Title: If I Die Before I Wake
Tagline: The final title in the scary Nightmare Mansion mini-series
Summary: On a hill on the outskirts of Sweet Valley sits a beautiful old Victorian house—empty until a big family move in… the perfect clients for Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s new baby-sitting service.
Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends have learned one thing from baby-sitting for the Riccoli family: dreams can come true… and so can nightmares. When the fire in Andrew Riccoli’s dream turned to real flames, the twins took action. They killed the evil creature—half girl, half monster—in the kids’ nightmares.
Before she killed them.
But now the creature has left the kids’ nightmares to terrorize them in real life. And waking nightmares are the scariest of them all.
Don’t go to sleep, Sweet Valley… you may never wake up!
I hate this series (Too Scared to Sleep, The Beast is Watching You and The Beast Must Die). I hated it when it started. I hated it when it got worse and I can personally guarantee I’m going to hate having to read the next 44k words (the previous books were approx. 29-32k—this is too many boring words).
I can’t tell whether this is badly written or not, because nothing has happened so far and nothing’s going to happen now.
I hate this. This is the worst part of this series. I know there are books that have worse messages or themes, but the obnoxious length of this fucking series takes the piss. Nobody needs 100k+ words where NOTHING happens.
Also, I think it’s time for a short rant about where I’m at with this incredibly stupid mini-series.
1) Steven. He is an utter waste of space and I hope he dies. I think I mentioned, either in the recap or podcast of The Older Boy, that there would come a point where I was just done with Steven. This mini-series is it. There isn’t a single redeeming feature of his scenes. He’s so stupid I’m actually worried that Ned and Alice are wilfully neglecting a child that is limited in his comprehension of the universe. Or that they are ignoring that their fully functioning child is actually becoming a manchild because of their indulgence. I suspect the latter. He acts like an asshole, nobody cares. He shirks his job. Nobody cares. He actively destroys not only Wakefield property, but the property of others too. Nobody cares. The last book ended with him being arrested, and I’m just guessing at the outcome here, but I bet that nobody cares.
His attitude is one of pure arrogance and entitlement. He doesn’t want to apologise for terrifying five children as “a joke” because he doesn’t understand what he did wrong. If he’s laughing, what’s the problem? He thinks he’s entitled to Karen, the hot daughter of one of his lawn mowing clients, simply because he perceives himself as far more attractive and interesting than every other dude on the planet.
Really? This is how idiotic, immature, entitled, incel, rapists are created. A+ parenting, Wakefields.
2) The parents (Riccolis and Wakefields). So, Mrs Riccoli has to be in Florida. Mr Riccoli has vanished from the narrative, because none of the Jamies swapped notes (or a single Jamie is overwhelmed by a four-book deal). And the Wakefields are like, “Yep, I think it’s totally ok that my twelve year olds are responsible for five children, when I wouldn’t let them stay at their own home for a few days without a baby-sitter.”
3) The Baby-Sitters Club. Ok, so you see that your rival book series has a far more interesting hook than “stuff happens but TWINS”, and you rip it off and then you… do fuck all with it. There are five kids in this club, but what do we have? The twins baby-sitting and a their muppet brother riding a lawnmower into whatever doesn’t get out of his way. The baby-sitting is frankly irresponsible. I haven’t dived deep into BSC (but damn, do I love the Netflix show) but their baby-sitting adventures actually show that you must care for the kids, rather than just bitch about how much you get paid. Yes, Jessica is oddly good at looking after kids, but everyone else’s baby-sitting skills range from not bad to screamingly incompetent (Winston giving 8 month old babies soda, for example).
4) The “plot”. The plot treads water for four books. Nothing happens. We’re made to believe that the plot will move forward, but it doesn’t. Nightmares. Oooh. More nightmares. Oooh. Even more nightmares. For fuck’s sake, is this going to escalate or not, because I’m finding it hard to care that Jessica’s sweater got a rip in it after a dream. There’s something going on with Alice, what about that? Well, that’s doing a big fat tread water too. We’ve had eight billion flashbacks to show that Alice baby-sat at that house and Eva had nightmares/sleepwalked. Wow. Such scary. Many engaged.
5) Fluff. Basically, this should be a two-book series, and the b-plots should be removed entirely. While we’re deleting pointless shit, let’s get rid of the monster POV scenes at the beginning and end of each book. They’re boring, pointless and add literally nothing to the story. Bye.
I FUCKING HATE THIS BADLY-PLOTTED MESS OF A MINI-SERIES. tl;dr: I wish Team Grapplegate had been handed this series. They are capable of being funny and sassy.
[Raven: This. All of this. All of this and more.]
[Wing: Dove hit so many points, so I’ll just add that we should take a look at the summary. Specifically: They killed the evil creature—half girl, half monster—in the kids’ nightmares. The last book ended on a cliffhanger. What you do not do is spoil the resolution to that cliffhanger in the summary of the next book. Yes, even if it is clear to us that none of the main characters (or, hell, the supporting characters) will day. Yes, even if it is a flat-out lie like that. Look, I get it, the summary for this was probably written before the last book was finished, but come. the fuck. on. We cannot even get consistency in that?]
We open where we left off in the last book, or, actually, where the series has been keeping us for about 90k words. The kids are asleep. There’s a scary thing. Oooh.
Also, for this book, I’ve abandoned my “Location, Time” layout, because I’ve fucking lost the will to live. If the Jamies can’t keep track of the plot, I can’t keep track of the days.
The kids are all on the roof in their dream. The monster approaches. Big Sweet Valley storm, the kind usually reserved for Super Chillers.
Todd adopts a “karate stance”, which I’m pretty sure is bullshit, he doesn’t do karate, so maybe Todd just adopts a “fighting boy” stance, Jamie. Elizabeth talks him out of punching a monster in the face, there’s plenty of time for that in Sweet Valley High. [Raven: I don’t get the SVH reference, but I’m sure they could have collectively charged and yeeted Eva off the balcony. Five kicks to the chest should have got it done.]
We hop into Jessica’s head for a full recap of all the nothing that has happened so far, then back to Elizabeth’s head for the “action”. The monster lunges at her, everyone else runs off, but Elizabeth is frozen in fear. She ends up with a rip in her shirt and the monster readies itself to attack again. What the fuck is this, Rolemaster or D&D? Did the monster just roll a 66? Elizabeth is right there. You have to be pretty fucking terrible at attacking to miss the person that’s right in front of you when you’re a monster than can control dreams and create fire in the real world. For fuck’s sake.
I don’t know if the description is bad or if I’m just so unengaged I’m missing things, but Elizabeth decides to climb up, even though they’re on the roof. And then she… uh, falls and needs the grasp an iron railing to save herself. But then! Someone grabs her wrist! She is saved.
