Sweet Valley Twins #103: Big Brother’s In Love Again

Sweet Valley Twins #104: Big Brother's In Love Again by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #104: Big Brother’s In Love Again by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #104: Big Brother’s In Love Again by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Big Brother’s In Love Again

Tagline: So many girls, so little time…

Summary: Steven Wakefield can’t believe it: beautiful, popular Jill Hale wants to go out with him! He knows that his girlfriend, Cathy Connors, will be heartbroken, but a guy’s got to play the field. After all, he once had a killer crush on Jill, and going out with her would be a dream come true.

And it is… until Steven starts missing Cathy. Jill may be pretty, but she can’t recite basketball statistics or tell gross jokes the way Cathy can. So just in time for Valentine’s Day, Steven decides to mend Cathy’s broken heart—he’ll take her back.

Cathy does want him back, doesn’t she?

Initial Thoughts:

Oh great. Another Steven Wakefield book.

Given the demographic this series courts, I don’t know who books that centre on Steven are written for. Would any pre-teen girl, who’s a fan of a series centring on a set of female pre-teen twins, really give a rat’s ass to read a book that centred on their obnoxious brother? Or is it that now, after 100 books, they realise that they only need release something in order to get the completionists buying their product?

Oh, and didn’t Steven already deduce that Jill was a big dud, in the very book in which he got together with Cathy? Yawn.

Also, in this recap, I use the word “bellend” forty times (forty-one if you include this one: bellend).

[Dove: Yeah, I’m already out. I’m never forgiving the lawnmower debacle, so Steven can absolutely get fucked. If he dumps Cathy, good for Cathy. If he ends up with the vapid tit with shiny hair instead, even better. That’s two morons out of the dating pool. I can only hope they’re too stupid to eventually breed.]

[Wing: I can’t. I can’t do another Steven’s in love book. I cannot.]

Recap:

We start this book about Steven with a scene that is thankfully Steven-free. It’s lunch, and both Amy and Elizabeth are discussing the upcoming Valentine’s Day street dance. Apparently, a street dance is a dance that happens on the street, and not some sort of urban You Got Served dance-off.

I’d read the SHIT out of a street dance You Got Served Sweet Valley Twins book.

[Wing: Hard same. Also, since when do they have street dances in Sweet Valley?]

Both of their (sort-of) boyfriends, Ken Matthews and Todd Wilkins, have yet to ask them to be their respective dates to the dance. And again, more with the “sort-of” boyfriend bollocks. I know it’s supposed to be a symptom of the relationship flightiness that all twelve-year-olds go through, swapping boyfriends and girlfriends like socks. If that were indeed the case, why are Ken and Todd still sort-of boyfriends after ONE HUNDRED FUCKING BOOKS? [Dove: To be fair, I think it’s more of a case that the series feels twelve year olds are too young for actual boy/girlfriends, they should only have crushes they do nothing with, so it’s their way of keeping it sanitised. I’m sure that Alice has said they’re “too young to date”. I know for certain that cousin Robin’s parents have said exactly that phrase. In the case of Jessica, it’s because she gets a crush on someone new every twenty paragraphs or so. It’s not entirely her fault, SVMS gets a new student every few days, and most of them are “sooooo cute”.]

The girls lightly laugh and suggest something more sinister might be going on to stop the boys asking them to the dance. Elizabeth, in a rare moment of uncertainty, entertains the idea that perhaps Todd has the hots for Cammi Adams, as Todd had been sort-of flirting with her during science class. I wouldn’t fret it, love. If he’s sort-of flirting, nothing concrete will become of it for one hundred more books. [Dove: Unless! … There is a book coming up called “Cammi’s Crush”, what if she makes a play for Todd and Elizabeth crushes her in a laundry press (which gives the title a clever double-meaning)? That’s my hope anyway.] [Raven: Good call!]

They posit the idea that they, the girls, could ask them, the boys. As it’s not quite The Age of Enlightenment in Sweet Valley, they are unsure of the etiquette, and dither and dally while watching Todd and Ken laughing and chatting at a distant table.

Talk turns to Jessica, and we hear the usual “same but different” spiel. Jessica’s beau, Aaron Dallas, joins Ken and Todd for faraway japes.

Suddenly, Winston Egbert appears, and for some fucking reason he’s obsessed with gargoyles. He does some ludicrous gargoyle impression routine, to general bafflement. As the girls ask Winston to kindly fuck off, he reveals that he plans on doing his Gargoyle Act at the upcoming dance, which is all sorts of weird. Apparently, he’ll be busking it on the kerb. Then he reveals the plot reason he’s there: to inform the girls of the basketball game / street dance clash.

That’s right folks, there’s an away game for the basketball team happening on the same day as the Valentines Day street dance. There will be the team coach and a couple of fan coaches heading out to Bumfuck Indiana to play / watch a basketball game, none of which will return in time to make the dance. [Dove: Why on earth would the school schedule a school dance at the same time as a school game? I don’t get this. There have been plenty of books that had neither event. Maybe one of those weeks could have housed one of them?] [Raven: I might be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a school dance? It’s not at the school… it’s in the street, right? I thought it was like a town dance or something.] [Wing: Why … why are they going so far away for a game? (Note: It is very possible that is a joke location from Raven. I have already burned this entire book from my memory.)]

Amy and Elizabeth consider the possibility that their sort-of boyfriends will sort-of drop the game and sort-of ask them to the dance instead. Todd, Ken and Aaron are all part of the team, so I can’t see that happening to be honest.

Eventually tiring of the incessant gargoyle shite, Amy and Elizabeth demand that Winston completely and totally fuck off into the sun. As he does so, he barrels int Ken and Todd, falling to the floor with a theatrical mug.

In the ensuing conversation, which is pleasantly sassy and silly, we learn that the Valentines Day street dance is the farthest thing from their minds. They are all about the basketball game, and nothing else.

Elizabeth had trouble finding her voice. “But how about the street dance?” she asked.

“We thought you’d take us to the dance that night,” Amy said.

“Oh, the dance.” Todd shrugged. “We can go dancing some other time.”

Ken nodded. “But it’s not every day you get to see Matthews and Wilkins in action.”

Typical Sweet Valley Males. Completely oblivious to the feelings and opinions of others.

Aside:

SPOLER ALERT…

I quite like this book. It’s written with sass, wit and verve.

BUT.

I’m pretty sick of the way the boys are portrayed. It’s one-dimensional and totally reductive.

Yeah, ladies, I can hear your howls of derision.

Looking at Winston, Todd and Ken here, they’re all overconfident idiotic dicks who can’t listen to another human, never mind a girl. These are not the Ken, Todd and Winston we’ve met before, but the ARE trending towards the Amorphous Blob of hackneyed humanity that passes for Sweet Valley Adolescent Maleness at this point in the series.

Steven is a prime example, of course, but we’ll get there in due time.

[Wing: They’re basically younger Stevens in this book.]

End aside.

The boys swan off imperiously, and we snap-cut to Jessica.

Jessica is shopping for groceries with her mother. Apparently, she hates this kind of shopping. I empathise with her, it must be so tiring pushing a shopping cart full of gin for hours on end. The Sainted Alice is buying the stock things that sound hideous for comic effect, such as eggplant and spinach casserole, and mushroom soup. Dunno what Jessica is complaining about, mushroom soup is lovely. [Wing: No.]

