Title: Twins in Love
Tagline: Are the Wakefield twins seeing double?
Summary: Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield can’t believe their eyes. While on holiday at the Triple Z ranch, they meet two perfect guys—who happen to be thirteen-year-old twins! Elizabeth hits it off immediately with Nick Handel and his brother, Chris, is the boy of Jessica’s dreams. At first.
After one double date, the twins think that maybe they each picked the wrong twin. So, on their second double date, they pull a secret twin switch. Jessica pretends to be Elizabeth… and Elizabeth pretends to be Jessica. Now they are each with the right boy. Or are they?
To be honest, I’m still reeling from the Haunted Mansion shitshow. Boy, was that a holy calamafuck, amiright?
Twins. In love. With, it seems, other twins. Pretty sure I’ve seen the movie of this… definitely wasn’t for a preteen audience, mind.
I’m excited to be entering the non-Riccoli-Mansion parts of Sweet Valley again. Maybe we’ll get some Unicorns! That’d be nice. And here’s hoping there’s much less Steven, and absolutely zero instances of fucking lawnmower japery.
[Wing: The second I finished this book, I texted Dove and Raven because I knew Dove would have some choice words to say about the horse parts of this book. I can’t wait to read them.]
We start with a trope: Jessica is asking to borrow clothes. This time, it’s from Lila, and this time, it’s a cowboy hat. Apparently Lila has three new cowboy hats that she can’t possibly wear all at once, because while she is a bitch she’s not actually Cerberus. If she was, they’d be called the Trinicorns.
[Wing: I have never wanted a pet unicorn more in my life.]
Lila isn’t keen at first, but acquiesces with a proviso: there is to be NO MUD on the hat upon its return.
For you see, it seems that the Wakefield Family are off on holiday to a dude ranch – the Triple Z Ranch, to be precise. She’s looking forward to it, more for the Dudes than the Ranch (nice work on that joke, Ghostie!). Lila is going shopping in Paris for her holiday, and thus we learn that there’s probably going to be zero Unicorn involvement in this book. It’ll be 100% pure Wakefield Clan.
Ah well. From the title, I’d sort of guessed that this wouldn’t be my kind of book. Also, Twins in Love sounds romantic like Brokeback Mountain, when I want hijinks like City Slickers from my Dude Ranch stories.
Before the customary Liz-is-this-and-Jess-is-that segment, we have Jessica hammering home the point that, for this book at least, she will be a cock-hungry maneater.
“I’m going to have so much fun next week. There are going to be so many cute guys at the ranch and probably not very many girls. In fact, out on the open range there will probably be guys who haven’t even seen a girl in months. I’ll have to divide my time between the five or six cutest ones.”
Strangely, Lila thinks of Elizabeth’s carnal needs, but Jessica shoots her down. Her sister is there to ride, not to ride.
Lila soon resumes boasting about her upcoming Parisian jaunt. Standard. Jessica refuses to bite, declaring she’s going to have a fucking whale of a time.
“Even if it means getting on a horse?” Lila asked, a hint of smugness in her voice.
Jessica paused. She really had to think about that one. “Absolutely,” she replied. “Nothing’s going to stop me. Not even a stupid old horse.”
Ah, so that’s the rub. Jessica hates horses. Gotcha.
LET THE HIJINKS BEGIN!
We snapcut to a mirror of this scene from Elizabeth’s POV, as she chats to her best friend and lank-haired spunkwaffle, Amy Sutton. Obviously, Elizabeth is frothing at the gusset for a chance of a 24/7 horseride-athon.
She mentions Carson Stable (continuity), and bemoans her lack of opportunity to ride these past few months. She even worries that she may have forgotten how to ride.
Not much chance of that, love, considering you were touted as God’s gift to horsemanship in the previous fucking books. [Dove: Amy says as much in response. Dove, who spent years learning the noble art of equitation (shout out to Ruby Ferguson there), rolls her eyes.] [Wing: What I am suddenly delighted about is that she’s only ridden English style to this point, and at a dude ranch, she’ll ride western. Yes, I know, I expect too much from this book, but now I want failed horse riding shenanigans.]
In a wild stab of the-ghostie-hasn’t-bothered-researching-the-characters bullshit, Amy asks her friend whether she’ll be checking out the cowboy studs on her holiday. Elizabeth laughs it off, says Jessica will be fondling enough balls for both of them.
Next, we see Swiss Family Wakefield packing the minivan for their trip to the Triple Z. Hilariously, Jessica has too many suitcases! She needs to look her best, after all. Steven is also hilarious, sassing his sister and questioning her horse wrangling prowess. Zing, Steven! Hit her where it hurts!
[Dove: *raises hand* I have a question. Why are they going to a dude ranch? Jessica hates animals (except for all those times when a cute small animal melts her icy heart – but let’s not forget the time she nearly killed Mrs Bramble’s dog). Steven has never expressed interest either way. Same with Alice and Ned. Basically, Elizabeth is the only one that gives a shit about horse riding in the entire family, and yet they all mock Jessica for her lack of horse knowledge. Like, why don’t they just go to Centre Parcs? I know all three kids like swimming.] [Raven: I think the manatees picked the Dude Ranch idea ball.] [Wing: Even beyond everything Dove said, a dude ranch doesn’t seem like a very white middle class Sweet Valley kind of vacation.]
We learn there are five full days of horse-antics to come, and the chapter ends with Jessica’s hazy daydream about hooking up with her perfect Cowboy fella.
We’d hang out in the main lodge and watch videos, she thought, or maybe we’d even take a walk through the woods.
And by the end of the week, maybe, just maybe, we’d ride off together into the sunset.
In a Porsche or something.
Fair play, genuine laugh at that final sentence.
Triple Z Dude Ranch is a loggy cabin bonanza. Elizabeth is enthralled, particularly with the horses. There follows a short paragraph of horse porn that’s completely lost on me.
Next to the stables was a huge pasture where dozens of horses were grazing.
They were mostly quarter horses, but Elizabeth noticed a couple of Morgans as well. There were bays, buckskins, chestnuts—horses of all colors and markings. It’s a good thing people at these ranches decide which horse you should ride, Elizabeth thought. I don’t think I could ever choose which one I liked best.
“This is like a dream come true,” Elizabeth said. “It’s beautiful.”
Jessica, of course, is more interested in ogling guys. Her words, not mine. [Dove: The Jamie has never been a pony girl, you can tell. Elizabeth can’t pick which one she likes best? I’ve never met a single rider who hasn’t instantly made a snap judgement about any group of ponies. Somehow, you just always have a favourite.] [Wing: That is interesting and the opposite of my experience. I mean, I’ve had favourite horses, but that’s because they were ones I’d ridden a lot and loved.]
We meet the Dude Ranch owners, Carl and Maddie Hogan. Ned shakes their hands, introduces his famalam. Immediately, Carl is astounded by the twins. Maddie is similarly enraptured. She wonders how on earth she will be ble to tell them apart, which must be proprietor flannel as there’s another set of fucking twins staying there this week already. [Wing: Is this an actual way people react to twins? Because jesus, even if it is only at 50% of this, that would be annoying as hell.]