No! It is the monster! She is doomed. Elizabeth begs for her life, but the monster drops her. [Note: throughout the book the narrative switches between calling it Eva or the monster. Eventually I get sick of it and stick with Eva.]
And then she wakes up. Because of course she does. Nate is there, in the living room where they all fell asleep. Maybe he woke her up, or maybe he’s just there? Nobody knows, nobody cares.
“Nate scared,” he explained, clenching and unclenching his fists. “Nate thinked Libabeff—dead.”
Genuinely and absolutely: fuck off. Nobody likes baby-talk. Literally nobody. [Raven: Yup.]
(Well, ok, I bet there’s a sizable chunk who have it as a kink, but they’re not reading this book. So see above about fucking off.)
[Wing: I don’t know, I’m kind of fond of how he mangles their names. Fucking Libabeff, that nosy bastard.]
And then we have an excruciatingly long scene in which everything is recapped and the kids all realise they dreamed the same thing. Uh… isn’t this established? Or am I just pulling from A Nightmare on Elm Street, because it keeps ripping it off? [Wing: It is absolutely established that at least some of them are, and all of them see the same monster.]
And then there’s another scene recapping the dream we just read. For fuck’s sake. Also, Amy says next time there’s a thunder storm in Sweet Valley, she’ll hide under her bed with her dog. Nobody tells her she doesn’t have a dog. [Raven: Maybe Ken is her dog. Woof!]
Todd plays the part of angry disbeliever, even though in the previous book he did believe. He demands proof. Elizabeth realises she has gashes on her shoulder where the monster slashed at her. And you know what? That’d might have been useful if we’d seen that in the dream, but it only mentioned her shirt was torn and she felt chilly. For fuck’s sake.
(Feel free to count how many times I say “For fuck’s sake.” in this recap.)
They need to tend to Elizabeth’s wounds—both the gashes on her shoulder and the marks on her wrist, where the monster held her—and Jessica is jealous of Elizabeth’s wounds because she’s getting all the attention. Fuck off, Jamie. I know that Jessica is a ruthless little sociopath, but one thing tends to be consistent: if supernatural shit is going down, Jessica loves her sister. Admittedly, she decides not to be jealous because they look painful, but even so, that’s really not much better.
There is epic tedium as they wait for the sun to rise, and then Winston twats about and everyone finds it funny because it’s light out now. [Raven: I hate this Winston.]
At breakfast, everyone but the twins heads home to sleep—uh, why aren’t they sleeping in shifts, rather than staying up all night? [Wing: Pretty sure they decided safety in numbers which means no sleeping in shifts because no sleeping while they’re all in the house. However, that does bring up a question: How many baby-sitters does Mrs Riccoli know she’s paying this weekend?] —and the twins have to serve breakfast. There is inane prattle about which TV show to watch, punctuated by Nate’s excruciating baby-talk. Then Mrs Riccoli calls to say her mom’s fine and she’ll be home in about an hour.
Wait, so she flew from California to Florida, just to be told everything’s fine? Urgh. I guess #RichPeopleProblems?
Mrs Riccoli doesn’t want to speak to her kids, and tells the twins to park them in front of the TV, which leads to Elizabeth getting drowsy. She tells the kids not to let them fall asleep, and the kids agree without much care. Which is odd, since the first book had Juliana utterly traumatised by her dreams. And the recap in the book said that all the kids they baby-sit have had nightmares, even though it was in no way shown in the 90k words we’ve already read. Literally nothing happened for three books, but they still missed out on showing us part of the plot? For fuck’s sake.
I’m imagining the plotting meeting (I know there aren’t any, but go with me, ok?):
Jeff: Hey, do you think we should put in a scene to show all the kids, not just Juliana, are having nightmares?
Bob: Well, yeah. BUT! How about we do a scene where Steven’s feet smell?
Entire Room: *literally wets themselves over the hilarity of a boy with stinky feet.*
Jeff: *still giggly and wiping away tears* Well, I guess we’ll have to cut the nightmare scene. We can’t deprive our readers of a… *snorts*
Bob: Dude, don’t get us all laughing again.
Jeff: *giggle-snort* feeeeeeeeeeeeet!
Entire Room: *laughs so hard they die, like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?*
[Wing: We would be lucky if they laughed themselves to death.]
And after that, at the Christmas party, Jeff’s like, “OMG, Bob, tell that *giggle* feet story again.” And everyone cracks up. And then he describes his magnum opus, The Lawnmower Debacle, and everyone loses their shit. And Bob is declared The Funniest Person that Ever Funnied. And it’s hysterical. [Wing: I have some concerns that this Bob is what would happen if R.L. Stine brought his comedy to SVT.]
Back to the story, the twins fall asleep, but don’t have dreams. They are so pissed off with themselves when they wake up. I don’t get it. You had sleep. Everything turned out ok. It was a near miss, but it’s fine. [Raven: This felt like such a pointless sleeping scene, I was convinced for a good half of this book that they were still asleep, and they’d wake up back in front of the TV and have to battle Dreeam Eva again (Dreeva!). But no. They legitimately fell asleep, for no plot reason.]
Mrs Riccoli gets home and the twins vow to never set foot in the house again. We’ve got 35k words left to go, so I’m thinking that doesn’t happen.
The twins discuss their lack of dreams on the way home, Elizabeth keeps kicking a pebble that miraculously misses a sewer grate. She decides it’s lucky and takes it home. [Note from the future: this pebble is never fucking mentioned again.] [Raven: WHY NOT?!]
When they get home, Steven sings a song about how scared they are of the house. Then he chugs milk and dribbles it everywhere. The twins tell him he’s like eight year old Andrew, and he smugly remembers that he saved him from a fire “a couple of weeks ago”. Wow, this series has been dragging for the characters as well as the recappers.
Steven burps then keeps on singing. I mean, are they actively trying to get me to hate him? What is my intended reaction here? Am I supposed to roll my eyes and say, “Boys!” or am I supposed to be utterly disgusted by a fourteen year old that dribbles and burps and has the mentality of a six year old? Because it’s the latter. It’s so the latter. I HATE him. [Raven: #CancelSteven]
I guess nobody’s told him off for being pulled over by the police then? I guess that’s just hilarious too?
Jessica says that Andrew is much more mature than Steven, and she’s not wrong. Steven makes a pedo joke, and the phone rings. Steven says it’ll be “lover boy” now. He’s. SO. FUCKING. GROSS.
It actually is Andrew. He’s calling to say that nobody had nightmares, Mr Riccoli is visiting for Halloween and Gran is ok. So basically, just recapping that things are just dandy right now.
The twins decide to go to Casey’s for sundaes to celebrate. Steven continues to be a cunt.