The talk turns to milk (yay!) then Steven (boo!) then basketball (meh.), and we learn that Aaron Dallas, like Todd and Ken, will be forgoing the Valentines Day street dance to play in the basketball match. PLOT!

[Dove: There’s also an absolutely delightful moment where Jessica thinks of Aaron as the boy she’d walk through fire for. Well, actually, just a non-air-conditioned room. The sass is immense.]

Alice bumps into Mrs Claybaugh, who is the mother of Pete Claybaugh, one of Steven’s friends. I’m right in saying we’ve no fucking clue who this chimp is, right? [Dove: Can confirm this is the case.] Apparently, Pete has two cousins visiting, one at sixth grade age and the other at seventh grade age.

After some hilarious confusion over their sexes (Jess presumes girls, but they are boys), Jessica goes from ice cold to red hot in the flip of a switch. She obviously dreams that they are super cuties, in an admittedly funny way.

The freckle-faced girls with the turned-up noses disappeared, to be replaced by a couple of really cute guys. Drop-dead gorgeous. Johnny Buck’s looks with Arnold Weissenhammer’s muscles. And Aaron Dallas’s smile…

No, scratch that, she told herself. Forget Aaron Dallas. As of now, he just might be history.

As she daydreams, the cousins actually appear, and to Jessica’s delight they are pretty much the cutest guys she’s ever seen. Jess vows to meet them. The game is afoot! She dashes off to find them.

Chapter 2, and we’re at the checkout. Jessica missed the cousins, and it’s happy. As a rather creepy cashier flirts with her, Jessica daydreams herself into another classic scrape. As she’s the only girl in town that knows of the cousins, she’s in the prime position to bag herself a hot date to the Valentine’s Day street dance. While all her dateless friends watch the coaches take their beaus to the distant basketball game, Jessica could be the lean meant in a cousin sandwich. This, it appears, is the B Plot. Jessica chasing the Claybaugh Cousins. Odd that we’ve not even seen Steven yet, in a book that’s centred on him. Long may that continue.

We then cut to Joe Howell and, yup, Steven Wakefield. So much for that moment of pleasure.

The boys are in Casey’s Place, eating sundaes and discussing girls. It’s established quickly that Joe is a ladies man who likes to play the field. He’s not ready to be tied down.

Steven, on the other hand, is going steady with Cathy Connors.

Steven sighed. “Going steady’s really worth it,” he said, thinking of his own girlfriend, Cathy Connors. “You know who you’re doing stuff with every Friday night. You’ve got a date for, like, every dance around. None of this calling two hours before you want to go someplace and getting the runaround. ‘Go on a date? With you? Like, tonight?’” he asked in a squeaky voice, pressing an imaginary phone to his ear. “’Oh, I’m sorry, Bo, I mean Joe, I couldn’t possibly. I have to stay home and wash my toenails.’” He made a contemptuous sound. “Playing the field. Who needs it?”

Nice enough sentiment I guess, but no mention of Cathy. It’s actually incredibly self-centred. “Man, I love going steady. I basically get all these fun perks. What’s my girlfriend like? Man, who gives a shit?”

Joe agrees in a non-committal way, before sauntering over to a pair of hotties and laying on the charm.

Look! It’s a another quote!

I couldn’t do that, Steven told himself. Even though I’m taller and handsomer and a better basketball player than Joe. He bit his lip. The truth was, just flirting with those girls would feel like cheating on Cathy. And he didn’t want to be cheating on his steady girlfriend.

Again, a nice sentiment, but couched in shittiness. I mean, “Even though I’m taller and handsomer and a better basketball player than Joe” … what a bellend! Does no-one have any self-doubt in these fucking books? [Dove: This is one of the many reasons I absolutely hate Steven. He endlessly functions on the idea that he’s the greatest thing ever and he’s entitled to everything. He’s an idiot who can’t stop shoving food in his face. I bet you could find a boy just as cute, just as stupid, but doesn’t endlessly eat/belch. It’s a low bar, but most males in SV are better than Steven, and he still thinks he’s the greatest. It’s not funny, it’s insufferable.] [Wing: Straight, well-off, white teen guy in a white-as-fuck rich town. Oh, the confidence of the mediocre.]

As Steven watched Joe work his magic, his resolve starts to fade. Who knows, maybe playing the field is where it’s at, man. Down with monogamy! Let’s put it about!

Aside:

I feel we’ve had this exact same plot device for Steven before. He has a girlfriend, he doesn’t want a girlfriend, he fucks about a bit, he discovers he’s wrong, he wants a girlfriend, he gets his girlfriend back.

It’s going to happen again, isn’t it.

Deep sigh…

End aside.

Back at the grocery store, the Sainted Alice attempts to cajole some smalltalk out of her psychotic offspring. It’s not working, as Jessica’s mind is fizzing with possibility.

She wonders if she should tell Lila about the two cousins, share the hot hunks with her best friend. She immediately dismisses the notion, as Lila is unreliable. She’d tell everyone, and the cousins would end up with Lila and Janet.

She then posits the idea of telling one of the cooler Unicorns, like Mandy Miller or Mary Wallace, before nixing that too. Janet would make them crumble like a block of Wensleydale.

Eventually, she comes to the “perfect” choice for a non-blabbing, non-crumbling partner in crime: Elizabeth.

Elizabeth would be the perfect person to tell about the brothers. She’d never blab, Jessica told herself, and she’ll probably take whichever one I don’t want.

Oh Jessica. Never change.

Great. We’re now back at Casey’s Place, as Joe returns to Steven’s booth. Joe has a date with one of the hotties, Kathleen, and he chats shit about their plans and the fact that Steven could have acquired a date with her friend if he weren’t such a committed one-woman guy.

To be fair, Joe isn’t a dick about any of this. So when Steven starts his obvious grumbling about his situation, admitting that his eyes, at least, play the field, Joe seems genuinely taken aback.

Suddenly, mid derisive snort, Steven smells something familiar in the air…

He took a deep breath. Funny. Somewhere in the air was a scent that reminded him of the perfume Jill Hale used to wear. Jill had been the last girl he’d dated before going with Cathy full-time. He’d long since gotten over Jill, but he had been kind of hot for her at the time….

No. Scratch that. He’d had a killer crush on her.

No mention of the fact that, when he dated her, she turned out to be a boring dud? No? I mean, why bother having Steven learn from a previous mistake? Let’s just have him make the same one again.

Jill’s not there, at this point. Just her scent is. Joe points out that Steven would be an idiot to ditch Cathy, which of course is just grist to the mill of his growing discontent. We end the scene with him positing the theory that it’s time for a change. WHAT A BELLEND.

Back with the Wonder Twins, and Jess is trying her best to convince her weaker half that she should join in her madcap scheme to secure cousin-shaped dates to the Valentines Day street dance.

“Trust me,” Jessica interrupted. “It’ll be the social coup of the century!”

“What if I don’t even want to be part of the social coup of the century?” Elizabeth shot back. Typical Jess, she thought, trying hard to put one over on her friends

Nice work, Elizabeth. Nice work, Ghostie, skewering Jessica’s main internal influencer.

