Title: Too Scared to Sleep
Tagline: The first 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…
The Wakefield twins and their friends love baby-sitting for the Riccolis, until little Juliana Riccoli starts having horrible nightmares. One night she wakes up crying, saying a monster attacked her. The twins tell her that bad dreams aren’t real, but Elizabeth is secretly afraid. If the monster isn’t real, why does Juliana have deep scratches on her back?
Don’t go to sleep, Sweet Valley… you may never wake up!
Hey kids, do you love Baby-Sitters Club?
YEAH! (excited cheering from a bunch of tweens in the 80s/90s)
And do you love A Nightmare on Elm Street?
YEAH! (one or two kids back away nervously muttering that their mum wouldn’t approve)
And do you love it when boys are so utterly mentally incapacitated that it’s actually cruel to leave them alone without adult supervision?
… (kids look unenthusiastic. a tumbleweed blows past)
WELL, GREAT! THIS SERIES IS FOR YOU.
] [Dove: Damn you for using my favourite Meat Loaf song.]
[Wing: Nothing like opening with a Meat Loaf song to put Wing in a good mood.]
Unknown day/time, mysterious location. We open with italics. Always a good sign. Very reminiscent of Point Horror.
A girl goes to the third floor of a house and looks out into the night. The house is falling apart. Good! Nobody shall ever live in it!
A huge family is moving in! Oh noes!
End italics. So fucking Point Horror. [Wing: You know how much I love: bad guy POV, prologues, and Point Horror, so this is going well. (Okay, okay, I do love Point Horror. Mostly.)]
Saturday morning, the roads of Sweet Valley. We have our standard open with the twins. Inexplicably, they are biking from their home to the beach the long way, which involves biking up a killer hill. I cannot understand why they are doing this, given that the way they usually go is either flat, or they are so used to the hills that they never mention it. Could it be because the plot demands? I think so. [Raven: Ah, biking uphill to the coast… they are truly fucked if there’s a tidal wave. Sweet Valley is in a bowl below sea level, it seems.]
Speaking of the plot, here it is. There is a moving truck outside the long-abandoned Sullivan mansion, which is rumoured to be haunted. This is like, the seventh haunted mansion in Sweet Valley by now. Elizabeth adds that it’s the biggest too. I guess the Fowlers and the Patmans weren’t interested in this house?
The twins meet Mrs Riccoli (I am currently saying that as “Rick-oh-lee”, I’m certain Wing will correct me), [Wing: Now all I can hear is this:
and some of her kids. She has many. Elizabeth offers to stick around and help by watching the kids so Mrs Riccoli can get a cup of coffee. Jessica is not impressed by this suggestion at all. They were planning on meeting their friends at the beach. They’re going to be late, she says pointedly.
Sorry, Elizabeth, I’m with Jessica here. I think I’ve been doing this long enough for everyone here to know I will cut a bitch who’s late to meet me. Presh, I set off half an hour early, so even if I went slowly the latest I could be was 20 minutes early, which means if you’re late, I’m waiting by myself (which I hate) for 20+ minutes. I know the 20 minutes I’m early is on me, but I will hold a fucking grudge for every single minute that isn’t my fault that I’m left waiting. [Raven: Were they actually meeting anyone? I thought Jessica was just making that up to get out of helping.] [Dove: No, it says they’re off to play volleyball with their friends.] [Wing: First and last time Jessica’s ever cared about being late to meet someone. (I assume, I’m not going to confirm that.)]
(Ironically, we were something like seven hours late the day I “met” Wing for the first time. She did not cut a bitch.) [Wing: I did not. I was too excited to see them in person for the first time. And also, I am strange and love hanging out in airports.]
Mrs Riccoli graciously tells them not to be late for their plans (or, given that she’s got a dozen kids, she’d like to get the two she didn’t give birth to off her lawn), but Elizabeth holds fast, asking where she moved from. Sacramento, and her husband won’t be joining her for a few months. Actually, do they know anyone who baby-sits? She needs help.
Elizabeth superciliously says, “A lot of help, it looks like.“ Just fuck off, Elizabeth.
Jessica says actually, they have a lot of friends, most of whom baby-sit. This flummoxes Elizabeth, who knows that the Unicorns don’t baby-sit. Huh. Well, Mandy, Belinda and Ellen have younger siblings, so I bet the first two at least baby-sit their younger brothers. I think if I was Ellen’s mum, I’d prefer Mark (10) was in charge if I had to leave my kids alone. I can see Mary baby-sitting too.
But it’s a fair point about Lila.
Also, apparently Elizabeth doesn’t remember that she and Jessica baby-sit Chrissy (to be fair, the ghosties completely forgot that outside of the one book that mentions it), and let’s not forget the time the twins baby-sat the monster kids and pretended to be a single teleporting witch. [Raven: Single Teleporting Witch… great name for a band.]
Mrs Riccoli gives them her number, and as the twins leave, Jessica asks, isn’t that house supposed to be haunted.
Unknown day/time, Casey’s Place. Casey’s is under new management—remember Joe Carrey and how much we cared? Well, that’s something worth bringing up. [Raven: Continuity!] Drop Rick Hunter (#StillBitter), but keep the fucking ice cream dude—and Winston is there with Elizabeth, Todd, Jessica and Amy. I have no idea why Jessica is hanging out with so many nerds.
While they’re eating, Jessica asks if Elizabeth can pay for her ice cream. Elizabeth says she assumed Jessica would pay, y’know, since Elizabeth has bought the last one hundred and thirty-seven sundaes. Of course, Jessica has no money. You both are idiots. Never order something unless you are absolutely certain it can be paid for. [Raven: Elizabeth saved Joe from a stretch in prison for Armed Robbery. She should have free ice cream for LIFE.] [Wing: That is a really good point.]
