Title: Good-Bye Middle School*
* Disclaimer: This recap is provided to you on an “as-is” basis, and thus does not guarantee that a middle school (including but not limited to Sweet Valley Middle School, Big Mesa Middle School or any other previously mentioned on this website) will actually be present in any of the fiction referred to herein. The title in no way constitutes a legal and binding obligation for the recappers of Sweet Valley Online to mention said middle school. All legal queries relating to this should be directed to Wing.[****]
[**** Anything Wing has said or will say on or about this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Unlike Ned Wakefield, Wing has a legal specialty and does not provide legal advice willy-nilly to fit the plot. Legal queries directed to Wing are first screened by her werewolves.]
Tagline: Will they be torn apart?
Summary: Now that summer’s over**, identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield can’t wait to get back to school. The only question is: Which school will they be going to?
Sweet Valley Middle School has become so overcrowded, half the seventh and eighth graders will be moved to a new junior high. And nobody knows who will stay and who will go! The twins and their friends plan to spend what might be a final night together, camping out playing Truth or Dare.
But these friends who thought they knew one another so well are about to discover a truth more shocking than any dare….
Don’t miss Books One, Two, and Three in this fantastic four-part miniseries: Countdown to Jr. High.***
** Disclaimer 2: The statement “Now that the summer’s over” should not be taken to mean that summer is, in fact, over. As clearly outlined in the Pascal Document (para 42 (a) (iii)), this clearly means “it’s July”.
*** Disclaimer 3: Any reference to Books One, Two and Three does not constitute an obligation for said books to exist. Further, the above sentence does not guarantee that this is a mini-series, and the owners of this site are under no obligation to understand which books belong in this mini-series, or even if said mini-series even exists. Furthermore, should any of the said books (Book One, Book Two, Book Three or the implied Book Four) actually not exist, Sweet Valley Online are in no way responsible for any emotional distress felt by anyone claiming the above sentence is misleading.
Once again, any legal queries should be directed to Wing. But she’s really smart and had a great education, so she’ll probably blow you out of the water.[*****]
[***** This is true. *preens*]
*nods* Yep, that’ll do it.
As you can tell by my disclaimers above, my initial thoughts are: why does the title not reflect the contents; and WHAT FUCKING FOUR-PART MINI-SERIES? There are only three books in this mini-series. I DON’T FUCKING GET IT.
I fully anticipate that my fellow recappers will shrug helplessly with a disinterested vibe that conveys both “Dove, this is your fandom, if you don’t know, why should we know?” and “SHUT UP! WE’RE NEARLY DONE. JUST GET IT OVER WITH AND THEN WE CAN HAVE THE SUMMER OFF.”
[Wing: I’m too charmed by the compliments and disclaimers to shout.]
And then I expect Liz to explain in the comments that “Down with Queen Janet” was actually a super edition once upon a time and was the first part of this, or some such bollocks.
Feel free to either do exactly what I said or surprise me. I win either way. I’m either justified or educated. It’s a win.
[Raven: Going in, I was happy that we’d get to see the demise and destruction of the colossal shit-show that is Sweet Valley Middle School. As literally not-one-dick of this narrative takes place at Sweet Valley Middle School, I feel strangely misled. This book can fuck off.] [Dove: I remember having an idea to render the front cover, the twins are facing the school, back to the camera, holding hands, while the school burns to the ground. Jessica’s free hand holds a gasoline can. Completely forgot to do that.] [Wing: Hearts and stars in my eyes. Would love that.]
We open with Jessica contemplating fashion and Elizabeth bettering humanity.
Ah, this is what we’ve missed: the twins being in Sweet Valley Twins.
Jessica is busy choosing a bathing suit to wear at Lila’s, and Elizabeth is squealing with joy over a letter she’s just received that confirms that she’ll be building houses in Costa Rica this summer with Habitat for Humanity Rain Forest Friends. [Raven: Getting huge Woodland Critter Christmas vibes from that name.]
Oh. So the twins being in Sweet Valley Twins is going to be short-lived is it? *crumples* Fine.
Jessica is just as pissed off about this development as I am. She knows that Elizabeth is a saintly bore, but she loves her anyway. She tries to be supportive, but she’s disappointed, and when Elizabeth asks about it, Jessica says that they’ll be separated for the summer.
Elizabeth says she never even thought of that.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
The girl who has a meltdown when her twin sits next to someone else on the bus to the theme park? The girl who has to cry in a tree when her sister joins a club Elizabeth has no interest in? The girl who has had multiple fucking books about being heartbroken that her twinsie doesn’t want a matching Halloween costume?
That one never thought about how long they’d be separated?
GET THE IN THE FUCKING SEA.
Elizabeth cheerfully suggests that Jessica come with her. You know. Jessica. The one who likes lazing by the pool in the latest fashions and whose only encounter with hard work is clubbing a fifth grader to death over a great-looking sweater during the Black Friday sales. That girl. Yep. That’ll go down well.
Jessica says it’s too late to apply, and it’s not her cup of tea anyway. What’s she going to do in Sweet Valley, she’ll be so bored. Elizabeth’s reply is: “we’ll spend plenty of time together next year, right?” I know by “next year” she means the school year, but without that context, it’s bloody funny that the clingy twin is like, “I’m not free until January,” to her best friend. In July. [Wing: Well, she did fuck off into oblivion for what feels like the bulk of the Unicorn Club, perhaps she’s learned to live apart from her twin. Character development. You know, off-page, where it belongs, at least per the ghosties.]
It turns out, that’s a clumsy segue into info-dumping the important information that Sweet Valley Middle School is re-zoning and next year half the students from SVMS and Secca Lake Middle school will be sent to the brand new Sweet Valley Junior High. But that’s ok, because even if they’re split up by surname or address, Jessica will be with Elizabeth.
