Title: Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian
Summary: Aloha, Unicorns!
Just when Jessica Wakefield becomes bored with Sweet Valley, [Wing: So every book then?] she wins a trip to Hawaii. [Wing: Wut. Already starting off with a Wakefields must win trope? Damn it.] She takes five of her best friends from the exclusive Unicorn Club and they’re ready to have the time of their lives.
But things don’t turn out the way they had planned. Jessica has a streak of bad luck, Janet Howell is convinced she is a Hawaiian princess, [Wing: WUT. GOD DAMN IT.] and Mandy Miller, Mary Wallace, and Ellen Riteman find out a secret they must keep from Lila Fowler.
The girls don’t understand why their trip to paradise is turning out to be the worst holiday ever… until they discover the curse of the Hawaiian volcano goddess! [Wing: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK ARE YOU SHITTING ME RIGHT NOW. I DON’T WANT TO RECAP THIS.]
Tagline: It’s the trip of a lifetime! [Wing: Considering how rich most of Sweet Valley is, I doubt that.]
WHAT THE FUCK I WANT TO BURN EVERYTHING DOWN OH MY GOD.
Over on Twitter, Dove encouraged me to post a list of the things I rage-feared would happen in this book. I did that right before I read anything about the book.
Here is my list:
- Some sort of bullshit Hawaiian princess storyline
- Only white people live in Hawaii except for the SUPER SPECIAL magical native.
- Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at surfing without even trying.
- Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at hula, just as good as the “locals.”
- People who live in Hawaii will be called Hawaiians indiscriminately from Hawaiians being actual native peoples.
- Everyone will wear cheap tourist “Hawaiian” shirts and plastic leis.
- All the food will be “Hawaiian” simply by adding pineapple to it. There will be no mac salad, loco moco, malasadas, or L&L (oh my god I’m so hungry right now).
- WW2 references + American imperialism.
- Fucking haoles the whole entire lot of them, in that terrible stereotypical loud, brash, rich white American tourist way.
CLEARLY I DID NOT SET MY EXPECTATIONS LOW ENOUGH VOLCANO GODDESS CURSE OH MY GOD I NEED STRONGER LIQUOR AND MORE FIRE. [Raven: This is gonna be AWESOME.] [Dove: Or she’s going to drink so hard she falls off her chair and doesn’t finish the recap.]
Shallow: The girls on that cover are not wearing nearly enough purple.
Jessica’s having a fine time of things at Sweet Valley Middle School; Mrs Gerhart says that her potato salad looks more like potato soup during cooking class. (You know what class would have been useful for baby!Wing? A cooking class. Do you know what class baby!Wing couldn’t take because she was in advanced university-track classes? A cooking class. This is why Ostrich is the domestic one. Well, one of many reasons why.) Jessica doubles down and swears that it is an old family recipe; Mrs G refuses to even taste it. Of course, she then gives Elizabeth an A for her perfect potato salad and talks about how hard it is to believe Elizabeth and Jessica are twins.
Elizabeth: studios, hardworking, will sell herself out when she becomes a journalist because she has no spine to stand true to her writing.
Jessica: girlfriends, boyfriends, purple, popularity.
Allegedly, the twins are best friends.
Mandy Miller comes home with Jessica to study for their history test. It is only October (…do we have a calendar of when these books take place? I think that would be useful) [Raven: I’m pretty sure such a calendar would be so complex that it’d only be useful to Doctor fucking Who.], but she’s already bored and overwhelmed by the months of history tests ahead of them. Mandy wants to take a study break; Jessica points out that they’ve been studying for four whole entire minutes. Oh god.
Mandy conveniently finds a contest in a magazine that was conveniently left on the table: the Pineapple People (what) will present the creator of the most unusual pineapple recipe an amazing grand prize. You — you have to list the prize when you hold contests. And you don’t usually list it in the small print, because people care about the prize. Come the fuck on, author, AT LEAST TRY.
Mandy and Jessica decide to come up with a ridiculous recipe, the opposite of real cooking: a potato salad that will make Mrs Gerhart turn green. They start with anchovies, chocolate chips, and peppermint extract, and then spend 15 minutes throwing everything they can find into a large mixing bowl and adding a slice of raw potato every now and then. Best be careful, Mandy, Jessica might forget what she’s supposed to be doing with that knife and you’ll end up in the Mercandy backyard.
Finally, they top everything off with some green food coloring.
When Elizabeth gets home, Jessica shows it off to her, calling it the Poisonous Potato Salad. Not even Steven would eat it, she says, and he’ll eat anything. Dirty.
Elizabeth teases them because she’s sure they’ll win and since the Pineapple People (wtf) haven’t specified what the prize is, it’s probably “a zillion cans of pineapple” and Elizabeth hates pineapple, so of course she doesn’t want it in the house. (a) Selfish. (b) Something is seriously wrong with you.
And then Steven comes home and actually eats it when they offer it to him. He thinks it’s not bad, it just needs a little more salt.
I am head desking.
[Raven: Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Goooood.
Chapter two is … late December, almost Christmas what the fuck, Sweet Valley Time is in hyperdrive in this book and also, WE’VE ALREADY HAD CHRISTMAS THIS SCHOOL YEAR. [Dove: Look, Wing thinks there’s only one Christmas per year in Sweet Valley. Isn’t that… quaint?] The twins are super excited, of course, in part because they’re spending a week at a ski lodge the week after Christmas with both sets of their grandparents. Neither of them know how to ski — wait, is that true? I’m too annoyed to look it up at the moment [Dove: So far, no skiing in the books. Only snowball fights and sledding in Washinton. Skiing shows up more in High than Twins, I think.] — and Lila has been telling Jessica horror stories about the first time Lila went skiing. Apparently, she came home with 27 bruises.
Oh, well, Jessica isn’t actually looking forward to skiing the way Elizabeth is, because skiing means snow and cold and thermal underwear and runny noses. You and me both, Jessica. You and me both. She is looking forward to the parts apres skiing, which include flirting with cute guys who keep her hot cocoa refilled — and maybe she can even skip skiing completely. YOU AND ME BOTH, JESSICA. [Dove: This is exactly why I want to go “skiing”. To look at the pretty views, stay inside, and drink hot chocolate.]