They call Joe over and explain that in their galloping privilege as middle class brats who never hear the word “no”, it didn’t occur to them that someone else wouldn’t foot the bill as they have no money. Joe offers to give them a tab that they can pay off in a few days. Jessica immediately accepts, problem solved, but Elizabeth sees the flaw. They’re broke now and will still be broke in a few days. [Wing: And yet does not see the real flaw, which is that Jessica will run that tab up until Joe has to cut her off. I fear the day she gets a credit card or fifty.] She starts rummaging around in her purse and finds a copy of the Baby-Sitters Club and immediately rips off Kristy’s Great Idea.
Ok, she doesn’t, she finds Mrs Riccoli’s phone number, but it still leads to her copying the shit out of Kristy Thomas.
“I’m starting a new business. And if you guys want in on it, you’d better say so now!”
“A new business?” Jessica asked, looking confused.
Elizabeth unfolded the piece of map and held it in front of her sister’s face. “We’re starting a new baby-sitting service. For Mrs. Riccoli.”
Elizabeth explains how they met Mrs Riccoli and she has five kids and a mansion, so loaded and desperate for help. If they schedule themselves properly, they never have to share Mrs Riccoli with anyone else. They will be rolling in cash.
“OK,” Jessica said, “but that means splitting the money five ways.” She frowned. “I don’t know if that’s going to be enough for me.”
First she doesn’t have any money—and then she wants to hog it all! Elizabeth thought. “We’ll share the work,” she explained to her sister. She paused for a minute to think things over. Five baby-sitters… and five kids… actually, it would work out pretty nicely. They could each earn a certain amount per week. “For instance,” she suggested, “you and I can baby-sit one night, Jessica. And Todd and Winston the next… then me and Amy… like that! We’ll need to double up to look after them all. I’m sure we’ll make plenty of money. If we don’t, we can always work for other families, too.” She glanced at Jessica, whose eyes were glazed over, as if she were concentrating very hard on something.
“We could make a ton of money doing this,” Jessica murmured happily.
“OK, but how are all these people going to find out about us?” Winston asked.
“Easy,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll make a couple of signs and put them on the bulletin board at the supermarket.”
Will the signs look anything like this?
This weird combination of UniBoreBoys are now very excited about their business venture. Jessica starts writing a list of all the things she wants to buy with her earnings.
Saturday afternoon, office building. The b-plot: Winston is learning to play the accordion with someone called Mr Pagnowski. He hates it. He wishes he was learning the drums, but instead he’s learning to play a polka for a distant relative’s wedding. It’s simply not cool to play the accordion. Cheese Sandwich disagrees.
During his lesson, Charlie Cashman comes crashing in, apologising for being late. He gets told he’s not late, he’s early. Charlie notices Winston and his accordion and grins widely in a way that suggests bullying will come of this interaction.
<calin> we had a guy at school that wore black lipstick.. and was all gothy.. and then one day we caught him buying an assvibrator
<ecoli> wait, you “caught” him?
<ecoli> like, you were behind him in line at the assvibrator store?
<Aero> he doesnt answer
*** Quits: calin (No route to host)
from Bash.Org #JustSayin
Saturday afternoon, Wakefield Compound. Elizabeth calls Mrs Riccoli to say that she and Jessica have talked it over with their friends, and they should be able to cover the Riccoli’s baby-sitting needs. Mrs Riccoli says that she’s a professor at Sweet Valley University and she teaches late, so she’ll need a sitter between 4pm-8pm most days.
Then immediately contradicts that by saying that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, her classes start at 6:40pm (oh, wait, maybe she’ll need weekends too?), so Elizabeth says she and Jessica can be there by 6pm on Monday.
They say goodbye and Jessica asks how much they’ll be paid, Elizabeth has no idea, but assumes the going rate. Jessica says that she’ll ask for a raise after a few weeks.
Saturday afternoon, office building. After his lesson, Winston is blackmailed by Charlie to the tune of $25 by Monday, otherwise Charlie will tell everyone at school that Winston plays the accordion. I don’t get why this is a big deal. Winston is an epic nerd—I say that not as a dis, but as someone who legitimately owns the epic-nerd.com domain—so playing the accordion is hardly going to knock him down the social hierarchy of Sweet Valley Middle School.
He’s a nerd, he’s gangly, he’s awkward and he likes science.
On the other hand, he’s athletic, he’s the only male on the Boosters, and he has a totally cool/popular Booster/Unicorn girlfriend in Grace Oliver.
While Charlie is an oversized bully, but not such a good bully that he warranted his own book (certainly not the one called The Bully).
Is anyone really going to be shook by the knowledge that oddball Winston plays the same instrument as Weird Al? [Raven: Yeah, this whole bit is weak sauce. It’s like the accordion is the small plastic bucket that’ll finally tip the balance and cause Winston’s Nerdity Donkey to kick out a full Buckaroo. Also, there’s a weird exchange when Winston says he’ll do anything for Charlie’s silence, and offers to buy him a new guitar, but Charlie demands something far better… $25. I mean, where the fuck are you buying your guitars, Charlie?] [Wing: Well, he does already have a guitar. He apparently does not have $25.]
Monday evening, Riccoli House. The twins bike over to the house and discuss the situation. Elizabeth says that Olivia, the oldest (age 10), will help them out with the younger ones, so really it’s only four kids they’re baby-sitting.
When they arrive at the house, every single light is off and there’s no answer when they knock, and then hammer on the door. The car is in the drive, and they are supposed to be there, so they decide to walk into the dark and scary house.
This provokes flashing lights, a creepy cackle of laughter, and a cliffhanger chapter end that R. L. Stine would be proud of.
We pick up exactly where we left off—again, Stine would be so proud—with the twins pelting out of the house. They get to the edge of the driveway and both vehemently agree that no miniskirt is worth the terror they just endured. Then Jessica realises that they’ve been pranked.
She wonders if the job is worth it. Then she clocks how worn out her Doc Martens are and decides she really needs new pretty things.
Also. NO. Jessica is not the type of person to wear Docs. In school in the 90s, you either wore platforms or Docs, and Jessica is definitely a platforms girl. [Wing: She also would not wear worn docs. And worn Docs are also wonderful. I just went down a 90s shoe rabbit hole and my god, I never wore 99% (heh) of them. Giant feet and we didn’t have money for those name brands.]
