Title: Breakfast of Enemies
Tagline: Fortified with essential vitamins… and two Wakefield twins!
Summary: What’s in a healthy breakfast? Fruit juice, toast, milk… and identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield! That’s right—the twins have been chosen to appear on a Corny O’s cereal television commercial!
But the twins can’t agree on how to play the Corny O’s girl. Elizabeth wants to follow the director’s instructions, but Jessica thinks the part calls for drama and glamour. And Jessica’s determined to do it her way… no matter what.
Being on national television is Jessica’s dream come true. But will sharing the spotlight with her sister turn her into a cereal killer?
Cereal killer? Really? We’re going with that hoary old chestnut, are we?
I guess if it’s good enough for Sherlock, it’s good enough for Sweet Valley.
Also, are Corny-O’s an actual thing? Never mind, I’ve just Googled it. They’re not real, just like the 555 phone code, or Belgium.
This book sounds fun! Is it? Read on to find out!
[Dove: What is the actual cereal they’re referencing? Is it Cheerios?] [Raven: That’s what I’m thinking.]
This book starts with Jessica and Lila. That’s good. We like Jessica and Lila.
Apparently, the girls both applied to California Girl Magazine, as a response to their call for feature stars. They are looking to showcase “accomplished readers”, whatever that means, and of course the most privileged of the Unicorns and her twinny bezzie mate think they’d be perfect for the job. Through Jessica’s POV, though, we learn that she thinks she is the natural choice, so much so that they’d need to expand the section to cover all her important deeds. Standard for Jessica, of course.
They cycle down the long drive to the Fowler Crest mailbox, which is the size of a small shed and made of solid gold. Lila opens the mailbox with the combination lock, drawing incredulity from Jessica.
“You lock up your mail?” Jessica asked, dumbfounded.
“Well, sure. Doesn’t everybody?” Lila said as she concentrated on the combination. “I mean, who knows what could be in here?”
For some reason, Jess is having this mail delivered to Lila’s house. I guess if they applied together it’s a nice Best Friends touch to have the responses sent to the same place so they can hopefully receive and open them together.
And of course, the letters are there, bold and branded with the magazine’s logo.
Jessica’s letter is stock, a thanks-but-no-thanks refusal. She sighs and screws it up.
Jessica crumpled the letter in her hand. “Well, so much for that,” she said with a loud sigh. “I guess we can try again next month. I mean, eventually they—”
“I got it! I got it!” Lila shrieked, jumping up and down.
“You got what?” Jessica asked.
I legitimately love the way Jessica just presumes that if she didn’t get the feature, then no-one would get the feature. Like, “You got what?” … come on Jess, you’ve literally got the crested envelope in your hand.
So, Lila’s got the feature, although for some reason I presumed this was subterfuge. SPOILER-it’s not, Lila genuinely scored the gig. And can you blame the schulbs at California Girl for this choice? Lila’s rich, pretty, well-connected, aspirational. Who the fuck is Jessica Wakefield? Maybe she should have bigged up the Quakefield Wakefield connection. [Dove: Or the fact that she’s acted with Delores Duffay. Or that she was in a movie.]
Jessica is immediately jealous,and tries to style it out. First, she suggests Lila tell the magazine that they should do a double feature. Lila no-ma’ams that idea with glorious gusto and glee. Then, when Lila asks Jess about her letter, Jessica pretends that it told her she was the runner-up choice. Of course, Lila want proof, and demands she see the letter, which Jessica refuses. There’s a snatching, a sneering, and more gloating from the Valley’s Little Rich Girl. Lila’s awesome.
We snap to the Unicorner, apparently just after Lila has informed her purple brethren about her grand news.
The Unis lap it up. Ellen and Janet fawn over the news, and Mandy Miller asks Jessica about her application. Again, Jess tries the standard swerve as she had outside the Golden Mailbox, but Lila slaps her down hard.
“Oh, please.” Lila rolled her eyes. “They said the same thing they said to the thousands of other people who applied. She got a standard rejection letter,” Lila informed everybody. “It didn’t even have her name on it.”
Boom. Headshot. Lila’s cold, y’all. Even Mandy feels the ice, commenting on the brutality of a form rejection.
Lila starts boasting about her upcoming photo shoot, as a seething Jessica listens, green to the gills, cursing her best friend’s health and hearth under her snapping vitriolic breath.
Next, it’s the evening, Jessica is back at the Wakefield Compound. She’s flipping angrily through a TV magazine, reading about her favourite actress Connie Boyer. She’s still livid at Lila’s good fortune, when she spots the following:
“Calling All Twins!” The bold headline jumped out at her. Jessica sat up on her bed. What was this? “The Corny O’s Cereal Company is looking for twins to star in their new commercial, which will air nationwide. Identical female twins ages ten to fourteen with acting experience encouraged to apply.”
