Title: Jessica’s First Kiss
Tagline: A wild romance…
Summary: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends at Sweet Valley Middle School are going camping! Elizabeth can’t wait to spend a week in the wilderness. And it’s a perfect setting for a little romance with her sort-of boyfriend, Todd Wilkins.
Romance is also in the air for Jessica. She’s got her eye on Dennis Asher, a cute new boy. But how can she impress Dennis when she looks so terrible? That’s when Jessica comes up with a brilliant scheme. For Elizabeth looks great roughing it…
Note: Apologies that we’re a week late in coming back and the wrong book has gone up first. It was beyond my control.
Uh, how many first kisses has Jessica had by now?
I’m sorry, but when you’ve had four first kisses already, you can’t have another first one.
Also, I have never read this one before. Some of the more recent ones I did read when I bought them before starting this project, but I haven’t read this one at all.
[Raven: Great, more “sort-of boyfriend” crap. And totes agree with Dove, Jessica’s had more kisses than Hersheys at this point.]
[Wing: History is written by the winners and apparently Jessica has won and is writing her first kiss history over and over and over and over again.]
We open with Jessica and Lila discussing their upcoming school trip to the Bannerman Estate. Lila has visited estates before, and understands them to be vast manor houses with not just mod-cons, but overwhelming opulence. This excites Jessica, as she had thought they were just camping on the grounds of the estate, but fell asleep during the assembly about it. No, says Lila, it will be wall-to-wall luxury, formal dress for dinner, and the boys will wear white tail coats.
Well, I’ve gotta say I’m already looking forward to her meltdown, and I’m excited that Lila finally is going camping, but without undoing Lila’s endless snobbery. It was the one bit of consistent characterisation in the Super Editions/Chillers/whatever – Lila doesn’t do camping. [Raven: Also, it’s nice to see Lila getting anything at all in the Super Editions.]
Upstairs, Elizabeth is trying to make up a poem about the upcoming trip. It’s about on par with the usual poems in Point Horror. But it does confirm that the smart angelic twin, who never falls asleep during announcements, knows they are going camping. In tents. On the ground.
She wants to add a verse about how cute Todd is, but quickly imagines the teasing that would ensue if Steven saw her poem. I think we’re still on the same sassy Jamie that we’ve had for the past few books (since about Elizabeth Solves It All), because it’s really on the nose for annoying siblings. I assume, anyway, I don’t have annoying siblings. I have a feigned rivalry with Raven’s sister, but she knows I adore her, so we don’t actually wind each other up, we just pretend to. [Raven: You THINK it’s pretence. She actually hates you.] [Dove: If we get divorced, I keep her. We’ve talked about it.]
Elizabeth hears a noise and quickly erases any mention of cute boys. Jessica and Lila walk in, and OMG, sassy Lila rules.
She gave a heavy sigh and looked around Elizabeth’s bedroom. “Is this really the decorating style you want, Elizabeth? It’s so – so old-fashioned. Everyone’s into purple and yellow nowadays.”
Never change, Lila, you fabulous diva. [Wing: Purple. and. yellow. Dear god, Unicorns, that is a horrifying combo.]
Before the two Unicorns can get jabbering, Elizabeth says that April Fool’s Day is next Saturday, and do they want to do their usual schtick of switching identities? Wow. There’s some continuity. Or it could be accidental, I guess. Anyway, Jessica says no, they’re far too mature now they’re twelve (uh, it was good enough for you the last time you were twelve on April Fool’s Day), and Elizabeth agrees.
Wait, wut? Elizabeth agrees? Elizabeth who goes into meltdown every time Jessica doesn’t sit next to her on a bus? Doesn’t want the exact same thing as Elizabeth for Christmas? Doesn’t want to have identical costumes on Halloween? That Elizabeth is fine with it?
Well, thank god for that. I’m sick of her weeping into her thinking seat every time Jessica gives up an ancient tradition because they’re too old for it. However, it’s not very Elizabeth, is it? [Raven: I may be getting ahead of myself, but I feel that Elizabeth is very different in this book. She’s not as perfect, and comes over as an actual twelve-year-old for once. Stuff like worrying about being embarrassed if anyone finds her mushy poem. Nice.]
Jessica asks Elizabeth to describe Bannerman’s Estate. Elizabeth gives a run down: trees, lake, hiking trails, infirmary, museum in an old cabin. Jessica gets impatient and asks where they sleep. Elizabeth says tents and Jessica gleefully corrects her. Lila continues to be fabulous.
“Elizabeth, I don’t know why you’re bringing a sleeping bag. Most estates have perfectly adequate blankets, and there aren’t any bedbugs, I promise.”
Elizabeth tries to convince them that they were told quite clearly in the assembly that the estate used to be grand, but now it’s in ruins, and they will be camping. Jessica and Lila stick to their guns, but Jessica feels a twinge of worry, since Elizabeth never gets things wrong, and Lila… well, Lila pays about as much attention as she does to announcements.
Elizabeth brings out the information packet they were given and reads off the information. The estate is described as “primitive” and that students are advised not to bring anything requiring electricity as there are no outlets. [Wing: …in my experience, when a campground is described as primitive, it has no running water, including no toilets, not even a pit toilet. I cannot wait for Jess and Lila to arrive. Cannot. Wait.]
Lila panics at this, stating that her electric toothbrush, curling iron and portable satellite dish are absolute necessities. Really? Is a portable satellite dish even a thing? If it’s not, Lila would definitely pay to make it happen. She realises she can’t get out of the trip, her father is away for business and Mrs Pervis is visiting family.
“If I can’t have my laptop and modem so I can E-mail my dad…” Lila threatened.
Lila, you take your new-fangled technology and original spelling of “email” and get out of here. You’re dragging Sweet Valley into the 90s. [Raven: Heh. I totally missed that. Would love to read a book where the Unicorns make a website.]
Elizabeth tries to bolster their spirits with talk of the history of the place and the exciting walks they’ll go on, but realises that they’re not history and walking kinds of girls. She imagines holding hands with Todd in front of a campfire, while everyone sings. I don’t know why she doesn’t pitch this idea to the others? They can get behind romance, especially if the scene can be likened to one in a movie. [Wing: Seriously. Elizabeth comes so close to hitting the switch that would make them excited and yet, mushy poem and all, she fails.]
