Title: Elizabeth: Next Stop: Jr High
Tagline: Spending the summer helping people and making new friends… what could be cooler?
Summary: From the personal journal of soon-to-be eighth grader Elizabeth Wakefield:
I came to Costa Rica to work hard and help people. But what do I get? A nonstop party.
Not that I’m complaining. It’s just weird… sort of how it is with J.P., I guess. At first I thought he was a jerk. But now… now I think I might be falling in love with him.
What have I gotten myself into?
This is it, folks. My final recap for the Sweet Valley Twins series.
And it’s a Super Edition. That focuses on Elizabeth. Set in Costa Rica.
I mean… what the actual? Weaksauce cubed.
No Jessica, no Lila, no SVMS, nothing. I assume. No Unicorn Club though, so I guess it’s not all doom and gloom.
It’s also written in first-person from Elizabeth’s POV, in Diary Entry format. Because that’s what fans of the series want, a huge change in style and content for the last few editions.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve decided to shake things up a little with my recap style for this one. THIS IS IN NO WAY THE SAME AS WHAT I WROTE IN THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH.
[Dove: Literally everything Raven said. This is not how I wanted the series to end. I wanted everyone to die together as a fireball swept the school due to Mr Nydick’s ineptitude in cooking meth. And if I’m honest, the dying part isn’t the important part. It’s the dying together part that matters. Sigh.]
[Wing: This seems like a fake ending. I’m going back to pre-Unicorn Club days. That’s the end for me. (I say despite having to write the last recap of SVT next.)]
Saturday 2/7 (or 7/2 for the US). 15:00.
Hello! I’m Raven, and this is my Diar… I mean Recap. This is my recap. Yes.
It’s due for publication on Monday, at 08:00 local time. Which means I’ve 41 hours to read the book, compile my thoughts, and write around 8000 words. Daunting.
I’m not a quick writer. I don’t have the concentration. My computer is attached to the internet, which contains Everything in the World Ever. To paraphrase Dave Gorman, when you’re writing something on a computer that’s connected to Everything in the World Ever, it’s a bit distracting.
To make the task less onerous, I’m breaking it into chapters. Entries in my Diar… my Recap. I’ll read each chapter, noting the most pertinent occurrences that happened therein. Then I’ll Recap those things, before moving on to the next chapter. Read, Recap, Repeat. Twelve chapters, 183 pages. Sounds like a plan.
Let’s get to Chapter One!
Saturday 2/7 (or 7/2 for the US of A). 16:00.
Well, that was a rollercoaster. Let’s begin!
1: Elizabeth sets off for Costa Rica, saying goodbye to her family at the airport.
It seems that this book is attempting to condense a Gap Year experience and slap it onto a thirteen-year-old who may be “graduating” to a new school due to zoning issues. What the actual fuck? [Wing: Summer volunteering is exactly the sort of thing the Wakefields would expect of their children. Must make yourself look better for universities, after all.] Elizabeth, who has of course the bloodiest of bleeding hearts available, is excited about spending her summer in Costa Rica, building homes for the underprivileged through a charity called Rain Forest Friends. They sound a little too much Woodland Critter Christmas to me, which isn’t a bad thing.
Elizabeth also claims to have done some volunteer work with Houses for Heroes in the past, so she has building experience. Really, Liz? We’ve been with you every step of the way for all of Sixth (and Seventh) grade, and I’m pretty sure you’ve not build any fucking condos in that time. Of course, I fully expect Dove to swoop in and correct my ass with a “I think you’ll find that Elizabeth worked with Houses for Heroes in book 112, while Jessica went on a date with a forty-year-old bassist.” [Dove: Nope. I’ll just point out that in The Haunted Burial Ground they were allowed by Mr Fowler to rebuild an abandoned house to party in because Kimberly Haver (of all people) had experience working at (of all places) Houses for Humanity. I give up. I’m getting drunk. I don’t even drink and I want to be drunk right now.] [Wing: I’m drinking on everyone’s behalf. Fuck this.]
The chapter starts with the Wakefield Clan heading to the airport to see her off, a trip during which Elizabeth ponders over the nature of her relationship with Jessica. Because that’s the only thing that’s been constant for every book in the fucking series, this consistent and stultifying navel gazing between the titular two.
Jessica is drooling on Elizabeth’s shoulder. Nice.
Elizabeth fills the reader in about her journey to, well, this journey. We learn of her stumbling over a website for Rain Forest Friends, which was searching for Californian volunteers aged 12+ to hear to a Costa Rican flood zone to help repair some damaged infrastructure. I’m so looking forward to Sweet Valley High, which will be set in a universe where all traces of the internet have been wiped from the world’s collective memories… good luck explaining that canon away.
After some cajoling of the parental units, Elizabeth is given the all-clear. Jessica, of course, thinks the idea is ridiculous.
“Are you crazy, Elizabeth?” she cried. “Why would you want to go to some lame rain forest where there isn’t even any decent shopping?”
That basically sums up her position, as you’d expect.
Elizabeth’s friends, here played by Maria Slater, are happy for her. Standard. Although Liz and Maria are both worried about the upcoming school zoning decisions, which the Ghosties are determined to keep in the background and out of focus. WHY?! This shit is the most important thing to the cast we’ve come to tolerate over the previous hundred-plus books, so this change should really be front and centre. [Dove: And it should at least be resolved in the book where it claims to be the main plot. #StillBitter #NeverForgiveNeverForget] Elizabeth is worried that things will be hard meeting new folks and fitting in, should things come to that. But this upcoming trip should be a good litmus test for any prospective changes.
Once she’s on the plane, Elizabeth tells her diary about the stuff that happened in the airport. To start, there’s the tearful farewells with family. In all honesty, the only thing worth mentioning is that Jessica gives Elizabeth a bag full of tween-centric gifts. Magazines, CDs, that sort of thing. Elizabeth takes them with a wan smile, but because the Rain Forest Friends have decreed that all frippery such as this is not permitted in Costa Rica, she leaves it for a group of Canadian teens as soon as she’s through security.
I mean, talk about ungrateful. This was actually quite a thoughtful gift from Jessica, in her own fatuous way. I’m sure there was a smarter way of handling this. Also, the “give this stuff to some Canadian teens” schtick is massively patronising.
2: Elizabeth meets three kids. They are attending the Rain Forest Friends camp too.
As she waits in the departure lounge, she stumbles upon Andy. Andy is tall and skinny, with spectacles. He seems nice, and is self-effacing, as he demonstrates with his opening anecdote about approaching the Canadian girls in the hope that they were part of the Rain Forest Friends Collective. In fact, he’s so nice he even watches Elizabeth’s bags while she plants Jessica’s gift where the Canadian girls will find it.
Elizabeth chats with Andy about miscellaneous bullshit, but her head is turned when another boy enters the picture. Correct age, tall, curly brown hair, broad shoulders, and a Jessica-style twinkle in his eye.
Elizabeth is immediately smitten. This guy is a bonefide hunk, not like Andy, with his niceness and his fucking glasses. And not like Todd Wilkins either, who is obviously going to be hindered by the fact that for the next five weeks he is Not In Costa Rica.
The cut of the New Guy’s jib is revealed with his first utterance:
“Yo,” he called. “Is this where the Rain Forest amigos are hangin’?”
Thanks, Ghostie. I hate him already. [Dove: I know Todd Wilkins is the beige paint boy version of Elizabeth for the entire series, and I don’t particularly care if he lives or dies, but how galling is it that – despite the references in Kids, Twins and High that Todd/Liz is the ride-or-die ship – Liz is like “I’ve never felt like this before! My giney tingles! Todd Wilkins is dead to me!”] [Raven: Yeah, I also feel for Todd here.]
Andy beckons him over, and Elizabeth is dumbstruck. However, she channels Jessica and decides, for the immediate future at least, that she can be a little more bold and daring. She wonders what would Jessica do, and acts upon that impulse.
That’s right, folks… she smiles at him.
