Title: The Year Without Christmas
Tagline: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the night before Christmas, and the night before Christmas…
Summary: Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield couldn’t be more excited about their Christmas Eve tree-trimming party. But when Jessica tries to hog all the attention, she winds up destroying the Christmas tree—and making a total fool of herself.
Jessica wakes up grumpy on what she thinks is Christmas morning… but soon discovers it’s Christmas Eve all over again! She has a second chance to make everything go her way. But when her selfish plans backfire once more, she wakes up to another Christmas Eve.. and another… and another! Can Jessica break the spell, or is she doomed to spend eternity on an awful Christmas Eve?
Ok, so first things first, I swapped with Wing because we all agreed that I did “all the Christmas books”.
Having checked, the results are:
So, yeah, no. Apparently Christmas isn’t my thing. I mean, I suppose you could argue that The Carnival Ghost takes place after Christmas, and a few of them are about how they spend their break before Christmas, but still, apparently I don’t own Christmas. This is sobering. [Wing: I feel betrayed now. Not that I wanted this book, but still. Betrayed.]
Secondly, I have read this book. And I remember that Jessica was a complete monster throughout. I just can’t remember whether it’s a fun murderous monster or just a “for fuck’s sake, just get off the fucking page” monster.
Let’s find out.
(Side note: Right after I finish this, I’m building a new theme because I fucking hate this one. It’s impossible to navigate. My life goals are now very simple, I need a theme that is both easy to navigate and read on a mobile.)
[Raven: I never read the premise to this before I read the book. I didn’t realise it was a Groundhog Day riff until the first skip back. To that point, I just thought it was boring, meandering bollocks. To be honest, the knowledge didn’t change much.]
We open with the twins and their friends all congregated at the Wakefield Compound on the first day of Christmas break. The twins will be hosting a Christmas Eve party, and they are drawing names for Secret Santa, and gifts will be exchanged at the party. [Wing: This seems pretty late to be drawing names. Maybe I am just more obsessively organised, but this can’t be more than a week before Christmas Eve. That’s not a lot of time to shop.]
Lila is being a fabulous diva and insisting on going first, even though Jessica offered that she could. Jessica wants to stab her, but new hot boy, Mike McClusky, is present, and she doesn’t want him to find out she’s a mass murderer just yet.
Mike has just moved here from Florida a month ago, he’s tall with wavy blonde hair and green eyes, and he’s an “absolute dreamboat”. And, obviously, once this book is done, we will never see him ever again. Much like those twins in The Ghost in the Graveyard.
Aaron makes a feeble “joke” that Lila should pull out the best name. Jessica doesn’t bother to laugh because even though Aaron’s her sort-of boyfriend, which whom she’s shared several first kisses, he can absolutely fuck off, because Jessica wants Mike. I mean, I just wouldn’t laugh because it’s not funny, but sure, grade a joke on how pretty the teller is, Jessica. [Raven: Great. This shit again. *eyeroll*]
Since it’s Secret Santa and we’re in Jessica’s point of view, we only know who she picked out: her own twin, but we are privy to her thoughts, which are basically: if Lila picked me, I’ll be getting a big expensive present because she’s rich; or if Mike picked me, we’ll be married by Christmas morning.
Also present are: Ellen Riteman, Ken Matthews, Winston Egbert.
… but apparently not Todd Wilkins, Amy Sutton, Julie Porter, Maria Slater, Mandy Miller, Mary Wallace, y’know, the people the twins actually like. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Ellen’s there, but what the fuck are Ken and Winston doing there? This is the same halfwit ghostie from the Nightmare Mansion series, isn’t it?
Oh, wait, Mandy and Amy were there, they just weren’t mentioned. Because we’re now cleaning up after the party. The text states that Mandy, Amy and Lila stayed to clean up afterwards, because the girl whose pocket money has commas, and has servants coming out of her ears is definitely going to want to clean up a middle-income house after a party.
Also, Winston is there, even though he wasn’t mentioned.
Fucking hell, ghostie, can you please try to be more coherent. This could have easily been clearer with a sentence along the lines of “Elizabeth had invited her boring friends, Amy, etc., and Jessica had invited…” I mean, it’s not the greatest sentence, but this is book 133 of a tween series about some insufferably perfect twins not really known for the great writing. You could blag it.
Jessica thinks they should have an “adult” Christmas Eve party. Then clarifies that she means sophisticated, not the key parties her parents throw. [Raven: “But mom, the bowl for the keys needs to be purple!”] Time to throw away vanilla cupcakes with frosting. She doesn’t actually say what they’ll be replaced with, so I can only assume… uh, neon lighting and black glass tables… basically Max’s apartment from The Lost Boys. That was cool in the late 80s, wasn’t it? [Wing: This book was published in the late 90s, though. We should probably know what was cool. Could I tell you? Nope. Bootcut jeans or super wide leg jeans. Band t-shirts and flannel. Long black trench coats. Chunky black boots. House decorations or food? I have no idea.]
Elizabeth counters that she wants a traditional party with carolling and stringing popcorn and cranberries as tree decorations. Um… dear America, wtf? [Raven: There’s always these…] [Wing: I’ve only celebrated Christmas as an adult, but that’s been many years now. I have never once strung popcorn and cranberries to make a garland for the tree. I’ve also never made popcorn balls which come up in “traditional” party stories. I have gone carolling. In Spanish, not English.]
Jessica and Elizabeth bicker about it, and Elizabeth points out that they’ll have to ask their parents about it, because they won’t be expecting a “formal party”. And I can guess right now that the parents will say no. They have said no every single time Jessica has asked for some kind of formal party. Why not combine both ideas? Have Elizabeth’s party (which actually has ideas, rather than just adding formal to the word party), but ask for formal dress. The girls – well, the Unicorns, at least – will have fun buying new frocks, and the boys will hate every living moment of it. Or pair their jeans with a sports coat like they do for dances.
Elizabeth finally points out that Jessica hasn’t actually told anyone her grand ideas for revamping the party, and Jessica says she’ll reveal all soon. Elizabeth tells her to hurry up because there’s only three days to the party.
WHY IS THIS A SECRET? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO MUDDLED?
I’m on page five and I don’t really know what’s happened. Some people gathered (not really sure who was there except the new cute boy), and Jessica’s had an idea that she won’t tell, and… that’s it. This is not mystery, this is not intrigue. This is sloppy fucking writing.
The next day, Elizabeth is trawling the mall for a present (with a $10 limit) for Lila. And it’s not exactly easy, given that Lila owns everything that she wants, and hates everything that costs less than $100. Elizabeth imagines Lila’s snotty and disdainful response if she gives a gift that isn’t perfect, but she’s Elizabeth fucking Wakefield, and she will get this done!
We hop over to Jessica, who is also in the mall by herself. She feels like everyone is judging her for having no friends to go shopping with, and this is oddly human of her. I felt exactly the same at her age. I don’t particularly like shopping alone now, but it’s more because I like to jabber away as I shop. [Raven: I’m really missing just wandering around the shops, which is weird because I wasn’t that keen when I could do it any time I wanted.] [Dove: I miss nipping to the pound shop and buying bags and bags of stuff for less than a tenner. Even if it’s just washing up sponges. I miss physically buying things.]
Jessica actually attempted to buy Elizabeth’s gift yesterday, but instead bought herself silver nail polish, lip gloss and new shoes for the party. Ok, that’s very Jessica.
Also very Jessica is the fact that she has no idea why everyone’s so stressed, because there are two shopping days left until Christmas. Could it be because:
- adults work for a living, so they’re shopping on their lunch/only day off;
- Christmas is fucking expensive, and maybe Mum is upset that little Bobby wants a Playstation, but he’s actually getting Snakes and Ladders because that’s all her budget can stretch to;
- little Bobby wants a Buzz Lightyear/Furby/the toy of the year, and it’s sold out everywhere; and/or
- shopping with billions of other stressed people in an overcrowded mall is fucking stressful.