First of all, since when is there a fucking middle school at Secca Lake? We can see Secca Lake from the Wakefield Compound. Wing, is that normal to have two middle schools that close? [Raven: Also, it’s pretty galling that Johnny Buck had a concert there at 3:30 one afternoon, presumably within shitting distance of the playground.] [Dove: Good thing there’s no court order about how far he has to be from a school.] [Wing: Eh, school would have been over by 3:30 and even if not, free Johnny Buck concert. That’s either a prize or a punishment depending on the listener. As for the locations of the middle schools, the Wakefields could be at the far edge of the original SVMS district such that they weren’t attending SLMS but are that close to it, but it’s unlikely. Having two middle schools on either side of Sweet Valley could happen, though, or more than two depending on exactly how large Sweet Valley actually is, something no one knows, particularly me. Basically: There’s no logic or consistency here, but who cares, we’re almost done!]
Second of all, the plan is to take two separate middle schools, chop them in half, leave half at each school (a quarter of all students), and then take the remainder (half of all students) and put them in a new school. Sweet Valley is tiny. How on earth do you need three middle schools that close? And Big Mesa is only a stone’s throw away. Why don’t you do what every other school does and create a “temporary mobile classroom”, which turns out not to be mobile and remains in situ until the elements wear it away to dust?
Then again, if there’s a new girl every week, I guess maybe they do need a new school. *shrug*
So, that’s my argument about the logistics of this plot point. Now let’s get on to how this information was delivered. Jessica just remembered it. That’s it. It’s apparently – according to the summary, if you’re foolish enough to believe it – the key point of this book. So why the hell did this new revelation happen off screen and we just have a character remember it? Why didn’t we have a breakfast scene where Alice and Ned inform the kids they’ve received a letter from the school or, even better, have the kids be dragged along to a PTA meeting when this bombshell is dropped?
What I’m saying is: having a character think “Oh yes, PLOT POINT is happening… that will probably impact me” is the least exciting and absolute laziest way to convey this. Especially since it’s going to allegedly fuel the rest of this book.
Oh, and spoilers: THIS PLOT POINT IS NEVER FUCKING RESOLVED. You just have to find it out by learning that the Jr High books exist. And if you’re in Europe… well, you’d better google that shit or have an American bestie who buys the books for you. Because those books are not getting a release over here. Ditto Senior Year.
If you think we’re dragging our feet with the final recaps, just remember: we’re not paid to do this. The ghosties are. I don’t care how bored they are. You’re paid to write something, so fucking write it. Don’t just write that a character remembers it. [Raven: Proper lazy bullshit, this. I get that this is a bridging book (series?) between Twins and Jnr High, but at least have the bridging book actually tackle the bridging.]
Jessica changes the subject by asking which swimsuit she should wear at Lila’s. Elizabeth is irritated, she and Jessica were supposed to go to the library today. Elizabeth snaps that Jessica is always with the Unicorns. Jessica wants to tell her that she’s socialising with them as much as possible because when the school is re-zoned, all her friends might be in a different school to her. But she doesn’t want to voice that thought in case it gives it life.
We cut to Jessica at Lila’s and she’s spacing out because she’s worried about the future. Apropos of nothing, she’s sees a magical Native American’s face in the bottom of Lila’s pool and it gives her the shivers. Cool. That’s really fucking stupid. It comes out of nowhere, there’s no reason for it, there’s no foreshadowing, and, even though the book spends two whole sentences trying to convince me it’s oh-so-spooky, it’s laughable. It’s a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. [Raven: I would have laughed like a hyena if it had actually been a “The Fowlers’ New Maid Has Drowned” moment. Would have been on brand for the series.]
The Unicorns then discuss the upcoming changes to the school. Everyone’s really happy to meet new people, and Jessica feels obligated to pretend she’s super excited to meet new cool people and flirt with new boys.
Mandy suggests they have a slumber party at Secca Lake next Friday – as if that’s just a thing they do. Jessica remembers it’s right next to the Native American burial ground.
Nope. Having just re-read the recap for The Haunted Burial Ground, that was on Sleepy Hollow Road – a name Wing really couldn’t get past [Wing: I STILL CAN’T. WHY WAS THAT THE NAME OF THE ROAD? W H Y?] – and not Secca Lake. Unless, like middle schools, Sweet Valley has many of these things? In which case: STOP FUCKING BUILDING ON TOP OF NATIVE AMERICAN BURIAL GROUNDS. Once is fucking terrible, but twice in a teeny suburb is ridiculously awful.
Side note: Rachel Grant is present in this scene. Her dark skin and curly hair is described to give diversity points, but she says nothing. Which certainly backs my theory, both that she was brought in for diversity, and that the only time she’s not being an epic bastard is because the ghostie has no lines to give her. Worst written character in the entire goddamn series. [Raven: My nomination still goes to Ginny-Lou Culpepper. She’s Jessie from Toy Story 2, without the lovable spunk (… easy now).] [Wing: I can’t believe I’m nostalgic for that sort of Raven comment, but I am.] [Dove: You are alone in that feeling.]
We cut to Elizabeth, who is with Maria, and they’re talking about the school situation. Maria is looking forward to it. Elizabeth is hoping that all her besties will be there. You know, Maria, Sophia, Evie, Cammi.
One of these names does not belong. Cammi is besties with Anna. In the 167 books about these kids, Cammi has been in two of them. One was giving her the strength to share the secret that her parents are deaf, the other was getting her together with Randy in a really stupid Clueless rip-off, where Jessica – not Elizabeth – played Cher.
Dearest ghostie, you know whose name wouldn’t have pinged with me? Julie Porter. I know that there have been zero books about her, and that she’s so goddamned bland that the one Porter book was about her sister, but she’s always at Elizabeth’s lunch table and helped Elizabeth start the Sixers. I know this is a year later, but seriously, know something about the series you’re writing, ghostie. And Francine: get your people to make better notes. Michael Grant says your Sweet Valley Bible was “absolute crap” – that’s a direct quote.