I’m pretty sure we all agree that Jessica would have simply grabbed his cock and dragged him off to the loos.
Quick skip to Elizabeth’s next entry. She’s now in Costa Rica. How exciting! However, it’s apparently more important to her to talk about J.P., the curly haired boy she met in the departure lounge. All we learn about her thoughts on Costa Rica thus far can be summed up thusly:
Warm, humid, green, miscellaneous bugs. And a lizard.
We are instead “treated” to a couple of pages of asinine dialogue between J.P., Andy and Liz (then just J.P. and Liz once Andy disappears to chat to his friend Duane, who’s an uber-nerd). Elizabeth is determined that J.P. doesn’t think that she and Andy are an item. Jesus, Liz, put it back in your pants.
We learn, initially, that J.P. attends Greengrass Junior High, and he’s heading into Eighth Grade. Greengrass JH is apparently 15 miles from Sweet Valley, so I’m surprised we’ve not heard of it before. Oh hang on, I’m not surprised for a sweet second.
[Wing: Why do I still want consistency for the size of Sweet Valley, the population, the proximity to L.A., how many school districts are nearby? Why? I know I won’t get it.]
Elizabeth admits to herself that J.P. is definitely more Jessica’s type than her own, but she’s going for it anyway. I’ve a feeling that this book will have Elizabeth cosplaying as Jessica, and I presume the final book will have Jessica cosplaying as Elizabeth. A cute conceit, I guess, but I’m much more interested in the second of those propositions than the first. This is just going to be a shitty kissy book, isn’t it? For fuck’s sake.
There’s a bit of clumsy flirting between the two, in which J.P. declares that he’s there for the fun and not necessarily the humanitarian efforts. Standard. We also learn there are more Greengrass students here, which could be important.
Eventually, they board the plane, and Elizabeth finds herself next to the final New Person she’ll meet this chapter: It’s Tanya. She’s also from Greengrass. It’s abundantly clear that she’s someone to watch, as she’s got Elizabeth’s work ethic and Jessica’s ruthless streak. Along with a hefty dollop of Lila’s arrogance / self-confidence.
Yep. Another person I hate immediately. At least Elizabeth is also wary of this harpy.
Tanya tells her that there’s no point her actually being on this trip, as she already knows all there is to know about Costa Rica. She also reveals that, like Elizabeth, she too has worked with Houses for Humans. Four times, in fact. Boastful bitch.
The only other things of note are that there’s an award presented at the end of the trip, for the person who’s done most to help the project. I’d suggest a shoo-in for Elizabeth, but this isn’t Liz. It’s a Liz that’s pretending to be Jess, so all bets are off.
Finally, the chapter ends with Elizabeth telling us about J.P. and Tanya scowling at each other as they departed the plane. So, some beef there, I suppose.
Chapter ends! I’m off to read Chapter 2.
Saturday 2/7 (or 7/2 for the US of fucking A, yee-haw!). 16:40.
So! I’ve read Chapter 2. I’ve also had a small mishap with a frozen portion of homemade chili (I thought there were two, but there was only one), so our dinner plans have mutated considerably.
3: We learn more about the project, and the Costa Ricans.
The following day, Elizabeth heads down to breakfast with Andy and Duane. Once there, there’s a Rain Forest Friends presentation by the programme leaders, Marion and Robert. It’s all very worthy. Marion is a smiley graduate, Robert is a few years older, stick-thin with spikey hair.
The leaders declare that this whole programme will be very rewarding, as long as it’s approached with the right attitude. Lots of time for work, but also lots of time for relaxation and play. Animals will be seen, and the locals (known as Ticos) all will be speaking English so there’s absolutely no need for alarm. Well, thank fuck for that, we wouldn’t want the little darlings mixing with any of those foreign foreigners.
[Wing: I hate everything.]
4: J.P. is ABSOLUTE Clown Shoes.
J.P., of course, is proven to be a feckless waste of skin, as he gets to this breakfast meeting… *gasp*… late! Quickly, won’t someone inform the Village Elders!
As well as lateness, this colossal shit-pip twats about with his mates while Marion and Robert are sharing important information. They tell us that the work will see the group split into two separate but adjoining work parties in distinct yet neighbouring villages, and that there is indeed an Outstanding Volunteer award as per Tanya’s declaration earlier. But while they do it, they collar J.P. for attempting to spoon-fling pineapple at someone across the table. And sure, he’s apologetic when caught, but we’re all apologetic when fucking caught. [Wing: Jessica’s not. She usually doubles down.]
Elizabeth is unimpressed with this nonsense, but is still enamoured by the boy. It seems she’s warm to J.P.’s form, no matter how late to the party he may be, or how pillow-creased his cheek may look, or how reekingly arrogant his lack of attention may appear. In fact, even her irritation at him is couched in her attraction, as she’s most peeved with his lateness because it means she can’t sit with him. Instead, she’s relegated to sitting with Andy and Duane.
This is a nice segue into the following point…
5: Elizabeth is channelling her sister a little too well.
From the outset, Liz has been down on the nerdiness of both Andy and Duane. This is evidenced in her next diary entry, written the following day. Let’s let Elizabeth hoist herself by her own petard, shall we?
I spent the day with the geek twins. Sorry, I know that isn’t very nice. But Andy and Duane really are pretty nerdy. They’re not just charter members of their school’s science club. No, they’re also really into the chess club and marching band and the Science Fiction Fan Society and the Young Birdwatchers’ club too. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. But Andy and Duane sometimes seem to forget that not everybody is as fascinated with all that stuff as they are. Duane is much worse than Andy—actually, Andy is really smart and has a good sense of humor. But when the two of them get together, run for your life!
Right. *cracks knuckles*
ALL OF THIS CAN FUCK OFF.
First, passionate people? They’re FUCKING AMAZING. I don’t give a pimply fuck about what that passion may be. As long as it’s not, I dunno, kicking kittens or stabbing grannies, everyone should revel in their hobbies and interests.
Chess Club? Checkmate! Marching Band? Bang Crash Wallop! Sci Fi Fan Society? Beam me up! Young Birdwatchers Club? … erm… Show us your tits?
No one should be made to feel lesser because of the interests they have. I don’t care if it’s boardgames, or cars, or soap operas, or baking, or baseball, or wrestling, or collecting ceramic unicorns. You do you, stand up and be fucking proud. People who can show their passion in their eyes as they tell others all about it are the best kind of people.
But we have Elizabeth -ELIZABETH! – of all people coming up with a paragraph like that. SUCH a crock of bullshit. She’s full of “nerdy” traits and hobbies, and is always straightforward and open about them. This paragraph is ALL JESSICA, and while I get it that this book (and likely the next) will have the twins doing a personality swap… to quote James Acaster: THIS DOESN’T FEEL NICE.
This paragraph is not Elizabeth. And as such, it can get in the sea, as can this book in general. However, I do realise that I need to continue this recap, even though I’d rather yet the book into space. So…
[Dove: Also: Fuck off, Liz. Do you really think anyone but you is interested in how you founded a sixth grade newspaper and did a scathing editorial on how much salt went into Wednesday’s meatloaf? Have a word with yourself. You’re just as boring to other people as these sci-fi kids are to you. They’re just polite enough to feign interest.]
6: Elizabeth sits with Tanya, and J.P. continues to be a joke.
The following day at breakfast, when directed to separate into groups for sightseeing, Elizabeth is collared by Tanya. Liz is actually glad to be whisked away by Tanya and her companions Kate and Loren.
Elizabeth hits it off with Kate immediately, as Kate seems like quite a nice person. Loren, on the other hand, is a bit of a wet rag. But I suppose she’s been corralled by Tanya too… blink twice if you want us to call the police, Loren!
The quartet have fun at a nearby museum. That “fun” is mainly between Kate and Elizabeth, and mainly directed at the museum’s security guard, for some completely inexplicable reason.
