Title: Jessica: Next Stop: Jr High
Summary: Sunscreen alert! Jessica and the Unicorns are headed for the balmy, boy-filled beaches of Hawaii!
From the personal journal of soon-to-be eighth grader Jessica Wakefield:
Okay, you do the math: friends + summer – parents + Hawaii. What does that equal? Aloha? The answer should be obvious.
But it isn’t. This Hawaiian vacation is kind of… freaky. And I’m not even sure why. All I know is that my friends aren’t who I thought they were… not anymore. Have they changed? Or have I?
There are far too many colons in that title, and I love colons. More importantly, this is my last SVT book (and the last SVT book of our recapping adventure! Fitting since I also recapped the first book lo these five and a half years ago!), it is painfully hot and humid where I live (I love heat, but it’s been too hot for even me lately, well into the 100s with so much humidity the air feels like water), and I’ve been annoyed with almost every single book of the Unicorn Club. All of that it is to say I’m not looking forward to this at all. Dear readers, you deserve better. I’ll try to be fresh and feisty and full of rage again when we return.
I’ve turned on my 2022 Driving Playlist, which is mostly filled with either angry music or sexy music that should be played loud (first few played on random: “Shut Your Mouth” by Garbage, “Do Not Disturb” by Halestorm, “Hellfire” cover by Violet Orlandi (yes, from Disney’s Hunchback — Orlandi’s cover is fierce, particularly around “She’ll be mine or she will burn” which is excellent to shout while driving), and “Bisexual Anthem” by Domo Wilson (windows down, music up, driving through a conservative small town, this is my current favorite troublemaking song), and I’m going to tear through this as fast as possible. (Note from the future: Reading + recapping, since I do both at the same time, took just over 2 hours. I’ve never timed it before, but that’s longer than I wanted to spend on this book, except I ended up — well, you’ll see.)
OH FUCKING HELL I JUST READ THE SUMMARY WHY THE FUCK ARE WE GOING BACK TO HAWAII? WHY? W H Y ?
Okay, Wing, the last Hawaii book wasn’t nearly as bad as you expected. You liked huge parts of it! Perhaps, perhaps, this ghostie will pull this off, too
[Dove: You all know where I stand. I want a book about the characters I know, not new ones. And in the interest of not repeating everything I said about the last book, I’ll leave it at that.]
[Raven: I’m just hoping this book is better than Elizabeth’s Costa Rican Sausage Fest. Also… this recap took you TWO HOURS?! Man, it’d take me more than two hours to recap a bloody tweet, never mind a book.]
Even though this is a Jessica book and I should be safe, Elizabeth writes a note in her diary, so that’s the first thing we read. Elizabeth is off to Costa Rica and the note is a part of a going away gift to Jessica even though Elizabeth is the one going away. After all, it’s hard to face a blank page.
Pretty sure Jessica has never had trouble talking about herself in her life, but go on, you.
She tells Jessica not to be lonely for the summer, with Elizabeth gone and Jess and Lila not so tight lately (oh my god, ghostie, Elizabeth using the word tight like that, I laugh). She ends telling Jessica not to murder Steven or Lila while she’s gone. [Raven: Everyone else is fair game.]
Well, you’re half right on what she shouldn’t do. Though I suppose I can understand why you’d want to be there for Steven’s murder.
Lila and Jessica have fallen out over Wiley Upjohn (WILEY UPJOHN), Lila’s boyfriend. Lila can’t stop talking about him and what he says, and does, and thinks, and how cute he is (he’s not that cute, per Jess, or tall). The only thing going for him is that he’s going to high school in the fall, but until then, he’s ruining Jess’s summer, which is supposed to be the best one of her life, the summer before eighth grade.
…honey, you are putting waaaaaaaay too much pressure on a summer that means very little. At least give that kind of excitement to the summers before and after your senior year of high school. [Raven: I think that’s the entire series. EVERYTHING is “the most important X of our lives”, all the damn time.]
Rezoning, no one knows which school where you’ll go, Unicorn Club remains prettiest, best, snobbiest despite the potential at the beginning of the Unicorn Club books, Jess loves Kimberly but she can be bossy and annoying, and oh, god, what if all the Unicorns go to different schools and there is no more Unicorn Club?
Well, one option is you hang out OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL LIKE YOU ALREADY DO, FUCKING HELL. Another option would be for each school to get a chapter of the Unicorn Club. You’d think that kind of expansion would appeal to them, at least a little.
Still, they decided to treat this as the Last Summer of the Unicorns, right up until former Unicorn president Janet Howell set her cousin Lila up with future high school boy Wiley, and everything’s gone to hell.
Jessica eventually admits to her diary that she’s jealous. Kimberly’s off to the new Waterworks theme park with her family (where Mr Nydick’s lurking, I’m sure), Mandy’s visiting with her grandmother, Rachel and her dad are in Arizona for a golf tournament, Ellen and her little brother and her dad are on a camping trip.
And Jessica’s all alone, woe is her, but for when she runs into Lila and Wiley.
Her diary is the only place she can talk about these feelings. She can’t let the Unicorns know how jealous she is, and Elizabeth thinks the Unicorns are superficial airheads and Jessica is stupid to let them upset her.
(a) LIES. Elizabeth was a fucking Unicorn (twice), the second time when they were doing good! (b) Fucking hell, you’re a shit sister and a shit friend, Liz.