They talk about what they’re going to dress up as for Halloween—and for the first time they’re not going to culturally appropriate, and Elizabeth isn’t hurt that they’re not doing a paired costume—Jessica is going as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth is going as Jane Austen. Jessica has no idea who that is, and can’t remember the name of Charles Dickens, despite it being one of their many Christmas traditions to read A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve. [Raven: Good spot!]
“Wall-to-wall people.” Elizabeth groaned, looking with dismay through the doors of Sweet Valley Spooks & More, the costume store at the mall.
Elizabeth practised social distancing before it was a thing. Also, I hate it when I like her for something, but Wing and I get very agitated in crowds, so yeah, we get her dismay. Jessica, on the other hand loves to be surrounded by people.
[Wing: Fuck people. This is why I shop online.]
We head hop to Steven, who’s also in the store. He and Joe are looking for ghastly masks but can’t find anything horrific enough. Steven hears his sister ask for a Marilyn Monroe costume and decides to dress up as the Eva Sullivan monster. Just fucking die. Steven’s the kind of asshole who picks up a spider to remove it from an arachnophobe’s house, and then chases them around the house with it, while laughing his head off. [Wing: … so, uh, I feel like I need to point out that you and Raven like to torment certain arachnophobes. Not me, but certain ones.]
Back to Elizabeth, shockingly she can’t find a Jane Austen costume. She remembers that she always shopped for a Halloween costume with Ned. Alice never cared for Halloween. I mean, I guess we don’t actually have any contradicting evidence, since she’s usually absent from the Halloween books, but an active aversion is not shown either.
Jessica reappears with a couple of costumes, one for herself and another generic movie star costume for Alice. Elizabeth is dubious, but Jessica, as ever, cannot be deterred. [Wing: This is one of the nicest moments in the book. It’s very Jessica, both in wanting to buy this specific costume for Alice and in being so dead-set that she’s correct.]
Pointless follow-up scene with Steven pitching his hilarious prank to Joe. He thinks it’s going to be so funny that the newspapers and the TV shows will want to report on it. I remember when a kid I baby-sat had just discovered jokes. He didn’t understand them at all, but his enthusiasm for making them up knew no bounds. He came up with something along the lines of this:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because he clucked!
And then he laughed so hard he was nearly sick. That boy was… maybe six? He’s both funnier and more mature than Steven. [Raven: Check out Kids Write Jokes. Seriously.]
We cut to the twins at the Riccoli’s house, because now that they’re not having nightmares, everything’s fine. They’re just checking in—dude, you were there like two hours ago, you’re not that integral. And what happened to never setting foot in that house ever again?
Mr Riccoli is there, he came in early… this is all so badly written. Andrew called a few hours ago to say he was coming for Halloween, but now he’s here several days early. Why didn’t Andrew just say he was here now as a big surprise? This whole thing is one giant bafflement.
He tells some long-winded story about riding bucking broncos, breaking his back, being swept up in a tornado and crawling through a desert. Elizabeth feels her Sweet Valley Sixers sense kick in. Mr Riccoli is FRONT PAGE NEWS. She feels stupid when she realises that he’s telling whimsical tales for his kids. Remember: Elizabeth Wakefield is SMART.
Well, that was a scene that really moved an already sedentary story forward. [Raven: All this nonsense did was further convince me that the whole thing was a dream, and the twins would wake up in front of the TV with the Riccoli parents heading back from the airport.]
The twins get home and gift the costume to their mother. She says she doesn’t like to dress up for Halloween and leaves the room.
The twins discuss the oddness and conclude that Alice endured some kind of trauma on Halloween and since then she hasn’t wanted to celebrate it. Good. Glad they cleared that up. It wasn’t at all clear from all the preceding scenes.
Over at Secca Lake, Lila taunts Jessica that she’ll be working on Halloween, while Lila is throwing the Best Party Evah at her house. Jessica feels sulky. I know this is standard fare, but I can’t even make myself care that Lila is on screen (Ellen’s even been mentioned). Sigh.
In response, she and Aaron ram Lila and Jake Hamilton in canoes. [Wing: It is a form of attempted manslaughter, I suppose.]
Back home, Jessica tries to convince herself and Elizabeth that the Eva thing was all in their heads—and you know what? With the way this book is going, I’m starting to think that will be the twist. The twins have just made it up. Or it was all a really long dream. [Raven: Fucking great. More “Is it real? It IS real… Or IS IT?” bullshit.]
Elizabeth stares at her scratches and forces herself to agree with Jessica.
Later that night, Jessica wakes up at 2:57am to a scratching noise. She tries to get back to sleep, but the noise is persistent. It seems to be coming from her window. She gets her nerve up and opens the curtains. She sees what she believes is Eva Sullivan and nearly faints in response. When she gets herself under control, the ghoulish figure is gone.
And yes, obviously this is Steven being a twat, but it’s not yet revealed. I can’t be arsed to be mysterious or buy into this book’s “twists”. I’m just not doing it. [Note from the future: Nope.]
My question is: how on earth does Steven get the look exactly right. Because I’m pretty sure that if you gave multiple people the remit of “flowery nightgown, one bunny slipper, ghoulish face”, no two would be the same. Are the flowers actually daisies? What colour are the bunny slippers (in the Sims 4 they come in four different colours, and everyone bitches about the few colour choices Sims 4 offers)? What exactly is “ghoulish”? What colour is the skin? Is it black and rotted? Brown and burned? For that matter, how does he know Eva is white? (White assumptions, I know.) What colour is her hair?
But somehow, he gets it exactly right without ever seeing her.
I suppose, if I was generous, I could say he was in the ballpark and Jessica’s fear did the rest, but FUCK THAT. I am DONE with Steven fucking Wakefield. He gets no pass from me. I hope he dies. [Raven: This wasn’t Steven though, was it? Don’t we have a Steven POV just after where he’s discussing that he’s not finished the costume yet?] [Dove: Hence my note from the future above. I was reacting in real time to reading this.] [Wing: Aww, that’s what I do, too. Mostly because I can’t stand to read some of these books twice.]
The next morning, Jessica is a wreck, and is triggered by Elizabeth’s breakfast knife scraping against the plate. Elizabeth wonders what’s up, but Jessica chalks it up to too much fun at Secca Lake yesterday.
That night, Elizabeth is going through her Sixers articles before she sleeps—I suspect Wing approves of this [Wing: Obviously. You know me.]—when Eva appears in her window. Just like with Jessica, the face is gone before she can fully investigate.
And since we’re rehashing scenes we just had, we have the breakfast scene only reversed. Jessica is functional and Elizabeth is spacey and distressed, only this leads to the twins sharing experiences, both assuming they were dreaming. Steven is there and is irritating as fuck. He makes jokes about a ghost visiting them with its stuffed bunny, and Jessica corrects him. It’s not a bunny, it’s a teddy bear, and the monster doesn’t have it any more, it’s in her closet.
