Title: Elizabeth Solves It All
Tagline: No one can be right all the time… [Dove: Uh… what fucking planet is this ghostie from? Saint Elizabeth Wakefield can.]
Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield’s new advice column is the rage at Sweet Valley Middle School. Not only is “Dear Elizabeth” the most popular column in Sixers history, letters from troubled readers are pouring in by the hundreds!
At first, Elizabeth is thrilled by her success. But then she starts to worry. Her friends expect miracle cures for every problem… and she’s running out of answers. Soon her advice is causing problems instead of solving them! Now Elizabeth’s. the one who needs help. How can she get out of this mess?
I don’t have any initial thoughts. I don’t remember this one. It’s kind of mixed up with Elizabeth the Seventh Grader, and also literally every story where Elizabeth butts in on someone else’s life and starts meddling. [Raven: I too feel like we’ve read this story before… Odd.]
We open with an ad for Elizabeth’s services as a professional meddler (she had only been amateur before now), stating that she is “a great student, a great writer, and a person who cares about other people’s problems.” And I’m really hoping that’s a sign that this Jamie is being sassy as hell, and not a sign that she’s going to be super earnest about this.
Elizabeth is humble about the whole thing, saying that the ad seems “braggadocios” but Amy and Maria are quick to shill Elizabeth’s fine attributes. Golly gosh, she’s just the bestest most wonderfullest person in the whole wide world.
Elizabeth says that if that’s true, how come the Dear Elizabeth ad has been running for two weeks and nobody has gotten in contact? Team Boring try to bolster her again, and reveal that actually this isn’t a case of Elizabeth trying to go pro with her meddling skills, but an attempt to win a competition from Teen Scene Magazine, wherein an advice columnist should submit their advice, and when they win, they inherit the role of advice columnist at Teen Scene – what, really? The fictional equivalent of Just Seventeen is asking a twelve year old to run their advice column? Don’t they have paid – qualified – writers for that? Can you imagine Elizabeth’s brain short circuiting when someone sends in, “Ever since I had sex with my boyfriend, I’ve been really itchy down there. What should I do? Itchy from Idaho.” [Raven: Also, would a sixth-grade school magazine ever have an advice column? Sure, I know that the Sixers doesn’t, but would ANY school magazine have one of these? Seems irresponsible if so.]
[Wing: It pops up in stories a lot, but I’ve never actually seen even a high school newspaper have an advice column. I am surprised they didn’t go with something more anonymous on both sides, but then we wouldn’t get all this Elizabeth adoration, so. Also, why are older kids writing to the sixth-grade newspaper?]
They will also win desktop publishing software, which would be great for The Sixers. Uh… I am sure we’ve already read a book where they’ve just got new software and it’s super cool that Elizabeth can change the font, and stuff like that. We have, haven’t we? [Raven: Yes. But progress is progress. Not everyone want to run Windows ME so badly that they spend hours rolling back any new features on their freshly downloaded OS upgrade.] [Dove: One person on the planet had to like that operating system. That person is me. Stop mocking.] [Wing: I always pictured the previous new software as, like, Word, and now I’m picturing this desktop publishing software as PageMaker or InDesign, something with actual layout features.]
So, tl;dr: Elizabeth now has to become an advice columnist, in order to submit her advice and win the role and the software.
Elizabeth wonders if Maria should be the one giving the advice, given that she’s got so much life experience. Maria says no, as a former child star, her experience is largely relegated to cocaine parties and paedophiles, they need someone normal like Elizabeth to give the advice.
Elizabeth tries to fob off the job on Amy, but she says no, they’re getting her grandmother settled in to her new place, as she’s just moved from Chicago after illness.
So that only leaves Elizabeth.
On the walk home, Amy continues to shill Elizabeth’s attributes, with the desperation of someone who knows they are shirking, and is trying to gloss over it. They are interrupted by seeing the Unicorns stood that the bus stop arguing. Elizabeth wants to know about the argument, but I want to know about the bus stop. Everyone walks to and from school, so why are they there? Are they tired, and they’re just having a little sit down? Do they just like the ambience of the venue? WHY ARE THEY AT THE BUS STOP? [Raven: This is new.]
Anyway, the vapid morons are arguing over what is the most defining factor of a cute boy. Jessica thinks it’s clothes, if he dresses like a loser, he is one. Kimberley thinks it’s music. Janet opines that it’s the car he drives (or wants to drive, since, y’know, everyone they’re talking about is aged 12-13). Denny Jacobson wants to drive a Porsche when he’s older. That’s important because it’s an expensive car that a girl will look cool in. I guess Janet should date Bruce Patman in the future then, since he’s the only one with a Porsche. [Raven: The car he WANTS to drive? So weak. Anyone can simply claim they WANT to drive a cool car without an actual hope of attaining one.]
Elizabeth tries to tell them that shallow things are not the most important thing. She lists the things that have value: being great at sports (uh, Elizabeth, that’s just as shallow, probably more so, as Kimberley’s suggestion of music taste), really funny, great ideas, or fun to be around.
Tamara says her lab partner last year, Bob Hanson [Raven: Who?], wasn’t very cute or wear good clothes, but he was really funny and she always liked working with him. Betsy Gordon (Wing, yes, she is a Unicorn, she just rarely gets mentioned, don’t bother looking her up, there’s nothing interesting about her) and Ellen sing-song that Tamara has a crush. [Wing: I actually did remember Betsy Gordon existed this time! I’m very proud of myself. And now I’m very sad at myself for being so proud of it. Good job, Wing.]
Janet says that if Tamara does have a crush, she needs to forget it. Bob is not Unicorn standard. Elizabeth tells Tamara to go for it.
Janet makes a snide comment about how nobody has asked for her advice, referencing to how dead her column is. Amy feebly stands up for her while everyone else stares at their feet awkwardly.
The bus arrives and the Unicorns get on. WHERE ARE THEY GOING? WHY ARE THEY USING THE BUS? LILA HAS A LIMO. I AM CONFUSE.
At home, Elizabeth is somehow surprised that her twin took Janet’s side instead of Elizabeth’s. For someone so smart, she is really dim. How many times does she have to learn the lesson that twins might have a special bond, but Unicorns are TO THE DEATH, BITCHES.
There’s some bullshit about cookies that I don’t care about, and then Alice arrives through the sliding glass door laden down with grocery bags. Um, does that fly in the face of anyone else’s idea of how the house is laid out? I thought the sliding doors were in the living room and led to the backyard/pool. I assumed the front door led to a hallway that led to the kitchen, I have no evidence for this at all, but I don’t care. [Wing: She’s coming in from the back of the house if she’s using the sliding door. I don’t think the garage opens into the backyard, but maybe? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.]
Alice has some big news. She will be designing a ballroom for a new hotel opening in Sweet Valley (ah, Sweet Valley Hotel, since the existing one is called Sweet Valley Plaza, the naming conventions are back to normal, anyone with anxiety over this can breathe again. Might just be me that gets so upset about this), and Ned has is prepping a case for trial, so the kids are going to have to up their chore game.
(Or, as we all know it will go: Steven and Jessica will shirk and Elizabeth will earn her eighty-seventh sainthood.)
