Title: The Haunted Burial Ground
Tagline: Haunted…or tricked?
Summary: The Unicorn Club is throwing the best Halloween party Sweet Valley Middle School has ever seen! Lila Fowler’s dad has lent the girls a rundown shack in the woods—a perfectly spooky place for the party.
But as the Unicorns are fixing the shack, strange and scary things happen: Ellen Riteman discovers a human skull, Jessica Wakefield gets lost in a cave full of bats, and a mysterious girl appears out of nowhere to relay ghostly warnings.
Then the twins hear that the shack was built over an ancient Native American burial ground. Could the shack really be haunted? Or are the Unicorns the victims of a terrifying Halloween trick?
Jesus fucking christ, that cover. That title. That summary. I know I went into The Unicorns Go Hawaiian expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised, but the haunted burial ground trope is even worse, and even if it turns out to be a terrifying Halloween trick (and, no lie, I expect it to be about 50/50 as to whether it is supernatural or mundane when it comes to the Super Chillers), the stereotypes are likely to be horrific and offensive.
There has been some interesting analysis as to why the trope came into existance in the 80s. Here are a couple of links to get this started: TvTropes’ Indian Burial Ground, Jana Schmieding’s Bury My Guilt in an Indian Burial Ground, AVClub’s Read This: Digging up the origins of the “Indian burial ground” trope}, Atlas Obscura’s Why Every Horror Film of the 1980s Was Built On “Indian Burial Grounds”, and Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Horror Older Than America: Whitewashing Native Tales For A Mass-Market Audience.
From Schmieding’s piece (Schmieding is a Lakota writer):
All I know, from the point of view of one Lakota Native who enjoyed The Shining as much as you did but with one eyebrow raised, is that the only “ghost stories” I’ve ever heard from my own people are that of ancestors who carry wisdom, who aim to protect, who are considered sacred and powerful, and whose manifestations as malevolent only occur when they’re not talked about. When their story isn’t told. There’s a moral here that I hope you’re grasping. When someone tells you that their house is built on an Indian Burial Ground and it makes the hair stand up on your arms, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of? Am I afraid of Indigenous people because of pop culture’s portrayal of them as unholy, spurned beasts of the underworld? Or am I afraid of my own willful ignorance of settler colonialism and modern Native issues? Am I afraid that Natives’ stories haven’t actually been told?” I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s a mix of all. But until Native filmmakers and television writers get a chance to scare the shit out of mainstream audiences with our own stories, we’re all stuck with supernatural microaggressions and embarrassingly coded displays of white guilt.
With all that in mind, here we go.
[Dove: My brain says that the Super Chillers went downhill after the covers changed, but in all honesty, maybe Christmas and Carnival Ghosts just set the bar and everything since has been hopelessly flailing at that bar ever since.
On another note, I don’t know if I’ve ever made it clear publicly, but god knows poor Wing has to patiently listen to me bitching about “the new covers” and “the geocities covers” like they’re the worst thing in the world. Every week. Every time we skype, I bring it up. So, in an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I will be creating badge-style covers for the books from now on. Well, after this we have Amy’s Secret Sister, but after that we are officially switched over to the new covers. So, without further ado, here’s my first cover creation.
I’ve done much better covers after this – this was a bitch to render and I kind of screamed and gave up at some point. Elizabeth’s hair kept pushing through her face (don’t ask), and my computer kept falling over under the weight of the background. So, while it’s not the greatest cover, stick with me, I fully intend to get much better.]
[Wing: A billion times better than the actual cover for so many reasons.]
Jessica’s riding home from Lila’s house and keeps hearing a creaking noise coming from somewhere behind her. It’s night, the road is deserted, there’s fog, and Jessica wishes that, for once, she’d listened to her mother, who offered to come pick her up or to have Steven go to Lila’s house just to ride back with Jessica. Steven squawks over this, but we all know he’d be happy with riding time with Jessica.
The creaking continues and a squeaking adds to it. When’s the last time you greased your chain and checked your tires, Wakefield? (Surprisingly from me, not euphemisms.)
Eventually, she sees a flash of something large and bulky behind her and tries to convince herself it’s just someone on a bike, but then why would they be following her since Lila’s driveway?
For that matter, when’s the last time you checked on Steven’s whereabouts?
She makes an unsignaled turn onto Elm Street, and first of all, HA to that name. Second of all, ghostie, you will never get me to believe that Jessica ever follows the rules of the road while she’s on her bike (or doing anything else, really). She would not have signalled even if she wasn’t currently afraid that someone is following her.
She goes fast, the person behind her (whom she decides is a man) goes fast; she makes lots of turns, he makes lots of turns; she speeds up again, he speeds up again and eventually gains on her.
Finally, she can look back and see him. It’s a man. A HEADLESS MAN.
Jessica’s so afraid of this that she swerves to cut across a lawn (I’m sure the homeowners will love that [Dove: I was going to say “Don’t be snobby, they might be renters,” but then I remembered it’s Sweet Valley, and as if anyone in SV can’t get a mortgage.]) and clips three metal garbage cans set out for pickup (oh, yeah, even better for the homeowner), which get in the Headless Biker’s way and give Jessica a chance to escape to her own house. She starts screaming for her parents and then the Headless Biker returns. She runs for the front door, he tries to follow her but falls over, and he’s laughing.
Because he’s Steven Wakefield, of course. Oh, and second guy. She assumes it will be Joe Howell, but no, it’s the cutest guy Jessica’s ever seen. He has dark, wavy hair and green eyes, and he’s the lead singer and guitarist for the Skeletons, a local high school party band. [Raven: Apparently, Steven was sat on Scott’s shoulders, who was riding the bike. Through the fog. LUDICROUS.]
Jessica, I’m pretty sure every new guy you meet is the cutest guy you’ve ever seen. [Dove: Literally in the last book she realised she wasn’t into high school boys and actually Aaron was her dream boy. FFS.]
Scott is the one who apologises to her. It was Steven’s idea, and he talked about how tough Jessica is. And she is, Scott says, she kept her head and did all the right things. Better than he could do for sure.
Dear god, boy, run. Run now. You don’t want to get sucked into Steven’s jealous rages.
Steven keeps laughing and making fun of her, and Jessica wants to set him on fire, but realises that won’t make her look very mature in front of Scott. Scott who calls her thirteen when he mentions his older brother made his life miserable when Scott was her age, and Jessica is all pleased. Until Steven bursts that bubble with the truth.
Scott apologises again and wants them to be friends. Jessica, of course, is completely besotted at this point because he’s cute and nice.
Despite the prank, Scott’s really only there to pick up notes from Steven from their English class about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You know, the one with the Headless Horseman. Subtle, ghostie.
Oh, ha, Alice actually sent them over to follow Jessica home because she was worried about Jessica riding in the fog. They weren’t supposed to let Jessica know that, though. On the one hand, parenting. On the other hand, kind of terrible parenting. She knows full well how Steven likes to treat Jessica.
Elizabeth’s current project is building houses with Houses for the Homeless. The middle school gives students extra credit for volunteering, but Elizabeth does it “because the work was really important to her.” Of course you do, Saint Elizabeth. [Raven: So does John Lithgow in the fourth season of Dexter. #justsaying.]
As usual, Jessica’s been borrowing her clothes and not cleaning them, including a t-shirt with a colourful Southwestern pattern on the front. Oh no. That reminds Elizabeth to ask about a girl she saw Jessica talking to at school, one who had a beaded necklace. Oh. No.