Which I’m certain won’t lead to Steven stealing it. I mean, we all know he spends a lot of time sniffing her clothes anyway, now he has a real reason to get in there.
Steven then asks how many scars the monster has, and Jessica tells him five. That still explains nothing—do they criss-cross, are they horizontal, vertical or a mish-mash? What are the scars from? Are they burns or cuts? If they’re burns, what level of burns? If they’re cuts are they neat or jagged? This is all so much bollocks.
(I suppose I should be grateful he’s at least off the fucking lawnmower.)
That night (11:45pm), the twins are in the kitchen, convincing themselves that they don’t need to go to bed because they’re having such a great conversation. Neither of them can remember what it was they were talking about because they’re so tired, but Jessica at least remembers that they’ve already talked about basketball.
Cut to later, and they are alphabetising their classmates. Since they’re on Brian Boyd and Charlie Cashman, I have no idea whether they’re using first names or surnames. Also, no sign of Ned or Alice, who really should be aware that their kids are up late on what may or may not be a school night. There is no sense of time at all in this book.
Elizabeth suddenly freezes and points at the door. She saw something horrible through the window (wild stab: Steven, naked, cock in hand?). Jessica turns to look and there’s a flash of light, which I’m certain is not a camera and Steven and Joe will be laughing so hard they nearly wet their pants.
Jessica screams and this brings down Ned—I guess Alice is like, “My kid is screaming? Yeah, but I’ve got a really long three hours at work tomorrow. I’m gonna stay in bed.”
The twins tell Ned that there’s a monster outside, and to be careful. Ned says monsters or no, he’s not happy with someone on his property at gone midnight. He heads outside to investigate, and the twins discuss the situation. They worry that Eva is out of their dreams and into reality. She’s here to murder them in their beds. And goddamn, that’s a really good point. I wish this had happened earlier before I’d completely soured on this series, because this is actually something that works. They haven’t had bad dreams, but they didn’t defeat her, so yeah, if they can pull a teddy out of a dream, why not pull out Eva?
Fuck you, Jamie(s), for making this series so shit that I can’t appreciate what should be a cool moment.
Ned returns having found nothing and then sends them to bed. [Wing: You know, my twin daughters are screaming about monsters, and I have a son who likes to prank his sisters by pretending to be a monster, I wonder if these two things could possibly be related. (Yes, I know they’re not right here, but Ned doesn’t know that! He doesn’t even consider that Steven is fucking around with them again.)]
I was just about to rage about this, but the book anticipated me. They’re both sharing Elizabeth’s bed—and that would have been my suggestion, team up and maybe sleep in shifts? The twins are talking about how Eva got out, and Jessica says that Elizabeth was holding her wrist as she woke, would that work? Elizabeth says she let go just before she woke up.
Oh, fuck me. It’s a “Steven does gardening” chapter.
Steven had been landscaping nearly every day during the last couple of weeks. The money was good, but the work was harder than he’d expected. For one thing, it involved muscles. Steven was beginning to realize that he didn’t have as many as he’d thought.
Well, that’s at least gratifying. He’s also baffled that dandelions are weeds but daisies are not, since they’re both yellow. Uh, no, twat. Daisies are white. Steven’s also killing every plant he encounters by flooding them. Steven is an utter waste of space.
He ruminates on his most excellent prank, he has now learned the bunny slippers were pink, and the nightie has daises or dandelions of them. He can’t remember which. See? How on earth was his prank working before? [Raven: I didn’t see this as his ruminating on a prank, more thinking about an upcoming prank. Maybe I missed something.] [Dove: That’s exactly what I meant. I never used past tense.] [Wing: Well, “was his prank working before” refers to a previous bit of pranking, but since you were reacting live, I assume this falls under the same thing as before with him appearing outside their windows.]
Steven digs a gigantic rock out of the garden and beneath it is a nightie with flowers embroidered on it. Side note: he can’t remember the word. “Em… em… embroidery” is how his brain (?) parses it. And all throughout the entire series, he and Jessica have done this same tic. This leads me to believe that a single Jamie is responsible for this shitheap of a mini-series. That kind of makes me feel better (only one person fucked this entire thing up), but also worse (could another Jamie have saved it?).
Anyway, Steven decides that, despite recognising this as familiar, it’s not worth his time.
Uh, so the dick has been tormenting the twins and the Riccolis for four books, but now is the moment where he draws the line and can no longer be arsed? What the fuck? Is it a twist that after all that bullshit with Steven, he’s actually not doing this and the ghost is really out in reality? [Raven: That was my take.]
The twins visit the cemetery. I know you’re thinking it’s called the Sweet Valley Cemetery, but you’ll be surprised to know that it’s actually called the Sweet Valley Meadows Cemetery. [Wing: Still descriptive though!]
They’re visiting the Sullivan plot. By reading the dates on the graves, the find another Eva Sullivan, not their Eva, who died in 1834, which, y’know, actually pre-dates the town. Remember back in Jessica’s Bad Idea, I put in the year Sweet Valley was founded, and I said one day it would be useful? GUESS WHAT, BITCHES? THAT DAY HAS FUCKING COME! ALL HAIL QUEEN DOVE’S OBSESSIVE ATTENTION TO POINTLESS SHIT IN A SERIES THAT LAUGHS IN THE FACE OF CONTINUITY.
Sweet Valley was founded in 1857, so Eva was buried here 23 years before the town existed.
And Wing: I’m fucking warning you. Don’t you dare bring up the fact the Spanish settlers were there from 1788, or the fact that this cemetery might pre-date the town anyway. DON’T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME. HAVE YOU RECAPPED TWO OF THIS SHIT MINI-SERIES? HAVE YOU? HAVE YOU WING? NO. THEN TREAD CAREFULLY!
Wow. Yeah. I’m sorry. Especially to Wing. This series, man.
[Wing: I have a snarky comment about how at this point you’ve really only recapped one and a half, but I’m too busy laughing.]
Anyway, they find the graves of Eva’s parents, Thomas, who died twenty years ago (aged 48), and Jane who died this summer (aged 60), which led to the sale of the house. Damn, that was a quick sale. And hasn’t the house been empty for decades? I guess she could have been moved to a care home, but why not sell it when that happened? I mean, it should either be rented out or sold to give her additional income, right?
They find Eva’s grave, which has a bunch of daisies dumped on it, not cut or arranged, just left. Elizabeth wonders why someone did that, did they lack time, or didn’t they know how to arrange flowers? The grave is marked with the words, “May our daughter sleep at last in eternal peace.”
They find out that Eva was only eight when she died, and she died on Halloween. Well, that hadn’t actually occurred to me, because I’ve been so uninvolved with this story, but yeah, if she died on Alice’s watch on Halloween, that would put you off celebrating Halloween, wouldn’t it?
