise or a packing crate to oblivion.
The next section sees Bruce upping the party ante by titting around with his Boogie Board, the Unicorns eating chips and dancing, Jessica catching some rays, and all-round fun being had by all. The calm before the metaphoric, and likely actual, storm.
Liz, of course, is still Concerned. She checks up on Randy, who’s busy tinkering with the scientific apparatus he brought on the trip. His readings tell an interesting tale…
Randy frowned. “I thought I was experimenting with a sonar-based course-tracking system,” he explained. “But something’s wrong. It doesn’t seem to be gauging our distance or direction properly.”
Uh-oh. Looks like the boat ain’t headed for Disneyland.
Chapter 4 starts with Bruce hitting Jerry and Todd with every parent’s journey nightmare question… “are we there yet?”
Yes, it seems that their ninety-minute journey to the island is running long. The boys posit banal reasons for the holdup, and we have some more characterful insight into Bruce’s mind. This book isn’t afraid to dip into a Bruce POV, and that’s refreshing. [Wing: I did not find it quite so refreshing. He’s already in the series too much, adding a POV is NOT ON.] [Raven: I wouldn’t call his appearences too numerous, but YMMV.]
Cammi “Hang On, I’m Here Too” Adams and Grace “Fucking Hell, So Am I” Oliver start chatting shit about a film, and if THIS isn’t a reflection of Bruce’s thought process, I don’t know what is…
“Did anyone see that movie Island Paradise last night on TV?” Cammi Adams asked. She was a sixth-grader, and she looked it, Bruce thought dryly. Straight up and down.
“Straight up and down.” Dirty, dirty Bruce. Thirteen-year-old boys… Love it.
The film reference is apropos, dealing as it does with a shipwreck on a desert island. Apparently, everyone fell in love. Standard. [Dove: As someone who fucking loves this trope, I kind of wish the movie, no matter how terrible, actually existed. It would be one more in my very tiny niche. However, it’s probably an homage to Blue Lagoon.]
Bruce tries to assert his dominance on the conversation by referencing a “book he has read”, about a bunch of kids shipwrecked on a desert island, in which the no-adult Boarding School throng end up killing each other. Obviously, this is Lord of the Flies.
So, do we believe that Brice has read Lord of the Flies? I see no issue with that assertion. He may be a prick, but even pricks can read. [Dove: *raises hand* I would accept that his nanny/caretaker/private tutor/whatever read it to him. I see Bruce as a very passive learner. I also see his family working around that. Also, as a counter to Lord of the Flies, when six boys were actually shipwrecked, it was more like a cosy stranding than a battle royale.] [Wing: Sixth grade might be a little early in the curriculum, but most kids in the 90s in the USA were required to read it in school.]
We cut to Jessica and Lila, learning dance moves to Melody Power songs. Things aren’t going splendidly, and Lila blames the music. Something is wrong with it. She turns it off, to the annoyance of Bruce, before hearing the subtle noises that are casing her such aural incontinence.
Over the sound of the raucous propellers, the gang make out a strange pounding, coming from somewhere on the boat.
“Where’s it coming from?” Aaron asked.
“I don’t know,” Jessica said, “but I’m going to find out. Whoever’s making that noise has to stop right now. We’re trying to listen to the new Melody Power tape!”
Nice characterisation of Jessica there, but how on earth Lila heard anything so subtle over both the music and the propellers is beyond me. She is the rich little princess, I suppose. Maybe it’s an audible pea-and-mattress type thing.
Jess and Lila investigate the main room on the charter boat (and note the gendered toilets called, hysterically, Buoys and Gulls). They trace the banging to the Passenger Room, specifically the Supply Closet.
Jess opens the door, flicks on the lights, and gives out a startled gasp.
A naked Mr Nydick!
Hooray, there IS a teacher on board after all!
An unresolved scene switch!
We cut to Elizabeth with the gang on deck, wondering where her sister has gone. It’s now 10:30, approximately two hours and thirty minutes since they left on their ninety-minute journey, and not only have they not arrived at the island, there is no land masses in sight.
Elizabeth, Winston, Todd and Amy go investigate the passenger room. There, they find a transfixed Lila and Jessica, who have uncovered two tied-up men, one wearing a captain’s uniform.
OH NOES! These must be the ACTUAL operators of the charter boat!
They are weak from either bumps to the noggin or some powerful sedatives, but they manage to impart vital plot advancement information. They are the captain and crewman, Thomas Moreland and Walt Lufkin. They were accosted that morning by two dodgy buggers, who used chloroform (or chloroform-adjacent) rags to overpower them and take command of the Island Dreamer.
Winston frees the Captain’s hands with his Swiss Army Knife, but both the Captain and the Crewman are far too groggy to be of any use to the kids or to the plot in general. The Captain does manage to impart some all important information before he falls back into unconsciousness.
- The Dodgy Blokes are not heading to the Island. The Captain believes they are fleeing criminals bound for Mexico. A TEN HOUR journey.
- They hijacked the boat in the hope it would be inconspicuous, and not missed until it didn’t return that evening.
- The Big Storm headed for them that evening is guaranteed to be too powerful for the little Charter Boat to manage. It’s sure to blow them out of the water.
- Finally, while the Dodgy Blokes control the shortwave radio in the pilothouse, the Captain has a CB radio in his private quarters.
With a faint snore, the Captain succumbs to the release of sleep. The gathered kids are understandably worried, and they look to the one steady voice from the entire season so far… they look to Elizabeth for guidance.
Elizabeth frowned in concentration. They’re counting on you, she thought. You’re the levelheaded one who always has great ideas, remember? You have to think of something. “The first thing we have to do—” Elizabeth broke off and swallowed hard. It wasn’t any use. She didn’t have a solitary clue what they should do. Her brain had frozen.