They head back to the house where the kids are delighted they scared them, Mrs Riccoli is exasperated, and Elizabeth attempts to squash the kids’ mockery of their reaction to the prank. Jessica backs her up, then notices that Andrew (not sure what age he is) looks sad, which makes her feel “her least favorite emotion—guilt” and instead she tells the kids not to scare them again tonight otherwise she and Elizabeth will have to scare them back.
If this culminates in a billion people wearing masks to scare each other, I’m out. I’ll flip tables, tear up books, and peace out of the series I talked my husband and my best friend into recapping. [Wing: No lie, at first I thought this was a Covid reference.]
Jessica then tickles Andrew and Elizabeth is aghast at how great Jessica is with kids.
Um, that was a single interaction that she didn’t screw up, but actually, this is a really good place for a topic I proposed a few days ago, but got no input from Raven:
Jessica will be a great mother. Elizabeth will be the stuff of nightmares, and feature heavily on r/EntitledParents. Discuss.
I personally think that Jessica’s way with animals (you know, after half a book protesting that she hates them) shows that actually she’d probably be pretty good with kids. In Jessica and the Brat Attack, she thinks to herself that she wouldn’t mind playing dolls with the little girl she’s baby-sitting. She and Elizabeth both want a baby sister in The Twins’ Little Sister. Also, Jessica is the more imaginative of the two, and (if she could stop being cool for a bit—and the animal books showed she can), she’d probably be a fun mum when they wanted to play. I just hope she marries well so that someone can tidy the house and get on her kids about doing their homework.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, has all the hallmarks of being a complete nightmare. Look at any book where she gets it in her head that she needs to fix something—my biggest peeve is when she forces poor George Henkel to reunited with his obviously traumatised dad, regardless of all the complications involved in an abused child and a war vet with PTSD living together after years of estrangement with no support. Now imagine her kid gets a B-. Or imagine that someone pushes her kid over in the playground. Or some boy or girl breaks up with her kid. You know Elizabeth is going to “fix” this situation.
Note to readers: No spoilers please if you want to discuss. [Raven: I can see your point. I can also see Jessica’s two-year old daughter being found alone in her cot, dead from malnutrition in a puddle of her own shit, as her mother rocks Coachella on a seven-day crack binge.] [Wing: I think they’d both be terrible parents. Jessica only manages to be loving and caring for short bursts of time, and Elizabeth is a nightmare. Also, Jessica’s been terrible with kids and animals, too.]
The inside of the house is hideous. Orange shag rug, pink/red beanbag chairs, basically like the worst part of the seventies vomited out home décor. Jessica wonders if maybe they can recommend their mother’s interior design skills (everything in shades of peach, pecan and oatmeal) and then Mrs Riccoli will pay her, and Alice will share the wealth.
I’m going to try and figure out who the kids are, because I’m pretty sure all three of us will need a cheat sheet:
- Olivia (10)
- Andrew (? Older than the three below)
- Gretchen (7)
- Juliana (5)
- Nate (2)
We cut to bedtime—well, Nate’s already asleep—and Jessica charmingly tricks them into wanting to go to bed by pretending she’s going to sleep and the last one upstairs doesn’t get a bed. This works on all of them except Juliana. She tells Elizabeth that she doesn’t want to go to bed. Elizabeth asks if Juliana would prefer it if Elizabeth put her to bed. Uh, yeah, Elizabeth. She’s five. You were planning on getting her to put herself to bed when you’re being paid to look after her?
Jessica, by the way, is upstairs helping the other three get ready. #JustSayin
[Wing: Well, two of them, maybe. Olivia’s doing homework. And I’m not convinced she isn’t giggling away with Andrew and Gretchen.]
Elizabeth tries to comfort Juliana, guessing that she misses her dad a lot, which she is, but that’s not the problem. Juliana does not want to go to sleep, she’s been having bad dreams. Elizabeth tries to reassure her, everyone has bad dreams, and surely she’s not having them every night. Juliana says yes, every night since they moved in she’s dreamed about a monster girl who’s trying to hurt her.
Elizabeth tells her that she’s sure Juliana won’t have a nightmare tonight. Think of all the great things you can do in good old Sweet Valley, and even if you do have a bad dream, it can’t hurt you.
Famous last words, obv.
We cut to Mrs Riccoli getting home. She asks how it went, and the twins say fine. They put the kids to bed and tidied up the kitchen before she got home, which I find impossible to believe. I can actually believe that Jessica gets along with kids, but I can’t believe she wouldn’t parlay that ability into a reason not to tidy a room when Elizabeth could do it for her.
Elizabeth brings up Juliana’s bad dreams, and Mrs Riccoli says she knows about them, but chalks them up to the big move and dad being away, etc. Then she pays the twins $10 each (Wing, is that a good rate for the very early 90s?) and says she’ll need them again on Wednesday. [Wing: How many hours were they baby-sitting? Two hours, from six to eight? That’s not bad, I guess. More than the Baby-Sitters Club made per hour, that’s for sure. I don’t remember what I made per hour back then.]
Jessica can’t make that day because of a Unicorn meeting, so Elizabeth says she’ll bring Amy instead. Jessica can’t believe Amy will selfishly keep the money she’s going to earn on Wednesday. It should be Jessica’s! Just fuck off, Jessica. I don’t mind you being all scheming over a boy, but this money grubbing side is just icky. And besides, you don’t need to earn the money, you can just steal it off Elizabeth.
Uh, it’s now Monday night, right? Shouldn’t Winston be dead? Wasn’t he supposed to pay Charlie $25 by Monday? He’s not even baby-sat yet, much less raised funds to pay his blackmailer. [Wing: I thought it was a week from Monday.]
Anyway, as the twins are leaving, Jessica eyes the décor with a deep and passionate loathing and says the following to Mrs Riccoli.
“Mrs. Riccoli? You know, the hardwood floors under this rug are really, really beautiful. I mean, they could be, if you refinished them. And if you did, you wouldn’t need this rug.” Jessica stepped around the beanbag chairs. “Then you could get like an oak futon, with a cover that matches and some nice matching curtains.” She swept her arm through the air, indicating the areas she was talking about. “And maybe you could also pick up some antique furniture that kind of goes along with the style of the house? You know, the period thing, or whatever they call it. Victorian. Because Victorian and beanbags… well, you kind of don’t think of those things in the same sentence, you know?”