Her name’s Kala, she’s new, and her family is only staying in Sweet Valley for a month before she moves on to Los Angeles with her family. Her dad is overseas at the moment for work and Kala and her mother are staying with her mother’s sister, but, uh, this makes no sense at all. This means that poor girl will have been in at least three schools in about a month. Come the fuck on. [Dove: On the plus side, at least it means they haven’t created a character who then is never seen again after this book, like, for example, Sam Sloane and his twin, David Barton. At least one of them was going to join SVMS, and yet. But you’re right. At this point, they should just homeschool that poor girl, at least until they settle.]
Jessica waxes orgasmic about Scott, and Elizabeth reminds her that he’s in high school so she shouldn’t get carried away. Because we’ve never seen Jessica date a high school boy before. [Dove: Literally. Last. Book.]
Elizabeth then asks if Janet Howell, Highest Horn of the Unicorns, is sick because she volunteered to be a bricklayer for Houses for the Homeless but she never showed up.
Janet. Howell. Volunteered. To. Be. A. Bricklayer.
Bullshit. What that would do to her nails is but one of many reasons I will never believe this.[Raven: The Unicorns are AWFUL in this book. The Ghostie just doesn’t get them.]
And the Unicorns had an emergency meeting, anyway, because Ellen suggested the change their official club color from purple to orange and black for Halloween. Okay, first of all, purple is also a Halloween colour. Second of all, is Ellen always the one to suggest a colour change? Third of all, why the hell did they vote on it rather than tar and feather her? [Dove: Also, wasn’t orange their least favourite colour ever?]
Tuesday after school, Elizabeth dresses in “clean white painter’s overalls” over an old shirt as she gets ready to go to the construction site. Why the fuck are you working in clean white overalls?! You are twelve! You are volunteering at a construction site! You are going to get dirty.
The school is weirdly creepy now it’s basically deserted. She is timid as she walks around, and shivery, and when she hears a weird groaning sound in the hallway, she’s scared but tries to convince herself there’s a logical answer.
I love this kind of scene, something familiar made creepy because of its emptiness, someplace she loves turned strange to her.
She keeps hearing groaning and moaning and finally follows it until she finds Kala staring down in horror at Jake Hamilton, a cute seventhgrader who is currently pretending to be dying, an ax in his back. Kala looks like she’ll be sick and she starts crying; Elizabeth grumply removes the ax, showing it’s rubber, and snaps at him (and Bruce Patman and Rick Hunter, who are hiding around the corner) for scaring Kala.
She even threatens Jake with doing it for real if he doesn’t take off, spinning the Lizzie Borden nursery rhyme into this:
Lizzie Wakefield took an ax and gave Jake Hamilton forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave Bruce and Rick forty-one.
Not all that clever, really, but I did appreciate her here. [Raven: Same.]
Kala is still crying and doesn’t understand why they’d play such a terrible joke on her. Elizabeth reassures her that the boys think everyone is fair game this time of year and tells her about Steven’s trick on Jessica the day before.
Kala thought Elizabeth was Jessica, they look so much alike, I don’t care — oh, Kala’s name comes from her grandmother, who was Native American, from the Nookta tribe.
Apparently this isn’t a made-up tribe. OH. BOY. The Nootka people (note the spelling difference), now called Nuu-chah-nulth, live on and around Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, so, uh, to start with, they would likely be First Nations, not Native American, and this is just going to get worse from here, I bet. (The Smithsonian has Nootka Indian Music of the Pacific North West Coast if you want to hear a little of their music recorded in the 70s.)
Anyway, Kala’s grandmother grew up in northern California and next summer Kala and her dad are going to do a family research project to see what they can learn about their ancestors, inspired by a documentary she saw about some people in Kansas who did it. Ah, genealogy.
Kala wears her beaded necklace (blue beads) and boots and stuff in honor of her heritage. Oh no. Elizabeth thinks Kala would look Native American even without her jewelry. Oh. No. (WeRNative’s Ask Auntie talks about the danger of the whole “you don’t look Native”. Also:
There’s also an interesting photography project done by Romanian photographer Maria Sturm, You Don’t Look Native To Me.)
Elizabeth says Kala should meet Jack Whitefeather, one of the chairmen of Houses for the Homeless. Now, I’ll give Elizabeth a little credit here; she didn’t just assume that Kala and Jack would know each other, which white people often do when it comes to minority groups.
Kala loves the idea of Houses for the Homeless and joins in that very day. She, Elizabeth, and Maria Slater (HI MARIA!) paint the walls white, but they also end up covered in paint themselves, which is very cute and realistic.
There’s a group of children nearby making collages from twigs. Elizabeth explains they’re Nature Scouts and they don’t have a clubhouse or a lot of nature. Maria adds that some of the kids have spent their whole life in downtown Sweet Valley where the town shelters are.
Now come the fuck on, Sweet Valley has nature fucking everywhere in all the other books. Guess not when we need Elizabeth to be Helping the Homeless. [Dove: I call so much bullshit here. There are woods and trails around Secca Lake, not to mention the FUCKING BEACH, and the aquarium which works with wildlife, and you can bike or walk to pretty much any place in Sweet Valley. That’s just absolute fucking nonsense. Also – and this may be my Britishness coming in to play – but Nature Scouts? When I was in the Brownies and the Guides (don’t mock, I fucking loved it), if we needed to go somewhere specific, parents would carpool to get us there or we’d hire a minibus. Wait. I grew up in a rich area. Maybe I’m assuming too much. Wait. No. Sweet Valley is a rich area. I’m not. I’m bringing just the right amount of privilege into play. (And I wasn’t rich.)] [Wing: Well, if we’re willing to suspend our disbelief that poor people are actually allowed in Sweet Valley, which is a stretch, I know, then yes, it would be difficult for these Nature Scouts to have access to things they needed rides to reach because they wouldn’t be able to afford a minibus and likely their parents are working and/or don’t have cars. Sweet Valley clearly doesn’t have a robust public transit system. Still, it is difficult to believe there are actual poor neighbourhoods in Sweet Valley based on all the many books before this.] [Raven: And let’s not forget that the Sweet Valley Council would DEFINITELY tazer-herd their Homeless Problem over the border toward Big Mesa.]
(Seriously, though, Habitat for Humanity does some good work and helps train volunteers so that you can help even if you have no building experience. I’ve managed to break anything while volunteering, even, and Ostrich did a lot of work for them back in California. Highly recommend as a volunteer experience.)
Elizabeth finally gets to introduce Kala and Jack; apparently, at some point in the thirty seconds since she met Kala, she told Jack that Kala was also Native American. Okay then.
(Jack is a tall, handsome man in his forties. Wing’s just been struck how if she’d read this as a kid, she’d crush on the sixth graders, but as an adult, she wants to know more about Jack. Oh, god, I rarely feel old, but I do right the fuck now.)
Jack offers to sit down with Kala and her dad to discuss all the books and information he has about Native American history and culture. (For which tribes, though? That matters! Damn it, ghostie.) That’s a very kind of him.
Jack’s looking for Janet Howell, because apparently this is the fourth time she’s put her name on the list and not shown up. Someone has to be putting her name on there as a prank, because no, I do not believe she’s doing it herself.
…holy. shit. She is there and she’s ordering Randy Mason, Tom McKay, and Danny Jackson around as they carry loads of bricks. They tell her they can’t stack any more bricks against the wall, she says they can because she has experience after she watched her dad build a barbecue pit, they put the bricks where she says and all the bricks fall over.
NOPE. I still don’t believe this is happening. [Dove: Evil clones? Or… y’know, less evil clones, since Sweet Valley is filled with evil people?]
Kala admits that Janet said mean things to her about her necklace, and Elizabeth has her Challenge of the Book: show Kala not everyone in Sweet Valley is obnoxious and snobby.
But they are, Elizabeth. They are.
Meanwhile, Jessica runs into Scott over at the music store. They talk about her singing with a band previously, and he says she’s got a good look and if she was older, he’d try having her sing with his band.