Elizabeth has the same thought as Jessica: even if she’s separated from her friends, at least she’ll be with her twin.
“Sometimes I think SVMS is too cliquey.” Maria stepped up on the opposite curb and turned to face Elizabeth. “You know. Everybody hangs with the same people all the time. The science jocks… the Unicorns—”
“Don’t even get me started on the Unicorns,” Elizabeth said gloomily. Individually some of the Unicorns were nice people. She’d always liked Mandy, for instance. And Mary Wallace, who had been a member a couple of years before.
And Jessica, of course.
But as a group, they could be totally obnoxious.
“Then there’s the Johnny Buck wanna-bes,” Maria went on. “The kids who think they’re rock stars? And the arty crowd, and the athletes… and the plain old ordinary kids like us!” She flashed Elizabeth a smile.
- YOU WERE BOTH IN THE UNICORN CLUB.
- Who are these Johnny Buck wanna-bes? It’s been 167 books and that has never been a clique. [Raven: And they would have SO been called The Buckalikes.] [Wing: HEARTS AND STARS IN MY EYES.]
- And who are you to call Elizabeth “ordinary”? She is SAINT FUCKING WAKEFIELD and a GODDAMNED WAKEFIELD TWIN.
[Wing: Oh how I miss the Newnicorns still.]
Elizabeth responds that they’re so much better than the Unicorns because they don’t exclude people. Maria delightfully claps back with that’s her point – Elizabeth is just as cliquey as everyone else. (We’re still ignoring the fact these two were in the Unicorn Club). Elizabeth goes for passive-aggressive as a response and asks Maria if she has to be Kimberly Haver’s best friend. Maria backs down and says that Elizabeth is a fucking saint, who has even been kind to the Unicorns when necessary, but still change is good. Oh, fuck off.
As Jessica bikes home from Lila’s, it suddenly occurs to her that despite the Unicorns being “the prettiest and most popular girls in the school™”, they are actually not well-liked. And if she was sent to a school with no Unicorns, she probably would not be popular. This is a pleasing revelation to witness. It’s about time these bastards realised how horrible they are. Jessica is genuinely worried she might be bullied. So she decides to invite everyone to the Unicorn-only party. She’s going to try and raise some last-minute friendship points. [Wing: This is perfectly Jessica.]
Back with Elizabeth and Maria, they’ve ordered a sundae at Casey’s, and waiting for Joe (“their favorite counterman” – dude, he’s the fucking owner) to bring it over. It turns out that Maria bought a book called “Fifty Great Conversation Starters” and Elizabeth realises that Maria must be more worried about the school situation than she let on.
[Wing: Are they alternating between Scoops and Casey’s now?]
Elizabeth picks a page at random, and asks the question “What’s your favourite pet?” and thinks the question is stupid. Yeah, it is, you dimwit. But most small-talk is. Do you think there’s anything particularly profound about “Nice weather we’re having” or “Gosh, this bus is late”? Small talk is small. God, you’re thick. [Raven: Maria’s openers should always be “Who’s got two thumbs and used to be a uber-famous child actress? *gestures self with thumbs* This bitch.”]
Winston joins them and starts taking bits of their sundae [Raven: This bit actually enraged me. What a bellend!]. Then we head-hop to Jessica, who shows up, needing ice cream to cool her panic. She spots her sister and notices Winston. She decides now is time to enact Plan Befriend All The People I Bullied for Decades.
Thankfully, Winston is instinctually aware of her plot requirements, and helpfully says that if she was really nice, she would invite him to all the Unicorn parties. Personally, I can’t remember a single party where he wasn’t there, if we exclude all the girl- or club-only slumber parties, which he could never expect an invitation to. But sure. So that gives Jessica the opening she needs.
Winston says no, because Secca Lake is haunted. In a stunning bit of continuity – oh, wait, this must be the same ghostie who wrote the other Magical Native American book, urgh – Winston recalls the events of that book, where Steven made scary noises to make them think it was haunted, and Winston never found out the truth.
Until now, Steven comes over (yeah, he’s there too), and gloats about his prank. I can only assume that this ghostie has been very anxious about this unresolved thread and was like OMG, I can write about Magical Native Americans again AND resolve this dangling plot thread? BEST. BOOK. EVAH!
[Wing: Ghostie, I did not expect to meet you again. It’d be a real shame if you had to fuck off into the sea after this.]
For all I know, this was written by a Native American ghostie who was desperate to introduce some diversity into the book. But it’s such a cringe storyline that it comes across more as “My great-great-great aunt’s cousin’s brother’s sister-in-law was one fourteenth Cherokee, so that’s why I have a dream catcher in my room.”
And now the kids are like, “Damn, I’ve been believing in ghosts the whole time, but it was a lie.” Except, y’know, even if that was actually true (I can barely remember that awful book, but I think there was a real haunting), there were still eight other books where they met ghosts. But sure. [Raven: This whole book is part shitty Super Chiller, and part Contractually Obligated Chip Show Presented By Troy McClure (you may remember him from classic SVT stories such as “Jessica’s Fifteenth First Kiss”, “Lila Hires a Hitman,” and “Mr Nydick Meets Chris Hansen”).]
Elizabeth gazes across the room and sees a Magical Native American face by the door. But she blinks and it disappears. And it’s still stupid.
Winston is dubious about the party, even if Steven did fake the haunting, there might still be a real one. Elizabeth says that even if there is, there are going to be “tons” of parents there to keep them safe. Tons? Seriously, Elizabeth? You’re thirteen and your ideal party is filled to the hilt with parents? What the fuck is wrong with you?