She and Elizabeth would be perfect, she reasons. Elizabeth would need convincing to become a star… not as big a star as Jessica, mind. Never change, girl.
Also, is Jessica landed this, the jealousy would kick down Lila’s back door and nick her fucking telly.
Another snap cut, this time to Elizabeth. Yay everyone, Elizabeth is here!
I for one am super-happy we have the Great Blonde Buzzkiller in the building. [Dove: If Sweet Valley was wrestling… what a name.]
Of course, she says NO to a Corny-O’s based opportunity. Jessica pleads, but Elizabeth is firm.
“Jessica, I don’t want to be in that Corny O’s ad. Kids on TV are so obnoxious.”
“No, they’re not,” Jessica said.
“They’re either way too cute, or they’re causing trouble for their parents, spilling stuff on the rug, or they’re asking for stuffing for dinner instead of potatoes—”
“Asking for stuffing for dinner instead of potatoes”…?
Is this some weird American commercial reference?
The ghostie then tosses off the usual “same but different” crap, before some legitimately sassy back-and-forth in which Elizabeth is finally convinced. Personal highlights from the exchange include Jessica trying to cajole her sister by telling her she’ll be rich enough to buy five of whatever she wants. [Dove: Also, one of Jessica’s tactics for convincing Elizabeth to give it a go is mentioning how much they like the Doublemint Twins. Who are the Doublemint Twins? Well, around the time this book came out, the twins were Cynthia and Brittany Daniel. And since that will mean nothing to Wing and Raven: THEY’RE JESSICA AND ELIZABETH IN THE TV SHOW, WHICH WAS ALSO AIRING AROUND THIS TIME. Basically, A+ for a stealthy meta nod from the Jamie. One of the best we’ve seen.] [Raven: Kudos!]
Can you guess what finally convinces Elizabeth to play along? She decides that she can use her portion of the pay packet to buy Sweet Valley Middle School some computers and a desktop publishing system. I mean, FUCK OFF, you sanctimonious shitgoblin. Buy yourself some fucking sweets. Be a damn kid. Also, what are the shithole school doing, when they need their eleven-year-old students to buy them resources? And didn’t they recently get a new desktop publishing system? They need investigating for fucking fraud. [Dove: Genuinely, how often do they need new software?]
So. They have an accord. They have five days to prepare. Jess suggests they eat some Corny-O’s, to get to know their product.
Chapter two starts after school on Wednesday, to start rehearsing for the audition. They chat shit about Romeo and Juliet, and the time the battled over the starring role in the Middle School production. Nice continuity there, and not only on a surface level. In that book, they squabbled a lot, and in this book… wait and see.
The girls decide to prepare audition speeches from Romeo and Juliet, positing that any other auditionees would have starring role experience or have such speeches prepared. I mean, speeches from Romeo and Juliet… how positively original.
But as they practice, it seems that Jessica is bossing Elizabeth about and asserting her authoritah. Elizabeth gets irritated. They start bickering, and Daddy Withigakefithigield plus The Sainted Alice stagger in, full of gin and piss and vinegar.
The Elder Wakefields soon ascertain that the girls are rehearsing for an approaching TV commercial audition. Surprisingly, the parents decide to do some parenting for once, They tell the twins that their dreams of Cereal Stardom are dead in the water. Their reasons are twofold:
- The girls likely don’t have the time to do this, and
- The twins are fucking HELLIONS when they are performing together, as Romeo and Juliet proved.
Elizabeth tells her parents that she plans on using her share of the payment, should they get the part, to supply computers for Sweet Valley Middle School, but they aren’t moved. Selfishly, they complain that the girls will likely drive everyone up the wall with their bickering, and even pointed to the fact that Jessica and Elizabeth had been arguing as they entered the room. The twins brush that aside as creative differences.
Then, IN WALKS STEVEN.
Steven isn’t too obnoxious in this book.
He does, however, take up too much page time. The perfect amount of page time that should be donated to Steven? Zero. Zero pages. None, zip, nada. In fact, if it were possible, I’d donate MINUS THREE pages to Steven each chapter, by which I mean three pages of Steven from previous books should be excised from my memory with hot irons or psychoactive drugs. [Dove: Since we have electronic copies of these books, I bet we could go through and remove his every last trace and the only time we’d notice it is during The Older Boy.]
I’ll be giving short shrift to this septic blob of sputum, as is my right as a gentleman and scholar.
Steven discovers his sisters’ audition plans, and is typically scoffing. Papa Wakefield demands he play nice. The girls then continue their cajoling, trying their best to convince the Elders Wakefields that they have the minerals to both fit the filming into their hectic lives and to get along both hunkily and dorily for the duration of the shoot. Eventually, as the plot demands, the Elders deliver their decree.
“Well….” Mr. Wakefield glanced at the twins’ mother. “What do you think, Alice?”
