Title: Evil Elizabeth
Tagline: Who’s afraid of Elizabeth Wakefield? [Dove: Somehow, everyone and no one.]
Summary: Everyone thinks of Elizabeth Wakefield as the nice twin. That’s why she loves her Halloween mask – it’s so scary that no one can believe Elizabeth is behind it.
But her appearance isn’t the only thing that changes when Elizabeth puts on the mask – little by little it makes Elizabeth act evil… only Elizabeth doesn’t know it. It’s up to her twin sister, Jessica, to destroy the mask… before Elizabeth does something she’ll regret forever.
OMG, we’re here. WE’RE HERE! WE’RE FINALLY AT EVIL ELIZABETH.
THE TITLE LITERALLY EXPLAINS WHO SHE REALLY IS!
I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile now, although I’m now coming at it from the point of view of someone who’s feeling less hateful to Elizabeth. I still think she’s beige fucking paint, and has no hope of a career as a fiction writer, but of late her parents have both put pressure on her to be a grownup, and treated her like a kid. Her boyfriend turned into a massive himbo over Valentine’s day, and a week or so later, he nearly dated her cousin – thanks to her identical twin ruining her life.
So… I do honestly wonder if this will impact how I feel about Elizabeth and this book overall.
But for now, have a cover. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I basically copied that very famous meme.
[Raven: Best cover yet!]
Friday morning, October, the walk to school. Elizabeth is singing Halloween-themed songs to Christmas tunes, for example, Pumpkin Bells (yeah, no, that’s not a thing, Elizabeth) and O pumpkin vine. Jessica is mortified that her sister is such a tragic loser. How embarrassing, she’s so childish. [Wing: I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I agree with Elizabeth. Halloween needs more carols.]
Elizabeth points out that Jessica loves Halloween, and Jessica says that she loves the darkness of it. The murder by moonlight, the demons she gets to hook up with once a year, the blood sacrifices on holy ground. Elizabeth, on the other hand, likes wholesome things like bobbing for apples. Loser. [Wing: Jessica has clearly not thought this through. Bobbing for apples is an excellent way to kill someone.]
Elizabeth points out that Jessica was just fine with apple bobbing last year, and Jessica’s selective memory kicks in. That was ages ago. She’s much cooler now. Elizabeth starts singing again and Jessica tells her to be quiet, Aaron is walking this way (so we’re back to Aaron, are we?). Elizabeth obligingly does, even though there’s no sign of Aaron. Jessica revels in how much power she has over her twin. Having an agreeable pushover for a twin is the best thing ever.
Less so when she’s gleefully remembering all of the childish twin Halloween costumes they had, like a two-headed sea monster. Elizabeth is almost tearful when Jessica says no to dressing so childishly, and here she has a point. Elizabeth can never just look back and say, “That was adorable,” she always has to get upset that Jessica’s response is, “Yeah, but that was ages ago. And I’m going to dress as a stripper this year. I saved up for the transparent heels and everything. Well, actually, I stole your savings, but you’d have only bought something boring with it.”
Besides, Jessica doesn’t want to go as a paired costume because she wants to hold hands with her boyfriend, and not her twin. Which is fair. [Raven: If I had a twin, I’d be all over themed twinny Halloween costumes. From Day One to the Care Home. Every year without fail.]
Friday lunch, Team Boring. Team Boring (Elizabeth, Amy, Maria) manage to freestyle a Halloween tune, which is probably the most spontaneous they’ve ever been in their life. Amy even lampshades how out of character it is for her to be creative. Team Boring, unlike Jessica, love the idea of Halloween carols and suggest that Elizabeth puts them in the Sixers. [Raven: NEWS!]
Talk turns to their costumes, and Amy either recalls childish enthusiasm or acknowledges Sweet Valley time with this line:
“It’s funny – it seems like when we were little kids, we were planning back around Valentine’s Day or something, and now we put it off to the last minute.”
Elizabeth tells the others that she’s disappointed that Jessica doesn’t want to be in a paired costume with her. And here’s where I’m failing. I can’t remember what else they’ve dressed as for Halloween. This is the kind of stuff that Wing and Raven flag for me. Apparently we’ve had two Halloweens so far, The Haunted House (Jessica culturally appropriates Hawaii and goes as a hula dancer with the Unicorns, Elizabeth and Amy go as clowns together), and The Haunted Burial Ground (Elizabeth culturally appropriates Native Americans, but has the blessing of every Native American, because she is our white girl saviour). [Wing: Have we really only had two Halloweens? It feels like so many more.] [Dove: It threw me too.]
So. Um. Yeah. Thematically, cultural appropriation. But not paired costumes. The nearest to a pair was Raven suggesting in the recap of Haunted House that they go as the dead twins from The Shining.
Still, time to rewrite history, so apparently they have dressed as a pair of tennis shoes (Weeboks – is that a thing?) as well as the sea monster. Maria half-heartedly suggests they update the brand to Air Jordans, before pointing out that Jessica probably wants to hang out with her boyfriend, not her twin at a party.
Elizabeth suggests that the three of them have a themed costume. God god, woman up. Jesus Christ, Elizabeth, it’s Halloween. It’s ok to just be an individual, you know. Just because you’re a twin, doesn’t mean you must constantly be attached to another human being at all times. [Raven: I think it’s mandatory at Halloween.]
Suggestions are made for costumes: a computer, a three-way folding mirror, and finally, back to cultural appropriation: a totem pole. Yeah, no, I don’t think you should go as a concept you don’t really understand.
Amy also refuses, but that’s mostly based on Maria’s pitch that they stack up, Maria, Elizabeth on her shoulders, Amy on Elizabeth’s. Elizabeth idiotically suggests they take turns being on the bottom, but Amy points out that if the Boosters don’t do it in a cheer, there’s no sensible reason two-untrained idiots and a cheerleader could pull it off for an evening. Only she’s more polite than me.
[Wing: I’m very confused as to why Elizabeth thinks a group themed costume has to include the group being literally attached to each other. Themed costumes are great! You don’t have to tie yourselves together with phone line. You’ll come up with a solid number of trios in the near future, choose one of them!] [Raven: I was actually charmed by their ideas and their reasoning behind discarding them. It felt very real. Although if they want a theme, they should glam up and go as Nydick’s Angels.]
Friday after school, the walk to the Wakefield Compound. Incomprehensible mess of a chapter opener this one. Jessica says the last one to her house is a “rotten pumpkin”, which is very childish, given how mortified she was with Elizabeth’s antics. Next up, Lila says she can’t walk – doctor’s orders – it’s very serious though the doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong, despite the fact that Lila is a Booster. Apparently this has been going on for months, but Lila can still figure skate. Which is a brand new hobby that Lila’s always had, apparently. [Raven: Spoiler… this Li-limp bit goes ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE.]
The only saving grace is that Ellen is delightfully blundersome, so this Jamie gets her at least.
They pass another run-down house called “the old Luna place” and for some reason, Janet asks Jessica about it. Jessica says it would be a fabulous place for a Halloween party. Really? We literally did that twelve books ago. Janet is just as irritated by this as me, and Lila takes a moment to gloat that her bedroom has been re-painted three times since new year. The most recent is purple polka dots, which sounds fucking foul.
They spot Team Boring singing Hark the Trick or Treaters Sing, and Janet is furious. This probably reflects badly on the Unicorns.
Ellen blithely comments that the house is ugly, and Jessica immediately launches into a story about how the woman who lives there is a witch. Wait. No. First of all, we had this storyline in the first Halloween book. Second of all, if you’re too mature for Halloween-themed carols, then you’re too mature to believe that Hocus Pocus-esque witches are running rife in Sweet Valley.