They all eat together, then sightsee together, then head back to the hotel for food, and another meeting with Marion after dinner. While the four eat, we’re told that Kate attended Greengrass with Tanya and J.P., and that Kate was really into both animals and helping people in need. Standard.
After dinner, Marion spits more info on their upcoming work assignments… and J.P. enters, with three friends, late again and waffling some inane crap about a dog and cowboy boots. When he’s told to take a seat, upon learning the only free chair is next to Elizabeth Wakefield, he acts the goat and embarrasses her in front of everyone.
J.P. grinned. “Elizabeth Wakefield?” he exclaimed, loudly enough for the entire room to hear. “Great! I must be the luckiest boy in the whole wide world!” He clasped his hands to his chest and fluttered his eyelashes dramatically.
My god, I hate this chump. I hope he gets killed in Costa Rica, and they have to ship his body home to his parents in a fruit crate.
When he takes his seat, and spots Tanya, there’s more permafrost between them. I’m assuming they used to be an item. I actually think J.P. is still an item, and that item is an unflushed toilet.
Chapter Two down… onto Chapter Three!
Sunday 3/7 (or 7/3 for our friends across the world’s biggest pond). 16:00
As you can no doubt see, it’s now Sunday. I decided to put down the recap and pick up the Stranger Things finale. I’m not one for spoilers, but I will say that I was totally shocked when Dustin ate that nuclear bomb and exploded.
He didn’t actually do that. Or did he? No, he didn’t.
Or did he…?
Or did he…?!
7: Elizabeth Flips and Flops over J.P…. and then he hugs her.
The chapter starts with a day-long buss drive to San Sebastian. After one night there, another bus to the two adjoining villages: Valle Dulce and Gemelo.
Valle Dulce means “Sweet Valley”. Gemelo means “Twin”.
Okay, so that’s pretty cool.
[Wing: Is it though.]
Before setting off to San Sebastian, Elizabeth is sat on the bus. Tanya makes to sit with her, but (happily for Elizabeth) J.P. gets there first. And thus begins a few pages of the most irritating back-and-forth flippery-floppery from Elizabeth on the viability of J.P. as a suitor.
While she internally posits Jessica’s reaction to a guy like J.P., and wonders if she has the minerals to be as fun-loving as him, he suggests – demands – that they decamp to the back seat. [Wing: Good spot for makeouts. Or underage drinking.] She complies, because SPONGE.
He’s artistic! Yay! But he’s a prankster. Boo!
He’s a good listener! Yay! But he calls me Bob. Boo!
As the Coach wends its way through the tricky mountain roads, Elizabeth starts feeling worried about the sheer drops she can see from the bus window. But when the bus lurches round the hairpins, an exhilarated J.P. flings his arms around her, multiple times, in a transparently flirty way to “protect” her, because he’s manly.
Sickening thing? It actually works. Elizabeth loves it, and gains insight into Jessica’s mindset when she does such goofy, boy-addled things.
I mean.. Meh.
8: Elizabeth and Kate meet the Herreras, and Tanya is a bellend.
Apparently, this is the only thing of interest that happens on this day, as we skip to Elizabeth’s diary entry for the following day toot-sweet. After a night sharing a room with Loren in San Sebastian, it’s more bussing to their villages. After getting some information on their job postings, of course. Let’s break down the cast and see where they’re playing…
Valle Dulce: Elizabeth, Kate, Loren, J.P., Andy.
Gemelo: Tanya, Duane.
I mean, there are plenty of nameless kids too, but that split still feels one-sided. And J.P. is still calling Elizabeth “Bob” (because of the Bobbsey Twins, which is something I’d not heard of before today). [Wing: The Bobbsey Twins in the recent Nancy Drew show were a lot of fun. The entire show surprised me with how much I love it.] He also tries some weak-ass banter with Elizabeth, which doesn’t really work. He actually apologises later on the bus, adding more fuel to the flips and the flops currently dancing through Liz’s mind.
The bus heads to Valle Dulce first, dropping off the required crew before heading off to Gemelo.
Upon arrival at Valle Dulce, Kate and Elizabeth (who are boarding together) meet their host family: the Herreras. Two parents, four kids, and an apparently housebound Granny. The Herrera kids are Veronica and Jorge (around Elizabeth’s age), with Eugenia (six) and Ricardo (four).
Veronica seems friendly. Here’s her opening salvo.
“Awesome to meet you, Elizabeth and Kate,” she said. “We are going to have a majorly cool time in Costa Rica. You will like our house too—my parents are kind of clueless, but they are not bad for old fogies. Anyway, I am totally psyched that you have come here to rebuild our community center; I loved watching American TV movies, and music videos there. It even had a VCR—I was so very bummed when it got destroyed by the floods.”
Elizabeth is charmed, and is about to reply in kind, before a leg-stretching Gemelo-bound Tanya decides to put her fucking oar in and piss on poor Veronica’s chips.
“Give me a break,” she said scornfully, looking down her nose at Veronica. “We’re here to rebuild your village, not to talk about American TV And we definitely don’t need to practice our awesome American slang from the 1980s.”
Veronica is mortified, and Elizabeth is apoplectic. Okay then.
I mean, is “awesome” a dated slang? I think it’s pretty timeless, but then again I’m forty-eight. What the fuck do I know? Either way, I’m loving the “from the 1980s” dig there. Such a jibe can only be made from the safety of the Nineties, which is a bit rich considering the first Sweet Valley High book was published in 1983. Good luck getting the slang right when you hit High School that’s simultaneously in the past and in the future!
Thankfully for all involved, a resurgent J.P. steps in and saves the day. He praises Veronica on her impeccable English, before talking about Sesame Street in a self-effacing manner. He even uses the word “awesome”. Well played, mate. Must be flipping instead of flopping.
Elizabeth joins in, before Tanya gets the idea and slinks back onto the bus for Gemelo.
Yeah, get fucked you wastewoman. How’s that for up-to-date slang?
9: The job is outlined, and Foreman Wakefield is sworn in.
Next, we head to the Construction Site, which will be the focus for the upcoming five weeks of work. There’s a dozen kids in the group. Both Andy and J.P. latch onto Elizabeth immediately. J.P. is on one of his flop stages, but Andy is the focus. He’s giving Elizabeth a little too much attention, and she wonders if – *shudder* – the boy has a crush on her.
Why would that be so bad, you fucking mollusc?
Anyway, we learn that the team will be rebuilding the community centre, and Marion suggests they elect a leader. Kate nominates J.P., which Elizabeth believes is a splendid idea, against all the available evidence we’ve seen in this book thus far. Thankfully, J.P. himself is not one for the leader-limelight, so he gracefully declines.
Of course, the mantle falls to The Sainted Liz. She accepts, but not without a moment of hesitation. Apparently, she’s not Jessica, and she’s not one for the glare of the spotlight. Yeah, right. I remember Romeo and Juliet, you disingenuous twatspackle.
Marion hands over the key to the newly-minted Foreman Wakefield, then… just leaves them to it? Just fucks off? Just gives free reign to a bunch of thirteen-year-olds to build a fucking Community Centre? What in the actual fuck?! [Dove: Sounds legit. Actually, it sounds like the charity version of those pyramid schemes. At the top you have the millionnaires, and doing the “work” you have two college students on a gap year managing actual children. This is the Action Park (aka Traction or Class Action Park) of charities. I suppose on the plus side, nobody has figured out alcohol exists yet.]
For some reason, J.P. decides to be a bit dickish about Elizabeth’s newfound position, and teases her about it, calling her Bob all the while. Flipflopflipflopflipflop. YAWN.
10: More boring crap about J fucking P.
Next day, next diary entry. This time, it begins with Kate and Elizabeth getting dressed after waking in the Herrera’s spare room. The topic of conversation? JAY FUCKING PEE.
After a brief chat about Foremanship, Kate spills the tea about everyone’s favourite ass-piglet. Apparently, he’s near-genius, but a total slacker. He’s far too interested in fun to be committed to anything but making people laugh and having a good time. He’s also really good at art.