Oh, btw, Lila’s dad spoils her so much that she already has her own car even though she’s still several years away from legally driving. [Dove: Lila is the reason that My Super Sweet Sixteen exists.] [Raven: I mean, is this even true? Like, when she passes Drver’s Ed, does she just get the limo, to drive herself? And does Richard get the sack? Canonically, she’s got access to the Fowler Limo, rather than her own cute little four-by-four in Royal Unicorn Purple.]
Rachel returns, throws a slumber party, and Jessica realizes how important it is to her that the Unicorns spend time together. She’s starting to worry that she’ll be the only Unicorn to go to a different school in the fall, and maybe no one will like her there.
I actually like how self-conscious and doubtful and worried Jessica is being over this. Having to change schools in a year when you normally wouldn’t is stressful! Worrying that new people won’t like you is believable, even for Jessica! And of course she’d miss her friends, at least for awhile.
The Unicorns are really stepping up their appearances, per Jess.
Mandy: Friendly, sweet, sincere, never “too cool to care”, majorly emotional lately and crying at everything, wears beaded braids this summer and got green and pink extensions. I have some concerns about exactly what style of beaded braids she has, but whatever. [Dove: *crosses arms* You’re still beige paint to me, no matter how many braids and beads you use to make yourself interesting.] [Raven: I was still Team Mandy until this book, in which she’s so fucking pointless. Sorry, spoilers there.]
Ellen: straight brunette bob now with supershort bangs, good makeup, “way wide jeans” and a ribbed top, tall and lanky.
Rachel: dark brown skin glowing without makeup, all she wears is red-tinted lip gloss, dreads that hang almost to her shoulders (…Jessica seems to think that’s long, but I disagree).
Jess: tie-dyed slip dress and platform mules, and she thinks it’s a little over the top for her. OVER THE TOP. FOR JESSICA WAKEFIELD.
Kimberly surprises them.
Kimberly: even taller than before, lightly sunburned, “exotic getup” of extra-large Hawaiian shirt, long baggies, and dopey grass skirt.
W E L P. We’re already doing worse than the last book set in Hawaii. Fantastic.
Kimberly is the reason they’re going to Hawaii. Her Aunt Pippa never married and has been a surfing champion for decades. Kimberly’s dad has always been annoyed by his sister because she doesn’t live the kind of life he thinks everyone should live.
Aunt Pippa’s a queer surf girl grown into a woman, and I love her. You’ll pry this headcanon from my cold, dead hands.
Anyway, a couple years ago she won the lottery, used that money to buy a chain of surf shops in Hawaii, and now lives in a big luxury condo on Oahu. Kimberly’s graduation present is to fly the entire Unicorn Club to Hawaii to spend a month there with her. She’s already purchased the tickets!
…that’s a bit presumptuous there, queer surf champion woman of my dreams.
[Dove: Someone’s feeling snippy she didn’t get invited on the last Unicorn trip to Hawaii. Also, Kimberly, you still suck, no matter how many plane tickets you buy.]
Lila shows up late and has this amazing response: I’ve been to Hawaii so many times, I’m not sure I really want to go again. Besides, I don’t want to be away from Wiley that long.
H O L Y S H I T.
Jess is somehow shocked speechless. Rachel points out that Wiley left her to go out of town, but all that does is annoy Lila. He calls her everyday, she says, and sure enough, he calls her right then. She spends an hour on the phone with him in another room.
This is also a realistic, believable tension between friends! The friend who abandons everyone else when they start dating someone is annoying as hell.
Wiley apparently talks Lila into going to Hawaii with them, and Lila suddenly starts acting like herself again, to Jessica’s relief.
Now she just needs to get permission from Alice and Ned.
Was there any doubt they’d say no? [Raven: That would have been fun. Jessica stays home, and the entire book is just a darkening scrawl that says DIE-ALICE-DIE-NED over and over in a frantic and overzealous font.]
Jess and Lila start out sitting together on the flight to Hawaii, but half an hour in, Lila tells Jess to get rid of the tie-dyed dress BECAUSE WILEY SAW HER IN IT AND DIDN’T LIKE IT.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
He told Lila clothes like that “MAKE GIRLS LOOK LIKE THEY’RE TRYING TOO HARD TO BE NOTICED.”
NO REALLY ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
Fuck off into the goddamn sea, Wiley. Lila, you need to get away from him, stat.
Red flags, wailing sirens, dump that boy. [Dove: Is it really red flags when every human being of any gender is nothing but red flags? After awhile, that’s just how it is in Sweet Valley.] [Raven: I’m also thinking that this could just be Lila’s opinion couched as “well, Wiiilllleeeyyy says” nonsense.]
Jessica continues to struggle with the idea that things change. She knows they do, logically, but she can’t believe how quickly things are changing.
They land in Honolulu. Kimberly has a letter from Pippa telling her how to get to the condo because she’s not going to pick up the girls. They are excited about this adventure, thrilled to ride the bus, and Lila even has the driver take a picture of them together.
Okay, bullshit. They ride buses in Sweet Valley. Lila prefers her personal chauffeur to everything. And there’s no way they wouldn’t at the very least take a cab.
Though the book doesn’t come right out and say that Jessica’s never been to Hawaii before (yet), she certainly acts like it when faced with its beauty. And it is beautiful, so I’m going to let this go for the moment. Maybe it feels brand new to her every time and this isn’t failed continuity. Maybe.
(Playlist threw out: “Tantrum” by Ashnikko and I noticed at these lyrics: sorry mom and dad, I did something bad. Fitting for Jessica Wakefield.)