I really hope there’s a Sweet Valley High that contradicts this and Alice is drunk off her tits yelling, “HALLOWEEN IS THE BEST HOLIDAY EVAH!!!!”, naked but for the pumpkin on her head, while Ned chases her around trying to cover her up with a dressing gown, muttering that the neighbours are watching. [Raven: I’d recap the SHIT out of that.] [Wing: He would never try to cover that up. He’d be right there with her.]
Also, Alice was twelve when it happened. I bet that’s been contradicted all over the Sweet Valley timeline. [Wing: She definitely read as older in her previous flashbacks.]
The twins get freaked out that it’s getting dark, and then they notice they are not alone.
They see the Eva-Monster lunge for them and trip over and faceplant in the ground, losing a slipper in the process. Jessica is struck by how small Eva is. There is a lengthy cat-and-mouse scene where the twins try to escape the cemetery and avoid Eva. To be honest, it’s not bad. I’d much rather see them doing stuff than talking about stuff happening (especially when I’ve already read it). Generally, I wish the other three books hadn’t been so awful, I’m not giving this one a fair hearing and I do actually think it’s better. [Raven: I actually hated this scene. It felt overlong.]
They end up doing a circle in their fear and the darkness. They end up back at the Sullivan plot, and Elizabeth pockets a bunny slipper. The twins have to run for the high wall surrounding the cemetery. Jessica boosts Elizabeth over, and Elizabeth leans down to help her sister over, but Jessica can’t reach. Elizabeth uses the bunny slipper to bridge the gap between their hands and manages to—by clasping the top of the wall between her legs—drag her sister up. That is some pretty intense strength for someone who rarely exercises/trains. I’d have more believed Jessica, who cheerleads.
They start to walk home. It might be dark, but at least they’re out of the graveyard.
Elizabeth wakes up the next day at 5:30am. She realises that it’s Halloween. She doesn’t feel safe anywhere (this would have been further evidenced if she and Jessica were still sharing a room, but no), for all she knows, Eva could show up at school. She feels that today is the day that something terrible happens.
Probably because they’re baby-sitting at the Riccolis tonight at 9:00pm. Wait, wut? When did that happen? I thought they were done with the Riccolis—for like the third time, sure, but did I miss something? Or are we just working on the logic that Alice baby-sat on Halloween when she was twelve, so the twins are too? [Raven: I thought they were babysitting for a work thing, but maybe I’m confused with Alice’s flashbacks?] [Dove: The work thing was the Sullivans’ excuse to Alice.]
I’ll just leave some space here for Wing to exasperatedly point out there was a whole scene I skipped earlier that covers this.
[Wing: Goddamn it, I do not want to be so predictable. Yes, they want to go to a party so the twins agreed to baby-sit starting at 9 p.m. because after all, Eva’s not at the house anymore (at least at the time they agreed to baby-sit) and the family is a lot of fun without a murderous ghost invading their dreams.]
After school, the twins decide they need backup and round up the entire Baby-Sitters Club (Todd, Amy and Winston, for those who’ve forgotten), claiming that five kids on Halloween could be a smidge rambunctious.
Elizabeth leaves to find Amy, and Jessica stays to be taunted by Lila. Her party will be awesome, her costume is awesome, everything is awesome, except Jessica, obv. Jessica has to work for a living, Jessica’s costume is immature, etc. Lila says everyone’s meeting at 8:30pm at Casey’s tonight.
That would be a hard nope for me. If I’m supposed to be anywhere for 9:00pm, then from 8:30pm I am either travelling or making sure I have everything ready to travel. Even if I’m just going next door. But nothing really starts until Jessica arrives, as we already know, so I bet she’s going.
Over with Steven the tool, he’s getting stressed about his costume. He’s made a nightie from a sheet and is drawing flowers on in yellow marker. Given how Sweet Valley functions, I’m imagining his whole evening will be nothing but toxic masculinity and every guy he knows implying he’s “swishy” for wearing a dress. Perhaps this is why Steven jumps at the chance to hang out with kids two years younger? [Raven: See, he’s not made his costume until this bit, so ther earlier apparition was actually Eva.]
Anyway, Steven suddenly remembers the nightie he found on the Riccoli property, but y’know, it’s probably a huge coincidence. There’s no proof it belonged to someone in the house, or even that Eva ever lived there. (What? Yes there is.) He wonders if dressing up like this is a good idea.
Bet he’s still gonna do it.
The knock-off Baby-Sitters Club convenes at Winston’s house and the twins update everyone on the spooky happenings. Thankfully off screen. It’s as if, four books in, this Jamie has finally figured out that we don’t need endless recaps. Nobody else has experienced anything odd.
Back with Steven. He forgot to buy a teddy bear, and he’s a dude so obviously he can’t just buy one—what would people think? That he was some kind of girly boy who slept with toys?—but then he remembers Jessica has the actual teddy bear stashed in her closet. That’ll do. [Wing: Well, that’s at least a little consistency, the fact that she has a teddy bear.]
Downstairs, the twins get home, discussing how they hope the Riccolis will cancel them tonight.
Steven not only finds the teddy, [Wing: Steven would have just exploded if he found one of Jessica’s teddies.] but also the bunny slipper. THINGS ARE AWESOME NOW. Just die, you tool. He grabs them and runs back to his room.
Jessica spots his exit and thinks Eva is here, she screams for Elizabeth and explains that she just saw Eva run into Steven’s room. Elizabeth says that’s not her usual M.O. and they knock on Steven’s room. He doesn’t let them in and claims to be asleep.
Elizabeth says it couldn’t have been Eva, she doesn’t have the bear. Jessica worries that she’s so frightened that she’s seeing Eva when she’s not even there.
I hope Eva is so offended that Steven has taken her teddy and her slipper that she eats him. [Raven: SPOILERS!] [Wing: We could only be so lucky.]
We cut to the Riccoli’s, where the Riccoli parents are dressed up and ready to go out. Nothing happens.
We cut to Steven, who is scaring younger children. He hides, jumps out at them, and if they drop their candy, he steals it. Because that’s who Steven is. But don’t think he’s an asshole, he has a hard rule about scaring anyone shorter than four feet tall.
He is planning to scare his sisters too. While they work. Again. Y’know, because that’s who Steven is.
This seems to be a thing, small slices of scenes where nothing really happens but it bounces between all the Wakefields. So here we go: The Riccolis eat Halloween candy. The rest of the Knock-Off BSC arrive (KOBSC?). Steven suits up, noting that the teddy and the slipper are old. The teddy has Eva’s full name on it. He decides that’s probably the name of a kid that sold it to his sisters at a garage sale. Steven is a fucking moron.
Elizabeth double-checks with everyone that the house is locked up tight, and everyone confirms it is. She worries that Eva can still get in.
Back with Steven, he’s regretting his costume. The bunny slipper is giving him a blister, the nightie looks silly, and thank god nobody has recognised him under his makeup.