Elizabeth is to check the fridge daily, throw out anything that’s gone off and make a note of what they need. Steven is to buy what they need on the way home from school. Jessica is to load and unload the dishwasher. Everyone is responsible for their own laundry. Alice specifies that all of these are brand new chores that the kids have never done before.
Um. I have questions:
- At no point does Alice say that she’ll be working full-time on this, and the text outright confirms that she is a part-time interior designer. So, sure, the kids can help, but she hasn’t said that she’ll be working longer, so why is this necessary? Yes, I guess if you work really hard for the usual hours that you slack off, you’ll notice the difference, mostly I’m just arguing that the text should have specified that Alice will be working longer hours (working from home, if not in the office… does Alice even have an office?), rather than implying she usually does her grocery shopping during working hours.
- Will she be going with peach and oatmeal (living room) tones again? [Raven: BURN!]
- Isn’t loading and unloading the dishwasher an existing chore that the twins already do? I suppose it’s smart to hand off the chores in that order, “make the smart one do the clever bits, make the tall one carry heavy things, and give the murderous one no more chores so that she can’t fuck up our lives any more than she already does”, but still, this is bullshit. Elizabeth should kick Alice in the shins. [Wing: Give the murderous one daily access to knives and enrage her for being asked to do anything. Excellent planning.]
- Laundry is absolutely a chore they already do, because we’ve had multiple subplots about clothes being lost in the laundry, dyed in the laundry, money going through the laundry, Alice’s “finders keepers” policy about anything in pockets in the laundry. This is bullshit. At the very least, the twins do laundry.
- Basically, are the last two chores the twins already do, but we’re treating them as if they’re brand new to all kids, because Steven, the boy, has never done them before? Probably not, but y’know, if you don’t read the stuff that came before all this nonsense, it gives out weird messages.
[Raven: This is just another way to remove the adults from any meaningful contribution. There’s no input from parent or teachers in this entire book, save a scene-setting turn from the Suttons ragging on their elderly mother(-in-law). I think this Jamie just can’t write adults or something.]
We cut to the Suttons, where Dyan is driving Amy to Grandma Sutton’s house to check on her. Grandma is Daddy Sutton’s mum, but this is women work, even though Dyan is due at work any minute because she’s a news anchor. [Wing: I can’t get past the fact she’s not already at work an hour before she’s due to be live on air. THERE’S A PROCESS, PEOPLE. YOU DON’T JUST WALK IN AND GO BEFORE THE CAMERA WITH NO PREP. …I have surprisingly strong feelings about this.]
Dyan comments that it’s wonderful they’ve moved Grandma away from Chicago after her pneumonia, because it would be super cold and snowy now. Amy remembers that Grandma’s house was cold, but it was cosy too, and she really liked the snow. She wonders if her Grandma will miss it. Uh, yeah, Amy. In fact, I bet this’ll be just like the Traveling Pants story, where Grandma is pissed off because her kids moved her without her permission. [Raven: This subplot had pontential. It squandered it. I’ll save my Things To Say until the end on this.] [Dove: Ditto. Everyone, save your rage.] [Wing: If I must.]
They knock on the door and Grandma gives them a polite smile and comments she didn’t know they were coming. I know, right, Grandma. I hate it when people (other than Tiny) randomly show up at my house. Dyan comments she wishes Grandma hadn’t unpacked her books, Amy could have done that this weekend. Grandma says she wanted to do it herself so she’d know where everything is. Yeah, this is going to end with fisticuffs.
Amy points out a few Dickens books and says that they’re on her reading list, but she has a hard time understanding them. Grandma says she can read aloud to her, and Amy can pay attention to the story. Dyan says no, poor ancient Grandma will find that too tiring. Amy should read to her instead. Urgh. And she calls her Mother Sutton, which just makes her sound like a murderous urban legend. “Don’t stay out too late or Mother Sutton will eat you!” Maybe I’m thinking of Mother Sneddons.
Dyan notices that Mother Sutton – yep, I’ve latched on to that now – is out of milk and makes vague comments that she will go and get some, because milk is good for bones, and Mother Sutton is so ancient and brittle that she’s in danger of crumbling to dust if someone sneezes. Mother Sutton tells her to get fucked, only it’s very polite.
Amy manages to have a nice conversation with her Grandma about school and her dad when he was a kid, before Dyan feels obligated to patronise her again. They make their exit, with Dyan reminding Mother Sutton to wear something with sleeves tomorrow when they pick her up for her birthday dinner, because she’s so fucking old and pointless she has no clue about temperature any more.
Grandma keeps smiling but clearly wants to cut a bitch. And what a bitch to cut.
I haven’t forgotten for a second that Dyan’s twattery in the Nightmare Mansion series killed a child. Ok, so she didn’t die, but that was the fucking twist. Dyan only recently found out she didn’t kill the kid. Or she knew all along and never told Alice. Even the author hasn’t a clue what went on there. [Raven: Man, that shitbag series just keeps on giving, doesn’t it.]
In the car on the way home, Dyan comments to Amy that Mother Sutton is uber bitchy, but don’t worry, she’s bought her a blouse and some personalised stationery, and that will sort everything out.
Fuck me, even Amy doesn’t think some paper and a top is going to sort out the tension. She wonders what to do and decides to ask Elizabeth. Through her column. Fucking win.
We cut to Maria who is musing about how utterly humble Saint Elizabeth Wakefield is. She is interrupted by a phone call from Tina Chong, who she was in a TV show with. Tina is having a reunion party in LA on Friday for the Jackie & Crew cast and wants Maria to join her. Maria gets the ok from her parents, who want to see a show in LA. [Raven: I thought this was cute.]
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Jessica copies Mandy’s title in calligraphy on their homework and Mandy gets tetchy about being copied, whereas Jessica thinks she’s just being flattering. Elizabeth desperately wants to offer her opinion, but is too humble to do so without being asked.
She idly wonders if the Sixers should run a picture of her looking humble to drum up business. I swear I didn’t remember this nonsense when I did all those chapters about Elizabeth being humble in Gone. She practices her humble smile and Jessica asks why she’s pulling a silly face. [Raven: This ghostie hates Elizabeth. Fun!]
Back to Maria, who can’t work out what to wear to Tina’s party. She decides to ask Elizabeth through her column, since when you’re looking to rub shoulders with actors in LA, the best person to ask if the Model Student who dresses like a prudish librarian. [Raven: BURN!!]
The next day, Elizabeth stops by the Sixers office before school and finds three Dear Elizabeth letters. Amy and Maria have made no effort to keep their identities secret, Amy specifying that her Gran has just moved to Sweet Valley and needs a superb birthday present; and Maria stating she doesn’t know what to wear to a showbiz party. The third letter is from someone who wants a dog but dad says no, what to do? [Wing: Do not talk to the Wakefields about dogs, that’s what to do.]
We cut to a few days later when Elizabeth overhears Janet reading her problem page aloud. Elizabeth actually gives some great advice to Amy, which is to buy some materials for a project to do together so they can get to know each other. No mocking, this is a good idea.
Next Janet reads the dog one, where she says with one line that the asker needs to make it clear the dog is their responsibility, not their dad’s. Not very inspired or detailed, but a firm premise.