“If they can show us that they can act like sisters and not enemies—”
“Hmpf,” Steven snorted. “Fat chance.”
“—then I think they deserve a chance to audition,” Mrs. Wakefield finished.
Jessica is jubilant. Elizabeth is happy, but not convinced they’ll be able to avoid fighting tooth and claw.
The parents disappear to “make dinner”, which is either code for a gin binge or some Afternoon Delight. The Wakefield siblings remain, and the girls hit upon an idea. They convince their brother to pile on the insults for the next few days, thick and with a trowel, to manufacture instances where one twin can leap to the defence of the other. Thus the Elders will see their cooperation, and thus the audition will see their attendance.
Steven agrees, with the proviso that the twins “owe him”. That’s such a crappy form of currency between siblings, which in the real world would be forgotten almost immediately. When bartering with a family member, you need immediate relief or written contractual evidence of the trade in services.
The plan starts the following morning / chapter over breakfast, with Jessica completely overdoing the purple clothing and Steven calling her a grape. Jessica defends herself, telling him / us that the Unicorns demand the wearing of purple clothing, a certain style sacrifice to maintain their valley-wide mystique.
“What happens if you don’t? Do you get kicked out of the club?” Steven asked.
“Yes,” Jessica informed him, snapping open her napkin.
“Then if I were you, I’d run back upstairs and put on a blue outfit,” Steven said, laughing. “Then you’d be kicked out! No more Unicorns!”
Seems a militant response to someone wearing blue instead of purple, but whatever.
Just as Jessica is getting legit angry, which is rich as the whole thing was her idea, Elizabeth swoop in to play her part. She defends the Unicorns, heavy-handedly, much to everyone’s surprise. Both the Elder Wakefields comment on their more studious crotch-rat’s apparent face-turn in the face of Steven’s withering scorn. They’re onto these shenanigans, of that there’s no doubt. Of course, Jessica then decides to drive the point home further, declaring with the subtlety of a sledgehammer that she is also becoming friends with series favourite Amy “Lank Haired Spunkwaffle” Sutton.
Even gin-soaked Alice questions this revelation.
“I like Elizabeth’s friends too,” Jessica put in as an afterthought. “A whole lot. Especially Amy—she’s great.”
Mrs. Wakefield raised her eyebrows. “Amy Sutton? Aren’t you always saying how boring she is?”
Way to throw shade at Elizabeth’s best friend, Alice.
The parents go along with the charade. Whatevs. [Dove: It hadn’t occurred to me that the parents actually saw through the ploy, and were just reaping the benefits of forcing the twins to agree. I just assumed they were being cataclysmically dim again (like the time when the twins were babysitting overnight, but nobody knew where), and actually believed them. It had never occured to me to credit Alice and/or Ned with intelligence. Huh.]
Thursday night. Elizabeth is writing a sports article for the Sixers, again in earshot of the Elder Wakefields. Jessica decided to “help” her sister by suggesting some “improvements” to the school’s football team. Of course, the suggestions are wildly inappropriate and basted in stultifying banality, but after over one hundred books in the series, I’ll be surprised if you were expecting anything less.
So Jess suggests Elizabeth write about the important things,.. Y’know, the uniforms and shit, And of course, the Boosters needs to be front and centre, as they are practically the unsung heroes of the team’s win.
Elizabeth so wants to yeet her sister into the sea for such asinine and superficial bullshit, but couches her response in fine compromise-centric language. She can’t mention the Boosters in her article, because she’s saving them for a future article that centres on just them, with photos, interviews and more. Jessica’s rampant ego is placated… for now. But soon, it must feed, and woe betide anyone who is stood in its wake when she devours. [Dove: I really want a story where Jessica really is the Eldrich abomination that Raven makes her out to be.]
The Elder Wakefields heard everything, of course, so it’s all going swell so far.
Friday, breakfast time. Still intent to slather on the charm like butter on a crumpet, Elizabeth starts the day by baking Jessica’s favourite cookies: Oatmeal Choc Chip.
So. Not JEM cookies, then? The prize-winning cookies which saw her appearing on what I can now only assume was a cable and non-syndicated television show? In fact, didn’t they also get on television playing fucking Pea Pong? These girls are never off the idiot box.
While Jessica shows her appreciation by eating a far-too-hot cookie far too quickly, Elizabeth fires the second barrel of the charm shotgun…
“By the way, you might want to fix a couple of typos in your social studies paper, Jessica. I proofread it while I was waiting for the cookies to bake,” Elizabeth announced. “And I made a couple of suggestions for a rewrite too.”
Jess thanks her, but her heart isn’t in it. A write is bad enough, never mind a re-write. She attempts to wrest back the initiative, by literally offering Elizabeth the sweater off her back.