Kimberly’s cousin Marissa is in the condo when they arrive. Her mom is Pippa’s and Kimberly’s dad’s sister. She’s been there two weeks and loves it and can’t wait to party with the Unicorns. She laughs like a donkey. She’s a year younger than them and was worried that they wouldn’t want to hang out with her because she’s going to be a seventh grader, but after all, Kimberly hung out with them when they were seventh graders, so…
Marissa assigns them to rooms (Lila and Rachel together), Jess and Kimberly with Marissa herself, Ellen and Mandy on the couches in the living room.
Jess expects Kimberly to say something, but she turns red and refuses to look at anyone. Jess figures out that Kimberly knew about Marissa all along and didn’t tell them.
Kimberly won’t keep her fucking mouth shut any other time, but she lets her younger cousin boss her and her friends around? The fuck is this?
Pippa comes home, Kimberly sort of vaguely tries to hint that maybe Marissa can go home, but Pippa shuts that down real quick.
In a bit of continuity, Ellen eats four bowls of mango ice cream. She does love ice cream obsessively, we saw back in the mall, and Pippa doesn’t give her any grief over it, thank fuck. Already better than her friends are.
Lila calls a secret meeting of the Unicorns, minus Kimberly, and says she’s not giving up her time with Wiley only to spend it with this stranger, so she’s buying a flight home. Everyone else wants to go, too, and even Mandy is considering it. [Dove: I hate these harpies. They’ve been here all of five minutes, and they’re like, “OMG, a person I did not anticipate! ABORT! ABORT!” Fucking hell. I thought Mandy was supposed to be nice, even if everyone else is a total bastard. See, that’s the problem with informed attributes. They’re only informed, not demonstrated.] [Raven: This book KILLED the Unicorns for me. I’ll elaborate later, but for now, you should know that each and every one of them should be yeeted into space.]
Jess starts to worry about how much influence Lila has over the club. As if we haven’t seen the two of them go back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) over who has the most power in the club. The fuck are you talking about, ghostie?
Ellen is the first one to say she doesn’t want to leave, because Ellen’s got herself a bit of a backbone lately. You need better friends too, honey. I love you. [Dove: Well, she’s about to find them, because this is the very last book containing Ellen Riteman, best thing in the series. And I am sad.]
Everyone else agrees to stay, too, even Lila after Jessica begs her to stay (Jessica’s description; all that happens is she says “please,” which I suppose is begging to Jess’s mind).
Jessica and Marissa are the only two girls excited to get up early the next morning.
JESSICA. FUCKING. WAKEFIELD. Is suddenly a morning person? THE HELL, GHOSTIE?
Some of the touristy things they do include going to a model of a Hawaiian chief’s village, at Jessica’s request because she thought it would be interesting. JESSICA WAKEFIELD THOUGHT A SORT OF HISTORICAL SITE WOULD BE INTERESTING.
So we really are straight up switching twin personalities for these last two books. Awesome. At least Jess isn’t doing it to impress a guy. (Yet.) [Raven: I thought so too. Spoilers? This is not what happens. Which makes the preceding book INFINITELY WORSE.]
Marissa starts giving all of the girls advice about hair and makeup and not going into the ocean by themselves, which annoys them all, and then she tells Jess and Ellen to wear boy-cut swimsuit bottoms because it will make their thighs look slimmer.
Are you fucking kidding me right now? We’re going to do this bullshit fat shaming thing AGAIN?
The sea. It is right there. Into it you can fuck off, Marissa.
Of course later, Jessica and Marissa end up going for a walk together, and Marissa tells Jessica that she’s lucky to have the Unicorns there, it’s her first summer with friends. Jessica starts to feel for her. I’m a little sympathetic even after that fat shaming bullshit. This kid is abrasive and seems to have no idea that she drives people away because she treats them like crap. [Raven: I too run hot and cold on Marissa.]
The Unicorns decide to go to a teen club and spend an entire day getting ready for it. Marissa locks herself into one of the bathrooms around 5 p.m., and the girls have to share the other two bathrooms.
The girls start to worry about Marissa when they’re all done getting ready, but before they can call the fire department (Jessica’s suggestion, which doesn’t seem like her at all, unless it would be to ogle hot firemen), Marissa comes out looking amazing, hair in a messy updo, short sundress with a flippy skirt in big, bold, black and white check.
She looks good, but Jessica thinks she has no modesty, she just keeps bragging and preening.
Pretty hypocritical for any of the Unicorns to have that complaint, especially Jess, but completely believable, too.
Jess: Lime green dress with butterfly cutouts on the back, loose hair, long abalone earrings that pick up the green of the dress.
Rachel: white silk pants, bright red silk shirt tied at the midriff (very 60s Cher glam, Jess says, which is totally a reference she’d make). [Dove: There it is! Our one and only real-life pop-culture reference. And they use it on Cher. They’re in Hawaii, and the big pop idol they mention is Cher.]
Mandy: her pink extension falls out, Marissa tells her to take out the rest too because they’re unfashionable, her friends stick up for her, wears a vintage raspberry silk sheath and matching sandals (which seems a little too matchy matchy for thrift store chic Mandy).
The teen club is great at first. Bartender flirts with Jessica and makes her a drink, calls it the Jessica Hawaiian Iced Jade Surprise. It’s the exact green of her dress, which is pretty cute.
He makes one for Rachel that matches her red shirt and a yellow and red striped one that matches Ellen’s tank top.
Okay, I’m impressed. I love this dude.