[Wing: THE SOCIAL COUP OF THE CENTURY. I need all sorts of AUs where Jessica pulls off heists and government coups, etc.]

Jessica (and the Ghostie) do some fine work, playing on Elizabeth’s sense of romance, and claiming that Todd is a big dumb dud in that department. Good thing he’s got a nine-inch Wilkins.

Elizabeth doesn’t bite quite yet, but I predict she’ll soon fall in line with the domineering twin. Because if she didn’t we’d not have a B Plot.

Jess then turns to Steven, who apparently plays on the High School Basketball Team with the aforementioned Pete Claybaugh, in an attempt to have him secure a meet-cute with the Claybaugh Cousins. Can’t fault her logic, I guess.

We learn that high school kids will be at the Valentines Day street dance too, and that Joe Howell’s band will be playing. Joe Howell has a band? Since when? I thought the only student band was that ridiculous Bruce Patman one that Jessica sang for once?

Unfortunately for Jessica, she makes a tactical error.

“Um—you’ll be going with Cathy, right?”

“I guess so,” Steven sighed from deep inside the couch.

When she then asks her brother for the favour, he’s in no mode to help out. He cuts her down in short shrift, being extra snotty in the process.

Jessica is nonplussed, but an eavesdropping Elizabeth is incensed at her brother’s attitude.

“Of all the nerve!” Elizabeth whispered. Jessica turned to see her twin standing in the middle of the room, hands on hips, staring angrily at Steven’s back. “Some stupid street dance, huh?” She bit her lip. “We’ll show him!”

Jessica smiles. An angry Elizabeth is easier to manipulate. She may have failed to get a meet-up with the Claybaugh Cousins at this stage, but every cloud…

We skip to that evening. Cathy has arrived for her date with Steven, who’s getting ready upstairs. As he does, Jessica tells her all about the Claybaugh Cousins in an attempt to elicit her help in convincing Steven to lend a hand. Good old Jess, always with an angle.

Cathy agrees to help, for what its worth. The girls then discuss Cathy’s date. It’s a trip to the cinema. Steven gets to choose the movie, apparently, which seems a bit shit. Why no discussion? I presume this is a plot device.

Jessica believes he’ll pick something dumb, like Danger Zone Part Six. Cathy says he wouldn’t do that, as he knows that’s not her kind of thing.

So, he’s gonna pick Danger Zone Part Six. Standard.

I did like this…

“The review in the paper said there were seventy-six dead bodies in the first hour alone.”

“Really?” Jessica’s eyes widened. “Seventy-six?”

Jess, there’s more bodies buried in the Mercandy Backyard. Nice faux-shock you’re displaying there. [Dove: She may have killed more than seventy-six, but never in an hour.]

Aside:

As I said earlier, I do quite like this book. Mainly because it’s well-written, and sassy. And exchanges such as these make it so joyful.

I think this particular Ghostie is very good. I just wish the remit they worked off wasn’t so Steven-centric. The entire B Plot in this book is fantastic. The A Plot is well written, but springs from a rank and corrupted well.

Such a shame.

Steven is a BELLEND.

End aside.

Steven enters, not looking totally obnoxious. Cathy gently raises the Claybaugh Cousins, but Steven shoots her down. He then reveals the movie they’ll be attending that evening.

Danger Zone, Part Six,” Steven said sharply. Dropping Cathy’s hand, he took her elbow and started toward the door. “And we’re going to be late, so we’d better hurry.”

Danger Zone?” Cathy frowned. “But, Steven, you know that’s not my kind of movie.”

“You’ll like it,” Steven said impatiently. “You shouldn’t be prejudiced against movies you’ve never seen, just because there’s a bunch of dead bodies and a couple of explosions and one scene where a guy gets his head chopped off by a helicopter. Being prejudiced isn’t, like, a good character trait.” He turned to face Cathy. “Anyway, Danger Zone’s what I’m seeing tonight. You coming or not?”

See, now that’s nicely written. Genuine smiles at the description of the action from Danger Zone Part Six. And Steven is being portrayed as the total heel bellend he is, again with skill. The Ghostie makes me want to punch him in his fictional face. So 100% the Ghostie is doing a perfect job, making the book fun and engaging.

But I just HATE Steven. [Dove: Isn’t that the problem though? I already wanted to punch Steven in the face before this book. She’s just adding reasons why.]

I’d read the HELL out of non-Steven books by the same Ghostie. I hope there’s more to come.

As the twins watch in horror, Cathy meekly submits to Steven’s crappiness, and the couple trot off to the movies. Elizabeth grimly deduced that Todd would likely become Steven in a couple of years, and finally caves to her baser instincts.

Elizabeth sighed. “Save your breath, Jess!” she told her twin. After watching the way Steven had treated Cathy tonight, maybe she was ready to show Todd that he wasn’t the only guy in the world. “Count me in!”

Again, nice work Ghostie. A believable turn to the Dark Side for the pious Wakefield.

We cut to Steven and Cathy, with Steven being the total BELLEND he is. Cathy is asking perfectly reasonable questions about his motivation and conduct, and Steven snaps and shoots them down.

Over the course of a few paragraphs, we see Cathy being completely reasonable, and hear Stevens inner monologue revealing the depths of his self-centred idiocy. Let’s look at some of the highlights.

There’s this:

“I wanted to make sure we got good seats, OK?”

“But—” Cathy looked around the mostly empty theater, frowning. “There are plenty of good seats, Steven. Why didn’t—”

“Because!” Steven snapped. No, scratch that, he told himself. He hadn’t meant to sound like a jerk. If there’s one thing I’m not, he thought, it’s a jerk.

And this:

He still liked her an awful lot. Admired her too. But Joe’s words were ringing in his ear. All the stuff he’d said about not being tied down. About getting bored. This is, what, the sixty-third Friday night in a row that we’ve spent together?

And this:

“Want some popcorn?” he asked grudgingly, handing her the tub.

Cathy didn’t turn to look at him. She gave a slight shake of the head.

“OK, OK,” Steven said, glad that she hadn’t said yes. More for me. And you can’t say I didn’t try

And this:

I’m too young to be tied down, that’s the deal, he told himself. It sounded pretty good, so he thought it again. I’m too young to be tied down yet, and if I keep going out with Cathy every stupid Friday night I’ll hurt her eventually, even though it’s, like, the last thing in the world I’d do on purpose.

This is perhaps where my biggest hatred of Steven springs from. I despise his asinine self-justifications, and his delusions that he’s “not a jerk” or he’s “handsome and desirable”. He’s CLEARLY a bellend, but his self-image and confidence is preposterous. Like all the boys in Sweet Valley, there’s not one atom of space for doubt, or insecurity, or humanity, or anything. It’s BELLENDS, all the way down.