Elizabeth believes the sweater is a bonefide gift, while Jess looks on it as a temporary loan. It’s a cool sweater, elegant and chic. Elizabeth offers to return the favour, letting Jessica wear her much-loved pink Sea World sweater adorned with blue dolphins and a twee catchphrase. Jessica politely declines. The arms race continues, with both the twins sticking their dick on the table for the Who’s The Nicest Twin competition. Jess finally whisks Elizabeth away with a barrette pretext, leaving Ned to comment that the girls are doing well… for now.
Saturday morning is next, a mere two days to the audition. Steven, incredulous, goes over Jessica’s latest plan: Insult Elizabeth until she “cries”, at which point Jessica can swoop in and save the day, likely with kung fu.
Steven agrees, and heads downstairs to commence the subterfuge, where Elizabeth is helping her parents with some light housework. Steven lays into her fashion sense, declaring the pairing of red and orange as a mismatch made in hell. Elizabeth sticks up for herself, but Steven is strangely vocal and persistent, which eventually results in SuperJessica dashing to her rescue.
Jessica declares Elizabeth to be “brutally cool,” but Steven persists as the Elders roll their eyes at the whole transparent debacle.
“I still say she needs a makeover,” Steven grumbled. “Maybe some orange eyebrows? Red hair to match?”
“Be quiet, Steven!” Jessica put a protective arm around Elizabeth. “Just ignore him,” she told her sister. “You’re way better than he could ever be. And I love you, no matter what you wear, and I’d do anything for you—you know that, right, Elizabeth?”
“Just like I’d do anything for you,” Elizabeth said, smiling brightly.
I mean, I know it’s all fake-ass twinny bullshit, but even I’m getting cheesed off with it now. The Elder Wakefields crack, and declare the twins can attend the audition as long as they stop with the insincere schmaltzing.
Delighted, the twins agree.
Next, it’s Monday, after school. The girls are queueing for their audition, amongst fifty other pairs of twins.
I’m enjoying the book thus far. It has some fine sass.
But it feels like it’s taken an age to get to the actual meat of the plot.
Usually, this does not bode well, as any early dalliance takes whole shovelfuls out of the denouement. Things start happening off screen, exciting things, the very things we’ve paid our money and time to read.
Let’s hope the balance is right this time out.
Jessica, as you’d expect, is scathing of their competition. She declares that the Wakefields are the most identical twins auditioning, but Elizabeth logic-slaps her down good. A nice bit of characterisation there.
One of the staff hands out lines for the queue to memorise, including the Conry-O’s jingle, which all are required tossing. Jessica asks her if they can skip the line, as they’ve got tons of acting experience, but she’s gloriously cut off by the brusqueness of the reply.
“OK, well, I was wondering if we could, like, cut to the front of the line, because we’ve got a ton of acting experience,” Jessica said. “It would save everyone a lot of time, and—”
“It’s an open casting call. We’ll give an audition to everyone here who’s called and reserved a place,” the woman told her. Then she moved on down the line without another word.
I do hope the people making the commercial refuse to take any of the Wakefield shit throughout. That would be great.
The girls practice the jingle, believing themselves to be superior singers to all in earshot. In reality, they are better than some, but much worse than others. Weren’t they once in a nationally-recognised-award winning choir? And soloists in said choir? [Dove: But also, their singing at Christmas causes the neighbours to think they’re abusing animals in there. So who knows? And before you suggest maybe they’re only terrible at Christmas, the choir competition happened at Christmas too.]
We now head to the actual audition room, where Jessica schmooses Stan, the director, with dazzling smiles. He asks Jess to read the lines, but Jess has other ideas. She mentions their prepared speeches from Romeo and Juliet.
“That’s nice. Maybe someday you’ll perform at Shakespeare in the Park. But today you’re reading the script you were handed outside. You go first,” Stan said, pointing to Jessica. “Then you. Then together. Begin!”
I think I like Stan. He brooks no wastrels.
The girls comply. They then sing the Corny-O’s jingle, which lives up to the Corny part of its name…
“From Canada to Borneo, everyone loves Corny O’s! They’re crunchy sweet and good to eat—they’re nutritious too, and healthy for youuuuuuuuuuu!”
Of course, Jessica packs every note with overblown dramatism, causing Stan to request a more natural rendition as their second and final chance. They comply, again, as the scene fades.
Snap cut to the callback waiting area. The twins are nervous, but they needn’t be. If they’d only read this book’s synopsis, they’d realise they got the part.
So, yeah. Stan wants to speak to them. Everyone else? Thanks for playing, off you fuck.
The twins answer their call from Destiny.
Jessica bolted eagerly into the studio. “Stan! Here we are—the best Corny O’s twins ever!” she cried.
I hate to say it, but Jessica’s beginning to get on my tits in this one. Turn it down a notch, love. Remember your actual one-on-one training with a goddamn movie star (I wanna say Delores something? [Dove: Duffay.]). She’d be mortified that you’re coming over as a colossal pain in the arse.