Turns out, Marissa knows the bartender because he also works for Pippa at the surf shop, as a clerk and surf instructor. He and Mandy have a bit of chemistry, Marissa ignores it, he makes Marissa a drink that matches her eyes rather than her black and white dress, and a frozen raspberry drink for Mandy, winning a shy smile and blush from her. [Dove: I am alarmed that (a) literal children are tending a bar; OR (b) an actual adult is going googly-eyed over a literal child. Can we stop? They’re thirteen.]
One of my new favorite Jessica lines, about the bartender and his matching drink: I love a man who can accessorize.
Lila freaks out when she sees Peter Feldman, who apparently rules Sweet Valley High and knows Wiley. She doesn’t want him to see her when she’s hanging out with Marissa, no matter how unlikely it is that they’ll be able to avoid him forever. [Dove: Spoilers from the future: Peter Feldman does not exist in SVH. If he did make it to Sweet Valley High, he was probably stuffed in a locker and left to die. All of this worry? Utterly irrelevant.] [Raven: Also… a first year student at SVH “rules it”, does he? I call super-bullshit.]
Jess meets a boy, Jason, that she saw on the beach earlier, they dance, flirt, meet each other’s friends, they all have fun together. Until Marissa comes over, starts to flirt with Jason some, and tells him that she’s “in the surfing business” which made me laugh out loud.
They all dance in a big group for awhile, Jason and Jessica take off onto the beach to get some fresh air and alone time, he’s very impressed that they can all hang out in a big group, back at his school, everyone backstabs each other, badmouths each other, but Marissa had nothing but good things to say about Jess and everyone. [Dove: Cool. The ~not like other girls~ trope. Love that. Most girls are bitchy, but you’re special. Fuck off.]
This, of course, promptly shuts Jessica up with her complaints about Marissa, and they talk about his friends instead.
Jessica continues to be torn between liking Marissa when she’s not being obnoxious and being infuriated by her when she is. Gee, I wonder if people feel this way about you, Wakefield. She also misses Elizabeth a lot.
Lila brings gossip from Wiley. Invitations are starting to go out for the Welcome to Sweet Valley High parties, and though the ninth-grade boys aren’t thrilled with taking eighth-grade girls, they might be willing to do it if she “measured up. Know what I mean?”
No, actually, and what the fuck are welcome to SVH parties? Why do they exist? What?
The big problem is the beach party they’re anning. Peter Feldman will probably be there and he cannot see them with Marissa, or meet Marissa, or spend a single second knowing about Marissa, or the Unicorns will be fools when they return to Sweet Valley.
The plan: They’re going to make Marissa hate them.
Jessica has mixed feelings about the plan but doesn’t want to end up dateless in eight grade and so goes along with it.
They short sheet Marissa’s bed as the start of the practical jokes the Unicorns love to play on each other, or so they tell her [Raven: How very Malory Towers.]. Turn off the electricity while she’s trying to remake her bed, though this one gets them in trouble with Pippa, sort of. She’s annoyed with them that night, but they put on a show of playing a prank on each other in the morning and talking about others, so she takes it in stride.
Pippa continues to be the best: she has a Suburban (apparently a huge deal to Jessica), surfing trophies, a chain of surf shops, but also a plane and pilot’s license!
I can mock Jess, but omg, I am in love with Pippa.
She takes them to Maui to see her first gift shop in a fancy hotel. Turns out Pippa is a very successful businesswoman, she just doesn’t live her life in the way Mr Haver wants her to live it. (SHE’S QUEEEEEEEEEEER.)
Steve (waaaaaaay too close a name to Steven) is 16 and “very Polynesian looking” jesus fucking christ.
They do more tourist stuff, visit a national park, drive all over the island.
More SVH gossip from Lila (goddamn, just enjoy Hawaii and ignore what’s going on back home, you’ll be there soon enough): Parties, parties, parties in September, Wiley’s getting nervous about dating a middle-school girl. They have to make a good impression on Peter Feldman before he goes back to Sweet Valley.
Kimberly starts to doubt whether they should continue with their plan to get rid of Marissa. After all, Marissa hasn’t done anything to them, and Pippa’s been great, she doesn’t want to let her aunt down. (Kimberly wants to be kind? The fuck?) [Dove: I can put up with a lot of things. Eight Christmases a year. Six Halloweens. Sophia Rizzo having two birthdays in one school year. Even Melissa’s dead mom picking her up from the Dairi Burger. But this? THIS I CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE.]
The others agree, but Lila reminds her that she’s going to high school alone, she’s got to make a good impression or she’s even more screwed than any of the other Unicorns will be.
Step two is to go snorkeling at Malaka Cove and play another joke on Marissa. Welp, this already sounds dangerous. Jessica has a good time and is a little bit awed by how brave Marissa is in the water.
The joke is that when they leave the water, Marissa’s cover-up, towel, and shoes are gone. Marissa is furious and embarrassed having to ride the bus back in just her bathing suit, freezing in the air conditioning.
I feel for her here. That’s a shitty thing for people to do and a terrible way to have to ride home on public transit. Poor kid. [Raven: Also, they never give her the stuff back. It’s literally gone forever. The bitches.]
Marissa locks herself in the bathroom again. The girls think she’s crying. She comes out two hours later looking gorgeous and wearing a cute outfit. She tells them that she’s sorry and she doesn’t know what her problem is, she got worked up and she’s a little stupid, of course hazing is a part of joining the club and now she’s a Unicorn!