VERY nice to see Elizabeth having issues. This is a very real and intimidating predicament, and it’s believable that she’s overwhelmed. The tension is building nicely.
Todd, Jess, Elizabeth, Maria, Lila, Amy and Winston are gathered in the main passenger room, trying to formulate a plan. As they scheme, the rest of the schoolies make their way into the room piecemeal. Elizabeth quickly fills them in on what’s occurin’.
Bruce has a plan. Of sorts.
Bruce narrowed his eyes strategically. “I’d hate to subject anyone to my karate moves, but it looks like I might have to. Desperate times call for desperate—”
“I don’t think karate will be necessary, Bruce,” Elizabeth said patiently. Geez, what a fathead.
You’re not wrong, Lizzie. You’re not wrong. [Dove: Fathead? That insult is so Blyton.] [Raven: Well, she’s hardly gonna drop the C-bomb, now, is she.]
Ken offers that Bruce’s ability to pilot the boat with his cock out might come in handy, and Bruce looks pleasingly uncomfortable.
Randy is pleased that his scientific equipment isn’t malfunctioning. Nerds, man.
Jessica thinks that this dilemma requires a born leader., She suggests Janet Howell. This leads to some WONDERFULLY sassy responses from Team Boring.
Amy sighed impatiently. “Listen, you guys, being hijacked at sea isn’t exactly the same as running a Unicorn meeting.”
“Yeah,” Maria said wryly. “For one thing, it doesn’t matter what we’re wearing.”
Finally, Elizabeth comes up with a somewhat decent first foray. She suggests they split into groups, the larger of which would head back deckside and attempt to Look Normal, while the smaller of which went hunting for the CB. Everyone agrees.
Winston, Amy and Maria offer to form the smaller Group B with Elizabeth. Bruce, predictably, offers to help everyone “act normal” in Group A, which marks him as an apparent coward. I guess that’s fair, as he has been boasting about his Cobra Kai abilities. Sweep the leg, Bruce!
Group A try their best to act normal up on deck, but instead of dancing, laughing and having fun,. They all sit stiffly on benches , their faces dark like thunder. They switch on the tape player / radio in an attempt to lighten the mood, but instead they stumble upon the Sweet Valley News, which has pertinent information on their predicament.
“We’re pausing in our regular programming to bring you this late-breaking news flash,” the radio announcer said. […] Early this morning the First National Bank of Sweet Valley was robbed by two men who made off with almost five million dollars’ worth of cash and bearer bonds. […] The two men were described by onlookers as being white, in their mid-thirties. One has sandy hair, the other one dark brown. They were described as looking rough and unkempt and should be considered armed and dangerous”. […]
“Their present whereabouts are unknown, but authorities believe they may have escaped by stealing a boat from the Sweet Valley Marina,” the announcer continued. “To repeat: Two bank thieves are on the loose, and are armed and dangerous. There is a one-hundred-thousand-dollar reward for information leading to their capture. Anyone knowing their location or destination should notify the authorities immediately. This station will keep you posted with up-to-the-minute reports as the situation develops. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming of danceable tunes and romantic hits.”
Well then. There we are. Bank-robbing boat-napping vagabonds. And a one-hundred-thousand dollar reward.
Now THAT’S a plot. None of this “omg, why is Caroline Pearce wearing purple socks, we must inform the village elders. Has anyone seen Janet?”
When I started recapping this series with my Nostalgic Bredren, I did say that I’d relish a Die Hard style story set in this universe. Welp, wish granted, I guess. Bring it!
Next, a glorious word from Ellen.
Ellen raised her hand. “I know their whereabouts and location,” she said weakly. “Does this mean I get a reward?”
Bless her! [Dove: Seconded. I love her.]
Jessica, fantasising about being the next Unicorn leader, does her best to rally the troops, but even she admits to herself that she’s far too scared by the situation to truly appreciate anything.
We skip to Group A, gingerly aiming their way towards the Captain’s quarters. They cross a small one-porthole galley and enter their small one-porthole destination. They flip on a light and began searching the cupboards and drawers. After what seems like an age, Winston hits CB gold.
He tunes the knobs (haha) and bangs out a mayday, startling the voice on the other end of the line.
“This is Winston Egbert,” Winston said into the handset. “I’m on a charter boat, and we’ve been hijacked.”
“Hijacked! Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s not a joke!” Maria cried into the handset. “Please help us!”
“Our boat is the Island Dreamer,” Winston said. “We were hijacked out of the Sweet Valley Marina. Please call the coast guard!”
Unfortunately, no one can pinpoint their position for those listening in. And worse is to come, as Winston’s message is interrupted by a crashing at the Captain’s door.
The game is up. The kidnappers are here.
Elizabeth gasped and shrank back in her chair. A tall, burly man with sandy-blond hair stood there, looking fierce.
“You were right,” he said over his shoulder to someone. “You did hear something. A bunch of pesky kids.” He leaned over and effortlessly ripped the CB out of Winston’s hand.
“Hello? Hello? Are you there?” a voice was saying. But the hijacker yanked the handset out of the box.
Elizabeth’s heart shriveled to the size of a pebble. Winston met her eyes. His face was ashen. Obviously, he understood the situation as well as she did: There went their last chance of rescue!
My, this IS exciting! I’m enjoying this a lot.
We’re about half way through, and the tension is building nicely.
It’s odd, but I think that having this tale be a two-parter means that the pace of the narrative is a little less break-neck. The story is getting a little room to breathe.
Long may it continue!