They run into Amy at the mall, who shocks Jessica because she hates shopping; Amy lets Jessica know that there are a bunch of Unicorns over by the frozen yogurt stand where there’s a cute guy behind the counter. Jessica abandons Elizabeth immediately and heads over. Lila’s on her second cup of strawberry yogurt, and Janet’s on her third cone, but it’s all worth it because he’s adorable. Janet and Lila bicker over who gets the guy, because that’s cool, and Mary Wallace is the voice of reason: he’s not going to ask one of them out just because they like the way he scoops yogurt. Dirty.
Lila goes off grumping about how Bambi, her dad’s new girlfriend, will be at Christmas dinner and now Lila doesn’t care what she wears to it even though she’d planned to buy something new, of course. Lila’s never met Bambi, but thinks she’s a real airhead; she actually asked Lila if she wanted a doll for Christmas. Lila’s really worried that her dad is getting serious about Bambi because he wants the two of them to spend all Christmas Day getting to know each other. Yeah, cool, Mr Fowler, that’s exactly the way to make your spoiled, lonely daughter embrace someone new, spring them on her at one of the few times she gets to see you. Great plan. [Raven: His first idea was to wrap Bambi up like a present and leaver her under the Christmas tree fpr Lila to find, but then he remembered poor Dollar the Christmas Puppy, and having to fire his previous nanny because of the No Airhole Incident.] [Dove: This exchange gives one of my favourite Ellen lines ever. When someone asks who Lila means by ‘Bambi’, she says: “You know, the baby deer,” Ellen answered. “Thumper’s friend.” Never change, Ellen.] [Wing: We truly get #bestellen in this book.]
Lila’s so upset she heads off to buy herself the most expensive dress she can manage to get back at her dad; she won’t even stick around to flirt with cute yogurt boy. Ugh, Lila. You poor girl. (I have serious concerns about the damage she’s going to do to the world as a spoiled rich white princess, but I do feel for her and her relationship with her father. Poor kid.)
At school before break, Lila’s the one who found out that Jessica won the pineapple contest. She tried to call Jessica at home, but she’d already left for school. And the grand prize is, of course, a trip to Hawaii for the winner and two friends. She has to claim the prize by calling the magazine before 11 a.m. on 21 December — why, today is 21 December, thank god it’s only 7:55 a.m. — OH NO, THAT’S 11 A.M. EASTERN TIME, WHICH IS THREE HOURS AHEAD OF CALIFORNIA WHATEVER WILL JESSICA DO?
(Well, first she will question Lila as to whether there are really time zones oh my god whatever, Wakefield.)
The consolation prize is 200 cans of pineapple if she doesn’t call and claim it in time. This entire setup is weird and annoying and I just want to get to setting everything on fire, so I’m fast forwarding through this section: pay phone out of order, Lila convinces Mrs Knight in the office to let her use the school’s phone to call in even though it is long distance, and Jessica just makes it with seconds to spare — she, a minor, has won a trip to Hawaii.
Right. [Raven: Yup. Ludicrous.]
(There’s a similarly ridiculous setup in the Baby-Sitters Club books for a trip to California, but at least there, the ghostwriter included a sliver of believability by having their parents do the thing for them. Vague on purpose here to avoid spoiling Dove.)
Elizabeth is super thrilled when she hears about it, but then immediately backs down because oh god, what about their grandparents not getting to see them. (Lila: So they don’t get to see you. So what? I see you two every day, and trust me, it’s no big deal. OH MY GOD LILA I LOVE YOU. Also: Send a postcard from Hawaii. That’s what I do with my grandparents. Postcards once or twice a year, and they’re happy. LILA. Your family is terrible.) [Dove: How do I sign up for that? It sounds peaceful.]
So let me get this straight. It is 21 December. Christmas is 25 December. The Wakefields leave for their skiing trip on 26 December, which apparently conflicts with the Hawaii trip. So not only does this company not notify the winner, but they have a set time for the travel to happen and it is five days after the last day to claim the prize what the fuck?
ALSO, JESSICA, YOU DID NOT COME UP WITH THIS ON YOUR OWN WHAT ABOUT — oh, hey Mandy, who heard from Great Gossip Caroline Pearce about what happened. Mandy immediately drags her off to tell Mrs Gerhart that Jessica’s potato salad recipe won grand prize, because Mandy is a troooooooll and I love her.
At lunch, Elizabeth says that she’s come up with the perfect plan: Jessica should go to Hawaii, and Elizabeth should go skiing, which will let Jessica have her fun, and make the grandparents happy (…because they don’t want to see Jessica?), and Elizabeth is excited about skiing anyway.
Then Jessica has to get down to the question of whom she will invite. Mandy, of course, because, as Elizabeth points out, she helped create it. Seriously, you should not be inviting her, Jessica, she should automatically get a ticket and get to help decide the other person, but whatever. Elizabeth then suggests Lila, and Jessica admits that Lila is acting like she’s automatically going, but Jessica hasn’t invited her yet, because Lila gets to travel all over the world so it might be nice to invite someone else to whom it would mean more — someone like Mary Wallace who has never been outside the state, per Elizabeth.
… wait a fucking minute here. SHE WAS JUST IN MEXICO NOT ALL THAT LONG AGO SO UNLESS YOU’RE CEDING CALIFORNIA BACK TO MEXICO (AND I’M ALL FOR IT, TAKE ME WITH YOU), YOUR CONTINUITY IS FUCKED. [Raven: Excellent spot!]
Jessica invites Mary, Mary is thrilled, Lila storms off, which makes Jessica feel guilty because Lila is supposed to be her best friend after Elizabeth and Lila is having a hard time of things lately. But Lila’s also already been to Hawaii and Mary and Mandy have not. (ONCE AGAIN, MANDY SHOULD NOT EVEN BE IN CONSIDERATION HERE, SHE SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY BE GOING.)