Stan doesn’t buy Jessica’s descriptor, but admits they were picked because of Jessica’s dramatic flair. He then reveals the structure of the shoot, which starts on Wednesday. He also reveals an interesting reason for the casting of twins…
Only one girl will appear onscreen at any given point in the commercial. Twins are employed in order to circumvent the restrictive laws on child labour hours. So when one sister reaches the cap on the small number of permittable working hours in a day, the other sister can take her place. Nice!
But the twins are so very different, despite what they look like! We’ve at least one paragraph in each of one-hundred-and-six books that tells us so!
So, one twin will clock in for the shoot. She’ll do the work, then clock out, and the second twin will clock in to continue.
[Dove: You missed the most Jessica of reactions to this:
Jessica bristled. She didn’t like the sound of this. Laws? And since when was she a child?
Jessica does not believe in laws, to the point she’s never even heard of them.]
Jessica immediately tries to shark in on Elizabeth’s time, suggesting that a second twin will be unnecessary as she’s so goddamn special that she’ll nail everything in one take. Seriously Jess, there’s confidence when you’re talking to friends at school, or even teachers, but at this point you’re just being obnoxious. [Dove: I started wanting to throttle her here.]
Stan tells Jess they’ll cross that unlikely bridge should they come to it, and then lays down the ultimate law.
“Let me warn you. If you can’t produce a perfect performance, you’ll have to be replaced,” Stan said.
Attaboy, Stan. Don’t take their (Jessica’s) shit.
The twins receive a contract for the Elders to sign and return. Jessica suggests they sign it themselves, which is again shot down in flames. Back off Jess, you’re acting like a complete twat. This is your actual dream, stop cocking it up by being a cleft.
Stan hands Jessica his business card to add to the contract so Lawyer Daddy Wakefield can contact him if needed. That’s a point, shouldn’t the parent be, y’know, actually present for these discussions? More dereliction of parental responsibility. I guess they can check over the contract once their back from their swingers trip to Tijuana.
Jess vows to pocket the card and take it to school the following day, as a prop to boast, and as a silver bullet to shoot down Lila’s crappy little California Girl profile.
Yeah, Jess is fucking toxic this week. I can’t believe I’m turning to Team Elizabeth.
On their bus ride home, the girls discuss their good fortune. Jessica is all limousines and big breaks and Connie Boyer this and celebrity that, which Elizabeth is much more pragmatic.
“Everyone’s making such a big deal about Lila’s article in California Girl. Wait until everyone at school hears that we’re going to be on TV!” Jessica exclaimed.
Elizabeth smiled faintly. Somehow she wasn’t quite as crazy about blabbing to her friends about the commercial as Jessica was. What if the two of them ended up looking like fools, like some of those other kids on TV? And there was that embarrassingly silly song they had to sing….
I sort of take her point, although I’m surprised she’s not hand-waving the potential embarrassment with a “I’m doing it for the school computers, people!” heartfelt and passionate speech. She asks her head-in-the-clouds other half is she’s blabbed about the audition to any of her purple friends. Apparently, Jessica hasn’t, as the table talk is currently All Lila, and she thought she could spring in on them as a grand surprise.
Elizabeth cajoles her twin into keeping shtum about the commercial. It could be embarrassing, she suggests. They may be forced into terrible costumes. The commercial might change without them knowing. And so on.
At first, while Jessica is receptive to Elizabeth’s worries, she believes she can solve them by a personal call to Stan like the superstar she is, and, again, I roll my eyes and wish she’d dial it back a notch. Elizabeth then plays a blinder, and evokes the may interviews by Connie Boyer in which she complained about shoddy handling by studio execs and movie directors. As Jess basically believes she is Connie Boyer at this point, she takes the issues on board and agrees not to tell anyone about the commercial until it’s finished.
Any guesses on whether she keeps that promise?
“I promise,” Jessica said. “Ooh, I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad we got the part!” She started running down the sidewalk. “We’re going to be famous!”
“Jessica, wait! Be quiet!” Elizabeth hurried to catch up to her. For someone who’d promised to keep it a secret, Jessica sure was shouting really loudly.
Pretty sure that’s a no.
At home, Steven’s mind boggles at the amount the twins will be getting paid for their performances. While it’s never strictly mentioned, the Elders intimate that Elizabeth will be able to buy computer equipment for the school alongside saving for their college educations.
Jessica looked crushed. “College,” she muttered. “Who cares about college? It’s, like, a decade away.”
Nice work, Jess. [Dove: I guess that’s why money is never mentioned at SVU?]
The Elders agree to sign the contract as long as most of the funds are saved, again meaning there’s more of the parental money to spend on gin, MDMA and rentboys.