Jessica spots Elizabeth’s poem and reads it, mocks it and reads the last verse which Elizabeth actually did write about Todd, even if she didn’t name drop him. Elizabeth gets very defensive and throws them out, all the while, Lila is wondering if she could bring her pasta maker on the camping trip.
Damn, this Jamie is good. We have asshole siblings and self-absorbed Lila, and so far I am here for it. Please, Jamie, keep it up. [Rave: Agreed. Also, the poem is legit awful. Another nice touch.]
That evening, as Jessica brushes her teeth, she psychotically defends mocking Elizabeth’s poem because if Elizabeth didn’t want it read, she would have hid it. It’s Elizabeth’s own fault.
She ignores the fact that Elizabeth did make an effort to hide it from the two people who barged unexpectedly into her room while she was writing a poem even she thought was goofy and romantic. And you guys know how much I hate defending Elizabeth.
Anyway, one of the lines is “Walk beneath the starry skies and walk real slow”, [Wing: Sounds pretty murdery to me.] which Jessica finds to be quite romantic, if she replaces Elizabeth and Todd with herself and Aaron. See, I told you the Unicorns would be all over the romance of camping and kissing by the starlight. Jessica wants her first kiss to happen in the perfect woodland environment (no mosquitos, snakes, or anything disgusting). See above rant about how she cannot have a fifth first kiss. [Raven: I suppose they could retcon the series to have each of the five first kisses corresponding to Jessica going through the fabled “bases” of teenage sexual abandon. Jess Gets to Second Base, Jessica Rounds Third, and so on. Then again, what would Fifth Base look like? Jess Does Anal?] [Dove: Oh good. It’s been awhile since we were banned from Facebook. I’m glad that’s starting again. Let’s just hope that Facebook is too busy blocking other people this week to get around to us.] [Raven: Hey, I gotta be me.]
By the time she’s done brushing, she’s in a great mood, and cheerfully oblivious to the frostiness Elizabeth is sending out.
On the bus the next day, it’s kind of noisy. Winston won’t stop telling stupid stories with an annoying accent. Elizabeth, Amy and Todd are singing a song that I don’t know, and Janet wants everyone to shut the fuck up so she can sleep. Elizabeth thinks to herself that Janet would be fine if they were singing Johnny Buck but they’re not. Why not? Doesn’t everyone love Johnny Buck, even Saint Elizabeth?
Todd and Elizabeth have a cute little conversation about how a person might like to take a nice walk and have a snack on one of the trails at the estate, and they might want to take a special friend with them. I hate Elizabeth and Todd, but objectively I’d tolerate this kind of flirting in any other middle school book from any other characters, so yes, this is cute.
Then they sing Old McDonald just to annoy the Unicorns.
At the back of the bus, Janet wants to know when Jessica will be murdering her seriously uncool sister. Every Unicorn, even Mandy Miller, are against Elizabeth for having the audacity to sing such a nerdy song. Jessica is tasked with sabotaging their song.
Um… why not do what our school did? You walk to the front of the bus, you hand the driver a cassette and you say, “Please can we listen to this tape?”
So, when the song calls for a new animal, Jessica suggests penguin, because nobody knows what sound they make. Randy Mason suggests “gooooooal” because of hockey, and that’s just dandy.
And after that, Randy suggests the farm had an octopus.
This does not reflect well on the Unicorns. Jessica has made their lame song even more fun. Jessica is the devil. [Raven: “And on that farm he had a Unicorn, E-I-E-I-O!”] [Wing: I am delightfully charmed by the song going so far out of the Unicorns’ control. As for handing the bus driver a tape, nope. That did not ever happen on school trips in high school on down (and at university it was, let me say, very specific subgenres of porn, because drummers, y’all. Drummers). You listened to your own tapes/CDs, or you sang as a group (far more likely to happen when the trip was for competition), or there was no music at all, but no listening to a tape someone brought. I can’t even imagine that going over in public schools here at the time.]
Aaron gets her attention, and Jessica is pleased to have an escape. Except talking to Aaron is no more fun. Aaron is fucking obsessed with bears. To the point that he actually “rented, like, a documentary” about them. Jessica tries to drop hints about walking the private trails, but Aaron’s like, “They got bears? Fuck trails if they don’t got bears.” [Wing: Fucking hell, ghostie, I am here for this.] Eventually, Jessica has to be blunt (and kudos for this – I love people who have the nerve to say what they want, especially in series like this where the entire plot can be dragged out over 50k words because someone’s unwilling to admit they have a crush), and Aaron is incredulous. He makes it very clear that walking hand in hand with a girl under the starlight is fucking stupid, and he’ll be hunting bears.
(I find this amusing. So will some readers. Please don’t clarify why in the comments.)
Jessica spends the rest of the drive imagining Aaron being ripped to shreds by an angry Kodiak bear in a boxing ring, until he admits that going for a walk with Jessica isn’t such a bad idea. [Wing: Jess, you already know how to make bears fall in love with you, just send Gus after him.]
Damn, Jamie, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were Grapplegate. I love you. [Raven: Legit loving the sassafrass here.]
That night, Elizabeth delights in being in a tent with Amy Sutton and “four other kids” – I guess they don’t matter. She can’t wait to walk along the stream under the stars with Todd.
Over in the Unicorn tent, Jessica is sharing with Lila, Ellen, Mandy, Kimberley and Janet. Ellen is cross that her Saturday evening viewing is being interrupted, she likes to watch Hunky Lifeguards, then Totally Cool Home Videos followed by Fatal Illness, which is pretty much the same as the UK lineup in the 90s: Baywatch, You’ve Been Framed and then Casualty. Although Gladiators was in there somewhere too, right? [Ravem: Awooooooga!] [Wing: Oooh, I would have gone with America’s Funniest Home Videos as the TCHV one, but I can see why you’d have something like You’ve Been Framed instead.]
Lila is not happy because she can’t get comfy.
“Lila! That kind of attitude reflects badly on the club,” Janet said disapprovingly. “What’s the matter? You can’t handle a little nature?”
This Jamie is one of the best of all time. She is just over the line of satire. A twelve year old probably wouldn’t notice, but a bunch of recappers who have OD’d on the tropes? We know. We see you Jamie. Please get in contact, we’d love to do a Q&A with you. Or just buy you a coffee for the lolz you have provided. [Wing: I hope this Jamie contacts us and then tells us they’ve written a large number of books under their own name, because THE SASS. IT IS GOOD.]
