Title: The Mysterious Dr. Q
Tagline: You are getting sleepy…
Summary: Something very strange is going on at Sweet Valley Middle School. It all started when the Mysterious Dr. Q hypnotized Jessica Wakefield and her classmates during a school assembly. They were so impressed by Dr. Q’s performance that they decided to try a little hypnotism of their own.
The hypnosis works like a charm. Jessica convinces Janet Howell and Amy Sutton that they’re twins, Lila Fowler that she was a duck in a past life. and Elizabeth Wakefield that she’s in love with the obnoxious Bruce Patman! Can Jessica snap her friends out of it… or will they be spellbound forever?
Oh god, I have zero interest in hypnosis stories, I’ve been sick (manic, mostly), and I’m already not excited about Sweet Valley at the moment. This bodes well.
(Note from the future: I am even less able to recap this than originally suspected, and this book is even worse than I worried. Be warned.)
[Dove: In no way am I belittling Wing’s health, but boy, this book is fucking awful, even when you’re in the best of health. Also, how many of these awful “ooooh psychic bollocks” books are going to be in the main series?]
[Raven: Yup. Bag of wank.]
To my surprise, we open on Mr Bowman asking Elizabeth what she knows about hypnosis while they’re (alone?) together in the Sweet Valley Sixers office. I expect that of Nydick but not (necessarily?) you, Bowman.
Before he agrees to tell her what he’s talking about (you tease), Elizabeth must first go through the list of story ideas she’s reviewing: kids circulating a petition to allow skateboarding in the halls (no need to cover that, she thinks, because the students will never get approval for it — you’re not really supposed to judge, Wakefield, just report), Johnny Buck’s latest album (she assumes almost everyone but Todd would just talk about how great it is, and that’d be boring to read — I mean, you could have someone write a review, which is a thing that regularly happens, but okay), and that’s all we get before Elizabeth’s thoughts return to hypnosis and Bowman bursts out with his news that Dr Q is coming to Sweet Valley Middle School (in two days); she’s a hypnotist as well as a psychic and what the fuck kind of assembly is SVMS having this time? [Dove: Wing, are special assemblies of this ilk normal(ish) for the USA? Because we only got, “This is Susan, Susan is here from [charity] to talk about…” kind of things, and that was maybe once a year. Admittedly, the rest were religion due to the zealous nature of my school, but even so, I don’t remember hearing about friends in normal schools getting special assemblies either.] [Wing: Special assemblies were pretty common, yes, but it was more like Just Say No (anti-drug campaign) or pep rallies or OOOH RAH MURICA (join the armed forces assemblies), never hypnosis.] [Raven: I like that you had to stipulate that the assemblies were “never hypnosis.”]
Elizabeth knows very little about hypnosis, so Bowman, who has been doing background research, talks about how subjects don’t really go to sleep, some scientists think it is all a fraud (and Elizabeth agrees), others think it is real but they don’t understand it yet (like something Jessica would say, Elizabeth thinks), I’m bored.
Bowman suggests she do some research because it might make for a good story. He’s right, but she probably should have had this information more than two days before the assembly. She immediately focuses on writing about how they might cheat, and Bowman agrees that’s good but that she should keep an open mind, too.
But Elizabeth is off and running; she’s going to be like Amy Sutton’s mother and do a hard-hitting investigation. Headline: Dr Q a Fraud, Ace Reporter Proves.
… that is a shit headline. [Raven: I actually quite like how this ghostie flat-out shows us that Liz is a terrible reporter / editor. Like, she’s twelve! Of course it’s awful.]
Basketball with Bruce Patman, Todd Wilkins, Aaron Dallas, and Ken Matthews (and some others, I assume); I could not be more bored. They argue over who can jump higher and who is the better player and call Patman a bunny. I stand by my boredom.
Though, Bruce would rather marry a rabbit than a girl. I’m 100% certain a girl would do better with a rabbit than you, fucker.