The leering kidnappers order the kids back up on deck. The youths are reticent at first, but soon comply in the face of prolonged leering.
Back with Group B, the Unicrowd are getting into the swing of acting normal. They sunbathe and hold fatuous conversations, albeit centred on the current debacle.
“It seems so unfair,” Jessica said wearily. “I mean, it’s like a message that we shouldn’t try to get extra credit or something.”
They start planning the next Unicorn party, as Bruce and Jerry practice their Crane Kicks nearby. Wax on, wax off.
Eventually, just as the discussions are getting interesting (sequined motherfucking Booster uniforms, people!), Group A are manhandled back into frame by the two antagonists. We learn their names: Gary and Jack. Strange, I was expecting Tony Rizzo, or a pair of Peters. [Dove: DON’T PUSH ME! I WILL NUKE THIS SITE IF ANY MORE PETERS ARE ADDED.]
Gary has the kids line themselves up against the railings. He then takes out a gun, and shoots them all dead.
Goodnight everyone! Join us next week for the next instalment in the Sweet Valley Twins series, A Very Purple Funeral.
The kids comply, but then the red mist descends on Bruce, and he tries to put his karate moves into effect. With hilarious results.
Oh, please, Jessica thought fearfully, hoping Bruce would pick up her brain waves. Please don’t practice your tough act now.
But Bruce didn’t seem to get the message. “Haiyah!” he and Jerry chorused as they flung their legs through the air in a karate kick. At least, Jessica thought, it was probably supposed to be a karate kick.
Gary gave a snort of derision and stepped quickly sideways, and Bruce and Jerry both sailed past him. Then they landed in two heaps, on the deck.
Bruce ACTUALLY said “Haiyah.”
(Surely not EVERYBODY was Kung Fu Fighting?)
A grazed knee and some bruised pride later, Gary growls that the kids refrain from funny business, lest they get hurt. A leering Jack ties everyone’s hands to the ship’s railing, much to the consternation of all involved. Jessica tries to stand up for Elizabeth, and receives an extra tight rail-lashing in response.
Let’s pause for a sec and do a roll call.
That’s TWENTY twelve / thirteen year olds. I’m pretty sure they could have stormed Gary and Jack and threw them overboard, or tied them up. It’s not as though they have guns… yet (SPOILER). It’s like the old question, would you rather be attacked by one horse-sized duck or twenty duck-sized horses. [Dove: *blinks* That’s a question, is it? One that is often asked?] [Raven: Yep. Here’s Obama’s answer.]
Also, Jack just happened to have enough rope on him to securely bind the hands of twenty teenagers, did he? Fancy that. [Dove: Hush. We do not kink-shame on this site.] [Wing: I’d actually assume a boat would have enough rope, though they’d have to cut it down. For that matter, maybe bank robbers, too, just in case.]
Once the kids are secure, Gary and Jack ransac their iceboxes for sandwiches, like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.
The kids grumble amongst themselves, and Jessica and Elizabeth vow to come up with the best plan ever and set their people free.
We now take a scheduled detour to the Idiot Dock, where a gaggle of Sweet Valley parents and teachers ply the coastguard with questions regarding their missing offspring.
A high-falutin’ coastguard bigwig tells the babbling throng that they’ve picked up a mayday from a kid called Winston, and there is much rejoicing. This rejoicing is short-lived, because although the parents are proud to give proof to the coastguard that the mayday was in fact legitimate, no one has a clue where the boat is headed.
“[W]e have to assume that the Island Dreamer really is in serious trouble—that it has, in fact, been hijacked.” Captain Burkes looked very worried. “The first thing we need to do is determine their location and where they’re heading.”
“Where are they?” Mrs. Wakefield whispered, her face pale. “Where are my daughters?”
Oh, so you choose TODAY to actually give a shit, Alice? Fuck off back to Ginsville. [Dove: Also note that in this scene, Mrs Riteman is the first to express concern about her daughter. Alice takes her cue after that.]
Back on the boat, Elizabeth posits the internal question: What would Christine Davenport do? Ol’ CD is Elizabeth’s favourite heroine of action adventure mystery books, and thus apparently well equipped to deal with two assclowns like Gary and Jack. Sorry Liz, you’ve missed your window. You could have been one of twenty duck-sized horses.
The Baddies head below, apparently to deal with the Captain and the crewman “for good”, which is darker than I expected for this series, so kudos.
The kids bicker until the Baddies return with a dishevelled Captain and crewman. This time, both Gary and Jack are brandishing pistols. See, give these to the Baddies from the first second, and I’d have no issue with the kids failing to storm their captors. But then I suppose Bruce and Jerry wouldn’t try to karate chop a pair of armed assailants.
The Captain tries to cajole the Baddies into freeing the kids, but they laugh it off with a line about ditching them in the sea. In a callous turn, both the Captain and hi crewman friend are cast away in the ship’s only lifeboat, left to drift on an unforgiving sea with nothing but a small bottle of water to keep them going.
[Wing: This is where I have a hard time accepting a plot like this for this age group, because I can’t stop thinking that they would just have shot the captain and the crewman. Probably much earlier, actually, though it’s possible they didn’t want to give things away with a gunshot when they were still at the port.] [Raven: I get that, but I still think the abandonment of the crew in the lifeboat is endgame bleak when framed within the series we’re reading. I mean sure, in real life there would have been multiple deaths, or kids actually human trafficked, but in SVT? This is the darkness. Also, the armed robbers may not be willing to double down to actual murder. This is a criminal consideration here in the UK (as is an escalation to robbery while armed with a gun), although I admit the US might be a bit more gung ho about it if the news is to be believed.]