[Dove: I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but I find this kind of justification dangerous. I feel like every time someone is accused of rape, their friends and family immediately come out with, “he’s such a nice guy”, “he’d never hurt a woman”. I don’t quite know what I’m trying to say here, except that with this mindset that Steven has, that nobody corrects for him, I could totally see Steven at some point in the future being accused of rape, and everyone defending him, and I would totally believe that someone who acted like him did it. It’s the entitlement, the belief that he’s a good person (he’s not, we have significantly more evidence that Steven is a bastard than the contrary), and the justifications. Again, going back to Nightmare Mansion, when he pranked the kids who were being babysat and didn’t understand what he did wrong because he found it funny, who cares if the teeny kids are crying and traumatised. And then he decided to pull the same prank a second time. Basically, I know there are a load of jokes (or “jokes”) about Bruce being a date-rapist in SVH, but the with all the evidence we have to hand, my money would be on Steven.] [Raven: Agreed, with the caveat that we should probably keep it light. This ain’t Bleak Valley. 🙂 ] [Wing: Eh, but that’s part of the problem, that this sort of thing is normalized instead of being treated as something serious. Yes, Steven is coming across as a bellend (I do love that word), but it’s not coming across as an actual serious thing that is a problem, more like the Steven version of wacky hijinks. (Annoying hijinks.) And yes, I get that Sweet Valley isn’t here to do that, and not ever book that presents a character like this has to handle it in a specific way, but Dove’s point is a good one and shouldn’t be relegated to a Bleak Valley segment. It’s a discussion that is important, and, for me, an important part of why and how we recap.]

Steven sees a bunch of supposed Big Men on Campus, a crowd of cool high school boys, including the captain of his basketball team Richard Ferris. Apparently, they actually CALL THEMSELVES the Big Men on Campus, which is laughable. Nice work, Ghostie, if that was intentional.

The Big Men on Campus are predictably idiotic, pranking each other and bolstering Steven’s ill-conceived notion that he’d be better off without a Cathy-shaped albatross holding him back. He rushes to join them, and when asked if he’s with Cathy he wish-washes a shitty answer that’s completely noncommittal. They ask him to join them watch the film, and the scene ends with him dithering.

Snap cut to the B Plot, and Jessica is scheming with Elizabeth. At nine pm, they plan on walking past the Claybaugh house. Jessica is PRIME SCHEMER.

“Yeah.” Jessica’s grin grew wider. “Maybe I could, like, fall down when they come by and pretend to be hurt big time. You know, like one of them ran me over with his skateboard? Then they’d have to take us inside and put bandages on me and—”

“Whoa!” Elizabeth cut in. Trust Jessica to come up with some crazy scheme. She shook her head. “You can’t do that.”

Jessica counters with sure, SHE couldn’t do that… but Elizabeth could!

Nice work Ghosite. Never change, Jessica.

Back with the bellends, and, predictably, Steven dumps Cathy to watch the film with the Big Men on Campus, which is a total dick move. Again, his justification in doing so riles me up, but happily Cathy is joined by a couple of her own friends so she’s not merely abandoned.

To compound this litany of bellend-level shite, Steven also notices Jill Hale, sat in the row directly behind Richard Ferris’s seat. He immediately falls for her, OF COURSE.

After going out with Cathy for so long, maybe he needed just a little change. Nothing against Cathy, of course. Just that he needed a little oomph. A little extra. A little Jill Hale.

Additionally, Jill Hale is looking straight at him, smiling and waving. BAM! He’s obviously in there. Go get some, you fatuous prick!

He positions himself as close to Jill as is humanly possible, before settling to watch the movie with the Big Men on Campus.

Once the movie is over, Steven looks to Cathy, but she’s nowhere to be seen. Before he can do anything about that (as if he would), he’s accosted by none other than the husky Jill Hale, who’s obviously warm for his form.

Quick aside to the Wakefiled Twins, hiding behind a hedge near the Claybaugh House. In their half-hour of low-level creepy stalking, there has been no sigh of the Claybaugh Cousins. Jessica had even sneaked a peek though a window (HAH!), to no avail. There’s a rustling in the bushes behind them, and we cut back to Steven and Jill.

Jill, it seems, WANTS STEVEN’S COCK.

She’s in full-on eyelash-fluttering arm-stroking joke-laughing Predator Mode, and Steven is in her sights. Steven is ecstatic, but takes a pause.

Steven took a deep breath. She’s going for me! he thought with delight. Then, in the next moment, he was sure she wasn’t. Hadn’t she been dating Ferris? No, couldn’t be. Ferris had just been talking about how great it was to play the field. Maybe he dumped her? Or she dumped him?

He concludes that no, it’s all good, Jill is dedicated to hooking up with Steven without any inappropriate agenda. Because OF COURSE HE DOES. Isn’t ANYONE tethered to a fucking SLIVER of reality in this fucking town?

So, as a reader, at this point it’s safe to deduce that Jill Hale is looking to make her one-time beau Richard Ferris jealous by giving Steven a handjob behind the bins out back of the cinema. Fair.

The Big Men on Campus invite Steven to join them for pizza, which seems to irritate Jill. Again, vacillating between two options, Steven decides that his best course of action is to take Jill for a burger and then skating.

Jill, smiling into Richard Ferris’s nonplussed face, agrees immediately.

The Big Men on Campus fuck off, and then Jill actually gives Steven an out. An out which he predictably fails to take.

“Are you sure you’re not, you know, dating anybody?” Jill asked, a worried expression on her face. “I thought I’d been seeing you around with Cathy Connors.”

She spoke the name as if it were a disease, but Steven was too pleased with himself to care. “Well,” he admitted, scuffing the carpet with the tip of his shoe, “sort of. Off and on.” He shrugged casually. “Nothing serious.”

I fucking HATE HIM. Maybe this is another product of the rippling current of “sort-of” boyfriend / girlfriend nonsense we have seen throughout the series, but I doubt it. Steven and Cathy have been presented as solid in the series so far, so fuck Steven, fuck Jill, and fuck this fucking plot.

Aside:

What REALLY annoys me is that I’m assuming that, by the end of the book, everything will have been sorted out, and Steven and Cathy will be back together as if nothing has changed.

I understand why that has to be the case is an episodic series with no real character development – the girls STILL question the supernatural, when they’ve seen and interacted with ghosts on multiple occasions – but this conceit only serves to make me even more appalled by Steven’s actions now.

And what a shitty message! “Go ahead and treat people as disposable, run roughshod over their feelings, because your relationship will get a factory reset after a week or so. Don’t worry, they’ll come crawling back no matter what you do.”

Appalling.

End aside.

They both head off to the burger / skate / handjob spot, and we cut to the twins.

Apparently, it was Cathy Connors in the bushes, which makes no kinds of fucking sense whatsoever.

Cathy fills them in on their brother’s idiocy. Apparently, she and her friends left the bodycount movie after twenty minutes and went to see a chick flick instead. She also tells the twins that she’s off… skating. So! More fireworks to come.

Jessica tells Cathy of their plan. Elizabeth suggests that they should pack it in, but Cathy is surprisingly pro-Jessica. She even suggests that Todd Wilkins could be a self-centred as Steven.

Elizabeth pictures Cammi Adams again, and Jessica convinces her to stay the course and continue their stalking. For another half hour, at least.

Chapter Five begins mid-stalk, as the twins, still ensconced outside the Claybaugh House, are stumbled upon by none other than Janet Howell. Jessica is immediately on the defensive, as she knows that she can’t let Janet know what she’s doing, lest Janet decide that she too wants a bit of the old Claybaugh Cousin action.