OHMYGOD YES PLEASE BE TROLLING THEM MARISSA PLEASE
(Reader, she was not trolling them. I’m sad.) [Dove: It was at this point I became Team Marissa. I didn’t especially like her, she’s annoying, but I did want her to have a better time than the Unicorns.] [Raven: Me too. I like her “this must be a hazing / unicorn initiation thing, rather than a ‘they hate me’ thing” confidence. You go, girl!]
Lila wants to point blank tell Marissa she’s not a Unicorn, but Kimberly says they can’t. Pippa’s cool, but she also has a strong sense of right and wrong. She refused a surf trophy once when she thought a judge penalized one of her competitors for no reason.
I am in love with Pippa.
Instead they are going to come up with an initiation that will keep her away from the party. They call Janet for help with this, because it’s not like she’s been away from the club for a year and has her own life or anything.
Jessica volunteers to play a major part in the prank, and is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen. She feels bad about what they’re doing to Marissa and is tired of Lila and her rules.
… on the one hand, Jessica is known to stand up to Lila. On the other hand, this does feel a little more Elizabeth and Something Must Be Done than an actual Jessica book, which, yes, I know, they’re switching personalities or whatever. I’m not feeling it.
However, I’m also not hating this, so…
And theeeeeeeeeeeen Marissa talks about how much she’s looking forward to dancing with Jason all night, and it. is. on.
That’s more like the Jessica we know and mostly love.
The prank: They put green dye in toothpaste because surely she won’t want to go to a party with green teeth. None of them ever would, of course.
Jessica overhears Pippa on the phone talking about Marissa. She says she won’t let them pick on Marissa and if they do, she’ll send them straight back home and she doesn’t care what Kimberly’s parents have to say about it, she does what she thinks is right, and if any of their parents are upset, they should have taught their kids better manners.
I. Fucking. Love. Pippa.
Holy shit, where have you been all this time? You’re a billion times better as a parent or mentor or teacher or adult figure than everyone else in these books combined.
Jessica tries to stop Marissa from using the toothpaste, but fails. Marissa breaks down sobbing and asking why they’re doing these things to her and she tried so hard to be a good sport about it. Jessica feels like crying, too. She remembers what it feels like to have people be mean to her because it’s funny to them, she knows how cruel the Unicorns can be.
UMMM. JESSICA WAKEFIELD. YOU CAN BE MEAN AND CRUEL BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY, YOU HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLE. (Exhibit 1: Lois and the Dairi Burger shaving cream bullshit.) [Dove: I hated that retcon. She says in the book:
Janet had made me do things like carry her books for her. And kiss Randy Mason! (Ugh!) And participate in mean jokes on people like Lois Waller.
And I had hated it!
No. No you fucking didn’t, you absolute cow. You loved punishing Lois for not being thin. You were spiteful and shallow, and I don’t care if you maybe feel bad about it now, IT WAS TWO YEARS AGO, AND YOU LAUGHED YOURSELF SILLY OVER IT. Elizabeth forced you to apologise and it took OVER A WEEK. You’re a spiteful bitch, Jessica. Stop reconning.]
Pippa is furious over this, of course, but so is Jessica.
Jessica brushes her teeth, too, and tells Pippa that it’s kind of a California joke they do before parties and they should have explained it to Marissa before letting her do it. The others go along with it, except for Lila until Jessica threatens to have Marissa tell Peter Feldman that she’s Lila’s best friend.
… oh. my. god. Jessica.
She ends the entry and chapter like this: (Note: I am turning into a pretty good writer, I think, because if this were a novel, that would be a perfect way to end this chapter. Sort of a cliff-hanger. I think I’ll leave it there because I have to go to sleep. I’ll finish the story about what happened tomorrow.)
First, I’m shocked at the continuity that Jessica is a decent writer when she cares about it.
(Though I’m not sure I’d call this one needlessly dramatic, to be fair.)
[Raven: I think this book solidifies my opinion that Jessica is a much better writer than Elizabeth. She’s far more engaging. Liz is as dry as a sun-bleached rice cake.]
Beach party fashion!
Marissa: khaki shorts, sleeveless blue denim shirt tied at midriff.
Lila: bright blue bathing suit with matching long skirt slit all the way up the side.
Mandy: baggy shorts and halter top. (That’s all the description we get of Mandy? Mandy who is known for her wild fashion? The fuck?) [Raven: This ghostie doesn’t give a fuck about Mandy.]
Kimberly: shiny black bicycle shorts and a bathing suit top.
Ellen: bathing suit and cutoffs.
Jessica: tie-dyed dress because she’s feeling defiant.
Lila orders none of them to smile because of their teeth, and of course this means they are incredibly awkward at the party.
Hal, a little kid at the camp where Jason used to be a counselor, tries to get Jason to play with him and is rude to Jessica. Jason likes him a lot, though, and says he’s only home this weekend because he takes meds and needs to see a doctor, he’ll go back to camp on Monday.
Jason tells her that Hal has a hard time fitting in and can be a real pain, but Jason isn’t sure if he doesn’t have any friends because he’s a pain or if he became a pain because he doesn’t have any friends. Maybe it just takes one friend to break that cycle, so Jason’s trying to be that friend.
Also fairly kind.
But very heavyhanded, ghostie.
Jessica and Jason spend most of the party together and he kisses her on the cheek. They have a great time. Steve came over from Maui to hang with Kimberly. And the bartender danced a ton with Marissa.
What did Mandy, Lila, Rachel, and Ellen get up to at the party? Nothing because they went the fuck home. [Dove: I’m glad I never forgave Mandy, she’s still an utter waste of space.]