Elizabeth points out that Jessica knows absolutely nothing about the owner of the house, and for all they know she’s really nice. Jessica decides her sister is too nice, and then she and the Unicorns run off.
Is that deliberate? Jessica is constantly saying “that’s so immature” and then being just as immature. Is the hypocrisy supposed to be funny or something? If it is, it’s not landing. If it’s not, this is bloody awful.
While Team Boring decide to walk to the Wakefield Compound, Elizabeth zones out. She thinks she sees the moon floating above the roof of the house. Amy sees a half moon, but Elizabeth says she thought she saw a full moon. Ooooh.
Friday night, Wakefield Compound. It appears that the Unicorns and Team Boring have once again joined forces for a sleepover. God I really hope this one doesn’t involve dressing up as a sleeping bag monster, to frighten a bunch of other people dressed as monsters, only to be frightened by someone dressed as a monster, only for two more people dressed as monsters to scare them. [Raven: I’m still annoyed that a sleepover doesn’t involve sleeping over.]
Lila gloats that not only is her Halloween costume going to be a fabulous figure skater, but it’s actually going to be Kelly Ireland’s actual outfit. Jessica is a bit pissed off about this, because she had wanted to dress as a figure skater. So she suggests they have a séance.
You know, that thing they do every single Super Chiller. Sigh.
Wait, no. This Jamie can write Ellen. I take it back. Maybe we just had a shaky chapter and it’ll even out now.
Elizabeth suggests they hold hands so that nobody can cheat a supernatural encounter.
“That’s not enough,” Ellen protested. “We should hold hands and feet. Or else people are going to make noises by bumping their legs when the lights are all out.” She wrapped her body into a pretzel. “See?” she asked. “Sit like this.”
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “That looks hard, Ellen,” she said. “Besides, I think it would spoil the mood. Why don’t we trust each other?”
“Trust each other?” Ellen gave her a blank look, as though she’d never heard those words before.
And what follows is equally is cute and squably as everyone is instructed to close their eyes, Janet’s bossiness kicks in, and various heckles cannot be helped. Janet instructs the spirit world to let them hear the gunshot that killed Abe Lincoln. Ellen says she heard it, and Tamara adds that she heard it too. I guess FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE, because Raven made that a thing.
Lila claims to have heard two shots. Janet heard three.
Next, Elizabeth asks if anyone was killed where the house stands. Jessica says they know nobody has, but Maria says that maybe before Sweet Valley was settled, which we all know was in 1857 – though the Spanish settlers were there in 1788. See! I knew adding that pointless information into the Jessica’s Bad Idea recap was a winner.
This time someone responds, saying they were killed where the house stands now. Elizabeth asks for a name, and the name given is Kelly Ireland. Ellen had forgotten that Kelly wasn’t dead. See! This Jamie gets her.
They try again, and this time someone says “Sisters beware! … Beware of the evil that will soon enter your lives.” Jessica peeks and sees that it’s Mandy that is speaking, but the voice does not sound like hers at all.
“Watch the rising of the moon,” the voice continued, “and watch your sister. Otherwise, your lives will end in tragedy. Beware!” Mandy’s mouth snapped shut. Her eyes were still closed.
Jessica sees the candle flame rise towards the ceiling and appear as a full moon, then it goes out. She asks if anyone saw that, and nobody saw anything, they just assume that someone blew the candle out. Jessica asks what Mandy meant by what she said, and Mandy says she doesn’t really remember. Jessica says that she and Elizabeth are the only sisters present, so the warning must be for them, but Elizabeth laughs it off and says Mandy must have been joking.
Saturday afternoon, Wakefield kitchen. Elizabeth sits at the table and tries to come up with a genius themed costume for herself, Amy and Mandy – jeez, Elizabeth, just pick something. You don’t have to be thematically identical to someone in every aspect of your life – while Steven goes on about stars and planets. He mentions that Betelgeuse is a red giant, and that’s such an obscure reference that it’s bound to be relevant. [Dove: Note from the future. Nope. Just random.] Steven is into astronomy at the moment and can’t stop sharing what he’s learned.
I… might not hate Steven if this keeps up. Sure, he’s pigging out as well, but if he’s not being an arrogant tool, that’s a good thing. If he’s actually being a bit nerdy, that’s even better. [Raven: While I like Nerdy Steven, where the hell did he come from? Complete bolt from the blue.] [Dove: Agreed, but I’ll take it over constantly-eating-not-clever Steven every single time.]
Elizabeth asks Steven if there are any stars that come in threes and he begins to tell her about Orion’s belt, but is interrupted by Jessica saying who cares, and what’s in that sandwich he’s eating. Elizabeth chastises Jessica for her rudeness, but Steven’s happy to talk food or stars, so he’s fine with it. Elizabeth brings the conversation back to her EPIC WOE about the Halloween costume angst, and Steven says most constellations need more than three stars as they need to make pictures.
Elizabeth then asks him what Luna means, and Steven says it means moon. Elizabeth asks when is the next full moon, and Steven says Halloween. This worries Elizabeth, because she definitely saw a full moon at the Luna house. [Wing: I guess this is as good a time as any to say that it’s bullshit Elizabeth didn’t know what luna meant earlier in the book. If she knows enough to know that it’s something to do with the stars, she’s going to know it’s the goddamn moon. This is Elizabeth fucking Wakefield we’re talking about.]
Then we have the weirdest cut ever. The scene ends, and we pick up in the same place, ten minutes later, explaining that Elizabeth had to go to the drugstore. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t moan about this, but Wing has kicked me so hard over lazy scene transitions over the past years that now I sort of assume that everyone knows not to be so lazy. And is frightened of Wing kicking their ass. [Wing: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀]
Jessica asks whether the moon could show up some place it shouldn’t be or would that be an “an obstacle illustion”. Steven says it would be an optical illusion, but he’s a dick about it. So’s she. She asks why the Luna house has that name, and Steven says it’s because the owners are aliens. These two are tiresome.
Saturday afternoon, the Luna House (on the way to the mall). Elizabeth is freaking out about the moon she saw. She spots an orange dog outside the Luna house. The dog drops a “gruesome” skeleton mask in front of her, and Elizabeth is creeped out by it. And she loves it.
More moon stuff I can’t even summarise, so I’ll quote:
Behind the dog an orange-yellow moon was rising, just over half full. And for a moment, Elizabeth thought the dog’s orange face looked just like the moon behind it—only larger and fuller.
She asks the dog if she can have the mask and when the dog trots away, she thinks that the mask was made for her to wear on Halloween. Fuck Amy and Maria.
Saturday afternoon, Jessica’s room. Jessica considers her options for her Halloween costume. [Raven: She decides she needs to be beautiful, and crosses out “devil” from her notebook. If none of the Sweet Valley books have a Halloween / Costume Party at which the twins are dressed as a Jessica-Devil / Elizabeth-Angel duo, then I will flip a table SO HARD it’ll land on the fucking moon.] She lands on mermaid or angel, and then falls into a delightful fantasy where Aaron is both dashing and debonair (despite Jessica not actually knowing what either of those words mean, but she read them in romance novels), and calls her “my dear”. He’ll wear a tux and tell her she’s more beautiful than Lila, and he’ll throw shade at Lila’s outfit, because Kelly Ireland wore it better, and then they’ll walk off into – actually, how is she going to walk as a mermaid?
She’s about to revise her fantasy when Elizabeth walks in wearing her mask. Jessica screams in horror, and Elizabeth is thrilled she gave her sister a scare. Elizabeth then comments that she’s glad they ditched the “stupid” and “lame” idea of the two-headed sea monster (uh, Elizabeth, it wasn’t an idea, it was a thing that happened in the past, and Jessica refused to even contemplate doing it again, but sure, you pathetically cling) because the mask is so much better.