So, of course, talk turns to girls. Patman likes JW (Jessica); Ken thinks she’s hot but that Patman actually likes LF (Lila); LF is, in turn, Aaron’s second choice, I assume over JW, though it’s not stated; Patman whines that girls are boring and dating sucks, and I can only wish you stood by this later, except for the way he also thinks girls are inferior, because he is a shit; Ken says he’s always admired AS (Amy) (god, these boys need to learn a more subtle way to talk about their crushes; at least give them a believable nickname); and Todd, throughout this, keeps relating them all back to Elizabeth, of course. [Raven: What’s this nonsense that Bruce is now suddenly anti-girl and anti-dating? He’s never been any of those things. Bad ghostie! *hits with rolled-up newspaper*]
Patman again pushes for him to agree that girls are inferior; Todd says that maybe some girls are inferior (fuck off, Todd), but some aren’t, you know, like EW. [Dove: She’s ~not like other girls~] And, even though they’ve not named any of the others, it’s very important for Ken to clarify he means Elizabeth Wakefield, Jessica’s sister.
Ken recognising Elizabeth as Jessica’s sister rather than all the other things she is made me laugh out loud and rage at the same time.
Patman goes on and on about how Elizabeth isn’t as smart as he is, she’s just good at getting high grades and studying hard, she doesn’t even know a good story when it’s in front of her (you know, skateboarding petition), and ugh, just end this.
We do learn, when Patman teases Todd about why he and Elizabeth aren’t dating, that Todd thinks they are dating. He’s just not sure she sees it that way. Huh, I did not expect him to be so blunt on that point, even to himself. [Dove: Uh, they fucking are. They’ve been on multiple dates. I hate the way the book acts as if Todd and Liz have barely interacted. FFS, they dated, broke up, got back together (and that’s me skipping a whole bunch of silly misunderstandings and makeups), and have definitely kissed.]
Jessica has taken up tarot cards, which is certain to be a ridiculous if maybe delightful new hobby for her. Before Jessica gives Elizabeth a reading, they argue over whether hypnosis could possibly be real.
Jessica’s also thrown herself into her horoscope and reading books about tapping into her inner power. Oh boy, neopagan coming up.
Oh, good, tarot reading time!
Elizabeth’s reading: King of Wands (reversed) next to Nine of Swords, with Page of Cups as the first card. She’s going to get an invitation from a friend or admirer and maybe will become a dancer or a set designer or something (Page of Cups). She’s going to be involved with calculations and business contracts and may have stomach problems (Nine of Swords). She’ll hear very good news soon, will have great power to get what she wants, and will be a major player in actor, entertainer, fashion (King of Wands). But lo, Jessica realises that card’s pointing to her, so it must actually be about her future. It certainly sounds more like her future. [Raven: I used to do tarot readings in my early teens. All complete waffle, of course, but I can empathise with Jessica here as I was similar at her age. I wish I remembered enough of it to question the cards’ interpretations here, but sadly I don’t. I DO remember that having a card upside down actually lead to a separate meaning to that of a card the “right” way round. So Jess just claiming it was actually her future made me laugh a little.]
Alas, Wakefield, you should probably go read the actual information about what the card means reversed before you make any claim to it. [Raven: *ahem* Yes, quite.]
Mrs Sutton asks Amy to help her with a project interviewing daughters of women who are pilots, which is a pretty cool plan. She’s thrilled — right up until she realises she’ll have to go up into the air, including in a news chopper, and she’s terrified of it.
Todd woefully gazes at Elizabeth during homeroom. He thinks he knows everything about her from watching her but that she can’t possibly know anything about him. He’s terrified about asking her out. This is possibly the most relatable he’s ever been. [Dove: Except for the fact he’s clearly got amnesia, because they’ve been “sort-of” together since book 43.]
Todd has decided that he wants to be hypnotised in order to forget his fears about Elizabeth. Just in case, you know. In case Elizabeth is wrong and it actually works.
Elizabeth, meantime, keeps daydreaming about how she’s going to “sink her teeth into the ‘doctor’” during her “killer interview” and I am dying. [Dove: Elizabeth is insufferable here. But in a good way. It works. However, couldn’t care less about the book.]