Elizabeth starts spilling the beans, but Jessica shuts that shit down in grand sitcom style by stamping on her sister’s foot. And in a lightning strike of genius improv, she distracts Janet by dangling the one thing she knows will pique the uni-leader’s interest… Denny Jacobson. She declares that Denny J had recently sashayed past, heading for the Dairi Burger, arm in arm with a FLOOZIE. [Dove: Not just any floozie, but Ellen Riteman is dragged into this as the floozie in question.] [Wing: Damn it, Jess, anyone but her. Leave Ellen alone.]

Janet bites hard, and dashes off to find her beau with a note of thanks.

As Elizabeth marvels at her sister’s continued chutzpah, the Claybaugh’s door opens! It’s the Elder Claybaughs, taking in the air and delivering convenient plot exposition. Pete and the Cousins have apparently been at the beach, after which they’re headed to… Dairi Burger.

Delightful!

Jessica barrels off to the Dairi Burger, with Elizabeth in lukewarm pursuit. They sprint through neighbourhood gardens in an apparent shortcut, displaying fine Ferris Bueller style (and there’s a character called Richard Ferris… this Ghostie knows their onions, people!).

As they near their goal, they predictably bump into… Janet Howell.

Jessica, glorious Jessica, thinks on her feet.

Jessica knew she was going to have to wing it. Somehow, she’d have to keep Janet out of the Dairi Burger. What could she say? Vicious dogs in the bathrooms? Puddles all over the floor? Poisoned doggy treats—yes! “It’s the hamburgers, Janet,” she explained, making her eyes wide with alarm. “It just came over the radio! The, um, health department announced that they found, like, dog hair in the Dairi Burgers!” No, dog hair wasn’t gross enough. “I mean, roaches!” She elbowed her sister. “Right, Lizzie?”

Janet balks, but buys into the fantasy. However, instead of driving her away, she’s determined to enter the Dairi Burger to save her poor Denny for a roach-infested burger nightmare.

Grimly, Jessica offers to help. The three enter the Dairi Burger, each with wildly different plans.

Once inside, Elizabeth tries to be the predictable and boring voice of reason. Things have gone far enough. Jessica snarls her into silence, and manoeuvres Janet away from the Claybaughs.

“Do you hear me, Denny?” There was panic in Janet’s voice. “They just said it on the radio, Denny! There are bugs in—”

Elizabeth hoped there was no one in the restaurant that she knew. Good thing our dad’s a lawyer, she thought uncomfortably.

Excellent stuff. [Dove: Really? I hate this sub-plot too. Everything’s just too hectic and I want to slap everyone involved. Although I agree the Jamie in question is oozing with sass, I just wish she’d been given a better book.] [Raven: But this sub-plot is peak Jessica and – spoilers – they don’t get dates with the Hot Cousins. So that’s refreshing at least.] [Wing: I really wish we knew who this ghostie is because if they’ve written anything else, I’d like to give it a try. Excellent sass for a terrible book.]

This whole scene is complete gas. Eventually, Jessica propels Janet into the bathroom and then locks her in. I bloody love this Jessica. Literally stopping at nothing, happy for everything to escalate in a humorous and climactic way. I can legitimately see this ending with someone getting stabbed. Glorious.

Unfortunately for the twins, but fortunately for us as it means these shenanigans continue, the Claybaugh party depart in the ensuing fracas, so it’s back to square one.

The girls dash to the parking lot in a futile pursuit. Jessica thinks she spots their car pulling out.

“Is that them?” she asked, grabbing her sister’s arm and yanking her down the stairs toward the moving car.

“Um—” Elizabeth frowned. “I don’t know.”

“Well, find out!” Jessica snapped. “Go lie down in front of it or something!”

This Ghostie gets Jessica. Amazing!

Before things get worse, Elizabeth’s attention is drawn to a new element of intrigue… Steven Wakefield walking hand-in-hand with Jill Fucking Hale.

As the twins watch, Pete Claybaugh leans out of the car and hails Steven. There’s some banter. Pete is driving. Now, I thought Pete was the same age as Steven? If so, that’s fourteen… too young to drive, unless I’m mistaken? US folk, care to elaborate? [Dove: No, I think Pete’s a few years older, which is one of the reasons Steven didn’t want to set up a meeting for the cousins and his sisters in that first scene. Pete’s older and cooler, and setting up tween double-dates wouldn’t do his repuation any good. But mostly because Steven is a selfish and idiotic asshole who doesn’t still doesn’t realise that things escalate if you tell Jessica “no”.] [Wing: Ah, that makes sense. Fourteen is too young for regular driving like this, though in some places you can get what’s basically a farm work license around that age so you can, well, do work on a farm that involves driving.]

The twins continue watching as an outrageously flirtatious Jill accompanies Steven into Dairi Burger.

We skip to Steven’s point of view, and this fantastic opening sentence:

The Dairi Burger was a little more chaotic than usual, Steven thought as he found a table by the phone booth and helped Jill into her seat. In the background he could make out some manager type wiggling the door to the ladies’ room with a fork while somebody inside was yelling.

Beautiful.

We then sit through a date in which we learn that Steven’s choice of burger is actually pretty damn cool (half a pound of beef, two kinds of cheese, Canadian bacon, steak fries, double onion rings, salsa, jalapeno peppers), and Jill’s choice is crap (garden salad, sparkling water). Steven also uses his date’s opportune bathroom break to call Cathy and dump her.

First, how is Jill using the ladies room if Janet is locked inside?

And second, STEVEN IS A BELLEND.

In the breakup, he actually uses the “it’s not you, it’s me” defence, alongside the “I need to play the field” line. I realise he’s written at this point to make you hate him, so well done Ghostie, but as I hated him long before I opened this fucking book this only served to pinpoint the heat of my rage like a focussed welding flame.

Also, this bit?

“You wouldn’t want me to sacrifice my own happiness, would you?”

There was silence. “No, I wouldn’t,” Cathy said slowly. “Only there are my own feelings to consider too, and—”

The door to the ladies’ room clicked open and a vision of loveliness stepped out. Jill. Steven could feel his heart beginning to thump. “Talk to you later, Cath,” he said, and hung up.

ABSOLUTELY FUMING.

The date continues, with Jill laughing at Steven’s jokes and doing her best to snare him. Steve is proving easy to snare.

Bizarrely, talk turns to “that poor English princess.” At first I assumed this was Lady Di, but the dates (and subsequent comments about a “deal”) don’t add up. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were divorced in 1996, the year this book was released, so I guess it’s this that’s being referenced. Strangely out of place, for some reason. [Dove: Wasn’t it about Lady Di’s divorce, rather than her death? That’s how I read it anyway. Nobody gives a shit about Sarah Ferguson. Not even monarchy-obsessed Americans.] [Raven: Just checked. Seems they both divorced in 1996. Talk about an Annus Horribilis. In that case, it was definitely Diana.] [Wing: Absolutely Diana, since I went, Sarah who? Andrew what? but Diana’s divorce and then death were everywhere here, even for people who aren’t monarchy-obsessed. (Me. I mean me.)]

The date cements Steven’s resolve that ditching Cathy and hooking up with Jill is the correct decision.

Cutting back to the Wakefield Compound, Jessica convinces Elizabeth that they should head back to the Claybaugh House for another round of creepy stalking. Elizabeth is convinced it’s too late, and I actually agree, because all this kicked off at what, ten pm? Nevertheless, Jess obviously gets her way, and they head back.