The Unicorns agree that Lila is soft, while also admitting that the discomfort of the ground, the bugs, the smell, the noise, etc., is less than perfect.
Over with the boys, Aaron is sharing a tent with Todd, Winston, Randy and Bruce… um, why? Don’t they have friends of their own? These boys don’t really like each other. Well, Randy and Winston are both nerds, so they might be friends. [Raven: Todd, Aaron and Bruce are on the basketball team, right?]
Anyway, Aaron wakes up at 2:30am and wakes up the tent by yelling that there’s a bear. All the boys yell the word “bear” repeatedly. Bruce Patman, the absolute tool, grabs his pocketknife and slashes open the ceiling of the tent. [Raven: I actually lolled here.] [Wing: Same.]
The basic outcome is a bunch of boys in underpants crying and running around yelling “Bear!” and Aaron is well pleased with his excellent plan.
The only person not running around like a tit is Dennis Asher, a new seventh-grader. I’m fairly certain that we’ll never see him again after this book. He correctly deduces that Aaron has pulled a prank and tells Aaron it was a good one, but now go out and fetch all the screaming boys and offer to sleep under the hole in the tent.
Aaron’s fine with that. His joke was awesome.
Uh, well, I suppose it has revealed the neurotic temperament of the boys of Sweet Valley, which is interesting. Also, is there no adults out there with them? I assumed that the teachers would have separate tents, but in the vicinity of the kids’ tents (arranged by gender), so they could nip any shenanigans in the bud/help any kid that gets ill.
Then again, I’m trying to apply normal adulting to Sweet Valley. A fool’s errand if ever there was one.
At six-thirty am the Unicorns are awoken by Charlie Cashman attempting to trumpet a wake-up call. I have no idea why they need to be awake this early.
“Up and at ‘em!” a man’s voice shouted from outside the tent. “Time’s a-wasting! Two hours late and forty miles to go!”
How are they two hours late? This is a weird school trip. I thought it was just a camping trip, so would assume getting up at eight for a nine o’clock breakfast and then they do things like scavenger hunts and team-building games. Am I wrong? Are they getting up at silly o’clock to till the fields or something? [Raven: Also, who’s this man? Is it Mr Nydick?] [Wing: God, probably, knowing Sweet Valley. And I think the hours late/miles to go thing is a saying and ghostie is using it for flavor, but I could not tell you what specifically is being reference.]
Over with Team Boring (Amy and Todd), everyone is having an absolutely smashing breakfast with lots of yummy fruit syrups. IT’S NOT FUCKING BLYTON, I MAY LOVE YOU, JAMIE, BUT PLEASE CAN SOMETHING HAPPEN?
Over with the Unicorns, they find out that they’ve missed both breakfast and the assembly… so, no adults again? Nobody is ticking off names? So the Unicorns could have been eaten by bears in their tents or been abducted by aliens, but nobody will ever know unless a nosy sibling checks up on them? Excellent adulting, Sweet Valley.
The nosy sibling, of course, is Elizabeth, who says that the assembly was awesome, and then they all signed up for classes, and now there’s only one left, Ms. Arnette’s class on the history of Bannerman Estate.
Since nobody has cared where they have been for the past two hours, why don’t the Unicorns just fuck off and do their own thing? Is there a town nearby? They could walk in and get some food. Or they could just wander off into the woods and try to capture a real Unicorn. Or maybe Jessica could try to reconnect with her baby bear. [Raven: That would be amazing. At this point I presume Aaron’s bear-baiting crying wolf must result in an actual bear, and if it’s Jessica’s bear cub all grown up? *chef’s kiss*] [Dove: Spoilers: that delightful outcome is not what happens.] [Wing: I knew it was too good to be true.] Why do they have to go to some history presentation?
Ellen, of all people, has this revelation. Then everyone pointlessly turns on Jessica, who suggests they at least get a shower, but Mandy points out there is sulphur in the water, so it smells like rotten eggs. Everyone looks terrible, but for some reason, everyone is getting at Jessica.
Over with Todd and Elizabeth, Elizabeth desperately wants to go on her romantic walk but too shy to say so, but thankfully Todd suggests it.
Jessica hangs around outside the museum and sees Aaron. He’s wet and bedraggled, and explains his appearance by saying “some clown” woke up the whole camp and Bruce stabbed their tent. He doesn’t add that the clown in question was him, he actually blames Dennis Asher. And then he tells Jessica he has something to say to her. He leans in close and yells, “BEAR!”
Yes, Aaron is Steven. Again, I find this funny. The prank sucks, but the idea that Jessica is dating someone who is a carbon copy of her brother? That’s amusing on a few levels.
Jessica runs for her life and skins her elbow climbing a tree, only to find out that Aaron is pissing himself with laughter. Jessica is furious and his utterance that it was “just a joke” doth butter no parsnips. Also, Jessica does not remember that she was foster mother to a baby bear, because that would probably get Aaron’s attention like nobody’s business.
Side note: Everyone, like, in this entire, like, book, keeps, like, using the word “like”, like, way too much. Like super way too much.
(And as someone who uses “like” way too much, if I’m noticing, damn you are definitely overusing it.) [Raven: Like, do you like these likes? Like, I dislike these, like, likes.] [Wing: 90s southern California flavor?]
Over with Elizabeth, she has found a four leaf clover, which brings good luck. She tears it in half so she and Todd can share the luck. [Wing: …pretty sure that’s not how four leaf clovers are supposed to work, but okay.]
Jessica is not having fun. She’s lost on a hiking trail and covered in scratches and bug bites. Seriously, are there no adults around?
Basically the school is like, here you go, kids. A whole bunch of buildings and woodland and a lake. Do whatever you want. We know that twelve means you’re adult enough to make all your own decisions. Oh, Patman, you’re going to run around with a knife, are you? Excellent. And Dallas, you’re going to scream “BEAR!” every two seconds, well, gosh, that’ll be bracing. And the Unicorns, you’re just going to sulk. Good for you! Make good choices! 🙂
She finds herself at the lake where someone yells, “Cowabunga!” Wow. That in no way dates this book at all. She spots Dennis Asher and falls immediately in love with him, particularly fuelled by the idea that he was to blame for the state of Aaron this morning. She’s about to introduce herself when she realises that she’s a complete mess and beauty is the only thing she (usually) has going for her. She trudges away, blaming Aaron for her woes.