Oh, and he and Tanya used to date, but they broke up at the end of Seventh Grade. Well, that explains the frostiness.
11: Work begins! And there was much rejoicing.
After a breakfast of gallo pinto, which sounds tasty, [Wing: It is!] they head off to the work site. Once there, we learn that Marion and Robert will be flitting back and forth between Valle Dulce and Gamato, largely leaving each group to get on with things themselves. Which makes NO FUCKING SENSE AT ALL. But whatever, I’m not arsed. Let someone get shot in the temple by a nailgun, I don’t give a chunky fuck.
Day 1 was mixed, in terms of actual work. Essential supplies never arrived, but the team did have a few mini successes. A boy named Ty displayed some expertise with foundation work, a girl named Sumi showed organisational awareness, and Andy translated some of the Spanish directions. Oh frabjous day, let joy be unconfined! One day down, thirty-four to go.
And that concludes the recap of Chapter Three. I’m straight onto Chapter Four, but I’m warning you, I now have The Umbrella Academy to watch and flapjacks to bake. So yeah, I doubt this recap will appear on Monday. But, as the reader, you know that.
Oh, and J.P. cut out the whole Bob thing too… while ramping up the shit bants in other areas. Whatevs.
Monday 4/7 (or 7/4 for our Yankie Doodle Dandy friends, happy holiday!)
Wow, the latest series of The Umbrella Academy is great! We’re six episodes in, and it’s hitting all the right notes. The whole Vanya / Viktor transformation for Elliot Page is handled very well (so far), and the story is as compelling as ever. As you know, I’m not one for spoilers, but I must say I was not expecting the scene in which Diego swallowed a nuclear bomb. And exploded.
(He didn’t do that.)
… or did he?
… And so on.
[Wing: I’ve not yet watched this season, but a moment of shallow: Saw a photo of Elliot Page showing off his arms and about swallowed my tongue. He real hot.]
Right! Chapter Four!
12: The gang head off to the Rainforest.
Day two of the Great Build goes well, and both Elizabeth and Kate are plum tuckered when they get back to the Herreras for dinner. Veronica and Jorge are set to escort the girls for an evening jaunt into the rainforest.
Of course, both J.P. and Andy are added to this jaunt at the last moment, with representatives from the family with which they are decamped. This gives Elizabeth pause… how can she cope with such a trip when bombarded by J.P.’s jokes and Andy’s fawning? Because EVERYTHING in this FUCKING BOOK is framed by Elizabeth’s relationship to BOYS. AAAARGH!
Eventually, she decides to join in, when J.P. suggests that the reason Elizabeth doesn’t want to come is because she is scared of snakes and bugs, like “a lot of girls”. Oh, just do one, you cleft.
Once the reverse psychology kicks in, they head off into the rainforest. They’d not gone far when Jorge, their forward-placed scout, gives out a blood-curdling scream. He’s spotted a snake in the path, and it’s poisonous!
[Wing: V E N O M O U S.]
13: Elizabeth partakes in a snake-based practical joke.
It’s not poisonous, of course. Elizabeth recognises it immediately. It’s a Tree Boa, a harmless and common resident of Costa Rica. Jorge must also know, so this would be a Practical Joke.
Elizabeth is amused, and after clocking that none of the other non-locals is aware of the joke, she decides to take a leaf out of the Jessica Wakefield playbook, and dived headlong into the chicanery.
I jumped forward. “I’ll save you, Jorge!” I cried, pretending to be terrified but brave. I shoved my way past him and quickly reached down toward the snake. “Get away, you monster! Leave us alone!”
Absolute scenes. The collected crowd goes wild. Elizabeth doubles up on the hilarity by declaring that she’s been bitten, and then promptly “passes out”.
“Oh, no!” Kate squealed. “What should we do?”
“Don’t panic!” J.P. said worriedly. “We have to—”
“Psych!” I cried suddenly, opening my eyes and jumping to my feet. “Gotcha!”
Well, shit. Joke completed, Elizabeth has earned her Prankster Badge for her Girl Guides sash. Predictably, the locals Veronica and Jorge are most amused, and clap Elizabeth on her metaphorical back. Everyone is amused, and J.P. is a little impressed. Until Elizabeth “ruins it” (her words) by spilling the deets on the snake’s type and danger-level. J.P seems to take that as a personal slight, for some unknown reason. He acts a little odd towards her, before laughing it off and calling her queen of the snakes. And Bob, again. [Dove: Urgh, this kid. I hate him.]
Elizabeth is now sick of flipping and flopping. She’s finally decided that J.P. is a prick that seems hellbent on poking fun at her expense, so he can get in the fucking sea. Or in this case, the fucking Rainforest.
14: J.P. undermines our heroine, and (almost) everyone runs after a parrot.
It’s now the next evening, and Liz is recounting a largely irritating day. The source of that irritation? Take a flying fucking guess.
So he’s gone back to calling her Bob (actually Madame Bob), and she’s doing her best to ignore him. That’s fair.
When they break for lunch, Elizabeth is happy with the progress. Work is going well, and it’s nice to take a break, sitting with Kate and Andy and Sumi and Will. Then, a wild Veronica appears, with the youngster Eugenia. She offers temptation… wanna head off into the Rainforest, and see some daytime stuff?
Liz is the foreman, and she’s happy to be the Good Times Vacuum here. It’s a hard pass, as it’s more important to get ahead of the schedule to prove how fucking invaluable you are. It’s Twilight Sparkle’s first Winter Wrap-Up all over again!
J.P. does his best to convince her to change her mind, with gurning and eye-rolls and comments. This is bolstered by Kate agreeing and the Costa Ricans pleading. People are wavering in their resolve. Apart from the lovesick Andy, of course, who is a staunch Elizabeth supporter and vows to stand by her side come what may.
Next thing that happens? Motherfucking parrot. Flies past, cawing and looking amazing.
The crowd go wild, and chase it into the Rainforest. All except Andy and Elizabeth, who remain at the lunch table. Andy is semi-sure that the kids will come back quickly, but Elizabeth isn’t so sure. And of course, she’s right. She is shadowed by Andy for the entire afternoon, as they both do their best to get a modicum of the work done. The gaggle arrive just before it’s time to head back to their families for dinner.
J.P., their de facto leader, asks if they’ve been missed. Andy responds with an angry retort, which elicits an apology from the more emotionally empathetic scarperers. But as they do so, they all simply wax lyrical about what a great time they had, and what wonders they saw. Even Loren gets in on the act.
Kate nodded, her eyes shining. “I saw more parrots and some monkeys, and I even spotted a sloth hanging upside down way up high in a tree.”
“It was cool,” Loren added. Now I knew they’d had a great time. I’d never heard her say so many words at once.
Liz feels bad that she missed out. Martyr Elizabeth in the house, y0!
16: Liz loves J.P. … but J.P. pities Liz.
Next day, more interminable bullshit about J.P.
During a relatively decent day’s work, in which the group appear bonded by their fun activity the previous day, Elizabeth catches a strangely taciturn J.P. watching her with an expression that she takes to be full of pity.
This is a bummer for her, as she’s finally concluded that yes, she is interested in J.P. as a suitor, and is finally over her flipflop phase. Just when she wishes that J.P. would keep teasing her, it seems that J.P. is no longer interesting in doing any such thing.
OH WOE IS ELIZABETH, WHAT IS SHE TO DO?
She can get in the fucking sea. That’s what she can do.
And that’s the end of Chapter Four. I’m leaving it there, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Who knows what excitement Chapter Five will bring?
Wednesday 6/7 (or 7/6 for our PARAGONS of FREEDOM.)
Unfortunately, other obligations took a precedence last night. I’m the commissioner for a local boardgame league, and some important admin was required. Plus, we watched more Umbrella Academy, and we finished the series over Bangers and Mash this evening (how very English!). Wow, what a great series this was! Loved all of it, can’t wait for the next.