(Damn, I’ve missed ragging on her.)
This comment does not go down well with Jessica either. Jessica is Team Zero Parent and Elizabeth is firmly Tons of Parents. The argument escalates quite quickly before Maria offers a compromise: her parents will borrow her uncle’s RV, park it near but not too close, and they can be on hand for any emergency without encroaching on the fun.
Back at home, the twins continue to disagree. And it’s worth noting here that pretty much every argument could be resolved with:
Elizabeth wants to play Twister, Jessica wants to play music and dance. Why not both? Well because there is no electricity and batteries are expensive. Jesus Christ, Elizabeth, you’re not in your seventies and on a limited pension. If Jessica wants to buy batteries, LET HER BUY BATTERIES. [Raven: They could also just steal the ones in Alice’s sex toys. Also, I will say that it’s pretty fucking shit that Elizabeth has just muscled into the organisational committee without as much as a by-your-leave. Who died and made you the Fun Tsar, you laminated scrotum?]
At this point, Alice comes in from a neighbourhood association meeting and reveals that there’s a rumour going around that the new Junior High will be offering an accelerated learning programme, where they would do three years’ work in two. Elizabeth thinks it sounds terrific. Jessica can’t think of anything worse than longer classes with more homework.
[Wing: Can you imagine the drama if one of them managed to get a grade ahead of the other? OH WAIT YOU DON’T HAVE TO.]
Elizabeth is buzzing with excitement over it all. Jessica starts to worry that she and Elizabeth may be separated after all. Elizabeth can’t help but gush about how awesome it will be to be around clever people just like her who love learning and don’t exclude people. Jessica takes that as a dig at the Unicorns, and Elizabeth says actually, yes, the Unicorns are exclusive harpies, and Jessica hasn’t even told them that she’s been inviting everyone to their party. Jessica suddenly realises there was also a dig at her intelligence there too, and snaps back. Sadly she doesn’t remind Saint Brain that Jessica was a star member of SOAR. Did Elizabeth ever get the cap? If she did, I don’t remember it.
Alice takes a sip from her hip flask and tells the kids to stop fighting, it’s just a rumour. Elizabeth says she hopes it’s real, and Jessica hits back saying she does too, so she’s not stuck with “kids like [Elizabeth]”.
Both go their separate ways, loathing each other.
Next up, the Unicorns are playing volleyball, and Lila is not happy that Jessica has invited every Tom, George and Winston to the party. Jessica says that she knows everyone is nervous, even if they won’t admit it, and if they’re at different schools next year, their friendship probably will taper off. Even if they work hard, it won’t be the same, because they won’t have the same social circle in common to gossip about or laugh about weird stuff at school. This brings everyone down with a bump, as they realise that being “the prettiest and most popular girls in Sweet Valley Middle School” isn’t necessarily a transferable currency.
Only Lila is convinced that she’ll be queen of the mountain, but she has to agree because she’s outvoted.
And back with the twins, they’re having another stupid argument that doesn’t even make sense. They’re talking about where to camp/party. Jessica likes a rocky ledge with a view of the lake, and Elizabeth likes under the trees. Jessica is like, “Oh, we can’t dance under the trees, they’re in the way” and Elizabeth is like “We can’t camp on rocks” and it takes fucking Mandy to say: Hey, geniuses, camp under the trees, dance on the rocks.
Elizabeth starts muttering under her breath and disagrees when Jessica suggests a barbeque. Does anyone want to go to Elizabeth’s party? She wants to play twister, invite everyone’s parents, and not have barbequed food at a cookout. Elizabeth, why do you suck so much? [Raven: And why does she have a fucking say AT ALL? It’s the Unicorns’ party!] [Dove: Raven, Raven, Raven, Elizabeth gives her credentials in the actual book. She’s very organised and practical. Because those are exactly the criteria the Unicorns want in a planner.]
Jessica hears someone say “Listen”, but it’s none of the people she’s with. Oooh, spooky. I bet it’s the Magical Native American.
Jessica suggests lanterns, which Elizabeth is morally opposed to because they’re expensive and she doesn’t like the idea. And she’s actually outraged when everyone else says, “No actually, that sounds nice” and further pissed off when Lila foots the bill, because now she has no rebuttal at all.
Then she thinks she sees a figure dart behind a tree. It’ll be that Magical Native American again.
Next up, Todd and Elizabeth shop for hot dog buns. Todd suddenly remembers that they should have gone to this great bakery called The Bread Basket run by a Magical Native American woman. Dude. You’re literally shopping for bread. How the fuck did you forget that your favourite bakery exists? Fucking stupid people.
Todd gets all wistful and remembers both things that are brand new to us, and things we’ve read about, such as the Romeo and Juliet play and the street dance. He says, still clueless about what went on, that it was really nice of Elizabeth to step in for Jessica during the play. And it must be super to have a twin.
Elizabeth feels sad and conflicted, and I don’t care, because she’s boring and I think Jessica actually is in the right over this stupid spat. The clingy annoying twin completely forgot that signing up for a summer of building houses in Costa Rica would take her away from her twin, she made thoughtless comments about Jessica’s intelligence, and now she’s set on making Jessica’s party the most boring thing in the world.
Over with the Unicorns, they’re shopping for CDs. And why have we never talked about this? Why do they always shop for CDs before a party. Aside from Lila, they’re not super rich. When normal kids did parties in the 90s, they gathered their friends and said, “Hey, Bex, can you bring the Oasis album, I’ll bring The Lost Boys Soundtrack, Gill’s bringing Blur, and if everyone can bring whatever compilations they’ve bought in the past year, that would be great.”