Elizabeth is now doing poetry with Mr Bowman. The assignment is to write a poem about camp, and Elizabeth is pretty awful at it. Also, she gets internal digs in about how the Unicorns would write mean poetry about how much they hate camp.
Admittedly, the Unicorns do hate camp. And I can’t blame them, who wants to get washed in water that smells of farts? That’s not a snob thing, that’s a normal thing. [Raven: I dunno, some folk drink their own piss. One man’s fish is another man’s poisson.] [Wing: People intentional bathe in sulphur water as a health and/or beauty benefit. It’s very popular in certain places to certain people.]
They hate camp. The lecture with Ms Arnette was boring, they don’t like any of the activities, they’re covered in bites and scratches, and Jessica has it worst of all because she lost her sort-of boyfriend today. It’s all so fucking tragic. Especially because she’s now in love with Dennis and she looks too foul to catch his attention.
Around the campfire, everyone is singing campfire songs that I’ve never heard of, but I’m sure are staples of Americana (Tom the Toad? Whut? [Raven: We need a rousing rendition of Friggin’ in the Rigging.] [Wing: Today I learned that the Frankenstein song does exist and is sung to the tune of “Clementine” which as an old Americana song I do know. Even just reading it, I thought it probably did use that tune, but I had to confirm. I have no fucking idea about Tom the Toad.]) and yet again a Unicorn suggests they sing Johnny Buck but everyone’s having too much fun singing Tom the Toad. Then Dennis chips in with the final verse. Jessica thinks he has a nice voice. And it’s fucking unfair because she looks like Stig of the Dump and Elizabeth looks gorgeous.
Next up, Winston tells a story while Aaron muses to himself that he didn’t do anything wrong, no matter how miserable Jessica looks, which makes him very Steven. He thinks women are the problem, with their silly hysterical reactions to jokes. [Raven: Here, he’s Peak Steven, and thus he can fuck off into the sea.]
Winston’s tale is one of identical twins aged eighteen who want to marry the same guy – oh, this plot is new, it hasn’t been done a billion times in every single offshoot of Sweet Valley – and he can’t choose because he can barely tell them apart. Jeez, ladies, you deserve better. A dude who can’t tell you from your sister is not marriage material. Showing a lack of spine that Elizabeth Wakefield would be proud of, he says the twins can choose.
The twins, also showing a massive lack of spine, decide to flip a coin for it.
The twin that loses – I kid you not – grabs a knife from the kitchen and stabs her twin in the heart and hides the body (presumably in the Mercandy backyard).
Jessica shuddered. Never in her wildest dreams had she seriously considered killing her sister, though she had been sorely tempted more than once. That woman must have been sick, she thought.
Lies, Jessica. We know you’ve plotted Elizabeth’s demise multiple times. [Wing: Winston the fortune teller.]
Winston says that for a few days everything was fine for the killer, she married the idiot boy and they moved into the twins’ house, explaining the absence of the dead twin by saying she wasn’t feeling well. But then the ghost appeared.
At this point, Aaron the tool yells “BEAR!” again. Just fuck off and die, you pathetic Steven photocopy.
Everyone panics, screams and scatters until Todd remembers that Aaron did the same thing last night. Aaron mocks everyone for being scardy-cats, and there are still no adults around to give Aaron a clip around the ear for being a twat. [Raven: I hope he gets eaten by a fucking bear at this point. I was quite enjoying the ghost story.]
That night, Jessica can’t sleep, and it’s not just discomfort, she is bothered by the story. She feels there’s a moral there somewhere, but discards the idea of “murder is bad” and “knives are sharp”. She realises that she needs to do a twin-switch, but without Elizabeth finding out in order to snag Dennis.
I have no idea how she’s going to do this. This might be the silliest twin-switch yet – wait, no, that stupid one where they switched to date twins who switched to date them, so they switched back, and the other switched back and… fuck me, that was the silliest twin-switch ever. But this is a close second, because how do you twin switch to snag a boy without letting the other twin know? [Raven: Yes, this was actually baffling. I have no clue what this was supposed to achieve.]
The next morning the Unicorns are again awoken to Charlie and his trumpet. They all agree to go back to sleep and cover for each other if they get in trouble.
“We won’t,” Janet assured her. “And if we do, it’s like that movie about those three guys in France. You know, all for one and one for all?”
Lila nodded and yawned. She’d seen that movie, all about the three friends who were, like, soldiers, and who named their club after a candy bar for some strange reason. “Yeah,” she said slowly. “We’ll help each other out.”
[Wing: On the one hand, I actually did laugh at this joke, so excellent work, ghostie, and believable of these kids. On the other hand, FOUR THERE WERE FOUR I GET THE TITLE BUT FOOOOOOOOOOOUR MAIN CHARACTERS IN THAT MOVIE, WHICH LILA’S SEEN. FOUR.]
Janet insists on a roll call to ensure that everyone agrees to make like those candy bar dudes, and Jessica does not respond. She is not in her sleeping bag.
That is because she has a plan. She is staking out the sign-up sheet. She doesn’t have to wait long before Dennis comes along and signs up for canoeing. Once he’s gone, she signs up as her sister.
Over in macramé class, Maria is confused but happy to see Elizabeth, who she thought was canoeing. That just can’t be so, because Elizabeth and Todd got up super-early to sign up for macramé together. They were like the first people on any list. Wow. They are so old married couple aged twelve. [Wing: Ostrich is goddamn talented at macramé. Where he grew up, they learned it in school (along with things like tying fishing nets).]
At the lake, Jessica’s plan goes into action. She introduces herself to Dennis as Elizabeth and tells him that her twin, Jessica, has a crush on him, only she’s super shy, so just spend the week making vague smiles in her direction, and next week at school things will progress. After Jessica’s had a shower, a manicure, and is wearing nice clothes.
Uh, I get they’re boycotting the smelly water, but nobody else is, so does that mean that everyone smells of bad farts but the Unicorns smell of BO? If so, is anyone really winning in that arena? [Wing: Delightfully disgusting, Dove.]
As insurance, Jessica adds that her twin has a great sense of humour and with them coming up to April Fool’s Day, there will be twin switch shenanigans, so prepare to be very fucking confused about who you’re talking to.