Lila, just as Daddy to send you again, I’m sure he’ll be fine with that, not only for you but for the rest of your friends, too, come on.
Of course, Ned and Alice throw a wrench in the plans that night, because while they’re proud of her (so they say, but they mostly look annoyed), they absolutely can’t let her go without a chaperon. Which is a good point, but also YOU HAVE A FAMILY TRIP PLANNED STICK WITH THAT TOO GODDAMN.
Jessica dramas all over the house after this, because she’s so upset, going to Hawaii’s always been her dream, her secret dream that she’s never mentioned to Elizabeth before, her dream to visit a foreign country.
(There is a lot to be said about Hawaii being a conquered territory versus a state, and a lot of Hawaiians don’t treat Hawaii like a state, but that’s beyond what Jessica would know about. She should, however, know that it’s the 50th fucking state, oh my god.)
Then Lila calls to save the day. Her dad is going to send her to Hawaii, too, along with Ellen and Janet. He’s got business in Maui, so he’s coming along as a chaperone. HUH I WONDER IF EVERYTHING IS WORKING OUT.
Sure enough, even though the Wakefields don’t think George Fowler is a good parent even around Sweet Valley, much less off in another state, Ned and Alice decide to let Jessica go. Of course they do.
The Unicorns talk about how much stuff they’re bringing (Lila: 2 big suitcases, a garment bag, a cosmetics bag, and her carry-on luggage; Mandy: a bunch of stuff thrown into a duffle bag. ILU MANDY.)
Ooooooh, and Bambi is coming with them. Lila is, of course, annoyed as hell.
Christmas passes, the Wakefields have a wonderful time, and Jessica’s off to the airport while the rest of the Wakefields are off on their skiing trip. George sends two limousines to pick up everyone, I’m guessing one for the Unicorns and one for him and Bambi. Sure enough, Lila says the limo is a little cramped with all of them in it, which is why George and Bambi took another one. Riiiiiiiight. I don’t believe that for a second. They’re having limo sex.
Jessica has apparently never been to an airport before, because she’s shocked by the busy terminal and the computerized signs showing the arrivals and departures — did they drive to DC during that one book? Because this doesn’t ring true for her at all.
The girls finally meet Bambi, who has blond hair, big green eyes, and extremely well-applied makeup; Jessica wants to get eye-shadow tips from her. You’re a delight, Jessica Wakefield, and Lila is going to kill you and toss your body out to sea.
While they wait to board, Bambi asks how many of them have flown before, besides Lila the world traveler, and only Mandy (to Tucson when she was six months old) and Janet (to New Orleans one summer to visit her grandparents) have done so. Okay.
Most of the girls are nervous about flying, the flight goes well (oh, wow, remember when they served meals on flights, that’s not really a thing in the USA anymore, even between California and Hawaii), and I am confused as to why they’re not in first class, or at least George, Bambi, and Lila. I mean, I suppose they could be, but it sure seems like Jessica, Mandy, and Ellen sit in the same row, and three in a row is not really a first class thing on the size of plane that tends to make the flight from L.A. to Honolulu.
When they land, the climb down a long flight of portable metal stairs. Now, earlier it didn’t seem like they were on a private jet, either, but Ostrich doesn’t remember Maui having planes disembark outside of the terminal, which makes it seem like they are on a private jet. (It’s possible that Ostrich isn’t remembering Maui correctly, he didn’t fly into it super often.)
I’m going to handwave that George arranged for them to be greeted with leis because that’s also something that doesn’t really happen just on a whim.
They stay in a hotel, of course, eighteen floors up with what sounds like a private beach. Bambi keeps trying to be friendly, Lila keeps icing her out, I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care.
George’s rules as chaperone: don’t spend their money on inferior quality merchandise and avoid tacky souvenir peddlers. Ooooooohkaaaaaaaaaaaay. [Raven: Such bizarre and specific financial-only advice there, George. Nice spot of characterisation for a father who’s never there, I guess.] Bambi offers to keep an eye on them because she remembers what she got up to at their age. (Oooh, Bambi’s room is across the hall from the girls, but George’s room is at the very end of the hall. HE NEEDS PRIVACY FOR ALL THAT HOLIDAY SEX.)
Jessica actually feels grateful to have parents that give her annoying rules to follow; after seeing Lila and George, she’s beginning to think that being spoiled isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m pretty sure you learned this lesson awhile back, too, but it obviously didn’t stick.
They all want to go do different things (well, Ellen, Janet, and Jessica all want to buy clothes, Mary wants to watch surfing [A+], Lila wants to lie on the beach, Mandy wants to buy cheap tourist stuff), and Jessica grumbles that they’ll never agree to anything.
Janet wants them to vote, which of course means she’ll win, but Ellen suggests that they go do their own things for the afternoon before they have to meet up at the hotel. Lila immediately takes off to go flirt with a lifeguard (which is really what she means by lying on the beach) and everyone else heads out, too. [Wing: Note from my second time through this while reading Dove’s and Raven’s comments: You know, we call Jessica boy obsessed, but Lila’s thirsty as hell.]
Lila tries to flirt with the lifeguard, but he ignores her, shouts at some kids, and stews over Bambi being with them, though the sun starts to soothe her. She spends a great deal of time thinking about how her life is different than her friends and George is different than other dads. He’s rich, which is great, but he travels too much to stay rich, which she hates, and she’s left alone with Eva, their housekeeper, far too often.
As she’s getting ready to leave, she finds a ring made of red stone carved with “what looked like the image of a Hawaiian god. It was strange-looking, even a little spooky” because that’s certainly not an othering description at all.
(Lila imagines an archaeologist frantically digging through the sand to recover the ancient and valuable artifact, and I eyeroll so hard my contacts slipped.)
She heads off down the beach where the waves grow bigger and finds Mary sitting with a girl who has a long, dark braid down her back; she’s Mei, she’s lived in Hawaii her whole life, and she’s teaching Mandy about surfing and surfers. FLIRTY SURF GIRLS. I ship it.