They confront Jessica when she gets home, she tells them that Pippa would have sent them home, and Lila thinks they should go home because there are all sorts of good parties going on back there. They argue over whether Jason is Jessica’s boyfriend or not, Jessica tells them they were all asking like assholes, and Jessica tempts Ellen and Rachel into staying by lying to them that the guys they like asked about them specifically.
Jessica’s glad that Lila’s losing power over them. All the girls have reasons to want to stay (…guys. They like guys), and Lila can’t get them to agree to leave.
Jessica keeps waiting for Jason to call her, but he doesn’t the day after the party. Or the next day. By the third day, Jessica wishes she’d never come to Hawaii.
I feel for her! Immediately falling for a guy is a very Jessica thing to do, as is a holiday romance, and of course it hurts that he’s not paying attention to her after they got on so well at the teen club and the party.
Peter Feldman, meanwhile, spent some time with them on the beach, and Lila name-drops people at SVH as if they are all her close friends. Jessica thinks she’s acting just like Marissa. The rest of them are shy and nervous.
They’re also watching Marissa and Kimberly have a surf lesson with the bartender. Marissa makes it to her feet, actually surfing, and Jessica and Mandy cheer her on. Mandy even tears up with joy, and Jessica feels a lump in her throat.
Okay, where is this weird emotionality coming from? This isn’t like either of them at all, and I’m very tired of informed traits popping up from nowhere. [Dove: Especially since Mandy sulked off home at the party last night. Flip-flopping and beige paint. She just gets worse. Writers, WHY DID YOU RUIN HER?]
Mandy is all excited and happy and shining and smiling when they talk to Marissa and the bartender asks if she wants to give it a try, too, but Lila calls her over and she immediately deflates.
Jessica calls her on it, and Mandy says she’s too scared to look like a fool in front of Peter Feldman if she can’t do something that Marissa could. [Raven: For fuck’s sake, Mandy. Either get in the sea, or get in the fucking sea.]
Peter Feldman mentions that Marissa’s doing great, he still hasn’t managed to stand up after weeks of trying. Jessica tells him about Pippa and gives him Marissa’s name when he asks. Once he’s gone, Lila drags Jessica away from the others.
Lila Fowler is insane with power.
It’s hard to believe that this is the girl who has been my best friend since the second grade.
As soon as we started walking she said, “Jessica, I can make your life wonderful. Or I can make your life totally miserable.”
I swear, That’s exactly what she said. The dialogue could have come right out of some cheesy TV movie. I decided to call her bluff. “OK. Make it wonderful,” I challenged. I folded my arms, tapped my foot, and pretended to look at my watch. “Well? I’m waiting. It doesn’t seem any better to me.”
Since the second grade? Really? That doesn’t ring real true based on every single other book in this series. Also, fuck off with that whole insane with power as if being insane is the dangerous part.
However, this is fucking hilarious. THAT DIALOGUE IS STRAIGHT OUT OF A CHEESY MOVIE OMG.
Lila goes on to threaten Jessica that if she doesn’t stop taking Marissa’s side, she’s going to lose the Unicorns. When Jessica’s alone, she starts crying and wondering if the real problem in the situation isn’t Marissa but Lila herself.
Jessica is surrounded by her friends and yet has never felt lonelier.
Jessica spends some more time alone, isn’t sure who she is anymore, doesn’t feel confident or pretty or comfortable with her friends, she hates everyone, including Marissa, she wants to go home.
Pippa sends her down to one of the surf shops with some paperwork for the bartender. Bartender offers her a free surf lesson and she doesn’t feel like she can say no, plus she thinks he might be flirting with her. Jason’s fucked off and Mandy’s in Lila’s thrall, why shouldn’t Jessica have some fun?
That’s pure Jessica, too.
Jessica struggles some, but manages to almost get to her feet when Marissa, Pippa, and Kimberly cheer for her, startling her, and she falls off.
Two of Jason’s friends are there, too, and Jessica is embarrassed that they’ve seen her make a fool of herself. (She hasn’t! Surfing is hard! Everyone falls!) They ask for her number because Jason lost her number and couldn’t remember Pippa’s name, but he’s wanted to call her. He’s been filling in at the camp for special kids again because some of the counselors got food poisoning. He’ll be back in a couple days, though.
Jessica’s happy again, mostly, because Jason and his two friends hang out with them a lot, all of them in a big group. After a few days, Jason tells Jessica he wants to take her somewhere special, somewhere he can’t share with a lot of people but he thinks she’ll love it.
This makes her far more powerful than Lila when she tells everyone.
Mandy and Jessica have some alone time, Mandy admits she’s afraid of what Lila can do to her if she upsets her, asks if Jessica and Mandy will stay friends if they are in different schools. Jessica isn’t sure if she’s sincere, but tells her they will even though Jessica is mad at her for going against everything she believes in just to stay on Lila’s good side. Jessica can’t respect her anymore.
Jessica decides she doesn’t care about the Unicorns any longer. She won’t worry about Jessica ruining her, about cutting her out of things when they get back to Sweet Valley, she’ll do her own thing and get her own dates and make new friends. [Raven: Good for you, Jess. The Unicorns are so done.]
Bartender invites her out for another lesson, hurting Mandy and annoying Lila. Jessica isn’t bothered, though. After all, Lila’s been telling her that Jessica and Jason didn’t have anything going on, it was all in her head, so why wouldn’t she have a surf lesson with someone else?