The unsaid advice is: Also, be prepared for any Wakefield to be equally as confused. Because this plan can in no way go wrong. Finally, be prepared for being punched in the face by an angry and jealous Todd Wilkins, who will not like you staring at his woman. [Raven: Is Todd the jealous type? I see him as just as spineless as his sort-of girlfirend.] [Dove: Oh you just wait.]
At lunch, Amy notices Dennis staring at Elizabeth. They wonder about it for a long time because she doesn’t know him, then he comes over and introduces himself. He calls her Jessica and then walks off before Elizabeth can correct him. Ah well, that makes perfect sense.
Pointless scene in the Unicorn tent that night where Janet wakes everyone up because she thinks she saw a spider. They agree to stand watch against spiders. Except Janet.
Urgh, why is nothing happening? I get it. We have a stupid scene of the Unicorns and a wonderful scene of Elizabeth. Yes, one twin is evil, the other is good. One twin is happy, the other is a muddy smelly mess. Got it. Can we have a plot now? [Raven: Yes. The snark can only take us so far.]
I’m sure this book would be more fun to read then recap, but at this point I’m halfway through and can’t unsee all the filler fluff.
Same scene as before. Jessica stakes out the sign-up board. Says hi to Dennis. Signs him and Elizabeth (as Jessica) up for tennis, and herself and Todd up for orienteering, reasoning that it sounds like an indoors activity. Because Jessica is apparently dim as fuck in this book.
We cut to the tennis activity where Todd and Elizabeth are baffled that their delightful morning of tennis has been scuppered. The coach sees that Todd was on the list but his name was crossed out and Bruce’s name is under his, so they assume that Bruce crossed him off. Even though there were plenty of slots available at that time and Bruce wouldn’t have needed to cross anyone off.
Jessica arrives to collect Todd for orienteering. This causes Elizabeth to – gasp! – “put a protective hand on Todd’s arm”. Harlequin romance here we come! Jessica clarifies that she’s not boyfriend stealing (not this time), but she’s really excited about orienteering and is glad she knows someone in the group.
Obviously, she does not have a good time. She is lost and miserable. Again, no adults? No pairing up the tweens so if there’s an issue, they’re not alone? No? Ok. Her only happy thought is that Dennis will be eyeballing her pretty sister and thinking how hot Jessica is.
Over at tennis, Dennis calls Elizabeth Jessica and doesn’t believe her when she corrects him because he’s been suitably prepped by Jessica. This is annoying, so she vents her rage on Bruce for crossing out Todd’s name. Bruce says he didn’t do it. See my above comment about how did Dennis manage to sign up if there was only one slot left and Bruce took it? WTF? Anyway, Elizabeth believes him because Bruce would either proudly admit to being an asshole or completely lie, rather than say, yes, Todd’s name had been crossed out, and there was a slot free, so he took it.
At campfire that night, Jessica checks in on Dennis, who agrees that “Jessica” is really nice, but whose that guy giving her a lap dance? Oh, that’s just Todd, he’s “Elizabeth’s” boyfriend and he’s trying to make her jealous. Dennis is aghast the filthy and smelly “Elizabeth” has a boyfriend. [Raven: I mean, Jessica’s plan makes NO FUCKING SENSE AT ALL.]
Again… is nobody washing in the smelly water? Is Elizabeth just staying fresh as a daisy by virtue of being a saintly human being? Or does the fart water only affect the Unicorns? I am so confused. Why doesn’t Dennis smell of either rotten eggs (washing) or BO (not washing)? Ditto this question to literally everyone else on this trip.
Elizabeth is having a romantic evening walk with Todd, internally grumbling that her sister sat between the two of them during campfire and killed all the romance. And now here Jessica is again. She tells them that it’s 9:42pm, and their curfew is 9pm, so she’ll smuggle them back into camp. Because the plot says so, Todd and Elizabeth are not wearing watches but Jessica is. [Wing: What fucking curfew? There have been no safety rules otherwise! Jess, you can lie better than that.]
When they get back to camp, it’s not nearly ten, it’s nearly nine. Jessica was an hour off. Elizabeth grumbles at her sister and tells her to fix her watch. Elizabeth, how did you not see this being a lie? One of the defining traits of the twins is that only Elizabeth wears a watch.
Also, why cockblock them? If they were off snogging in the woods, what harm could it do? Unless Dennis is into dogging, in which case, I’m not sure he’s boyfriend material. Not yet, anyway. That’s more of a high school activity for Jessica, right? [Raven: Maybe Jessica’s Sixth Base book could be called Jessica Goes Dogging. Then again, she hates animals.]
Elizabeth forgives her sister, saying she knows it was a mistake (Elizabeth is an idiot), but weird things have been happening today.
Elizabeth rubbed her eyes. “But it’s—” She paused. “It’s almost as if you’re interested in Todd or something. It’s like you’re pushing me away from him because you want him for yourself instead.” She shoved a lock of hair out of her eyes and stared directly at Jessica. “We’re sisters, Jess, and I won’t put up with that kind of stuff if you’re going to be sneaky about it. So tell me.” She leaned forward and spoke seriously. “Are you interested in Todd?”
“Me? Todd?” Jessica practically choked. “Absolutely not!” And for a change, she reflected, what she was saying was the complete truth.
Even Jessica is shocked when she’s not lying.
The next morning, the Unicorns have a plan: white, wealthy privilege. Lila will call her dad’s voicemail and leave a message (OH THE FUTURISTIC TECHNOLOGY!) and he will send a limo for them, then Lila can stay at one of their houses until Mrs Pervis returns from… wherever she is. Even Janet thinks this is a good idea.
Um… isn’t this a mandatory school trip? I can’t fathom why it’s mandatory, but it’s certainly pitched that way.
Over with Team Boring, Todd and Elizabeth have staked out the sign-up board and both put their names down for Intermediate Basket Weaving because apparently the trip to an abandoned silver mine is not Elizabeth’s cup of tea. Elizabeth is spectacularly dull. [Raven: So the camping trip has multiple layered classes for Basket Weaving, does it? Beginners Basket Weaving, in which you learn what a basket actually is, Intermediate Basket Weaving, then Advanced Basket Weaving, where you weave baskets big enough to live in. Then Super-Advanced Basket Weaving, where your baskets are weaved out of concepts and are powered by nuclear fission.] [Wing: Eventually this leads to Underwater Basket Weaving, but that’s normally a university class.]
We cut to Lila, who is not allowed to use the phone despite the fact she’s rich. It is for emergencies only. Also, we get clarification on what Lila’s dad does for a living.