Obviously they all want Johnny Buck CDs and there’s a callback to Jessica’s disastrous date with him. I can only assume the ghostie had a hand in that. Which explains why I’m not having fun. They have referenced: Romeo and Two Juliets, The Haunted Burial Ground, Big Brother’s In Love Again and Jessica’s Dream Date. You know what they all had in common? They sucked. [Raven: Clip Show! Also, whenever they go shopping for CDs, they always are buying multiple Johnny Buck releases. As they are self-confessed super-fans, and as it’s canon that Lila has friends in the music industry and early access to his releases, and as Lila is SUPER FUCKING RICH, I’m pretty sure that she’d have all of his records, and that the other Unicorns would be first in the queue to buy his new stuff on Day One. The only two explanations for the constant need to buy new Johnny Buck CDs every week is that either the CDs are single use and disintegrate after one listen, or that Johnny Buck is so damn prolific that he may as well strip naked and call himself K.K fucking Slider.] [Dove: K.K. Slider would never debase himself by playing in Sweet Valle–oh. Wait. My fucking island is called SweetValle (there’s a character limit). Wow. He would.]
Meanwhile, Lila and Winston are shopping for lanterns together. Lila is slightly uncomfortable and worries that Winston is going to confess romantic feelings for her. When he tells her that he’s always admired her, she wants him to stop, but she also wants to hear more, and actually, the ego boost helps. And she doesn’t feel the need to come clean about Mandy doing all the hard work on the charity ball that Winston finds so admirable.
And then, because we all adore slapstick, Winston knocks over a bunch of lanterns. Seriously, who fucking decreed that we need pratfalls in every single book? Because you need to sit down and watch some actual comedy. Times have fucking changed since Charlie Chaplin slipping on a banana peel was the height of hilarity.
Over with Jessica, Mandy reminds her of the time she and Elizabeth were “psychic” and says that being twinsies must be absolutely terrific.
I am so sick of people shilling for the twin bond.
And now we’re back to the Wakefield Compound for another fucking meeting about this party. Jesus Christ, we’re halfway through, and this plot is exactly where it was at chapter one. The middle school split still hangs above them (and will continue to dangle completely unresolved) and oooh, let’s have a party.
I’m bored of this tread-water plot. Let me summarise brutally fast. They will be playing volleyball (spoilers: no), frisbee (also no), and softball (three for three: no!). And they want to play truth or dare. Apparently the fun must be planned in advance. When I went to parties, we just turned up and experienced the party. And I actually did know blonde identical twins who were size six beauties. They were pretty chill, to be honest. They were not darkness and light, angel and devil, they were just two nice girls. The Wakefields could learn from them.
Also, they’ve bought the hot dog buns, but did not purchase: fruit, salad, marshmallows and cookies. FFS, why not have the planning meeting before you do the doing part? How dim are you people?
Thankfully, this woeful lack of planning plays right into the plot, because now we can go to the Bread Basket Bakery to buy cookies. OH MY FUCKING GOD MAKE THE MOTHERFUCKING PLOT HAPPEN. IF I WANTED TO SEE AN IDIOT SHOP, I’D HANG OUT WITH MY SATANIC MOTHER.
The twins both agree to go, along with Randy Mason (???? When did he join the plot?) and Cammi Adams. Excellent. I’m sure it takes four people to order a billion cookies. Elizabeth thinks the fact that Jessica didn’t pull out when she volunteered means they’ll make up. I literally don’t care.
The next morning, before the trip to the bakery, Elizabeth completely love-bombs Jessica, making her breakfast and smugly commenting that she knows exactly what Jessica wants because she knows her so well. This gets up Jessica’s nose – and rightly so.
There is nothing more irritating than a morning person who just can’t wait to start talking. If you’re one of these people and you don’t already know this, I hate to break it to you, but your entire family/every single one of housemates hates you. Like, super hate. They stand next to their bedroom door, listening to you potter about, and try to time their trip to the bathroom when you’re the farthest away in the hope that they can have their morning pee without you shouting through the door, “MORNING DOVE! Isn’t the weather TERRIFIC! Have you read the news? Isn’t that thing that’s happening in place just AWFUL! Shall I make bacon or eggs? I’ll put the kettle on. And oh, did I mention thing…”
And they’re just trying to pee and not murder you, while you prattle on like the fucking unwanted horror that you are. Seriously. People fucking hate you. Even if you’re a goddamned saint the rest of the day. Right then, the morning pee while you’re calling through the door? They’re hoping a t-rex will burst through the wall and eat you.
I’m sorry, but you need to work on you and learn to shut the fuck up.
[Raven: Yeah, and on the obverse, if you are one of those ridiculous, snarling asshats that can’t say anything civil to someone who meekly whispers”good morning” to you before you’ve ingested a metric fuckton of caffiene or smoked a fistful of cigarettes, your friends and loved ones are genuinely scared, and are treading on eggshells in case they wake the self-centred Kraken within you. Take a good long look at yourself. If you can’t manage that, a deep breath will do.]
[Dove: Mornings are very quiet in the Dove/Raven house.]
[Wing: Ostrich and Wing get up at very different times.]
Elizabeth continues to blather, and keep telling Jessica what she wants, causing Jessica to deliberately choose something she doesn’t like just to prove Elizabeth wrong. I can’t fault her for this. I hate being told what I like. This scuppers any plans Elizabeth had to make up with Jessica. Especially when she tells Jessica to eat up because they have a busy day. When Jessica doesn’t remember why, Elizabeth smugly says, “You’ll never be able to be in the advanced program with a memory like that.”
This hurts Jessica’s feelings and she says she’s not going to the bakery. She’s going to spend her day with her best friends. The Unicorns. Elizabeth flares up that Jessica is too snobby to hang out with nerds like Cammi and Randy and Jessica points out that Elizabeth never wants to hang out with Lila and Ellen. I guess we’re totally ignoring the books when she did. The ghostie didn’t write those. You can tell because they were enjoyable.