She tells herself not to be such a spaz, and Dove and Raven covered why this is a terrible word to use in the last recap, but to, ahem, recap it here: Don’t.
Steven and Joe show up to ruin her day, but their conversation does show Jessica that he plays at all the best parties; he’s playing one on Wednesday night, Jill Hale’s birthday party, and he needed a new E string for it. Who’s having their big birthday party, with a band, on a Wednesday night?! Come on, Hale, you can do better than that.
She also learns that they don’t have any gigs booked for Halloween yet because they’re waiting for just the right offer. You smug little shit. He’s learning “Monster Ball” which is one of Jessica’s favourite songs, a duet between Johnny Buck and Melodie Powers [Dove: This is not Wing’s error, but she was Melody Power (no s) in the previous books.], two of her favourite performers. It’s about falling in love on Halloween, of course, and she takes it as a sign from Scott. Of course.
ALSO, are Buck and Powers the only two famous singers in this world? AND ALSO, I’m surprised to hear that Brooke’s mum(‘s got it going on) has dueted with Johnny Buck and Jessica didn’t kidnap him or something.
Also, no mention that Jessica, you know, knows Melodie Powers. [Dove: She doesn’t. You’re thinking of CoCo (Brooke’s mum), who can’t stop singing about hot chocolate, because branding, baby! Melody Power is the raspy singer who Jessica destroyed her voice trying to imitate.] [Wing: Oh, ha, well, excellent. That was a Wing!continuity error and not a ghostie one. I take back one judgmental point, ghostie.]
Scott says he does play middle school parties sometimes, even though Steven and Joe swear the band wouldn’t, because they take any gig that sounds hip and fun. He’s almost ready to perform “Monster Ball” as soon as he finds the right gig and girl to sing with on Halloween. Jessica volunteers as tribute, but Steven shoots her down because she’s only twelve. THAT SURE THE HELL DIDN’T STOP YOU FROM DATING A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD IN THE LAST GODDAMN BOOK.
Steven and Joe totally cunt block Jessica from talking to Scott about music, sweeping him off to get ice cream, and Jessica is furious because they interrupted her and Scott and that none of them either invited her or said good-bye.
Until Scott comes back to apologise for not saying good-bye and to tell her it was nice to see her again.
… Scott, you are far too good to spend time with Steven, get the fuck away before he infects you.
Jessica goes home and puts on one of Alice’s old dresses, a black jersey knit one that’s been stored in the girl’s old costume box up in the attic. She wants to wear it as a witch costume, and thinks it both makes her look like Melodie Powers and also at least fifteen. She tells Elizabeth about running into Scott and how she’s going to talk the Unicorns into throwing a costume party for Halloween, one cool even that the high school kids will want to come and Scott’s band will beg to play.
Elizabeth makes a bet that the Unicorns won’t go for it because they’ll think costume parties are babyish; they’ll think they’re too old and mature to dress up.
For now, maybe, but in a few short years, they’ll be in high school and having costume parties will be all the rage again. [Dove: What about Lila’s New Year’s party? Or the first Halloween in this series? Or April Fool’s Day? Or when they dressed up to sell love potions? Or… you get the point. These kids love to dress up!]
Jessica disagrees and says that she knows the Unicorns better than Elizabeth. [Raven: She certainly knows them better than the Ghostie.]
Cut to Ellen Riteman literally calling it “too babyish.” Score one for Elizabeth.
Of course, as soon as Jessica mentions “Monster Ball” suddenly some of the Unicorns are on board, including Janet. Mandy and Mary decide they need a gimmick, something that will make sure people don’t feel like big losers in their costumes. Jessica is hit with inspiration and says they’ll have the party in a haunted house.
To be perfectly honest, so far this party sounds great.
Ellen throws cold water on this when she asks what haunted house. Ellen, you are being a real Elizabeth right now. [Dove: New rule: if you can’t write Ellen, don’t. Seriously. I get upset. Bad ghostie.] Finally, Jessica comes up with the old house by the pharmacy with the peeling paint. Fowler Enterprises has it for sale, and she’s sure Lila’s dad will let them use it. You’ll note that though they’re in Lila’s house and talking about Lila’s dad, LILA doesn’t actually get to say anything until they hear her dad come home.
He says the house is too dangerous and suggests they have the party there at their home. Jessica would normally love that, but it’s not going to look haunted. He then offers to rent the whole skating rink, because Guilt Money, but then Jessica remembers an old one-story house on Sleepy Hollow Road, which is also for sale by Fowler Enterprises.
Okay, first of all, what. the. fuck. Sleepy Hollow Road? GHOSTIE YOU AREN’T EVEN TRYING TO BE SUBTLE. Second of all, how the hell does Fowler Enterprises have so many houses for sale with their peeling paint and their haunted house appearance? This is Sweet Valley where the Mercandy house is an eyesore because it’s a little rundown. Goddamn hypocrites. [Dove: Maybe all this is in the Sweet Valley slums (amusingly called Valley Heights) where Sophia’s family lives?]
Betsy and Tamara Chase (I’m pretty sure a FUCK YOU TAMARA CHASE should go here) talk about the rumours around Sleepy Hollow Road (wtf ghostie, I am never getting over this name); for one thing, a group of boys saw four skeletons walking down the road on Halloween night. Four skeletons with no heads.
So, uh, Halloween costumes then? Because we’ve certainly seen that people can dress up as headless things, JESSICA.
Mr Fowler talks about how he used to camp out there as a boy before anyone lived out there, and it was beautiful. He bought all the land so he can develop it and have people enjoy the beauty again. This is a strange mix of lovely nostalgia and rich man gentrification.
He won’t let them use that house, either, because the lot itself is a mess and he doesn’t want the liability. I mean, duh, of course not. Mary says they can clean up the property and fix the house itself now that Janet has construction experience with Houses for the Homeless.
…Fowler, you cannot seriously be considering this.
He is seriously considering it. In fact, he tells them they can do it if they clean up the lot and are good neighbours to the elderly couple on the next property and to all the animals.
Oh god. Fowler. Why. And if it’s because you want to make Lila happy but also want her to be safe, why not hire people to do the work instead of trusting the goddamn Unicorns with it?! [Raven: Absolutely ludicrous. “You can’t use this house because SAFETY. This other house, that’s functionally identical? Sure, go ahead.”]
Jessica invites them all over for a slumber party on Friday, which should go well considering Elizabeth is having Kala sleep over that night, too.
Friday night, Kala and Elizabeth are in Elizabeth’s room playing gin while the Unicorns are in the living room laughing and squealing over things. If this isn’t a pathetic split screen of the Unicorns and Team Boring, I don’t know what is.
Kala really doesn’t want to see Janet, though, because she’s been insulting Kala again at school about her jewelry. While Elizabeth says that Mandy and Mary are nice Unicorns, and Jessica too, most of the time, Jessica storms upstairs to invite them down for a Ouija board session. Ellen brought it.
Ellen, you are certainly on a roll in this book.
Kala looks wary, but Elizabeth convinces her to go downstairs because the Unicorns wouldn’t have invited them down if they didn’t want them there (yes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want them there to play tricks on them) and Ouija boards are supposed to be fun.
The board spells out STAY AWAY first, and Ellen decides they’re being warned to stay away from Sleepy Hollow because of all the evil spirits that are probably there — and oh it’s a tonne of work, too.
ELLEN. ARE YOU RIGGING THIS TO GET WHAT YOU WANT?! Ellen, you feisty girl you.
Jessica actually accuses her of this, and I am dying. Ellen swears that she didn’t push the marker around (it’s called a planchette) and that they’re being warned away, even if she really doesn’t want to do the work. Tamara and Betsy are having none of this, but Grace is getting nervous.