While they’re surfing, though, Jessica realizes hanging out with bartender is more like being with Steven than being with a boyfriend. God, bartender is too nice and fun for that comparison.
Jessica’s glad he doesn’t try to kiss her or anything because she doesn’t really want to hurt Mandy and she likes Jason, not bartender, but she does feel cocky after spending so much time with two different boys.
She’s even starting to keep track of how many boys each of them have.
Of course she is.
Surprisingly no one, I bet, Jason takes Jessica to the summer camp where he sometimes works. Most of the kids at the camp are recovering from cancer and last summer Jason started including kids with emotional problems because he thinks it helps them feel better about themselves. Helping others makes him feel better about himself.
Okay, I did not see the cancer camp part coming. I probably should have considering it’s been used recently.
Jessica and Jason help the kids put on Cinderella in Outer Space, which sounds amazing. Jessica has a lot of fun with the kids and with Jason, but still doesn’t know if he thinks of them as a couple. He kisses her cheek again when they drop her off, but his dad is in the car, so maybe that’s why.
Jessica plays up the day to the Unicorns, not telling them very much about it, worries that Jason doesn’t like her after all, and decides to go for the bartender the next day despite how she felt before.
Jessica has a good surf lesson, and bartender gives Jessica a message for Marissa: apparently Peter Feldman has been trying to get ahold of her.
Now that’s a chapter break.
Except it isn’t actually one, just an entry break.
Jessica’s starting to worry that no boy will ever like her as a girlfriend.
Lila learns the real details about Jessica’s date with Jason and threatens to tell everyone about her lie when they get back home. Jessica threatens to give Marissa the message from Peter. Stalemate. Hypocrites. Etc.
Jason invites Jessica to the teen club. The girls get wind of it and decide to go, too. Marissa comes down sick with an earache, though, saving Jessica from having to find a way to keep her from going, and they learn that Marissa has bad food allergies, particularly peanuts, and her mom worries about her a lot.
Marissa tells Jessica that her birthday is coming up and the only thing she wants is to be an actual Unicorn. [Raven: An ACTUAL Unicorn? Nice.]
Jessica has a great time at the teen club and learns that everyone likes being around Marissa because she makes people feel good about themselves, she never makes them feel judged. She’s friendly and that makes her attractive.
Lila wants to throw Marissa a surprise party, invite all the guys she knows, and feed her peanuts to cover her with splotches from head to toe.
Jesus fucking christ. Even if peanut allergies weren’t as widespread and appearing in the media all the time, you know Marissa has a serious allergy. What a big fucking assumption that all it will do is embarrass her.
Not to mention, tricking someone into eating something they don’t want to eat, whether they are allergic or not, is fucking bullshit.
Lila, I fucking hate you right now. [Dove: This is the point where I could not stop reading. I was just like, that’s pre-meditated murder. We all joke about it, but is this book going to deliver? Is this a Very Special Episode?]
And all the other fucking Unicorns fucking agree with this. What the ever loving fuck.
I can’t believe Kimberly fucking Haver is the second best Unicorn in this goddamn book. [Raven: They can all FUCK OFF AND DIE.]
Jessica realizes that she’s a big fucking coward because she’s going to go along with it so that Lila doesn’t make her life a living hell back in Sweet Valley.
Jessica manages to stand up on the surfboard, goes to volunteer at the camp again with Jason and even spends the night out there. She meets Natasha, who is allergic to hot dogs and if she’s exposed, her throat swells up and she can’t breathe. She could die if she doesn’t get to a hospital fast enough.
And Jessica is, understandably, terrified and determined to fix things before Marissa gets hurt.
AS YOU FUCKING SHOULD BE.
Jessica returns to the condo early, even though it means leaving Jason behind and he’s actually worried she’s leaving because of him. She tells the Unicorns that Marissa might have a serious, life-threatening reaction, but Lila doesn’t believe her and continues to be an asshole about it. [Dove: Murder. Just. Murder.]
She doesn’t know what to do. If she tells Kimberly, Kimberly will have to stop it and then the Unicorns will hate her. If she tells Marissa, Marissa won’t believe her. If she tells Pippa, everyone will hate Jessica.
FUCKING TELL PIPPA YOU COWARDLY PIECE OF SHIT.
Instead she asks Jason to take Marissa out on a surprise trip for her birthday and to keep her out until way past the party.
Jessica pulls it off, but the Unicorns figure out she did something. Marissa comes back and Jessica runs out, wanting to tell Jason and have him tell her she’s brave and better than anyone else.
He is waiting for her downstairs, and he hugs her and thanks her for the most wonderful day of his life. She’s insightful and perceptive, and she figured out what he didn’t, that he and Marissa are perfect for each other.
Oh no. Oh Jessica don’t do it. DON’T DO IT.
Marissa is overwhelmed by how good the day was with Jason and that the Unicorns threw her a party even if she missed it. Jessica lashes out at her, tells her she hates her and that the Unicorns hate her, too, and she’s too dumb to know it, they put peanuts in all her food and Jessica was trying to protect her by sending her away with Jason but now she’s all alone with Jason and without her friends.
Marissa sits and waits until Jessica finishes crying and then tells her that she saved Marissa’s life. She could have gone into a coma. She could have died. Her allergy is that bad.
Jessica loses her shit over this. She knows she let things go too far, and she should have told Marissa, Kimberly, and Pippa, or the camp adults, or the fucking police, anything but risk someone’s life to protect her friends.
Marissa fucking comforts Jessica through all this. I cannot fucking believe it. [Dove: Seriously, wtf? I’d have been telling Pippa and watching her hoof their shit out the window while I enjoyed a safe nut-free snack.]