The crew go on a tour of the facilities. There’s a room full of hunting trophies, and much to Jessica’s delight there is a small gift shop. Why on earth the Ghostie thinks Jessica will be happy wearing a Triple Z Ranch T Shirt is beyond me.
Carl Hogan reveals the Lodge Room, full of comfy chairs and all kinds of board games…
“There are all kinds of games in there.” Mr. Hogan nodded toward a row of cabinets that lined the east wall. “Monopoly, Parcheesi, whatever you like. Just help yourselves.”
Yeah… pretty sure they won’t have the deluxe version of Everdell with the Pearlbrook expansion. Dominoes it is!
More damningly for Jessica, there’s no TV or VCR. She is aghast, but Steven is more concerned about where he can chow down. Because Steven is a gannet, and I say that as someone who’s just eaten two Galaxy Ripples and a packet of McCoys.
The dining hall hosues three panelled walls and a fourth wall of floor-to-ceiling class that overlooks the stables and pasture. Again, Elizabeth is excited. Even Jessica is impressed.
Talk turns to horses, and we learn that the ranch is home to around fifty of the fuckers. Apparently, they are “good and gentle,” which Steven translates as Slow and thus has a whine. He’s reassured that the ranch does have some livelier horses for the more experienced rider. So why the fuck Steven thinks he can ride a horse when he can’t even ride a fucking lawnmower is beyond me.
If anyone wants a fast horse, says Carl, they should speak to Andrew Hillestad. He points out Andrew, a cowhand in a red flannel shirt, as the guy who assigns the horses. Jessica immediately declares him to be hot. Because why the fuck not? [Wing: I know Jessica has liked older boys before, but he’s got to be a full adult and I am not prepared to reach that stage of Jessica’s thirst.]
Carl Hogan ignores her, and tells the Wakefields about their customary “friendly little race” held on the last day of camp. Whoever wins, apparently, get a genuine bonefide cowboy hat of their very own.
Steven is RIGHT up for that shit, and a B Plot is born. For fuck’s sake, can’t we have ONE FUCKING BOOK without this fatuous blundercunt spaffing all over each page? The girls laugh, as Steven has no riding experience at all, but it looks like he’s just going to wing it, like he wings everything else in his turgid little life.
Mr Hogan flannels up the girls again with some “oh boy you twins will be a handful” shit, before we learn that they will be easy to tell apart as Jess wears her hair long while Liz wears her hair back.
The girls go check out their cabin, as Steven screams his plan to win both race and hat to a darkening indifferent sky.
The girls are in the middle room of their three-roomed log cabin. But all they can do is shout “guys” and “horses” at each other in a bizarre pissing contest. What the fuck is going on?
Eventually, Elizabeth changes it up with the following zinger…
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose at her sister. “I’ll take a horse over a guy any day,” she declared.
Yup. Canon. [Wing: And we’re back on a list somewhere, I just know it.]
They unpack, and Jessica nearly explodes at the lack of coat hangers. She eventually commandeers three of the available four. To be fair, four hangers for a double occupancy room for five days is a bit stingy. [Wing: I’m trying to remember how many hangers tend to be in hotel rooms. I don’t often hang stuff up, but I don’t think I’ve had more than 5 or 6 in a room, so I wasn’t actually surprised by the 4, especially at a place you really need to wear jeans and t-shirts and flannel. Oh man, jeans and t-shirts and flannel and boots and cowboy hats are such a good look.]
Elizabeth takes the bureau to keep the peace. Jessica thinks she is weak, and that she should concentrate more on the important stuff like fashion rather than the pointless shit like school.
Elizabeth fucks off to get fitted for boots and perhaps get in a quick ride before Jessica can take her to task for frumpiness. [Wing: BULLSHIT. It is a terrible idea to put her on a strange horse wearing new boots. The fuck is this.] If Liz can go riding, Jessica posits, then she can go guy watching, as if that’s a fucking sport like twitching or something. Staring at boys (or girls) for no real reason is pretty damn creepy, Jess.
At the barn, Elizabeth is having trouble choosing suitable boots. Luckily, her day is about to improve as she claps eye on a cute boy. She’s immediately a smitten kitten.
He looked about thirteen. He was a little taller than Elizabeth, and he had dark wavy hair and gorgeous green eyes.
Elizabeth felt her cheeks flush. What amazing eyes, she thought. She couldn’t find a thing to say.
Fucking hell, behave yourself. You are not your sister, have some fucking decorum.
She stammers through some cursory chat, eyes twitching downwards to check out his stride (not really). Eventually he smiles and leaves with an “I’ll see you around.” That’s enough for Elizabeth. She’s ready to shack up with this kid for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth’s heart pounded as she watched him. She could tell he was different from most boys she knew. There was something special about him. There’s probably no one else like him in the world, she thought. No other guy could possibly be that cute.
Look, I get that she’s twelve and that it’s all inappropriate hormones and overblown declarations at that age. Even so, it’s a bit rich, The boy said three fucking sentences to her, two of which were “Hello” and “Goodbye”. Maybe the more charitable reader will find this interaction and reaction a cute example of pre-teen infatuation, but I say FUCK IT IN THE SHITTING EAR. [Dove: *waves to Todd Wilkins* Bye, asshat.] [Wing: I want to be a more charitable reader here because I do think it could have been a cute look at immediate, overwhelming crushes, but I cannot because I’m back in a fuck Sweet Valley mood.]
Thankfully, the Ghostie realises that Elizabeth is in strange waters, and backpedals. Elizabeth realises she’s being too much like Jessica, and puts the boy from her mind.
Snap-cup to Jessica, who’s heading for the vending machines in the dining hall. There, she meets… a cute boy!
“Hello,” the boy said, waving to Jessica. He was a little taller than she, with dark wavy hair and gorgeous green eyes.
“Hi,” she replied, wiping her sweaty palms on her pants.
Jessica falls deep immediately. Of course, it’s Jessica, so this is actually fine and in character. On the face of it, this is with the same boy that Liz likes, but of course we’ve all ready the summary and know that he is one of identical twins himself, so that fakeout is fucked from the get-go. [Wing: Why are the stories so often spoiled in the summary? Why? Not that this would have been much of a stretch anyway, but they aren’t even trying.]
Jessica’s small talk is slightly more poised that her horse-drawn sister, as one would expect from Sweet Valley’s premier boy-crazy strumpet. As the young lothario saunters off with a twinkle, Jessica considers her fate in true dramatic style…
What’s happening to me? Jessica asked herself. I’ve never felt like this before. But she’d watched enough soap operas to know what it was.
I’m in love, she said to herself. I, Jessica Wakefield, have fallen in love!
You certainly have, Jessica. For the next five days at least.
The next chapter starts with Steven tapping up Mr Hillestad for some prime horse action. Immediately, he demands the fastest horse available. Because he’s an entitled little shit.