Elizabeth suggests they all take turns asking the board and if it spells the same thing, they’ll know that nobody pushed the marker (PLANCHETTE) around. Except you’re all supposed to be touching it, so ….
Moot point, because Janet thinks they should do a séance.
This sleepover is kind of adorable. I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true.
Even though Jessica doesn’t really believe in ghosts or spirits (DESPITE NEEDING TO SAVE ELIZABETH FROM ONE), she’s feeling nervous and she’s glad that Elizabeth and Kala joined them.
Everyone but Jessica, Elizabeth, and Kala vote to have Janet run it instead of Jessica, and things go about as well as you’d expect: cheesy as hell and kind of hilarious. Eventually Ellen starts to moan and speak in a strange voice, telling them to stay away because it’s dangerous. Jessica argues that it’s not, and Ellen tells them to, well, you have to see it for yourself:
Ellen let out a long moan, then she began to speak in a strange, high-pitched voice. “Staaay away,” she said. “It’s daaaannngerousssss.”
One by one, each girl opened an eye. Everybody at the table was peeping except for Ellen, who swayed back and forth dramatically, and Kala, whose chin continued to rest on her chest.
“It’s daaaanngerous,” Ellen moaned again.
“No, it’s not,” Jessica said.
“Pay nooooo attention to Jeeeessica,” Ellen continued in a high, whining tone. “She doesn’t caaaare if the property is hauuuunted or not—she probably just has some costume she wants to show offffff. Why should weeee do a lot of work so sheeeeee can show offffff?”
Jessica glared at Ellen suspiciously. Ellen wasn’t too bright, but every once in a while, she was annoyingly perceptive. “Who’s we?” Jessica snapped. “We the Unicorns? Or we the ghosts?”
“It’ll take hours and days to clean up that old plaaaaace,” Ellen continued to whine. “Don’t listen to Jessicaaaaa. We’ll wind up doing all the work, and Jessica will take all the creeeeeeedit.”
That did it. Ellen was too much of a faker to be believed. Jessica reached over and tickled Ellen behind the ear. Ellen let out a long, high-pitched squeal and jumped out of her chair.
“Stop it!” Ellen screeched. But Jessica kept tickling her until both girls had fallen on the floor, laughing hysterically.
“Stop it, stop it,” Ellen shrieked, trying to cover her ears.
“Faker!” Jessica accused.
Ellen let out a series of hiccups and then a fresh outbreak of giggles.
Everybody began to laugh, and all the Unicorns dove toward Ellen.
“No!” Ellen shouted. “Nooooo!” Then she broke down into hysterical laughter.
Man, Steven’s going to wish he was home for this. [Dove: As if he hasn’t got a video camera running in the corner somewhere.] [Raven: To be honest, that was probably the best part of the book.]
Meanwhile, Kala fell asleep during the séance, apparently, and doesn’t wake up even with all the Unicorn noise until Elizabeth actually shakes her awake. Kala says she feels strange, but this gets put aside when Alice comes down to shout at them for being so loud when it is so late.
Kala keeps talking about feeling strange, and Elizabeth sends her up to bed while she closes the kitchen window; there’s a cold draft blowing across them and the curtains billow. EXCEPT THE WINDOW’S ALREADY CLOSED.
The Unicorns sleep downstairs and talk about whether supernatural things ever work; Tamara says the idea that middle schoolers could contact the spirit world is ridiculous. They’re interrupted by someone screaming outside the house. They make Jessica go check it out and she finds two skeleton faces pressed against the window. [Raven: “Wanna go spy on our female classmates at a sleepover party? We can wear skeleton masks to legitimise our voyeurism!”]
Janet wails that they raised the dead, but, uh, you all know the boys are playing tricks on everyone. Steven and Joe are particularly terrible about it. What do you really think is happening here?
They start telling the Unicorns to beware, until Elizabeth comes down and ruins the prank, threatening to shoot the guys with the hose, because she’s like fifty. It’s Bruce and Rick this time, and the Unicorns immediately stop being scared and start flirting, because of course they do.
“I can’t believe these cheesy costumes scared you guys,” Rick said.
“Yeah! What made you all so jumpy?” Bruce wanted to know.
“We just thought we’d raised the dead, that’s all,” Jessica said. “Want some hot chocolate?”
Jessica, you are adorable.
The Unicorns tell the boys about their party idea and then they have another séance, prompted by Rick. Jessica wants to scare them into thinking there really will be spooks at the party to get everyone excited so that Scott’s band will want to play there. This is delightful.
Elizabeth refuses to help her pull a phony stunt, which is rich coming from her, but also glad to see a backbone, so I’m torn. She also shuts Jessica down when she tries to go through with her trick, but also talks Ellen around on the party and even negotiates them into agreeing to let the shelter kids use it for a place to play and have meetings after the party if she helps them clean up.
Uh. Yeah, that’s — that’s not really something they can agree to, Elizabeth. WTF. [Dove: *eye-roll* Yes, but if it backfires because she asked for something nobody can deliver, she can be a right martyr about it, and eventually win after some soul searching. That’s how her life goes.]
Kala comes downstairs, eyes distant and unfocused, and says that the old ones are resting and ask not to be disturbed. Bruce says that if she’s talking about the Wakefield parents, he and Rick had better leave, and no lie, that was a cute response.
Elizabeth thinks Kala is sleepwalking and takes her back up to bed; Jessica thinks she’s a big faker, too.
The next morning, Elizabeth and Jessica have breakfast with Kala and Mary. Kala doesn’t remember anything about her dreams or sleepwalking and she’s never done it before. Jessica still thinks she’s faking, but Elizabeth admits it gave her the chills, then teases Jessica about being terribly dramatic.
Monday, Elizabeth breaks the news to Jack Whitefeather that she won’t be able to work on the house for a few weeks because she thinks she can make a more worthwhile contribution by getting the Nature Scouts a clubhouse, which she actually can’t fucking do what the hell, Elizabeth?
Jack tells her they’ll get along fine without her for awhile. You mean forever, my dude.
He’s not going to be around for a bit, either, though; he’s driving out to Chicago for his brother’s wedding, leaving Beverly in charge. That’s a fun road trip with lots of beautiful things to see along the way.
Elizabeth suggests they have a big picnic out at the Sleepy Hollow Nature Scout Clubhouse when he gets back, and he’s no longer excited about it. Elizabeth doesn’t understand why because even though she knows it’s going to be developed at some point, it will be worth it to use for only a few months.
Will it, Elizabeth? WILL IT? You’re not the one who will get attached to this place, this first place where they’ve been able to do outdoor stuff in a nice place, only to have it torn away. Fuck you, Wakefield. Fuck. You.
Odds are good that she’ll talk Fowler into making it a permanent space for them, but what the fuck ever, she hasn’t even thought about that yet, so Fuck. You. Wakefield.
Jack says there are rumours about the property; Elizabeth of course thinks headless skeletons and ghosts and teases him for believing all that. He doesn’t tell her anything else about it, though, and wishes her good luck with her project.
Before she leaves, though, he asks her to tell him if she finds anything unusual.
WELP HERE WE GO.
Kala joins Elizabeth in working on the cleanup, and Elizabeth is particularly grateful because Maria Slater and Amy Sutton are too busy to help. Ooooooor it’s because Elizabeth can only manage one actual friend at a time. [Dove: Or Amy’s fed up with Elizabeth’s constant BFF-hopping, and has taken Maria Slater as a BFF for this book.]
Kala admits that she dreamed a bat flew into her room and told her to volunteer. So, uh, you decided to listen to the dream bat? They talk about dream analysis, and she says that the bat asked her who will remember her when she’s gone, what will she leave behind, and she thinks that it has to do with how they move around so often she never gets to leave her mark, and helping the kids have a clubhouse will be a way to make something that outlasts her time there.