I also baked some chocolate flapjacks and banana bread yesterday, both of which were most edible.
[Wing: Is it not enough we’re tortured by this book? Must you tease us with your baking, too?]
Tonight, as we bimble on our computers, we’re watching The Great British Sewing Bee in the background, which is always a gentle pleasure. [Wing: A gentle pleasure, and also I’m in love with Esme and her giant necklaces, and in a surprising bit of attraction, I find myself wanting to climb judge Patrick like a tree.] As you know, I’m not one for spoilers, but I just have to mention the episode in which the sewing judge Esme Young swallows a nuclear bomb and explodes.
Or does she?!
THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT, THANK YOU.
I’ve read Chapter Five, and it’s time to recap that mutha.
17: Tanya is a gas-cap-hiding snake!
Liz is now writing on a Wednesday evening, two whole days since she wrote about her burgeoning love for the dashing and enigmatic J.P.
On her mind? More J.P. nonsense. She can’t stop thinking that J.P.’s new opinion of her is grossly unfair, and that she’s not a complete and total loserino. She’s so distraught that she decides to go visit him after dinner.
Sadly, he’s not where she thought he’d be (with his host family), but Andy is. He directs her to J.P.’s location, in the Rainforest trying to spot bats.
Elizabeth catches up with him quickly, and it’s clear that yes, he does think that she’s a loser. But before they can talk in earnest, the scene is interrupted by Perennial Gooseberry Andy. Elizabeth immediately concludes he’s a lovestruck buffoon who’s butting in, but in actuality he’s got PLOT to announce.
Apparently, a much-delayed supply truck arrived at Gemelo at lunchtime. Consequently, it should have arrived at Valle Dulce pretty quickly after that. However, it did not. Andy reveals why.
“The truck was going to come here next. But while it was in Gemelo, Tanya stole the gas cap and hid it!”
WHAT IN THE ASS?! Tanya is a total snake. And not a nice snake, like a Tree Boa, but a nasty snake, like a penis. [Dove: Is this why people destroy the rainforest, because of all of the nasty kids in it? It’s not war on nature, but pest control? If so, can’t we just shoot the kids at the airport and keep the rainforest?]
Elizabeth is outraged. Something Must Be Done.
(And what, exactly, should be done? Elizabeth has a think, basing her decision entirely around how it will affect her relationship with J.P.. I mean, FUCK OFF.)
18: Elizabeth channels Jessica and puts a snake in Tanya’s sleeping bag… while Tanya is sleeping in it.
After realising that informing Marion and Robert about Tanya’s subterfuge (the correct course of action) would definitely cement the idea that she was a goodie-goodie, she decides to channel Jessica and sort this shit out herself. She vows the boys to silence, and plans her attack.
Once the Herrera house falls silent for the night, she puts her plan into action. First? She finds herself another Tree Boa, and slips it in her pocket. No better way to fight a snake than with another snake, amiright?
Next, she heads down the jungle trail to Gemelo, in the dark with only a moon and a flashlight to help her.
Once there, she locates Tanya’s tent. In which Tanya is sleeping. Because in Gemelo, the volunteers are camping, apparently, and not staying with host families. Why? Because PLOT, bitches!
Next, Elizabeth gingerly unzips some of Tanya’s sleeping bag, and throws the Tree Boa into a darkened recess before exiting as quickly and as silently she entered.
Erm… what the hell are you doing, you witch? Poor snake! I know it’s fictional, but even so. Wrong. Elizabeth would not have done something so cruel to a poor defenceless animal. [Dove: ANIMALS SHOULD NOT BE PART OF YOUR “PRANK”, YOU BASTARD! IT DOESN’T WANT TO BE BEATEN TO DEATH BY A FREAKED OUT TEEN. I HATE YOU ELIZABETH.] [Wing: What they said. Poor sweet snek.]
The snake achieved the desired effect. Cue scream, cue fumbled zip, cue stumbling and terrified Tanya. She rushes off to get help.
In the tumult, Elizabeth sneaks back into Tanya’s tent, retrieves the gas cap, the pops it back onto the parked truck before laughing all the way back to the Herrera Homestead.
(I do her a disservice here. She also tried to find the snake, but failed. And she also – and this was a surprise – found and took a white plastic bag full of magazines and rock CDs… the present that Jessica had given Elizabeth on her departure, which Liz had left for the Canadian girls. Thus Tanya’s snake status has been codified into law.) [Dove: Now under no circumstances will I defend Tanya, but Liz never actually gave that bag to the poor cultureless Canadian tourists. She just left it on the floor. How was Tanya supposed to know that she was the wrong person picking it up? From an outsider’s point of view, two Elizabeths went into a huddle. One Liz gave the other Liz a bag of swag. Liz the giver left, and Liz the taker looked annoyed by the gift and looked for a place to drop it. Although I will admit that perhaps I missed nuance to this very important interaction, I was busy keeping myself awake while boredom threatened to end me.] [Raven: I guess the “this is for you, Canada” note does have a bearing, but I totally get your point.] [Wing: Rich white girls pulled off leaving an unattended bag in an airport in the USA. Shocking. (Yes, I know this pre-dates 9/11.)]
19: Operation Retrieve The Gas Cap is a resounding success.
Next day, before work, Marion and Robert tell everyone about the “horrible prank” that poor Tanya experienced the previous night. They ask if anyone at Valle Dulce was responsible, but there are no responses. J.P. gives Elizabeth an odd look, which Elizabeth takes as progress.
We also learn that the poor snake was rescued and released back into the forest. Only a full quarter-mile from its snakey family and snakey friends. Elizabeth, you’re a prick.
And although it doesn’t happen on screen, there’s deep hints that the gas cap would be found soon so the deliveries could be made forthwith.
I’m off to read Chapter Six now… I’m around two-thirds through the book now, thank the fucking lord.
Saturday 9/7 (or 7/9 for all you ass-backward daters)
It’s suddenly Saturday! How in the world did that happen?
I’ll level with you… On Thursday, I finished reading Chapter Five but couldn’t stomach any writing, and on Friday… it was Friday. I fancied a night off. So instead, we watched the finale of The Boys before embarking on the latest series of The Circle (an unironic guilty pleasure).
The Boys? Wonderful. Also, something something spoliers, something something swallowed a bomb.
Finally, I made some shortbread cookies! They looked a little irregular, but they tasted delicious.
[Wing: Ostrich wants some! He loves shortbread cookies.]
20: Elizabeth gives Veronica the CDs and Magazines, before J.P. arrives.
So! Elizabeth has a conundrum. She has a bag full of Amerikkka, that she stole off Tanya, who had stolen it off some unknowing flip-headed Canadians, who had been gifted it by Elizabeth because she couldn’t find a bit, who had been gifted it by Jessica because she thought she and her twin were exactly the same person.
She realises that the gifts inside this cornucopia of American Pop Culture would be bob-on perfect for Veronica. However, she can’t just hand them over, with everyone looking, as Tanya would know who stole them from her. While Tanya might not be open to telling Marion and Robert, due to the items’ provenance, she could easily plan a revenge attack or similar. [Wing: No risk of Tanya taking it out on Veronica, I’m sure. Look at that poor person stealing from a rich, white volunteer.]
Thus, Elizabeth manufactures a secret meeting in the Rainforest with an over-eager Veronica. Initially, Liz is loathe to abandon her workmates, but then she thinks “fuck ‘em, they’re only bees.” Let’s face it, they all abandoned her to chase after a fucking parrot, so they can get into the sea.
Veronica is suitably enamoured with the gift, and vows not to tell anyone about her mysterious benefactor. Both she and Elizabeth are so deliriously happy, they can’t be bothered going back to work. Instead, they sit and chat for a long while. So long, in fact, that J.P. soon turns up.
21: J.P. tries some cute snake-based flirting, WITH TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES.