Never change, Jessica. That was kind of brutal. Elizabeth is furious with Jessica’s lack of tact. Mrs Riccoli is amused and pleased, because she’s done nothing with the house and doesn’t know where to start. She asks Jessica for Alice’s card and is very enthusiastic about getting the house sorted out.
As the twins leave, Elizabeth lectures Jessica on her rude tactics, and Jessica is just about to respond when a tall shadowy figure steps out from the shadows.
R. L. STINE CLIFFHANGER CHAPTER BREAK!
The lurky shadowy figure is a dude called Mr Brangwen, who claims to be the gardener. He says that in the dark of night is obviously the best time to water and weed. Everyone knows that. He then asks who they are, and they tell him. He tells them not to leave their bikes leaning against the hedge as it damages the hedge. This comment causes Elizabeth to realise that he really loves the property and he says of course, he’s been the gardener his entire life.
Ok, I’m taking bets that he’s dead. Who’s with me? If this book (or one of the follow-ups) doesn’t contain the line, “But we don’t have a gardener…” I’ll be fucking surprised. [Raven: Yup. “But the gardener has been dead for fifty years…”] [Wing: This is what I expected, too, but, spoiler, that’s not where this goes. Alas.]
Jessica asks if he was here even “when it was all deserted and haunted and weird”, and he gives her a death glare.
Mr. Brangwen stared at her, his eyes still intense. Jessica felt a little tremor in her hand as she ran it through her hair, trying to act casual. There was something very creepy about him, Jessica decided. Or else he really didn’t like her at all. Which was creepy enough on its own.
Behold! Jessica literally cannot comprehend someone who doesn’t like her. If someone doesn’t like Jessica, they are creepy. You hear that, half of fandom? You’re creepy. (And also, Elizabeth is insufferable, so stop liking her best.)
“Not that it is any of your business, but I am devoted to this house. And I will continue to work here until all my work is done!” Mr. Brangwen declared fiercely.
Yeah, that’s going to come back to bite us in the arse, isn’t it?
He then changes tack, and tells them to be careful when they’re in the house. They should never close their eyes. [Raven: What a fucking bizarre thing to say to anyone, outside of a horror movie.]
The twins are suitably freaked out by Brangwen’s changing moods and creepy intensity. They leave and Jessica comments that she’s going to leave her bike in the flower bed next time just to piss him off. Elizabeth says does Brangwen’s “don’t blink” message have anything to do with Juliana’s bad dreams? Jessica doesn’t care.
Monday evening, Egbert Household. Winston takes a call for the “Five Friends Baby-sitting Service” and bullshits his way into baby-sitting eight month old twins Kevin and Karla Karsten. He needs money asap to pay of Charlie—oh, so maybe Charlie gave him a week and a few days to pay off the blackmail? Or maybe Charlie just doesn’t understand how days work?
Also, he didn’t realise his phone number was on the flyer. This is where this ripoff of the Baby-Sitters Club fails. You see, they just had a single phone number and divided the jobs out fairly. With this, it sounds like phone number roulette and whoever answers gets the job.
Tuesday morning, Wakefield Compound. Jessica is in a fabulous mood. She has her baby-sitting money and she’s done all her homework, because apparently Ned and Alice have offered her a raise in her pocket money if her grades are brought up. She tells Alice that she got her an interior design job, but with Steven being obnoxious and Alice lecturing Jessica on her rudeness, she doesn’t have time to tell Alice which house is the Riccolis.
Um. Yeah. “I totally have no clue which house my twelve year olds are working at for three hours a day, pretty much every other day. That’s fine.” A+ parenting, Alice and Ned. [Wing: My parents didn’t know where I was all the time at that age, and they were legitimately wonderful parents.]
I mean, it’s obvious that it’s because the plot demands, but they have so many parenting fails, they get kudos for this one because they’ve earned it!
Wednesday evening, Riccoli House. Elizabeth and Amy are watching Monster Mania III—and again, why are all the movies in Sweet Valley titles that sound more 50s than 90s? [Raven: I can’t believe that the first two Monster Mania films were strong enough to birth a fucking franchise.] [Dove: I’m guessing Blumhouse.]—while the kids slumber peacefully upstairs. Amy and Elizabeth are totally into the movie, utterly terrified, despite the fact it sounds more like a comedy than a pure horror, and then they are scared to death by a real scream coming from upstairs.
Juliana is terrified. She says that the girl in her dream is trying to kill her. Elizabeth asks if Juliana’s got a real-life bully, but the answer is no. Then they talk about recurring dreams, and how they don’t actually come true, no matter how scary they feel at the time. [Wing: I found this very adorable, Amy and Elizabeth being open and a little vulnerable about their scary dreams.]
Thursday evening, Karsten House. Winston will be playing the part of Jessica in this book. He rocks up to his baby-sitting job, barely pays attention, claims he knows everything about microwaves as Mrs K is explaining—which I can only assume will lead to a “hilarious” explosion/fire because he didn’t listen—and then when a thunderstorm starts, he hopes that the parents decide not to go out. (Also, the diapers are colour-coded, pink for Karla, blue for Kevin. I can only assume this is because the parents can’t tell the kids apart. I do that when I’m playing the sims. “Right, this kid will always dress in orange. I shall know her as “Susan Orange” and liking orange will be the only thing I know about her. Until she dies in a house fire. Delighted by the orange flames.”)
I’m not sure why Winston’s being so Jessica about this, and why Jessica is being so… well, nobody in this fandom, someone from BSC—Wing, who is she being? At least Elizabeth is still being Elizabeth. [Wing: Pretty much any member of the BSC, really, when it comes to baby-sitting.]