It ends with both twins feeling like the other doesn’t care about them. And it’s probably true. These girls are horrible. They only care about each other when the other one is doing whatever they want.
Elizabeth meets up with Randy and Cammi, and says that Jessica won’t be joining them because she’s not feeling well, while thinking to herself:
Wouldn’t staying with Elizabeth be enough reason to do a little extra homework? But it almost seemed as though Jessica didn’t care about Elizabeth at all. All Jessica cared about was the stupid Unicorns. Elizabeth sighed.
It’s not “a little extra homework” it’s two years of extra homework. How on earth do you think Jessica will deal with that when she’s constantly late with at least one assignment each week? Yes, she’s smart, we’ve seen that, but she’s not study-oriented. And I find it very triggering when someone calls something “stupid”. Not like “Urgh, this plot is so stupid” or “Steven is so stupid”, those things are true. It’s when someone lashes out. “Dove, your friends are so stupid!” or “All you want to do is watch your stupid movies or read your stupid books!” were daily staples of my childhood. It’s a very basic insult, and it’s goddamned wearing, because it doesn’t literally mean that the book I was reading is stupid, it means “your interests have no value, you need to pay attention to me”. And it took me years to realise that. I had no idea I was smart until… I dunno mid- to late- twenties?
And if you think that’s an overshare, go back and count how many times Jessica references that she’s inferior to Elizabeth. And then keep count for the same thing in High. I’ve only read maybe twenty of them, and somehow that small sampling was enough to see it often. Even the super-confident Jessica feels that she is lacking in comparison to her twin. You could even make an argument that it’s her core drive. It’s the justification she uses when she does something awful. I’m not saying Jessica is actually justified, but raise a child in toxicity, it’s not surprising you end up with a toxic child.
Cammi and Randy say that they’re glad that it’s not some horrible reason like Jessica and Elizabeth fought, because of course that would never happen – kids, open your eyes, you were there for all of middle school with us, you saw how many wars these toxic twins had – and isn’t it just marvellous that they’re twins, such best friend, many friendship. [Raven: This entire “you twins are special, yay” schtick is so transparent. Completely out of the fucking blue for the final book (series). WEAK.]
Over with Jessica, she hangs out with the Unicorns and they’re watching the Sweet Valley version of Mr and Mrs, and she gets bitter that the Mrs knows all the answers for the Mr. She no longer knows Elizabeth like she used to. Oh, shut up. [Raven: Also, no mention of how the Unicorns went against the Eights in a TV show like this, on this subject, a mere few months earlier? No? Alrighty then!] There is gossip that Winston sent Lila flowers after he knocked over all those lanterns when they were shopping and Lila paid for the damage. Lila and Winston maintain it was gratitude (what a nice thing to do in this horrible series), but the Unicorns enjoy speculating that it’s romance. Eh, why not, since Lila was into Jerry McAllister last book. Clearly the ghosties are flailing. [Raven: I’m feeling that Winston and Lila are endgame for SVH. No spoilers if I’m correct, please.]
Back to the main plot (and I use that term loosely, because this is less of a book and more of a slice of life that nobody asked for), Kimberly excitedly squeals that she’s heard about the accelerated learning programme and they’ll all be together. Kimberly has apparently forgotten that she’s going to high school next year, which is weird, because she made a point of saying so a few pages ago.
Jessica says that Elizabeth would be in the accelerated programme, and the Unicorns obligingly start going on about how magical the twin-bestie bond is.
“For sure,” Rachel said with a frown. “When I moved here, it was ‘the twins this’ and ‘the twins that’ and ‘the twins are so cool’ and ‘let’s check with the twins.’ You two are like a tourist attraction. They can’t send you to different schools.”
No, Rachel, that is not what happened at all. When you arrived, you met Jessica. You never interacted with Elizabeth. I’m not even sure you knew they were twins because you were too busy being a toxic nightmare to all and sundry.
Oh my fucking god, if this plot doesn’t start moving soon, I’m not even going to bullet point, I’m going to table, and my table will look like this:
|Elizabeth||some grocery store probably “Sweet Valley Mart”||Todd|
|Elizabeth||The Bread Basket||Randy and Cammi|
|Jessica||Kimberly’s house||The Unicorns|
We’re now at The Bread Basket, and Elizabeth comments “I think I’ve passed this place before.” and I wonder how on earth we’re supposed to think she’s the smart one. Of course you’ve passed it before. A shop is in a set location. If you’ve passed this area in general, you’ve passed the fucking shop, you absolute muppet. [Raven: Now now, maybe it’s a bread-based variant of the Room of Requirement?]
The owner of the shop is a Native American woman with a scar on her face. She invites them to call her “Bakery Lady” because everyone does, which is one of the worst things in this book. Who on earth comes up with a nickname that does not roll off the tongue easily? Especially when you consider that she woman has a perfectly easy to say name, which we find out at the end of the book.
Here, have some exposition: the woman has a sister. She makes the bread/baked goods, her sister wove the baskets, hence the brilliant name of Bread Basket Bakery. Jessica put in the order over the phone last night, so Bakery Lady (urgh) knows they’re going to Secca Lake. She tells them to look after their party, because there are stories, and places have pasts, and it’s all supposed to be ooooh-soooo-spooky, but it’s cliched bumf.
The kids leave and while waiting for their bus they see Bakery Lady give some loaves to a homeless man. Oh, sorry, the Sweet Valley-approved term is “down on his luck”. And they all agree she’s nice. And Elizabeth thinks to herself that her selfish cow of a twin could never be so kind. [Raven: SPOILERS – As the Bakery Lady and the Basket Lady turn out to be ghosts, does this mean that this homeless gent is also a ghost? And if it’s a ghost giving a loaf to another ghost, is the LOAF a ghost? And if bread can be ethereal, can other baked goods? Basically, I’m asking if I can have a haunted pasty.] [Wing: Yes.]