Jessica thinks to herself that it’s just like last night, it’s Elizabeth speaking, but it doesn’t sound like her – the same as with Mandy. She doesn’t like it, so she reaches up to take the mask off her sister and Elizabeth yells at her, “Take your hands off me!” Jessica says that Elizabeth never acts like this, and Elizabeth again says the other costume would be stupid. Jessica thinks Elizabeth sounds like her on “one of my mean days” (uh, most days then, Jessica) and Jessica says it’s time to stop kidding around. Elizabeth says she’s not kidding. This mask is going to scare the life out of everyone. Then she walks off doing an evil laugh.
Ten minutes later, Jessica’s still a bit freaked, but tells herself that Elizabeth was wearing the mask and it probably muffled her voice. And this is adorable:
Jessica covered her mouth firmly with both her hands, leaving only a little air-hole. “Halloween is my favorite holiday,” she said, only it came out sounding a lot more like “Everyone eats mice except Polly May.” Or something like that. Anyway, the voice she heard was definitely not hers.
She feels better after that little experiment, but decides to check in with Steven to see if he noticed anything weird.
Steven, it appears, now has a telescope in his room – yes, we’re all thinking the same thing, no need for me to type it – and he’s very intent on Jessica taking a look through it.
I’m going to say something I have never said before and I’m pretty sure I will never say again: I’m enjoying Steven in this book. I know, I feel dirty just saying it. But he’s so enthusiastic about astronomy. I wish the characters were consistently written because this is a big brother I could get behind, he’s boring his sisters with his moon and stars talk, he’s overwhelming them with “Look at this, it’s so cool!” when they’re in his room, and he just can’t stop burbling about it. And it’s awesome. It’s such a step forward from constantly eating and making up feeble jokes or when he’s acting just as stupid as Homer Simpson because the Jamie has no idea how comedy works and thinks stupid = funny.
Jessica looks through the telescope and sees the moon and she thinks it looks beautiful. Then it starts to grow. It was a perfectly normal half-moon to begin with, but as she watches, it swells to full. She mentions it to Steven, but then it goes back to normal.
“But, um, just out of curiosity, you’re sure the moon can’t go from part full to all full just like that?” She snapped her fingers.
Steven laughed. “Of course not. Weren’t you listening when I explained that to Elizabeth today?”
“Not really,” Jessica said truthfully.
“Right. I should have figured,” Steven said. “OK. Well, the moon orbits the earth, so sometimes it’s on the same side of the earth as the sun and sometimes it isn’t…”
Jessica sighed and sat down on Steven’s bed. It was beginning to look as if she might be there for quite some time.
Now that is a (non-creepy) interaction between Steven and Jessica. Could we have more of that please? [Raven: I dunno… that last line, out of context, could be pretty fucking creepy.]
There’s a scene break, so I can only assume that Jessica got a full lesson on how the moon works. Then she moves on to Elizabeth’s room. Elizabeth is not wearing the mask, but it’s sitting on the bed. Jessica thinks it looks even more disgusting than she remembered it. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is fucking elated. Best Halloween ever, amiright? She tells Jessica of how she came to own the mask, and Jessica – in a moment of pure “which twin am I?” – suggests she try to return the mask to its actual owner. Elizabeth does not take that well, and stands firm when Jessica makes several suggestions, like it belongs to the dog’s owner, or the dog grabbed it off a porch, and Elizabeth should just leave it on the fence of the Luna place.
She ends the conversation with “See you later, alligator,” and Elizabeth does not fill in the answer. This is apparently a thing they do in this particular continuity, so it’s out of character for Elizabeth to just “girl, bye” her instead.
Elizabeth is now stroking the mask.
Jessica walks away noting that it’s a bit weird that she’s now the virtuous twin.
Though the house wasn’t at all cold, Jessica shivered.
It’s like Elizabeth’s becoming—the worst parts of me.
Sunday evening, Wakefield kitchen. The Wakefields are assembled ready for dinner, but Elizabeth is keeping them waiting. There is a bit of back and forth as Steven bellows for Elizabeth to join them in between giving Jessica an overview of a lunar eclipse as one is due to take place on Halloween. He uses the condiments to display how it all works, which is another adorable detail. Fuck me, I like Steven in this book. I hate myself. [Wing: You’re not alone. I’ll admit, the odds were stacked in his favour as soon as astronomy became his big love in this book, but he’s nerdy and kind of funny and has some entertaining exchanges with Jessica and is willing to help and believe things that are well outside his experiences in the world (he’s not the one who has been involved in all these ghost stories, after all), and I could get used to a Steven like this.]
Eventually Elizabeth comes downstairs and she’s wearing the mask. Alice, off her tits on gin again, says that she forgot to bring in the lasagne. To dinner. Get it together, Alice, for fuck’s sake. Jessica glances at Elizabeth, because this is her cue to do the saintly thing. Elizabeth sits down. Jessica instead grabs the lasagne and as she returns to the table, Elizabeth sticks out her foot and trips Jessica, causing the lasagne to splatter all over the floor.
Steven suggests they get the vacuum to clean up the mess – and I guess this is why Steven doesn’t do indoor chores. Or Wing is about to tell us Brits that Americans have vacuums that are capable of sucking up pasta, meat and gooey cheesy tomato sauce? [Wing: I wouldn’t know, I don’t vacuum. I don’t make the lines straight enough for Ostrich. I’m going to say a wet vac maybe could, but not a normal household vacuum. I’d ask Ostrich, but he’s not in the house right now.] [Raven: Isn’t a dog basically a Lasagna Vacuum?] [Dove: They don’t get a dog until Sweet Valley High though.]
Ned fetches paper towels, Alice gazes at the wall in confusion, Steven asks Jessica if she’s ok, and Elizabeth laughs her head off.
Sunday evening, the Sutton household. Maria has pitched a winning themed costume: a tricycle. They will rollerblade and build a frame that ties them together. And here’s the kicker, instead of saying “trick or treat” they’re going to say “trike or treat”. It’s comedy gold. Amy declares they need to pitch this to Elizabeth right now.
It’s a very short conversation.
“I know what a tricycle is,” Elizabeth jeered. “Have you gone completely out of your tree, or what? Of all the stupid, immature, and pathetic ideas for a Halloween costume, this one takes the prize.”
Amy’s chest tightened. “But Elizabeth—”
“But Elizabeth,” Elizabeth said mimicking her. “Why don’t we all dress up as high chairs while we’re at it? Get out of my life, Amy. Just get out of my life!” There was a click. Amy shook her head and hung up.
I mean, we’ve all wanted to say that to Amy in the past, but there were so many better times to tell her to strongly do one. Even I’m feeling a bit sorry for Amy here. [Raven: I wish Elizabeth’s “evil” was a little more subtle. It’s all very cape-swirly-mustache-twirly nonsense.]
Amy reports the exchange to Maria and they agree that it sounds nothing like Elizabeth, so it was probably Jessica playing a joke. Maria calls back and gets through to Alice. She asks which twin just spoke to Amy and Alice verifies it was Elizabeth. She and Maria are baffled. Saint Elizabeth would never behave this way.
Sunday evening, Elizabeth’s room. Elizabeth’s ear hurts, as if a phone was pressing against it, but she knows she hasn’t spoken to anyone on the phone all day. (Really? How sensitive are Elizabeth’s ears? She was on the call for two sentences.) [Raven: Maybe she pushed it hard to her head so she could hear through the mask?]