Thursday evening, downtown Sweet Valley. Elizabeth and Maria have the night off, so they’re going to the movies. Is it really a night off if you haven’t worked yet, Maria? [Raven: As she’s a Former Child Star, going to the movies is at best a Busman’s Holiday.] As Elizabeth walks towards the theatre, someone steps out of a doorway into her path. It’s Mr Brangwen. She asks what he’s doing there, and he changes the subject. Elizabeth thinks he’s following her. Um, I’m not saying that she’s imagining his creepiness, but “following” might be a stretch, since she made no comment of anyone walking behind her, and didn’t feel like she was being watched and then Brangwen stepped out from a doorway. Not exactly “following”.
Brangwen says that he’s glad he found her tonight, because he hasn’t seen her at work since. He has a warning.
“Be very careful! Or she’ll get you in your sleep!”
Elizabeth freaks out as the storm rages, so runs off before Brangwen can expand on how careful she needs to be. Again, I’m sure this is frightening. To have an adult male kind of fixate on you, mention your work pattern, and approach you in a raging storm while you are alone is absolutely threatening. There is no bad in Elizabeth’s decision to run. Any girl should probably do the same thing. However, it’s so badly written it comes across more that he’s trying to talk to her and she’s irritable for no reason and cuts him off mostly because she thinks Jessica calling him “the hedge police” is funny and he’s ridiculous. [Raven: I did laugh out loud at the Hedge Police line.]
Elizabeth thinks to herself that either he’s spent too much time in the hot sun or the rumours of the hauntings at the house have gotten to him over the years. But there can’t be anything to it, because otherwise why would he still work there?
Thursday evening, Karsten House. Winston has the twins in high chairs and they’re screaming. After trying dozens of things to entertain them, he realises they may be thirsty. He sets milk to heat—once he’s done idiotically considering giving them ginger ale—and of course he burns it, because he has to change the twins’ diapers (he mixes up the gender colours and says they’re probably sick of baby stereotypes anyway—I know we are, Winston).
Since the milk is burned, Winston, showing an intelligence level lower than Steven Wakefield’s, gives them soda in their bottles. One twin throws his bottle against the wall where it explodes in a wave of cola fizz.
Good god, kill me now. I hate people being stupid. I really hate it. I especially hate it when, up until this point, the character has been very intelligent. [Raven: Winston is stone cold awful in this book.] [Wing: Honestly, these kids probably should have died under his care. He flat out thought that if warm milk makes you sleepy, hot milk would be even better. Those kids are getting scalded and/or poisoned and/or dropped hard enough to break their necks.]
Thursday evening, Wakefield Compound. Mrs Riccoli calls for Alice. Jessica stays on the line under the guise of assisting since she’s seen the house too. It’s very pushing and in character for Jessica, and a nice mechanic so we didn’t have to head-hop to a non POV character. They arrange a time to talk, and Jessica offers to baby-sit for free so they can get stuff done without interruption. She wouldn’t usually offer her time for free, but she assumes she’ll get a kickback once Alice is hired. Then some background nonsense kicks off before Alice can get her address.
So, yeah. She’s still at the point where she has no idea where two of her kids work. A+
Thursday evening, Karsten House. Winston is sulking. He’s actually had to work the whole time he was paid to. What fresh hell is this? He had to bribe the kids with Cheerios and Jell-O to get them to sleep. I’m hoping the latter contains vodka shots and he’s about to be sued for child endangerment because he wouldn’t fucking listen to the parents. He gets paid $5 an hour, which Elizabeth told him is the going rate, but Winston internally grumbles that with two kids, he should get double, and… I can’t really disagree with him. Maybe not double, but maybe a little more. However, he’s a tool—Steven Wakefield levels of toolery—so I don’t care about his problems. [Wing: If Jessica and Elizabeth are only make $5/hour each for that many kids (or less per hour, depending), he’s lucky to get $5/hour for two. Logically, it should go up based on number of kids, though.]
Friday evening, Riccoli House. Elizabeth is baby-sitting for the third time this week (that’s $30 that Jessica will be stealing the minute she spots a “great-looking sweater” in Valley Fashions), this time with Todd. She is just about busting a gut over the hilarity of Todd saying he’s going to pick his college classes based on when the lessons are so he never has to get up early on a Monday ever again. Oh, shucks, Todd, you’re just a hoot and a half!
The japery is cut short by a cry from Juliana. She’s again terrified of a mean girl in her dreams. In a very badly organised paragraph that barely makes sense on a first read, Elizabeth wonders if Brangwen has the same nightmares, and has warned Juliana about them, or whether he just made it up and scared her.
A few minutes later, she recounts her fears to Todd. Todd says nobody can “get you” in your dreams. Todd things Brangwen was trying to scare both girls, Juliana, being younger, actually is scared and is having nightmares. Who knows why Brangwen is doing this, maybe he prefers the house to be empty? Todd thinks Elizabeth should have stern words with Brangwen and tell him to stop scaring Juliana.
Um, or maybe you guys could tell Juliana’s mother and she could speak to her employee about frightening her daughter? Just a thought.
(And of course they can’t do that, it will lead to the reveal that Mrs Riccoli has no gardener.) [Raven: “… … Fifty yeeaaarrsss….”]
Monday morning, Sweet Valley Middle School hallways. Charlie approaches Winston for his blackmail money. Winston only has $15. He thinks Charlie won’t notice that $10 is missing. Charlie does notice. He’ll give Winston until Wednesday, but now Winston owes him $15 instead of $10. I literally don’t care. This b-plot is so stupid. And it’s not even the worst b-plot in this series. [Raven: I hate that it’s been played for laughs.]
Monday lunch, Team Boring’s lunch table. Elizabeth whines to Amy that she can’t figure out why Juliana’s so distressed. Amy suggests they tell an adult, but Elizabeth shoots that down. Doesn’t Amy realise that Elizabeth fixes everything around here?
Elizabeth nodded. She knew she ought to discuss Juliana’s bad dreams again with her mother, but Mrs. Riccoli was always so busy. “I guess I was kind of hoping that I could solve Juliana’s problems by myself. That way I wouldn’t have to bother her again. And I feel like I’m so close to figuring it out! Remember how the gardener warned me about not closing my eyes?” Elizabeth asked, putting down her turkey sandwich.