So the Sweet Valley Middle crew are left alone at sea with their grizzled captors. Ain’t looking good, that’s for sure.
It’s now later that afternoon – 01:30pm to be precise – and the restrained middle schoolers are wilting in the relentless Californian sun.
As they dream about food, Elizabeth checks out the sky. Particularly, she notices the approaching mass of darkening clouds. There’s a storm a’ brewin’.
Nerves start to fray.
Several people down the rail, Tamara had started crying softly. “I can’t even see the lifeboat anymore,” Jessica could hear her whimpering. “They’re gone for good. We’re not going to make it.”
“Shh,” Janet said soothingly, though she herself was white and sick-looking with fear. “Come on, Tamara, you’re a Unicorn. Unicorns can handle anything, right? We’re the best.”
Tamara turned tear-filled eyes to Janet. “Janet, the Unicorns are just a school club for girls. We sit around and talk about clothes and boys. It isn’t important.”
Janet gasped and stared at Tamara, speechless.
“Tamara, you don’t mean that,” Belinda said, sounding scandalized. “The Unicorns are some of the most important people at Sweet Valley Middle School. Of course being a Unicorn will help us get through this.”
“That’s right.” Janet sniffed. “Unicorns don’t let a little thing like being hijacked at sea get to them.”
Tamara sniffled a little. “OK, OK,” she said, her voice cracking.
GO TAMARA CHASE! [Dove: She is so going overboard. You can’t come back from that.]
Bless her for suffering so, and bless her for saying what EVERY READER OF THIS SERIES has thought since book one. But also Bless Belinda and Janet for doing their bit to reassure their friend.
Jessica chuckled despite herself. “She’ll never be president of the Unicorns,” she whispered to Elizabeth.
“Too bad,” Elizabeth said with a nervous giggle.
Oh, FUCK OFF, the pair of you. Cackling harpies. Let Tamara have her moment.
Gary and Jack stomp off to the pilothouse, apparently annoyed with something off screen. Jessica and Elizabeth have a tense conversation in which Jessica thinks that Elizabeth is blaming her for landing them in this mess – due to chivvying her along that morning – when in fact, Jessica blames herself for that very same thing.
Back with the Ineffectual Parents, we learn that no boats of planes can be scrambled to search for the Island Dreamer due to the threat of the oncoming storm, which is SO MUCH BULLSHIT. Twenty pre-teens get abducted from a marina by hardened criminals, and they can’t send out a spotter copter for fear of a little rain? I’ve seen The Perfect Storm, that rescue chopper went through HELL to find the sunken yacht and its captain, and he was the corrupt warden of Shawshank Prison, for fuck’s sake!
Mr Seigel asks the important question:
“What does that mean?” Mr. Siegel asked, his voice rising urgently. “If the storm is too rough for search parties, what does it mean for the charter boat?”
Captain Burkes looked very uncomfortable. “If the Island Dreamer is caught in the storm,” he said reluctantly, “I just don’t know…”
Blimey. Way to sugar coat it, Burkes. “Sorry folks, but your kids are dead. Still, at least our rescue chopper is dry!”
Back on the boat, and Ken Matthews has spotted some dolphins. Lovely.
“Great,” Amy said dryly. “We’re actually seeing some wildlife on our wildlife field trip. Someone take notes.”
Super sassy spunkwaffle!
Of course, they’re not dolphins. They’re fucking sharks, albeit without frickin’ laser beams on their heads. Randy informs the group about Great Whites and their prodigious kill record, much to the Unicorns’ collective dismay.
As the group continue to bicker, a miracle happens. Overlooked by the Baddies, the rest of the Sweet Valley Middle Massiv, the reader, the Ghostie, and Santa Claus himself, who should pop out from under a bench, but Cammi fucking Adams and Donald fucking Zwerdling!
As the Baddies repose in their pilothouse suite, the bound middle schoolers scramble to be freed fro the railing. However, Cammi and Donald have been postulating a plan, and decree that loosing everyone at this time is a fool’s errand. If everyone is free, the jig would be up toot-sweet. Instead, they suggest freeing a small enclave of the best and brightest SVMS representatives, in order to avoid arousing suspicion so the freedom fighters cam go about their clandestine plans unimpeded.
While the crowd bicker about who should be freed, and with both Elizabeth and Winston actually set free first and second, a sudden noise from the pilothouse cause Cammi, Donald, Winston and Elizabeth to duck inside the passenger-house.
[Dove: Here I got irritated. In an earlier scene, Gary and Jack made a big deal of the Wakefields being identical. Therefore they are eye-catching. If I had twenty kids I didn’t know tied to a railing, I’d probably remember the tallest, the one with the biggest hair and, if present, a set of identical twins. Remove any one of these eye-catchers, and I’d notice something was amiss. Also, I’d easily notice, because my tweens would be evenly spaced and probably arranged according to height, because I have control issues, but let’s not get into that. Also, probably need a disclaimer at this point: I have no desire to tie up any amount of tweens/teens. I’m just saying if I did, I’d be better at it.] [Wing: What she said RE the twins. That was clearly a big deal for them, and they should notice. Also, unless I was holding them ransom, those tweens would have been overboard by now. If I were a boat-hijacking bank robber, that is.]
As Gary and Jack make their way to the front of the boat, the sullen remainders of Team Sweet Valley huddle closer to mask the newfound gaps in their ranks, al the while bemoaning their unrescued plight under their breaths.
In an enjoyable exchange, Lila and Bruce both squabble about their relative worth to their worried rich fathers, claiming ever increasing rewards would be offered for their safe return, while the FBI and CIA and the President himself would be scouring all the corners of the earth to uncover their whereabouts.