… uh, wasn’t Joe Howell involved in this nonsense at the beginning of the book? Did he just silently bow out and Steven stubbornly went along with it? [Raven: I believe Joe told him to fuck off because Nightie.]
Anyway, Eva has found him and asks him twice for her teddy bear. Steven just stares in horror. Eva knocks him over. It’s implied that he’s hurt, but we all know that he’ll be fine, no matter how often we wish for his death.
Back at the Wakefield compound, Alice sits alone in the dark, glad that her family is out. She is resolutely ignoring the knocks on the door by trick-or-treaters—this is the one time I can fully get Alice. I do this every Halloween. [Wing: If you don’t turn on a light at the door, do people still knock? That’s kind of an informal rule around here; you only approach houses that have lights on (porch lights, etc.). I say as someone who didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween and now keeps the light off because Monster Dog will try to attack every time she hears the doorbell or a knock.]
She spies some mail, one letter catches her eye, addressed to her little-girl handwriting. Inside the envelope is a picture of herself and Eva, both with big black Xs drawn across their faces.
Over with twatface, he’s on the ground and this happens:
But it was too late. With an iron grip the claws closed around his neck and squeezed. “You stole my bear!” the creature hissed in its strange toneless voice. “And now you—must die.”
- I do not know what is up with the strange use of emdashes in this book. I know what they’re going for, but it’s used so often it looks like everyone speaks and thinks in fragments.
- CHEER ON THE KILLER! Let us import that trope from Point Horror! DEATH TO STEVEN FUCKING WAKEFIELD!
Sadly, after the third time Eva mentions the bear, Steven twigs that’s what she wants, so he throws it out of her reach and bucks her off. Instead of running, he stays long enough to try and get credit for giving back the bear. Eva gets ready to kill him again, so he tosses the bunny slipper and runs. Eva says he and his sisters will be dead by midnight.
Oh good, it’s like 9:30pm by now, surely. That means this book has got to end soon!
Alice is having a flashback to that fateful night she baby-sat for the Sullivans on Halloween twenty-five years ago. So, Alice is thirty-seven. Ok. Let’s put a pin in that, because I feel that will be contradicted by plenty of other books.
She’s baby-sitting Eva, who only managed to trick-or-treat three houses before getting too scared to go on. She seems to think the children dressed up are actual monsters, vampires and ghouls. I can understand a lot of fear or anxiety, but if she can’t tell the difference between kids in costumes and actual monsters, possibly this is more than an overly-anxious child and maybe the parents should do something other than keep going out while guilting Alice Wakefield into constantly looking after Eva, because she’s Alice’s favourite. This is how fucked the book is, I’m defending Alice Wakefield. I’ve never done that before in my life. [Wing: I can’t decide if it’s believable for an 8-year-old to be scared like that at Halloween costumes. Maybe? I know we have readers with kids. Thoughts, y’all?]
Eva is very anxious and wants her teddy bear, which Alice fetches. She also wants to sleep in her bunny slippers, it will sooth her. I’m assuming they’re those little-kid slippers that are kind of like trainer socks with thick elastic just above the ankle to keep them on. Otherwise this kid is a weird sleeper to keep regular slippers on.
Alice says no initially, remembering that she can’t hear Eva sleepwalk if she wears the slippers. She concedes that Eva can wear one, but not both. She checks not just Eva’s balcony door, but also the door from the spare room next door. (Did we know there were two rooms up there? Was that ever clear? I always thought there was only Eva’s room.) There is no way that Eva is toppling over that railing when sleepwalking.
(She totes is, right?)
She goes downstairs and half watches TV, keeping an ear out for Eva. She hears a few giggles from above.
Ok, let’s flip tables. Let’s add a whole bunch of names besides Steven Wakefield of people we want to die.
The giggles are from her friends, Dyan Sutton (nee Roberts), Walter Egbert and Jim Wilkins, who appear to have snuck in, dressed up as ghosts and—inexplicably—opened the balcony door in the room next door to Eva’s. [Wing: WHY? WHY DID THEY SNEAK UPSTAIRS TO SCARE ALICE? They apparently came in the front door because the snuck up the stairs when she wasn’t looking, so why not scare her downstairs? Why open the fucking balcony door? Why is any of this happening?]
Alice snaps at them that they’re assholes. Eva is sensitive and she could have been scared by their shenanigans. The Sullivans have made it very clear that she’s not allowed guests while baby-sitting. Their response? Right up there with Steven’s. “lol! You didn’t invite us, so you didn’t do anything wrong! Aren’t we funny?!”
Things get worse when the Twatwaffle Trio reveal that they looked in Eva’s room, but it was totes boring, just a bedroom. Yeah, they forgot to shut the door. And nobody has shut the balcony door in the next room.
Alice sprints to see if Eva’s there. Of course she’s not. She’s on the balcony, and her next step will take her straight over the edge.
(Seriously, why has nobody either raised the railing to be safe or nailed those doors shut?)
[Raven: So Alice and her chums are responsible for the death of a little girl through wilful neglect, and we’ve not heard of this before? I bet we don’t hear of it after this either. So much bullshit.]
Alice is snapped back to now by Steven bursting in, babbling incoherently. Alice thinks it’s a joke. Apparently the censors didn’t like the phrase “dead meat” because Steven blurts, “The twins—Mom—she said we’re meat! History!” Or is “meat” a common American phrase to mean dead? [Wing: No.]
Steven gets absolutely nowhere. Alice says that Halloween has gone to his head (“Oh you wacky kids with your hi-jinks and your pranks!”) and tells him to fuck off because she has a migraine.
Steven yells that it’s life and death, and where are the twins? Alice says they’re trick-or-treating. Again: A+ parenting, Alice.
Steven takes off, heedless of his bare feet on the asphalt. And ok, finally we get a half-decent action from Steven. It’s not enough to save him, but since he’s now up against the parents of Winston, Todd and Amy, whose idiocy literally killed a little girl, he’s now slightly lower down the scale of absolute fucking cunts.
Back with the BSC, they’re playing a game where they have to shout out girls’ names in alphabetical order. I think this largely exists to tell people that Dyan is Amy’s mom, for those that didn’t recognise it. [Wing: It was in this scene I realised that is probably pronounced like Diane.]
After a bathroom break, Jessica is lured to the spare room on the third floor by what sounds like her sister’s voice. It’s obviously not. She sees Eva in there and faints.
Downstairs, Elizabeth starts to worry, even though Jessica has only been gone four minutes. I’m sure in regular circumstances Jessica would be furious for drawing attention to how long she’s been in the bathroom. There’s a scream from upstairs and the BSC heads towards it.
Back with Steven, he’s randomly grabbing tweens who vaguely look like his sisters. He rugby tackles a ballerina, who threatens to sue him for ruining her $650 costume. Of course it’s Lila. She tells him the twins are baby-sitting, and is a mocking dick about it.