Elizabeth thinks Brangwen is trying to scare everyone away. Amy says maybe he’s been at the house so long it feels like his, does he live on the grounds? When Elizabeth says no, Amy says that kind of shoots down her theory. Still, she’s going to give Brangwen what-for about all these silly stories. Elizabeth wants to go over there after school and tell him off. You two are incredibly uppity. Get back in your boxes.
Still, Elizabeth can’t. Alice is throwing a family dinner to celebrate getting three new jobs this week, including the Riccolis. Amy says this is a win, Alice can now drive them to and from the Riccolis.
Uh, no. First of all, do you know how much gin Alice consumes daily? It is not safe to get in a car with her. Second of all, she works part-time during school hours. She doesn’t have to bend her hours to fit your job. Third, you’re not her kid. Even if she moves mountains for her own toxic spawn, you’re not on that list, Amy, so GTFO.
Monday afternoon, Wakefield Compound. Jessica should be chopping veggies for her mom’s big dinner, but—having finally wrestled her character back from the Jamie of the week—she’s decided to shirk and to call Lila under the guise of checking her homework. Nothing happens in this scene at all, but I thought it was worth mentioning because both Lila and Jessica are perfectly in character and it’s quite nice to see.
“I started it all,” Jessica replied breezily. “I got my mother on this incredible roll just by recommending her to Mrs. Riccoli, that woman we’ve been baby-sitting for.”
“The one with the striped vinyl beanbag chairs?” Lila asked in a snooty tone.
“Right. Her,” Jessica said. “But Lila, you know, you shouldn’t judge someone just on the basis of their furniture.”
“You’re the one who told me how horrible those chairs were!” Lila protested.
Stay vapid, my darlings. This is how I love you best. [Raven: And this is the only Unicorn appearance in the entire book.] [Dove: Which is a crying shame, because in two sentences, Lila has been more engaging than Winston’s entire b-plot.]
Monday afternoon, Egbert Household. Winston takes a phone call from Mr Karsten, booking him for three hours baby-sitting tomorrow. This will generate $15, which will mean he can pay off Charlie.
The first time I read this series, I didn’t like it. Since then, I’ve read bits of the Baby-Sitters Club and now this just pisses me off. If you’re going to rip off BSC, at least let the characters interact and discuss the baby-sitting. I love the meetings.
Anyway, Charlie calls to remind Winston that he owes him $15. For fuck’s sake, Winston, just own it. Literally nobody will care. The popular kids that don’t hang out with you? They won’t care because they already know you’re a “loser”. The popular kids that do won’t find this an impossible line to cross. You strike me as the kind of dude who wears deely-boppers and tells dead baby jokes. That’ll be the line.
Monday evening, Wakefield Compound. It’s dinner time and the Wakefields are enjoying steak. Well, most of them are. Elizabeth is off in her own little world, completely thrown by the fact that she hasn’t fixed Juliana yet. Steven is obnoxious and I just want him to die. Why on earth do the Wakefields need an older brother? He’s pointless. And this scene adds nothing to the story. Wakefields eat. Thank god we found that out. How would the story work without seeing white people enjoy steak?
Monday evening, Karsten House. Winston baby-sits. Think of every “hilarious” baby-sitting skit you’ve ever seen, where the demon-powered offspring are determined to destroy everything in the house. Now imagine the worst version of that scenario, written to spec in the space of a week. That. That’s what’s happening.
Also, behold the discontinuity. The Karstens called him today (Monday) to ask him to baby-sit tomorrow (Tuesday) and yet here we are, still on Monday (it literally says it’s Monday evening in the scene after this), and he’s baby-sitting. Fuck continuity.
Monday evening, Riccoli House. Elizabeth raises the nightmares with Mrs Riccoli, and is flabbergasted to find out that Mrs Riccoli is aware that her daughter is having nightmares. Elizabeth is genuinely shocked that she’s not the only person attuned to Juliana’s needs. Arrogant little shit.
Mrs Riccoli says she’s aware and keeping an eye on the situation. Andrew went through the same nightmare process when they moved from Seattle to Sacramento. The stress manifests itself in nightmares, and with Andrew they just stopped one day.
Elizabeth grudgingly concedes that the child’s parent might have as much insight as herself, and then asks where Mr Brangwen is because she needs to have stern words with him. Mrs Riccoli says that he comes as goes as he pleases. Elizabeth decides not to mention that she really thinks Mrs Riccoli should fire her gardener and get a less scary one. [Raven: So not dead then? Okay.] [Dove: Yeah, even though I was willing to go off on how tiresome that trope is, I feel cheated that they didn’t use it.] [Wing: I’m so disappointed. I wanted a dead gardener!]
As Mrs Riccoli leaves, Elizabeth thinks to herself that she’s wrong. Juliana’s nightmares are nothing to do with the move. As soon as she locates Brangwen, she’ll put a stop to this and fix everything!
… does Elizabeth think that she’s the children’s other parent? She’s so pushy in this scene. Also, at the moment, we have literally no evidence these dreams are anything other than dreams. Nothing is happening in this boring-ass story.
Oh, kids baby-sit, but we won’t detail how their BSC rip-off business model goes, because why would anyone want to read about this?
Oh, the kids have nightmares, but we’ll say fuck all about them, because who reads a series called “Nightmare Mansion” to read about nightmares anyway?
For fuck’s sake, this book is shit. Not offensive, just boring. Meh. Dull. Beige.
SHRUGS OF INDIFFERENCE AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE!
BEHOLD THE BEIGERY OF THIS FUCKING BOOK.
IT IS TECHNICALLY SOUND BUT LITERALLY NOTHING HAPPENS.
I’M SO FUCKING BORED.
SOMEONE WRITE ME A FUCKING HAIKU ABOUT MY BOREDOM.
A cure for boredom?
Takes the edge RIGHT off.
Ah thank yew.] [Dove: *gapes* Well… thank you. It’s a better story than the one I’m recapping.]