And straight after this, Jessica finds herself intimidated by the crowds and hides in Valley Sports. This is such bad writing.
She bumps into Mike in the women’s section, and asks if he’s shopping for his Secret Santa. She wonders if he’s shopping for her. He’s kind of awkward when he says it’s for his sister, Miranda, and that she’s fifteen – no, fourteen. Jessica takes his bumbles as confirmation that he’s a terrible liar and clearly shopping for her. After all, who would call their kid Miranda McClusky? (I dunno, maybe the same people who called their son Michael McClusky, these guys like alliteration.)
Mike says he wonders if this cap with the names of women’s basketball teams would be suitable. Jessica says that she loves basketball, and in a nice bit of continuity, she mentions the Honeybees and lists off the people in it.
“You… and your friends, like, um, Ellen and whoever. You guys know about those new pro women’s teams, right?” Mike asked.
“Oh, sure,” Jessica said. “Aren’t those teams awesome?”
“Yeah. So what do you think of this hat?” Mike held up a purple cap with the Utah Unicorns’ logo on the front of it.
Many things: if you support a team, I’m led to believe you support them based on more than gender, so, for example, if I got my friend Tiny a Man U shirt, she would not be placated when I said, “But the team is made of dudes. I know you watch dudes play football.” She would cut me for buying the wrong fucking shirt. [Raven: I’m sorry, but if there were an actual team called the Utah Unicorns, with purple merch, the Unicorns would be all over that shit.] [Wing: I have hearts and stars in my eyes over the thought of the Utah Unicorns. Also, I 100% started supporting all the teams in the National Women’s Hockey League the second it began simply because they were women playing hockey. I’m also supporting the Seattle Krakens simply because, I mean, THEY’RE THE FUCKING KRAKENS.
LOOK AT THIS PROMO VID.
That is the sexiest pro-sports vid I’ve ever seen. HNGH. I actually wrote a fic for Yuletide 2020 in the fandom: It Rises. Summary: Mount Rainier burns the day the kraken comes. (There’s blood sacrifices, dear readers. Blood. Sacrifices. Jessica Wakefield would approve.) (In case you, like me, are caught by the siren song of the promo, it is “Abandon” by Roary.)
Final part of this hockey aside, my #1 team is and was and always will be the St. Louis Blues. My boys. I will be loyal until the day I die. #goblue]
Why would a Californian or Floridian support a Utah team? Aren’t Americans super territorial about sports? (I could be wrong about this, because I’m dimly aware that teams get traded in a frankly baffling way – like the Minnesota North Stars are now in Dallas – what’s up with that?)
[Wing: Many people are fans of the closest team, but not always and not only, even before teams are moved and players are traded (which is a much more common occurrence than an entire team being moved). My sport from childhood on has been hockey, including pro hockey (the Mighty Ducks had a little to do with this, but I wanted to watch the movies because I already liked hockey as it was), but when I had a pro USA football team, it was the one nearest to me (the St. Louis Rams). They’d been in Los Angeles then were moved to St. Louis a long time ago and recently moved back to Los Angeles. Since I didn’t have strong feelings about pro football, I didn’t really care to keep rooting for them when they weren’t my “local” team. Instead, I started following the Indianapolis Colts because one of my bffs loves them. The Blues are my closest pro hockey team, and I started loving them for that and then just kept being loyal, but I also love other teams: the Krakens, discussed above, but the Detroit Red Wings and, completely due to the movies, the Anaheim Ducks. (But I will carve out my own eyes before I ever root for the Chicago Blackhawks, fuck them and fuck Patrick Kane.) Plus the Utah team might be the closest pro women’s basketball team to California, at least, though probably not both California and Florida. In researching, there actually is a pro women’s basketball team in Los Angeles, the Sparks, but they were not formed until 1997, which was the year this book was published. In fact, I have now learned that though the Women’s National Basketball Association league was formed in 1996, their first season was 1997. So basically, ghostie went with something adorable (the Unicorns) and put them in Utah for some unknown reason. The assonance?
Good lord, I did not anticipate multiple Wing Talks Sportsball and Sportspuck in this recap. Sorry, readers!]
Why doesn’t he know whether his sister even likes the sport, let alone which team she supports? This lie is falling apart, Mike.
Anyway, Jessica is convinced the present is for her, even though he name-checked Ellen in particular. She and Mike chat lightly about how awesome the party will be and part ways.
Jessica heads to Total Trends (… woah, why isn’t it called Sweet Valley Trends? [Wing: This ghostie loves alliteration, etc.]) where she finds a pair of earrings shaped like typewriters for $8.99, and actually, that sounds like a perfect Secret Santa gift for the boring twin. Although I’m not actually sure that Elizabeth did get her ears pierced. I know Jessica did, and we recappers agreed that if Jessica has it, then Elizabeth should be allowed, but I feel like Elizabeth took the saintly approach and said she’d wait. Can’t actually find that in any of our recaps though. Um, readers? Liz, you’re usually good for the minutiae that we’ve forgotten.
At the counter, Jessica spots some earrings for $10 that look like silver Christmas ornaments. She only has $12 on her, but the earrings will go perfectly with her new nail polish and look so cool at the party…
Yeah, she ditches her sister’s Christmas present in order to buy herself something.
Does anyone else remember that book where Jessica was a selfish toxic nightmare at Christmas, and chose herself over her sister every single time, and then three ghosts showed her that she’d be a friendless loser in high school if she didn’t cut that shit out?
Well, Jessica Wakefield does not remember. [Raven: Well, if I’d had about thirty Christmases in one fucking year, I’d probably forget a couple too.]
That same afternoon, Elizabeth accompanies Alice to the store (which store? Nobody knows. It doesn’t say. Maybe it’s Sweet Valley Stationery?) to get the family newsletter photocopied. Of course the Wakefields do a family newsletter. Of course they do. I bet they also send sickening photos of them all gathered cheerily around the Christmas tree with it. Urgh. [Wing: …my dad sends out a family letter every year. Judgy much, Dove. And we both sent out photo collage cards a few years ago, though I usually make my own cards and he buys very religious ones. (I don’t send a letter. I go to one extreme or another: just an (illegible) signature or a long personal note for each recipient).]
Alice’s grand plan is to photocopy page one onto red, and page two onto green. Fuck me, how much detail are you going into, Alice? Nobody cares that much. (Ok, that might be a bit rich from someone whose life goal is to own every single Sweet Valley book.) But seriously, you know half that real estate is going to be about Steven, Ned and Alice, and nobody can make an argument that we care about them.
Elizabeth talks her into photocopying on both sides of a single sheet of paper to save the trees and Alice agrees that it will save a forest because of the amount of people on her mailing list. Jesus fucking Christ, Alice.
While Alice bores the clerk with her requirements for this very important literature that she is sending out to everyone in the USA, Elizabeth wanders around and sees an ad for a personalised calendar, which she thinks will be a perfect gift for Lila. It takes a week to get it made, so she’ll have to make one herself. In fact, she won’t make a calendar, she’ll make a personalised yearbook.
I have no idea what that is. [Wing: Me neither. A weird term for a planner, maybe?]
Back at the Wakefield Compound, a family meeting is called to discuss the party. Jessica hopes that Elizabeth is wrapping/working hard on a present for her. Elizabeth says she was working on her Secret Santa, and she’s not saying who it’s for because she’s already been caught by Amy and there needs to be secrecy. They head to the meeting where the clueless parents decree that Steven will be working as a waiter at his sisters’ party.
Now, I think we can all agree that of everyone here, I hate Steven the most. Wing might be full of rage, but I feel that when she stops reading Sweet Valley, she can let it go. [Wing: I am able to forget about him most of the time when we’re not actively recapping or commenting or recording or discussing.] And Raven, ultimate betrayer, thinks that Steven occasionally serves a purpose in this godawful series.
But me? I loathe Steven with every fibre of my being. I hate him while I’m reading, I hate him when I’m not, I hate him in my sleep. I even hate him when he isn’t being a colossal tool. I would happily go through and edit this entire series to remove him.