Steven is furious. Why should the girls be so rich, just because they are twins? He practically got them this part by helping their subterfuge. He demands that the universe provides recompense. He decides he needs his own commercial, and the twins will make that happen for him.
Once the Elders exit the room to start “making dinner” again, Steven demands that, as payback for his help earlier in the book, the twins get him an audition for a presumably upcoming cereal commercial. The girls attempt to wriggle out of it (well, Jessica) by claiming that they might only want them to do all their promotional work, and that the child labour laws mean they work exclusively with twins. Steven then says perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
“And Steven you may be a lot of things, but you are definitely not a twin,” Jessica pointed out. “Identical or fraternal.”
“Duh. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is acting!” Steven declared. “If you guys can play twins, then so can I.”
He vows that, if he needs to, he’ll find someone that looks like him enough to play his twin The guy is a massive bellend. Also, isn’t that the plot from a Friends episode?
It’s the next day, at school, and I for one wish they’d skip to the commercial shoot. We’re at the school lockers, and Lila is sounding off about her upcoming feature and recent photo shoot. It’s lovely stuff, peak Lila. The Unicorns are lapping it up, as are a gabble of the usual boys, your Andrewses, your Patmans, your Egberts, your Wilkinses and so on.
Jessica is fuming. Her upcoming commercial is a damn sight more impressive than Lila’s meagre stint in a provincial rag. As the conversation continues – “Did you meet any models?” … “No, the emphasis was on me.” – Jess comes closer and closer to spilling the beans. Once Bruce Patman offers to help Lila distribute copies of the magazine when the feature comes out in two months, Jess goes full Popeye… she can’t stands no more.
She shut her locker door. “Well, Bruce, if you think Lila’s article is impressive, you’re not going to believe my news.”
Yup, this is going to end horribly. That sentence sounds soooo petty.
Jessica tells everyone she and Elizabeth’s grand news. Predictably, the crowd are sceptical. Jess whips out the card from Stan the Director, but apparently her jeans had been washed that evening and the card had reduced to mush. Then, as an act of supposed and desperate proof, Jess sings the Corny-O’s jingle…
From Canada to Borneo,
Everyone loves Corny O’s!
They’re crunchy sweet
And good to eat—
They’re nutritious too,
And healthy for you!
If you eat them every day,
You’ll win at work or play!
It’s Corny O’s for me,
I love Corny O’s, I do—
And I bet you will too!
Jessica stopped singing and looked at the giant crowd that had gathered in the hallway. Everyone was watching and listening to her now, not Lila. And that was just the way it should be. She held her head high, anticipating the applause.
Oh, Jessica, honey. Stop. Please.
Predictably, everyone roars with laughter. Aaron, Janet, Winston, Ellen… everyone.
“‘Yes indeedy’?” Janet sputtered. “Are you actually going to say that in public?”
THIS WILL REFELCT BADLY ON THE UNICORNS.
Jessica realises that this has backfired in spectacular fashion. Soon, her entire entourage are hooting like mandrils. Janet continues to be on brand, declaring that Jessica sings that on national TV, she’ll embarrass the Noble Order of Pointy Purple Ponies. In desperation Jess evokes the name of her cereal-commercial-star-turned-super-actress Connie Boyer, but she’s shot down in flames.
As she departs in horror, Jess can hear Winston’s off-key pastiche ringing clear.
“From Canada to Borneo, everyone loves Jessica O’s,” Winston warbled. “Yes indeedy, have you heard, Jessica O’s become a nerd!”
I enjoyed this section a lot. It seemed believable, somehow. Although I do think the Unicorns would be a t least a little awed by the National TV angle.
It’s also nice to see Jessica’s blabbermouth tendencies actually backfiring properly for once. Jess, will you ever learn?
The fun doesn’t stop here, folks. Elizabeth is beavering away in the library.
Suddenly, appallingly, she can hear the grim refrain of the Corny-O’s jingle from another part of the library, complete with altered and mocking lyrics. Soon, Bruce and Janet hone into view, and begin the ribbing in earnest.
For some reason, Elizabeth thinks denial is the best form of defence. Janet no-sirs that quick-smart.
“Jessica told us all about it,” Janet said. “She thinks she’s the next Connie Boyer. But Elizabeth, I have a teeny-tiny piece of advice for you. Try to get the director to drop the song, or your career is history.”
Angry as hot balls, Elizabeth storms off. Jessica will pay for this hideous betrayal! As she departs, she bumps into Todd and Winston, who actually continue the mockery. I mean, I get Winston carrying on, but Todd? I suppose his banter is a little less acerbic towards his sort-of girlfriend, but even so. She gets to English class, thinking it’s a safe haven, but even Ken Matthews is humming the jingle tune too.
Jessica, she vows, is a dead girl.
That afternoon, Jessica calls Stan the Director, in order to get Steven an audition, somehow, despite not knowing if there are any other commercials in the pipeline. Stan is understandably pensive at the call, which begins with Jessica suggesting they change the jingle.