Hillestad says that the more boisterous nags are given to those riders with the most experience, and Steven says he’s a fucking top notch jockey. It’s a lie, of course, as his inner monologue reveals. Apparently, he believes all he needs to win the race on Friday is a fast horse and a strong grip. [Dove: Yes. That’s exactly it. And of course, the whole point of riding a horse is to win something. I fucking hate Steven. I hate everyone, really. Stop doing horse books, you’re doing it wrong, Jamies.]
[Wing: THERE IS NO GODDAMN WAY THEY WOULD TAKE HIS WORD AT HOW WELL HE CAN RIDE THIS IS UTTER AND COMPLETE BULLSHIT AND DANGEROUS AS HELL. COME THE FUCK ON, GHOSTIE, THIS ISN’T EVEN RESEARCH, THIS IS COMMON FUCKING SENSE.
…I did not expect to Go Boom before Dove did.]
So this Steven is an opinionated idiot, just like the Steven from the Haunted Mansion series. Well, fuckeddy-shitpip, what an unconfined joy.
He’s not allowed out on Day One of the ranch, apparently, but Hillestad hands Steven the lead rope of the big scary horse he is currently holding: Queenie.
As Steven makes to walk Queenie to pasture, a cowboy called Bill enters. Apparently, Bill has been bathing Rocket and reminiscing about her run in the California Derby.
Steven’s ears prick up. Rocket sounds like a fast horse. Faster than Queenie, anyway! His eyes turn to a Rocket-shaped prize. Queenie can fuck off to the knacker’s yard for all he cares.
After confirming that yes, Rocket did once run in the California Derby, and that Rocket had won a few trophies back in the day, Steven is determined to that Rocket is the horse for him. In ascertaining these facts, Steven also hand-waves away some obviously cautionary interjections from the Dude Ranch Cowhands, because why listen to anyone when you’re such a colossal bellend? [Dove: I really hope he falls off and breaks his neck. Or that he’s just volunteered to walk around next to a retired race horse that’s too old to carry a rider now, but loves to walk beside a human. That would be outstanding.] [Wing: I zero percent believe a retired racehorse would be used as a trail horse at a dude ranch. Negative percent believe. The limit does not exist on how much I do not believe this bullshit. For one thing, a racehorse would be a terrible trail horse even if it wasn’t older. They tend to be high-strung, which is NOT what you want for any trail horse but especially a dude ranch trail horse where green riders will be out there. Goddamnit, ghostie.]
Back with Elizabeth, she’s reading Wuthering Heights with a romantic sigh. [Wing: Fuck Wuthering Heights. For a long time, until I finally convinced myself there were too many other books to read for me to waste time finishing books I didn’t like, Wuthering Heights was the only book I had never been able to finish no matter how many times I tried.] She sits and posits on the nature of Extra Special Love, like the love she has for the green-eyed sweetie she met in the boot barn. Jessica, reading a magazine nearby, is irritated by her sisters constant sexy squirming. She asks what’s going on.
Elizabeth’s heart pounded as she remembered the boy from the barn. “I—I think I may have met a boy I could like more than a horse.”
Jessica is thrilled for her sister. Maybe she’s finally becoming someone Jessica could like, rather than an obstruction that will eventually need killing. [Wing: And yet, bffs.] Elizabeth, high and deep in her cups of love, is more than happy to describe her new beau with juuust enough detail to make Jessica furious.
When Elizabeth describes her hottie as having wavy hair and green eyes, Jessica’s eyes flash green too. She glares, stands, and storms off.
We skip into Jessica’s head, and see Elizabeth trailing after her. Trust Liz to spoil a perfectly goods dramatic exit.
Elizabeth is confused, and Jessica snipes at her. This does not do much for her mood. She accuses Elizabeth of stealing her boyfriend, and there’s charming scene in which the sisters each try to denigrate the other’s “relationship” with the wavy-haired-green-eyed boy. Elizabeth is confused at first, but soon fights back with gusto.
Eventually, Elizabeth declares that the best course of action is to talk to the mystery kid and get him to decide. Jessica scoffs, knowing that Elizabeth couldn’t beat her on her worst day.
Let the battle commence!
It doesn’t commence for long. The reveal is just round the corner.
Next morning, and Elizabeth is pulling out all the stops. That’s right, she’s FRENCH BRAIDING HER HAIR BEFORE BREAKFAST! Jesus Elizabeth, fight fair and fly straight, love. [Dove: Apparently, she’s hopeless at French braiding. Which this pony girl finds hilarious, because guess what braid you use on a horse’s tail for showing?] [Raven: Zing!] [Wing: Legit question, isn’t it different braiding your own hair than it is braiding someone else’s? I ask as someone who does not braid her own hair and has never braided a horse’s tail, because western style.]
Jessica is fuming, as Elizabeth is taking an ice age getting ready in the bathroom. Welcome to Elizabeth’s life, Jessica Wakefield! When Elizabeth emerges, dolled to the metaphorical nines, Jessica indignantly accuses her sister of being a predatory maneater. Elizabeth calls out Jessica on her bullshit, as she too is dressed to impress. Liz also points out that the boy was in the barn, thus shown at least an interest in horse riding, something which Jessica detests.
They both storm off to the barn in search of their mystery beefcake. Sure enough, he’s there. And sure enough, Jessica turns on the flirtatious charm offensive. Elizabeth hasn’t got a chance.
Suddenly, Elizabeth grows a spine and vows not to be beaten. She enters the fray and begins ElizaFlirting.
The boy is shocked that there are two blonde girls, not one. He rallies quickly. The twins learn his name is Nick, before he is whisked away by his father on his way to the Horse Assignment Session.
Liz and Jess continue to gnash and bicker as they head to the Horse Assignment Session themselves. It’s all very juvenile and combative, which is in keeping with the premise if not the characters. Each vows to defeat the other in the race for Nick’s affections.
At the Horse Allocation Session, Mr Hogan declares he’s to divide the gathered families into two distinct trail groups. He’ll lead one, Hillestad the other.
Elizabeth deduces that the best form of attack is to shimmy her way from the middle of the gathered throng to the right edge of the crowd, as that’s where Nick and his family are stood. Unfortunately, Jessica is in her way. They glower, and tussle, and flappy-slap each other round the back of the barn and out of sight. They then lock horns in MORTAL COMBAT, at the end of which both fall into muddy puddles in an exhausted disgraceful heap.
Stomping back to their cabin to change, the bickering intensifies. Liz declares that she is perfectly entitled to prefer a boy over a horse for once, while Jess accuses her devious twin of deliberately pushing her into the mud for shits and giggles.
As they change clothes, each brings up the metaphorical Ghost of personal Christmases Past… Todd Wilkins and Aaron Dallas. For sure, each twin happily hoofs their sort-of boyfriend into the fucking sea, sacrificing their sort-of relationships for a nebulous possibility of a holiday romance, and maybe a cheeky frot behind the barn. [Wing: They are twelve. I am unsurprised.]