Jessica comes in and checks that Elizabeth isn’t mad at her, listing off reasons why she might be (ice cream on Elizabeth’s sweater, lost hairbands, being mean about the woman from the Luna house). Elizabeth says no, she’s not mad. Jessica hugs her and says she’s so glad that Elizabeth is back.
You know, it would be nice if this one followed on from Carnival Ghost, and Elizabeth was often under attack from the ghostly world, and Jessica had to keep fighting for her. That’s going to be my headcannon now. [Wing: #headcanonaccepted] [Raven: Yeah, day 1 is Christmas then day 2 is Halloween. Sounds legit for this series.] [Dove: Most people on the planet have forgotten how time works. It’s been 23 March for the past 48 days. Sweet Valley predicted the future.]
As Jessica walks away, feeling pleased with the outcome, she glances back. Elizabeth is wearing the mask again. It winks at her.
Monday morning, Wakefield house. Jessica is trying to get everything together, when Elizabeth points out that Jessica doesn’t have her backpack. Jessica runs around trying to find her backpack. When she returns to the hallway, Elizabeth is gone. Steven says that she just put the mask on and left. How very evil.
Jessica chases after Elizabeth and trips just as she catches up with her. Jessica grabs Elizabeth for support, and immediately apologises. Elizabeth says that Jessica is a klutz, worse than Amy Sutton. Jessica is shocked that Elizabeth is being mean about her best friend, and Elizabeth throws out a few more insults and strides off.
Monday lunchtime, Team Boring’s lunch table. Elizabeth joins Amy and Maria for lunch and is baffled by their stilted behaviour. They realise that it must have been Jessica pulling a prank, and all is forgiven. Well, Elizabeth is both angry and upset with Jessica for doing such a mean thing and she’s going to give that bitch what-for after school.
Jessica sees her sister looking happy with Team Boring and decides to go over and see her twin while she’s not wearing the mask. She does not get a good reception. They tell her to get lost and do that so bitchy thing that tweens and teens are so good at when they’re cross, “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not telling you!” God, my t(w)een years were just a constant of that. One time my friends ignored/harassed me for a month, refusing to explain why. I was so depressed my mum even rang one of their parents because my behaviour was so alarming to her, and still I got no explanation for what I’d done wrong. Then one day, out of nowhere, it was back to business as usual. I never found out what I did, and a few months later I plucked up the courage to ask what I did, and got told, “Oh, yeah, I forgot, but I didn’t want to back down, because I knew I was right. I knew I’d just know when it was time to forgive you.”
Tweens can be nasty little harpies. [Raven: What the actual fuck?!]
Jessica walks off in confusion, and Team Boring are delighted with their victory. Elizabeth, however, is confused that Jessica seemed so utterly unaware of the terrible thing she had done. Maria goes a step forward, suggesting that Jessica had taken Mandy’s words at the slumber party (“A great evil will turn a friend into an enemy”) literally so that the prediction would come true. Which is weird logic, but ok, Maria, you do you.
Next they pitch the great idea of a tricycle, and Elizabeth hedges, she wants to wear her mask. Maria says “Why not both?” and Elizabeth agrees, but she knows that nothing will be ask cool as her mask. [Raven: Okay, so I know it’s a supernatural tie, but all I can see is a stinky shit-spackled rubber mask covered in dog slobber.]
Monday, after school. Jessica is outside waiting for Elizabeth and giving herself a pep-talk on how to deal with the situation. Mandy comes up behind her and assumes she’s talking about Janet or Lila, who are being particularly trying at the moment. Jessica explains that actually, Elizabeth is the problem. It goes precisely as you would imagine, given that Saint Elizabeth is the beating heart of all that is good and pure in Sweet Valley.
“Elizabeth?” Mandy tilted her head to the side and stared hard at Jessica. “Elizabeth’s the one you were talking about?”
Jessica nodded. “She’s acting kind of—well, kind of rotten.”
Mandy snorted. “Elizabeth? Rotten? I’ve got to see this.”
“I’m not kidding,” Jessica said sternly. “It’s like she’s—she’s—” She groped for the right word. “It’s like she’s something evil.”
“Evil?” Mandy put her hands on her hips. “We are talking about Elizabeth, aren’t we?”
Jessica remembers Mandy’s words at the séance, but Mandy says she doesn’t remember, and runs off without a backwards glance.
Jessica catches up with Elizabeth, who is wearing the mask. Elizabeth is mean to Jessica – and this is where the PG rating hurts this book, or maybe the Jamie just isn’t really good at writing mean, because it’s really feeble mean. Elizabeth points out that “Unicorn” is a stupid name for a club, and says that the reason she’s not with her friends is because they’re having a meeting without her. It’s kind of feeble. I’d be happier with some proper gaslighting. Instead of the brute strength approach (“Your club is stupid and nobody likes you, loser.”) I’d rather see small spiteful pushes (“Oh, I thought you were with Lila? Didn’t I just see a herd of Unicorns heading to Casey’s? Pretty much all of them. Why didn’t you go?”) although I suppose it would be harder to demonstrate that Elizabeth was being spiteful because it would be a slower burn to that payoff. [Wing: It would help with the pacing of the book, though. I know this all happens across a week, basically, but it is weirdly rushed, and it would benefit from a little bit of a slower build. I agree that the all ages rating really cuts the legs out from under a setup like this. It’s not the same without some real cruelty to it, especially because to get past the standard Unicorn level of cruelty Elizabeth has to become cartoonish with it.] [Raven: Yup. It’s all “mask off laa laa, mask on EVIL LAUGH” with no shades of grey.]
Jessica can see Elizabeth’s eyes through the mask, but it doesn’t feel like Elizabeth, so she rips the mask off and tosses it to the side. Elizabeth’s first reaction is anger, then she softens and asks Jessica what’s wrong. Jessica says Elizabeth was really mean, and please never call Jessica a loser again. Elizabeth doesn’t even remember calling her a loser.
Jessica says why don’t they go home and make cookies. Elizabeth pauses to pick up the mask. She sees the moon in the sky again, but it’s full and blood red now. She remembers the warning to watch her sister. She thinks to herself that she’s trying, but she doesn’t even know if she’s doing it right.
Monday afternoon, Steven’s room. Steven thinks he’s going to be famous. He’s imagining himself receiving the Nobel Prize for noticing that the moon is red. He later concedes that he probably won’t get the Nobel Prize, but he might get extra marks in class for noticing that the moon is red-red, not orange or white like the charts say it should be.
Jessica asks to speak to him and the Steven that I’ve come to know and hate returns for this conversation. She tries to ask a question and each time he cuts her off, then tells her that if she’s got nothing of use to say, get out because he’s got homework. Jessica asks if the moon is usually blood red, and Steven is surprised she’s noticed. Not wanting to share the glory of his findings, he says yeah, totes normal. Jessica is relieved by that and asks if he’s noticed anything different about Elizabeth. He says no, too busy with astronomy. She leaves and he wonders to himself what on earth has made the moon so red.
[Wing: You left out a part that was somehow both incest-is-best Steven and still adorable!
“Let me guess,” Steven said. “You’re madly in love with a boy who’s not as perfect as I am and you want to know how to fall out of love with him.”
Jessica shook her head. “No.”
Oh, Steven.] [Raven: Yup. Literal incest.] [Dove: Wow. How did I miss that?]
Monday afternoon, Wakefield house. Jessica returns from the mall with everything required to carve pumpkins. She considers herself too mature for such things, but if it makes Elizabeth happy, she’ll do it. She sets out the newspaper and decides that Elizabeth can have the plumpest and most healthy pumpkin and she’ll take the one with the mushy spot. And she probably won’t tell Janet what she’s doing. She’s even willing to sing Elizabeth’s silly Halloween songs.