“I am Lila Fowler!” Lila took a step forward. “The daughter of Mr. George Fowler, of Fowler Enterprises? You know, the company that makes, like, practically everything?” Why wouldn’t this woman see reason? “I demand to make a phone call right now!”
Apparently he makes “like, everything”.
Lila threatens to report the “secretary” to her superior. This turns out to be an empty threat, since she’s not a secretary, she’s the camp director, Delores Sanchez.
Ah, well, if you’re not going to listen to Lila, Delores, how about listening to me?
WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE ADULTS? WHY IS NOBODY BOTHERED THAT NO CHILD HAS WASHED EVEN ONCE IN THREE DAYS? WHY ARE KIDS ALLOWED TO SIGN UP FOR ACTIVITIES AND BE COMPLETELY UNSUPERVISED? HOW MANY TIMES DOES AARON FUCKING DALLAS HAVE TO YELL “BEAR!” BEFORE SOMEONE TWATS HIM AROUND THE FACE AND TELLS HIM TO GROW UP? I HAVE MANY QUESTIONS, DELORES. ANSWER THEM.
We cut to Jessica, who tells Dennis that “Jessica” is into him and signed him up for basket making. He seems pretty stoked on that. Urgh, I’m so bored. Also, Jessica has a stomach ache.
Over with the Unicorns, they decide that pretending they have a stomach bug is a surefire way to get sent home. I wouldn’t count on it, kids. Not a single adult has interacted with any of you outside of the failed telephone call. I doubt they’d even notice even if your tent washed away in a sea of watery excrement. [Raven: I too am getting bored of the lack of direction here.]
At the basket-making activity (still not led by an adult), Dennis approaches Elizabeth and doesn’t take no for an answer when offering to be her partner. Jessica partners up with Todd, leaving the two spineless wonders completely unable to say, “No, fuck that. I signed up with Todd/Elizabeth and that’s who I’m partnering with. You need to fuck off and stay fucked off.”
The Unicorns have now approached the nurse, Wendy, and told her that they’re all sick.
Wendy frowned. “You don’t have a fever, girls,” she said gently.
“We’ve been in and out of the bathroom all morning!” Janet gasped, coughing violently. “Mostly in.”
Surely admitting your insides have turned into toxic lava reflects badly on the Unicorns, no matter how amusingly you phrase it, Janet? [Raven: Maybe their poo is purple and spangley?]
[Wing: I cannot believe I get to make this reference.]
Also, the nurse has a mug that reads, “If only one of you is sick, why are there seven of you in my office?” I don’t get it. Is this a joke that kills in the right circles? Like the whole “there are 10 types of people in this world: those who understand binary and those who don’t” thing?
Wendy asks them a bunch of questions about their symptoms, and the idiots don’t have the sense to shut up and let one person answer them, so they completely conflict, and they can’t agree on who threw up first, because it’s embarrassing.
Wendy shoes them out.
Over with the twins, Elizabeth (as Jessica, against her will) is working with Dennis who’s trying to make conversation. He comments that Elizabeth and Todd seem close, and for a while he thought it was just like the story where the twins both want the same dude (by god, Dennis, it is. Every so often Jessica gets hot for Todd and would definitely stab her twin if it netted her a snog from him). Elizabeth listens and things start to make sense.
We don’t get any insight on what makes sense to her, so I’m hoping she thinks it’s just like the story Winston told and the only way to not get stabbed in the heart by her twin is to be the stabber not the stabbed. Go Elizabeth, you can stab that lying harpy!
Why am I Team Elizabeth? Am I so bored that I am now reduced to this?
Next we have an Aaron scene. If this doesn’t end with Aaron yelling “BEAR!” I’ll be bloody surprised.
Aaron still remembered the incredible rush he’d gotten at the campfire that night when everyone had been scared out of their wits. The time when he’d told them there was a bear. What an incredible feeling of power!
And now we know. Aaron grew up to be one of those obnoxious YouTube “prank” channels. The really shit or toxic ones. Or maybe he’s King of the Assholes, DaddyO’Five. “IT’S A PRANK, DAMNIT!”
And the scene does not end with him yelling “BEAR!”
It ends with him planning to yell “BEAR!”
Just. Fucking. Die.. [Raven: Hold on now, Dove. Aaron is an American. He has the right to Bear arms. *ducks for cover*] [Wing: YES. GOOD. I APPROVE.]
After basket making, Todd and Elizabeth talk, and sadly she is not plotting the murder of her twin, but has in fact correctly deduced what is going on. And she has a plan. Please let it be murder.
Over with the Unicorns, the Jamie appears to be playing a drinking game with the word “smell”.
“Come quick, come quick, come quick,” Lila mumbled to herself over and over. She sprawled on her smelly sleeping bag in her smelly tent, smelling the smelly smells of the smelly Unicorns nearby.
I’m pretty sure you would die if you tried it. So don’t.
The Unicorns are chanting messages aloud so their parents might pick them up by ESP and come get them.
Jessica bursts in ready to bubble on about her progress with Elizabeth/Dennis – though she’s never had a conversation with the Unicorns about anything during this book, much less her grand plan, so I’ve no idea why she thinks they’d understand. Also, Janet tells her to STFU because they’re ESP-ing at their parents. [Raven: I loved this. So random. The Unicorns are the best things in the book, and probably the best things in the entire series when done right.]
At lunch, Elizabeth as Jessica flirts hard with Dennis, all purring voice and fluttery lashes. It’s very Jessica. And Dennis is kind of gawping at her. Elizabeth says that it’s like a “force” brought them together. I’m hoping she goes for God now. Scare that boy silly. Go on, Elizabeth.
Sadly, we cut to Jessica, who vomits all over Lila’s sleeping bag.
Back with Elizabeth she has not gone the God route. Sigh. Instead she walks hand in hand with him and says that her twin likes to pretend she’s her. So she tears a maple leaf in half and they keep half each. Now Dennis will know who is who in the future. Like, for example, if “Jessica” was to approach him at school.
Over with the Unicorns, Kimberley Haver – a character who has literally never spoken and even I get mixed up with Tamara Chase – comes up with a winner of an idea. Calling home didn’t work, faking sickness didn’t work, ESP didn’t work, so there’s only one thing for it: BREAK ALL THE RULES.