Veronica has the emotional intelligence to make herself scarce, sharpish. What follows is an admittedly cute back-and-forth between J.P. and Elizabeth (or Bob), in which J.P. asks Elizabeth to admit that she planted the snake in Tanya’s sleeping bag.
At first, Liz is reluctant to give up the information, in a purely playful sense of course. Then, oddly, J.P. reveals that he, too, has a snake in his pocket (easy now), and that said snake was a witness to the previous night’s shenanigans, and would squeal on Liz in a heartbeat. As the tiny snake peeped out from J.P.’s pocket, a simple Truth or Dare game sees Liz admit that yes, she was the Cheeky Prankster.
However, there’s scant time for basking, as Elizabeth’s snake knowledge kicks into high gear. The snake that’s making its way out of J.P.’s pocket is not in fact a harmless Tree Boa. It’s actually an Eyelash Viper. This is a killer snake, and poisonous harbinger of terror!
Thankfully, Elizabeth springs into action. She darts forward and flicks the offending threat off J.P.’s shoulder faster than you can say “I’ve been bitten on the penis, you’ll need to suck out the poison.”
Talking of innuendo, this exchange also gave us the following line, from a sensuous J.P. …
“Now are you going to tell me what happened, or do I have to ask the little guy here?” He patted the bulge gently. [Wing: Ghostie went all in with the innuendo.]
J.P. is clued into the severity of the situation, and is suitably mortified. He’d been planning on keeping his snake as a pet. The close call leads to a tiny frisson of romance between the two, and a slow lean into an inevitable kiss… which is rudely interrupted by the sounds of far-off shouting from the village.
The pair race to the scene, to see what’s happening. No kiss… yet. I’m sure one will come soon. Also, throughout the piece, Elizabeth posits the internal conclusion that Acting Like Jessica has its advantages. A fine conclusion, to be sure. Nice it came at just the right time, in book one hundred and fucking eighty six. [Dove: And just in time for her to completely forget this lesson, because I’m sure that the first book in Jr High is just like the first book in High, it will open with the same-but-different, saintly-and-evil comparison.]
The kerfuffle? The supply truck has turned up, so construction work can begin in earnest. Yayz. And thus ends the chapter, warm and vinegary like cheap chianti.
Let’s move on to Chapter Seven!
Another rollercoaster. How thrilling.
22: Not content with being the Foreman of Construction, Elizabeth vows to be the Foreman of Fun.
Elizabeth’s diary entry for Friday is short, and sweet. In it, she tells us that Veronica has fallen in love with the local builder, who’s the improbably-young sixteen-year-old Jose. [Dove: And I just want to remind everyone that she is roughly the same age as Liz. In fact, I read her as a year or two younger.]
More importantly, she’s also decided that her recent focus on What Would Jessica Do is standing her in good stead, as far as long-term character development is concerned. So she continues in that insidious bent and ponders on how she can best capture the essence of Jess’s joie de vivre without full-on stabbing a bitch to death.
Suddenly I knew the answer. Jessica didn’t just find time for fun—she made time. And that gave me a great idea.
The idea? Rainforest Rave, y’all. A “secret” party to be organised for the following Monday evening. Which, to be fair, is entirely on the Jessica Wakefield brand.
Elizabeth press-gangs the willing Veronica into the scheme, and thunderbirds are go!
23: There’s a rave, a kiss, and a confrontation.
After a brief Saturday diary entry in which she tells us about the party flyers they created, we skip straight to Monday night. Elizabeth is recapping the fun and frolics that emanated from the Rainforest Rave. All the volunteers are present, as are the majority of the local kids, and the torches in the forest clearing looks amazing. The Unicorns would be well jell.
Everyone is in fine spirits for the party, dancing to the CD sounds from a “boombox”. In fact, much to Elizabeth’s amusement, Andy and Kate are dancing together and holding hands. Well done, Andy and Kate, having an existence that’s outside of the monotonous gravitational drag of Planted Wakefield.
J.P. and Elizabeth are inseparable, and Veronica is being wholly inappropriate with the older Jose. While dancing to a slow tune, J.P. and Liz finally have a romantic kiss. It’s all totally awesome, heart-emoji.
Elizabeth is concentrating on the kissyface, and doesn’t notice Tanya approaching. And Tanya is Not Happy. She breaks the lip-locking moment with pithy sarcasm, before demanding to speak to Elizabeth alone.
J.P. sashays off to fetch drinks, and Tanya gets down to business. She knows that Elizabeth put the snake in her tent, and that Elizabeth stole back the gas cap, and that Elizabeth also stole back the CDs. When Liz points out the reality (that she was merely returning the stolen gas cap, and that the CDs were originally hers), Tanya snaps that she knows this, and is aware that she can hardly report any of this to the ineffectual and absent Marion and Robert.
What she can do, of course, is vow to strike back with vengeance and furious anger against those that have wronged or besmirched her. So that’s exactly what she declares she will do. And with that, she twirls her invisible moustache and fucks off into the night.
Elizabeth is initially scared, but then realised that Tanya can get to fuck. What exactly can the girl do, without jeopardising her chances at the Outstanding Volunteer award?
24: Instead of boning on the office table, Elizabeth and J.P. talk about Tanya.
The party finishes, and it’s declared a great success by all, even by the adults that eventually break it up. During the cleanup by the hardcore (Liz, Andy, Kate, Veronica, Jorge, J.P.), Elizabeth and J.P. return the boombox to the dark and sultry office shack, likely in the pretence to get some under-shirt over-bra action on.
Once there, and alone, the pair almost get to snoggin’ with tongue, but instead Elizabeth decides to ask about Tanya. Okay, I understand the girl’s commitment to plot exposition – she’s been here for almost two hundred books, she’s an old pro after all – but damn, girl, take a night off and get yourself some groping!
J.P. takes Elizabeth through the reasons for his breakup with this book’s villain. Apparently, he broke up with her because of her overly competitive nature. Apparently, while they were together, Tanya attempted so smash his excellent entry to a school contest by randomly dropping his cat (Boots) on it. Thankfully, she was stopped just before she did it, so no cats or projects were harmed. The project went on to win, and the cat (presumably) lived a long and well-loved life. But either way, that was the end of Team J-Panya. [Dove: And now we know that J.P.’s type is “girls who will use harm animals to win”. *smh*]
The scene ends with a kiss, and with Elizabeth realising that she needs to embrace her sister’s ways in order to become a well-rounded individual.
After all, what good are brains and good grades and achievements without heart and soul and fun?
I agree with her sentiment, and I assume the next book presents the same view from the opposite aspect. I just don’t think it’ll stick as we head to Sweet Valley High.
Chapter Eight now looms large… reading spectacles on, and let’s fucking gooooo!
Sunday 10/7 (or 7/10 for any rampant calendar deniers. MAKE THE CALENDAR GREAT AGAIN.)
It’s now Sunday! And I’m looking down the proverbial barrel. This thing is already a week late, and I definitely can’t delay it any further. So it’s onward, until teatime, when it’s post-or-be-damned. I’ve got chocolate brownies to make, Animal Crossing villagers to woo, films to watch and homework to complete. It’s all go in Chez Raven. [Dove: Pro-tip: give your villagers heart crystals from Reece and Cyrus. They get adorably blushy.] [Raven: 10/10 advice, will try.]
25: Drunk with power, Elizabeth arranges an afternoon of Tubing.
With the success of the Rainforest Rave ringing in her twinny hears, the following day’s work hardly tickles Elizabeth’s pickle. Things on the work site are going well, but as soon as Liz spots a collection of inner tubes in the office shack, she channels Jessica once again and suggests that the crew sack off work and hit the river on tube rafts. She even posits that this is just like Jessica’s oft-vaunted theory of leaving her homework until the last possible minute.
At first, J.P. is reluctant to slack off work, but Elizabeth manages to persuade him. So, off screen, the crew go rafting.
26: Elizabeth and the gang rush through the construction to hit Market Day… where they meet Jose.
The following day, with some non-specific deadlines looming on the construction site, the whole crew are working well on their projects. All is going well at Camp Valle Dulce.