Naturally, as their hackles rise, so does the volume, and eventually they are overheard by Gary. Immediately, he senses an opportunity.
“You’re both being stupid,” Janet said with irritation. “Now, be quiet before the hijackers hear you!”
“Too late, little lady,” came a sneering voice in back of them. Bruce turned his head to see Gary standing by the door of the passenger room. Gary finished off an icy can of soda, then crumpled the can in his fist and threw it overboard. “I didn’t know we had any valuable cargo on board,” Gary continued, grinning crookedly.
Bruce felt the color drain from his face. “Valuable cargo? Uh, what do you, mean?”
“Cut the innocent act, kid,” Gary snapped. He eyed Bruce and Lila. “Yep. You two could come in real useful if we get in a sticky situation. Maybe we’ll have to keep you two after all.”
Of course, that immediately posits the question of what’s to become of the rest of the group?
“Well, kid, it’s like this,” Gary said with a fake smile as he came closer. “We just don’t need you. A bunch of pesky kids… you’ll only be in the way. I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go.”
“Let us go?” Ken asked. “Where?”
Gary jerked his sandy-haired head toward the water. “Let you go… overboard,” he said, then he gave an evil, cackling laugh.
Hah! Oh please, let this book have one of the kids actually die. That’s be so damn shocking. It doesn’t have to be an important kid… just kill off, I dunno, Grace Oliver or something. I would applaud SO HARD if they made irreparable changes to the canon here. [Dove: Ellen Riteman. I’d never forgive them, but it would explain why she isn’t in Sweet Valley High.]
Gary disappears inside, and the alarmed throng discuss their fate. Mandy is worried, Tamara is on the verge of tears, and even Bruce isn’t his usual ego-fuelled shitrocket self…
Bruce looked out to the horizon. Already the sky was looking a bit hazy, and the big purple clouds were rolling closer. Now that he noticed it, the boat was rocking more, because the waves were bigger and stronger. The air felt a little bit cooler, and the wind was blowing his hair more. All of a sudden he felt panic rising in his stomach. He didn’t care how rich his parents were—let the hijackers ransom Fowler if they wanted. He just wanted to go home and be safe.
Lovely work from the Ghostie there. I’m enjoying Bruce a lot in this book. I mean, he’s an ass, but he’s a rounded ass.
Jessica, of course, has faith in the freed Elizabeth and her as-yet-unthought-of plan to rescue everyone. Elizabeth will save them She always does.
At the start of Chapter 8, Elizabeth does indeed think of a plan. Whether it’s a good plan or a bad plan, or indeed a catastrophic plan that sees Grace Oliver get shot in the face (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE no offence Grace) remains to be seen. But a plan is formed, as the storm clouds roll in.
Back at the railing, the girls try to take their mind off the peril by chatting shit about Johnny Buck, and the boys are incredulous at first but soon realise it’s merely a coping mechanism. [Dove: I love this discussion.] Jessica eyes the circling sharks warily, and wishes for Elizabeth’s speedy intervention.
Thankfully, Elizabeth’s Plan is about to be in effect. Cammi stealthily fetches Winston’s Walkman without being seen by any evil eyes, and the Intrepid Four synchronise their watches before assuming their attack positions.
West Coast Thunderbirds Are Go!
Elizabeth is in the galley with a pot of hot water and a Walkman. Winston is atop the pilothouse, near the porthole. They give the signal between them, and we’re off.
Elizabeth twists the Walkman to a static noise.
“Mayday! Mayday!” Elizabeth yelled into the Walkman. “Please help us! We’ve been hijacked by two guys! This is the Island Dreamer! Someone please help us!” Of course, no one was going to hear her plea for help. The Walkman only received radio signals, it didn’t send them. But maybe the hijackers wouldn’t realize that.
The Baddies burst in, guns drawn and livid. Elizabeth throws the hot water over them as a distraction, [Wing: At their chests! Go for the eyes, Wakefield! Go for the eyes! You suck at this.] and scampers up a counter towards the open porthole. She wiggles through, with Winston pulling her up.
Almost home free, she thought frantically. Then she felt someone grab her foot!
“Oh, no, Win!” she gasped, kicking furiously. “They’ve got me!”
“Keep kicking!” Winston commanded.
She manages to get herself almost free, when a quick-thinking Winston reaches down and frees her sneaker. Elizbaeth, with one sneaker left, has escaped!
Liz and Winston shimmy off the pilothose roof and dash to free their railing-bound friends. Simutaneously, Cami and Donald emerge from the passenger room, having trapped the Baddies in the galley by securing the door handles with two broomsticks.
All in all, that was a pretty decent plan. Go Elizabeth!
As the kids are freed one by one, an exultant Lila and Bruce both declare that their respective parents are going to sue the back teeth off Gary and Jack for a litany of ills. Is it me or do I sense a little flirtatious chemistry between these two? They’re not SVH Endgame, are they? (DON’T ANSWER THAT! No spoilers please.) [Dove: I don’t consider it spoilers to announce that pretty much any girl has considered dating almost any boy in the series during High School. It’s hard to keep up with who is whose ex.] [Wing: Bruce can fuck off into the sea.]
Suddenly, there’s a crack of lightning overhead. The storm is beginning to pick up, and the laughter stops abruptly. They have to get this apparently-self-steering-autopiloted boat to shore, and fast.
Cammi, Maria and Donald head for the pilothouse to assess the steering situation and use the radio (not before offering Bruce another spurned chance to be a Brave Little Soldier). The Intrepid Four continue freeing their chums, until…
Another loud crashing sound shook the boat, then suddenly everyone heard angry bellows of rage coming from the passenger room.