Lila drags Mary off to tell her about the ring (“some kind of ancient artifact” AND ANOTHER EYEROLL); Mary tells her that she can’t keep it, though, she needs to turn it in to lost and found so it can maybe get back to its owner. Lila, of course, refuses, because the law of finders, keepers is in play for her she says. Of course she does. It’s her fate to have the ring. Also Lila’s words.
Meanwhile, Janet, Ellen, and Janet buy t-shirts, and then Janet goes off by herself to walk by the ocean. She meets a cute boy, Kenji, who is tall, slender, and tan, has jet-black eyes, and wears faded shorts and a t-shirt with holes. Janet’s going to judge the hell out of that.
When she introduces herself to him, he says her name can’t possible be Janet, because she is the spitting image of Keiko, the beautiful princess, and her return is a miracle, and if Kenji isn’t winding up a fucking haole, I’m going to — well, I’ve already started drinking and burning things, I think I set the reaction bar too high too soon. What’s Sweet Valley a stand-in for? I can burn that town down instead.
Anyway, Kenji tells her the tragic story of Keiko: a long time ago, Hawaii was ruled by kings (oh, god, I’ve gotten to the point where 1893 isn’t actually that long ago when you look at big picture history; that’s when Queen Lili’uokalani was deposed by an American coup; I mean, it’s only about a hundred years before this book was published, that’s no time at all, that was literally my first thought, it wasn’t that long ago at all — also Hawaii didn’t become a state until 1959, in case you were wondering), and Keiko was adored by all her people. She fell in love with a fisherman’s son, but her father the king refused to let her marry the boy. Keiko and the boy ran away together and were never seen again. Everyone grieved, and even Pele, the volcano goddess, erupted in anger (“when she’s huhu, watch out” Kenji says and then has to explain that he means when she’s angry). Legend has it that Keiko will someday return, and if she tries to leave again, Pele will consume the islands in laval and bury all who live there.
(SOOOOOO. That’s, you know, cool to read right now, when Kilauea has been destroying so many homes with lava flows this year. (It’s been active for a long time, but it’s been particularly bad lately.)
Janet likes the story, but wants to know how he thinks she’s Keiko: she’s beautiful enough to be, he tells her, and she has a tiny beauty mark near her mouth, just like Keiko. UMMMMMM. You just said she’s the spitting image of Keiko, sooooooooooo — that is not what you said. Janet believes it is, of course, easy to see how she’s princess material, she’s beautiful, she’s always been the most important girl at SVMS, and no wonder she loves to wear purple and is the president of the Unicorns.
Kenji bows to her and welcomes her home.
If I take out my contacts, can I get out of reading the rest of this? How about if I start stabbing myself?
When she meets up with the rest of the Unicorns, she tells them that her real name is Keiko because of the little beauty mark and her beauty and how it proves she’s a real Hawaiian princess.
I’m going to go spit fire for awhile. Be right back!
They don’t believe her, of course, and only Ellen is even a little interested, so Janet takes her into another room to tell her the story. When Ellen hears about that whole curse of lava part, she’s very chill over it, because at least the rest of them can leave, right? ILU, Ellen. (She also calls Janet bossy at one point, which made me LOL.) [Raven: Ellen is great.]
At dinner, Jessica and Mandy are both confused by how much silverware is on the table. Okay, I find that a little weird. We were poor, but I got training in silverware far earlier than their age, and the Wakefields are supposed to have nice dinners fairly regularly. Plus you can’t convince me that Lila hasn’t hosted some sort of formal dinner for the Unicorns to show off.
George recommends escargots, because sure, of course, that’s exactly what you should eat when you’re on an island known for delicious fresh fruits and vegetables and amazing seafood. (I love escargots, which are snails in a garlicy buttery sauce, but COME ON, YOU’RE IN HAWAII, EAT SOME GODDAMN SEAFOOD — unless you don’t eat seafood at all, but I have a hard time believing you would eat escargots then). [Raven: I kinda like George being generally useless as a chaperone. Recommending snails to a bunch of tweens is SO out of touch. It’s almost as if he’s chosen the most expensive thing on the menu so he can impress Lila’s friends and win her approval. Lovely.]
Lila is the first to want to leave, and the Unicorns go with her, of course; George and Bambi stay behind to finish their coffee. They’re kind of adorable together, no lie. Lila keeps complaining about how Bambi is too lovey-dovey with George. Janet says that she didn’t notice anything, they were acting just like her parents act, which, I’m sure you can guess, goes over really fucking well. [Dove: I know Janet’s a self-centered ditz, but this is a pretty callous remark, even for her.]
Mandy and Mary rush out of the elevator to find Mandy’s lost purse; they’re both relieved to get away from the others. Mandy flat out says that she thinks Lila should give Bambi more of a chance because she seems nice.
The girls don’t want to interrupt George and Bambi, who are sitting very close together, and overhear Bambi saying that she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and she’s scared she won’t make much of a mother. George tells her that of course she will and she can do anything she puts her mind to.
Of course, Mandy and Mary immediately believe this means that Bambi is about to become Lila’s new mommy. I immediately believe this is about that audition Bambi has coming up. WE’LL SEE WHO WINS! [Raven: She could be pregnant?]
They decide to wait a bit before saying anything to Lila, because they don’t know for sure, and they don’t really want to be the ones who make Lila that angry. Good decision, darlings.
A call for Jessica wakes them up early; the Pineapple People Company have invited them to a tour of their plant and a recipe-tasting. They will be tasting Jessica and Mandy’s recipe. UMMMMM. I’m sure that’s going to go well. (None of them have any intention of eating it. I hope they must, because it will be hilarious.)
Bambi goes with them to PPC’s headquarters; Janet grumbles that if they knew she was Princess Keiko, they wouldn’t care about Jessica at all, and Bambi is thrilled with the adventure and wishing that George could have come with them.