And back to the Riccolis’, where Jessica is waking up and the BSC are surrounding her. They say that they’re “next to the secret room” in a storage room. Wait, what? HOW MANY FUCKING ROOMS ARE UP THERE AND HOW ARE THEY LABELLED? This is worse than the cave’s dimensions. The third floor is sprouting rooms left, right and centre, like it’s the House of Many Ways. Fucking quit it.
Initially there was Eva’s room, which was a secret room. By book 4 there was a spare room next door, and now there’s a storage room? Fuck off.
Anyway, the door slams shut and they’re now in one of the three fucking rooms with Eva.
Steven arrives, calling for his sisters. He hears Elizabeth call for help. Her scream sets of the others. The door swings open, Elizabeth sees an Eva in the room with them and another taller one in the doorway and screams like a banshee.
Steven, you’re a fucking tool. Even if you are saving the day.
Steven knocks down the real Eva and yells at the BSC to follow him. They are too horrified by the sight of two Evas to do so. He pauses to explain that he’s Steven, dressed up to fuck with their mental well-being, and they bound gratefully out the door.
Elizabeth says they’d better save the Riccolis too, and Steven grudgingly lets them while he holds the door shut, trapping Eva in.
Jessica picks up Nate and he sleeps peacefully against her shoulder. She wishes someone would take care of her like that. Can’t blame her, the action has finally arrived, and I’d be scared in her position. [Raven: This action sequence is the high point of the series.]
There’s a shout from Steven that Eva’s loose and he runs into the room with Jessica and tells her to hide. Eva heads straight down the stairs to the first (ground?) floor.
Remarkably, Steven says he’ll go first, whistle if he sees Eva, but failing that, Jessica is to count to ten and follow quietly.
Only problem? The house is on fire. Again. [Wing: I can’t believe I’m siding with a murderous ghost here (well, okay, maybe I can), but look at how much she loves fire! Look at how she wants to burn (things in) Sweet Valley to the ground! (Yes, at this point I knew what was actually happening, but I want murderous ghost bonding.)]
And Eva’s heading back up to them.
Elizabeth comes up with a plan: they go out the study window, slide down the roof which slopes more gently there, and then down the awning to the ground.
Olivia goes down first, then Andrew says he’ll take Nate down. Wow, Andrew’s either eight or ten, but out of everyone, he’s the prime choice to carry the two-year-old? Well, he makes it down safely, so that’s ok.
Next goes Juliana, and then Gretchen, but the room is filling with smoke.
So, all the Riccolis are safe. There is a crack at the door of Eva smashing into it. Winston heroically shoves everyone out the way and yells “Me first!” Who the fuck are you, kid, because you’re #NotMyWinston. Winston then gets stuck in the window and Jessica has to yank him back into the house.
Jessica leans out the newly-vacated window and tells the kids to run and get help. (“We are not doing get help.”) [Raven: <3.] [Wing: Fuck MCU Loki.]
Eva lunges at Jessica and starts strangling her.
We cut back to Alice for the inevitable end to her previous flashback. Eva falls off the balcony and dies. I honestly don’t know why we cut back to this, the ominous end to the last one did the job. I guess maybe killing an eight-year-old on screen was super important? [Wing: Look, we’ve been waiting for action for most of four books now, give me child manslaughter, please. (YES, I KNOW, I’M ALREADY ON A LIST, I’M SURE.)]
There was a letter with the photo and it looks like it’s been written by someone who is just learning to write. Short version: Eva didn’t die. She was taken to hospital, but she escaped. Instead of searching for her, her parents just buried her doll and told everyone she was dead. Eva has been staying in shacks and the room next to her old bedroom since then and now she’s going to kill Alice and her kids.
Wait, wut? So, Eva is thirty-six, but still looks eight? One of my BFFs is known on here as Tiny. She’s very slender and on the shorter side and we do have a game called “things we can fit Tiny in”. But I would never mistake her for a child. Maybe the scarring hides Eva’s face?
Also, how shit are the Sullivan parents?
Hospital admin: Mr and Mrs Sullivan, your child, who has terrible injuries, appears to have been lost in the hospital. We’re going to inform the police, issue an Amber alert, get her picture on posters and milk cartons, and since you’re white and wealthy, we can probably get you on the local news, if not national. How cute is she? Is she a Madeline McCann or a Shannon Matthews? That’s a factor.
Mr/Mrs Sullivan: No, no need. We have our daughter’s favourite doll. We’ll just bury that.
Hospital admin: Oh. Ok. That makes sense.
Seriously? Alice reasons that the parents would have assumed that she wouldn’t have gotten far before dying, but honestly, this should be a major scandal. Fowler Memorial Hospital should be sued for misplacing a deeply injured child, and it should be a cautionary tale. Instead, nobody’s ever heard of it, including the baby-sitter, who was there at the time she “died”.
Also, explain those fucking nightmares. SERIOUSLY.
[Raven: This entire explanation makes NO FUCKING SENSE whatsoever. I literally hate it. Also, this whole story is too big for this series. If this actually happened, there’d be all sorts of fucking uproar, and all sorts of consequences for everyone involved. This cannot be hand-waived away. And yet I’m betting we’re back to normal by the next fucking book.] [Wing: Ned Wakefield wasn’t even the Lawyer to End All Lawyers yet to get those kids off.]
Alice calls Jim Wilkins and tells him to call Walter Egbert and Dyan Sutton and get them to the Sullivan mansion. Eva is ALIVE! The text notes that Jim sounds like he’s been expecting this call for years. That’s a weird thing to expect, since the story has been that Eva died on the Sullivan property and was buried, and there’s been no supernatural activity there since. But sure.
The Riccolis then arrive at the Wakefield Compound to confirm that the twins are in danger, and Eva is going to kill everyone.
Alice leaves the kids on the lawn and jumps straight in the car. The narrative doesn’t say either way, but I just picture a load of costumed kids screaming and running out of the way as Alice burns rubber. [Wing: Same.]
Elizabeth stares at her sister being strangled. She wants to move, but can’t. Uh, Elizabeth, you suck at twinning. When a ghost had you ready to jump off a ferris wheel, Jessica leapt to your defence. Elizabeth suddenly remembers that Todd is dressed a baseball player, complete with bat, and only now does it occur to her that you can use that as a weapon.
She has to tell him twice before he thwacks Eva in the head with it.
For fuck’s sake.
They use this opportunity to escape, but the entire staircase is aflame. They must go upstairs to the secret room. Is anyone else as confused as me about which room is secret, when initially there were none and now there are three?
They bound into a room and Jessica sees there are no windows, but she was sure there was actually a large window or door in the room. But that was in her dream. Eva lunges at her, and instead of hitting that wall, what do you know, Jessica tumbles through, clutching Elizabeth’s hand.