Back at the date, we see more of Steven and Jill. They’re now at the skating rink, but Jill isn’t interested in skating. She just wants to sit and chat bollocks. While buying Jill a 7Up, he spots Cathy skating, happily, with her friends, and concludes that she’s putting on a brave face, because OF COURSE she must be broken up after losing him in such a fashion. Again, WHAT A BELLEND. [Wing: Wait, do they have cell phones now? I thought no, but how did he manage to call Cathy when we already saw her headed to skating earlier?]

He has a tiny pang of guilt, before convincing himself that he is doing the right thing. Jill is amazing.

In a quick skip to the Claybaugh House, we learn Jessica’s astounding new plan: stand outside their home and yell “Fire!”

*blinks*

AMAZING.

Go go go, you ridiculous sociopath.

Elizabeth tries to talk her off the ledge, but Jessica yells it anyway.

Back at the rink, Steven takes it upon himself to apologise to Cathy for the situation that’s arisen. Happily, Cathy completely no-sells the entire conversation.

“Huh?” Cathy looked blank.

Steven frowned. That wasn’t supposed to be her reaction. The pool. poor kid. She’s probably so upset her heart’s shut down. “I feel terrible about it, but, hey, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” It had been one of the few complete lines of dialogue from Danger Zone, Part Six.

Cathy kept staring at him.

For crying out loud, Cath, would you say something? “I wish there was more than one of me so you wouldn’t have to be alone,” he went on. “But, you know, it’s cruel irony and the hand of fate and it’s as painful for me as it is for you,” he finished, trying to look miserable.

Again, this is written very well, and it does make me want to punch Steven, but as I can’t stand him whatever he does it just makes me want to burn this book to the ground.

Aside:

This could actually be a legitimate worry. I think Steven cannot be redeemed in this series.

This book is well-written and plotted, and the Ghostie is working hard to make us dislike Steven so he can have a redemptive climax. But even so, whenever he’s front-and-centre I want to hoof it into the sun.

I think the only palatable Steven I’m willing to accept going forward is the passing-through Steven that wanders into the kitchen, cracks an off-colour joke, grabs a cookie, and fucks off.

[Dove: I’m still hoping that someone kills him off in a Very Special Episode about cancer or something. Or maybe he can get killed in a hit-and-run with a drunk driver. I’m fine with it being a PSA, as long as he’s dead.]

End aside.

Cathy hip-slams the colossal bellend into the rink rail and skates away. [Wing: I love you, Cathy.]

The chapter ends with a brief aftermath of Jessica’s bogus fire-call. Apparently, the Claybaughs aren’t home, but their neighbours are disturbed enough to dash outside in terror and call the fire brigade. Amazing stuff.

Next chapter, and it’s Saturday morning. Janet calls Jessica to admonish her for the Roaches debacle, which Jess deflects with ease. Janet invites the twins to her brother’s band practice later that morning.

In fact, we cut to the practice immediately. There, the Unicorns lament the shitty timing of the street dance and basketball game clash, bemoaning that no one will have dates due to SPORTSBALL.

Jessica can’t resist boasting, which is a bit rich as she’s technically got nothing to boast about. Classic Jess!

She declares that she and her sister are ready to rock the Valentines Day street dance with a pair of Mystery Dates. Ellen, Janet and the rest are unconvinced, and eventually, a wager is proffered.

If the twins show up with dates, Janet vows to say that her brother’s band is better than Johnny Buck’s band, into the microphone, at the Valentines Day street dance.

If the twins DON’T show up with dates, they have to show up dressed exactly alike, and dance every dance together.

Gotta say, that’s a pretty one-sided bet. I mean, if Joe’s band have been employed to provide music for the street dance, they can’t be completely shit. I’m sure the crowd at the dance will enjoy them, so having someone say how good they are over the microphone isn’t that shocking.

Having the twins dress up like rejects from The Shining, and having them dance together all night? Now THAT’S a forfeit. [Dove: That should be the forfeit of every Sweet Valley bet. I’m here for it.]

Once the bet is in place, Lila Fowler rocks up, with News. Apparently, she’s just seen two totally cute boys at the pharmacy. That’s right, the Claybaugh Cousins have been discovered by the gagging Unicorn populace. Jessica turns white in shock.

Hah!

The throng goes wild. Who are these mysterious boys? Inquiring minds what to know!

Then, to Jessica’s dismay, Pete Claybaugh walks in, to chat shot with the practicing guitarist Joe. Talk between the boys begins to drift toward Unicorn-age-appropriate cousins, and Jessica is desperate to deflect. So she does the only sensible thing.

Not daring to wait another moment, she did the only thing she could: dive into the drum set. “Ow!” she yelled as drums, cymbals, and mallets crashed all around her.

“Oh, Jessica,” Janet said in a voice that oozed disapproval.

PERFECT! Jess, never ever change.

Oh, and Janet’s comment? Gold. This will reflect badly on the Unicorns.

Joe banishes all middle schoolers from the garage practice. The Claybaugh Cousins remain Jessica’s secret… for now.

As the twins leave, they see Cathy Connors enter the garage. She begins an unheard chat with Joe… the girls are suspicious, but they are vowed to track down those pesky Claybaugh Cousins post-haste. [Wing: I immediately started shipping Cathy and Joe. IMMEDIATELY. Fuck off into the fires of hell, Steven Wakefield.]

Chapter Eight cuts to the following evening. It’s the Wakefield Compound, and Steven is preparing for a date. Suddenly, a wild Joe Howell appears at the foot of the stairs.

First, Joe confirms with Steven that yes, Steven has indeed broken up with Cathy Connors. Steven also confirms that he’s now dallying with Jill Hale.

Next, Joe predictably asks his friend if he has Steven’s blessing to romantically pursue Cathy Connors himself.

Joe, you sly dog.

Steven searches his soul, and deduces that, as he’s now with Jill, letting Cathy find a new fella is only fair.

Steven nodded, slowly at first, then faster.

I’ve hurt Cathy, after all, he told himself. And it wouldn’t be fair to keep her from finding happiness with—someone else.

If she can.

Oh, FUCK OFF you arrogant bellend.

He also doubts Joe’s chances of hooking up with Cathy. Because Cathy has taste. Which is a bit rich, if you ask me, considering her choice of boyfriend until now.

We skip to Steven and Jill’s date, which is taking place at what I assume is a pre-teen club. Jill likes the place, as she’s a regular, apparently, with a host of boys from the Big Men on Campus (that includes Richard Ferris). Steven is stoked to be included in such esteemed company. He asks Jill to dance, but again, she’d rather shit and chat nonsense.

“Oh.” Slowly Steven sat down. “OK. Um—what do you want to talk about?”

“Oh, whatever,” Jill said lightly. “What do you think of, let me see, lemon juice?”

Lemon juice? Steven frowned. “What do you mean?”

Jill wants to discuss hair care products and regimes, such as using lemon juice to dye her hair blonde in places. Over the course of a few paragraphs, the Ghostie does a fine job of convincing us that Jill is a wittering imbecile. When the talk turns to the benefits of eating banana peels, Steven cracks the weakest joke I’ve ever seen.