Next up, Jessica visits the bakery. She meets Bakery Lady’s sister. She tells Jessica to “listen” at her party. Jessica is freaked out and leaves.
OMG, it’s finally the party. God this has been a lot of nothing. We have a short scene with Maria trying out her Fifty Conversation Starters, which leads to her and Lila agreeing on junk food. Cool. That’s resolved then.
Jessica bumps into them, and they and Sophia are going to take a canoe out on the lake. They ask Jessica if she wants to join them, and she has to refuse, in case Elizabeth is waiting in the wings. Lila briefly takes her to a side to check she’s ok, and suggest that they hang out at the camp fire later, and to admit that opening up the party to non-Unicorns was a good idea.
I wish there had been more scenes of the Unicorns realising that they actually got along with other people. In my school, while there were popular kids, they weren’t rigidly divided into groups. You could befriend anyone in any tier, and it was funny seeing who started out as besties and where they were by the end of the year. The idea that these kids have never mingled outside of their social group is just weird. And I think it’s why I like the first wave of Super Editions/Chillers, where the Team UniBore would work together, because there’s no reason these one-dimensional people can’t get along other than the plot demands it. [Raven: And that’s why we liked the beginning of the Unicorn Club series, when the Newnicorns were front and centre.]
Over with Elizabeth, she’s wallowing in misery. Todd hands her a can of soda and realises from her sullen responses that she needs to be alone to work through her angst. And kudos. That’s the first time I’ve actually seen Todd be as sensitive as Elizabeth endlessly describes him. Then Elizabeth finds a tree to cry in, because some things never change.
We cut to Truth or Dare.
Everyone sat in a circle, their faces reflected in the firelight.
Yeah, no, ghostie, fire is not reflective. I mean, I’m now imagining a world where it is, and how much fun Wing could have, but in this universe: no. And this is why editors are a good thing.
[Wing: But I want it in this universe. I’ll never say this again, but this ghostie is right and I should have reflective fire.]
First up is Mandy, who asks Maria if she coached the twins to pretend to be psychic. The answer is yes, but Jessica really was psychic when Elizabeth was in trouble. They have a magic bond. Oh, do fuck off.
Next up, Todd wants to know if Lila had anything to do with him passing out in Romeo and Juliet. Lila says no, it was Amy Sutton.
[Raven: I actually quite liked the Truth or Dare section, as it did have decent continuity, as you’d expect if it was referencing the ghostie’s previous works.] [Dove: Unfortunately, it referenced some of the worst parts of the series, so I wasn’t a huge fan.]
Lila wants to know what’s bothering Jessica tonight. Jessica chooses dare because she’s not about to “give Elizabeth the satisfaction of knowing that she’d broken her twin’s heart. No possible way.”
The dare, thought up by Mandy, is to go to Echo Ledge by herself in the dark and shout “Listen” so they can hear the echo. Jessica might die, but whatevs. Anything for a dare.
Jessica leaves and the game continues. Winston admits that his crush is Grace, which we all knew in Booster Boycott, over 100 books ago and nearly two years ago in universe. Kimberly asks Todd why he and Aaron went to the Valentine’s Street Dance two years ago, which who cares? Why would Kimberly care about this? Why would she even remember that? Yes, ghostie, I know you’re referencing your own work, but literally nobody but you cares. [Raven: I care, a bit.]
Then Sophia starts her question for Elizabeth with a ten page essay on why Elizabeth is the bestest human in the whole wide world, but eventually asks why Elizabeth is in a mood tonight. Just like her twin, she takes the dare.
Mandy comes up with another totally safe dare. Elizabeth has to walk to the burial ground and pick a flower to prove she’s been there.
And now we’re in the vinegar strokes of what Raven has termed “this clipshow book”. Both twins encounter Bakery Lady in separate locations and she tells them a story.
She and her sister ran the bakery together, one was all about the baking, one made the baskets. The baker was the Elizabeth personality, the basket weaver had the Jessica personality, because when you have twins, those are the only options.
Basket Lady was obsessed with her baskets and this led to her dropping her bakery responsibilities. Bakery Lady, being very Elizabeth about this whole thing, lost her rag and they argued. Basket Lady asked if Bakery Lady wanted to dissolve their partnership and Elizabeth-twin said yes. Basket Lady flounced off saying she was going to collect reeds at Secca Lake and would only speak to Bakery Lady if she wanted to. Oh, and she cut her twin’s face with a reed. Unknown if it was deliberate, but since Basket Lady has Jessica’s personality, I’m sure it was. [Raven: I once got a reed-inflicted paper cut at the back of my throat when play-fighting with a friend at the age of 11. I had to gargle TCP, which hurt like FUCK. I also had a small Jokereque smile for a month or so. Good times…?] [Wing: I did not expect quite so much reed violence when I sat down with this book and recap. 0.0]
Basket Lady went to Secca Lake where she vowed to make the most beautiful basket ever, and revel in her sister’s envy over it. OMG, never have twins. They suck. Unfortunately, she caught a chill and died. Well, she doesn’t actually cover that point, she just leaves it all mysterious, and Jessica gets an overwhelming urge to find her twin and make up.
Elizabeth has the same compulsion, but falls into a random hole in the ground. Why is the hole there? BECAUSE THE PLOT DEMANDS. WHY DO YOU KEEP INSISTING THAT THESE THINGS HAVE TO MAKE SENSE?
[Wing: But what are the dimensions of the hole?] [Dove: A worthy comment, but unless you’re asking so that we have enough cement to fill it while the twins are in it, I’m just going to go with “I don’t know, and I don’t care”.]
Jessica returns to the campsite, and realises Elizabeth isn’t there. She wants to search for her, and has to come clean that they’ve fought.
“Elizabeth and I have—have not been close to each other lately,” Jessica continued. “And I have no idea at all where she is.”