And even I think this is unfair to him. It’s Christmas fucking Eve, you drunken halfwits. Let the boy socialise with his friends – or, accurately, Joe Howell. Or have a really long wank into Jessica’s Boosters uniform. Whatever. Christmas Eve is not the time to force a fourteen year old boy to socialise with his sisters’ friends. Steven will either date them or insult them. Either way, you are looking forward to a bloody horrible Christmas Day, with Jessica furious at her brother for either being an asshole or too charming, and Elizabeth trying to make peace until she loses patience or pushes one of her siblings too far, and then a big row will kick off. And I’m sure eventually Ned is going to reveal that he’s fucking sick of getting ties for Christmas. And Alice will be off her tits on gin by eight am, so maybe this is the Christmas where nobody gets out alive.
The halfwits will be paying him $10 an hour with a bonus if he gets through it without harassing any of the guests. This turns Steven around. He’s all about the money. I’d be like, “No, fuck that, I’m going to Joe’s house.”
Jessica pitches her idea of a formal party – basically decorations and napkins – and is immediately shot down. I don’t know why the parents never let Jessica finish when she makes this pitch. They always cut her off, and she always circles back to it in about fifteen books. Why not just let the kid have her formal dinner and live with the consequences of Lila schooling her in how utterly she failed at being classy and the rest of the guests being bored and awkward throughout. I mean, what’s the fucking harm in letting a bunch of twelve year olds sit at the dining table for half the party?
(Maybe not specifically this party, since it’s a co-host and Elizabeth is not on board, but there have been plenty of other times when Elizabeth was in agreement.)
And it only leads to the escalation of Jessica’s idea, which is basically gift bags filled with expensive chocolates, removing the furniture so they can have a dance party with a contest and a gold trophy shaped like a pair of shoes, and somehow this all takes place with the girls wearing evening gowns.
Seriously, Wakefields, if you’d just said yes, back in book 27, this argument wouldn’t be happening.
Ned says that it’s all academic because he actually talked things over earlier with Elizabeth and set her plans in motion. Now, I think Jessica’s idea is not going to happen, but this is – as usual – fucking terrible parenting. Why is there a family meeting about the party if everything is already sorted, having only consulted one of the twins? Why not just flat out tell the kids, “Yes, you’re having a party, but as your parents, and the people footing the bill and providing the domicile, here’s how it goes.” That is at least honest.
Instead of wanting to stab Ned, Jessica’s rage is directed at her twin, who she thinks went behind her back. And, to be fair, Elizabeth did know that Jessica had ideas for the party. She may not have liked them, but she did know that they existed.
Other plans in effect are: carolling, with Winston on accordion and Ned on the harmonica. Elizabeth thinks that sounds fun and wishes they was square dancing to go with it.
IS EVERYONE ON CRACK HERE? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON? [Raven: I actually thought they were just winding Jessica up here, and that it was all a prank before a “happy christmas, you can have your formal party” reveal. But no.]
I don’t want to side with Jessica, because she’s a selfish murderous monster, but she’s right. She was supposed to have a hand in the party. Her ideas are “too modern”, and they want a “traditional” party, so basically they’ve gone yee-haw jug-band with it? WHAT THE ACTUAL MOTHERFUCK, PEOPLE? HOW IS AN ACCORDION TRADITIONALLY CHRISTMAS? [Raven: Well…
Sometimes, often at Christmas, I can see how Jessica ended up as the most prolific serial killer in California.
Alice then says they can string popcorn and cranberries, and maybe she has construction paper somewhere…
Jessica reasonably points out it’s a party, not daycare.
If I’m not supposed to be Jessica’s side, this conversation should never have happened. I was totally with Elizabeth and her no-frills approach to the party, and Jessica was being a selfish hag while shopping, but now I’m solidly on Jessica’s side. This family is a fucking joke. No wonder she runs away about a hundred and thirty-seven times in high school.
“What was that, Jessica?” Mr. Wakefield asked. “You look upset.”
“That’s because I am! Why can’t we ever do anything the way I want?” Jessica complained. “Who ever heard of polka music at a Christmas party? This is going to be terrible—I’ll be humiliated! No one will ever come to one of my parties again!”
“Jessica, what is the matter with you? You’ve done nothing but complain all evening,” Mrs. Wakefield said. “And I do not like your tone of voice. You ought to be grateful that we’re letting you host this party, and you should be glad that you have so many friends who want to come. But if you think the party is going to be terrible, then maybe you should stay in your room instead of hosting it!”
Um, Alice maybe she’s sulking because she was under the impression this was a planning meeting where her voice was valid, and instead all of her ideas are thrown out as preposterous, and yours, no matter how completely batshit, are “wonderful”.
FUCK YOU ALL. JESSICA, FETCH THE WEAPONS.
Jessica says that she is grateful for the party, but it’s all Elizabeth’s and nothing that’s hers. And it’s only when she asks, “Don’t I count?” that the fam vaguely attempt to look at her list for something they could half-arsedly include in the SANTA POLKA they have created.
[Wing: This whole thing is so fucked up. I hate it, thanks. The Wakefields have had terrible parenting before, but this has annoyed the hell out of me in ways I haven’t been annoyed by them in awhile.]
Steven says how about the gift bags, that could be nice. Alice says yes, but cheap sweets only. Jessica grudgingly accepts this as a compromise. Steven says he’ll help her sort them out, after all, if the party is crap, it reflects badly on him (where is Janet????).
Jessica wakes up the next morning (Christmas Eve), and here are a couple of hallmarks that she can notice when she wakes up there again: car honking, Elizabeth in shower, parents discussing whether the kids should have their Christmas cards now or tomorrow, and Steven commenting that she looks awful and needs more beauty sleep.
Jessica asks if Steven knows anyone called Miranda McClusky, and he tells her no, fuck off. She asks if he’s still helping her with the gift bags – which actually translates to him buying everything necessary – and he says, grudgingly, yes.
Jessica then asks her parents for money for a new dress. Elizabeth is horrified, they have so many clothes that either don’t fit or they don’t wear any more, why buy more? Because they either don’t fit or she doesn’t like them enough to wear any more. Aren’t you supposed to be the smart twin? Just die, Elizabeth. (I’ve got your back, Jessica.)
Elizabeth says that Sweet Valley Home Services is having a clothing drive (what about Sweet Valley Homeless Shelter? I guess they can go whistle.), and if Jessica finds anything in her closet, she should donate it. Jessica tells her to fuck off, she needs and likes all of her clothes.
The parents say no to lending money, but thankfully Uncle Bob has sent a cheque for $50, instead of his usual $10. Wait, a cheque? Won’t that take 5-10 working days to clear? That’s massively unhelpful.
Fucking Saint Elizabeth says she’s going to donate her $50 to Sweet Valley Home Services. Just absolutely fuck off, Elizabeth. [Raven: Yeah, this was bullshit. This was a step worse than using it to buy the school some desktop publishing package.]
Alice is going to bake more cookies for the party, Elizabeth says that sounds fun and asks if Jessica will help. She says no, she has to shop. Alice says that she could shop later, but Jessica counters that the shops are shutting early for Christmas.
“Then I guess you’ll just have to wear some old outfit. Like one of the ones you bought way back… last month?” Elizabeth said.
Jessica wrinkled her nose. “Maybe you want to wear an old-fashioned dress to our old-fashioned party, but I don’t. Anyway, couldn’t you just buy some more cookies with your fifty dollars instead of giving it away?”
Elizabeth folded her arms across her chest. “For that matter, couldn’t you?”
“Well… no, because I need a new dress,” Jessica said. If Elizabeth wasn’t going to budge, then neither was she.
Oh just fuck off, Elizabeth.
At the mall, Jessica finds a perfect red dress with a patent leather belt that will go perfectly with her patent leather shoes. I guess patent leather is no longer as babyish as it was last Christmas.