Damn, I am here for it. There’s only four chapters left though, so I suspect this will not be as fun as I’m hoping. But let’s cross our fingers. [Wing: WHAT RULES?]
Sigh. Oh, they’re just going to fake a fight. Mandy, Lila and Ellen against Kimberley and Janet (who will win). I still think a Sweet Valley/wrestling crossover (kind of like the South Park episode) would be epic. Could you imagine the time they’d waste on costumes? And Elizabeth would be Vince McMahon, constantly telling them what they’re not allowed to say and do in the ring, and Mandy Miller would probably be a fucking badass for her mic skills (vaudeville, remember) and Belinda Layton for her athletic ability. Um… maybe next NaNo. [Raven DO IT.]
Jessica is over with Wendy, the nurse, who confirms that Jessica is actually sick. Um, maybe wanna find out why? I know this is my personal phobia, but is this food poisoning, an allergy or is it a stomach bug? Because if it’s a bug, the Unicorns are getting it next, since Jessica vomited all over the place they sleep.
The Unicorn fight happens off screen, and we cut straight to the punishment, which is the Unicorns have to clean out the grease trap in the kitchen tonight and tomorrow. [Wing: Getting this out of the way before Dove makes an excellent point: A PRIMITIVE CAMPSITE WOULDN’T HAVE ACCESS TO A FUCKING KITCHEN WITH A GREASE TRAP.] Awesome. You know what’s great when someone has a stomach bug? Putting them in a kitchen. That feeds hundreds of people.
And this is why I have a fucking phobia. To be honest, this is why 2020. A sizeable chunk of the population really doesn’t value health and safety. [Raven: Such a shame this fight happens off-screen. A lot of things do near the end, sadly. it’s as though the Ghostie ran out of space and time, and not in a cool Doctor Who way.]
Back with Elizabeth, she’s being aggressive about how much time they should spend together. She should have gone all-out and become the overly attached girlfriend. But either way, Dennis is getting overwhelmed.
Aaron spots the two of them talking, and guesses that the Wakefield must be Jessica, because “Elizabeth wouldn’t throw herself on some guy like that.” He is not happy. He resolves to keep an eye on Dennis. And probably yell “BEAR!” at him.
The next morning, Jessica is worse, she has a burning fever, she’s aching all over and she can’t really focus. Wendy says she needs to see her own doctor, so she’s going home.
What if she has appendicitis and need it removing? Then she and Elizabeth won’t be identical any more. Maybe she’ll insist Elizabeth has hers removed too. [Raven: Elizabeth is so sactimonious she’d probably donate her appendix to Jessica.]
In other news, the Unicorns, jealous that Jessica has been sent home and not at all worried that she’s sick, decide to run away. There is no fence around the property and roads everywhere, Janet reasons. It can’t be that hard to find a police station to make a call.
“Or a trucker with a cell phone?” Kimberly put in.
Kimberley has never seen a horror movie.
Over with Aaron, he sneaks into the museum and steals a bear skin. Apparently it fits in his backpack. He sees “Jessica” and Dennis walking along with “Jessica” throwing herself at Dennis and feels the RAGE! So what if he humiliated Jessica, how dare this asshole steal his girl?
You are so Steven right now, Aaron. That’s probably the most insulting thing I can say.
At campfire, the kids finally sing a song I’ve heard of, which is the Titanic song, which I only know because of watching the Black River Horse Camp series of movies. And yeah, there is something bloody weird about a bunch of kids gleefully singing “Husbands and wives // little children // lost their lives…” with great big smiles on their faces. [Raven: I’ve no clue on this one. What’s wrong with One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall?] [Wing: I don’t know this one either. The Titanic song, not 100 Bottles, which is annoying as hell but also useful.]
And once again, Winston tells a story. This one is about the ghost bear of the Bannermans. He says that the ghost of the bear comes out on Thursdays. Oh, today is Thursday. Woo. Something-something, stabbed a bear, “BEAR!”, screaming, just fucking die, Aaron you complete tool (who is wearing the bearskin).
Still no adults. Nobody was present in the museum when he stole it. Nobody’s here now to tell him off for using a (gross) artefact from their museum. THERE ARE NO FUCKING ADULTS HERE.
This scare puts the Unicorns off running away. They’ll do it tomorrow.
We cut to the next morning where Aaron has cleaned out the grease trap as punishment, and Delores has asked him if one bear trick wasn’t enough. Dude. Have you met Aaron? IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FUCKING BEARS. [Raven: And how many filthy grease traps are at this fucking place?]
Anyway, he spots Dennis and tells him in no uncertain terms that Jessica has the hots for him, and Dennis needs to back off. Dennis is probably the only boy in all of Sweet Valley to ever utter this as a response:
Dennis shrugged. “I always figured a girl could choose the guy she wanted, know what I mean? And now if you’ll excuse me—” He stepped forward.
[Wing: It is a sad, sad day when he is the epitome of feminism and chivalry compared to most of the couples in SVT (and probably all of them in SVH), but here we are.]
Aaron tries to get in Dennis’ face, but Aaron trips over. Dennis walks away without a care in the world.
Elizabeth and Todd go canoeing. That’s it. That’s their scene. 140 words to explain they’re canoeing. Awesome.
What is the fucking point of this stupid book? Also, is Jessica ok? What was wrong with her? Nobody cares, apparently. Not even Elizabeth. You’d think Saint Elizabeth would be all over the chance to worry about Jessica’s health.
Even though the bus home will be arriving in less than 24 hours, the Unicorns are determined to run away. Mandy and Ellen are “volunteered” by Janet to go get food for their trip. I’m certain they will fail and that it’s supposed to be hilarious. I’m also certain it won’t be.
Over with Aaron, he’s still being Steven Wakefield. He currently thinks that it’s totally Dennis’ fault that Jessica doesn’t fancy Aaron any more. And probably Jessica’s too.
Maybe a little bit his, but Dennis is still a complete asshole.
He overhears the Unicorns attempting to leave, laden down with their overpacked bags. He notes the lack of Jessica, and blames Dennis for taking Jessica away from her friends.
Seriously, does literally nobody know that Jessica had to go home because she was ill? Because if someone threw up at my school, literally everyone know who it was, when it was, where it was and whether her parents had arrived to pick her up yet. Regardless of whether we knew the vomiter before she vomited.
You’d think they’d have at least told her twin. [Raven: Yup. Weak.]