When she hears their mockery, she just wants to slink away in tears, but then she asks herself, WWED (What would Elizabeth do) and decides to hold her head high. This doesn’t stop Janet from openly mocking Elizabeth. Damn, for someone who was going well with the advice, she sure was dim on that one. Either tell Janet to fuck off or avoid her. Anything else is inviting mockery.
Back with Maria, she reads aloud Elizabeth’s advice to just wear her favourite outfit, people are looking forward to seeing her, not her wardrobe. Anything else would be a costume.
Oh, honey, no. Maybe stick to arts and crafts questions. Just because Maria is a thoughtful and sweet human being, doesn’t mean everyone she worked with is too. [Raven: Huh. I thought this was nice advice. I guess I’m not a pre-teen girl.] [Dove: It is good advice, it’s just Liz knows nothing about fashion, and since the premise is that everything backfires, I assumed that Maria would meet some asshats who judged her harshly. Haven’t most of the celebs they’ve met acted like asshats?] [Wing: I thought this was good advice, too. Maria already knows these people, and she’s intentionally stepped away from show business. Pretending she’s not, dressing like she’s not, that undercuts what she’s trying to do.]
Maria wears a sunflower-printed dress with a denim vest, she feels awesome in it. Good for her. I bet someone’s going to be an asshole about it though. [Note from the future: No. Red herring.] [Wing: This outfit is so fucking 90s it hurts me a little, and I love it.]
Over with Amy, dinner with Mother Sutton isn’t going well. Dad has said she might be cold and her fish is probably too oily. Mum is trying to put her sweater on Mother Sutton in case she’s cold and reminds her to be careful of the bones in the fish. Mother Sutton clearly wants everyone to fuck off in the most epic of ways.
The waiters come out with a cake and sing happy birthday to her, finishing by putting a hat on her head. Mother Sutton is mortified. And probably plotting all the ways she could kill her idiot son and moron daughter-in-law with a teeny fish bone.
[Wing: Random Wing Fact: I have threatened people that I will walk out if anyone sets up singing waiters for my birthday meals. Because this is not actually a threat but something I will do, no one sets up singing waiters for my birthday meals. Instead, I’ve received tequila shots and vodka shots from my favourite bartenders, much preferable.]
After an awkward pause, Amy pushes her present forward and this sparks genuine joy in Mother Sutton. She gets that Amy wants to spend time with her. They’re going to organise photos together. Amy sends silent praise to Dark Lord Elizabeth for her gift of advice.
Over with Maria, Tina appreciates how real Maria looks. One of their friends is wearing heels, another has green hair, and they’re so fake because they want to be a model or… um, have green hair. Um, ok. I mean, at twelve I had friends who wore heels, they just liked the way they looked in them, and I dyed my hair weird colours because… guess what, I liked the way it looked. Tina asks Maria how she stays so real, and Maria praises Dark Lord Elizabeth. [Wing: Yeah, the whole being “real” thing here is weird and not what I wanted out of Maria choosing to dress the way she likes. I get the passing nod to them being “not real” because they’re allegedly doing what they’re doing to impress other people, but we don’t even know that’s true.]
Over with Amy, she’s having a lovely time with Mother Sutton. Weirdly, JC and I were DM-ing about random stuff. This is a thing we do. And today’s topic was the word “g*psy” and her hunt for a blog post that lists all the translations of that word which basically come back as “slave” each time. If she finds the post, I’ll update this one. Anyway, as this conversation takes place, we get to a point in this book where Mother Sutton tells an “amusing” side-story about a relative who was cursed by a cliché of otherness after knocking over her evil potion. The outcome is a big lumpy head at age thirteen. Amy takes her seriously for awhile before finding this hysterical. She feels very blessed to know her grandma. [Raven: I hope there’s a subplot in a future book where Amy’s head swells to the size of a watermelon. Mother Sutton is a witch!]
Next we go to Elizabeth and Maria having a soda at the fountain at Sweet Valley Pharmacy. Elizabeth appreciates Maria’s gratitude, but confides in her that Janet Howell made fun of her the other day. Maria is ready to cut a bitch who doesn’t appreciate the wisdom of Dark Lord Elizabeth.
At this point, the bitch about to be cut appears. Janet is accompanied by Grace, Tamara and Kimberley. Grace, if you don’t remember, was in the Super Edition where it came across as if she was more Elizabeth’s friend than Jessica’s, even though she was made a Unicorn in the book that caused me to ask, “What are the cave’s dimensions?”
They’re getting ready to be mean again when Denny Jacobson, Janet’s beau, walks in with a puppy. He thanks Elizabeth for her wonderful advice (all one sentence of it), and quickly conveys that he knows fuck all about dogs and that he’s named it Woolly Booger – if that’s ok with Dark Lord Elizabeth. [Raven: Fuck naming your dog some sort of weak-ass joke, you prick. You’re supposed to love your pets.] [Dove: We give our pets weird names, but not mean names. They matter to us. We like those names.]
This does not sit well with Janet, who has serious issues with any other girl being anywhere near her man (even if we the reader are never really sure that Denny knows he’s her man). She tries to rip Elizabeth to shreds, but Denny sticks with being grateful, Maria claims she was offered a movie part thanks to Elizabeth’s advice, and then she adds that Amy says Elizabeth’s advice was so good Mother Sutton is going to take the whole family to Hawaii. Probably to beat them against the coral and drown them in the ocean. No Mercandy backyard for Mother Sutton, this old lady is gonna get creative.
These lies stir up interest in Dark Lord Elizabeth’s wonderful advice, but Maria tells everyone that they must approach her through the paper.
We cut to a bit later when Maria is hiding in the foot care aisle and waiting for Amy to show up. She quickly fills Amy in on her lie and the two convince themselves that it’s not a lie, it’s an exaggeration.
Elizabeth gets home to find Mandy and Jessica at war over the fact that Jessica is a nasty little copycat and Mandy is getting sick of it. When Mandy storms off in a huff, Elizabeth can’t help but offer her two penneth. Jessica tells her absolutely to fuck off. It’s kind of hard to rip on this, because I feel like this Jamie is just as sick of Elizabeth’s sainthood as we all are. Her phrasing seems to be as close to the line as a Jamie is allowed to get with mocking Elizabeth.
After Jessica storms off too, Elizabeth tells Alice all about it, and Alice tells her to leave it. Elizabeth can’t help but point out that she knows that she’s right and she just needs to tell Jessica that she’s wrong. Alice is sober enough to realise how that will end and strongly advises her to leave it alone. Alice also asks her to check the fridge to see if they’re low on supplies, but Elizabeth ignores that and starts reading the advice column in the papers to see what she’s up against.
We cut to school, where Team Boring can’t get through the door to the Sixers because of the mass of letters asking for advice. [Raven: Why the fuck don’t they have a pigeon hole or something?] Amy whoops in delight that Elizabeth is such a hit, but Elizabeth humbly points out that these people have problems, and that is no cause for delight, but she is proud of them for seeking advice. Seriously, this Jamie must be taking this piss. No Jamie could be this earnest about Elizabeth’s sainthood. Michael Grant, is that you?