“Note. Jessica, the jingle’s been written, rewritten, and tested on consumers. We’re not changing it now,” Stan said.
“Oh,” Jessica said despondently.
Again, I like that Stan is taking no shit.
Talk gets to the possibility of Stevn auditioning for something in the future… and what do you know, there is an opportunity on the horizon. Wake Up and Win Flakes are shooting a commercial, and are looking for athletic-looking twin teenage boys for an audition that coming Monday. There’s be no favouritism, of course, but “they” would be welcome to audition.
Steven is pleased. Now the easy part – finding a twin brother. [Dove: I felt that this bit dragged a bit. Just get to the commercial, stop twatting about with Steven’s stupid dreams and everyone at school being an asshat.] [Raven: The set up for the commercial took ages, but I didn’t actually mind Steven’s weird B Plot.]
Next up, Jessica lounges on the couch and watches a random Connie Boyer interview on TV. In it, Connie shares some pearls of wisdom for those looking to follow in her illustrious footsteps.
Connie Boyer, it seems, is a proper wrongun.
Her advice amounts to the following nonsense:
- Don’t let anyone push you around. Not the director, or the producer, or your co-stars.
- You have to be true to yourself, or your artistic vision just gets trampled.
She even ends the interview with the following gem…
“But I’m sure that doesn’t always go over very well. I mean, we’re talking about some major egos in Hollywood,” the host said. “What happens when you trample them?”
“I don’t know. That’s not my concern. I don’t turn around, and I don’t look back,” Connie said confidently.
Jessica laps it up, vowing to ask What Would Connie Do at every opportunity. This does not bode well for Jessica’s time on set with Stan and Elizabeth, dear me no.
Eventually, Elizabeth gets home from school, still furious with her sister for breaking her promise and telling everyone about the commercial. If Elizabeth is only getting home now, has Jessica been bunking off school? Probably.
Jessica tries to innocently ignore her twin’s anger, as her parents make dinner around them. And by make dinner, I mean make dinner, not have sex on the dining room table. Jess even offers to help make dinner, which should cause everyone to faint in shock, but Elizabeth is onto her avoidance scheme and is not playing along. She tries to get Jess away from the kitchen, so not to explode in front of the Elders and prove their fears of warring sisters entirely correct. Jess won’t budge, feeling that Elizabeth will not chew her a new asshole and jeopardise her shot at getting new computers for school.
How wrong she is. Elizabeth is ready to let both barrels fire.
Elizabeth gave Jessica a wicked smile. “Jessica, I’m slightly angry with you. No, make that downright furious.”
With the parents listening on, she outlines the depths of her anger in red and vivid language. Eventually, Elizabeth delivers a coup de grace to the conversation.
“You know what happened! Thanks to your big mouth, now everyone at school knows about the commercial, even though you promised not to tell, which makes you a liar on top of being a blabber-mouth!” Elizabeth blurted out. “And I’m not doing the commercial with you anymore!”
She declares she’s quitting, in fine dramatic style. Maybe she’s more like Jessica than she’d care to admit.
Oddly, the parents put their foot down. Elizabeth is not quitting. The twins made a damn commitment, and they will abso-fucking-lutely stick to it. Besides, the Elder Wakefields have already spent the proportionate amount to be earned for the commercial on heroin. There’s no going back now.
The girls continue to argue over the Elders’ glorious diktat, so much so that they append a further clause. Not only are the twins to be press-ganged into fulfilling their contract, if they don’t start getting along they’ll be grounded for a month.
Grudgingly, they acquiesce, but not before laying a final pair of barbed insults at each other’s feet.
When their parents turned around, Elizabeth stuck her tongue out at her sister. “Blabbermouth,” she whispered.
“Tattletale,” Jessica whispered back.
Quick skip to Steven, trying to convince his friend Joe Howell to be his “twin” for the Wake Up and Win Flakes audition. Joe’s not really up for it, and then reveals that he’s got a makeup test that clashes with the schedule. Steven tries hard to press it anyway, suggesting he skip.
Joe shook his head. “I failed the test the first time. I failed the first and second makeups. If I don’t pass it this time, I don’t get another shot.”
“Oh. Well, I guess I’ll have to find someone else,” Steven said, slamming his locker door shut. He couldn’t help feeling disappointed… even though maybe he didn’t really want to be twins with someone who needed four tries to pass a test.
Genuine laugh from me, I’ll admit. From Steven! He’s still a cleft though. [Dove: Grudging amusement. Also, during one of Steven’s scenes, he thinks to himself that it’s not fair that some people are born with an exact duplicate and somehow the entire world bends to the twins’ will. While I do loathe him, I suspect the Jamie was having a bit of a jab at the whole series, given the Doublemint reference earlier, so that amused me too.]