I am having the hardest time focusing on anything right now because I’m manic, but even knowing that, and even knowing how I feel about Sweet Valley at least half the time right now, I am struggling with this recap. It’s just — it’s just boring. So fucking boring and the writing is bad.
Elizabeth gets a note from Todd asking her to see a movie on Saturday night. Haven’t you guys gone to plenty of things together already? Without needing to ask via note? What in the world is going on right now? Did this series just completely reset?
Patman and Ken both think Dr Q is a fake (well, a “lunatic” which, of course, makes me want to stab him). Todd, meanwhile, thinks Bruce is just too conceited to believe anyone could have any power over him. Wing, meanwhile, wants to die she’s so bored. [Dove: I know Wing keeps saying that different grades can be in the same class, but Bruce is a year older than the twins and has literally never been in their homeroom before. Fuck off, ghostie. You know absolutely nothing about this series. I’m out.]
Todd is super nervous when Elizabeth comes over to tell him yes to the date. Okay, I’ll admit, the nervous part is just a tiny bit adorable.
Of course, the boys then give him so much grief over it. If Patman wasn’t involved, this would also be a tiny bit cute. But he is, so it isn’t.
Finally time for the assembly. Lila and Jessica are thrilled and, of course, both of them want to be picked as participants. Never change, girls. Then they argue over who is more psychic between the two of them. NEVER CHANGE.
Over to Amy who, I’m sure we’re all surprised to hear, wants to volunteer so she can be hypnotised out of her fear of helicopters. [Raven: She has a fear of flying, but I like the way you’ve put it, as if she’s afraid of being chased by helicopters with a murderous intent.]
Dr Q chooses Patman (Jessica’s none too thrilled about this, so I guess we’re on her he’s hot but a hater kick), three people Jessica doesn’t know very well (so anyone not Team Boring, Team Unicorn, or Associated Boys), and then Jessica and Elizabeth because she likes to work with twins, especially when one is a skeptic and one is a believer.
That’s fair enough.
Dr Q uses a golden watch to hypnotise them, because of course she does, why use anything less stereotypical, ghostie. Tells them to imagine they’re riding an elevator from the top floor to the basement. Elizabeth plays along, following whatever Jessica does, but she thinks Jessica is not actually hypnotised just being herself. Which, yeah, I can see that.
Dr Q tells Bruce to imagine doing something totally unimaginable for him, and Elizabeth is confused as to why he’s sitting still and not goofing off considering he’s been very upfront that he doesn’t believe hypnosis is real. (Why is he in their homeroom? He’s not in their grade. Damn it, ghostie. And yes, I know this isn’t the first time someone turned up in the wrong class, but it annoys me every time I notice.)
Dr Q has him bark like a dog, because, yes, of course, let’s just play that stereotype completely straight.
Elizabeth is struggling because it seems like he’s really hypnotised even though she doesn’t believe in it. She’s also not been able to find Dr Q doing anything suspicious, either, which annoys her.
Then Dr Q turns to the twins, the one who believes and the one who doesn’t. She plays up some of the psychic part, too, saying that she sees strange things in their future, things neither of them expects. [Dove: That’s the hook of every book. “Oooh, new thing happen. And TWINS. Oooh.”]
Oh boy. Once again, everything must be about the twins.
Dr Q goes on to say neither of them respect the dangers of the unknown and again, fair. Elizabeth flat out doesn’t believe (despite numerous hauntings and cursed things); Jessica believes but thinks she can, somehow, control them.
So Dr Q tells the girls to switch identities temporarily. Immediately, Jessica starts talking about not believing in hypnosis. Elizabeth doesn’t know if she should play along, and then she decides yes, she should, she wants to stay on stage as long as possible so she can continue to try to catch Dr Q cheating.
They argue back and forth, doing a fairly good job with this weird version of twin magic, and yet I am still bored. Just because they’re having the argument from different sides now, we have still heard these exact same arguments more than once in this book. Hell, in the series.