With one final dig – “I hope you get trampled by a fucking horse, you vapid vaculous cleft!” – Liz heads off to the barn, with Jessica hot on her heels. As they approach, they see that Nick has waited. There’s more banter as to who he has waited for.
With a twinkle in his eye, the blue-shirted Nick takes the plot to the next level. He reveals ANOTHER NICK, in a GREEN shirt.
IDENTICAL TWINS, Y’ALL.
Like, I suppose this would be an exciting twist, if it wasn’t just spoilt on the back cover of the book. Talk about the publisher undermining their own story.
The new twin introduces himself as Chris Handel, but all I hear is “hi, I’m Chris Hansen, take a seat over there,” speaking to a nervous and soon-to-be-incarcerated Steven.
All four twinny bellends laugh uproariously at this turn of events, as if none of them had bothered reading the back of the book before setting off. Do your research, characters! We also learn that all four have been assigned to a single trail group, so the meet cute is on and in full effect. Everyone departs to get their horses.
Alone again, the GirlTwins squee with undisguised delight. It’s all just TOO PERFECT. They agree to never fight over a boy again, which I don’t think is a promise they manage to keep. If they did, the Sweet Valley High series would be a trilogy. [Dove: *snorts* Book 1 is literally them fighting over a boy. It wouldn’t even exist, babe.]
At the Horse Allocation Carnival, Steven pleads with Mr Hogan to ditch Queenie and take Rocket instead. Again, Mr Hogan does his best to portentiously inform Steven of the horse’s flaws, but Steven barks over him like an interrupting seal. God, I hate him.
Mr Hogan capitulates, because why SHOULDN’T Steven always get exactly what he wants every fucking time?
Jessica gets her horse, a placid quarter horse called Goody Two Shoes.
Jessica fakes a like for the beast, in order to imporess Chris and Nick, but the horse can sense bullshit so if having none of it. How do we know that horses can sense bullshit? Because horses don’t read Sweet Valley books. BOOM! *drops mike, McMahon struts way*
She manages to mount the horse, landing in the saddle with a plop. But just as she thinks she’s up and ready, the horse whinnies and stamps its feet. Mr Hogan calms it, but not before Jessica has screamed and grabbed its mane.
“This horse is totally out of control,” Jessica complained as Goody Two-Shoes snorted again, then planted her feet on the ground. “She doesn’t belong on a dude ranch. She belongs in a glue factory!”
Wow. That’s a bit harsh. I know she’s a high functioning sociopath, but she shouldn’t take it out on the poor horse. Elizabeth is suitably scandalised, and she shows up Elizabeth by petting Goody Two Shoes with expert ease. [Dove: Yeah, no, I don’t advocate destroying animals, but Jessica is right that the horse shouldn’t be available to the public at least. The horse didn’t just stamp its feet. It reared. Rearing is an incurable (mostly) fault. It is the least desirable trait a horse could have because of how dangerous is could be. If a horse rears, you should not rent it out to the public. Break your own neck, but not the necks of others.] [Wing: While I deeply disagree rearing is an incurable fault (nor is bucking), Dove is absolutely right that it should not be available to the public, especially inexperienced riders.]
Jess declares she’s done with horse riding for the day, until she sees the disappointment on Chris’s face. She them vamps spectacularly, and declares she’s ready and raring to hit the trail. She accepts an offer of trying a more sedate horse, the unfortunately named Sleepy.
Why is the poor horse called Sleepy?
I presume it was named as a newborn foal. At that point, how did they know it was a sedate creature? It could have been a firebrand for all they knew at the time.
I have similar issues with some computer game naming conventions. I remember a boxing game back in the old Commodore Amiga pre-PC dominance days, in which you played a career boxer looking to fight their way up through the rankings to win a heavyweight title. The lower-card boxers, basically there as a training dummy, were called things like “Tony Soft” and “Dom Weak” and “Bob Terrible.” What boxer in his right mind would go with the name “Dom Weak”…?!
Really boils my piss.
Back in the hellish twatscape that is the mind of Steven Wakefield, we find that Rocket isn’t exactly the grease lightning speed demon that her name and history suggests. In fact, she’s the oldest and slowest horse on the entire Triple Z ranch. Poor Rocket. I like her already.
Hillestad finally gets a word in edgeways with the most entitled Wakefield brat, and the trail group all laugh and trot on, leaving a folorn and fuming Steven in their wake.
Steven sighed. Andy had said Rocket had some kick left. Maybe once he got used to her, Steven could make her use it. For now, though, he found himself at the back of the ride. All alone.
That’s exactly where you should be, you fucking melon. Alone, so no one has to put up with your insipid entitled mewling. I hope Rocket bucks you off over a cliff.
Back the GirlTwins, we see they have paired up. First, there’s Jessica chatting shit with Chris. It’s cute, and basically consists of Jessica talking about the Unicorns, and the Boosters, and a ton of shit we already know. We do learn that the Handel Family are out of Merrill Falls, Nevada, and that a bus goes from Merrill Falls to LA every other day…
Jessica’s heart soared. He was already talking about visiting her after this week was over!
Over at the mirror scene, Elizabeth chats shit with Nick. We learn he’s a prospective movie maker. He wants to act, write, direct and film them. Typical twelve-year-old’s pipe dream, dude. That’ll be kicked out of you soon enough.
Nick complains that Merrill Falls is a hick town and longs for the bright lights of LA. Elizabeth demurs, claiming you can’t ride horses in Hollywood.
Nick glanced toward the snowcapped mountains in the distance. “Yeah, well, horseback riding isn’t everything,” he said softly.
So, not quite as rosy in Liz’s dream date… interesting.
After the ride, each participant declares how much fun they have had. Even Jessica. Elizabeth giggles at how much Jess and Chris appear to have hit it off. Chris is a perfect gentleman.
The Elder Wakefields introduce themselves to the Elder Handels, Chris and Nick pluck up the courage to ask Alice if they can have dinner with Elizabeth and Jessica that evening. Alone. To be fair, that’s pretty cute.
The girls are excited as Alice gives permission. Six-thirty, the dining hall… it’s a double date. The Elders decide to have dinner together themselves, at seven thirty, which gives the Twin Twins time to get their date and Ned the time to erect the four-player extended sex swing. [Wing: Yes, this. It’s a swingers’ week for sure for the adult Wakefields, and I say they should go for it.]
Once Elizabeth and Jessica are alone, Liz tells her sister that she thought that asking permission for a dinner date was very sweet. Jessica doesn’t agree.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Personally, I thought that was a little embarrassing,” she responded.
“Well, it was your date, Chris, who did it,” Elizabeth pointed out.
“Oh.” Jessica blinked. “In that case, you’re right. It is sweet.”
Hah! Nice double down. Jess. And here we have the setup… the GirlTwins are with the “wrong” BoyTwins. Oh, what hilarity is sure to ensue!