Amy suggests they categorise the letters, and maybe she and Maria can help answer them, but Elizabeth clutches them to her chest and hisses “My precioussssssssssssssssssss!” She vows to personally respond to all of them, while wondering how anyone – even Saint Elizabeth – would find the time for such an endeavour.
[Wing: Even if she’s determined to answer them all herself (and why, she even talks about how some of the questions are similar), she’s Elizabeth fucking Wakefield. She would sort the shit out of those letters, likely thematically.]
Elizabeth skips her first class ever to read all the letters. Only Elizabeth could find a way to downward spiral because she helped people.
And then she skips her next one too, [Wing: Three of them and she’s late to the fourth.] prompting Todd to come and collect her. Apparently Ms. Arnette took the register and noticed Elizabeth was missing. Todd sees the huge amount of mail and offers to help, but Elizabeth sticks with her vow to take care of it all by herself. Todd seems hurt, because he has the most fragile ego ever seen, so Elizabeth suggests they get a soda on Thursday afternoon after she’s “put the paper to bed”. Ah, so the Sixers comes out on a Friday, does it? I feel like Wing’s going to leap in with surprise evidence to the contrary here. Might be Raven, but I’m just getting Wing vibes on this one. [Wing: I actually don’t have evidence of this, but I would have thought earlier in the week. Wednesday, maybe?]
Anyway, I predict, because it’s so hard to see coming, that Elizabeth won’t make that date because she’ll be overwhelmed by all the advice she has to give. I really hope this idea was pitched by someone who hates Elizabeth (and also hates the dude who pitched Steven and the motherfucking lawnmower). “Hey, how about a book where Elizabeth empathises until she DIES!” … “Uh, what was that, Susan?” … “What about a book where Elizabeth is overwhelmed by helping people and we’ll find a Jamie who hates Elizabeth as much as I do.” … “Sounds great.”
Amy visits Mother Sutton, who is delighted to see her, and has made cookies. However, she lacks other groceries but says she bought more, so Amy worries she either: forgot to go to the grocery store but thinks she has; or she actually went but forgot to buy groceries.
Side note: this book weirdly refers to the grocery store as “the grocery”, which seems so weird. I guess it’s grammatically correct, but it reads so strangely. We Brits would say “the grocers’”, and I mostly see “grocery store” in American books. It’s eye-catching. And yes, I checked my physical scans of the books, I didn’t chop off a word when I scanned it in. This is how the physical book was typed, and is used more than once. Maybe Wing can wade in? [Wing: I have never heard anyone refer to it as “the grocery” until this book. It’s almost always “the grocery store” or “the supermarket.”]
At the Wakefield Compound, Elizabeth basically ignores Steven as he announces the washing machine is free if she needs it. She is consumed by advising people. Her advice is as follows:
I want money, but parents say no, signed Poor and Oppressed.
Check your fucking privilege and get a job. (She does actually school them on using the word “oppressed”, which is odd given the flippant use of the g*psy curse above.
My BFF has made a new BFF. I am sad.
Make BFFs with your BFF’s BFF and form a super best friends club.
I’m having a party but can’t invite many people, but everyone expects an invitation, what shall I do.
Tell ‘em to get fucked. It’s your party and you can invite who you want. [Raven: IT’S MY PARTY, AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO…]
Elizabeth can’t help but be smug that a Unicorn wrote to her on the last one, which is Mandy Miller. Janet Howell will seethe if she finds out. However, Elizabeth is still sad Jessica hasn’t written to her.
She gets into bed and starts to imagine where the various bits of tech will go in the Sixers office… wait, I thought it was just software, but Elizabeth is imagining a scanner and printer too. Does Jamie know that software and hardware are completely different things?
And at that point, Elizabeth realises that it’s Thursday and she completely no-showed Todd’s date.
The next day, every copy of the Sixers has been taken and everyone loves Elizabeth’s advice. Apparently she answered 60 letters. So I guess the Sixers was about the size of Twilight this week? Or was it in a really teeny font size?
She finds Todd and apologises for standing him up. He forgives her and they arrange to go to Casey’s for that soda. Elizabeth says she just needs to run to the Sixers office for reasons. She gets there and there are a million letters to Dear Elizabeth. I think we can all see where this is going.
Amy and Maria offer to ghost write for her to give her the week off, and maybe she should limit how many get published. Uh, yeah, isn’t the Sixers only six pages? Elizabeth says no, it’s her responsibility to reply personally.
Amy and Maria think they’ve created a monster. Oh, honey, no. She was always a monster. You just enabled her. It’s like Dexter season 2. Dexter was always a serial killer, but Lila let him murder freely.
Oh, Elizabeth actually goes to her date with Todd, but completely ignores him and keeps fiddling with her stack of letters. Todd gets ticked off, and tells her that Sweet Valley got along just fine before her advice column came along, so maybe she can take 10 minutes off to not ignore him? Elizabeth is astounded. How can she have fun when people have problems? Doesn’t Todd understand how important her work is to her?
The answer is no. Todd tells her to call when she’s regular Elizabeth, not Dear Elizabeth, then leaves. Probably to punch something. [Raven: He’s off for a wank.]
Seconds later, Jessica joins Elizabeth and helps herself to Elizabeth’s sundae. She says that she knows that one of the advice askers was Mandy, and Elizabeth is fucking flabbergasted that Jessica cannot “respect her professionalism”. I’m not. I mean, when has Jessica respected anything, and Elizabeth is nothing more than a twelve year old with an over-inflated sense of self.
Jessica is happy with Elizabeth’s advice, because to her reasoning, Mandy won’t invite Janet, but Jessica will be a shoo-in. Elizabeth points out that Mandy is really sick of Jessica at the moment, Jessica has no idea what Elizabeth means by that.
Elizabeth rubbed her temples. This was a waste of her time and talent.
See what I mean when I say that Jamie is in on the joke? She loathes Elizabeth.
(Is she me? Did I write this?)
Jessica assumes Janet won’t go to the party anyway, because she’s devoted herself to Denny’s dog in an attempt to woo him. She’ll be bathing the dog and keeping it overnight so he can get a good night’s sleep. Jessica says she thinks Janet is the writer of the letter asking what to do when her BFF has a new BFF. This gives Elizabeth a level of smug previously only attainable by owning a Prius back in 2006. Janet, who mocks her at every turn, needs her advice. [Wing: How? How will anyone know this is about the new BFF being a dog? HOW?]
Over with Amy, she gets home to hear her dad talking on the phone, calling someone “Doctor” every few words. Does anyone on the planet call their doctor “Doctor” without the surname? Like, either don’t say their name at all or use the whole thing. It would be like calling Raven “Mister” all the time. Amy interrupts the phone call to ask what’s going on. Because, obviously, when someone’s talking to a medical professional, the best thing to do is interrupt them rather than wait two minutes to get the full story. Wow, two paragraphs pissed me off a lot there.
Mr Sutton (who we now know is called Dave) gets off the phone and reports that Mother Sutton is anaemic, and asks Amy whether she’s been eating right. Amy worries that her gran will get all cold and distant with her, like she is with Mr and Mrs Sutton, if she mentions the grocery incident, so she carefully says that Mother Sutton never said anything about not wanting to eat. Mr Sutton decides to call the doctor back and ask him to prescribe a supplement.