“So make sure you eat a lot of banana peels, OK?”

“Banana peels?” Steven shook his head. “Listen, do you want to dance now?” he asked hopefully.

“Of course, banana peels,” Jill burbled, looking at him reproachfully. “I read all about in More Beautiful You magazine. It’s one of the biggest health problems in this country today.”

Steven was almost certain that he had personally never eaten a banana peel in his entire life, and he was in pretty darn good health. At least, he thought he was. But he flexed a bicep just to make sure. He grinned. “What do they call it—vitamin Y deficiency?” he asked.

“Huh?” Jill stared at him as if he came from outer space.

“Joke,” Steven explained. “You know, like, vitamin Y? Y for yellow, and banana skins are yellow?” It was sort of feeble, he had to admit. “Ha ha and all that?”

Jill frowned. “Oh,” she said. “You were making a joke. I get it.” But she didn’t laugh or even smile.

Okay, so this is supposed to show that Jill is a dud. In fact, the following sentences see Steven regretfully admit that Cathy would have liked that joke, and that Jill doesn’t actually want to DO anything. But seriously, I’m not surprised she didn’t laugh. Sure, Steven does lampshade the shitness of his supposed “joke”, but it’s barely even a SENTENCE, never mind a JOKE. Absolutely fucking atrocious.

Some random girl called Sally approaches Jill, talking as if they are good friends. She invites Jill to a party the following week, weakly gestures towards Steven, and asks the following…

“You can come if you want. I guess. Hey, Jill, I thought you were dating—”

“Oh, that’s all over now,” Jill interrupted, winding her arm around the back of Steven’s neck. “Some people appreciate me and some… just don’t.” She smiled at Steven. “Some people don’t think it’s so cool just to go off and play the field.”

So there we have it. Almost conclusive proof that Jill is merely using Steven in order to get back at Richard Ferris. So as things stand, Jill will win back Richard, Joe will date Cathy, and Steven will be shit outta luck. Good.

Of course, that’s not what WILL happen. Steven will get back with Cathy. And I will hoof this book into the sea.

The Big Men on Campus breeze past, and Jill puts on a flirty show for Richard. Steven is happy that his social standing is improving, which means he’s even more of a bellend than I’m giving him credit for.

Back with the twins in the plot that’s actually engaging. Jessica suggests they make a simple phone call to the Claybaugh house and ask to speak to the cousins. Before she chickens out, Jessica leaps in with both feet and gives it a go. Attagirl, Jess!

The phone connects to Mrs Claybaugh. Jessica instinctively feels that her best chance is through Pete, so she asks for him.

He comes to the phone, grumpy that he’s been dragged from his important Spanish revision for the following day’s test. Jessica asks for a Cousin, and gets told to strongly do one.

So much for THAT plan.

Monday rolls around, and Jill is holding court at the high school lunch table. Steven is sat there, rather bored with talk of broken nails and makeup, but still pleased with his increased social status and his connection with the foxy Jill.

At another table, within earshot, Cathy and Joe are lunching together. They are obviously on the verge of a relationship, but OF COURSE Steven believes Cathy’s behaviour is all down to her pining for a bit of the old Steven Beef.

I can’t cause her this much distress, he told himself, watching with tight lips as Cathy and Joe strolled smiling across the cafeteria.

I just can’t let her go on like this… so… unhappy.

I fucking hate this guy. Like, that’s now all I can talk about in this recap. Whenever I read his name, or mention something he does, all I have is “I hate this bellend”. I honestly don’t know what I’m adding to this recap at this point.

Steven does X … I hate this bellend.

Steven does Y … I hate this bellend.

Steven does a shit on a swan … I hate this bellend.

Steven cures COVID19 … I hate this bellend.

[Dove: Welcome to where I’ve been at for months now. Also the last one would be more like “Steven takes credit for Queen Dolly’s contribution for the COVID vaccine”, because that’s who he is. I actually really want him to die. Let the family be sad. I’m cool with that. Let it teach a valuable lesson. Just kill him off. Or send him to school in Europe. I’m not fussed, just get him out of the books.]

In order to help Cathy get over her monumental loss, Chapter Nine opens with Steven visiting her at home. He fully expects her to fawn over him, fall into his arms, all the usual delusional cockvomit.

Happily, she’s as cold as fucking ice. He has the stone cold gall to ask her to the Valentines Day street dance, happy to take her back as long as he can still continue with Jill. She tells him to fuck off, and says she’s glad he dumped her as now she can attend the dance with Joe.

Steven takes it as well as you’d expect.

Steven shook his head. He absolutely, positively, could not believe it. How could anybody, especially somebody with Cathy’s good taste, prefer Joe Stupid Howell to Steven (the Great) Wakefield? “And I apologized too,” he muttered, walking away from the door and staring up at Cathy’s house.

*deep breath*

I hate this bellend.

Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that he couldn’t live without Cathy, so it was time to revert back to the status quo that was present at the start of this book. Jill is as dull as mist, and Cathy is cool.

Seriously, you don’t deserve anyone, you fucking asshat.

BAM! Straight to the B Plot, and both Jessica and Elizabeth are at the Claybaugh doorstep. They are brandishing clipboards, and have hit on the perfect idea to gain egress to the Claybaugh House and thus the Claybaugh Cousins.

The Wakefields claim to be market researchers, looking to ask some probing questions to people in the “ten to fourteen” range. Inspired! Unfortunately, after trying to finagle her way onto the poll herself, Mama Claybaugh has some devastating news… the Claybaugh Cousins have gone home.

PLOT TWIST!

There are now NO Claybaugh Cousins available to be the mystery dates! How does Jessica get the twins out of this one? [Dove: Um, call those twins from The Ghost in the Graveyard that joined the school and have never been seen again? I’m sure everyone’s forgotten they exist. Boom. Dates.]

Back at the Wakefield Compound, we have a brief scene in which the A Plot and B Plot collide. Steven is glum because Cathy treated him badly (WHAT A BELLEND), and the twins are bickering because it looks like there’s no way they can win their bet with Janet.

Steven fills the twins in about what’s happened between him and Cathy. As he tells them, he becomes more resolved to win Cathy back. Predictably, the twins are derisory. They realise that Steven is, well, a bellend.

He asks for their help in winning her back, and in return he’ll help the twins get dates with the Claybaugh Cousins. In fact, he tells them, he’s already set most of that up. He spoke to Pete the previous night, laying the groundwork, and all he needs to do is give the go ahead.

The twins, knowing this is COMPLETE bullshit because the Claybaugh Cousins are long gone, agree to help him. I smell shenanigans!

Steven sighed with relief on his way up the stairs. Amazingly enough, the girls had agreed to his plan. He did feel a little ashamed at the way he’d fooled them. The truth was, he hadn’t said word one to Claybaugh about fixing up the twins with dates for the dance. “But I will talk to him,” he muttered to himself, walking into his room and pulling paper out of his desk drawer. “After this goes down. Probably, anyway.”

All together now… WHAT A BELLEND.

Tuesday afternoon, Steven’s plan is put into action. It should go like this: The Wakefield Kids, having tracked Cathy to the pharmacy, will act out a little scene as she exits. The scene involves Jessica, in tears, opening up to her worldly wise older brother, whose compassion and empathy will wow Cathy into running into his arms and metaphorically dropping her knickers.