She then bumps into Mandy, Ellen and Janet, who will all be attending the party. So presumably Janet was in the opening scene. Good to know twenty pages later. She says that Elizabeth is pushing the party in a crap direction, so if it’s not cool, they all know who to blame. Then Mandy asks about her Secret Santa gift and she realises that she’s completely forgotten to buy something for Elizabeth.
And then she thinks, fine! Fuck her. She doesn’t deserve a gift.
Wow. Even for Jessica that’s pretty hardcore. [Raven: But totally in keeping with Jessica’s ability to justify anything to herself after the fact. She forgot to buy a present for Elizabeth? *thinks* Elizabeth doesn’t deserve a present. QED.]
Me? I wouldn’t say Elizabeth is totally to blame for this situation. In fact, I’d say that the only person who isn’t to blame – and believe me, I hate myself for this – is Steven. Everyone else sucks for one reason or another.
Jessica shows off her party dress, and while Mandy and Ellen love it, a few well-placed insults from Janet have Jessica second-guessing herself. Janet says it looks like a Santa outfit. After a few snippy remarks, Ellen jumps on the mockery bandwagon, while Mandy says it’s a lovely dress. Because no matter how woefully inept this Jamie is, she has at least understood that Mandy is awesome.
Jessica is forced to backtrack, saying that it’s not her dress, it’s Elizabeth’s, and even that doesn’t stop Janet’s mockery. Gosh. It’s almost as if Janet has some kind of agenda here, isn’t it?
She goes back to Valley Fashions and trades her red dress for a silver lamé dress.
We cut to her at home around 7pm, getting ready for the party. Alice calls upstairs that she needs to help with the cranberries and popcorn, which Jessica ignores because she has no interest in either of those things, let alone both.
She saunters downstairs (this is the kind of dress you don’t rush in, she decides) and Elizabeth asks if she’s really going to wear that. Elizabeth, by contrast is wearing a cropped green sweater and a plaid red and green skirt – which is actually the outfit she’s wearing on The Magic Christmas cover – the special release that I would die to own.
Seriously, if you own any of these releases and would like to sell them to a good home, pick me. I promise I’ll take good care of them. And I’m so devoted, you could totally double the price and I’d be like, “Sound fair. And what’s postage on top of that?”
Elizabeth tries to say something about the dress, the parents immediately deem it “inappropriate” with no clarification as to why, so Jessica and I are ignoring them. Steven then comes in and says it looks like tinfoil and that lamé is French for lame.
The doorbell rings and Steven goes to answer it while Alice comes out of her stupor long enough to comment that the dress is too old for her. I can only assume because it’s made of a slutty material. She then screams at Jessica that the dress was made for a petite woman, and she needs to go change now. Huh. Last time Jessica shopped in the petite adult section everything hung off her comically. I guess she’s grown since the most recent Christmas a few months ago.
By the way, her friends are in the house, so they can all hear Alice screaming at her daughter. So Jessica is super humiliated. Elizabeth offers to lend something to Jessica, and she retorts that she doesn’t want to look like an octogenarian librarian. Well, she uses the word “interesting”, but I extrapolated from there.
As Jessica is hustled upstairs, she sees that Janet is wearing the dress that Jessica originally chose, and she would still be wearing it if Janet hadn’t talked her out of it.
Jessica changes into a red (great-looking) sweater, mini-skirt, tights and Doc Martens. I will bring this up every single time: Jessica is not a Doc Martens girl. Sophia is. Mandy is. Jessica is not.
She comes back downstairs as Aaron and Ken arrive, and suddenly remembers that she never bought anything for Elizabeth. She then convinces herself that Elizabeth doesn’t deserve a gift after the way she back-stabbed Jessica with the party planning.
Then she steps it up. She doesn’t want to look like a dick for not getting Elizabeth a present, and Elizabeth should be shown up for being a double-crossing asshole, so here is the perfect solution: she rips off the tag on Elizabeth’s gift to Lila and replaces it with one from her.
Elizabeth catches her rummaging and asks, with a steely glint in her eye, what Jessica is up to. Jessica says she was putting her gift under the tree. Elizabeth does not believe this. No. She knows the truth. Jessica was trying to figure out which gift was for her!
Even when Elizabeth is savvy, she’s a fucking idiot with no clue as to how toxic her twin is.
She gets herself a drink – uh, wasn’t Steven waiting on them? – and Alice asks her if she’s sorted out the cranberries and popcorn. Of course she hasn’t Alice. Only an idiot would put Jessica in charge of something she thinks is completely pointless. As evidenced by the time she nearly killed a dog.
The cranberries are not defrosted, and Jessica doesn’t have time to microwave the popcorn separately, so she puts both bags in for twice the time… because she cannot math to save her life. [Raven: To be fair, microwave maths is the work of the devil himself.]
Steven calls her away to give out the gift bags. Lila assumes they were Elizabeth’s idea, but Jessica loudly and proudly takes credit. She forces everyone to open them now and demands they eat the candy, which looks super expensive. She’s really proud of herself because Steven has done a good job. Well, that’s some Jessica logic right there, isn’t it?
Anyway, the good vibes only last for a second because it turns out that Steven bought garlic-flavoured candy to go in the bags, and is pissing himself laughing.
Well, Wakefield parents, you’ve really done great there. You have paid your idiot son $10 an hour to fuck with your daughters’ party. And I’m sure you’re still going to pay him and give him the bonus, because, as evidenced by his genuinely deranged behaviour with the lawn mower, you have no idea how to raise your fucking children to function in society. [Raven: I truly hated Steven here. What an absolute prick.] [Dove: What annoys me is the parents never rein him in. Never. No wonder he’s such a tosspot.]
(Yeah, it’s never brought up. He got away with it.)
Oh, and now the kitchen’s on fire because you can’t microwave two bags of popcorn for ten minutes.
And now Ned has his harmonica out.
Jessica consoles herself that at least Mike is late and hasn’t seen this carnage.
Lila and Janet make some jabs about the stench of burnt popcorn. I think popcorn smells like urine on the best of days, so that smell burnt and seeped into everything… yeah. Horrible.
They start singing to Jingle Bells, and apparently everyone is up for it – Janet and Lila have no snarky comments for this, which I find weird – and in this particular book, Jessica, lead singer of NRG and lead soloist of the school choir, cannot sing. Not only that, this is news to her. Even though in BIG for Christmas, they’ve had multiple complaints about the twins’ singing, especially at Christmas.
She warbles the last note as Mike walks in, and then Janet immediately tells her how terrible she sounds.
While everyone laughs at her, she tries to turn on Janet, mocking her dress using the same Mrs Claus comment that Janet made earlier. She falls about laughing at her own hilarity. Nobody else does. Ned says she’s being a bitch.
And then everyone rallies around Janet, saying how nice her dress looks.
Food is ready, and Alice has made a lasagne for them. That’ll go nicely with the garlic candy.
Also, Raven and I have just had a discussion about this, but why were they so opposed to a formal dinner? Everyone’s wearing their nice Christmas clothes, and in my mind, lasagne is a meal you eat at a table with a knife and fork. Raven says he saw the food more as a buffet style, but can you imagine Lila Fowler eating lasagne from a paper plate with a lone plastic fork? Because I fucking can’t. So how would dinner at a table in nice clothes be particularly different from a formal dinner? Just manage Jessica’s expectations. Yes, they can have a dinner party, but not multiple courses of expensive pretentious food.
Also, after this discussion, we decided to say fuck the diet and have lasagne and garlic bread for dinner. It was delicious.
Also, it’s actually confirmed now that there is a buffet line. Again, Lila Fowler. Paper plate. Plastic fork. Sloppy lasagne. Nice Christmas clothes. [Wing: You could use real plates and forks even with a buffet line, though. It’s just an easier way to serve a group.]
Also, Janet and Lila are still bitching about the garlic candy and the bad singing. So I stand by my assertion. These girls will not appreciate the food.