Monday evening, Karsten House. Winston the fuckwit microwaves something in a metal bowl. I hope the resulting explosion rips his throat out. You ever see Final Destination? Something of that calibre, but obviously save the kids, because it’s not their fault they’re being baby-sat by a fucking moron.
Oh. It turns out that’s not just a metallic bowl. It’s a fucking Tiffany bowl. Yeah, he blew up the microwave with the most expensive bowl in the house. A+. I FUCKING HATE YOU STEVEN! Yes, I know this is technically Winston, but only the twat who endlessly pitches Steven’s b-plots could come up with this shit. This “hilarity” has Steven written all over it. I HATE THIS BOOK.
And insult to injury? He tries to sidle out the door while the parents are putting out the fire. What an utter waste of space. Just die.
Smash cut to seconds later. No idea why a cut was needed.
The Karstens are sitting down with Winston after having a hurried chat in the kitchen. They start nicely, the usual, he’s done a good job so far, the like him, but not checking the bowl for metal is a big deal.
“Is it?” he replies. #NotMyWinston
The privilege and asshattery inherent with those two words is making my skin itch. Yes, it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal because Microwaves are fairly expensive and were even more so back in the 80s/90s. It’s a big deal because even if a person has money, it doesn’t mean they should waste it replacing something expensive that some foolish tit broke by not thinking. It’s a big deal because worst case scenario: THERE ARE TWO BABIES IN THE HOUSE AND THE EXPLOSION COULD HAVE KNOCKED OUT WINSTON AND RESULTING FIRE COULD HAVE KILLED THE BABIES. And presumably Winston, but I literally don’t care. And it’s made all the worse by the fact the parents told him not to microwave metal and he arrogantly replied that he basically wrote the book on how to use a microwave.
I mean, for the most part, it’s just going to fuse the microwave, but if it was my kittens he was baby-sitting, you’re damned right I would imagine the worst.
He says he would never put the babies in danger, but the Karstens are understandably dubious. Winston says he’ll just get his pay and then leave. They say no, he broke their microwave.
Because Winston is basically Steven, he rages that it’s not fair, he just wants his $15 and he can’t believe they’re withholding his $15 when he did so much more damage than that to their house. What selfish assholes they are.
I also want a haiku on how Winston is Steven and they should both die.
Winston is Steven.
Their grizzly fate? Bummed to death
By Bengal tigers.
*deep bow*] [Dove: I’ve created a monster. I wonder what else he’ll do for me?]
Wednesday afternoon, Riccoli house. Alice is driving Jessica to the Riccoli house, and they are discussing how it’s totally funny that no adult in this family has the faintest clue where either of their twins works. How strange.
Jessica says it’s just around the corner, and Alice slams on the brakes in shock as Jessica points out the Riccoli house. She then talks in broken sentences, vaguely stating that she doesn’t have capacity to take on a new client, she’s not going in that house, etc.
And then Alice goes for the Parent of the Year award when she says that she’s not going in the house, but she will drop Jessica off. Like, “Only the gallopingly reckless will go into that house of death. So… best of luck, child, I’m going home!” [Wing: Dying.]
Alice, graceful as fuck, handles this situation deftly by walking Jessica to the front door, ignoring her daughter’s chat, when Mrs Riccoli offers to shake hands, Alice dead-eyes her, before running off and calling over her shoulder that Todd’s mum will pick up Jessica and Todd tonight.
Wait. Jessica and Todd?
Also, now parents are picking up kids at the end of the shift?
*shakes head* Whatevs. [Raven: I’m actually a little intrigued now.] [Wing: Oh, are we starting the boyfriend switching again? Because that was fucking adorable somehow. No, really.]
Wednesday afternoon, Egbert House. Charlie comes to collect his money, but Winston locks him in the garage. This culminates in Charlie yelling to be let out and admitting he’s scared of the dark. Winston uses this leverage to get out from under Charlie’s thumb and demand his $15 back.
Also, Winston enjoys this power play and actually understands why Charlie enjoys bullying. Which is pretty much the grossest sentence ever applied to a character I usually like. This whole arc is so Steven. This is #NotMyWinston. [Raven: Yup. Just awful.]
Thursday morning, Wakefield Compound. Over breakfast, Elizabeth spots a headline saying Brangwen has died in his sleep. She is freaked out but she doesn’t know why. [Raven: “BREAKING NEWS! 83-YEAR-OLD GARDENER DIES IN HIS SLEEP!” Jesus Christ, stop the fucking presses.] [Wing: …this was not quite what I meant when I said I wanted a dead gardener.]
I’ll tell you why, presh. Because the plot demands. That’s why fuck all is happening.
We’re one chapter from the end and can anyone tell me something that’s happened in this book that actually matters?
Thursday morning, Wakefield Compound. In the kitchen, while chopping veggies, Jessica and Alice argue over whether or not Alice freaked out. She fucking did. Jessica realises that her mother is older than her—all of those years having her described as looking like “the twins’ older sister” has clearly confused Jessica—and that she might know more about the mansion, given how freaked out she was by it.
Alice claims to know nothing. She says she doesn’t have the time to devote to the Riccoli mansion because she’s too busy with all the clients Mrs Riccoli referred to her. Jessica points out the hypocrisy of this and says what if Mrs Riccoli is so ticked off that she cuts Elizabeth and Jessica’s hours. Alice says that might be a good thing so they can concentrate on their homework. Jessica notes when you argue that hard about something, you’ve got a stake in it, and she’s going to find out what Alice’s beef is with that house. [Wing: And this is my favourite bit of the entire book. Though I did like some of the baby-sitting stuff.]
Thursday afternoon, Egbert House. The Karstens call and ask Winston to come and sit for them on Friday. The twins have been burbling his name ever since he was last over there. Winston is not keen, because:
“But—look, Winston, I know things ended on a rather unpleasant note the other night.”
Rather unpleasant? Winston thought. I worked like a dog for three hours without getting paid!
“And I’m sorry if we seemed angry with you. Well, we were angry, and maybe that’s why we overreacted. You see, we think we may have acted a little too quickly in dismissing you,” Mrs. Karsten said.