They meet Mr Hakulani, the VP of PPC, who keeps calling Jessica Miss Wakely. PPC is the off-brand Dole, isn’t it? (No lie, I had the best pineapple muffins I’ve ever had in my life when we did a little tour of Dole on O’ahu. I still think of them fondly.) They watch a black and white movie about pineapple harvesting (Pineapple Panorama), and then he takes them on a tour of their processing plant. This all takes about three hours.
Finally, they get to have some food. Mr Hakulani says that what they’re going to feed her is ono ono (“extra delicious”): AND THEN THE TRUTH COMES OUT. They bring out a pineapple upside-down cake decorated with yellow and white frosting that makes pineapples around the edges.
… pineapple upside-down cake is amazing (my dad makes a great one), but I have literally never seen it with frosting. Have any of you?
Of course, it is clear that the real winner was a Miss Wakely. Jessica drags Mandy into a bathroom to talk about how somewhere there is a Jessica Wakely who should have won. Mandy wants to know if they should tell the PPC, but Jessica says they might send everyone home right away and then she’d feel even worse. (I mean, they’d only send three of you home, the rest of them came on George’s dime, and I bet he’d pay for your return flights if it came to that.)
Jessica and Mandy feel terribly guilty, but go back to join the others without saying anything. Then Janet calls Mr Hakulani Mr Hakulooloo, which is, I’m sure, written as just a ha-ha joke at how distracted Janet is and how she doesn’t really pay attention to what’s going on around her, but also smacks of racism because of how often white people make fun of names like that.
Anyway, Janet wants to know if he’s a real Hawaiian (he says yes and that he was born right on Maui, which, okay, not really the defining point, but whatever), and then if she looks familiar to him. He has zero idea what she’s talking about, though.
Jessica has a terrible nightmare that night about drowning in an ocean of crushed pineapple. GUILTY CONSCIENCE WHAT. Lila also had a nightmare, hers about being at school and on trial for stealing a valuable artifact. When the next issue of the Sixers came out, the headline was “Unicorn Found Guilty.” Well goddamn, even the Unicorns dream about the Sixers. SECOND VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST. Oh my god, Janet had a nightmare, too, about a big sundae exploding into bright red lava that was everywhere, in her hair, on her crown, which is a diamond tiara like they wear in pageants and zero percent like what a Hawaiian princess would wear. THIRD VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST. (Sort of.) [Raven: Thankfully, Steven isn’t there to share his dream. It’s not a sundae exploding and getting goop in people’s hair in that dream, believe me.]
Ellen trades rooms with Janet, because the other three are too loud and waking up too much and she wants a good night’s sleep, so the nightmare triplets can have each other.
They go to a tour of Healakala (the world’s largest dormant volcano) the next day, and of course Lila, Jessica, and Janet are exhausted. Even George joins them on this tour, which is led by Ranger Nani Kehena. I’m now daydreaming of a SVT and Lilo & Stitch crossover, by which I really mean I want to watch Lilo & Stitch again and forget about this book.
Ranger Kehena talks about Pele, the volcano goddess, and how volcanic eruptions occur when she’s mad, and how they call hardened lava drops Pele’s tears. Janet calls Pele her goddess who will never let her leave the island, and Jessica tells her to get a life. Janet then tries to take a volcanic rock as a souvenir. Ranger Kehena teases her that some people believe that taking a volcanic rock is like kidnapping one of Pele’s children and will bring bad luck on whoever takes it.
The tour has a bunch of information about rare plants and animals and sounds pretty awesome, but Lila and Janet are super bored. They won’t even get the afternoon free, because they’re going on a glass-bottom boat tour, which also sounds awesome, but was Bambi’s idea, so Lila hates it.
They talk about Lila’s ring (Janet has only just noticed it), and Lila realises that she’s lost the bracelet Bambi gave her for Christmas; George told her she had to wear it every day in Hawaii so Bambi would know she loved it, and she’s afraid that George will think she lost it on purpose.
Janet tries to get her to catch up with the rest of the group, but Lila wants to go look for her bracelet. It’s not like they can get lost, there’s only one trail and Ranger Kehena stops every ten seconds to talk about some “stupid rock.” ILU LILA.
They go back to look for it and immediately get lost. It gets hotter and hotter and then they hear something rumbling and Lila shrieks that they’re going to be buried alive in lava. Janet begs Pele to mellow out and to do it for Princess Keiko, but of course the shaking gets worse, and they take off running. They run so fast the path gets flat and hard like blacktop and thinks that the lava’s already beginning to harden. Lila, if you were running through liquid lava, you would be dead already.
The heat is from the sun coming out from behind the clouds and the rumbling is a bulldozer. The rest of the Unicorns laugh at Lila and Janet, but Ranger Kehena is super kind about it.
Glass-bottom boat time, and I really need to do a tour like this sometime. AND OH GEORGE AND BAMBI AREN’T COMING WITH THEM THEY’RE GOING TO THE JEWELRY STORE. Damn. Maybe Mandy and Mary were right after all.
The boat tour guide is Palani, and he’s super excited to show them fish like a red-lipped parrotfish and a blue-spotted cowfish. Now I really want to go snorkeling, too. [Dove: I want to go on the glass-bottomed boat. Raven would love it.] [Wing: At the very least, we should do that on our next holiday. It will be GREAT.]
Janet makes friends with two little boys around six years old so she can ask them if they recognise her. She even shows them her beauty mark which freaks them out. Poor kid.
Jessica stands up to move to the other side of the boat because her side is too crowded and falls overboard. Are you kidding me? Oh dear god, literally everything is going to happen to them on this trip, isn’t it? She thinks people from the boat are shouting at her about piranhas, but really they’re telling her to put her feet down, because she’s standing in only three feet of water. The Unicorns laugh so hard they rock the entire boat, and Mary calls her a red-faced Jessfish. ILU MARY.
When they meet up with George and Bambi later, George bought a pink coral necklace for Lila and a beautiful pearl ring that Bambi is wearing on her right hand. Mandy and Mary are certain this is an engagement ring. I remain skeptical.