“They’ve broken free!” Elizabeth gasped. “Hurry, Winston! Get Jessica out of her ropes!”
But it was too late. When Elizabeth turned around, she saw the most awful sight in the world:
Gary and Jack bursting through the passenger room door!
Blimey. When it rains, it pours.
This book is a rollicking good yarn, full of action and adventure and pure sassiness.
I’m really enjoying it.
I’ve enjoyed a LOT of the recent books. More so that the earlier books, I think. I wonder how much of that is down to my growing fondness for the characters and the universe, and how much of that is down to the talents of the writing pool.
I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.
Predictably, everyone scampers to safety, leaving the terrified Jessica (and Todd and Mandy) bound to the railing. Everyone, that is, except her loving sister Elizabeth. At last, she’s actually proving that Jessica is her very best friend.
“I won’t leave you!” she whispered, her fingernails scrabbling at the ropes. But Jessica knew that the hijackers would try to get Elizabeth back for helping to lock them in the galley.
Jessica, knowing that they are both doomed should Gary and Jack snatch them up, convinces her reluctant twin that discretion is the better part of valour, and indeed, she who fights and runs away, lives to run away another day.
Liz flees as an irate Gary and Jack survey the carnage. Bellowing that Jack head to the pilothouse to get them back on course, Gary vows to track down and recapture the scattering preteens. Watching on in terror, Jessica tries to loosen her bonds with her perfect Californian teeth.
Flopping along with a single sneaker, Elizabeth is terrified. She senses a looming Gary closing in, and is grabbed before reaching safety. She’s well and truly trapped, and she knows it.
Gary marches her back to the railing, where she notices that Jessica has freed herself. Todd and Mandy are still there, aghast yet struggling for release.
Gary spits out some plaintive curses, and vows to put an end to Elizabeth once and for all. Her is body trapped against the rail, with the wind whipping up and the sea spray flying. With a shove, Elizabeth’s burly captor begins manhandling her over the edge. Sea and sky mingle, and Elizabeth is sure the end is neat, and as a reader I’m now legitimately worried. This is good stuff! [Dove: I’ve added a teeny thumbnail (best I could find) of the American cover, which shows this scene.]
Screaming, Elizabeth grabbed at the rail, at Gary’s shirt, at anything that could keep her from going into the ocean. The cold, salty spray from the boat’s wake splashed up and burned her eyes. She’d managed to turn over, but it didn’t seem to have helped much. Her clothes and her hair were getting wetter by the second, and her hands were getting slippery She remembered the sharks they had seen earlier—how they’d seemed to be swimming alongside the boat. Above her, she caught a glimpse of the cruel glint in Gary’s eyes.
“Kiss your short life good-bye,” he said mockingly.
Her long blond hair was now trailing in the water below her. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out, Elizabeth thought, her mind racing frantically. Strength was slipping away from her muscles, just as her own body was slipping away from the boat. There wasn’t much more she could do to save herself now.
I don’t want to die, she thought.
Jessica, please help me!
Seriously, this is a MUCH scarier and darker tale than I imagined it would be. I’m being heavy with the quotes, as it’s very tense and well written.
[Wing: It dragged on and on, though. It was almost villain monologuing length up in here, and that killed the tension for me.] [Raven: When Gary shouted “thar she blows,” I did almost bug out, admittedly.]
We skip into Jessica’s head, a few minutes previous. Gary is chasing Elizabeth, and Jessica needs a plan to save her sister. She surveys the other huddling children. Belinda, Janet, Jerry, Lila, Bruce…
Lila and Bruce…
To quote Gru from Despicable Me… LIGHTBULB.
Quickly, she releaves Lila of her suntan lotion, and Bruce of his Boogie Board (he’s sitting on it, apparently, which is convenient).
With a deep breath, she dashes onto the deck to save her sister.
Yeah, this is ANOTHER aside concerning my love for this book.
In this, both Elizabeth and Jessica get to be awesome. That’s a rare thing. I welcome it.
Also, the supporting cast are also excellent. Bruce, Lila, Ellen, Winston… even Amy, even Cammi, even Tamara fucking Chase.
This book is ace.
But please please PLEASE let Grace Oliver die. [Dove: No chance. She does well in water. You know, when that impossible cave flooded.]
Before Jessica’s plan is put into action, and while Elizabeth flounders in the clutches of the reprehensible Gary, we have a frankly GLORIOUS scene between Lila and Bruce.
Bruce, convinced that his cowardice is actually an invaluable asset in keeping his collective classmates safe, starts a conversation with an almost comatose Lila. During this conversation, Bruce mentions that the ship’s two-way radio is not exactly a cellular phone… and Lila freezes in horror.
A CELLULAR PHONE.
“I forgot that Daddy lent this to me this morning,” she said matter-of-factly. “He does that every now and then, you know. In case of an emergency.”
“Well, as soon as an emergency comes up, we’ll let you know!” Bruce said, barely able to restrain his anger. “Then maybe you can use it!” What a dimwit! he thought. What a total—
“The toll charges are pretty steep when you’re outside the Sweet Valley city limits,” Lila said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Daddy always says not to use it unless I absolutely have to.”
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT PERFECT.
Lila and Bruce then tussle over the phone. Lila uses it to call her father – OF COURSE – while Bruce snatches it from her to call the police – ALSO OF COURSE. While he talks to the police operator in a brusque and condescending manner (PITCH PERFECT AGAIN), Lila chirps in with demands about her father. They finally tussle over the phone, and, predictably and perfectly, it’s fumbled overboard in the gathering dark.
They’d had a chance for rescue, and now it was gone.