They both tumble to their deaths.
Or that’s what the chapter break wants you to think. [Wing: Maybe this ghostie is R.L. Stine. Sure are a lot of Needlessly Dramatic Cliffhanger Chapter Endings.] They actually land somewhere soft and Alice is there. They landed on a mattress. Emergency vehicles are there, but it doesn’t actually specify that it’s a giant emergency mattress, so I’m just imagining the twins with broken spines after falling three storeys and landing on a single regular mattress. [Raven: Mattress Ex Machina.] [Wing: It’s not a giant emergency mattress, it’s that mattress that was replaced after the very first mini-fire in an earlier book so, yes, broken backs.]
Everyone else jumps to safety, and Eva can be seen ready to jump when the house collapses in on itself. Eva disappears back into the flames.
We cut to two weeks later, with Alice and the twins at the cemetery. They can’t believe Eva was alive all along. Yeah, no, neither can I. How the fuck did those supernatural dreams work for the past three books? What the actual fuckity ballsacks went on here?
Alice exposits that she’s done some research and what happened was: Eva survived and was taken to a hospital to rehab her mangled limbs, which actually were barely mangled. In fact, she wasn’t even all that scarred, it was just makeup. Well of course, she fell from a great height, why would that scar her face?
“But didn’t they tell you that she was still alive, Mom?”
“It would have been nice,” Mrs. Wakefield agreed.
REALLY? REALLY, ALICE?
I will concede that she adds that maybe they did but she was so traumatised by the experience that she may not have processed it. Which just seems incomprehensible to me. Why weren’t Mommy and Daddy Robertson working with their child to ensure that she processed this trauma? Why wasn’t Alice aware that she survived? And sure, ok, let’s say that Alice has a black hole in her memory around this event, but what about Walter, Jim and Dyan? They were there too. Wasn’t there at least one moment at lunch where Alice is zoned out and one of her gormless friends says, “Cheer up, Alice.” And Alice snaps that their combined idiocy and negligence killed a child. Then someone, probably Jim, says, “Uh, no. Remember? Eva’s in hospital. She’s alive.”
So, there was a river behind the hospital with strong currents and Eva wandered off. Alice contradicts herself and says that actually, Eva’s injuries were terrible and it was a miracle she could make three steps by herself. Some of her possessions were found by the river, so everyone just assumed she died.
She has been living in the gardener’s shed and one of the billions of secret rooms on the top floor all this time. They speculate the gardener (remember Brangwen? No, well, you’ve slept since then and this was really boring) was feeding her.
Elizabeth handwaves the dreams by saying that Eva’s anger was infecting the house, and they’d see it but not process it and then have a dream about Eva. Um… I’m going with nope.
Jessica asks how they all had the same dream, and we’re given the cop-out answer:
“I don’t think we’ll ever know the answers,” Mrs. Wakefield said. “Some things will just remain mysteries forever, and I suspect this may be one of them.”
So basically, the Jamie(s) wrote themselves into a corner and are just using a terribly lazy cliché to get out of it? Fuck you. Fuck you with sandpaper.
And then we have a full-length scene which explains how Alice got to the Riccoli house. Sure, just shrug in the face of all the stuff we have no answers for, but recap in detail something we literally saw.
I’ve picked a lot of holes in this piece of shit mini-series, but you know what I would have happily let slide? That in the two weeks we didn’t see on screen, Alice and the twins discussed how Alice got there with the emergency services.
However, they do clarify that the mattress all five BSC plus Steven leapt three storeys down to was in fact a regular old mattress they found in the garage. Dear Jamie, have you ever seen a mattress that’s been in storage for two decades? It’s basically spiky tetanus dotted with remnants of fabric. [Wing: Mattress from the first mini-fire in the house, so not stored too long, but still not enough to let them drop that far down without any injury.]
Jessica thinks to herself she’ll never understand everything, and that’s ok. NO IT’S FUCKING NOT. I have read 120k words of this absolute festering arse-gravy and I don’t have any answers.
This fucking sucks. The only good thing about it is that it’s fucking over.
Welp. Can you tell I hated this? I think I’ve made myself clear above.
Since I’m so pissed off with how my time has been wasted, and I don’t want to be a complete downer, here’s a different way to end this mini-series. Hopefully Wing and Raven will have some good final thoughts on this.
What I’d have done differently:
I would not have spread a paper-thin story over four books, I’d have just made the 100th book longer, basically the length it is now, the same as a Super Chiller, maybe upgrade to a Magna.
I would not have used this story at all. I would have sent the entire sixth grade on a school trip, and let them stay in a haunted hotel. Basically, I’d have ripped off Room 13 by Robert Swindells.
In order to get a good selection of characters, I’d have had Elizabeth, Amy and Maria sharing a room, and Jessica, Lila and Ellen sharing the next room, and have them be adjoining. Someone comments that these rooms used to be suites when the Toffington-Smythes lived in this grand estate, and these two rooms in particular were the rooms of Tragic Ghost Child.
This mechanic would have forced the narrative to stay on track and not waste time with Steven and his fucking lawnmower. It would have removed the boys, who were utterly non-entities, except for when Winston was a selfish asshole.
Also, I love it when Team Unibore get together. I’ve really missed Ellen lately. I feel like she’s been absent for far too long.
Sticking with Room 13 as a template, I’d have used the B-plot to give the characters stuff they need to solve the mystery/slay the monster. Either by getting information on their day trips, or by buying stuff as gifts for their family. Whatever.
I’d have either gone with supernatural (probably that) or human monster, not a terrible mish-mash of both. I would not have handwaved the first 75% of the book by having Alice Wakefield shrug and Jessica go, “fair enough”.
I’d have been far funnier. Seriously. Go read Jessica vs Elizabeth if you don’t believe me. I’m fucking funny.
[Raven: First, do go read Jessica vs Elizabeth. Dove IS fucking funny.
Second… this fucking book.. This fucking SERIES. For a start, this was far too long, and full of completely pointless scenes. The story was both too large, as I’ve mentioned, and maddeningly repetitive. There was not enough Unicorn or Peripheral Character involvement (four FUCKING books!), and Steven got far too much screen time. The boys in general were out of character and moronic, the action was boring (aside from the Boss Fight), and the twins were pretty much interchangeable and devoid of character.
But the worst thing? THE FUCKING ENDING. So Eva is real, and the same age as Alice, but she’s still a little girl? And she’s been making herself look gruesome with stage makeup? And she can INFILTRATE PRE-TEEN DREAMS?! Do me a fucking favour, Ghostie. Jog off a fucking cliff.
I’m so glad this is over.]
[Wing: This was the flattest, most boring ending possible and that’s saying a lot considering how flat and boring a lot of this miniseries already was. Fuck it.]