Lila is, of course, super angry that Bambi got a pearl and she only got coral, even though George says the necklace was really expensive. She actually cries a little and runs away to the rental car. Now wait a minute, it took two limos to get them to the airport but they are tooling around Maui in one rental car? LIES.
Mandy and Mary decide again not to say anything until they can do a little detective work. Oh, this is going to be fun.
Lila goes to the beach by herself to pout. She actually likes the necklace, it looks perfect with the ring she found, but of course she can never wear it after he bought Bambi a ring. It’s not really the ring that bothers here, though, it’s that Bambi is becoming more and more a part of George’s life.
Two cute Hawaiian boys interrupt her pouting session. They are Kenji and Lono who live near the beach. Lila can’t decide which one is cuter, Kenji with his great eyes or Lono with his adorable dimples. They tease her about not loving her time in Hawaii so far, so she tells them what’s been happening with, of course, some Lila exaggeration added – she lost a priceless family heirloom, she hasn’t slept in days, a volcano nearly erupted underfoot and her best friend nearly drowned in a tragic boating accident. ILU, LILA.
Kenji asks to see her ring and then the boys take off immediately, Kenji saying that everything was fine before he saw her ring and now they have to leave before it’s too late.
Kenji: haole troll. ILU, KENJI.
(If this turns out to be him being serious, I am going to be so annoyed at the stereotypical writing going on here.) [Raven: When you and Ostrich come to the UK, we are going troll you guys SO HARD.] [Wing: I cannot wait. Do they speak English over there?]
Lila begs them to tell her what’s going on, and Kenji says that the ring she found is not an ordinary ring. It is the reason she’s having such bad luck. It is the sacred burial ring of King Kamehameha. It’s his face carved into the stone. He was a great warrior and ruler, and by wearing the ring, she violated sacred Hawaiian tradition and now must pay the price. I LOVE YOU KENJI.
They take off running right after, freaking her out; she tries to take it off, but it’s stuck. Now she can’t stop thinking about how angry the face looks and she doesn’t know how she could have ever liked the ring. She asks a random surfer boy to try to help her pull the ring off her finger, but it doesn’t work.
Mandy and Mary gather the rest of the Unicorns to talk about Bambi and George. Ellen can’t figure out that they’re talking about Bambi at first and then focuses on things like whether Lila will call her Bambi or Mom. I am DYING.
They come up with a plan to have a maid bring up more towels so they can then sneak into Bambi’s room. They make Jessica call it in because she’s a good actress, which is a nice bit of continuity, really. Their plan actually works, but Mandy starts to feel guilty before they look at anything, and then Janet does, too. Jessica pops into check the bathroom first and Ellen finds a magazine with an article about how to win a man. Jessica is overwhelmed by Bambi’s eye-shadow collection, which has a shade called Silver Unicorn. Amazing.
But oh! What’s that at the door? Why, it’s someone coming into the room! Mandy and Mary hide on the balcony, but Jessica, Ellen, and Janet are all stuck in the bathroom. Bambi makes a call giving the bathroom girls a chance to try to hide. They want to hide in the shower, but have to make sure Bambi won’t try to take a shower or a bath, so they hide the towels. Instead of hiding them in the shower with them, they try to shove them into the wastebasket. Meanwhile, Jessica listens to Bambi’s conversation, which is about her talking to a Sid about being a beautiful bride. There’s a lot of competition out there and she doesn’t have any experience. KNEW IT.
FINALLY Ellen thinks about them just putting the towels in the shower [Dove: Ellen! Ellen comes up with the bright idea!], but it’s too late for that. The three of them try to hide behind the shower curtain, and Bambi sings about being a bride as she cleans up a little then leaves the bathroom. A few minutes later, Mandy and Mary rescue them from the crowded shower.
So now they all think that Bambi and George are going to get married and none of them know what to do about their knowledge.
There are no chocolate mints on the pillows that night and Mandy is starting to think that one of them is jinxed. Janet, of course, thinks it’s her, because she can never leave Hawaii thanks to being Princess Keiko. Oh god.
The Unicorns spend the next morning on the beach while George has a business meeting and Bambi has a project. Janet goes to buy some sunscreen and runs into Kenji and his friend, Lono, who doesn’t bow fast enough until Kenji hits him. KENJI ILU.
A boy stocking groceries nearby mutters about boys doing anything to get a date. Janet doesn’t know what he means by that but shrugs it off. Oh, Janet. She tells them about some of the things that have been going wrong, but of course she exaggerates, too, about the huge river of lava that came for her on Haleakala and how the entire boat capsized and on and on. The boys tell her that Pele’s trying to send her a message, reminding her that she can never leave the island.
Later, it’s Jessica’s turn to meet Kenji and Lono, and she’s thrilled that she has two boys all to herself when just a second ago, all the Unicorns were around her. I love you, Jessica, but also, how damn convenient. They flirt about how beautiful she is, she exaggerates about how wonderful her cooking is and that’s how she won the trip and about the damn volcano tour and how she had to save her friend by dragging them both up into a tall tree oh my god.
Kenji says what I’m thinking, which is that what an amazing miracle that the tree didn’t burn down since lava destroys everything in its path.
The glass-bottom boat started to sink because a school of piranhas chewed through the side and she risked her own life to pull them onto a life raft.
I am dying. And while I think it’s way too convenient that pretty much the only people who they’ve befriended are the same two guys, I’m also highly entertained by Kenji trolling the fuck out of them. (Lono too, I guess, but he mostly goes along with it more than taking charge.)
When Jessica complains that she’s not been having good luck since she arrived, Kenji tells her ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono, the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness, which he says means the island gods curse everyone who is dishonest and only those who are pure of heart are allowed to stay in Hawaii in peace.
Jessica worries that she’s offended the island gods because she didn’t tell the Pineapple People the truth, and she wishes she could talk to the real Jessica Wakely.
Bambi invites Lila to go shopping with her the next day so they can get to know each other better, and Lila grumpily agrees. Bambi’s off to get her hair done (apparently her appointment was canceled before, which is why she came back early to the room when they were snooping) and they’re going to a dinner cruise that night with George.