No one gets to talk to Dr Q after the assembly, and I’m still confused as to why they had this fucking assembly in the first place, so Jessica offers to hypnotise Lila. She claims it’s easy for her now because once it’s done to you, you can do it to anyone else. [Raven: I’m with you. Why the fuck is this an assembly? It has LITERALLY no redeeming value. it’s not science, it’s not even a lecture on keeping an open mind. It’s just a terrible Vaudeville act.]
That is a very Jessica argument to make, and I actually love it.
Still bored though.
They bicker, Lila teases her about doing things wrong, Jessica tells her to imagine that she’s in a coal mine getting ready to shovel coal, and even if Jessica did successfully hypnotise her, I have no doubt that the mere suggestion of somewhere so dirty and actual physical work would knock her right the fuck back out.
But what really kicks her out of it is when Jessica suggests that she call Todd and claim that she is passionately in love with him.
Mr Fowler comes in, curious as to what they’re up to, and asks Jessica to hypnotise him too. This is actually kind of delightful, him joining in the entertainment, him spending time with his daughter and her friend.
Of course, it doesn’t go very well, and she thinks he’s just humouring her. Which, again, kind of delightful that he cares enough to play along.
Elizabeth is working up a list of fairly snarky questions for Dr Q when Patman comes and tells her that he’s taking her to the movies Saturday night. Oh boy. Also, why. Also, god why am I reading this. Also — okay, you get the picture.
Amy (awkwardly) talks her way into going to the Dr Q interview with Elizabeth. Elizabeth is less pleased when Jessica rocks up when they finally get to Dr Q’s office. Amy wants to not be scared. Jessica wants to learn more about how to put people under. Elizabeth is still dead set on proving Dr Q is a fake.
I’m still bored.
Apparently, Bowman has taught Elizabeth that the first question is the most important question, the one that will make or break an interview. Which is both true and untrue, but the real problem here is that her first question is: Um, Dr. Q, let’s be completely honest with each other. We both know there’s no such thing as hypnosis, don’t we?
… and she’s supposed to be good at this.
(I will say, the narrative supports that she thinks she is good and is being utter crap in the actual moment, which is a nice change.) [Raven: I too liked this.]
(Also, Jessica and Amy keep arguing with Elizabeth and answering questions for Dr Q. This is one of many reasons you don’t want to bring your friends and/or family along.)
Elizabeth asks why doesn’t she win the lottery if she’s psychic; Dr Q uses Bowman as an example. He could be a well-known, well-off reporter if he chose (… but could he? Could he really?), but he’s chosen to use his skills to teach instead (… but is he? Is he really?), and such is the same for Dr Q, she is careful in how she uses her powers, she doesn’t use them to enrich herself, she uses them to educate “less gifted” people about the psychic world. [Dove: That’s such a bollocks response. First of all, we have no evidence that Mr Bowman would be a great reporter. Second of all, that’s apples and oranges. If she wanted to benefit the world with her gift, she could play the lottery and feed starving orphans or run an animal shelter or whatever. But sure, teach other people to hypnotise. That’s the greatest use of power. There are better answers. Here’s one that fits the tone: “I can’t read events that are not personal. You’re asking me to read a machine I’ve never touched. I read people, not machines. People have auras…” that kind of nonsense. Also, most importantly, WHY ARE WE ASSUMING THAT HYPNOTISTS ARE PSYCHIC?]
Look, Dr Q, it is perfectly valid to choose to teach instead of do, or to choose to teach and to do, or to do instead of teach, or whatever, and there is nothing inherently more honourable or worthwhile or whatever in choose work that pays less.
They talk more about it, how Dr Q couldn’t hypnotise Bruce into being a nicer person unless he chose to change, how hypnosis could help alleviate fears, and, finally, some information for Jessica about how to hypnotise people: know your innermost thoughts and feelings, be in a state of absolute calm–
(Jessica: That’ll be easy too. I’m always calm.
And that, people, is a direct goddamn quote.)