Later, the GirlTwins get ready for dinner, and discuss their obvious wedding to the Handel Twins. Jessica, of course, is the more insistent twin, but even Elizabeth gets goosebumps thinking about it.,
During her many costume discussions, she puts forth the notion that the GirlTwins need to dress so their personalities whine through. This leads to Elizabeth worrying that the BoyTwins will not be as transparent, which could lead to confusion over which boy is which. Yeah, welcome to EVERYONE ELSE IN SWEET VALLEY THAT’S CONVERSING WITH YOU AND JESSICA. I’m surprised that the GirlsTwins aren’t relishing the opportunity to get involved in some Twin Magic from the audience rather than from the stage.
Jessica assures her dithering counterpart that “if anyone can tell twins apart, it’s twins”, which is taken at dubious face value even though it’s one of the most asinine statements in this or any book I’ve ever read.
At the dining hall, the BoyTwins are dressed almost identically. ALMOST. It’s footwear to the rescue, folks!
Chris is wearing Nike trainers.
Nick is wearing Reebok trainers.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS, IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE ON THE END OF YEAR EXAM PAPER.
Also, actual brand names in Sweet Valley? Why aren’t these “Trainers by Coco” or “FootBucks” or something? [Dove: Wasn’t Reebok cataclysmically uncool in the early 90s?] [Raven: Gola and Nicks were the totally crap brands back in my youth.] [Wing: Fuck if I know, we couldn’t afford that name brand shit. A bit of research makes me think they were popular in the US in the early 90s, at least.]
The TwinTwins get a table, and weather the stares and side-eyes from the collected diners. Jessica openly mocks someone who is pointing and staring, and this serves to break the ice. I’m surprised Elizabeth doesn’t admonish her sister for such wanton cruelty.
Talk turns to the many ways in which all sets of twins present can be differentiated amongst themselves.
BOYTWINS: Chris is right-handed with Nike. Nick is Left-handed with Reebok.
GIRLTWINS: Jessica is watchless with fashion sense. Elizabeth has a watch and looks like a scarecrow.
Then we get to an interesting question: has any TwinSet changed places for the purposes of mischief?
Both GirlTwins and BoyTwins admit that they have. BoyTwins share a dull anecdote about switching places on a mountaineering / fishing trip. Everyone laughs, and they all agree not to pull any Twin Magic Switcheroos on each other for the duration of their Dude Ranch stay.
As if that’s gonna happen.
We skip forward to mid meal, and Jessica’s POV. It seems that she’s pretty irritated with Chris, her date. He’s weird, in that he cuts his jelly into sixteenths. [Wing: How? Doesn’t it start to come apart at some point? I ask as someone who has pretty much only had Jell-O in Jell-O shots as an adult.] [Raven: Do not question the skills of the Great Chris Handel.] However, as she eavesdrops on Elizabeth’s conversation with Nick, she thinks that Nick is clever, funny, and very knowledgeable about movies. He can also do a kickass impression of Ace Ventura, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Jessica wonders if she’s with the wrong twin. She deserves to be with the cool twin, not the dorky twin. But Elizabeth looks so happy with Nick. Just what is a girl to do?
Look deep into your dark heart, Jess. You know what to do. Pick up the knife.
We cut to Elizabeth’s take on the same moments, and would you believe it, but she’s feeling the same! Nick just can’t stop wittering on about Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (again, I’ll get to this in a minute), which convinces her that the lad is an idiot. Not like Chris, with his soulful sweet eyes.
She wonders, like Jessica, if she’s with the wrong twin. But, like Jessica, she also has concerns for her sister. Unlike Jessica, however, she’s not plotting her sister’s death.
That night, as the GirlTwins get ready for bed, they discuss their date. Neither is willing to broach the subject of a twin swap, lest they hurt the other’s feelings, so instead they lie about how perfect it all was before drifting off to sleep.
CUE WIGGLY ARMS AND WIDDLY DREAM MUSIC MONTAGE.
We now cut two Jessica’s dream, in which a staid and serious grown-up Chris is taking her to the opera. They are married, and for some reason Jessica has lost all sense of fashion flair. Chris admonishes her for her tardiness over a discarded sock, before their two kids – mini versions of Jessica and Chris – bound in to discuss their early morning Knitting / Bird Calling lessons, for which the family must collectively rise at five a.m. DreamJess regrets marrying the boring twin.
Next, it’s Elizabeth’s parallel dream, in which her kids are into extreme sports at the age of five and her sofa slob husband Chris is forever watching a battered VCR copy of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, rewinding the salient scenes and hooting with laughter like a possessed mandril. After wearing out five Ace Ventura tapes, and declaring that he can’t make it through a day without a Jim Carrey movie, Nick declares “why make movies when it’s more fun watching them?” … Elizabeth is distraught at her oafish boor of a husband.
Both twins wake with a start and a scream. The each confess they had a bad dream, but neither opens up as to the cause or content of the nightmares. Elizabeth realises that Something Must Be Done, but she vows to wait until the following morning before talking to her sister about her situation.
Right. Ace Ventura and Jim Carrey.
Why the hell are real life and time sensitive movie references being made in this series, all of a sudden? Until now, and real life reference has been to timeless stuff, like Gone With The Wind. Alternately, the ghosties usually make up the soap stars and shows, and pop stars and movies and adventure games.
But now, this time it’s a dig on Ace Ventura?
Ace Ventura? Really? Really? REE-HEE-HEEAAALLLY?
(See what I did there?)
This reference dates the text so much it may as well be an overdue library book.
Also, I quite like Ace Ventura and Jim Carrey. Dove hates him. Wing? [Dove: I kind of hate all that extreme “comedy”, you know, where it’s all kind of shouty and pratfally and not very funny. Also, Jim Carrey is an anti-vaxxer who thinks he cured his kid’s autism with a gluten-free diet, so, he’s an ignorant twat as well as an unfunny wanker.] [Wing: I like Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, The Truman Show, and Batman Forever (though he is my least favourite part of the movie). I don’t know enough about him to like him or not as a person, but it sounds like he’s pretty shit.]
Next morning, Jessica tries a subtle hint to Elizabeth about her feelings for Nick rather than Chris. Elizabeth doesn’t pick up on it, which is standard. Jess wonders whether she can outright steal her sister’s boyfriend, before deciding that no, she cannot. I’m sure this particular thought process has withered on the vine by the time they both reach High School. [Dove: Don’t forget, she already got her cousin to try to steal Elizabeth’s boyfriend. That’s boyfriend stealage by proxy, at least.]
As Jess heads to the stables, she spots a Reebok-wearing and video-camera-toting BoyTwin. *checks reference sheet* Yup, that’s Nick.
Acting quickly, Jess pulls out a watch and slips it on. She rationalises her subterfuge by convincing herself she’s only hitting the Twin Magic button to check that she has a connection with Nick before discussing it with Elizabeth. Psheah right, love. Whatever you need to help you sleep at night.
She shyly approaches Nick in her Elizabeth character, but almost gives the game away by not altering her hair to the signature Elizabeth style.