Of course, Jessica has other ideas. She vamps off script immediately, accusing Steven, loudly, of being an unhelpful creep. Elizabeth wades in too, telling him to back off his distraught sister. Steven is fuming, while Cathy is furious at Steven’s insensitivity. [Dove: This? This I loved.]

“Steven Wakefield!” Cathy stamped her foot. Guiltily, Steven let go of his sisters. “I can’t believe you’re doing this! You’re an even bigger creep than I thought!”

Jessica nodded and began to cry all over again.

Cathy shook her head. “Listen, girls,” she said, “you come see me anytime you want to talk, OK?” She stared hard at Steven. “About anything,” she added meaningfully, and she stalked away.

Good work, girls. Show that bellend that he can’t get away with this shit.

[Wing: Fuck, I love Cathy.]

Once Cathy has departed, the girls become all smiles, mocking Steven directly and letting him know he had no intention of helping them secure dates for the Valentines Day street dance. They give each other a metaphorical High Five and strut away, before remembering that they are still dateless for the dance. Oh Noes!

Steven, double-crossed, is now convinced that he and Cathy are officially history. No matter, he thinks. He’s still got Jill. All is good.

Then he sees Jill, happily arm-in-arm with…

A naked Mr Nydick!

Nope, that’s not it… a happy Richard Ferris!

With a heavy heart, he darts behind a nearby bush and watches a clearly-together Richard and Jill pairing enter the pharmacy.

Why is everyone going to the pharmacy? Condoms, probably. Or is hanging at the drugstore an American tradition? [Wing: Definitely condoms.]

We’re getting to the thin end now, thank fuck.

Here’s a thing, though. Tuesday night, Steven wallowing, and who comes over but… Joe Howell. He’s visiting on the pretext of returning a borrowed algebra book, but uses the opportunity to mention his growing relationship with Cathy.

Steven, in a fit of jealousy, has the following BELLEND thing to say when Joe suggests he might invite Cathy to the Valentines Day street dance…

“Listen, Joe,” he said, his brain whizzing furiously, “there’s something I gotta tell you about her. About Cathy, I mean.”

Joe raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“She’s, like, two-faced,” Steven said quickly before he could change his mind. “I don’t know if she’s been, you know, encouraging you,” he went on, “but you need to know that she called me last night.”

“She did not either.” Joe shook his head violently.

“She did too,” Steven snapped. What was another lie compared to all the ones he’d told already this week? Feeling a little guilty he forged ahead. “She called me wanting to get back together.”

“She—what?” Joe stared at Steven in astonishment.

“Like I said,” Steven repeated weakly. “She called about getting back together.” He devoutly wished she had too.

Joe shook his head. “If that’s true, Wakefield, I’m—I’m through with her. I’m never taking her anywhere again, ever.”

I mean…

I know that, throughout this recap, I have called Steven Wakefield a bellend. But this, this, takes the bellend biscuit. If Steven’s other bellend actions were combined to make one single bellend of indeterminate size, this little shitshow would dwarf that bellend by a factor of ten. Up until now, Steven’s bellend factor has been about the size and complexity of a tumble dryer… now, his bellend factor is Optimus fucking Prime.

WHAT A BELLEND.

We then skip to see Steven being dumped by Jill Hale. Over the phone. As he’s screening calls. Which he thoroughly deserves, because he’s a bellend.

Now, wallowing in self-pity, this bellend finally has a long-awaited epiphany. He realises that Jill has been using him all this time to make Richard Ferris jealous. He realises that he’s been a bellend all this time…

He made a face. There were a lot of similarities between the way Jill had treated him and the way he had treated Cathy. He saw that now. He wished he could take back the whole last week, but, of course, he couldn’t. So he’d just have to think of something else. In his mind he ticked off the people he’d managed to hurt or let down: Cathy, Joe, the twins. And most of all, himself.

Finally, he formulates a plan to make everything alright. Because yay, that’s what we want. We want “things back to normal,” not “things back to normal but with Steven shot in the face and dumped in the sea.”

The twins return to the Compound, contemplating asking Winston and Randy to the Valentines Day street dance. Pretty sure that sub-last-resort territory, ladies, and it definitely wouldn’t mean you’d win your bet with Janet.

Steven is now reticent and determined to make amends, and wants help to get Cathy and Joe back together. He’s accepted that he’s blown things with Cathy, and just wants everyone else to be happy. Ah, bless his growth. Still a bellend though. [Dove: Do the honourable thing, Steven. Die and make your dying wish that Cathy be happy. Just DIE.]

He needs his sisters’ help to do it, and in return he offers to sort them out with bonafide Mystery Dates for the Valentines Day street dance.

Wrapping things up in fine style, let’s rattle through the final furlong.

  • The promised Mystery Dates turn out to be Todd Wilkins and Aaron Dallas. Steven spread the rumour that the twins had ACTUAL mystery dates, so the sort-of boyfriends ditched the basketball team in order to accompany their sort-of girlfriends. Weak.
  • This wins the bet, and Janet embarrasses herself by telling the crowd that her borther’s band is better than Johnny Buck.
  • Winston does his gargoyle act on the kerb of the street dance, for some bizarre reason.
  • Joe, in the band, plays Steven and Cathy’s song, and we learn that – shock horror – Joe and Cathy had been working together as friends to make Steven jealous and have him take Cathy back. Which the FUCKING BELLEND obviously does. [Wing: MOTHERFUCKING NO GODDAMN IT.]
  • Cathy and Steven lock lips, the end.

The final chapter sees Jessica and Elizabeth fawning over a rainbow, considering leprechauns. I mean, what the fuck?

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book. Apart from Steven.

It was well written, and sassy, and paced, and stylish. And funny! There are some top notch scenes and gags. The B Plot is brilliant, even if the ending to that (Deus Ex Dallas et Wilkins) is a little twee. And the A Plot? It’s a rehash, sure, but it’s well written and there are some definite twists I didn’t see coming.

I just wish it wasn’t about Steven. He’s a bellend. I can’t get past that. The Ghostie presents him well, and makes the reader hate his idiocy early on, but I don’t buy the redemption and I don’t care for the return-to-normalcy that the series format dictates.

I hope we get more from this particular Ghostie, in particular something with Jessica front and centre, because WOW was she on fire in this one.

[Dove: Sorry, I hated it. The A plot suffered from being all about an absolute cunt, who has progressed so far the only plot I want to see about him is his death, and the B plot was too hectic. I love Jessica when she’s on fire, but the whole city was ablaze. I think if it was fanfic, I’d have happily accepted it, but because it was soooo Jessica in the actual series, it seemed too ridiculous. I’m wondering if this ghostie is the same as the previous book, because damn, the last ghostie had Elizabeth down too. I just hope that the Jamie(s?) get some good books to work with, because I feel like this series has well and truly jumped the shark. Repeatedly. And now the shark is juggling balloon animals because that’s just how wacky and fun the idea guys are at Bantam.]

[Wing: I may need to take a break from any book that includes a single sentence from Steven Wakefield before I give myself a rage aneurism. I hate him, I hate this, I hate everything but this ghostie’s snark, which was great.]

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.