— and hypnosis is never a toy, it is a tool, and it is powerful and dangerous. So that’s why you’re teaching it to “less gifted” people, is it? [Raven: I hated the whole interview, and actually felt sorry for Elizabeth. I was looking forward to her being schooled by Dr Q, but instead we got JEssica and Amy being absolute bellends and Elizabeth just limply going along with it all. Bullshit.]
Elizabeth is so annoyed with Jessica’s behaviour during the interview that she decides they should throw a hypnosis party and have Jessica try to hypnotize their friends. Good god, are we only just to that point? This book is taking forever.
Jessica’s apparently much better at hypnosis now, because she sends a bunch of them under, even Elizabeth.
She starts with telling them that they won’t be afraid again (Amy, flying, Janet, mice and spiders), but when she tells them to raise their right hand if they understand, none of them do. Of course they don’t.
Patman, meanwhile, is listening to a baseball game. Why didn’t you guys just send him into another room? You know he doesn’t want to be there, he wouldn’t stop complaining about the game.
He pulls out his earphone (yes, that’s the word the book uses) and for a few moments everyone can hear: The Twins now lead by a score of two to one – the identical score they won by yesterday – which, of course, is going to play into the “fun”.
Why am I recapping this again?
Jessica turns next to telling Elizabeth she will love and admire the greatest person on earth — she says Jessica Wakefield, but Ellen shouts Bruce Patman at the same time because he’s stepped on her foot.
Jessica has Lila quack like a duck and then tells her that whenever she sees Principal Clark, she will only quack like a duck. Okay, cute. [Dove:
Then Jessica brings them back and starts to talk to them.
Amy and her fear of flying: She’s still scared, but surely Janet will hold her hand if she goes up. Of course Janet will; she’ll even go up in Amy’s place if she’s too scared. (Welp, Ellen, guess she’s moved on to a new Unicorn.) After all, they’re identical twins, and they’re thrilled about it.
Patman starts talking about how hypnosis is a load of crap isn’t it, Elizabeth, and she falls all over herself to tell him how brilliant he is. He preens under it and she gazes dreamily at him and then tells Todd she’s going to the movies with Bruce. Because of course.
Jessica’s a little sorry that things went wrong, but the most important thing is that she hypnotised them, go Jessica Wakefield!
You little sociopath you. I love you.
[Raven: Nope, not liking this. Spoilers for people not familiar, but yes, Jessica actually DID manage to hypnotise everyone. It’s all face value information. I thought that they would all be pranking Jessica, pretending to be hypnotised for trolling purposes, but no. This is the reason I hated this book.]
Todd and Patman argue over why Patman is horning in on Elizabeth when he knows that Todd likes her and asked her out. Patman is, of course, a jackass about everything.
Todd figures out that something happened with the hypnosis and is determined to get Jessica to fix it right away, so he drags her to the same movie Elizabeth’s going to watch.
Elizabeth’s incredibly bored, Patman is incredibly obnoxious, the movie sounds like a fairly generic action movie that I would possibly love, I’m still bored.
And we get this gem: After all, she liked Bruce, and Bruce liked this kind of movie, so she must like this kind of movie too.
That? That is not a part of the hypnosis. That is some grade-a bullshit.
(Also, the action hero in this? Arnold Weissenhammer. Yeah.) [Dove: But it’s so hilarious! Because it means white, when the real Arnie’s surname means black. Such clever. Many thinks.]
Todd gets himself kicked out of the movie theater, and Jessica, finally, thinks that maybe she’s gone too far.
Monday at school, Amy and Janet are inseparable. Amy even eats at the Unicorner. (Ellen’s gonna be maaaaaad.) Jessica’s entertained by this, somewhat, by her power, but she’s also annoyed that so much of it has gone wrong and hasn’t worn off the way she hoped.
Elizabeth eats lunch with Patman because he asks her to but is then annoyed that he flat out ignores her. She can’t say anything, though, because “It would not do to offend your own boyfriend.”
WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, GHOSTIE. WHAT. THE. EVER. LOVING. FUCK.