Nick compliments her on her outfit, which Jessica takes as proof positive that Nick and her need to be together. She only wishes that Nick would flat out say it to “Elizabeth” so things could happen organically. As I’m only halfway through this book, I’m guessing that’s not happening. Jessica decides to play along as Elizabeth for now.
Elizabeth herself is in the stables, feeding apples to her horse Goody Two Shoes (Jess moved to Sleepy, remember?). Suddenly, a Handel Twin dashes round the corner. Nikes. It’s Chris.
Quick as a whip, Liz decides to fake being Jessica. She has reservations, but it’s for True Love, so fuck that bitch. She heads over to Sleepy’s stall, and acts all confident in the face of Chris’s talk.
As with Nick and Jess, Liz senses that Chris is actually disappointed that he’s talking to “Jessica”. However, unlike her sister, she thinks that’s wishful thinking. She bravely vamps while Chris asks “Jessica” questions, including this pearler, talking about the Booster cheer uniforms.
“What color are your new uniforms going to be?”
What color? Elizabeth had no idea.
Excuse me?! Surely the Jessica snap-response is “purple, the colour of royalty.” [Dove: They should be blue, to go with school colours, but the Unicorns deliberately picked a shade of deep blue that was closer to purple in colour. If I know this, why doesn’t Elizabeth?]
With a flash of conscience, she turns to flee in her shame, but spots Jessica idling with Nick against a nearby pasture fence. Suddenly, she’s incensed. She stomps over the “Elizabeth” and Nick, and basically drags her sister away on the pretence of forgetting something back in their room.
Once there, sparks fly. The GirlTwins bawl each other out, calling each other Cheater and Boyfriend Stealer, before dissolving into laughter and admitting they are both on the same page.
They discuss the next steps. Apparently, they can’t possibly tell Chris and Nick that they’d like to swap because it’d hurt their feelings. Placating the fragile male ego… how very modern of them! Eventually, they decide to keep up the act of TwinMagic pretence, as both BoyTwins were convinced that Elizabeth was Jessica and Jessica was Elizabeth.
So! Going into Chapter Eight, we’re at the following level of Twin Magic:
- Elizabeth is Jessica (ElizaJess)
- Jessica is Elizabeth (JessiLiz)
- Chris is Chris
- Nick is Nick
I fear this is about to get complicated. [Wing: God, I am already tired of the TwinMagic in this book and we’ve barely begun.]
Later that evening JessiLiz is walking around the pond with Nick. The sun is setting, and it’s most romantic. JessiLiz is doing a very good Elizabeth impression, talking about sunsets and shit, but Nick is being unusually reticent. He’s not doing Ace Ventura impressions, and is very passive when JessiLiz tries to get him to opine lyrically on his burgeoning movie career.
It’s safe to say that the evening is going badly.
Cutting to ElizaJess and Chris, things are mirrored. Chris, no longer soulful and sweet, in constantly babbling about how much he loves math(s), just as Jessica does (apparently). ElizaJess does her best to channel her sister, but slips up and mentions she shops at thrift stores. Who does she think Jessica is, Mandy Miller? After yet more guff about math(s) – bad math(s) at that – ElizaJess morosely marvels that things are still so damn awkward between the pair.
We cut to the bathroom before bed that evening, and the GirlTwins are laughing at their respective evenings while brushing their teeth. They both concede that their dated had been duds.
They both begin to question if the BoyTwins knew that the GirlTwins had switched. They decided that no, their subterfuge was too perfect.
Suddenly, Elizabeth has a revelation…
“That’s it!” she exclaimed suddenly, banging her fist on the bathroom counter.
“What?” Jessica asked, her forehead wrinkling with confusion.
Elizabeth turned to her sister. “When Chris said good night to me, he waved… with his left hand!”
*checks notes* That’s Nick. Chris is right handed.
Do people have a “side” that they wave from? When I wave to people, it’s with whatever hand feels the most appropriate at the time. [Dove: I’ve developed an alarming habit of doing a double-wave. Anyone who’s facetimed/skyped with me knows this to be true.] [Wing: I mostly do a nod in person, but if I wave, it is with my right hand. Except on motorcycles where the appropriate recognition of another rider is to use the left hand.]
That sounds dirty for some reason, but I assure you that’s unintentional.
Sorry, but I don’t think you can make this leap of logic, Liz. Unless PLOT REQUIREMENTS, obv.
PLOT REQUIREMENTS it is!
The GirlTwins deduce that the BoyTwins must have changed places too.
At first, the GirlTwins are angry, until Elizabeth points out that maybe the BoyTwins felt the same way as they did regarding the partnering situation. Elizabeth declares the best solution is to simply go back to being themselves. That way, the switched BoyTwins will be with the original GirlTwins. So that’ll be:
- Elizabeth is Elizabeth
- Jessica is Jessica
- Chris is Nick (Chrick)
- Nick is Chris (Niris)
Even though it’s her idea, Elizabeth has her doubts. Jess is more convinced that this plan is a winner. Elizabeth posits the question of what would happen should the boys switch back too, but Jessica bats it back in fine Phoebe style. After all, they don’t know that we know that they know we know.
Next morning, the switched back GirlTwins greet the presumably switched BoyTwins, calling them by the names they are presenting themselves as at that moment. Niris compliments the GirlTwins on their twin-spotting prowess, after which there’s some more confusing “to me, to you” style identity banter between the four.
For some reason, Jessica feels slighted that the switched BoyTwins can recognise the non-switched GirlTwins, despite the fact that the non-switched GirlTwins want to be fucking recognised as the girls they actually are.
Jessica tries to convince both Niris and Chrick that she is exactly Elizabeth, but her JessiLiz schtick doesn’t convince Goody Two Shoes, who snorts and backs off when JessiLiz pats her snout. At least, I think it’s Goody Two Shoes, but for all I know it could be Goody Two Shoes pretending to be Sleepy, or even Steven pretending to be fucking Whiskers.
This is so bloody confusing, I’ve gone into the fucking future. I literally don’t care who the fuck is who, can we just have some fun Dude Ranch scenes please?
We next hit up Steven, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier for this cleft’s intervention. He’s plodding on Rocket, trying to get her to go faster. He spots the TwinTwins in the distance, and bemoans his sloth-like plight.
Suddenly, we’re at the Gift Shop.
“What are you doing? Buying out the store?” one of the Handel boys asked.
Even the Ghostie hasn’t got a fucking clue who is who at this point. Jessica is buying Triple Z tshirts, and we learn that the Handel boy is actually Chrick. It transpires that the Elder Swingers had such a messy time the previous night on the four-player sex swing, that tonight they’re off to an independant sex dungeon that has its own bespoke tarpaulins for maximum fluid retention. Long story short, it’s another TwinTwin Double Date.
We’re at the double date, which takes place at Sally’s Salloon in town. The whole Triple Z crew and clientele are their, but the TwinTwins get a table to themselves once again. Elizabeth and Jessica are dressed to impress. Get some, girls!
At this meal, Jessica is with Niris and Elizabeth is with Chrick. I think.