Jessica shows up, grumbles about boys for awhile without naming them of course, and then leads the others in telling Lila that Bambi wants to get to know her better because she’s going to be Lila’s new stepmother.
If I ate popcorn, I’d be popcorn.giffing it up right now.
Lila says that Bambi will never be her stepmother, she will never let it happen. Welp, Bambi’s dead. Immediately, Lila wants to find her father and tell him he can’t marry Bambi; even Janet says that she can’t do that, it’s different from all the other times he’s done what she wants him to do. Despite all of their arguments, she wants to tell George how she feels, but in the end, they convince her to wait a little longer to see if it will fall through.
It’s ridiculous, all of it, but also great, especially when Lila says that she’s really glad to have the others. The Unicorns may often be shallow and mean as hell, but they are pretty great together and sometimes we get to see the depth of their friendships. Those are wonderful times. [Raven: The Unicorns are A1 perfect in this book.] [Dove: This is why I love all the special editions. Usually there’s some kind of external force that makes the Jess people and the Liz people get along. But this one is even better, because we have lots of Ellen and pretty much zero Liz.]
Mary’s new friend (girlfriend), Mei, takes them windsurfing; Lila and Jessica are terrible at it, which made me laugh with delight. (Windsurfing is awesome, but hard; the first time I tried it, I dropped the entire sail on my face when I fell off backward.)
They talk with Janet about being cursed and how things keep going wrong, and then Lila takes off to “buy more sunscreen” though mostly she’s looking for Kenji and Lono; she’s going to get that ring off her finger no matter what. She interrupts a volleyball game when she finds Kenji, making him drop the bar on a serve, but he and Lono do go sit with her in the sand. She begs them to tell her how to get rid of the curse; Kenji says that the ring won’t come off until she goes to the tomb of King Kamehameha alone in the middle of the night. The tomb, he claims, is deep inside a cave in an ancient forest.
I. Am. Dying.
They tell her to ask any cab driver, they know where it is, but warn her that nobody has ever come back from the tomb.
Back with the others, Lila finds Janet with a bump on her forehead from a runaway Frisbee. It’s Janet’s turn to take off looking for Kenji and Lono, and she, too, interrupts the volleyball game and makes him drop the ball. God, this book has taken a turn for the amazing how is this even possible.
She begs them for a way to stop being the princess, but they tell her there is no way.
When Janet gets back to the others, she finds Jessica hobbling because she stepped on a jellyfish. OH MY GOD I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING HOW DID WE EVEN GET HERE? I’M NOT EVEN DRINKING AT THIS PART OF THE RECAP.
Jessica takes off to try to find something for her foot but really to track down Kenji and Lono. She, too, interrupts the volleyball game; this time the ball lands directly on Kenji’s head and one of the other players calls him out for all his girlfriends ruining their game. Oh my god, this book.
Kenji tells Jessica that she can cleanse herself to appease the gods by a specific recipe that she must make at midnight, by the light of the candle, with her hair in a ponytail on top of her head. She can’t read it until midnight, and then she will have 57 minutes to gather the ingredients, make the potion, and drink it. She, of course, has to be alone.
One more thing. You’ll never tell a lie again, will you?”
Jessica hesitated, then shook her head. “Never,” she lied.
ILU JESSICA NEVER CHANGE
Jessica keeps trying to reach Elizabeth at the ski lodge and finally gets through right before she’s supposed to be leaving for dinner. She’s calling mostly to say hi and just hear her sister’s voice; without saying much at all, talking to Elizabeth makes her feel like everything is going to be just fine.
George takes them to dinner at a floating restaurant, which does sound awesome; Lila is sullen, of course, even though George is getting more relaxed and friendly around them. Bambi won’t tell Jessica the details of her audition because she doesn’t want to jinx it (convenient); Janet knocks into a waitress and spills a huge tray of food then actually tries to help her clean up, which shocks me. George finally notices that Lila isn’t wearing the charm bracelet from Bambi, and when George asks Lila what she has to say for herself, she gives the biggest burp Jessica has ever heard. Oh my god, this is amazing. A little kid even applauds for her. I AM DYING. A bit later, Jessica tips her chair over and falls flat on her back. NO REALLY DYING.
That night, they talk again about how terrible their luck has become, Janet wants them to start calling her Princess Keiko, and the Unicorns all laugh at her over it. When Ellen, Lila, and Jessica are alone, Jessica decides to do that recipe and Lila is going to the tomb.
Ellen falls asleep, because Ellen is great. Jessica sneaks into the bathroom with her supplies to wait for midnight. Lila quickly gets dressed and starts to leave, but realises she doesn’t have any make-up and she can’t meet royalty, even a dead king, without it. LILA FOWLER I LOVE YOU SO DAMN MUCH.
Lila tries to go into the bathroom, discovers Jessica, wakes Ellen, and all the Unicorns come rushing into the room because they hear what’s happening. Then everything starts to come out, including that the three of them have met Kenji and Lono: Lila’s cursed ring (Mandy has one just like it that she bought at a souvenir shop and Mary uses sunscreen oil to get it off Lila’s finger); Jessica comes clean about the Pineapple People mistake and Jessica’s lie over it (and Mary points out that the ancient recipe calls for diet soda ILU MARY); and Janet finally admits that Kenji and Lono told her she was the princess.
(MARY AND MANDY ARE AMAZING. Their background adventures and their logic and their pragmatism are my favourite things.)
They decide to come up with a plan to force Kenji and Lono to apologise by making the boys think that Pele is angry with them. UMM. As much fun as I’ve been having throughout the recent part of this book, I’m pretty sure any plan that involves Pele and the Unicorns is going to be infuriating as hell.
Everyone but Lila wants to ask Bambi to pretend to be Pele, because I’m sure she could toooootally pass as a Hawaiian goddess, sure. That’s very Hollywood of you, girls.
The next morning, the girls overhear Bambi and George talking about marriage and, of course, get caught eavesdropping, Lila even using a glass to hear better. Slapstick and ridiculous and I am dying.