Jessica pushes to the front of the line and Alice chides her, reminding her that guests go first. Jessica is embarrassed and sulky, and by the time she goes through the line, the last square of lasagne is all dried up and gross. You’d have thought Saint Elizabeth would have taken that one. [Raven: And they are serving themselves. Why isn’t Steven dishing it out?]
Next up comes decorating the tree. Mike seems quite interested in Mandy, and Jessica is both in denial about this and doesn’t like it. Basically, she sees Mandy as competition. Awesome.
Jessica puts a red glass ornament made by Elizabeth in first grade on the tree and it falls off. Everyone immediately shames her, in fact the tone is very much that she did it maliciously. Look, you fucking idiots, Jessica does a lot of things maliciously, but it’s always far more obvious. This girl has no concept of subtle.
Elizabeth gets all doleful about it. This is not surprising. This is a girl who needs to cry in her thinking seat when Jessica sits with Lila on the bus to a theme park. Or when Jessica doesn’t want to wear a Halloween costume that is literally attached to her twin because she has intense plans involving holding hands with her sort-of boyfriend.
Jessica is surprisingly human about it.
“We can make another one together,” Jessica said. “It won’t be exactly the same, but we can create a new memory for it, starting this year. Hey, we can make a dozen of them. Then when I’m silly enough to break another, we’ll still have eleven.” She smiled at her twin.
“Yeah… I guess,” Elizabeth said, sounding completely dejected.
Dude, what is she supposed to do? It’s fucking smashed. Woman up. What Would Saint Elizabeth do? You are her. You know. Smile big, cover your feelings, sound enthusiastic about it, and then cry in your thinking seat later. [Raven: Also, Jessica’s response was actually lovely (albeit presented as a work).]
(Ordinarily I’d be on the side of “your feelings are valid and you can feel them as long as you need” but pretty much everyone in this book is dead to me, including Jessica, so fuck everyone.)
Jessica decides that putting the star on the top of the tree with cheer Elizabeth up. Not Elizabeth putting on the topper, but Jessica. And this apparently works. *shrugs* Can I give up now? I don’t understand anything going on here, and I feel I understand SVT better than most.
Elizabeth gets her camera so she can take a photo. Unfortunately Jessica starts to lose her balance. In order to save herself, she somehow bats the tree away, which causes her to regain her balance and basically hurl a tree at Lila.
Mike leaps forward and catches the tree, then sorts out the screws on the stand.
Lila swoons over Mike and starts babbling about how she was nearly crushed by a tree her father was cutting down during a business trip to Oregon. George Fowler. The guy who runs a software company was cutting down trees. But apparently, this is a story all the Unicorns know, and Jessica knows that George likes to tell the story because Lila was terrified even though she was in no danger.
Jessica scoffs at Lila’s overreaction and says nobody could be hurt by a tree.
Mike says his grandfather was killed by one. Lightning struck a tree and it fell down and crushed his house. [Raven: Now that’s comedy.]
Wow. That’s terrific Christmas party conversation, Mike. Remind me to invite you to every party.
Jessica reads the room’s awkward silence and tries to move on to gifts.
Oh, and Maria Slater is here now. Which means that she was there at the first scene, when I ranted that she wasn’t. Thanks, Jamie, you’ve really nailed setting this party scene.
- Ken (from Aaron): Sweet Valley High football t-shirt
- Mandy (from Ken): a keychain of a “funky black shoe” just like the ones she wears.
- Jessica (from Winston): three accordion lessons with Winston. [Wing: The fuck?]
- Ellen (from Mike – shocka): the Utah Unicorns baseball cap.
- Lila (from Elizabeth but Jessica sabotaged) the yearbook.
- Aaron (from Amy, who’s not here yet but left the gift earlier): undisclosed, but I’m sure it was awesome.
- What did Ken and Winston get and from whom? Fuck you for asking. They’re boys. They don’t get gifts.
- What did Maria and Janet get? FUCK YOU FOR ASKING. JUST BE THANKFUL YOU EVEN KNOW THEY’RE HERE.
Now comments. Um, Winston, that gift sucks. If you have no ideas, just buy chocolate. He wittily adds that she can trade her accordion lessons for singing lessons. [Raven: Also, what’s Secret about this Secret Santa? Is that how it’s done in America, where everyone labels their gift with the purchaser’s name? That’s awful if so!] [Wing: I’m trying to think about how we’ve done it. My family does drawing names instead of buying gifts for all of the adults, and we keep it a secret throughout the year (except for me, I keep the list, so I know all), but we do tell each other when we get together and open gifts. Or, last year when we had no gathering due to the ‘rona, we sent gift messages with them. A group of friends and I did a secret gift exchange earlier this year and we kept it a secret for weeks but did send gift messages with them. At work, we’ve done Secret Santa twice now and each time we leave little gifts throughout the week and give the main gift on the last day of the week, so we learn then who had our name.]
Mike notices that Elizabeth hasn’t got a gift. Elizabeth assumes that she forgot to put her name in or it got stuck to someone else’s and fell out. Because she’s a saint.
Lila loves her present. She asks who it’s from and Elizabeth tells her to read the tag. She says that of course it’s Jessica, only Jessica knows her that well. Which is kind of heartbreaking, because Lila has loads of friends, but she thinks Jessica is her best friend, but Jessica’s twin knows just as much as Jessica does. Argh. Lila breaks my heart at Christmas. [Raven: Bless our little rich girl.]
Amy comes bounding in and sees Lila’s present. She asks how she liked the gift from Elizabeth, who worked super hard on it. Also, there’s an inscription on the first page from Elizabeth.
The room quickly turns on her when they realise what she’s done. Especially when they realise she didn’t just steal a gift, she didn’t even get Elizabeth a gift. She screwed her twin over twice.
Lila rushed across the circle and wrapped her arms around Elizabeth, hugging her tightly. “This is so typical! She had to hog the spotlight, when you’re the one who really deserves it.”
Lila. Hugged. Elizabeth.
Lila. She doesn’t even know how to hug! [Raven: Either this is uber-cute, or this is just the ghostie not having the first clue about Lila. I’m chosing to believe the former, but I suspect the truth lies in the latter.] [Dove: Valid. Very valid.] [Wing: I also think the truth is in the latter, but Lila was so thrilled to be known by someone that I’m going to go with the former. She’s so overwhelmed by Elizabeth knowing her that she lost control of her own personality.]
And everyone is furious with Jessica.
“Go ahead. Explain your way out of this one. But don’t expect us to be here when you finish,” Ellen said.
Jessica felt a tear trickle down her cheek. Ellen, who never had a mean word to say about anyone? Even Ellen hated her now?
Um, Ginny-Lu Culpepper and Lucy Benson want a word. Lots of words. And if you think that’s the only time she’s been terrible, you’re wrong. Look, ghostie, I love Ellen. But let’s not pretend she’s Mandy, who really has never been cruel to anyone.
Lila offers to let Elizabeth sleep at her house and bring her Christmas presents so Jessica doesn’t steal them, Mike says they will never be friends, and the judgement is very real here.
It’s bloody lovely. I mean, this is a clustefuck of a book, but it is nice to see people livid with Jessica over her bullshit. Can we just end this now? And then follow it up with a book where she has to earn their friendship back?
“I don’t care what any of you think,” Jessica said bitterly. “I hate all of you!”
She ran upstairs and slammed the door to her bedroom. Then she collapsed on her bed and burst into tears. Why did things have to turn out that way? “I wish this day had never happened!” she sobbed into her pillow. “I wish this Christmas Eve didn’t exist!”
If Christmas Eve didn’t exist, this would still have happened. I mean, Christmas would still exist. We just wouldn’t have a name for the day before Christmas. Basically, it’s a stupid wish. [Raven: The qualifier “this” makes it more sensible.]
Jessica wakes up thinking it’s Christmas morning. She wonders why Elizabeth is showering, but remembers that everyone hates her after yesterday’s nonsense. And then she decides she doesn’t care if everyone’s mad at her, she’s mad at them. This is clearly the thought pattern of a person with empathy. [Raven: Aaaaand, it was at this point I discovered the central premise of this book. I still think Jessica should strongly do one, but I guess I can see why building her up as a monster for her redemption arc was necessary.]