Elizabeth walks in and tells Jessica that carving pumpkins is lame, immature and pathetic – and as a bonus, the song on the radio is childish too. Jeez, Elizabeth. Chill. Elizabeth then storms out, calling over her shoulder to not wait up, since six-thirty is past her bedtime.
Jessica channels her pain into her art and creates a crying pumpkin, which is both dramatic and adorable of her. She takes it outside into the dark and decides to light a candle to cheer herself. The result looks like a full moon, which Jessica is just sick of seeing at the moment.
A voice calls out to her and it’s Elizabeth, sans mask. Elizabeth is upset that Jessica heartlessly carved her pumpkin without her. Jessica realises that Elizabeth doesn’t even remember their conversation while wearing the mask. Jessica ends up apologising for her behaviour. She uses their reconciliation hug to steal the mask from Elizabeth’s pocket. She suggests Elizabeth go and rest, and she’ll bring up dinner to her, since the rest of the Wakefields are out.
Jessica helps her sister into bed, then hides the mask under the pile of newspapers waiting to be recycled. Everything’ll be fine now.
An hour later, Jessica brings up a tray of food – chicken soup and a PB&J sandwich [Wing: That sounds like a disgusting combination.] – where she finds Elizabeth sitting at her desk. Wearing the mask. Jessica screams, drops the tray and flees the house.
To quote Xander: when scary things get scared? Never a good sign.
Jessica runs until she runs out of energy. She leans against a fence and has a good old cry. She decides that she must go home and she has two options: if Elizabeth is wearing the mask, she’ll lock herself in her room, play music really loudly, and ignore her sister until the parents get home. If she’s not wearing the mask, Jessica will steal it and…
Well, she doesn’t want to touch it. But she will. If she buries it, Elizabeth will just dig it up. If she flushes it she’ll just back up the pipes. So the next logical step is…
“Then I’ll eat it,” Jessica promised herself with a shiver.
She sets out for home and touches something warm and furry. She screams.
(This is fair. I can’t see Jessica as someone who approves of furries.) [Raven: I dunno… what about this guy?
Monday evening, Slater household. Maria is pushing the tricycle costume idea. She needs the OK from the centre of the world, Elizabeth. She calls the Wakefield compound. I don’t know why answerphone messages are only a thing in the Super Editions, but damn, we need more:
Maria punched in the Wakefields’ number. The phone rang four times, and the answering machine clicked on. “This is the Wakefield residence,” Jessica’s voice said perkily. “We’re sorry that no one is here to answer your call, but if you leave your name and a very short message after the beep, we’ll get back to you.” There was a pause but no beep. “Except if you’re a really cute guy,” Jessica’s voice went on. “Then you can leave as long a message as you like!” The beep sounded.
Maria witters for a bit hoping someone will pick up – hey kids, yeah, this used to be a thing, you could interrupt voicemail, magic, eh? And, as a bonus, sometimes it would tape your conversation, not as a feature, as a random glitch. But only 15 minutes, because that was the maximum the tape could hold.
An angry voice picks up and Maria assumes its Jessica. Elizabeth corrects her quickly and Maria gasps in horror at being called… brace yourselves… an idiot.
Monday evening, random street in Sweet Valley. Jessica spots a dog – the dog, in fact, the one that gave Elizabeth the mask. Jessica can’t remember if you’re supposed to stretch your hand out to a dog or keep them behind your back, so she does one stretched out, one behind her back.
The dog trots off, then stops and looks at her, as if he wants her to follow.
“You’re totally nuts if you think I’m going to do that,” Jessica informed it. “After what you did to my sister? What do you want to give me, a pair of ruby slippers that will turn my feet evil?” But before she realized what she was doing, Jessica had started to follow the dog.
The sass in this is pretty strong.
[Wing: I believe you mean a pair of red pointe shoes, Jessica, that will adhere to your feet and then cause you to dance to death. Or die in other terrible ways, per the ballet and movie.] [Dove: As the ballet star she is, you’d think she’d know that one.]
The dog looks at her again, and his face looks like a moon, which I literally cannot picture beyond Moon Face from the Faraway Tree books. But this convinces Jessica to follow, so win?
The dog leads her to the Luna place. It led the way confidently, which Jessica takes to mean that the dog lives here. [Raven: You’d think she’d at least MENTION she hates dogs…]
Monday evening, Slater household. Elizabeth continues to be PG mean to Maria, calling her an idiot and spelling “please” to her (*shrugs* mean Elizabeth is feeble) and tells her to get off the phone because Betsy Martin might call. Maria knows that Betsy Martin is super mean, even the Unicorns don’t like her. And, for the information of my fellow recappers, she’s a turbo slut in Sweet Valley High, which means she’s evil, obv. And that’s Sweet Valley sluttiness, so she does a lot of hand-holding. That whore.
I don’t actually know when Elizabeth met Betsy Martin, so… I don’t know, is her meanness like the bat signal? Betsy will look up to the sky and think, “Oh, Elizabeth has gone evil? Nice. I’ll call her, even though we’ve literally never interacted because I’ve never been mentioned in SVT before.” [Raven: … … …
Monday evening, the Luna house. Jessica doesn’t want to go inside, but eventually her body just kind of takes over. It’s dark, dusty and crumbling inside. She’s frightened, and she spots a crescent moon (an actual moon? A decoration? Who knows?) and then a hand clamps over her mouth.
She fights her way free, and a woman tells her to hush and not wake up the whole neighbourhood. I’m thinking she could have avoided the screams by not grabbing and gagging Jessica, and instead gently introducing herself.
She’s called Corrina Black and she has long black hair hanging past her waist. Ah-ha! Just like Nora Mercandy, the witch! But Jessica does concede that Corrina looks more friendly than an evil witch.
Side note: I can’t get Shallow Boy out of my head every time I see her name. (“You thought Alanis held a grudge? Wait until you hear Corrina!”)
They settle for a chat in the living room, which is covered in dust. Corrina admits she hasn’t vacuumed in years. She offers Jessica a drink and Jessica refuses even though she really wants one – good girl, do not take food or drink from strangers. She asks again and Jessica says yes. Sigh. The first time I read this, I was convinced that Jessica would be drugged. Don’t go down that route, you’ll be disappointed.
While Corrina fetches the drinks, Jessica looks around. She sees some portraits and assumes based on their dress that they are Corrina’s ancestors. One, however, looks like Elizabeth. Or her. Jessica wonders if the girl is related to them, since everyone who looks like a Wakefield is a Wakefield.
The final portrait is of Corrina when she was Jessica’s age. It’s covered in dust, and Jessica wonders how old the picture is since it and the frame look ancient.
Corrina returns with an iced tea (in a sealed bottle, I guess yay for safety?) for Jessica and confirms the pictures are of her family, parents, sister, her. Jessica asks about the crescent moon symbol that’s in various places in the house. Corrina says it’s a storyteller’s symbol and is recognised all over the world. (Wing? I feel like if anyone in the recap group knows about this, it’s the one who howls at the moon) [Wing: I have never heard of this in my long, moon-loving life.]
Jessica asks if Corrina has a story, and Corrina says she thinks Jessica is the one with the story. Jessica wants to tell her everything, she seems kind and wise. So she starts talking.
When she’s done, Corrina is upset. She says the mask has been buried for 40 years. [Wing: Which means that Corrina is, what, 52? And yet “older than any living person ought to be” per Jessica. Ouch, Wakefield. Ouch.] It carries a deadly curse, and it’s beyond Corrina’s powers. (Thank god we have a Wakefield on the case then!) Jessica says she’ll steal the mask again and take it far away. Corrina expresses doubt. Maybe it’s possible, but if the mask is worn long enough, it will consume the wearer, and destroying the mask won’t help.