And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
[Wing: This was amazing, I’ll admit. Rich people for the fucking fail.]
Right! We’re back in the main action!
Elizabeth has her knees hooked over the guardrail, as Gary paws her closer to oblivion. Jessica approaches from behind warily. She sprays a puddle of lotion on the deck behind his feet, and as her sister is about to be cast into the sea, she makes her move.
“I don’t think so, you stupid jerk!” Jessica yelled right behind him, trying hard to attract his attention. Thinking fast, she aimed the bottle of suntan oil and squeezed with all her might. A coconutty stream arced through the air, hitting Gary on the back of his neck. It began to drip down his shirt collar.
Hmm… seems like a subtle plan, but let’s go with it.
Distracted, Gary turns his attention to the Evil Twin. As he reaches for her, Jess sprays him in the eyes with Lila’s suntan lotion. [Wing: SEE! At least one Wakefield knows to go for the eyes.] Stumbling, bellowing, he slips in the puddle of lotion and falls hard.
Jessica, seizing her moment, moves in for the coup de grace.
She grabbed Bruce’s Boogie board and raised it high above her head. Trying her best not to think about what she was doing, she brought it down with all her might on Gary’s skull. Please, she begged, let once be enough!
Of course, Jess knocks him out cold rather than caves in his skull, but we can’t have everything.
Breathing hard, Jessica ran to the side of the boat. Elizabeth’s face had just appeared over the guardrail. She looked white as a ghost. Jessica grabbed her sister’s hands and yanked her up with all her might.
“Oh, Jessica!” Elizabeth breathed, as Jessica pulled her over. They hugged each other tightly. “You saved my life!”
Bless! Nice work, Evil Twin!
The twins free Todd and Mandy, and the group swells as they are joined by other kids emerging from hiding. They tie Gary up using the rope from their own bonds. Elizabeth relieves the slumbering Gary of his gun, and tosses it overboard.
“Hey, we might have needed that,” Bruce objected.
Elizabeth shook her head firmly. “No—none of us could have used it. But he could have used it on us.”
“Elizabeth’s right,” Jessica said. “It’s much better off where it is.”
Nice thinking there, Elizabeth! Very on brand, from both Liz and Bruce. Although I’m surprised none of the middle schoolers isn’t adept with a handgun. ‘Murica. [Dove: If this series had gone on much longer, I’m pretty sure that someone would have shot up the school. Probably Brian, since he’s evil.] [Wing: Some middle schoolers would be; I know kids who started shooting much younger than that. Sweet Valley middle schoolers, though, it makes sense they wouldn’t, especially this group. Middle class plus suburb kids.]
So! That’s Gary dealt with. What about Jack?
Their concern turns to the pilothouse. And the gathering storm, which is making the pilothouse door bang against its hinges.
Elizabeth and Winston approach the pilothouse door across the rolling deck. Jack is there, buffeted by the wind, banging on the door and yelling up a fury.
Quick as a flash, Winston has an idea. Good work, Winston. You’ve actually done quite a lot in this book, and I’m proud of you. He motions to a nearby life preserver ring, asks the twins to position Jack in a certain way neat the wall, and darts back up to the pilothouse roof. Once there, the twins hand him the life preserver and brace themselves for the metaphorical Jack-based storm that lies ahead.
As the last remaining Baddie hollers at Cammi’s Crew inside the pilothouse, Jessica and Elizabeth taunt him to distraction. In a shockingly transparent game of double bluff, Jessica warns Jack not to go near the pilothouse. Like a background Slytherin eating a mysterious floating cake for no reason other than to advance the plot, Jack snarlingly obliges, until he’s sufficiently positioned for Winston to pounce. With a hoopla trick that a Carnival Ghost would be proud, Jack is lassoed with Life Preserver, and swiftly dispatched by a Bruce-borne Boogie Board Bonk to the Bonce.
Sweet Valley Middle School 2, Bank-robbing Boat-nappers 0.
Just to be safe, Elizabeth retrieves Jack’s gun and flings it overboard.
Elizabeth cheers above the crashing seas. Both hijackers are down for the count! Unfortunately, our heroes soon learn that all is not yet hunky dory… the sea charts in the pilothouse are of no use, as the boat is so far off course they may as well be trying to navigate using an A-Z of Hackney. The boat itself has no sophisticated guidance systems, and the ship’s radio is out of action due to a far-fetched coffee-based mishap. Plus, there’s no lifeboat.
And on top of it all, the storm is rising menacingly.
Again, nerves begin to fray. Maria goes to fetch what few lifejackets they have aboard the ship, and a desperate Lila tries to convince herself that her father will swoop to her rescue, breaking all our hearts with the following hollow exchange.
“I’m sure my dad knows where we are,” Lila said frantically to no one in particular. “I’m sure he’s on his way. Probably in the company helicopter.” She looked down at the floor. “He wouldn’t forget about me. I—I know he wouldn’t.”
Jessica nodded. “I know, Lila.”
“The helicopter can beat a storm like this,” Lila continued, taking a deep breath. “And my dad’s strong and smart and everything. He’ll—he’ll be here soon.” She swallowed hard.
Bless her. She just wants her Dad.
The gathered throng discuss other predicaments they are facing; the ice boxes containing their food have likely been washed overboard, the boat is likely to break up in the storm, and so on.
Things are looking bleak.
At that moment, the biggest wave yet crashed against the side of the small charter boat. A huge, bone-crunching jolt knocked Jessica off her feet. For a moment a terrible whining, crashing sound seemed to surround her. The boat lurched and spun to the left. Jessica heard a scream, and then another and another…. Bruce grabbed a bench to try to stay upright. Donald fell back against a wall. Jessica caught her breath. Why aren’t we tipping back up again? she wondered fearfully, struggling to her knees.