She goes downstairs and hears the same conversation as yesterday about the Christmas cards. Steven greets her with the same insult as before. She says that he needs more material, he said that over breakfast yesterday, and he says no, he had brekkie with Elizabeth yesterday, not her. Then he adds she really needs more sleep.
As the conversation plays out as it did last time, Jessica has a realisation. They’re having cereal for breakfast. On Christmas day, Alice always makes a cinnamon coffee cake. Pretty sure that’s not true and they’ve had bacon and pancakes on other Christmases, but sure. Let’s go with that. [Wing: Cinnamon coffee cake sounds disgusting, to be honest.]
Jessica decides that either she must have dreamed her version of yesterday and she might be a bit psychic. Or she’s reliving days.
She tries an experiment: she asks for money for a new dress for the party. Elizabeth immediately brings up the Sweet Valley Home Services clothing drive. And then comes out the cheque from Uncle Bob. And then she sees the date on the newspaper.
The rest of the conversation goes the same, except Jessica does her best to skip the bit about cookies, and tells Steven she’ll take care of the gift bags. He looks disappointed.
Next in her plan is to ask Elizabeth whether she intends to stick with her antiquated party ideas. Elizabeth says yes, and Jessica takes this as cart blanche to fuck Elizabeth’s life right up. She had her chance to bow down to Jessica and she missed it.
So, she takes a sticker and goes up to Elizabeth’s room. She carefully unwraps the yearbook for Lila and covers up the inscription and writes her own message, then she re-wraps it. [Raven: Actually, having Jessica’s immediate reaction to the situation be “Excellent, my plan for revenge just needs to be more devious and evil” is entirely on brand. Nice!]
Next she asks Elizabeth why Amy was late/will be late to the party (baking gingerbread houses for Sweet Valley Neighbours and Friends, apparently) then calls Dyan Sutton pretending to be from SVN&F and demands another ten gingerbread houses. That means Amy won’t be at the party.
She goes to the mall and buys the red dress.
Despite having done different things, she bumps into Janet, Mandy and Ellen the same as last time. This time, Jessica is not talked out of her red dress. She hits back at Janet and calls her Claustrophobic, which I will admit raised an actual smile from me. [Wing: I scoffed a little, but it’s not the worst I’ve heard.]
At the party, everyone loves her dress, and Janet is wearing a very boring outfit. Jessica doesn’t forget the cranberries or popcorn this time. And when it comes to carolling, Jessica takes Janet aside and asks her to sing loudly and draw out the last notes, because her dad really likes to hear it that way.
This results in Mike walking in as Janet sings badly, and Jessica makes fun of her for it. There is dead silence in response.
Which leads me to believe that everyone hates Jessica. They found this hilarious yesterday when she was the butt of the joke. I suppose they might be in kinder moods given that they’ve not eaten garlic candy and they’re not huffing burnt popcorn, but I like the idea that they all loathe her and she’s just oblivious.
Mike then makes an earnest speech about how it’s mean to make fun of people, and participation is what matters. God, he should go out with Elizabeth. They could be so saintly together. [Raven: Well, there’s no Todd in this book, so why the hell not?]
There is a painful silence broken by Steven announcing food. He tells Jessica she has to get her food first or nobody else can because she’s the host. Despite being told off for this exact thing yesterday, Jessica does so and is reprimanded by Alice.
I hate absolutely everyone and everything in this book. [Raven: Total bollocks.]
Jessica abandons food and starts decorating the tree, even though everyone is still eating. In her attempts not to smash Elizabeth’s precious ornament, she knocks the tree over.
Mike once again saves Lila. When Lila starts gushing about how triggered she is, Jessica remembers yesterday’s fails and instead pretends to be kind and supportive to Lila, noting that fearing trees is normal because they can kill you.
Mike, because he’s a contrary asshole, tells the story of his granddad again, but this time with a “wow, isn’t that weird and unlikely?” rather than “gosh, aren’t trees murderous?” slant. Then he takes Lila’s hand and suggests she relax.
Jessica stared at her best friend. Lila was practically holding hands with her guy!
This is the most G-rated slut-shaming I’ve ever seen.
Jessica tries to move things along to presents. Elizabeth points out they’re still eating, but Winston says yeah, presents. Also, he ate three pieces of lasagne. So, I guess yesterday when only one small square was left for Jessica, it was because he’d had three helpings before a bunch of people had one? Once again #NotMyWinston. [Raven: Having been in charge of mutliple Fuddles / Potlucks at work, I can attest that Winston’s actions are totally believable, if not mandatory.] [Dove: Fair. But still #NotMyWinston.] [Wing: What is wrong with those people? I’ve actually never seen someone go through twice or take double helpings before everyone’s had at least one time through.]
This time around, Jessica acts grateful about her present and says that now she and her dad can play polka Christmas carols, which is the reasoning Winston gave for his rubbish present.
Everything plays out as it did before, including us never finding out what Amy got Aaron.
Amy comes in at the same time as before, because she and her mom were burnt out on fucking gingerbread houses, so they’re going to finish them tomorrow. And she says exactly what she did before, about Elizabeth making Lila’s present. And because of Amy’s authenticity, Lila sees the inscription is on a sticker and peels it off.
Yep, same as before.
Jessica is bored of Christmas Eve by now and tries to change it up. Alarmingly, the script does not want to vary.
She tries to ask different questions, and they react as if she’s said her Iteration 1 words. In fact, here, you read this:
“So, can I ask you all a question?” she said.
“I know, I know. Can you borrow money from me for your last-minute shopping? The answer is no,” Steven said.
“That’s not the question. The question is, has anyone heard from Uncle Bob lately?” she asked.
“Aha!” Steven cried. “I knew that question would come up eventually.”
Jessica stared at him. “You did? How did you know I was going to ask about Uncle Bob?”
“Oh. Is that what you said?” Steven looked completely stumped.
“I thought you were buying a new dress,” Elizabeth said. “But I don’t really need one. In fact, I think I have too many clothes.”
“Yeah. Whatever, Elizabeth.” Jessica rolled her eyes. Even when she cut the conversation short, Elizabeth still managed to get in something about what a good person she was, compared to her twin. “So, Mom and Dad. What about Uncle Bob?” Jessica pressed.
“No,” Mr. Wakefield said abruptly.
“Not a chance,” Mrs. Wakefield added.
“What do you mean? You haven’t heard from him lately?” Jessica shook her head. This wasn’t going to work very well if everyone else kept repeating the answers to questions that weren’t even being asked anymore! She felt as if she were stuck in a parallel universe. She was speaking one language, and everyone else was speaking another!
“However, your uncle Bob might be able to help you out.” Mr. Wakefield slid an envelope across the table to Jessica, then one to Elizabeth and one to Steven.
That… is fucking sinister. On the one hand, this is really creepy and we could get some mileage out of how the world is breaking down. On the other hand, the entire fucking point of this story mechanic is to get her to do something different. [Wing: I fucking love the repetition with the idea that it is a horror story rather than a Groundhog Day comedy. Unfortunately, that’s not what ghostie is writing.]
Listen, Jamie, you are either writing Groundhog Day in order to get a good outcome, or you’re writing some kind of horror story that is about the world that’s got stuck and is slowly falling apart (I guess the nearest thematic comparison is The Langoliers) that ends in pretty much universal death. You can’t have it both ways. PICK A FUCKING LANE, YOU INCOMPETENT TIT. [Raven: One hundred percent agree. This is not how the trope works. By far the worst section of the book.]
The cookies conversation starts apropos of nothing and Jessica excuses herself. She decides the way to escape is to do everything different.
So she tears out the inscription on the first page of Elizabeth’s present, rewraps it and moves on.
At the mall, she refuses to show her dress and suggests their outfits should be secrets.