Jessica asks if there’s still time, and Corrina thinks they have a few more days before it fully takes hold of Elizabeth.
Jessica’s mind reeled. Cut it into tiny pieces. Feed if to the neighbor’s dog. Take it to the post office and mail it to Siberia. Something. Anything!
I love that Jessica’s plans have consistently involved someone eating this damned mask. A+ for weird, Jess.
Jessica gets ready to rush off to – well, she’s not sure yet, but haste is key – but Corrina gives her one more piece of advice. If Elizabeth wears the mask during the full moon it will hasten the possession. [Wing: Well, during the rising of the moon over the next few days, at least.]
Monday evening, Wakefield Compound. Jessica gets home and sneaks into Elizabeth’s room. After some quiet rummaging – Jessica’s natural talent in stealing her sister’s things must be coming in handy here – she spots the mask under Elizabeth’s pillow. Unfortunately Elizabeth is also clutching the mask and won’t let go. While Jessica tries to pry it loose, Elizabeth mumbles, “the moon, the moon” in her sleep. Jessica has to admit defeat.
Probably wise. Something tells me Elizabeth would literally cut a bitch for waking her at the moment.
Monday night/Tuesday early morning, Jessica’s dreamscape. Jessica dreams of being in Corrina’s house, searching for something but she doesn’t know what. She sees Corrina standing inside the picture frame. She looks very sad. She sees the picture of Corrina’s sister, who morphs into Elizabeth. Elizabeth begs Jessica for help.
Jessica wakes up only to find the real Elizabeth by her bed, red-eyed as if she’s been crying. She doesn’t know what’s wrong, but she feels… weird. Jessica reassures her, and offers to put her back to bed, thinking she can steal the mask, but Elizabeth immediately puts herself to bed.
Tuesday morning, Wakefield kitchen. Steven explains the moon to Jessica [Raven: “When you are the moon…”]. She doesn’t get it. And she doesn’t care. Nobody does. Elizabeth walks in and Steven thinks she’ll patiently listen, but she snaps at him, then dumps all the cereal boxes on the floor, she then overflows her bowl with cereal and tears his head off when he points out that she’s making a mess. He tells her to cheer up, it’s only three days until Halloween. (“Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Three more days to Halloween. Siiiiiil-ver Shamrock!” – EPILEPSY WARNING FOR FLASHING IMAGES)
“Oh, I’m psyched, all right,” Elizabeth agreed, a glint in her eye. “I’m real psyched.” She fixed Jessica with a look—and then she laughed.
Steven winced. He’d never heard Elizabeth laugh like that before—it felt like spiders crawling down his backbone. He realized he’d heard a laugh a lot like that somewhere before. It belonged to a mean girl in his sisters’ grade. “You know, you sound a lot like Betsy Martin,” Steven told her.
Elizabeth’s face hardened. “You better not say anything against Betsy,” she warned, her voice low. “Nothing, understand?” She drew her finger quickly across her throat. Then, without a word, she grabbed her backpack and flounced out the door.
… kay. Two things:
- Did Steven just liken Elizabeth’s behaviour to Betsy’s based on a laugh? (Also, how does he know Betsy at this point? No spoilers for Wing and Raven, SVH readers, ok?)
- Elizabeth really did just threaten to cut a bitch, right? We all saw that, right? [Wing: Yeah she did, and it’s interesting that even “evil” Elizabeth has this kind of loyalty to someone.]
He turns to Jessica for an explanation, but she’s got nothing. Jessica then asks when the moon will rise today and he’s pleased to help. Just after four. [Wing: WRONG. I checked the time of moonrise in Los Angeles on 27 October for several years around 1995 and the closest to 4 p.m. it rose was 4:28 p.m. in 1993. Which was a Wednesday, not a Monday. For that matter, Halloween did not have a full moon any time in the 1990s. The most recent one was 1974. (The next one will be this year, 2020! I AM EXCITED.) So basically I’ve talked myself back around, and if they’re making up a full moon schedule to fit the story, I guess they can make up moonrise times as well. I guess.] [Dove: I knew sooner or later, Wing would bring facts to the table.]
Tuesday lunchtime, Team Boring’s lunch table. Amy and Maria discuss the lunch food, then talk turns to Elizabeth. Maria fills Amy in on the nasty conversation. Amy wonders if it’s Jessica again, but Maria says it’s not like Jessica to keep on doing something. (Uh, ask Lois about fat-shaming. Jessica’s been on it like a car bonnet since book 1.) Amy counters it’s even less like Elizabeth, so must be Jessica.
Elizabeth approaches, so they quickly greet her. Elizabeth has five pieces of cake on her tray. Apparently evil = cake. [Wing: Terrible cake at that.] Elizabeth snarls that she doesn’t need a bunch of goodie-goodies and sits with Betsy Martin instead.
They decide that it can’t be Elizabeth, it must be Jessica and it’s time to tell her to stop being a dick. They approach, Elizabeth tells them to fuck off, Betsy Martin agrees, and Elizabeth clarifies that if they’re looking for Jessica, she’s hanging with “the other babies who play clubhouse”. Jessica is indeed at the Unicorner. She’s staring sadly at Elizabeth.
Tuesday lunch, somewhere in Sweet Valley Middle School. Jessica is having a shit day. All day people are raising their grievances about Elizabeth with her. In quick succession, she is accosted by Todd, Mr Bowman (surely that’s not appropriate) and Janet.
Tuesday after school, the mean streets of Sweet Valley. Jessica follows Elizabeth, who is with Betsy Martin and her crowd. They are walking with linked arms, taking up the whole pavement and forcing other people into the road. They are also yelling “Oink!” at Jessica and calling her fat. Also, Elizabeth looks like a car wreck, her clothes are old and don’t fit right. How strange, I thought everything fits a Wakefield twin?
The group circles an old man waiting for the bus.
[Wing: This is very possessed-by-hyenas of them.]
Jessica tells them to leave him alone. She gets told off for her troubles, but the moon is up and Elizabeth wasn’t wearing the mask when it rose, so that’s a small win. A loss, however, is what a nightmare Elizabeth is even without the mask now.
Tuesday, 8pm, the Luna house. Jessica stops by the Luna house, but can’t get in. There is a solid wall where she was certain there was a door before. She decides to knock on the wall, but there’s no answer. She’s interrupted by Betsy and co, who are armed with eggs and shaving foam. The pelt the houses and cars around them on the street. Elizabeth suggests they knock over Corrina’s fence which they do – loudly – and it calls the attention of the neighbours.
One neighbour tells them to fuck off and Elizabeth throws a roll out toilet roll at that woman’s house, where it gets caught in the tree. The woman calls them hooligans, and Elizabeth yells back – completely senselessly – “Takes one to know one!” I… I don’t even know what Elizabeth means with that. Then again, most of what evil Elizabeth has said so far has been feeble and pointless, so it’s at least consistent.
Jessica is shocked. She runs home in fits of tears, very upset at the realisation that Elizabeth is worse than Betsy Martin.
Tuesday evening(?), Sweet Valley High. Steven visits his teacher, Mrs Nicholas and asks if a moon can be blood red. Ultimately no. Maybe if there was some kind of disturbance, like a forest fire might make it more orange, but no, blood red isn’t a thing. [Wing: I have literally just realised this is foreshadowing the red the moon turns during a lunar eclipse, and really, Mrs Nicholas should have mentioned that especially considering there’s a lunar eclipse at the end of the week. And yes, there were several total lunar eclipses that could be seen in southern California in the 90s, but none on Halloween, obviously.] [Raven: Yeah, the fact that a lunar eclipse is also known as a Blood Moon might have come up in conversation, y’know?]