This is actually really sad. That poor kid.
Most of the field was overgrown with weeds, but several yards back was the old shack, a dark clump of woods several yards away, and the high wooden fence that separated their own patch of ground from the property belonging to the elderly couple next door.
And, uh, the house where the party will occur? Is it really just in that old shack? Because that’s not at all what I’ve been picturing.
The one unspoiled thing they find on the property (Elizabeth’s words) is a little creek with clean water. It sounds lovely, and Kayla drinks from it, saying it tastes good. UH. Honey. Maybe don’t do that. [Dove: Uh, that didn’t work out so well for Trish in The Girl that Loved Tom Gordon.]
All the Unicorns show up except for Jessica, though Mandy says she’s actually there, she’s just off in the woods behind the shack. Janet snarks at Kala about wearing her Halloween costume year round since she’s wearing feather earrings. Which would be super popular around the time this was published and actually the Unicorns should be all over her style. [Dove: Feathers, like sheep, are in.]
Elizabeth is determined to stand up to Janet, but before she can, Jessica races out of the woods screaming about being followed by hundreds and hundreds of things. Which turn out to be bats in a cave she found. Elizabeth tries to reassure her that there are no bats following her, right up until the bats start diving at the Unicorns, including one that won’t leave Janet alone. It flies at her until she falls over into the tall weeds and then flies off. [Raven: Why is the cave left unmentioned for the rest of the book? More importantly, what are the cave’s dimensions?] [Dove: *traumatised*]
Kala whispers that she thinks it’s her fault; she was furious at Janet and pictured the bat from her dream, wishing the bat would do something to Janet, though she won’t admit what. Elizabeth isn’t sure if Kala really believes this or not, but she tries to tease her into a better mood. Kala doesn’t get any happier, but she does get to work.
A few hours into cleanup, Elizabeth is looking for more cans down by the woods when she swears she sees someone watching her from the dark overgrowth. She bends down to pick up a tin can and a huge, dark shadow passes over her head and along the ground before her, but when she looks up, there are no birds at all in the sky, much less the eagle it must have been because it was so large.
Look, vultures can get pretty big, too. Also: I saw a ton of bald eagles on a trip last year, and they are amazing. Unnecessary for this recap, but a great time for me.
Ellen screams suddenly and shouts for them all to run for their lives because there’s a bear!
It isn’t a bear, of course. It’s a shadow of a big tree stump, and apparently it’s the second time she’s been freaked out by a tree stump. This reminds me of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series (speaking of bad treatment of Indians) where Pa attacks a tall bear only for it to be a dead tree.
Jessica talks up how fun the party will be and how certain she is that the Skeletons will play even though they haven’t agreed to do so yet; Elizabeth is worried about the lengths Jessica will go to make it happen, and she probably should be. It’s the right time of year for Jessica to really lean into human sacrifices for the aesthetics of it all.
Mandy’s the next one scared; she swears she saw a shadow slip into the woods — a shadow that looked like a wolf. #NEEDSMOREWEREWOLVES
Kala whispers about shadows of the past in bears and wolves. Apparently, in her dream the bat said something about those animals being shadows from the past. The only thing missing is the eagle; Elizabeth admits she saw the shadow of an eagle.
Then it turns out that their sack lunches have been destroyed and all the food scattered in scraps. Mandy wonders if she really saw a wolf (#needsmorewerewolves), but Mary is more logical and says it was probably a dog or a raccoon because wolves haven’t been in the area in years. They still need to be careful not to get bitten by whatever it is, though.
(True about the wolves, though. Apparently the first gray wolf pack in nearly a century was found in California in 2015. They were intentionally reintroduced into California and are protected there.) [Raven: I misread the line above, and thought you were telling us about the first gay wolf pack… neat!]
Kala and Elizabeth take a break in the shade, both of them with growing headaches; Elizabeth feels like she’s being watched. As she pokes at the ground, trying to figure out what’s going on, she uncovers and arrowhead. Kala recognises it because she has a lot of them in her collection. Elizabeth decides to keep it and show Jack since he asked her to mention anything unusual. Kala points out that they’re not all that unusual, people find them all over the pace, but she does think it’s weird to find one where they are.
…why? There are native tribes on the land that is now California, too. Off the top of my head, there were several different Chumash groups, and I know there were many others, too. Come on, ghostie, at least make this believable.
Elizabeth also wants Kala to tell her if she has any more dreams.
Aaaaaand then Jessica tells the entire school about the first dream, which Elizabeth only told her because she wanted to know if Jessica had a rational explanation. Jessica. Rational explanation. Jessica. Keeping a secret. WTF Elizabeth why do you keep doing this? [Dove: It baffled me how Liz could keep talking to Jessica, and being surprised each time that Jessica blurts.]
Jessica is, of course, stirring up interest in the Monster Ball, what she’s calling the party, whether or not it’s fair to Kala. She told Caroline Pearce, gossip extraordinaire, and the story has now grown into Kala conjuring up a bat that she sicced on Janet and then conjuring up a bear and a wolf. People are calling Kala a witch (gee, here we go again) and that Sleepy Hollow Road is really haunted and — but we don’t get to hear the rest of it, because Jessica waves away all Elizabeth’s worries, including that it isn’t fair to Kala. Kala’s getting all sorts of attention now, and people are being nice to her even though they were picking on her before.
Now Elizabeth has another worry, though, when Denny and Jake are two of the guys paying attention to her, because Lila has a crush on Jake and Denny is Janet’s boyfriend, and the Unicorns will be furious if they think Kala is trying to take their guys. Uh, Ken is there, too, no thought to how Amy will react even when she’s proven just as territorial as the Unicorns? And is Janet really still dating Denny? I thought he was too busy with video games for her tastes.
It’s only taken them a few days to get all the trash off the lot, and now they are going to clear away some of the vines and creepers. Elizabeth warns them to be careful with the birds’ nests, though.
Kala turns up late because she was talking to Denny about his social studies project and lost track of time. Janet immediately snaps over at this and gives Kala shit about just dreaming she was talking to him. Kala is confused by this treatment, but again, before Elizabeth says anything to defend her, Ellen starts screaming. One of the garbage bags is moving, almost walking, and there’s a growling noise from inside.
Kala’s the one who saves her from it, leaping over and stomping on it. Shock of all shocks, it’s Jake. Most of the Unicorns snap at him for scaring them, but Mandy points out it’s dangerous to close himself up in a plastic bag because he could smother himself. On the one hand, I love you being logical and smart. On the other hand, let them smother, especially when we learn that Bruce and Rick were in two of the other garbage bags. [Dove: Remember that one book when Rick wound up Jessica, and it was great? #StillBitter]
Bags that are now apparently in the back of a garbage truck.
Everyone but Jessica and Kala take off on their bikes after the truck (Jake grabs Jessica’s and I guess Kala doesn’t have one — oh, wait, note from the future, they both come on Kala’s bike, but Kala has trouble pedaling with the two of them). Elizabeth doesn’t understand how the trash collector could have loaded two boys without realising it, why wouldn’t they make noise, oh god what if they’re being smothered and they’re unconscious, etc etc etc.
They convince the trash collectors to go through the bags because Jake swears that the guys were next to him in the bags. None of the bags have boys, though. The trash collectors are exhausted and tell them that their tricks cause hours of extra work for them to clean things up, hours that they are late getting home and seeing their families and having their dinners and tucking their kids into bed. Mr Fowler told them that the kids could be good neighbours, but clearly not. Also, the next time they have trash to be removed, they can take it five miles to the dump themselves. Fucking brats. The kids, not the workers. [Dove: I was quite gratified to see this paragraph though. In quite a few other books, the kids would have gotten a, “Well, gee, at least nobody got hurt. I’m just a poor person, so my time doesn’t matter, as long as you middle class kids are happy.” and that would have been the end of it.] [Raven: Yeah, nice work from the binmen. But the whole “let’s hide ourselves in binbags” routine is SO FUCKING DANGEROUS. I wish this had been the Book Where Bruce Patman Dies.]