Um, why? Mother Sutton is not incapacitated. She should be making these decisions for herself. The doctor is in serious breach of any data protection laws (if America has them? I mean, I know it’s a bit of a car wreck over there, but surely some things are private?). [Wing: We have them. They were weaker in the 90s. This may or may not have violated them; even now, Mother Sutton could have given them access to the information. Maybe even the ability to make decisions if she is incapacitated, which, as you point out, she’s not.] Unless Mother Sutton is a minor or mentally/physically incapacitated, she needs to be the one making her medical decisions and nobody should be saying a word to her fam unless she says so. And yes, this harks back to Dove’s years of working in Wills, Trusts and Probate, which, despite it not being mentioned in the name, absolutely does cover Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney, which exist for literally these reasons. [Raven: #FreeBritney! … Sorry, I mean #FreeMotherSutton!]
Amy decides she’s going to call Elizabeth for advice, because Dark Lord Elizabeth knows everything.
Although at the Wakefield Compound, evidence is stacking up to the contrary. Steven is on the rampage (or he would, if he had the energy) because he wants a sammitch and they’re out of mayo and meat. Elizabeth asks if he could have soup instead, but Steven says no, he wants a sammitch. It’s her job to go through the fridge and toss out the rotten stuff, and she hasn’t. She didn’t make a list of what they need, so no fucking sammitches. [Raven: If only there was a scene in which Steven coughed up his fucking spleen after eating a whole packet of spoiled ham.]
Steven let out a disgusted noise and disappeared back into the kitchen. “I figured Jessica would be the slacker in the bunch. Not you.”
That did it. “Me? A slacker?” she shouted. After she’d spent so much time and energy solving everyone’s problems?
If this Jamie is going to make all the jokes, what is the point of me? [Wing: I’m pretty sure you are both Jamie and recapper right now.]
Alice breaks off the row to call Elizabeth into her office. She tells Elizabeth that the principal called. Elizabeth brightens. This must be about what a wonderful job she’s doing with her advice – and if you think that’s my inflection, it’s not. This Jamie is on fire. It’s not. It’s because she’s skipped four classes. Elizabeth has never been in trouble and she gets quite defensive about it, saying that everyone’s always told her she’s so mature and clever and awesome, and she needs everyone to keep believing that. Actually, she’s got a point. We already learned this lesson in Elizabeth the Seventh Grader, didn’t we? Is that why I keep confusing those two books?
Elizabeth promises to catch up on everything and says she’s fine. I’m fairly certain she’ll still be maintaining that position when she beats everyone to death with a rolled up copy of the Sixers two days from now.
Amy calls Elizabeth, but Elizabeth says she doesn’t have time to talk now, she’ll be doing homework at lunch, and any time after that she’s also busy. It’s not that important, is it? Amy says no.
Back with Amy, she’s having a lovely time with Mother Sutton sorting out photos. Mother Sutton excuses herself to wash an eyelash out of her eye, and while she’s gone, the phone rings. Amy answers and it’s the pharmacy to say her prescription has been waiting since Monday for collection. Amy asks if she, as the granddaughter, can pick it up. The dude says yes.
She tells Mother Sutton about the call, and she seems to not know where the pharmacy is. She agrees to let Amy go collect the prescription on her bike, and Amy’s happy to, gran still doesn’t have any milk.
When Amy gets there, the pharmacist makes it very clear that Mother Sutton (who we find out is called Edna, so I may switch over to that, although I’m still liking the urban legend feel of Mother Sutton) must take her meds regularly. She apparently said she’d be right over to pick up the medication each time they called, but hasn’t so far, and it was getting to the point where the pharmacist was going to call the doctor about it.
Amy gets back full of worry and asks why Mother Sutton didn’t pick up the prescription. She says she forgot. Amy is alarmed by the disinterest shown, and asks if Mother Sutton really understands how important it is to take her meds. Mother Sutton gets a bit snotty with Amy, who is actually embarrassed at how patronising she was – but it was only because she was worried. I actually really like Amy in this book. I tend to quite like Amy in the rare books when she’s allowed to do anything that isn’t about Elizabeth. [Wing: I like her a lot here, too! And I think she’s in a difficult situation and handling it in realistic ways for her character.]
Mother Sutton continues to be disinterested and changes the subject when Amy hands her the pills. It’s not clear from the text whether she takes them or not, and Amy can’t wait to ask Elizabeth for her advice, so books out of there as fast as she can. Um, might have been an idea to watch and see for yourself whether Gran down the pills or just wanders off. It’s the difference between extreme disinterest in the mechanics of your medication (tinged with a dislike of being lectured by people half your age, never mind an eighth of it), which is pretty normal, or not understanding why you need medication and demonstrating you probably won’t take it. [Raven: So much to say about this subplot.]
Amy realises it’s dinner time and it would be rude to drop in on the Wakefields, and she remembers Elizabeth’s tone last night, so instead she writes a letter, which she hand delivers.
Elizabeth gets the letter, which is on a folded piece of note paper and marked urgent, when Jessica passes it to her. The letter says that gran won’t take care of herself, how does Amy convince her to take her medication.
Obviously Jessica couldn’t resist opening a piece of paper marked urgent for her sister. She asks Elizabeth if it’s from Amy. Elizabeth glares at her in response, then vows to respond because the Sixers is coming out tomorrow.
Jessica sees the plight of her sister (homework done, but laundry and room tidying still outstanding) and offers to help. Well, actually, keep her company while Elizabeth does the chores, but I’d take the offer. It’s always nice to jabber on when doing boring chores.
Jessica’s ulterior motive is revealed. Mandy hasn’t asked her to the party, and Jessica needs advice. Well, no, not advice. She needs Dear Elizabeth to advise Mandy to invite her.
Elizabeth threatens to end Jessica’s life. Not even joking.
Elizabeth grabbed the pillow and flung it at Jessica. “Dear Jessica,” she said through clenched teeth. “If you’re not out of Dear Elizabeth’s room by the time she counts to three, you will really be sorry. Signed—Homicidal.”
I always said that when Elizabeth snaps, it’s going to be so much worse than anything Jessica comes up with. Never trust the quiet ones.
The next morning at school, Elizabeth is proud she got all the advice squared away, but she didn’t tidy her room or do her laundry, and then she realises that she put her notebook with her homework in in her outbox. WHAT FUCKING TWELVE YEAR OLD HAS AN OUTBOX? And from the tone, I have to assume it’s her home outbox, not her Sixers one, because she’s upset that Ms Wyler will be cross about the lack of homework.
She felt someone tap her shoulder. “Looking for this?” Elizabeth turned. Jessica held her blue folder in her hand. “I went in your room, looking for some clean socks, and saw it in your out box. Didn’t find any clean socks, though.” She pretended to be really irritable. “Would you please get on the stick with that laundry? Everything I wanted to borrow was dirty.”
Never fucking change, Jessica. You are amazing. [Raven: I did lol at that.]
Jessica tries to blackmail Elizabeth into telling Mandy to invite her to the party by withholding the notebook, but eventually hands it over. I’m kind of disappointed. I wanted to see terrible!Jess, who’s been kind of absent of late.