Wednesday afternoon, the mean streets of Sweet Valley. Jessica walks home from school keeping an eye out for Elizabeth, aware that the moon rises at nearly five today. That’s a big jump. Like 40 minutes. Not sure what happens in Sweet Valley, but in the UK it only changes by a minute or two each day. [Wing: I thought it was a big jump, too, but that year I found where the moon rose at 4:28 p.m. in Los Angeles had moonrise the next day at 4:58. I did some quick checking around towns in North America that would be of a similar latitude of where Dove and Raven live (because my source only covers North America), and on the same dates it was 4:50 and 5:08, so only 18 minutes difference compared to 30 minutes in Los Angeles.
Oh shit, I’m Steven right now, aren’t I?] [Dove: You are. But, like, the best Steven, so that’s something.]
She goes to Corrina’s house and the door is there today. Corrina apologises for not being there yesterday, and ignores it when Jessica asks how she knew that. She asks for an update. Corrina checks her book and says the only way Elizabeth can be saved is if she (Elizabeth) destroys the mask during a lunar eclipse. Well, that’s jolly lucky, isn’t it?
Of course, getting Elizabeth to destroy the mask will be impossible, so Jessica says twin switch time! Corrina says no, that won’t work. Jessica asks what happens if Elizabeth doesn’t destroy the mask. Corrina says that she will grow more and more evil. Jessica says how can things be any worse, which I think displays a colossal lack of imagination. Elizabeth hasn’t done anything except for bitch and moan at people. She’s not even imaginatively evil, she’s just boringly mean. And let’s be honest, most evil people generally start by hurting animals and much smaller kids. She’s not even there yet.
[Wing: Like that time Jessica hurt a dog or that time she was mean to little kids though I don’t remember enough about it to find the specific book.] [Dove: I honestly don’t think Jessica has ever been mean to kids. She’s been dismissive of how much attention they need – like when she babysat, or she and Liz wanted to be big sisters – but outright spite directed at kids, not so much (definitely her peers though, just ask Lois). Apparently the ghosties have a line. A shit one, but a line nonetheless.]
Corrina gets it. She informs Jessica that Elizabeth’s evilness won’t stop at Halloween pranks, nobody will be safe. Corrina stares at the picture on the wall and comments that the last person cursed by the mask burned her house to the ground and killed her entire family. Jessica asks who was the last cursed person. “Me,” says Corrina.
Plot twist or what? Well, of course we all knew this was coming, and I don’t actually care how obvious it is. I’m enjoying this book.
Wednesday evening, Wakefield Compound. Ned, apropos of nothing, sings an Irish folk song about the rising moon. Neither Steven nor Jessica appreciate the song. Steven realises that Jessica is just as unnerved as him about the moon when she asks Ned to sing something else. Jessica asks Ned if he’s noticed anything strange about Elizabeth.
Ned says that she’s been irritable lately, and Alice agrees as she walks into the room. Cluelessly, Alice adds that gosh, Elizabeth sure has been spending a lot of time with her new friends. Isn’t it nice Elizabeth is making friends. Jessica says that those girls are the spawn of Satan. Alice counters that Elizabeth says the same about the Unicorns. Jessica points out that Elizabeth is a nice girl and should have nice friends, Jessica is a bitch and likes hanging around bitchy girls. It’s weird that Elizabeth is turning so mean.
The adults ruffle her hair and basically tell her that Elizabeth is going through a phase and it’s perfectly normal. Even Steven pipes up that it’s not very like Elizabeth. The parents don’t care. Jessica brings up the mask, and Ned says Elizabeth’s change is just like Steven changing his mind every two minutes about what he wants to be when he grows up. Jessica says no, Elizabeth is the consistent one. And yeah, Jessica is right here. That’s why we have a separate section to tag Jessica’s new hobby of the week, but nothing for Elizabeth. OUR WEBSITE FUCKING PROVES JESSICA RIGHT, NED. HAVE THAT!
The parents laugh indulgently at their children’s genuine concern for Elizabeth. Ah, silly kids. What do they know.
Fuck you, Wakefield parents. Fuck you hard. You’re going to be the parents on r/slash, aren’t you? Elizabeth murders a bunch of pets in the area, and Ned and Alice are just going to sit there grinning, “No, not our daughter. She gets straight As, you know… wait, her grades fell off? Well, LET ME SPEAK TO THE PRINCIPAL ABOUT THAT SHIT RIGHT NOW.”
Wednesday evening, Jessica’s room. Jessica is upstairs crying when Steven comes in. He asks if she’s seen the blood moon again and she says yes. Jessica decides she needs help. She tells Steven he’s about to hear an unbelievable story, but it’s true. And she put everything out there.
“So let me get this straight,” Steven said ten minutes later. “The witch who lives at the old Luna place gave you a bottle of something she said was iced tea—and you actually drank it?”
See! Safety matters. Even to Steven. [Raven: Either that, or he’s psyched that his Rohypnol plan will probably work on Jessica.]
Then he comes up with a plan that we don’t get to hear.
Thursday after school, Sweet Valley Middle School. After school, Jessica changes into some really gammy clothes and musses her hair. Amy walks into the bathroom and assumes she’s Elizabeth. Jessica gets into character and says something mean – but feels a surge of sympathy for Amy, jeez, Jessica has feelings? Amy basically scarpers.
Jessica locates Betsy Martin who approves of her outfit. “Way, way cool.” Really? I honestly don’t know anyone who gives a thumbs up to a smelly grubby outfit as a style choice. Jessica pitches her idea to Betsy. She says there’s a high school party going on at Courage Mountain at midnight tomorrow and they should crash it. Betsy agrees, and Jessica takes off before anything can go wrong.
Jessica then pens a note to Elizabeth, making sure she block prints to hide her handwriting and spells badly to sell that it’s from Betsy. The note reads.
BE AT THE PARTY OR DIE, FOOL.
THE COURAGE MOUNTAIN PARTY HALLOWEEN NIGHT. DUH!
HIGH SCHOOL (this is underlined three times)
P.S. MAKE SURE YOU BRING THAT AWESUMLEY REVOLTING MASK.
Halloween evening, the Miller house. Jessica is trick or treating with the Unicorns (surely this is too immature for them?), and everyone is showing off their outfits. Lila is a figure skater, Mary is a… um, well, the word is a racial slur in many countries, though not mine, let’s instead pretend she’s dressed as Star from the Lost Boys and give Wing some space to be angry about this. [Wing: I can’t, I’m too worn out to rage.]
Janet is wearing a ballgown designed by someone her mom knows who designs for the Queen of England. Uh… that’s nowt to brag about, presh. Our Queen is many things but a style icon is not one of them, especially in the 80s. I’m imagining Janet wearing this (and yes, Janet does add it’s not actually the queen, but one of her best friends, but I think my point stands):
[Wing: I don’t hate the skirt part, I have to admit.]
And Jessica is dressed as… a ghost in a sheet. There is much mockery about this. Jessica is too worried to engage. Which just shows how serious things are.
Halloween evening, the mean streets of Sweet Valley. Maria and Amy don’t feel right being a bike instead of a trike. They spot Elizabeth and Betsy dumping stuff in mailboxes. When they investigate, it turns out to be pumpkin guts. Next they encounter a couple of small kids who’ve had their candy bags stolen by Elizabeth and co.