SHOCKINGLY, Bambi and George are not getting married, they were just running lines before Bambi’s audition the next day. Jessica figures out she’s trying for a role on Days of Turmoil, which is their favourite soap opera. Bambi asks for a minute alone with Lila, and they bond over how Bambi does have some idea of how it feels to worry about someone coming in and disrupting a family situation you love. Lila then snarks at her about not using waterproof mascara and how she’ll need it for the soap opera role because they cry constantly. NO REALLY DYING.
Lila sat back down on the bed next to Bambi and handed her the tissue. “You know,” she said quietly, “I didn’t really mean what I said about your eye makeup.”
Bambi draped an arm around Lila’s shoulder as she wiped away her tear. “I know,” she said, smiling. “But you did mean what you said about my crummy taste in jewelry, didn’t you?”
“Well, yes,” Lila admitted. “But if you hang around me long enough, I’m sure some of my good taste will rub off!”
Never change, Lila. Never change. [Dove: Lila has been fabulous in this book.]
Bambi agrees to help them with their plans to scare the boys using fluorescent face paint and a black light to turn her into Pele because sure, that makes sense. Once they’re all ready, near sunset, Janet goes to find Kenji and Lono. She tells them that she checked in with Pele and it’s fine for Princess Keiko to leave the island. They doubt her, and she demands they come see Pele themselves.
I zero percent believe these boys would fall for this from a fucking haole.
There in the luau pit stood Bambi—only she didn’t look at all like Bambi anymore. She was wearing a grass skirt and bikini top, and layers of beads around her neck that rattled as she moved. Kenji and Lono looked at her, their faces frozen in fear.
“Pele!” Kenji whispered.
“She’s glowing!” Lono moaned.
Bambi had carefully painted her face, arms, and legs with several colors of fluorescent paint. Under the eerie blue glow of the black light they had inserted in one of the hanging lamps over the luau pit that afternoon, Bambi looked like a warrior painted for battle.
I never should have allowed myself to feel a moment of joy for this book, because this is horrific and unbelievable and culturally insensitive and everything I feared when I learned I’d read a Sweet Valley book set in Hawaii.
They make the boys apologise, show them the trick, confront them about tricking them; the boys admit that most of their friends spend their time doing two things: surfing and making fun of tourists. Kenji and Lono are usually helpful, giving directions, etc., but they decided to give the girls a hard time so their friends would stop making fun of them for being nice to tourists, but then they started to have a great time teasing the girls, because who wouldn’t want a chance to talk to beautiful California girls pardon me I’m going to go throw up now.
The boys invite them to a New Year’s Eve luau, because of course they do, and I hate everything now. Bullet points it is.
- Lila shows Bambi that she found her missing charm bracelet but really she bought a new one to try to make Bambi feel better, which is actually adorable.
- Jessica tells the truth to the Pineapple People the truth — except NOPE, she really did win, and the pineapple upside-down cake was the company recipe. All the recipes they received were disgusting, so they gave the award to the worst one. Wasn’t — wasn’t that basically the description of the contest anyway? To reward her honesty, Mr Hakulani gives her 200 cans of crushed pineapple, which Jessica calls a lifetime supply. That is barely a three month supply, if that, though I’d take fresh pineapple over canned any time. [Dove: Extra joyful moment, when Jessica remembers how much Liz hates pineapple: Elizabeth was going to be so excited.]
- Bambi gets the part, because of course she does.
- The luau is a thing all right.
- Mandy, Mary, and Jessica all throw pennies into the ocean to make a wish, which is actually adorable; it’s pretty clear they all wish to come back to Hawaii soon.
And we’re done.
I can’t remember the last time I had such a whiplash response to one of these books. It was terrible! It was hilarious! It was terrible again! I didn’t hate how everything wrapped up but for the whole Pele/luau/what the fuck ever part, not even where it turned into everyone winning, but oh god, that whole Pele/luau/what the fuck ever part is annoying as hell.
LOCALS TROLLING TOURISTS 4EVA.
[Raven: I really liked this book. The plots were fun, the Unicorns were wonderful, the set pieces were exciting and laugh-out-loud funny, and the whole thing was written with a knowing this-is-ridiculous vibe that really carried the action along. And yes, I see the whole cultural insensitivity issues, but overall I think the book did a much better job of lampooning that stereotype than it did conforming to it. Maybe it’s my white privilage showing, but I don’t think I WANT to read an ultra-real story with these characters in this location. I’m sure if the Unicorns visited the UK and didn’t meet a Pearly King and have tea with the Queen, I’d feel a little short-changed.]
[Dove: I agree with Raven. I loved this book so much as a kid. It was one of my favourites that I read over and over. All the Unicorns were brilliant – and this was the book where I actually fell in love with Ellen back on my first read of these books. It was the first time I realised how dim but well-meaning she was (except for the horse books). Whenever I think of Ellen, I hear, “The baby deer. You know, Thumper’s friend.” Add to that Lila was amazing. Her sass throughout this book was utterly delightful, and her actual angst about her home situation was a natural progression of all the hints that have been dropped thus far in the series. I will concede that there are moments of cliched and insensitive cultural assumption, but my tween self still loves this book hard.]
[Wing: I loved it way more than I anticipated, but that whole Pele thing at the end was bullshit, at least in that they had the boys believing them momentarily. Had the boys laughed their asses off and everyone become friends that way, I would have loved the whole entire book, because it really does do a surprisingly great job of poking fun at the stereotypes of how this sort of book deals with travel stories like this. I was terrified they’d play everything straight, but for the most part they didn’t, and the level of trolling across the board was amazing. I would read a billion hours of the Unicorns traveling together and being ridiculous and getting trolled by locals and being sarcast but supportive friends to each other. I love them. Oh, I meant to say this earlier, but didn’t: especially when it comes to Jessica’s story, it’s an interesting look at how our internal thoughts and emotions can colour how we look at everything else. The second she thinks someone else won and her guilt hits, every bad thing that happens can be blamed on her bad luck because she’s primed by that guilt to think it is all based on her actions.]