There. She’d said it. She dropped her eyes, not wanting to see the looks of scorn on the faces of her friends. Not wanting to see how disappointed they would be to learn that the twins weren’t in constant ESP contact with each other.
“You’re kidding,” Kimberly said flatly.
No, Kimberly, she’s not kidding. You are the literal reason that we haven’t even heard Elizabeth’s name since book fucking six in the Unicorn Club series. This is not a goddamned surprise. The only surprise in this book is all the “OMG twinsie-bestie bond is bestest” nonsense we have to endure. [Raven: Agreed. Come Back, Tamara Chase, and FUCK YOU, KIMBERLY HAVER.]
Everyone agrees to search for Elizabeth, but only after Jessica shills her hard (Ellen, she helped us look after that baby; Lois, she was your friend when no-one else was (fuck off, no she wasn’t); she saved us on the hijacked boat (did she though?); Sophia, she was there for you when your brother went to jail; Winston, she supported you when you wanted to be a Booster).
“OK, OK.” Jerry held up his arms. “So Elizabeth’s a saint.”
Thank you, Jerry, for sassing, because I really couldn’t take much more of this word-count padding. You think it’s not? I did the exact same thing on NaNo to make sure I hit my 50k target. Twice. At least I had the decency to lampshade what I was doing. Twice.
I’m so fucking bored of this book, I’m not going into the details here. Jessica manages to find her. They reunite and apologise.
I just want to put it out there that nothing is resolved at all. The school problem is not fixed.
The next day they go to the bakery and the woman there is not the Bakery Lady or Basket Lady they’re used to. She’s their great-granddaughter, and btw, she did not supply their party with cookies, because the business is brand new. Guys, you ate ghost cookies. [Wing: I want reflective fire and ghost cookies.] The twins were called Jessie and Bessie (which Elizabeth is careful to tell the reader are diminutives of Jessica and Elizabeth – you know, because she’s smarter than you). And Jessie died without making up with her twin. Bessie spent the rest of her life living more like Jessie – the story means she gave away bread and wrecked her business, rather than she killed people and buried them in the Mercandy backyard.
But it’s ok that they died because it stopped one of the eight billion rows between the twins. God bless the Magical Native Americans who died for this plot! Yay!
Oh, and the whole school thing? NOT. FUCKING. RESOLVED.
I HATE THIS FUCKING BOOK.
OMG, that was fucking shite. I’ve found my NaNo project. I’m going to write the final book in the series, and discount all of this nonsense. I hated every water-treading moment of this piece of crap.
I know I’m a continuity whore, but this ghostie needed a metaphorical slap. All they did was call back to other shit books, that I assume they penned. If I was doing a call back, I’m mention the iconic moments, and for me it would be: Jessica joins the Unicorns; Mary is reunited with her birth mother; the class team up to teach a sexist teacher a lesson; the Wakefields think Alice is leaving them for a rich client, and everyone gets in on the lolz; the singing contingent of Team Unibore take down a spy in the Australian embassy; Team Unibore take down a kidnapper; Elizabeth nearly dies at a haunted carnival; Mandy Miller beats cancer and gets new friends; Elizabeth becomes a terrifying authoritarian with a brand new gaslighting fangirl/bff/stalker; The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley; Jessica becomes a science nerd; the marriage project; the earthquake; and then literally nothing else because the later books sucked. I’d also probably call back to the better Unicorn Club books, like when they stop being evil in book 1, or when they invite nerds to join. And then stop. Because after that it sucks.
I would attempt to make this heartwarming, and I would somehow come up with a plot. “I’m a bit worried about school next year” and “I’ve had a row with my sibling” aren’t plots. They’re C and D plots. These books work on an A plot and complimentary B plot. This didn’t have one.
If you think I’m pissed off, I am. I have invested so much time, energy and money into this fucking series, and this as a final book is just insulting. It was one ghostie trying to string all the other shit they’ve written previously together, while making no effort to write anything new. It was boring. It was pointless. And also it killed two Native Americans just to reunite a set of twins that argue every third book.
So yeah, literally everything about this fucking mass of words sucked. It doesn’t even deserve to be called a story.
[Raven: I guess it’s tough writing a workable and satisfactory ending to a series of 150+ books, when said series is a literal prequel to the Main Event series that was started years before. Even so, this was a pretty godawful attempt.
Yeah, I understand that any attempt at having the twins learn anything worthwhile at this stage, or at ANY stage, will make a mockery of the Main Event series which (presumably) retreads all those same lessons some time down the line. Even so, as readers of this series, we sort of expect and acknowledge this. What we DON’T expect is that the twins will return to the very trope that started this damn series in the first place: we are twins that are drifting apart, how the hell will we cope, why does my other half not ever care? I mean, step the fuck up, ladies. You sorted that shit in book fuckng ONE.
I quite liked the continuity spikes, even if they were a little transparently “I’m a clever ghostie, look at all my works” clip-show overkill. I didn’t like the fact that I felt this book was a Ninja Super Chiller, and I was ambushed by ghosts. Why not have the cautionary tale just told by a baker / basket combo that was actually alive?
In summary, this book was terrible, but it’s a welcome stepping stone towards the end of the damn road. Roll on Sweet Valley High!]
[Wing: I can’t believe that this book was so meh that not even Actual Real Ghosts made it better. Meh’s not even enough. It barely existed as a book. Not only did it rehash a plot we had waaaaaaaay back in my very first Sweet Valley book ever and that we’ve seen a billion times since but it also clipshowed things that were (a) poorly chosen references and (b) handled completely unsubtly. I could have enjoyed a variation of the references throughout the series. This could have been a warm, nostalgic way to say good-bye to a setup that we’ve spent years with, both us as recappers and readers when it was new.
And yet we have this.]