Instead, Elizabeth agrees to take a book back to the library while Jessica goes to the dentist. After Jessica leaves, Mr Seigel asks Elizabeth to give Jessica a message that the monthly test will be on Monday instead of Thursday because the plot says so in order that Elizabeth can forget and Jessica can go on a murderous rampage. I mean, I’m just guessing the outcome, but I doubt I’m wrong. [Wing: Why is a teacher telling this to another student? I don’t care if she’s Jessica’s sister, this makes no goddamn sense.]
Team Boring, sans Elizabeth, is actually not that boring, I discover as Maria and Amy have lunch without Elizabeth, who they haven’t seen for days by now. Amy confides in Maria that she’s Concerned Granddaughter, and they read Elizabeth’s advice, which is basically, “Old people forget shit. Get her to a shrink. That’s a mental-doctor, you idiot pleb.”
Maria isn’t much help saying that the situation sounds complicated and it’s best to leave it to Amy’s parents. And the reason she’s not much help is because Amy doesn’t tell her the full story because she’s holding out for Dark Lord Elizabeth’s saintly advice.
Amy, tell Maria the whole story. Then when she tells you to tell your parents, listen to her. Elizabeth is a fucking idiot with no life experience, but a solid enough vocabulary that she sounds plausible to other idiots. Don’t be one of those other idiots.
After school, Maria sees everyone congregated around Randy Mason, who has used science to calculate the most perfect ratio of chocolate chips and raisins to make a perfect cookie. They’re obviously foul, and Randy is in despair because he sank every cent he had into making cookies to sell to make a fortune. [Raven: Ah good, more Dickhead Randy schtick. *eyeroll*]
However, Janet buys a few because the dog, Woolly Booger, in case you’d forgotten the ridiculous name Denny gave it (he really should have drowned), is teething and Janet’s sick of him shredding shoes, he can use the cookies instead. Uh, Janet, chocolate is poisonous to dogs… unless that’s her plan. *wide eyes* Fuck, this got dark.
It turns out that Janet’s had the dog the entire time and Denny is completely unwilling to pick him up. Her parents are furious and she’s been grounded for a month, which means she can’t go to Mandy’s slumber party. Uh, why haven’t the Howells called the Jacobsons and sorted this shit out? This is not really Janet’s fault beyond the first day she offered to keep him overnight. That sounds like an idiot teen promise. I’m sure I’d have promised to dogsit to help someone without thinking of the impact on my house at thirteen. But after that, if Denny kept dodging, the parents should have been involved.
But Janet thinks it’s all Dear Elizabeth’s fault. If she hadn’t advised Denny, he’d never have gotten a dog.
I really hope there’s an epic showdown.
With weapons. [Raven: All I’m thinking is “this poor fucking dog.”] [Wing: As usual in this fucking series.]
Amy is at Mother Sutton’s house and notices that the kitchen is empty. When she asks about it, Mother Sutton asks if her parents set her on this path of “snooping”.
“Maybe you need to see a psychiatrist,” she blurted.
“A psychiatrist!” Grandma Sutton stared at Amy as if she were the one who had lost her mind. “What on earth are you talking about?” Grandma’s eyebrows met over the bridge of her nose. “Whose idea was that? Yours? Or your parents”?”
“Elizabeth’s,” Amy said quickly. “she’s the one who thinks you need to see a psychiatrist.”
“And who is Elizabeth?”
Amy took a deep breath. “Dear Elizabeth. The columnist from the school paper.”
“Am I to understand that you asked a twelve-year-old advice columnist if I should see a psychiatrist?”
This is fucking gold. It’s like Mother Sutton is a real person from a real place and she’s been dragged into Sweet Valley, and damn, is my Supernatural fic completely irrelevant now? I mean, I did fail at NaNo, but I thought it was a good idea at the time. [Wing: Mother Sutton is the voice of us all.]
Amy tries to explain herself, but Mother Sutton says that she’s tired and would prefer to be alone today.
Amy gets home, ready to tell her parents everything, when the phone rings. I will let this paragraph speak for itself.
“Mother’s at the police station about twenty miles out of town. Apparently she went out in the car to run an errand and missed her exit. The police think she must have gotten confused and disoriented because somehow she wound up on the freeway going the wrong way.”
I am pissed off about this. I wanted this to be a story about how babying an adult is a bullshit move. I wanted the moral of the story to be “she’s a fucking adult. If you just leave her alone, she’ll be fine. Maybe she doesn’t have the same things in her kitchen cupboards as you because she has a different diet. Maybe she isn’t off her tits with joy at taking medication because she’s used to taking medication and doesn’t need a kid to explain it to her.” And I could totally be happy with an addition of “and maybe she just doesn’t like driving and hasn’t learned the bus routes yet. Maybe she went to the wrong pharmacy for her prescription because she’s new to Sweet Valley and that’s why she didn’t pick it up.”
Instead, EVERYONE IS RIGHT. MOTHER SUTTON IS A FUCKING IMBECILE WHO CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO PUT ON SOCKS WITHOUT EVERYONE’S INTERFERENCE.
[Raven: I guess here’s as good a place as any to discuss the Mother Sutton subplot. Like Dove, at first I thought it was heading down the Patronising Elders road, with Mother Sutton rebelling against a forced move from her home in Chicago. I was down with that. The Elder Suttons were being crappy to Mother Sutton, who was reacting badly as a consequence. When Amy started noticing that Mother Sutton hadn’t been to the grocery store or pharmacy, I thought the story would be about mental decline in old age, maybe even Altzheimers, and I thought THAT would be fine too. Surprising, and a rather flippant idea to tackle such a big subject in the B Plot, but still fine. But after all this, it’s about… actually, what the fuck IS it about? An old woman who’s worried about driving in a new town? Who misses Chicago? What a fucking waste of a decent opening gambit.]
[Wing: Unlike Raven, I was deeply worried that it would actually be a discussion of mental decline in old age, because I do not give the ghosties a snowball’s chance in hell to write that without it being terrible. Somehow, this is even worse, mostly because of ending up driving the wrong way on the freeway. Why? Why? Maybe the wrong way down a one-way street, that can happen to the best of us in new areas, but not the goddamn freeway. Fucking Jamie, you were doing so well. Even this subplot could have been great when it’s about adult children running roughshod over their parents without actually trying to figure out the best way to help them, which is a complicated situation (and would not be addressed with enough nuance, but could have been done), and YET.]
I’m a nervous driver, I have like two routes I’ll do by myself. I like driving, but hate driving by myself. But I think I would find it hard to get on the freeway going the wrong way. Unless the USA have a really stupid setup for their on/off ramps to it.
Also, can’t you get everywhere in Sweet Valley by walking?
The Suttons head for the police station. Amy says she needs to tell them about grandma.
When she’s done, Dyan is pissed off that she’s been kept out of the loop of all of this.
“Amy!” Mrs. Sutton said sharply once Amy had finished telling her parents everything she had noticed about her grandmother. “Why didn’t you tell us any of this? And why didn’t you speak to us before telling your grandmother to see a psychiatrist? That was very rude and out of line.”