They get back to the lot and oh look there are two bags left, both of them moving. Bruce and Rick are annoyed that someone moved them. After they heard the truck drive off and some yelling, they were moved. Rick even says he heard a weird voice saying that the old ones were pleased that they showed respect and cleaned up; Bruce was told to find another place to play tricks.
The boys decide it must have been Kala was talked about the old ones back at the slumber party, but Elizabeth thinks she seems truly confused by everything.
All of this makes Janet and the rest of the Unicorns want to give up. WTF, you’ve already done the bulk of the work! Quitters! Jessica talks them into keeping to the plan because she got the Skeletons to play the party. She, of course, has not, but only Elizabeth figures that out. You’d think after all the times she’s lied to them, the Unicorns wouldn’t believe her outrageous claims either.
Saturday, Kala and Elizabeth have a picnic breakfast out at the lot. Elizabeth thinks it looks great and is surprised by how good a job the Unicorns did. There’s still work to be done, mostly on the shack, but she feels positive about them getting it done — as long as Jessica can keep the Unicorns happy.
Kala invited her to breakfast alone so they can talk. She wants to know if Jessica is playing tricks on her; she knows the Unicorns think she’s weird, and she wants to know if the garbage bag thing was a way of making fun of her. Elizabeth says Jessica actually asked her if Kala was behind it the night before, and Elizabeth actually believes that Jessica doesn’t know what’s going on.
Kala feels like everything’s connected to her but she’s not sure how. She had another dream with the bat, the bear, the eagle, and the wolf. They want her to do something for the old ones and something about the lot, but she doesn’t know what. The wolf laughed at her and says she doesn’t believe, she thinks they’re shadows; the bear said they have to give her proof that they’re also visions of the future even as they are shadows of the past.
Elizabeth wonders if the old ones are the elderly couple that live next door, and Kala thinks that’s pretty logical. But is it?
Their conversation is interrupted when Joe Cartrain shows up; he’s the head contractor for Fowler Construction. They’re going to build a 20-story office tower on the land and the start date has been moved up. They can’t start any later than 2 November and they will need to tear down the shack and fifteen feet of trees before then. [Raven: Joe Cartrain? Joe fucking CARTRAIN?! Who’s up next, Billy Busbike?]
So nothing at all about people enjoying nature and just gentrifying the neighbourhood. Fowler, I’m disappointed even though I should have expected nothing less from you.
Joe reassures them that it will be a beautiful office park surrounded by trees so the employees can enjoy it. As if that’s the important detail here, JOE. He takes off, leaving Elizabeth disappointed — what, you haven’t already come up with a plan to save the day? — and Kala wondering if her dreams mean that she should do something to stop the construction. Maybe the old couple next door doesn’t want an office building next to them or maybe Fowler is forcing them off the land. She compares this to white people taking Native land and I am just — no, ghostie. NO.
Elizabeth finds a tooth. A bear tooth, Kala says, and the proof the bear mentioned in her dream.
NO GHOSTIE NO. [Dove: That really should be a new tag. And now it is.]
Kala leaves to think about everything and get some rest, leaving Elizabeth covering for Jessica with the Unicorns. They don’t much care about the office building as long as they can have their party there still, because of course. The Unicorns do not have a good time of it, really; Ellen freaks out over everything, including a dead rabbit under a pile of old plywood, which is about the only thing that really deserves a strong reaction so far. Mandy and Janet argue over what to use to reinforce the walls (Mandy says Sheetrock because it’s quick and cheap, Janet wants to use the lumber outside for reinforcement beams even though it is rotten). Elizabeth knows this fight could end up with the Unicorns quitting the project, so she starts singing “Monster Ball” until, conveniently, it comes on the radio and the Unicorns forget their fights and problems.
Elizabeth finds it spooky that the song came on the radio just when she started singing. This happens all the damn time in Sweet Valley, something happening just when a Wakefield needs it to happen, but now it’s creepy? [Dove: *eye-roll at Wing* Duh. Elizabeth knows she’s in a Super Chiller. Keep up, Wing.]
Jessica’s trying to get Scott alone so she can tell him about the party, but Joe and Steven (huh, why was that random character earlier also called Joe? Fail, ghostie [Dove: I didn’t notice an extra Joe, but we do have a “too many Peters” tag, so this is a thing in Sweet Valley. They have a finite supply of SV-approved names, perhaps?] [Raven: And yet… Cartrain.]) won’t stop hanging out with him. She spends all day following them around, skipping lunch even, until she’s exhausted and hungry.
Scott invites the guys over to try his guitar and then have a sleepover with late-night jamming. Scott, you deserve better than either of these two. Aim higher, dude! You are a rock god.
Elizabeth climbs a tree to cut a branch but then finds a bird’s nest on it, so they can’t. But as she climbs back down, she breaks the branch, the nest falls, and five little eggs crack in the dirt. UGH THIS IS SAD. Also, wtf, the mother bird simply makes distressed sounds and flies away. I GOT ATTACKED BY A BIRD WITHOUT EVEN GOING NEAR ITS DAMN NEST. Ostrich did, I got attacked, Dove and Raven laughed. It was certainly a holiday to remember. [Dove: And I made BFFs with a seagull while eyeballing Alcatraz. It was bird-heavy.]
The Unicorns crack jokes about it (I’m terrible too), and then Elizabeth learns they’re dumping the trash bags onto the neighbour’s property instead of taking them to the dump the way they should now that the trash collectors won’t come there. [Raven: The jokes about the eggs, and the hurling of the garbage into the neighbouring property… Completely appalling. These are #NotMyUnicorns.]
Elizabeth suddenly feels cold and clammy and afraid. She tells herself she doesn’t believe in ghosts or visions and that something she can’t see will hurt me. Despite, you know, nearly being killed by a goddamn ghost.
She hears someone laughing, but can’t find it, and then the noise turns more into a strange barking sound — the kind a wolf might make. Pretty sure you’re thinking more of a coyote there, but cool.
Kala shows up again that evening looking exhausted even though she napped all afternoon. The wolf gave her a message for the Unicorns, that the old ones are angry. The Unicorns, of course, laugh it off, and Elizabeth is angry they laugh at things they don’t understand. Says the girl who keeps going on about how she doesn’t believe in this shit. Fuck off, Elizabeth.
Ellen suggests the old couple next door found their garbage and are angry, but what are they going to do, throw it back at the Unicorns? Damn it, Ellen, I hate you right now. Mandy thinks they should apologise, but Lila doesn’t think they have any right to get angry since there’s a 20-foot easement between the property, so 20 feet along the fence line that doesn’t belong to the couple. Mary points out that doesn’t mean it belongs to the Unicorns, either. Uh, literally nothing here belongs to you all, and as usual, Mary and Mandy are the best of the Unicorns. Escape now, darlings. Escape now. [Dove: I know this was so Unicorn, but fuck those lazy harpies right now.]
Kala leaves them bickering and tells Elizabeth that it doesn’t really matter because they don’t believe her — and neither does Elizabeth. The wolf told her that, too, and she’s hurt that Elizabeth doesn’t. Look, you’re better off learning that Elizabeth ain’t shit sooner than later. Sorry, kid. [Dove: In her defence every newcomer to Sweet Valley probably gets a welcome pack explaining that the Wakefield twins are the centre of the universe.]
Jessica goes to Elizabeth to have her help come up with a plan to talk to Scott. Elizabeth snarks that there’s no such thing as an itty-bitty favour with Jessica, which is true and funny but not enough to make up for how terrible Elizabeth is in general. All Jessica needs is for Elizabeth to go work with the Unicorns again. Uh, so exactly the same thing you’re already doing, Elizabeth.