Then she goes to the Suttons’ and slashes the tires on Amy’s bike. (I’m certain this won’t at all result in her getting driven over by her mom.)
At the party, she’s wearing her red dress. She doesn’t take the food at all. She sings quietly during carols. While everyone eats, she threads the popcorn and cranberries. She pricks her finger and despite making a bit of a fuss, nobody even notices. Mike does not come rushing over to rescue her.
Lila puts the star on top of the tree (why not Elizabeth?) and Jessica strikes a helpless pose, ready to be rescued when the tree topples. It does not topple.
Then Amy shows up.
Elizabeth pushes Jessica out the way to greet Amy, Jessica stumbles into the tree and it again heads for Lila. Mike saves her. Even Jamie is so bored about the scary tree conversation that she skips it. [Raven: Also, this tree-toppling? Totes Elizabeth’s fault.]
We do presents, and before it’s even unwrapped, Elizabeth and Amy are confused that Lila’s present says from Jessica.
Here we go again.
Jessica is overwhelmed and decides to stay in bed. When Alice comes up to see her, she accuses her of playing sick to get out of chores. Dude, she didn’t do any fucking chores. You’ve met her, right? She doesn’t do chores. She has a twin.
Alice snaps that if Jessica doesn’t get out of bed, she can’t have the party. This sounds perfect to Jessica, and at that point Alice wonders if her daughter is actually ill.
Jessica makes a list of things she could do to make Christmas come while the party goes on. It all comes down to Amy. She can’t let her in the door.
Steven comes tearing upstairs to shout at her for being a terrible human being. He thinks she’s pretending to be sick to get out of buying Elizabeth a Secret Santa gift.
This one is a huge stretch. At the mall her friends asked if she was buying for her Secret Santa, so it’s fair to buy on Christmas Eve. Conceivably, she could be actually ill and unable to buy for Elizabeth. And all the evidence points to her actually being ill. She’s missing a party.
I know she’s not ill. I’m just saying this iteration sucks donkey schlong. It doesn’t make sense. You’d think at least Saint Elizabeth would be heroically saying that Jessica is really ill and she’s worried about her.
I guess we couldn’t have a suicide chapter like Groundhog Day did, and the result was this utter piffle.
When Jessica wakes, she makes a half-decent deduction. She remembers that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to make them over and over.
Good. Well done.
Her mistake is letting Amy Sutton in the house.
A SWING AND A MISS FOR OUR SELFISH LITTLE MONSTER.
By this point (Chapter 13 of 15), Bill Murray was so near to success. Jessica has yet to do a single nice thing.
I have to get Amy out of the way, for real this time. But how? It wouldn’t be easy to keep Elizabeth’s best friend in the entire world away on Christmas Eve.
I really hope this is the one where Jessica kills Amy. [Wing: And here I thought Jessica thought she herself was Elizabeth’s best friend in the entire world.]
Jessica paused for a moment on the stairs, a little scared by herself. She was starting to sound like someone in a gangster movie. Get rid of Amy? Get her out of the way? She didn’t want any actual harm to come to Amy. Of course, if she happened to come down with a twenty-four-hour bug, that would be convenient, but Jessica would never poison Amy’s food or anything. There had to be an easier way.
Jessica couldn’t back down now. This revenge scheme had to work!
No. Seriously. Is this the one where she kills Amy? [Raven: I was legit thinking the same.]
Jessica buys tickets to Christmas on Ice and leaves them at the box office under Amy’s name. She calls Amy pretending to be a Russian named Ludmila, and says that Amy won the tickets in a contest open to anyone taking skating lessons (which Amy apparently is). Amy says she can’t make the show, she has plans, but Jessica manages to push her into saying yes, at the very least.
I’m sure this won’t result in Amy giving the tickets to her mother or a homeless shelter or whatever it is that Amy decides would be a nice gesture.
Somehow she still has enough money to buy her red dress. I guess $50 goes a long way in Sweet Valley. Unless you’re buying a hardback book.
Cut to the party, where Jessica is on her best behaviour. She’s handing Elizabeth her precious fucking ornament when the doorbell rings. She drops it and cries Amy’s name, which makes Elizabeth baffled.
Amy, of course, gave the tickets to her mom and she’s early because her mom dropped her off in the car on her way to the rink.
Jessica says she doesn’t feel well and is going to lie down.
Later there’s a knock at her door, and she tells Steven to fuck off. But it’s not Steven, it’s the saint, who has said very fucking little throughout this book. Elizabeth is worried about Jessica’s sudden sickness. Which is interesting, because she didn’t give a flying fuck about her sister being bed-ridden yesterday. Elizabeth is all upset because they’ve never spent Christmas Eve apart. Y’know, except for yesterday when AGAIN ELIZABETH DIDN’T GIVE A FUCK.
Jesus motherfucking Christ. At this point, I think asking for continuity throughout this series is an irrational ask. From book to book it changes whether the twins can or cannot sing, whether Elizabeth has a spine, whether Jessica is a fun sociopath or someone you actively want to drown in Secca Lake…
BUT I DON’T THINK IT’S TOO MUCH TO FUCKING ASK FOR CONTINUITY OVER THE SPAN OF FIVE PAGES. I’M NOT EVEN ASKING FOR A WHOLE FUCKING BOOK. BUT FIVE PAGES AGO, ELIZABETH DID NOT GIVE A FLYING FUCK THAT HER SISTER WAS SICK THROUGH CHRISTMAS EVE, BUT NOW SHE FUCKING DOES? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
And now I’m just so mad I can’t even really get back into this. So let’s do this quickly. Don’t worry, there’s fun stuff at the bottom of the page. If you’re bored by this recap, skim down to the “Deleted Scenes”.
Jessica is touched by Elizabeth’s worry for her, and tries to come clean about the Secret Santa situation. Before she can get the words out, Lila bursts in thanking her for the most wonderful gift.
Elizabeth looks heartbroken and when Lila asks where Jessica got such a great idea from, Elizabeth rallies hard, saying that Jessica came up with it immediately, and that she worked all day on it.
FUCK OFF, ELIZABETH. TAKE YOUR SAINTLY TEARS AND FUCK OFF TO SWITZERLAND FOR A WRITING PROGRAMME. AND TAKE JEFFREY FRENCH WITH YOU. SERIOUSLY. NOBODY LIKES THAT DUDE. HE’S LIKE RILEY FUCKING FINN. A VOID OF FUCKING CHARISMA.
Well. That one’ll confuse Wing and Raven. [Wing: I mean, I got the Riley Finn reference but otherwise, yeah, confused.]
I think I feel better now.
Sometimes just knowing that Raven and Wing read these all-cap scribblings and have no idea what I’m on about makes me feel better. [Raven: Yes, that confused the hell out of me. Loving the Dove Goes Boom moment either way.]
When Lila leaves, Jessica tries to apologise and says she knows that Elizabeth will hate her… but Elizabeth loves her. They’re best friends. The joy of giving is seeing the reaction, so Elizabeth is up by two because Lila loved her present, and Jessica got credit. Jessica says by that logic, she’s negative two. Elizabeth says she could never hate anyone, especially her own twin on Christmas Eve (how about that time she was furious that her sister got her tickets for a Save the Whales concert that conflicted with a Sixers meeting? They went to bed angry and hateful that Christmas Eve) [Raven: It seems that, unlike Jessica, Elizabeth has learnt from her thirty fucked-up Christmases over the past year.]
Jessica feels rotten.
She thinks that this is the one that will stick because this time she got away with everything.
Jessica wakes up and once she realises it’s Christmas Eve again, she is charm personified. She greets everyone cheerily, she agrees with Steven when he says she needs more beauty sleep.
She asks about Mike’s sister again, but this time her agenda is that they’re new to town and if he welcomed her, it would be a nice thing to do. Steven is thrown by this. He asks if she wants him to ask Miranda if Mike likes her, and she says no. Just be nice to the new girl.
Elizabeth asks what Jessica is wearing to the party, and she decides that she’ll find something in their collective closets. And she’s agreeable when Elizabeth asks her if she has any clothing she’d like to donate.