“But Elizabeth said—”
“Elizabeth Wakefield is twelve years old and has never met your grandmother,” Mrs. Sutton interrupted. “Why would you ask her what to do about a serious problem and not us? Where is your common sense?”
I have never heard Elizabeth so solidly put back in her box so many times in the same book. This is delightful. [Raven: My theory is that these perfectly valid rebuttals to the standard Elizabeth bullshit are a direct Fuck You to the inbred creative department responsible for chirning out the Plot Outlines. It’s as if the Ghostie took one look at the three-line synopsis, which said “Elizabeth is an advice columnist for her school paper”, and went “FUCK NO, that’d be ATROCIOUS.” The Ghostie is bringing down the system from within. Fight the Power! The Fowlers are the one percent!]
Amy points out that Mother Sutton really doesn’t like being bossed around like she’s a child, but Dyan explains that old people are dumb, and you need to treat them like toddlers.
*smashes head against the wall*
Then the functioning Suttons show that they are no smarter than they think Mother Sutton is. They arrive at the police station to collect her and she asks what will be done with her car. Mr Sutton says he’ll pick it up tomorrow. Um, no, dimwit. Dyan drives one home, Dave drives the other. For fuck’s sake. Picking it up tomorrow means either: bus, taxi or someone drops you off. You’re already here. *deep fucking sigh*
Mother Sutton is silent all the way home, and then stiffly apologises for inconveniencing them. Dave says no, they need to apologise. She’s a fucking vegetable and they were treating her like a person with agency. It’s clear that she’s basically a meatsuit with no brain activity, so it’s time to ship her off to Sweet Valley Retirement Home.
Mother Sutton bursts into tears and tells them she doesn’t want their help.
The next day, Elizabeth is swimming in letters and is having a lovely time for all of four seconds.
“Look at this,” Elizabeth said waving some letters around. “Dear Elizabeth rules!”
But Amy didn’t look amused. “I think you ought to know that the advice you gave me backfired like a faulty cannon,” she said.
In quick succession, here’s how things go:
- Amy is furious that she took Elizabeth’s advice about the psychiatrist.
- Denny is pissed off because Janet took his dog to a shelter. She left a message on his answerphone and by the time he got to the shelter this morning, the dog had been adopted out. Good. I’m sure pretty much everyone was rooting for that dog to get a new home (and hopefully a new name) or for Janet to fall in love with the dog and steal him. [Raven: Fuck Janet, fuck Denny, fuck everyone. Pets are important. #JusticeForWoollyBooger]
- Janet is furious that the dog destroyed everything in the house and she’s in deep trouble. And she only offered to help because of Elizabeth’s advice. So fuck both of them.
- Randy is furious that Elizabeth advised him to get a job, and he was shit at it and lost all his money.
- Mandy is pissed off because she invited Janet instead of Jessica to her party, and Jessica is ignoring her.
Elizabeth asks everyone to calm down and vows to set everything right, she doesn’t know how but with a little time, she’s sure she can pull everything together. Everyone leaves and Elizabeth barely has a moment of peace before Jessica flies in to complain about both the party and Mr Siegel’s test. Elizabeth realises that she also forgot to return Jessica’s library book.
Jessica is not happy. She says she told Mr Siegel that nobody told her, and he said it was her fault. She should have called someone to check what she missed.
Elizabeth looked at Jessica’s outraged face and felt something snap. Jessica had a big nerve blaming Elizabeth for her bad grades. She was smart, but she was a rotten student. Always on the lookout for an excuse not to do her homework. “You’re not exactly an A student,” she retorted. “Since when do you need my help to flunk?” Elizabeth felt a mean little thrill of satisfaction. “So would you please get off my back?” She was shouting now, and it felt good. “I’m under a lot of pressure, and it seems like even you could understand that.”
I feel like this Jamie has actually read all of the books leading up to this moment and is really pissed off at Elizabeth’s lack of spine and decided that enough is enough. [Raven: *blinks* Perhaps the twins aren’t quite so different after all.]
Jessica complains that Elizabeth helped everyone but her. Elizabeth says that the only thing Jessica wanted was for Elizabeth to make sure she went to Mandy’s party. Jessica starts crying at that, pointing out that isn’t she practically Mandy’s best friend. Actually, yes. Mandy shows up in a lot of books, and Jessica was her first close friend when she joined the school. Still, even someone as nice as Mandy must get fed up with Jessica’s shit.
Elizabeth feels bad about this, and says she’ll talk to Mr Siegel and Mandy and see what she can do. Then she leaves the room in tears.
Maria is in the bathroom when Elizabeth is in there crying. She tries to console Elizabeth and gets nowhere. She offers some advice and Elizabeth tells her that she doesn’t need anyone’s advice. Elizabeth is delightfully insufferable here.
Elizabeth goes home and Alice is both there and sober. She asks Elizabeth if she’s sick, and Elizabeth says she has a headache. Then the whole story comes out. Alice says Elizabeth isn’t sick, she’s exhausted. She’s let everything except the column slide, and something has to give. Alice wasn’t going to say anything because it seemed so important, but enough is enough. Elizabeth is tired, falling behind and miserable. Elizabeth again bursts into tears and runs up to bed.
Back at school, Amy and Maria discuss the situation and decide that it’s their fault that Elizabeth is in such a mess. They oversold her ability, they lied, and they did it selfishly because they wanted software. Amy asks what they should do, Maria tears up the entry form for the competition in response.
Amy drops in on Mother Sutton, who is packing up. She’s going back to Chicago. She has arranged movers for next week, and she’s got someone searching for an apartment. Wow, that is a quick turnaround. I know JC schooled me on renting in the USA, but back when I worked in rentals, we couldn’t find and get someone in that quick unless it was an emergency. We’d just say no. Unless it was a really big deal. (Basically, if they were super rich and/or a celebrity or celeb-adjacent. We did it maybe twice in the few years I was there.) [Wing: I’ve found my own apartment in a shorter period of time, but I’d be shocked if this was doable in Chicago. Maybe if she planned to live in senior apartments where access is limited to above a certain age.]
Mother Sutton says that she’s a grown-ass woman and will not put up with their shit any longer.
“I will not be treated like a child by my child. Or his child.”
YOU GO, GIRL! TELL THOSE AGEIST FUCKERS!
Mother Sutton says she can take care of herself. Amy says sure, maybe, but she’s not. Then she lists all the issues, like the absent groceries and the way Mother Sutton didn’t pick up her prescription, until she’s overcome with tears.
When Amy calms down, Mother Sutton reassures her and then says that she’d rather go back to Chicago where she knows where everything is. She’s not used to the busy freeways of Sweet Valley and the chaotic shopping centre when her only context is Chicago. A really big city. Am I fucking missing something? I imagine everywhere in Sweet Valley has a 30mph or less speed limit, probably those kind of roads with trees or flowers in grassy bits of the sidewalk. I imagine there’s a single turning for the freeway that takes you to L.A.. I imagine that there must be buses, because they show up in the books every now and then. How is Sweet Valley more bustling than a city with 2.7 million people?
I can understand not knowing your way around, but I can’t understand how Sweet Valley is painted as this busy incomprehensible mess that makes Chicago look like the sweet folksy villages that people in Hallmark movies visit at Christmas.