However, there are distractions.
This time, the thing-they’d-rather-be-doing is a local monthly Market Day in San Sebastian. Unfortunately for Team Valle Dulce, they are scheduled to have the support beams and walls up by the end of the day. The person to point that out, amidst the general excitement? The level-headed J.P.
Elizabeth, of course, rises to the occasion. Back in Sweet Valley, when talking to Maria about her plans for Costa Rica, Liz printed out some pages of an intriguing website called Coco’s Cost-Cutting Construction Concepts. I didn’t mention it back then, because I’d not read ahead and thus I didn’t know it’s come back and bite me in the ass. I should have mentioned it back then, if only to lament the decline of Brooke Dennis’s Mum’s pop career.
Anyway, she drags out the pages from Coco, and suggests the workers use these time-saving (and slipshod?) techniques to free up precious time for a trip away that afternoon.
Everyone buys into the idea, with even the naysayers warming to Coco’s techniques as they saw how well (and how quickly) things were progressing.
Veronica asked one of her older friends to transport them to San Sebastian for the afternoon, once the Coco-fuelled work was complete. And off they all went, in a battered and rusted murder-van driven by a total stranger.
Once there, the gangs splits up to buy souvenirs and see sights. J.P. and Elizabeth stay together, and have a fine old time, with a soupcon of hand-holding thrown into the mix.
They run into Veronica, who is please with their gift to her of a movie poster. Then, the trio run into…
A naked Mr Nydick!
(Nope, sorry. Old habits die hard. No sex tourism today.)
The trio run into… Jose. He’s at the market on the hunt for copper wire. He’s surprised (and appalled) that the three of them are not back at the work site, doing their all to complete the Community Centre.
Elizabeth takes charge, and lies through her teeth. Knowing the builder wouldn’t approve of the Coco cost-cutting method (why?), she tells him that work is still going on back at the village, and that the trio were only in San Sebastian to buy gravel for a surprise pathway. The other kids? Back in Valle Dulce, doing the project proud.
Naturally, a wile Kate and Any hone into view. Thankfully, they are behind the suspicious Jose, so there’s opportunity for Veronica to distract him with flirtatious intent.
And so the chapter goes, with Veronica steering an unknowing Jose away from any contact with the other Valle Dulce volunteers. Eventually, Jose went home, but not before planning an embarrassed kiss on Veronica’s forehead. Apparently, romance is in the air!
I thought Veronica was thirteen? Let me check my (non-existant) notes.
Yep, she’s “around Elizabeth’s age”. I suppose that could be fourteen. Still a leap to a seventeen-year-old builder, but I guess we are meant to look away. I just hope they build a counter at the Community Centre for Chris Hansen to sit at when he reads out the charges from his clipboard. [Dove: Yep, this was just creepy. And she reads younger than Liz – not much, but kind of goofy and trying to impress her older guest.]
Chapter Nine! I think this one is a short one. I can only hope.
Done! My, that was a short chapter. Can anyone say “bridging”…?
27: Veronica visits, and is surprised by their progress.
Thursday! The day after the market visit. And the visits continue… with Tanya visiting Valle Dulce, to check up on their progress (to snoop, basically).
She immediately resembles a prime lemon-sucker, as, on the face of things at least, things at Valle Dulce appear to be very Sweet (Valley) indeed. She stomps her feet like Team Rocket, and declares that she knows they’ve been goofing off every day, and that they must be Doctor fucking Strange Wizards to have the time to do the work and touch each other up all day.
When the crowd jeer at her, she fucks off. Elizabeth is annoyed that she doesn’t realise how great the Valle Dulce crew actually are.
28: Coco’s cost-cutting processes are going gangbusters, as we have a building montage.
Snap-cut to Sunday, and a short update that simply montages the previous building work and fun activities. Coco’s cost-cutting stuff is lauded, as it allows the team to do all the hard work but still have time to spend afternoons in the Rainforest, or going to concerts, or chasing lizards, or having turtle-time at the beach.
I know that all work and no play makes Liz a dull girl, but even so. I’m looking forward to the ugly denouement, even if that’s partly because “denouement” means “end” in most contexts.
Oh yeah. There’s also a bit more kissing, and Jose tells everyone that Veronica is doing a great job. S’all good, man.
29: Suddenly, there’s only one week left. And things are PERFECT IN EVERY WAY.
Soon, it’s some undated Friday, and Liz is declaring that there’s only one week left of her Costa Rican adventure. She’s a little homesick, but this feeling is countered by her loved-up hormones. It’s been two weeks since her first kiss with J.P., and they have a twee anniversary re-enactment of the deed. Ah bless, holiday romances. Bless.
The community centre is almost finished. Jose is bringing Marion and Robert to check it out in the morning. And Tanya’s house in Gemelo isn’t even close to done.
Could life possibly get any better than this?
Well… yeah. This book could be over. That’d make life much better.
Chapter Ten incoming…. W00t!
Well… shit’s hit the fan, and it’s spinning now. No one will be free from its spattering arc.
30: Robert and Marion host a party for the volunteers.
At first, things seem to be fine. Jose brings both Marion and Robert are very impressed with the workload. Everything looks amazing. Let’s not look at all the unused materials hidden away, or the obviously ignored building regulations. The building is up, and the sun is shining, so it’s time for a celebration.
Marion and Robert hold a party for all the volunteers. Robert in particular is very proud, which is nice to see as he was the strict one. This will come back to punch Elizabeth in the girlnads, but whatever.
So, the Gemelo gang are dancing the night away with the Valle Dulce crew, and all is good with the world. Elizabeth even dances with the nerdy Duane which leads to this pearler:
I even danced with Duane, who had come over with the other kids from Gemelo. He only stepped on my foot once, and he hardy talked about Star Trek at all.
GO FUCK YOURSELF, Liz. I’ve actually hated you in this book. Stop being a cut-price version of your twin, a Jessica Wakefield supplied by Wish. You’ve spent HUNDREDS of books telling us how different you are as twins, there’s nothing to gain from blurring the lines now. People are allowed to like stuff, and be passionate about stuff, without dicks like you rolling your eyes. [Dove: And again I point to how many times Liz goes on about the fucking Sixers. Literally nobody cares but you, Liz.]
31: Elizabeth wins the Outstanding Volunteer award. Tanya is serene.
The party is going well. The only fly in the ointment is the sour-faced Tanya, who is Not Having Fun in the slightest. Liz isn’t arsed. She puts it down to jealously, which is not unreasonable.
Soon, the party proceedings turn to the award for Outstanding Volunteer. That is won by… Elizabeth Wakefield! Let’s give her a big hand.
She gushes in the applause, and graciously thanks her team and the local kids for their help and support. All standard stuff. As she’s basking, she looks for Tanya, and sees the strangely smiling girl exiting from the office shack. Shouldn’t she be angry in the moment of her defeat? She’s not… she’s enigmatic and inscrutable, like a motherfucking sphinx. This makes Liz nervous. What is the witch up to?
32: A poster goes up, but a wall comes down.
The Valle Dulce team mob their foreman, as Tanya speaks to Jose off-screen. Liz is swept up in the celebrtation, which is heightened when Marion declares that the best way to christen the new Community Centre is to have Elizabeth nail up a poster (donated by Veronica) in the main room of the new building.
So Liz and Veronica enter the building to tack up the poster, while the crowd gather outside the “wide windows” to watch. This is a weird way to celebrate the building’s construction, but I suppose it has to go down like this for the comedic payoff to come. Can’t think of any other “ceremony” that’d have people doing a thing inside a building while the crowd gather outside and watch through a window.
Elizabeth takes a hammer to tack up the poster. She mustn’t know her own strength, because as she knocks in a tack, she knocks down a wall.
There’s a brief bit of shrilling, followed by Liz standing as the dust settles, hammer in hand, looking gormless. Then all hell breaks loose.