Winston tells everyone that they’ve likely sprung a leak, and that the boat is going to sink. Tamara Chase breaks down, screaming and crying in desperation.
“I can’t stay in here!” she cried, her eyes wild. “We’re all going to be trapped inside! Let me out, let me out, let me out!” Grabbing on to benches and pipes and anything else she could find, Tamara frantically made her way to the passenger room door. But as soon as she unlatched it, the wind flung it open and slammed it hard against the wall.
“Tamara, no!” Jessica shouted, trying to follow her. “Stop her, someone!”
FUCK YOU, Tamara Chase. [Dove: It is always a female that pulls this shit. Always. Never once seen a dude be given this role.] [Raven: It shoulda been Bruce.] [Wing: To be fair, that kind of flight response is normal for some people. It shouldn’t always be a woman in these stories, as it is, but it’s a believable response.]
My GOD this is getting fraught. I love it!
Todd and Ken tried to go after her, but Elizabeth was closest. Just as she was reaching out to grab Tamara’s jacket, the panic-stricken girl lurched through the door onto the deck.
“Elizabeth!” Jessica shouted, running forward as fast as she could across the tilted floor. Her heart was in her mouth. “Elizabeth!”
But it was too late. Elizabeth had disappeared from sight.
There’s barely what, two or three pages left at this stage.
It’s clear this book will end on a cliffhanger, as befits a two-part yarn of this style.
And I’m GENUINELY tense at this point, concerned for all involved.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen The Perfect Storm a few more times than is healthy. Or maybe it’s through the skill of the Ghostie, who’s played this tale like a fiddle and worked it to a rousing crescendo.
Either way, it’s flawless.
Elizabeth corners Tamara on the heaving and roiling deck, wind howling, raind slashing their faces in the gathering darkness. She cajoles with her, begging her to return to the short-term safety of the buffeted pilothouse. “Maybe Lila has some hot chocolate in her bag,” she offers feebly.
With a mighty crash, the largest wave yet rocks the boat, and engulfs those on the deck with a grim fanality. Elizabeth is knocked down, then the backwash drags her toward the ocean’s maw.
Help! Elizabeth struggled to hang on, but her grip couldn’t withstand the powerful wave. She arched her back in an effort to save herself from going overboard. Her arms flew out, and her mouth opened in a silent cry The guardrail! she thought, panicked. The guardrail! Was she above it or below it?
Where is the boat? Elizabeth’s heart pounded. Suddenly there was nothing around her, nothing but water—and the steady, ominous beating of the waves against the side of the Island Dreamer. I’m in the ocean, she realized, struggling to keep calm. In the ocean, in the middle of a storm!
“Elizabeth!” Jessica and Todd were shouting, but by now their voices were nothing but thin, faraway ribbons of sound.
The water was freezing, Elizabeth realized vaguely, and the waves were unbelievably huge. She felt like a very small cork being tossed from one enormous swell to the next. Already the Island Dreamer looked far away, almost like a small white toy boat being sunk in a bathtub.
Waves wash over her, each more powerful than the next,. The sea saps her, and pulls the charter boat further and further from her sight. Each breath she takes drains her energy, and her resolve.
This time when she bobbed back to the surface, she could barely keep her eyes open. Her arms and legs felt like lead, and she was no longer cold. The waves were tossing her around, but if she just relaxed, it didn’t seem so bad. Suddenly getting back to the boat seemed like too huge an effort. She was OK where she was. Sleepily she blinked; she could no longer see the boat anyway, no longer hear anyone calling her. Well, that was OK. Everything was OK. She was very, very tired, and had to just close her eyes for a minute….
The next time a wave washed over Elizabeth’s head, spreading her long blond hair around her like a golden sunburst, she didn’t struggle. There, in the darkness of the ocean storm, she gave up the fight.
What will happen to Elizabeth and her classmates on the Island Dreamer? Read Sweet Valley Twins 92, Escape from Terror Island, the exciting conclusion of the Nightmare at Sea miniseries, to find out.
JESUS HECTOR CHRIST, that’s a strong ending. I want to read the next book RIGHT NOW.
I really enjoyed this one, from cast off to tumultuous cliffhanger. The two-part structure helped the story breathe a little, and gave space for some marvellous cameo characterisations. Bruce in particular was a delight (albeit a twatty one), but every single character pulled their weight. I loved Tamara Chase’s slow-burn meltdown, and Team Boring’s continued sassiness. The whole thing was paced wonderfully, and the tension built from line to line.
I feel legitimately drained. If part two is at least half as good as part one, I’d be a happy man. Join us next week to see if they stick the landing.
[Dove: I had no idea what happened in this book. I was under the impression that they landed on the island and did some school work and then shit went down. On reflection, I think that’s the SVH version of this book (which is also lolzy fun). Raven’s right, this one was oddly gripping, and my god the sass was immense. Everyone seemed to have something witty to say, and Bruce was well-written. I wanted to thump him most of the time, but in a good way. Because he was being a tool in a very believable way. Let’s hope the sequel lives up to this one.]
[Wing: I did not enjoy this as much as Raven and Dove. Part of it is I had a hard time taking the risk seriously when the bad guys are posturing rather than actually getting rid of people who get in their way. I also have a hard time believing that not a single chaperone was on the boat with all those kids. Even if not all of them were on board yet, you don’t leave all your chaperones on the fucking dock.
I did enjoy the snark, and there is some real tension to places. I loved Elizabeth and Jessica rescuing each other, and the Unicorns were, as they often have been lately, a joy and a delight.]