When Elizabeth says she’ll donate her $50, Jessica matches it. [Raven: Hard nope.]
Whut? I thought she would need that money for a gift for Elizabeth and the party favours?
Ok. You go saintly then. I don’t care. I hope you all die at this point. Then the homeless can have your house.
At the mall, Jessica buys her gift for Elizabeth, and bumps into the Unicorns. They ask about her shopping and when she reveals she hasn’t bought a dress, Janet is alarmed. Isn’t she trying to impress Mike? Jessica says that never works. He’ll either like her or he won’t.
Then she rushes home to joyfully bake cookies with her bestest friend and sister in the whole wide world.
At the party, she offers to take the coats, and Steven takes over, obviously pleased with how helpful she is. Jessica compliments Janet’s dress. She has a nice conversation with Mike. She lets everyone eat first. She does not break the ornament. Lila puts the star on top of the tree. [Wing: I still don’t understand why. And actually, I don’t understand why they’re not decorating the tree until Christmas Eve. The Wakefields are the type of family to have a picture-perfect decoration scheme up right after Thanksgiving. And Lila is the type whose home is professionally decorated and she’s never put a star on top of the tree. Which would actually make this a sweet gesture, I guess.]
Jessica is apparently now genuinely pleased at receiving accordion lessons and wants to learn how to play Jingle Bells. Elizabeth loves her earrings. Mike asks her to a Utah Unicorns Game over the Christmas break. [Wing: Wait, if they’re playing close enough to go to a game, that means there’s a local team (or localish team, at least), so why wouldn’t he assume she liked them? (Beyond Unicorns Unicorns Unicorns, but he’s new, does he know the obsession already?)]
It is fucking joyous.
The next day is actually Christmas.
And Jessica lived happily ever after.
Or, y’know, until she pulls this shit again. Probably in a couple of months when it’s Christmas again.
I’m so done. I think all my capslock rage has pointed out how much this book pissed me off. I can live with failed continuity in the series. But not in the same book. Certainly not in the same chapter.
Also, I would have liked to see Jessica try some nice things and not get them completely right straight away. The way this panned out, it’s like Jessica knew all along how to be perfectly nice, and she just elected to see if she could get away with being an asshole. Unlike the movie where Bill Murray had to grow as a person by degrees.
[Raven: I really like Groundhog Day. Like, really like it. A lot. This? This is not Groundhog Day.
For a start, the first iteration is half the fucking book. The second is a full quarter. And the rest, including the “winning” iteration, are tossed off in about thirty pages. I’ll give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt, and just say that the premise is likely far too ambitious to successfully fit into a YA-length book, Super Edition or not. And while I know that the have to bring full-pelt MonsterJess for the first iteration, I just wanted to punch her throughout.
With more pacing and balance, this could have been fun. Jessica’s steadfast belief that to escape the trauma she must simply get away with her yearbook deception was decent, and what there was of the final “clean” iteration was nice, but the whole thing was overshadowed by the first iteration going on for DECADES. So, overall, not a big fan. I’ll stick with the Bill Murray classic, if it’s all the same to you.]
[Wing: I don’t actually like Groundhog Day much, nor of the trope itself, so I was already primed to not like this book the second I realised what it was doing. I didn’t hate it as much as Raven did, though, and certainly not as much as Dove, but I love the fuck out of this recap. Excellent reading.]
Now please enjoy the deleted scenes…
The Deleted Scenes
We all know that Jessica’s plans could never be as PG as the ones she went through with in the book. So here are my thoughts on what she probably did on other iterations we did not see.
Jessica: I’ll take the AR-180 assault rifle with scope, Colt K-model .45 ACP, a Smith and Wesson .38 four-inch, a Beretta .225 ACP, the Remington 1100 autoloader…
Clerk: Anything else?
Jessica: A phased plasma pulse-laser in the forty watt range…
Clerk: Just what you see, kid.
Jessica: *sighs*, ok, I’ll take the Uzi 9 millimeter instead.
Clerk: So which one do you want?
Jessica: All of them.
Clerk: All of them?
Jessica: What? I’m a middle-class white girl, what harm could it do?
(… turns out, a lot.)
When she wakes, Jessica heads straight downstairs, her family attempts to talk to her but she goes straight to the knife block and selects the biggest and sharpest knife available.
She heads back upstairs and into the connected bathroom she shares with her twin. Elizabeth is obliviously showering when she strikes.
And even the frantic pounding on the door from the rest of the family doesn’t slow Jessica down.
One for Wing
Jessica endures the nonsense of the day, with a creepy smile on her face, as she lays down her plans. She spends the day setting camping gas canisters around the kitchen. As they are decorated with red bows and her family’s collective IQ is in the low thirties, nobody really notices. When it comes time to microwave the popcorn, she tosses one of the canisters into the microwave, sets it for half an hour, hits start and skips out the door.
The explosion could be seen from Nevada.
[Wing: I love you. (Though I did expect werewolves when I saw the header.)]
One for the Curious
Jessica goes to the top floor of the mall and spends the day throwing items of varying weight from the balcony. She starts with a penny, having heard the urban legend that if you throw a penny from the Empire State Building, it will flatten whatever it lands on.
From this height, a penny does nothing.
Rocks do something.
By the time she’s escalated to bowling balls, she is surrounded by fifty armed policemen.
One for the Sweet Valley High Readers
Jessica decides that her sophisticated theme is nonsense. She instead goes with a Jungle Prom theme. And then she steals some grain alcohol from Ned’s secret stash in the garage…
Another One for the Sweet Valley High Readers
Jessica swaps the Christmas tree for the fridge.
On a whim, she invites Olivia Davidson to the party.
Feel free to write your own.
[Raven: Loving these, at least the ones I understand. Let me try…
A Dish Served Cold
Skipping the party was the best idea, mused Jessica, unstopping the canister. The stench of gasoline twitched at her nose. She doused the liquid on the sides of the studio. It sloshed across the slats, darkening the boards like an ominous cloud in the sky.
From inside, she could hear the rhythmic pounding of ungentle feet on polished wood, underpinned by a tinkling piano. As Jessica emptied her canister and fumbled in her pockets, she heard the music stop.
“Girls girls girls!” A thick European accent permeated the haze. “We shall have to start again! The recital is in two hours, and still you are not right! It is plie, revele, demi-detourne! One more time, from the top!” The piano music started once more.
Jessica fleetingly considered the fifth-graders, doing their best to appease the monster. Collateral damage, she thought, her thumb strumming at the Zippo’s gear.
The flame sparked, underlighting Jessica’s sullen eyes. She tossed the lighter toward the building. It landed in the pooling fuel, catching immediately, tendrils snaking to the window and higher.
Jessica smiled. Fuck you, Madame Andre.
Wow. A story 131 books in the making (Raven has just pointed out he literally foretold this moment in recap #2 on this site). [Wing: It is times like this that makes all the bullshit and GOING BOOM and terrible writing and sometimes too many emotions all worth it. I love my fellow recappers.]
Ok, I’m doing more.
The problem with revenge, Jessica muses, while her sister showers and her idiot parents blather on about Christmas cards, is that if you start too small, you fail.
How on earth can she possibly win in this situation when she’s up against her sister? Because of her saintliness, Elizabeth is probably worth two of Jessica, to say nothing of her idiot flunky, Amy, who keeps scuppering her plans.
It’s a numbers game.
She heads over to the Mercandy backyard, where all of her victims have been buried over the many years that have made up sixth grade.
She opens her mouth and begins to chant:
Ade due Damballa! Donnez-moi le pouvoir, je vous en supplie!
Ade due Damballa! Give me the power I beg of you.
The sky turns dark. Lightning hits the spire at the top of the spooky Mercandy house.
And around her, rotting limbs thrust through the soil around her.
The dead are clawing their way out of their graves.
And they are completely under her control.
Jessica laughs and laughs and laughs.
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.