But it’s not for a good cause now, Elizabeth points out, because no clubhouse and no, the Monster Ball is not a good cause. Jessica gets her by saying that helping her sister is a good cause, and of course Elizabeth goes spineless again.
More Unicorn fighting the next afternoon, the work isn’t going well, and when Ellen goes to wash her hands in the clear water of the creek, she sees a human skull looking up at her. The Unicorns dismiss her because she’s pretty much the Boy Who Cried Wolf at this point, but Elizabeth goes to check it out. She nearly falls into the water before Mandy saves her. Somehow, this creek is deep enough for all this mess, including Mandy needing to hold Elizabeth’s feet while she gets the skull out of the water, but I was picturing a tiny little thing, so … description fail, ghostie. [Dove: Same here, I was expecting a few inches of water, maybe a foot wide.]
The Unicorns now think the boys are playing a prank on them, but Elizabeth says no because the trash collectors told on the boys to Mr Clark who assigned them to help collect trash every afternoon until Halloween.
Uh. Is that really a thing that would happen? Mr Clark shouldn’t really be able to punish them for things they did unrelated to school like that. Not that I think the parents would have done anything, but this really should have gone to the parents.
Janet insists they did it at night, then, and puts the Unicorns back to work. Elizabeth isn’t convinced and wants to know who the skull is and how it got into the water.
She calls to see if Jack has returned from his trip, but he’s not yet, of course.
She tries Kala next, but Kala’s sick and may not even be at school the next day, either. Elizabeth feels like she’s being watched from the dark shadows in the living room and despite her skepticism, she rushes upstairs to be closer to her family. [Raven: Erm… They found a fucking HUMAN SKULL and don’t think it’s prudent to tell someone in authority?]
Monday there are all sorts of rumours flying around SVMS about Sleepy Hollow and the shack and the skull and the party. Jessica uses it to stir up people’s interest in the party, because she is delightfully one-track sometimes, and it works well. Of course, the Unicorns are also thrilled about the Skeletons, but Jessica can’t yet admit the truth.
…and the Unicorns hung the goddamn skull on a nail in a tree. What the ever loving fuck. [Dove: You’d have thought Saint Elizabeth at least would have pointed out how disrespectful that is, but nope.]
After school, Elizabeth joins Jessica in trying to pin down Scott (figuratively, though she’d probably do it literally, too) because she has no spine. Steven and Joe are supposed to have basketball practice, but when Scott turns up, Steven is with him.
Elizabeth distracts him by telling him a lie about needing to bring home a big bag of charcoal for cooking outside. The delivery boy is out sick, she claims, and Ned will be home late so he can’t pick it up with his car. Steven says he’ll come back later, then, and Elizabeth screams that she has a terrible cramp and finally gets him to agree to pedal her home on his bike. Scott, of course, is very kind about everything.
Jessica finally gets to talk to Scott. He hasn’t even heard anything about them finding the skull out at the creek, and she fills him in on all the creepy details and then asks if he’ll play the party. He teases her that she maneuvers like someone older than thirteen, and she doesn’t dare remind him she’s only twelve.
He tells her that it might not be safe and none of the guys in the band are very brave, which is ridiculously adorable. Scott is the best part of this damn book. He’s teasing her about it, and she knows it, and comes up with a way to trap him in his own net: if she’s not afraid to go there, why would a big guy like him be afraid to go there.
He says the band will play the party if she meets two monster movie conditions (seriously, Scott, best part of Sweet Valley): she spends the entire night in the shack this Friday and she sings a song with the band at the party.
Jessica gets all the Unicorns to agree to stay the night in the shack and Elizabeth gets Amy and Maria. Kala’s still sick, per her mom. Jack still hasn’t returned, and Elizabeth is full of worry. Fuck out of here, Elizabeth.
Friday afternoon, Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria spend some time looking around the lot and find a bunch of arrowheads. Amy is logical about why they’re finding them, but Elizabeth thinks they mean something else, but she doesn’t know what.
She hits something with her spade, but before she can dig it up, the Unicorns arrive with hot dogs, marshmallows, and sodas. I am legitimately surprised that this is at least starting out like a fun sleepover that includes both the Unicorns and Team Boring + Maria. (Maria is not boring, damn it.)
Oh, look, a perfect full moon. WHERE ARE MY GODDAMN WEREWOLVES?!
They joke around some, Maria suggests they tell ghost stories, but Janet shoots that down, because they’re going to have another séance. Because the last ones went so well.
Elizabeth feels like it’s a bad idea but goes along with it anyway. Nothing happens for awhile until the wind slams open the door to the shack and blows past Elizabeth’s ear whispering believe to her.
That’s the only thing to happen, so they all go to bed. Later, Elizabeth wakes to the door slamming open again and a cloaked figure standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the moon.
It’s not a ghost! It’s not even a prank! It’s Kala!
…Kala with her eyes empty and her face expressionless and her tone flat. She brings another message from the old ones, too: stop the construction or the old ones will be very angry.
Lila argues with her but Kala walks out in the middle of her sentence. Some of them are annoyed that Kala’s playing jokes like Jessica, but Elizabeth is really shaken and wants to leave. She ends up staying, though, because of course she does.
Elizabeth stays awake the rest of the night thinking about all the things that have happened. They could all have rational explanations, mainly that someone was playing a well-plotted prank, but she doesn’t really think Kala would be a part of all of it.
Now that the sleepover is done, she heads over to Kala’s house to talk to her. She’s still not sure what they’re both believing but she does think they need to trust their instincts and each other. How magnanimous of you, Wakefield.
Kala makes a peace pipe joke, because of course the ghostie wants to write one, and we learn that Kala basically has a Native American museum in her room. Elizabeth stays for breakfast and they decide to figure out what to do next.
Jessica immediately calls Scott to tell him she spent the night, and Scott is pretty delightful about it all.
Monday afternoon, Elizabeth and Kala go over to a Fowler Construction site to talk to the foreman. If you’re going to try to have him shut down the construction, you know he’s not the one who can do it, don’t you?
Joe does say that he talked Mr Fowler into moving the shack/clubhouse to a piece of property closer to town, which is really fucking nice of him, actually. They still try to talk him into stopping the construction, as if he has that kind of control. He also points out that 230 people get benefits from the construction because of how many people it will employ and people need jobs more than vacant lots. There is some truth to that, though having access to beautiful nature spots is also important. [Dove: Gosh, if only Sweet Valley had a lake, hiking trails, a beach, something like that…]
And yet here we are with a world very literally on fire right now.
Elizabeth and Kala then go to Fowler Enterprises and tell their story to one of the security guards. Yes, because that’s the way to get in. Just tell them you’re friends with Lila and need to see him about some surprise for her. Come on now, you’re supposed to be smart, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth calls something lame, because of course she fucking does, and finally FINALLY Elizabeth mentions Lila’s name. Sure enough, that gets them headed straight upstairs. You are a bag of dicks, Elizabeth.
They’re sent to Mrs King, who at first thinks Elizabeth is Jessica, but soon Elizabeth sets her straight and tells their story. Mrs King shuts them down, of course, and says that they’re playing a prank, then sends them up to Mr Fowler.
He, at least, can tell her and Jessica apart, which is kind of surprising coming from someone who is hardly ever around his daughter, but good for him [Dove: I bet he’s sick of the sight of tweens in purple. That’s the tip-off.] [Raven: Or Mrs King clued him in.]. He shows them the plans for the office buildings and the wooded area they will preserve. When Kala mentions the old ones, he tells her the old couple next door are thrilled because he bought the land at ten times the market value. They’re retiring to Palm Springs.