Anyway, he figures out they’re leaving and decides to follow them.
The Unicorns, obviously, are crap at deciding which way to go. (Fuck me, ten pages left? I’m so bored). They have been going left forever, and they haven’t brought a flashlight. Then they stop dead. Then they start screaming about a bear. Aaron assumes they’re pranking him because of his bearmania this week. Aaron keeps mocking them, right up until a bear lunges for him.
The Unicorns come to a halt some minutes later and wonder if it really was a bear. Lila, inexplicably, says the following:
“But what about Aaron?” she asked uncertainly. “He went in after it, and he hasn’t come back out.”
In the preceding scene, there was nowhere for Aaron to go in to. He stepped forward into a clearing. A bear was standing on a suitcase. He made mocking noises. It pounced on him and he climbed a tree for safety.
But sure, Aaron went in. By god this is absolute shit. The Jamie is fine with sass, but this plot is paper thin, boring as fuck, punctuated by the phrase “BEAR!”, and doesn’t hold up to a moment of scrutiny, but so far at least it had made sense in that broken world. Now there’s just random shite in here too.
The Unicorns decide it’s another prank.
Todd and Elizabeth are on a romantic walk. They hear Aaron Dallas yelling for help because of bears and ignore him because 1) he’s been yelling that all week; and 2) if there really is a bear, let it eat him, the world does not need another Steven Wakefield.
Instead, they decide to kiss each other on the cheek. For fuck’s sake, kids, you’ve kissed on the lips. This is a step backwards. Maybe all that macramé was a boner killer for Todd.
Aaron doesn’t know if bears can climb trees, so climbs higher.
On Saturday morning, Jessica awakes feeling much better. Apparently she had a bad virus. That nobody else caught? She literally threw up on Lila’s sleeping bag. Oh, fuck everything. She plans to beautify herself to greet the buses of students when they come back.
Oh, it’s now April Fool’s Day. Which is apt because this whole book is a joke. I hate it. Any good feelings I had about the sass are gone. This is boring as fuck. [Raven: While I agree with the lack of, well, anything, I’m still charmed by the sass.]
The Unicorns bitch about how awful they feel and look. The only person who looks worse is Aaron, who is now on the bus. Apparently he just waited out the bear off screen. Thanks for that, Jamie. It’s good to know that you believe that escalation should be resolved off screen.
The boys mock Aaron for crying wolf bear, while he feels sorry for himself, thinking that Jessica would have stuck with him and believed him. No, she wouldn’t. She was pissed off with your bullshit at the start of the trip, never mind the end of it, you fucking tool.
Todd and Elizabeth agree that it’s the bestest week evah. It was soooo good Elizabeth didn’t even notice her sister was sent home sick. AND she got a kiss. ON THE CHEEK!
Jessica meets Dennis off the bus and tries to get to know him, except Dennis already knows her because they’ve spent all that time together. As he starts to recall their fond memories, Jessica can’t keep up and Dennis realises he’s with the wrong twin. He asks where they went on their walk and she hedges. He gets cross with her, saying he knows that she’s the wrong twin. He pulls out his half of the leaf and says, “Well?” When she has no clue what to do, he walks away, certain that she’s Elizabeth. [Raven: I thought Elizabeth’s plan to scupper Jessica here was excellent. Nice work, Liz!]
We cut to the Wakefield Compound where Jessica is sulking. Apparently Dennis approached Elizabeth with the leaf and she failed the test too. At this point, he decides both Wakefields are toxic and he is done. (Well done, kid. You survived. Move to Big Mesa and find some normal friends.)
Todd and Elizabeth have gone out together, probably to find a secret place to kiss each other on the cheek again. [Raven: Ass cheek this time.]
Jessica is interrupted in her ruminations on how to get revenge on her sister by Aaron appearing at the door. He apologises, completely and sincerely. He says he’s sorry he gave her a hard time, and he didn’t appreciate her. Seeing her with Dennis made him realise what he had given up and he’s really sorry.
Jessica realises that she actually really likes Aaron, he’s fun and good looking (and just like her brother who she totally isn’t in some dysfunctional incestuous infatuation with), which is the realisation she always has when it doesn’t work out with a dude who’s not Aaron. She says that it’s not going to work out with Dennis. Aaron says he has a cool idea if they’re still sort-of boyfriend/girlfriend.
Then he gives her her fifth first kiss. Or their second first kiss from him, since they already kissed during The Big Party Weekend, but whatevs.
And that’s that. We’re fucking done.
Thank god that’s over. It started out well, people were sassy, but the plot was just awful and this book was just 90% filler. I don’t know whether this is significantly worse than The Big Camp Secret or Holiday Mischief, or whether it’s just equally meh but I read the others as a tween and have my nostalgia goggles on when I think about them.
This just seemed to be a lot of placeholder scenes. I kept waiting for things to get going, but nothing really happened. And I don’t understand how everyone except the Unicorns were so clean and fresh-smelling when the Unicorns didn’t want to shower because the water smelled so bad. Wouldn’t everyone smell bad? Or wouldn’t the image-conscious Unicorns decide that having clean bodies washed with smelly but clean water would be better than having a week’s worth of BO and hair grease visible and smellable to everyone around them?
Anyway, this book was a bag of shit and I’m glad it’s done.
[Raven: I mostly liked this book. Sure, the plot was super-thin, but the Unicorns were incredible. I hated the lack of any adulting whatsoever, and even the camp adults were cutouts for plot purposes rather than intergral. Both Jessica and Elizbeth were fun and well written too. My biggest gripes were that the Jessica’s plan was asinine, Aaron was basically Steven, the final quarter of the book felt rushed and off-screen, and IN WHAT GODDAMN WORLD WAS THIS A BOOK ABOUT A FIRST KISS?! Aaron kissing Jessica is literally a tossed-off one-line afterthought on the final page. This should have been called The Interminably Repetitive Bear Prank Shenanigans.]
[Wing: I think Dove had the right of it, this book is more fun to read than to recap. It was mostly filler, but that was more noticeable to me while reading the recap, not the book itself, because when reading the book, I can fly through it. Recapping it, and reading a recap of it, catches how much those pieces become flaws. Of course, Raven also has the right of it, which is: first kiss? This book is 0% about anyone’s first kiss, much less someone who has already had multiple (first) kisses. Overall, I didn’t hate it, I loved the sass for the first 3/4 or so, but I wish more had happened.]