There is no goddamn need for this. She’s not been turned into a different Elizabeth, and Elizabeth wouldn’t think this, and it is bullshit anyway. The identical twin thing suddenly meaning they are exactly alike and adore each other, etc., is bad enough with the lack of logic, but this is some fucked up shit right here.
Principal Clark turns up and Lila starts calling him Mr Quack, which was not at all what Jessica told her to do, but okay. She ends up with detention, and Clark doesn’t believe the Unicorns have had nothing to do with it and they end up with detention, too, thanks to Jessica talking about them eating cheese and “quackers.”
I hate this book. [Dove: It’s not quite Steven and the lawnmower, but it’s pretty fucking awful.]
Jessica calls Dr Q for help and has to wait for a response; Elizabeth turns the entire front page of the Sixers issue to Patman, which is such fucking bullshit, again, her personality wasn’t transplanted, why is this how she shows she likes him when she’s never done another goddamn thing like it, Lila’s stopped coming to school, and the Unicorns are going to be called the Cows because they have two horns and not one horn so they are better for identical twins. Are you — are you fucking kidding me right now?
Jessica goes to see Dr Q, though it’s offscreen. Next thing we know is that Jessica is hypnotising them again, and the game is on in the background because that worked so goddamn well last time. They all start shouting out baseball things, and jesus, I hope this turns into an elaborate prank even though nothing else we’ve seen makes it look like one because this is fucking painful.
Jessica goes to shout at Steven to turn off the game, they fight awhile, and finally she screams for him to take it back to normal (i.e., turn the volume down). This, of course, is the one thing she’s shouting that comes through for everyone else.
Good goddamn I hate this book.
Of course, she’s also managed to make them forget what baseball is. (No real loss there.)
Dr Q rocks up and we learn that Jessica never actually got to see her, which is, of course, why we didn’t see it onscreen. Jessica swears that everything is fine now, but Dr Q hears them talking about not knowing what baseball is. Dr Q is very unhappy and disappointed with her for playing with hypnosis as a toy.
Good god, just finish this already.
Dr Q fixes them, Elizabeth pretends she doesn’t remember a damn thing that happened after the first hypnosis (WHY? WHY WOULD SHE FORGET WHEN SHE WASN’T INSTRUCTED TO DO SO?), I hate everything. [Raven: Dr Q rocks up like the wise old shopkeeper at the end of Gremlins and sets everything straight. BAD WRITING IS BAD.]
And, of course, Dr Q also fixes Amy’s fear of flying.
Elizabeth goes and dumps a shake into Patman’s lap, because why? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but all he did was be his normal self. Jessica’s the reason you wanted to date him. Good lord.
Todd is, of course, thrilled when she comes back to him.
I hate this book.
Amy gives a successful interview in the helicopter and everyone watches. Yay.
Jessica jokes about hypnotising Alice and Ned because she needs a bigger allowance. She’s kind of serious about it, though, certain she can pull it off, because the tarot cards said she could.
What is even the goddamn point of this book? Nothing. Not one goddamn thing.
[Dove: I hate this book. Not as much as the stupid Nightmare Mansion series, but it was awful. How do Amy and Janet not realise they’re twins? Let’s just assume that when they look at each other, they do indeed assume that’s what their own face looks like, but how are they not confused that they have separate parents. This book is spread over a week or so, which means that “the twins” would have had to separate after school each day, because generally the SV parents are against mid-week slumber parties. And that’s all I can be bothered to raise, because everything else was even more stupid and far more boring.]
[Raven: I hate this book too. I hate that Jessica can apparently just hypnotise people now, when I’m pretty fucking sure she won’t do that at any point in any Sweet Valley book going forward. I hate the fact that they lost an opportunity for some fake-hypnosis shenanigans. I hate the fact that the school has an assembly about hyp-fucking-nosis which was just some charlatan doing a bark-like-a-dog cabaret turn. I just hate the whole damn thing. Steven was the best thing in this, which should show you how much it sucked.]