33: The truth will out. Elizabeth is mortified, the elders are angry, and J.P. is the most hurt of all.
Nobody is hurt.
But Elizabeth is mortified.
Marion and Robert dash in, full of anger and concern. What happened? Are the girls safe? Once it’s ascertained that no human damage has been done, the concern ebbs away to leave room for more anger.
As they all fight their way out of the building, they’re met with a sea of concerned and confused faces. Then, a stern-looking Tanya and Jose approach from the outskirts of the throng.
Andy, bless his soul, does his best to save the reputation of his first crush. He shouts that this must be the work of Tanya, and that she must have sabotaged the building to humiliate and discredit Elizabeth. He also tells the world that Tanya hid the gas cap!
Tanya is dumbfounded, but Elizabeth knows the truth. This wasn’t Tanya’s doing. It was Elizabeth’s doing.
Jose pipes up, and takes everyone to a pile of neglected supplies hidden behind the office shack. Conclusive proof that corners have been cut. The mood instantly darkens.
Marion, Robert and Jose begin shouting at the group, and mainly at Elizabeth. What’s going on? How can you be so irresponsible? Why hadn’t they followed the clear instructions? And so on. [Dove: And this is why you don’t let thirteen year olds build public buildings for victims of natural catastophes. Or any public buildings, really. But my point is: life is bad enough when your usual rec centre gets washed away in a flood. The last thing you need is some teen idiot in charge of replacing it. Get some adults in there, and give the kids the jobs they can’t fuck up, like “fetch that”, “line these things up”, and “sand off the splinters”. You don’t make children build an entire fucking building without any supervision.] [Wing: I know I’ve been fairly quiet in the comments, and this is part of why. I cannot suspend my disbelief enough to care a single word about this plot. It would. not. happen.]
Eventually, J.P. declares that he knows what’s happened…
“I know what she was thinking,” J.P. broke in after a moment, pushing his way to the front of the crowd. “Actually, I just figured it out.” He stared at me, his face white and his expression cold. “Elizabeth wanted to get our building up first. That’s all she cared about all this time.”
Liz tries to deny it, but J.P. is adamant. This was about beating Tanya, and nothing more. She’d taken everyone for a fool.
Elizabeth is sent back to the Herrera house by Robert, as everyone tries to piece together the chain of events. She’s left there, bemoaning her lot and cursing her idiocy, until Jorge comes to inform her of what’s happening.
Jorge tells her the truth came out, piecemeal. The other kids admitted to slacking off for half of each day, and that Robert and Marion were told about Coco’s Cost-cutting Construction Concepts.
The rest of the conversation, and the rest of the evening, passes in a blur. Elizabeth keeps herself hidden, going over the events in her mind and (rightfully) blaming herself for everything that has happened. How could she be such a bellend?
(Actually, I’m rather glad that this is cementing the fact that she shouldn’t try to emulate her sister. After all, Jessica has hundreds of books’ experience in being badass. Elizabeth shouldn’t expect to nail it on Day fucking One.)
We’re onto Chapter Eleven… time to go read the death throes of the book (and series).
Eleven, done and dusted!
34: Kate and Andy forgive Elizabeth.
Next morning, Elizabeth has almost forgotten the furore from the previous day. Then it all comes crashing back.
The Herreras are still upset with her, so Liz heads off to J.P. and Andy’s host family. J.P. isn’t there, but Andy and Kate are. After a brief bit of awkwardness, they both “forgive” Liz for her transgressions, and take some personal responsibility for their own actions. They knew corners were being cut, and they went along with the fun times anyway. Nice work, you two.
35: J.P. and Elizabeth have a heart-to-heart.
Elizabeth eventually tracks down J.P. in “their” clearing. And it’s immediately clear that he’s still angry with her, as he believes that she only cut those corners to ensure she beat Tanya and won the Outstanding Volunteer award. It’s Dropping-Boots-The-Cat-On-The-School-Project all over again!
In a moment of clarity, Elizabeth confesses that winning the award wasn’t at the forefront of her mind. No, she was shirking work and cutting corners because she a) wanted J.P. to consider her a fun-time gal, and b) wanted to actually spend as much time with him as possible.
This mollifies him somewhat, as he considers the news that Elizabeth did all this for him. He’s also distraught when she suggests she might be asked to leave that day.
Eventually, with thing between them better but still awkward, Elizabeth leaves him be as she returns to the village to face the music.
36: Elizabeth gets a second chance to rebuild the Community Centre. Because OF COURSE SHE DOES.
Marion and Robert are very quick to tell Elizabeth that she’s let everyone down, including herself. Elizabeth knows this, of course, and is regretting her let’s-be-Jessica flight of folly. However, instead of banishing her back to California, instead, she’s given a second chance.
There’s a week left. Can she and the group, under the tutelage of the now-in-control Jose, rebuild the Community Centre so it’s not a fucking deathtrap?
Elizabeth is astonished at the generosity of the offer, and vows to do her best to so.
The rest of the chapter chronicles the efforts made by the team. And, of course, they succeed to complete the centre with hours to spare. GO VALLE DULCE!
Of COURSE Elizabeth and the gang get a second chance to complete the task, and OF COURSE it’s successful.
A wall fell down, but no one died. All’s good, right?
Let’s look past the systematic failures in organisation and governance that led to a bunch of thirteen-year-olds building a fucking, well, BUILDING by themselves with minimal supervision. Let’s ignore that the people in actual CHARGE are mere teenagers themselves. And as for the fact that someone could have been fucking KILLED by falling masonry… let’s sweep that under the fucking carpet, shall we?
The people in charge of this fucking programme should be sent to fucking prison.
Chapter Twelve… is go!
37: Can’t be arsed. The book ends.
They finish the Community Centre.
Elizabeth is stripped of the Outstanding Volunteer award.
The Herreras (and the others) forgive Elizabeth for her transgressions.
J.P. and Liz have a final kiss, that feels like the “end” of the holiday romance.
Elizabeth decides that any school changes that come (remember those?) will be fine by her, as she’s a strong independent woman.
Elizabeth also decides that she’ll never shirk responsibilities again. That said, she also thinks that a healthy balance between fun and seriousness is the true key.
AND THEN WE ARE DONE!
MEXICAN WAVE TIME!
\o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/ \o/
Honestly? I think I did this book a disservice.
In “reading” this book piecemeal, and recapping along the way, I found myself mired in the crappier parts for far longer than I would have otherwise, had I read the book and recapped it in my normal way. So the J.P. nonsense lingered too long, and the fun ending came all too late to make a difference.
It tried to do something different, and that’s fine by me, but I still feel the focus on romance fell a little flat with me. I appreciate this does not bode well for Sweet Valley High, but in the words of our Prime Minister, the distended rectum plugged with hay that is Boris Johnson, “them’s the breaks”.
Even if I’m being charitable, there wasn’t much to really applaud in this. I hated the conceit that Elizabeth was only now investigating her Jessica Boundaries, and I hated that the whole Rain Forest Friends thing felt so ill thought out and slapdash. And, as I’ve mentioned, I hated Jay fucking Pee.
I think I may have enjoyed the end, in another time, in another life. C’est la vie.
So now I’m done with my Sweet Valley Twins recaps… How do I feel? Strangely calm.
Am I looking forward to Sweet Valley High? On balance, I think I am.
Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you are. LET’S FUCKING GOOOO!
(I’ll give it a month before the wheels fall off.)
[Dove: This book was hopeless. It was boring. It was stupid. It was obvious. And worst of all, it was not what anyone wanted to end the series. I didn’t care about anything at all. I just wanted to have a nice book where the main characters we know and… well, character that we know, get together and do things. I don’t know or care what things, but I didn’t want to get to know new characters on the penultimate book. Nor did I want first person. I hated this.]
[Wing: I hate first person, I’m sick while commenting, I can’t suspend my disbelief long enough to deal with this plot, I’m still annoyed at Unicorn Club, and I still have one more SVT recap to go. Fuck the stupidity of this book.]