Talk turns to buffalo wings, and then horses and other shit. As you can no doubt guess, both GirlTwins are soon suspicious that their switched BoyTwins are not conforming to their presumed roles. For example, Niris accuses Chrick that he spent a lot of their last visit to the Dude Ranch sat on a horse fiddling with his movie camera.
As Nick is the one who like movies, then Niris is the one who likes movies secretly, and therefore if he’s accusing Chrick of being a cinefile then Chrick is actually Nick. So they’ve swapped back too.
QUICK EVERYONE! BACK TO SQUARE ONE!
The salads arrive, and Jessica watches both Chrick and Niris like a hawk, seeing which of the BoyTwins eats with their left hand and which with their right hand. After some ranch dressing sswitcheroo, we see that Niris eats with his right hand – so he’s Chris – and Chrick eats with his left hand – so he’s Nick.
The GirlTwins, both now lumped with their original BoyTwins, both make excuses and dart to the bathroom.
To her credit, Elizabeth is getting a kick out of this. She finds it funny. Jessica, of course, is more dramatic, claiming their entire futures depend on this timeline being unmolested, as if they’re in Hot Tub Time Machine or something.
Jessica is obviously having a meltdown, and suggests – nay, DEMANDS – that she and Elizabeth switch places mid-date, and become ElizaJess and JessiLiz once more. Elizabeth doesn’t like it, but she has to go along with it.
They both change clothes and hairstyles, with banterous bickering each step of the way.
As the switched GirlTwins head back to their table, they see the switched BoyTwins ALSO returning from the bathroom. As the goal was for both sets of twins to be either switched or non-switched, Jessica is immediately suspicious. Had they switched back, and were therefore non-switched BoyTwins? If so, that’s a catastrophe!
As the only surefire way to tell the BoyTwins apart was by their fucking shoes, Jessica “drops” a knife and heads under the table to check out their footwear.
She slid herself under the table and retrieved her knife. At the same time she glanced at the boys’ shoes. It was dark, so it was kind of hard to tell. But she thought she saw the Nike stripe on Chris’s foot. And Chris was sitting across from Elizabeth. So that was right. Wasn’t it? Unless they switched shoes too.
At this point, I’ve almost lost the will to live.
Like Usain Bolt on jet-powered rollerskates, this is impossible to follow. I can’t even remember which GirlTwin likes which BoyTwin. [Dove: It would help if either of the boys had personalities, but all I can remember is that one of them (who? I don’t know) cuts his Jell-O into teeny squares. That’s it.]
I’ve given it the good ol’ college try, but it’s time to break out the bullet points for this holy calamafuck of a scene.
- During the eating of burgers, the switched GirlTwins deduce that the once-switched BoyTwins had switched back and become non-switched BoyTwins.
- They dash to the bathroom and switch back, so they are non-switched GirlTwins.
- When they get back, even Elizabeth isn’t sure who she’s meant to be any more.
- Over dessert, Elizabeth realises that she’s only half-switched with Jessica, as they are both wearing no-switched footwear. Or maybe switched footwear and non-switched dresses. WHO GIVES A SHIT?
- That’s it, I’m done. I’ll be in my trailer. *slams door*
Next morning, the GirlTwins declare that they have one more chance to get things back on track with the presumably baffled BoyTwins. Jessica, with the wacky-plan-street-smart guile, decrees that they should both wear the same outfit and both carry the requisite watch-and-barrette combo that will facilitate the quick switches that may be needed.
With their double wedding on the line, Elizabeth agrees.
Jessica then sneaks to the barn, trying to avoid Steven in case he names her in front of the BoyTwins. Once there, she bumps into Chris, or Nick, or Niris, or Chrick, or maybe just three squirrels in a trenchcoat, I dunno.
She halfheartedly pegs him as Nick because of the Reeboks. Is that correct? Who cares.
The single BoyTwin who’s possibly Nick mentions that he’s looking for Elizabeth. That’s cool. Jessica can be Elizabeth. She puts in the barrettes and dons the watch.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth heads to the stables for her last day of riding Goody Two Shoes, or Sleepy, or Rocket, or a clothes horse with a saddle on it. She spots a BoyTwin leaning on a fence. Also, she’s Elizabeth with a watch and barrettes, so that means she’s disguised as herself.
Suddenly she spots Jessica with the other BoyTwin, and Jessica is ALSO disguised as Elizabeth, so Elizabeth takes off the watch and barrettes and disguises herself as Jessica, trotting off to BoyTwin potentially-Chris with a rueful demeanour.
More Steven now, thank fuck (I don’t even know who I am anymore).
It’s the day of the fabled race for the Cowboy Hat. Mr Hogan is handing out the horses for the last ride of the trip. Steven is teased my his father for having the slowest horse, which might explain why he’s such a prick. He accepts Rocket’s reins from Hillestad without enthusiasm.
[Hillestad] slapped Steven on the back. “I just want you to know I think you’ve been a great sport about this,” he said. “I think it’s been good for Rocket to get out on the trail this week.”
Steven forced a smile.
It was this point that I actually had hopes that the Steven story was going to be a redemptive one.
I saw him taking the slow horse for a gentle sauntering trail trot, in which Steven, resigned to coming home in last place, actually bonds with Rocket and they have a fun and leisurely ride. I saw him undergo some personal growth, maybe realising that winning or losing isn’t important, as it’s the ride that matters. I saw him happily telling Hillestad and Hogan that Rocket was a lovely horse, and I saw him receiving a cowboy hat from the ranchers for embracing the true spirit of animal care.
Of course, none of that happens.
SPOILERS: A bee stings Rocket on the arse, and she gallops him to first place.
He gets a hat. No learning. Being a twat wins. The end.
For the GirlTwins, there’s a final twist for the last ride of the week. As Jessica is actually JessiLiz, she is given Goody Two Shoes to ride. Unless, as I said, Goody Two Shows has switched places with a rocking horse.
ElizaJess sees JessiLiz leading Goody Two Shoes, and springs into action! She can’t miss out on her final chance to ride her horse. She asks if “Elizabeth” would like to trade horses for the final ride, but “Elizabeth” can’t break the illusion in front of a confused and sceptical Nick. Mr Hogan frowns upon the idea too.
So, ElizaJess can’t pry Goody Two Shoes from the unwilling hands of JessiLiz. Finally, JessiLiz sends ElizaJess a message:
Jessica cleared her throat. “Yeah, Jessica,” she said, standing up a little taller. “This is my horse, so back off.”
Jessica, that’s no way to impersonate your sister. Remember rule #1: Elizabeth has no spine.
JessiLiz then does her best Lightning McQueen “I Am Speed” impression, trying to convince an unbelieving Goody Two Shoes that She Was Elizabeth. It doesn’t work, because horses are smarter than everyone at this fucking Dude Ranch.