I don’t even want to think how much he’s making off these office buildings if he was willing to pay that much over market for the land. Goddamn.
Elizabeth and Kala give up for the day, talk about whether they’re crazy or not (fuck out of here the both of you), and now Kala is worried that Mr Fowler will mention it to Lila and the entire school will laugh at her even more.
Kala’s still feeling sick and she says she can’t face anyone, so she probably won’t be at school and is pretty set on not going to the party, either.
Jack still isn’t back yet, but Beverly allows Elizabeth to go inside and leave a note for him. He has lots of books in the trailer he uses as a mobile office and some weird stuff with wind and a book happen until it opens on a page that has the bat, bear, eagle, and wolf on it, painted on the border around the base of a clay pot. A burial pot, the caption reads.
Oh dear lord.
Elizabeth heads out to Sleepy Hollow Road after school on Tuesday, long before the party (though it’s a school night, how late can it start?), because she wants to do some sleuthing. She digs around until she finds the thing she hit the other day and, of course, it is a Native American burial pot just like in the book.
She rushes to the Fowler house to talk to Mr Fowler, but he just left to go to Los Angeles for a business meeting. On Tuesday night? Doubtful. [Dove: AS THE PLOT DEMANDS!]
The Unicorns are getting ready in Jessica’s room. Why? Lila has so much more room for them. But this seems to be happening a lot more lately. I get that the Wakefield house is more welcoming, but still, that’s a big crowd for a not that big a room.
Janet: Dead rock star with white facepaint, red bell bottoms, fringed leather vest from the sixties, and her hair teased until it stood almost straight out. Now look, are you going hairband or hippie? Because this is mixing some shit up.
Tamara: Black cat.
Mandy: Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
Betsy: Bride of Frankenstein(‘s Monster).
Lila: Snow White.
Mary: Something that involves fake blood down her bodice.
Elizabeth tries to talk to them, because Elizabeth makes terrible choices, but finally goes off to talk to Kala instead. Kala thinks that the old ones from the dreams are the people who were here before they were, the Native Americans, and she can understand why they want construction stopped because burial grounds are sacred. (Tell that to archaeologists.) She doesn’t understand why her, though, why not someone who can do something about it like Mr Fowler.
Why, maybe because she’s part Native American and was chosen at that very first séance.
Elizabeth left a phone message for Jack, who will now definitely be back in town tomorrow, and she hopes he can help stop everything. Elizabeth tries to talk her into going to the party, but Kala says it might be disrespectful for her to go. It’s fine for the white girls, though, especially since Elizabeth should keep an eye on Jessica in case there is any danger.
The party’s going well, the Skeletons are amazing and Scott flirty, and Jessica gets to sing “The Monster Ball” with him, of course, and she sings very well. Guess the twins CAN sing.
…oh. my. god. Kala can’t come to the party because it might be seen as disrespectful but Elizabeth can totally wear traditional garb as a costume. At Kala’s suggestion. GHOSTIE WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!
I feel like I’ve linked this before, but MY CULTURE IS NOT A COSTUME: [Dove: It is sad how often Wing has to link this.]
Scott turns up the speakers, the walls start to shake, and that sends the burial pot teetering on the edge of the mantel.
You. You put the burial pot. On a mantel. Inside a rickety shack. Full of partying preteens.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. ARE. YOU. DOING. WAKEFIELD.
The pot falls and breaks, four skeletons dance in the moonlight nearby and of course everyone assumes it’s Rick, Bruce, and Jake, but nope, they’re in the party, as are Steven and Joe. The skeletons, one of them headless, approach the tree where the skull is displayed, take it, and then an eerie voice commands them to leave because their noise disturbs the old ones’ rest.
It’s Kala, of course, and then an interior reinforcement beam comes ripping away from the wall. Everyone flees as the shack tumbles down around them and collapses in a cloud of dust.
…so, uh, about the band’s gear.
Janet blames Mandy, Mandy blames Janet, Elizabeth is annoyed because the Unicorns are Unicorning — all except Jessica who is snuggling up to Scott. Which is still a Unicorn Unicorning, you judgmental dick.
Scott says the party can be moved anywhere because they got all the instruments out except the drums. UM. THAT’S A PRETTY BIG EXCEPT. Ghostie, do you know anything about — well anything?! [Raven: As an ex-drummer, I was astounded at the cavalier approach to the loss of the drumkit. Such bullshit. The Skeletons can’t be musicians if they take that so lightly.]
The party moves to Lila’s house, and Elizabeth hopes the skeletons can rest now.
On Wednesday, Kala remembers nothing about coming to the party. Jessica is thrilled with the party and how often Scott put his arm around her. And Jack and Mr Fowler are visiting the site together. They find pieces of the broken pot and piece it together to show the entire bear figure and part of the bat. Mr Fowler is amazed; he’s seen pieces like that in museums.
Jack talks about how it is a shame that this one broke — YEAH, ELIZABETH — but he bets there are a lot of others buried all over the lot. Mr Fowler is clearly waivering about this being a burial ground, and then when an eagle flies overhead, Mr Fowler is awed because he hasn’t seen one in years.
Jack says that they need to protect the eagles or they’ll be gone forever, as will the bears and bats and wolves and god, humanity is so fucking destructive with all the animals we’ve sent to extinction. Yes, I know species go extinct on their own, but we do a bang up job of making it happen faster and faster.
Anyway, Mr Fowler decides to turn the land into the Sweet Valley Nature Scout Wildlife Preserve with a proper clubhouse on one side of the fence line and lessons about the people who are buried there.
Mr Fowler if the old ones approve, the eagle returns, and Kala says they do approve and so does she.
Well okay then.
On the one hand, this is a great story about gentrification and destroying open spaces to build more things and how a town must balance development and access, etc. And finding a piece of land was a burial site does happen, and is a good reason to stop construction, so it makes sense that this is what led Mr Fowler to changing his mind. And I am actually impressed by him doing so despite the money he’ll lose, and I think his nostalgic feelings toward nature and how he experienced it are good things to grow within him (his heart grew three plant sizes).
AND THEN THERE’S THE OTHER HAND.
I can’t speak for indigenous people, and I hope I’ve linked things that elevate their voices and help you find other things to research if you want to know more. I don’t have anything more to say than the many times I went boom in the recap, so to sum up: Think about what the fuck you’re writing and whether it harms people. If you choose to go ahead with it anyway, that’s one thing, but so many of these stories do things like this without anyone even questioning whether it could possibly cause harm.
[Dove: I’m not touching the cultural appropriation and insensitivity because the links Wing provided are much more informative and understand nuance better than this far-removed Brit. But this as a story? Fine-ish – as Wing says, the story of gentrification, plus Mr Fowler’s attachment to the land when he was a boy, was fine. As a Super Chiller? Boring as fuck. Basically, the frightening things are that Kala, who is often off-screen, has illness/sleep problems and there are some shadows cast on the ground. This was not a chiller. It was also tediously boring and repetitive. Look at twins clean, look at twins freak out over shadows, look at Kala be tired, look at twins clean, look at the shadows… I’m done. It was pretty bad.] [Wing: You know, I think we saw them willingly clean more in this book than all the previous ones put together. And yet still nothing from Steven.]
[Raven: Disliked this book immensely. Insensitive beyond belief. Boring scenes with fake scares, and the supernatural element was just tedious. I really hated the way the Ghostie wrote the Unicorns, a lot of the plot made no snese, and there seemed to be little thought to the consequences of the actions taking place. I dunno… I think I might just hate the Super Chillers in general? Like, I loved the Carnival Ghost, as it was something different, but I think I just prefer the mundane stories about class elections and new girls and bake offs and slumber parties and Johnny Buck records. Sorry folks, boring I know. But I gotta be me.]