Sure, driving in big cities versus small towns are two different experiences, and going someplace new when you don’t have a satnav must be bloody horrible. I learned to drive in Harehills, which is one of the lowest pass-rate areas in the country, and it is maddeningly busy. Nobody looks where they’re going, nobody indicates, traffic is everywhere, the road markings eroded around the same time that the dinosaurs were obliterated by a meteor, and people honk and swear a lot. But it’s really hard to go the wrong way because, due to all those idiots, your top speed is 10mph.
[Wing: It’s like Jamie is writing that she moved from Chicago to L.A., and that would be a big adjustment. Chicago has a fairly robust public transit system. L.A. is a sprawling city where everyone is expected to drive everywhere and it takes hours. That sort of transition would be difficult as hell. Chicago to Sweet Valley should not, at least not when it comes to getting around.]
Mother Sutton says that she was too embarrassed to admit she was nervous about driving in a different area, but she put on her big girl panties when she saw how upset Amy was. She got confused and ended up driving the wrong way down a freeway. She didn’t want to intrude on Dyan and Dave because she didn’t want to go to them for every little thing.
Uh, Edna, I’ve been supporting you every step of the way, but this isn’t “every little thing”, you never accepted help once. And sure, most of the time they’re babying you, but maybe if you’d asked for big help, they’d have given you a bit of agency on the small things, like whether or not you wanted to wear a cardigan over your dress. (Then again, one of them killed a child in the Nightmare Mansion series, so maybe not.)
Well, once they establish that medicine and groceries come under the heading of “important life stuff”, Amy offers to help, and all is well.
Urgh. This could have been a much better story. All it needed was not to have Mother Sutton driving like a clichéd female old person on the freeway. Maybe she kept messing up the bus routes, because her kids assumed she would drive, but she doesn’t like driving unfamiliar areas, which isn’t an unreasonable feeling for an older or nervous driver to have. [Wing: You know, I’d be surprised if she did much driving in Chicago; it also makes sense to me that people living in a car-heavy area would expect someone to more comfortable driving than they are. AND YET, THIS IS TINY SWEET VALLEY. Still no sense is made.]
Maybe she forgot key bits of her shopping and she was making do, or buying the wrong thing because they didn’t have what she liked but she couldn’t face getting on the bus again, but because her kids have been so irritating she didn’t want to ask at all, rather than she’s so fucking stupid she can’t work out that food and medicine aren’t more important than getting a chair away from a draught in a restaurant.
Then the moral of the story could have been communication matters, rather than, Isn’t grandma old and stupid, lolz?! [Raven: Hard agree.]
The next day at school, a lynch mob has formed outside the Sixers office. Everyone is demanding Elizabeth be fired from the paper, since she promised to fix everything, and she seems to have locked herself in the office.
Amy pushes through and unlocks the door. Nobody is in there. The riot attempts to start again. Amy stands on a table and whistles to get their attention. She tells them to grow up.
Despite the title, Elizabeth solves nothing. Amy solves it all.
She spills the tea and here it goes: Grow up. Making your own business is smart. Making your own business for cookies without testing the recipe is stupid and that’s your own fault, Randy. Denny, you didn’t take responsibility for the dog, you just said you would and it’s for the best that it has a new owner. Janet, you were told to make an effort, not be a doormat. Mandy, you were right to invite whoever you wanted, but if someone wasn’t invited to the party, it’s their right to be upset about it. And then she adds that she is just as guilty as them.
Asking for advice is great, but following it to the letter without using your brain and blaming the advice giver is not. Take responsibility for your daft decisions.
I’m never going to say this again, and I’m making a new tag to commemorate this moment: AMY SUTTON IS FUCKING AWESOME. [Raven: Also agreed. It’s nice to see the denouement coming from someone other than a Wakefield.] [Wing: I hope we do have a chance to use it again, but I fear we will not. Amy is pretty goddamn great in this book and fucking awesome in this scene.]
Mandy fesses up to Jessica that she’s actually not limited on who she can invite, she just made that up because she was pissed off about the copying. Jessica shows that she’s growing – she’s still a wrongun, but she’s making baby steps – by saying she doesn’t really get why Mandy is pissed off about the copying, but she can see that she is pissed off and she’s sorry. Mandy says she’ll explain why at the slumber party.
As everyone moseys away, Maria jokes that Amy gives pretty good advice, maybe she should take over. Amy says never and then drafts what she hopes is the last Dear Elizabeth letter ever.
Elizabeth actually isn’t at school today. She’s worried herself sick and Alice has insisted Elizabeth stay home. She can’t settle though, and keeps looking at the overwhelming amount of Dear Elizabeth letters piled up.
A letter is shoved under the door, and I’m just going to quote it, because if I typed this out, you’d think I was being sarcastic.
Sometimes my best friend is so overly responsible that she takes responsibility for other people’s dumb mistakes. In fact, she’s so busy taking responsibility for other people’s mistakes that she won’t take responsibility for her own mistakes. Like forgetting that she’s only human. Which means she can be wrong sometimes. And sometimes she can forget things that she should have remembered. And when she’s in over her head, she should ask for help!!!
Signed—The President of the Elizabeth Wakefield Fan Club
She opens the door and cries “Help” and out pop Amy, Maria, Jessica, and Mandy, who do her outstanding chores, while Elizabeth freshens up and is sent out to meet Todd for a soda.
Elizabeth writes a sassy resignation letter, saying that she’s giving up the column and if anyone has a bright idea for raising the cash for a desktop publishing suite, then just get right on it.
And then we cut to the final three paragraphs which awkwardly try to foreshadow the next book. Hey, remember when they seeded upcoming books all the way through? That died out pretty quick, didn’t it?
And the foreshadowing is: Steven likes food. But also girls.
Wow, not sure how we could have lived without that intriguing piece of information that has never once been conveyed in a single book before now.
Overall, not bad. I liked that it gleefully poked fun at Elizabeth all the way through, and really lampshaded her pious nature.
And the story was fine-ish. As a narrative device, it was fine, a bit rushed and clumsy, but it’s Sweet Valley, so what do you expect. However, the thing that pissed me off was Mother Sutton. I just didn’t like that somehow the asshats that babied her and treated her like a mindless meat suit were somehow in the right about everything.
Probably won’t read again, because I’ll just forget what this is about and mix it up with Elizabeth the Seventh Grader again.
[Raven: I also quite enjoyed this. Elizabeth being stone-cold useless and panicky is a refreshing change, and Amy being badass at the end was lovely. I was very disappointed by the wasted subplot, and the actual end of both plots felt rushed as hot balls, but it’s sassily written and full of fun. I did miss Lila though. So yeah. Dece.]
[Wing: Not as bad as some of them have been recently. The saving grace is Jamie’s snark over Elizabeth. Also, Amy being pretty damn great. Otherwise, nothing too different than other middle grade stories dealing with advice columns.]
I am Dove (she/her). I am: Team Jessica (Sweet Valley); Team Bad Guy (Point Horror); Team Geiger (Making Out); Team Nina/Lucas (Making Out); and I am the voice of a claymation cow named Daisy, and I was in an advert for Fairy Liquid in the 80s.