On the ride, ElizaJess keeps nervously looking back to a tottering and uncoordinated JessiLiz. Chris, her beau, mistakes this concern for a genuine desire on “Jessica’s” part to try a horse more boisterous than Sleepy, as he can see how much her riding has improved. This is sweet, and confirmation that it’s Chris and not Nick as he doesn’t do a Jim Carrey impression at the end.
Quick cut to Steven, clopping along slowly. The bee is on its way. [Dove: And he’s sulking because he can’t possibly win. After all, the only reason to do something fun is if you can win it. I hope he dies.] [Wing: If You Can’t Be the Best At Something Why Do It is a lesson I have had to slowly teach myself. It eventually came down to If You Can’t Be Good At Something Immediately Why Do It, and I have brought it down even further from that, but it’s still a thought process I can’t really hate Steven for without being a hypocrite. Thank fuck I’m fine with being a hypocrite here, so fuck you, Steven.]
Back with JessiLiz and Nick, and it’s taking all of Jess’s concetration to remain in the saddle. Nick is suitably concerned, and also irritated that “Elizabeth” is so focussed on riding that she can’t pay him any attention at all. Mr Hogan trots up and asks if “Elizabeth” is entering the race. Jessica, in a daze, says she’ll think about it.
Back with ElizaJess, it seems that Chris is also getting a little tetchy that all of “Jessica’s” attention is on the other TwinSet. Mr Hogan trots up and tells them they’re to take a break at the upcoming orchard before the race back to the stables.
Chris apologises to “Jessica” for being narky, and leans in for a gentle kiss…
But the moment was broken by an earthshattering scream. “Help!”
It’s Jessica! Elizabeth realized.
She whirled around just as Goody Two-Shoes reared up. Then suddenly Jessica was on the ground.
I believe Dove has something to say on the subject of fictional horses rearing…
[Dove: Thank you. Yeah, this is now the second time the horse has reared. I find it absolutely astounding that they allow that horse to be used for public rides. Sure, keep him/her for personal use, but obviously when faced with nervous riders, this fucker rears up, and do you know what effect that has? Other riders get nervous, making the horse even worse. Jesus fucking christ. Twice in the span of a couple of days is a major warning sign. Get this horse off the trails, or keep it for staff only. Also, I hope Ned sues the pants off ’em.] [Wing: You know, for all the times he suddenly has the exact lawyer experience for the situation, he spends far too little time actually suing people for things they’ve done to his kids. Mr Fowler should teach him better.]
The TwinBoys and TwinGirls all congregate around the fallen JessiLiz, who has bruised her elbow and her pride. Suddenly, thank-FUCK-fully, the truth is out. The GirlTwins confess to their switching, and the BoyTwins are suitably, and apparently genuinely, hurt by the deception.
Jessica, full of indignation, shouts them both down for playing exactly the same sneaky switchy tricks, but the BoyTwins are adamant.
The boys looked at each other again. “We might try to fool our parents or our friends,” Nick admitted. “But never our girlfriends.”
Good for you, lads. Don’t believe you for a second, but whatever.
The BoyTwins, now indignant as well as disappointed, ride off in a huff. The GirlTwins have blown it.
Snap-cut to Steven. He’s moaning about being saddled with Rocket again,. But enters the race nonetheless. Rocket, moving slower than usual, plods along as the other racers disappear into the distance. Then she’s stung by a bee, and she gallops away with a terrified Steven holding on for dear life. [Wing: BULLSHIT. He would have been thrown immediately, he barely knows how to ride her at a walk.]
Snap-cut to the TwinGirls, making their leisurely ride back to the stables. They discuss the events that I’ve concisely recapped thus far, and debunk each one of their “tell-tale signs that lead them to believe the TwinBoys had been switching too. Just because one waved with their right hand or ate salad with their left doesn’t mean they are left or right handed, just as using a video camera means that you’re automatically the twin who yearns to be Steven fucking Spielberg. Nice work, GirlTwins. Maybe you’ve learnt something today.
Back with Steven. Horsey coursey buzzy stingy gallopy gallopy racey winny hatty twatty ass-faced bollock-eyed cunt.
It’s now the following morning. The holiday is over, and the Wakefields pack up their van. Steven is mighty proud of his new hat. As the GirlTwins prepare to leave, they take a final visit from… the BoyTwins.
As I can’t be arsed with this any more, let’s cut to the chase. The BoyTwins forgive everything, and vow to keep in touch, which means we will NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN. Nick asks for Jessica’s address, and steals a peck on the cheek as she writes it. Jessica is over the moon, until “Nick” reveals that he’s actually Chris! Oh what japery.
Then the same thing happens with the non-paired spares, but in the other direction. And with one final Ace Ventura reference, the Handels fuck off into the sunset.
The girls then head back to the minivan, and reveal that NO, the TwinBoys hadn’t managed to pull the final switcheroo and get the last word… because THEY’D also switched before meeting up with them that final time. Because yeah, let’s have one more fucking switch for good fucking measure, for fuck’s sake. [Dove: I… I haven’t a clue whether this is a romantic win, a lolzy twinswitch win, or even a fail because of all the switching. I don’t know who likes who and I don’t fucking care. I didn’t at the start and I really don’t now. Just die everyone.]
Final paragraphs in the Unicorner on the next school day lead into the next book. A famous hypnotist is coming to town [Dove: Oh good, that storyline. Again.], and he’s doing a show at school. Sounds legit. Fucking shitty teaching staff.
This was not the book I needed after the Nightmare Mansion series.
I was really looking forward to a normal Sweet Valley Twins book, with Lila and Ellen and Amy and Mandy and the Unicorns and Janet Howell and the Sixers and more. Instead, we get a book in a Dude Ranch that had so little Dude Ranch stuff in it that it could have been set anywhere.
Why was Elizabeth immediately boy crazy? Why wasn’t she more interested in the horses, one of her canon passions? The Steven sub plot was a massively missed opportunity, and the clusterfuck switcheroo orgy was interminably convoluted and complex. And seriously, who the fuck cared about the Handels? Literally couldn’t care less.
About halfway through the Big Switchy Dinner Date, I lost complete track of who was who and who wanted who, and that coloured the rest of the read. It was cute and sassy in places, but godDAMN was it hard to follow. This is the first instance of the Ghostie just spaffing on the page and walking away.
Can I please just get a normal Sweet Valley Twins book next time? Kthxbye.
[Dove: Thanks, I hated it. As I said above, I’ve got no idea who wants who or why I should believe that, since we never saw any interaction, it was just a case of “Boy is wearing sneakers! TO THE LOOS TO SWAP CLOTHES! Boy is holding a fork! TO THE LOOS TO SWAP AGAIN!” Like, how do you know you do or don’t want the boy holding the fork. I don’t know a thing about either boy, so how do you know that this one is undesirable? It was just badly written. I miss Ellen and Lila. We need Ellen and Lila.]
[Wing: I don’t care about the a plot nor could I keep the boys straight myself, I don’t care about the b plot and I still hate Steven, and the bullshit failures around horse and dude ranch writing infuriated me. I can’t even be happy to be back to hating Sweet Valley because this was such a waste of time.]
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.