Halloween evening, the regular streets of Sweet Valley. Jessica bumps into Aaron who says he’d know her anywhere, even if her face is covered by a sheet. She’s not sure it’s a compliment. I think it is. Take it. … Oh, wait. Maybe not:
What kind of a costume is that, anyway?” Aaron asked. “You’re not a ghost, are you?” He looked at her, a frown spreading onto his face. “I mean, that would be kind of—well, not very original.”
“Oh, I’m not a ghost,” Jessica replied quickly. “I’m a mad scientist who’s invented a formula that turns people evil.”
“Oh.” Aaron seemed doubtful. “And you spilled the formula all over yourself?”
Jessica felt a surge of irritation. “No, Aaron. I’m dressed this way to keep the bad guys from finding me.”
“Uh-huh.” Aaron scratched his head. “Why are the bad guys trying to find you if your formula makes people evil?”
Jessica sighed. “Never mind.”
Fuck off, Aaron. Just go along with it. He brushes her hand and tells her to have a good night. Jessica realises that he’s trying to hold her hand, which is exactly what she’d dreamed of a few days ago, but things are different. [Raven: Aaron claims that Jessica’s costume is unoriginal, and all he’s done it put on his gym kit? Ridiculous.]
Aaron tries to be romantic, offering to go trick or treating with her, but she can’t find her way out of the sheet to hold his hand. He points to the beautiful romantic moon and that kills the mood entirely, because she blurts out a question about how often lunar eclipses come around. He says he doesn’t know and can’t they–
But yeah, Jessica’s dashing off.
Halloween night, 11pm, Jessica’s room. She sets up a bunch of pillows in her bed to make it look like she’s sleeping. Downstairs Steven announces he’s going to a party at Courage Mountain… um, would it be normal to let your 14 year old go out at 11pm? Sure, maybe stay out until then, but actually begin their night’s festivities at 11pm? Anyway, Alice and Ned are clueless as ever and agree. [Raven: The parents are legitimately atrocious in this one, Like, not present in any way.] Jessica sneaks to the garage where she meets Steven and they bike to Courage Mountain. Above them, the moon is full and red.
Halloween evening, the meanest streets of Sweet Valley. Elizabeth is having a lovely time. They’ve been throwing rotten eggs, tormenting younger kids, and leaving (nearly incoherent) signs outside the Luna house inviting other people to break the windows. This reminds me of The Perfume (the source of our pseuds), where the evil twin did monstrous things like using a low and a high voice and not brushing her teeth. [Raven: They left rotten eggs under some tyres of parked cars. What the hell does that achieve? A slightly smelly driveway, for a short while? Not exactly Pol fucking Pot.]
Now they’re going to smash Jessica’s pumpkin. Something inside Elizabeth doesn’t want to do it. She wars with herself, especially when she spots the moon, but eventually she smashes it.
Halloween evening, the ride to Courage Mountain. Jessica nearly falls off the cliff several times, distracted by the sight of the blood red moon that seems to be on fire. Tiresomely, she sees it everywhere. Ok, sure, I am enjoying this story, but the need to make everything a moon, no matter how improbable, is getting repetitive.
Oh, ok, this one is finally leading somewhere. Jessica has a kind of vision of the burning moon raining fire down on her house, and the crescent moon of Corrina’s house crying. She interprets it to mean that the mean kids aren’t coming to Courage Mountain, and she needs to go home. Steven says he’ll go to Courage Mountain just in case she’s wrong.
Halloween evening, outside the Wakefield Compound. The smashed pumpkin looks like a moon – FUCK OFF, WE GET IT – to Elizabeth and she tries to figure out where she saw it last. The candle sets a leaf on fire and Elizabeth is transfixed as it starts to grow. The others ask if she’s coming to the party. She shakes her head.
Halloween evening, the ride home. The eclipse starts and Jessica keeps seeing images of crying people, her sister, Corrina, etc. Whatevs. We’re in finale, let’s get going.
Halloween evening, outside the Wakefield Compound. Betsy yells “Fire!” and everyone but Elizabeth scarpers. Elizabeth can’t make herself move, but she’s aware her parents and siblings are in the house. She wants to move but she just can’t.
Jessica arrives in time to see the fire raging. She hops off her bike and leaves it where it lands. She hugs Elizabeth and turns on the hose. As the moon disappears, Elizabeth rips the mask off and throws it in the fire. The twins hug as Jessica keeps the hose on the fire until it dies. The moon goes back to normal and Elizabeth apologises and weeps.
Saturday morning, the Luna house. Wrap-up scene. Thanks to Corrina. Jessica knows that Corrina sent the baffling visions to her and helped her. While Corrina goes to get more drinks, the twins discuss who might have had the mask before. Was it Corrina’s sister or Corrina herself. Elizabeth says leave it, if Corrina wanted to share that information, she would have. Jessica thinks to herself how nice and thoughtful her sister is.
Corrina returns and says she’s sorry their Halloween was a bust. Jessica says she’d give up a hundred Halloweens to get rid of the mask (and to be fair, that’s a luxury she has, that’s what… six months in Sweet Valley time?). Elizabeth says Thanksgiving is pretty cool and starts singing, “Turkey bells, turkey bells, turkey all the way.” Jessica is delighted her sister is back.
And that’s it? No answer on Corrina. No back story. No explanation of the mask? Ok then.
Ok, well, that happened. So, I generally love the idea of this, and I enjoyed a load of it. The problems were that it’s a PG book, and we don’t have Grapplegate at the helm, pushing things, just a little. Elizabeth’s meanness was really feeble. I wish I could read a YA version of this, where Elizabeth could be really damaging, instead of just wearing ugly clothes and calling people idiots.
It wasn’t as bad as It Can’t Happen Here for low-level bitchery being equal to evil, but then, I’m more forgiving of the supernatural books. I haven’t been cursed, so I can’t say, “Well, that’s unlikely,” whereas when you equate a litter-dropping twelve year old to Hitler, more people are likely to point out the comparison is a smidge unfair.
I think this unfairly receives points for containing the beginnings of a story I’d love, rather than actually being a story I love. But it’s not without high points. Steven was great – I say that without caveat, but with a deep amount of self-loathing – Ellen was on form, the Unicorns bitching at Jessica’s feeble costume was on point. Again, I have to say, this book couldn’t be awesome because of the target audience. It was too ambitious for the age range.
Still, I enjoyed it, and would read again.
[Wing: I like the idea behind the book, but I don’t think it can be done justice at this rating and this pacing. Possibly if it was slower and we saw more of a build-up of little things from Elizabeth, each individual thing being G- or PG-rated wouldn’t fail, but trying to do this story over a week without being able to have her do things like actually hurt people and destroy things is just not going to work.
I’d like to see Dove do a YA version of this, too, but then again, I’ve seen her write a horrifically manipulative character in terrifying ways, and it is wonderful, so of course I want to see her do more.] [Dove: My upbringing has a lot to answer for. And I already have a page written, so… wish granted.]
[Raven: This was okay. As usual, I’m not a big lover of the spooky books (Sorry, Wing and Dove). The moon was EVERYWHERE, and as Dove mentioned, it got a little tired. The main gripe I had with this was the completely hackneyed vaudeville evil that beset Evil Elizabeth when she was under the curse’s thrall. There was no guile or gumption, it was all just “you’re a loser” insults and idiotic pranks. Okay, so I wasn’t expecting them to, I dunno, kill Brooke Dennis or anything, but even so. I also hated the abrupt ending… I really wanted Elizabeth to make things up with Maria and Amy, and the fact that we had no real explanation of the Corrina / Mask stuff was pretty much unforgivable. So yeah. Shrug.]