Yeah. You didn’t get paid, but you broke their fucking microwave, which costs more than $15. Grow the fuck up, you brat.
And his brattiness is rewarded. They offer him double-time.
Thursday afternoon, Wakefield Compound. Elizabeth is hunting for a baby-sitting partner. Todd says no, he was there yesterday. Amy can’t either. Elizabeth is freaking out because Mr Brangwen said not to close his eyes and then, OMG, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, he closed his eyes and THEN HE DIED, PEOPLE!
BLINKING = INSTA DEATH*
* except for all those years when he successfully slept without dying, not to mention the week or so that Juliana’s been having nightmares.
I’m so fucking bored.
Oh, apparently Juliana didn’t have a nightmare last night when Jessica and Todd were baby-sitting, so Amy’s confident that everything’s fine. She adds that at least Jessica will be there—wait. So Elizabeth was looking for a third baby-sitter?
Thursday evening, Riccoli House.
By the way, we are now on the final chapter. I’m fairly certain that the plot has to show up any minute now, because only a COMPLETE FUCKING IDIOT would write an ENTIRE BOOK WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS, just to set up the following three bloated boring as fuck books, right?
*bursts into tears*
Jessica takes Gretchen and Andrew upstairs and says she’s going to read to them, while Elizabeth stays downstairs playing Chutes and Ladders with Juliana. Elizabeth gloats that Juliana didn’t have nightmares last night, but Juliana says she stayed up all night. The kid is five. I’ve been thinking she was the oldest, but she’s not. She’s five and she stayed up all night and she plans to stay up tonight too.
Elizabeth tries to trick her into sleep, claiming you can only grow taller when you’re asleep, which I find charming… and alarmingly plausible. I’m 5’2. However, Wing’s a foot taller, and gets no more sleep than me. Maybe we need a larger sample pool. Raven sleeps like the dead and he’s short. Sorry, babe, you are. [Raven: I’m 5 foot 8. Dunno why you assumed I thought I was the fucking BFG…?] Um, how does Ostrich sleep? [Wing: Well, though he can no longer sleep in late on weekend mornings. He slept even better growing up, he says, and since he’s now 6 foot 6, that’d take a lot of sleep. (He was 6 foot 4 when we met at 13, for the record.) (I’m 5 foot 10, and I’m the second shortest of my siblings.)]
Anyway, Juliana doesn’t buy it, so Elizabeth has to come up with another offer. How would Juliana like to snooze on the sofa?
Juliana nodded eagerly. “I’m going to sleep on the couch! Like a grown-up! Yay!”
Wow. If she thinks it’s grownup to sleep on the sofa, maybe her parents’ marriage isn’t so good. Maybe there’s a reason for dad’s delay in joining them? [Wing: And here I just assumed her parents were so exhausted from work and that many kids that they fall asleep on the sofa regularly while watching tv.]
Obviously Juliana gets to sleep quickly and has a nightmare. Finally something different happens this time: there are fresh fingernail scratches over Juliana’s arms and back that she couldn’t have done herself. It’s just like Nightmare on Elm Street, if Freddy hadn’t struck until way past the 90 minute mark and Nancy just generally went to school and did homework.
Upstairs, Jessica has to locate a teddy bear. She has to go up to the next floor (as I once called it, the “upper upstairs”, since the Brits and Yanks can’t agree on how floors are numbered) searching for it. In the dark, she trips and goes flying into a wall. The plasterboard crumbles to reveal a hidden door.
Do you dare? a little voice inside her asked.
You’re Jessica Wakefield. Of course you dare, another voice replied.
[Wing: Most Jessica moment of this entire book. Possibly the entire series.]
She walks into the room, which is a child’s room covered in dust and cobwebs. Jessica wants to find a photo of the girl who had this room, reasoning that she could be this brave and not get more details—Jessica is fucking awesome, not particularly in character, but awesome—and that’s when she spots the picture of a couple of teens standing on the porch of this house.
One of those girls is Alice Wakefield. The picture is labelled Alice and Eva.
And then we hop back into italics for the final few paragraphs—very Point Horror. The girl—presumably Eva—is not happy that Jessica is poking around her things, and her retribution will be epic.
(No. She doesn’t seem to notice that the girl in her room looks exactly like her BFF in that photo in her room. It’s funny how all the Wakefields look the same but nobody notices.)
That was boring as fuck. I hate this series.
It has so much potential. Yeah, maybe Freddy Krueger doesn’t really work for a PG audience, but if I was given that prompt, I think I’d have done more with it than waste everyone’s time with Winston’s wacky hi-jinks, and keep all the dreams off screen.
This is just awful. And while I’m glad that Raven and Wing get a book each, I get the final book, which is three times the size of normal books. And given how long this one was (30k words) and how little happened, I’m dreading recapping 100k words where nothing happens.
I hate this series. HATE. LOATHE.
[Raven: This was boring. Nothing happened. Winston was a prick. There were no Unicorns. And yet I am intrigued about the Alice story… perhaps this is why she drinks so much gin? I think, as a set-up book, this was always doomed to fail. I’d have expected more action to hit a decent cliffhanger or spinetingler ending, which this doesn’t really hit. And the whole “spooky A-plot, mundane B-plot” is just fucking weird.
At first I was “oh, this is fine I guess, it’s got four whole books to tell the story so there’s space for the scenes to breathe and the dialogue to seem more realistic.” But as the story continued, and nothing really happened, it felt more like padding than design.
Still, I am looking forward to the rest. I presume it gets better. I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.]
[Wing: I quite enjoyed the baby-sitting (well, for the Riccolis), and there were some nice moments, but god, the Winston plot was horrible, and there wasn’t nearly enough horror for a nightmare miniseries. I also agree with Raven that it feels very padded, and with Dove that it feels more like a setup for the rest of the books rather than an actual story in itself. It’s like ghostie wasn’t allowed to do the scratches or Alice reveals until the end but didn’t know how to pull off any other buildup to it. Or maybe wasn’t allowed to build it up. I am looking forward to seeing where this Alice and Eva plot goes, though!]
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.