She’s still so happy, though. She and Jason have a mutual crush. Her first! And she’s had a wonderful summer up until then. She’s never even gone to regular school before, her mother has been so overprotective, and Marissa ran away to convince her mother to let her go to school because she’s so fucking lonely with just her tutors and no friends. She’s spending the summer with Pippa to prove she can make friends and be responsible for her diet.
Kimberly comes back from helping at the new gift store, guesses that the Unicorns have been fighting, and says that she’s glad all that is over for her. She’s losing interest in being part of the group, she’d rather be herself.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME?!
She came back and ruined the All New Unicorns, dragged them back into all this old bullshit, and now she’s lost interest in the club and wants to be herself? [Dove: Thanks, Kimberly. You couldn’t have had this realisation when you were in fucking ATLANTA? Fuck you.]
ARE YOU MOTHER FUCKING KIDDING ME? EVERONE WHO DECIDED THIS WAS THE WAY TO GO WITH THIS GODDAMN STORY CAN FUCK OFF INTO THE FUCKING SEA!
[Raven: I mean… she’s right. She single-handedly ruined the Unicorn Club, but she’s still right.]
Jessica ends up telling Kimberly about the peanut party, and Kimberly wants to kick them out for being irresponsible, cold-blooded, and evil. She’s not wrong! And I hate it, because of that bullshit from a moment ago.
Jessica has a better idea, though, and thinks that Lila needs to be shown the dangers of a food allergy, not just be told it.
Pippa allows them to invite whoever they want to Marissa’s fancy birthday dinner. Jessica invites bartender. Only Mandy and Lila don’t have dates, though Lila has her mobile phone with her in case Wiley calls.
Partway through the night, Jessica tells Mandy that she thinks bartender has a crush on her, but Mandy keeps acting snobby and rude to him and sends them off to dance together.
Once they’re the last people in the restaurant, Kimberly brings out small pieces of cake she says is from the surprise party Marissa missed. Mandy tries to stop Marissa from eating any, but she takes a big bite, grabs her throat, and staggers out of her chair.
…I’m real fucking glad they told Pippa about it.
Marissa chokes, gags, falls to the floor, and acts dead. Jason sobs over her, the Unicorns start to cry and collapse, and Jessica calls Lila a murderer. Jessica told her that she was allergic to peanuts, but Lila wouldn’t listen. Pippa calls her a killer, too, for doing it on purpose.
Mandy says they all did it, they’re all guilty, and Marissa pops up and asks why the hell they did it.
(Yeah, not sure how I feel about Jessica and Pippa focusing this on Lila. After all, everyone fucking went along with it, even Jessica at first.)
In the middle of all the chaos, Wiley calls to break up with Lila. [Raven: What the fuck? This whole thing is very Scott Tenerman Must Die, with him discovering the secret about the infamous Chili, and then Radiohead call him a loser in the middle of his breakdown.]
Jessica’s thrilled by everything, everyone apologizes to each other, and they promise to have fun and stop torturing each other for the last two days of their trip.
Jessica fills the last two pages of her journal with a brief summary that includes Lila learning her lesson about Wiley, no longer acting like Janet, and being ashamed over what she tried to do to Marissa.
WHAT YOU ALL FUCKING TRIED TO DO TO MARISSA.
Jessica’s fine with letting old friendships go, if she must. She loves Lila, but she’s not sure they like each other anymore, and Jessica would rather be herself than be liked. She’ll be fine even if she ends up alone at a new school. (Which she won’t. At the very least, Elizabeth will be there.)
Fuck. Everything. About. This. Ending.
Surprisingly, I more or less enjoyed about 3/4 of this book. The repetition got obnoxious but there was a lot of glossing over things in Jessica’s journal, nice short entries that simply stated the same thing happened and moved on. I don’t buy some of the things Jessica felt and thought, but a lot of it was believable.
The Unicorns, particularly Lila, were terrible, which is pretty par for the course these last few books especially.
And then the peanut bullshit.
And that bit about Kimberly.
And that fucking ending.
Fuck it all. I’m done with SVT and, I hope, the Unicorn Club. You purple fuckers can all fuck off into the goddamn sea.
[Dove: Seriously, I can’t believe that they were going to murder a kid for being annoying. It’s really funny until it becomes canon. And we’re supposed to like them after that? Is that really how we were supposed to walk away from this series? “There’s been first kisses, and feuding newspapers, and marriage projects and that time we were willing to kill someone because she wasn’t cool. What a journey. I’m so glad I was there for it.” Fuck you, writers. This was the worst way to end a series.
But on the up side, the final season of Game of Thrones is looking much better by comparison, isn’t it?]
[Raven: I actually quite LIKED this book, in places. It was overlong, and the ending was a fucking shitshow, but it was much better than the previous book. But yeah, the Peanutageddon ending was both ludicrous and bleak. And the “MURDERERRR!!!” scream-show at Lila was fucking appalling, even if she was a witch.
On that subject, I really hated this version of the Unicorns. They were legit my favourite aspect of Sweet Valley Twins from the very outset, but now? They are OVER. This book killed them dead. Which, I guess, is a success, for the end of the series? Oh, and Lila can get to fuck too.
Why on earth couldn’t we have a book that concentrated on, I dunno, the characters and places that we’ve “enjoyed” for the past one hundred and fifty books? Was that really too much to ask? Apparently, it WAS.
Roll on the next series…]