It’s now, finally, the day of the commercial shoot. It feels as though this has been building for a while with little payback, but I guess it’s been fun on the journey. Of course, we’re not quite there yet… there’s still time for some mockery from the Unicorns and selected cohorts.
This time, the mockery takes the form of a faux apology followed by what-passes-for-a-Photoshopped box of Corny-O’s, altered to house the twins’ pictures pride of place, with speech bubbles declaring their asinine love for the cereal brand and willingness to butcher the jingle. Oh my sides.
Jessica leaves to the howls of derision, planning her revenge. Oddly, that would come in the form of scathing comments in later interviews when she’s rich and famous…
“And what’s your philosophy of life, Jessica?” the host would ask, leaning toward her.
“Don’t trust anybody, Bob,” she would reply. “Especially when they claim to be your friends!”
Seems a tame way to exact your furious rage, Jess. What happened to good old-fashioned murder?
Elizabeth’s torment, on the other hand, comes from the Sweet Valley Middle School boys pretending to pap-snap her pictures and demand her autographs as she made a break for her mother’s minivan as the school day ended.
Finally, FINALLY, after six THOUSAND words of the recap, we get to the commercial shoot.
The twins are in makeup, and Jessica is complaining already. Her nose is not shiny, her wardrobe choice of yellow t shirt does not showcase her best look, and so on. Thankfully, Rebecca the makeup artist patiently explains the thought behind the choices.
Stan is there, ready to film what’s apparently Take Four of Jessica’s run on the commercial’s lines, with Elizabeth watching on in amusement.
“Corny O’s,” Jessica drawled in a lazy southern accent. “It’s the cereal that’s good for you in seven different ways for seven different days.” Her voice twanged on the word ways. “Try a bowl today, and you’ll feel like singing, darlin’.”
“Cut! No, no,” Stan said, shaking his head. “Since when do you have a southern accent?”
Elizabeth stifles a giggle. After a brief exchange in which Stan declares that a Southern accent is definitely not right for the part, he orders another take. Jessica delivers again.
“Corny O’s.” Jessica lowered her eyelids and stared into the camera. She sounded like a tough guy in an old Western movie. “The cereal that’s good for you in seven different ways for seven different days.” She nodded. “Yup. That’s the truth, pardner.”
Okay, I get it. This is the action. This is the drama, the story. But Jessica is being absolutely fucking ridiculous.
We snap to the end of Jessica’s allotted time as per Child Labour Laws, and an exasperated Stan calls for Elizabeth to sub in. Jess flounces behind the camera, and flops down in Stan’s chair, much to his annoyance. He ousts her from his seat.
“Oh.” Jessica blushed. “Sorry.” She had a feeling she wasn’t making a very good impression. Well, if they don’t want anyone else sitting there, they ought to write director on the front. Who looks at the back of a chair before they sit down?. These directors have such gigantic egos—just like Connie Boyer said.
I’m legitimately annoyed by how fucking obtuse Jessica is being. She’s been through the acting thing so many times, in so many books, and this is basic fucking stuff. It’s like she’s not been dreaming of opportunities like this since she was tiny, or like she’s got no actual clue how any of it works.
Elizabeth dully recites her lines, also receiving a yelled “cut” from Stan. Apparently, she’s as boring as ditchwater, according to Jessica. Okay, so maybe that’s hyperbole from an angry sibling, but if so, why is Stan cutting? And if it is true, why? Elizabeth did enough to land the role of Juliet in Jessica’s absence a few books ago, so she’s not exactly this guy:
It’s suddenly the end of the day, and things have not gone well. As they head out the studio Elizabeth accuses her sister of overacting. Jessica accuses her sister of underacting. They declare a truce and climb in the minivan.
Next, Steven. He’s trawling the mall for anyone who looks roughly like him. He spots a kid who looks the part – he’s the spitting image, apparently – but it transpires that he (Manny) actually has a twin (Danny), and they are both thrilled to be told there’s an open audition looking for twins to be in a commercial that coming Monday.
That evening, the Elder Wakefields quiz their crotch-rats on the quality and quantity of their day. Said crotch-rats then prove House correct… everybody lies. Steven did nothing that afternoon, the twins’ shoot went “great”, and the dirls are getting along like a house on fire, which is a phrase that makes Amy cry every time she hears it.
That night, in bed, Jessica reads yet more unhelpful and idiotic “advice” from her Idol of the Week, Connie Boyer. This time, Connie suggests that prospective superstars should never compromise on their principles or vision. After all, and this is a doozy…
Who understands the movie better than the actor who’s starring in it?
I mean, what the actual fuck? Who the hell let this idiot out of her box? Obviously, Jessica is in full agreement.
At Day 2 of the shoot, Jessica puts her Take No Shit, No Compromise bullshit agenda into force. Against every conceivable notion of sense, she decides she should do her own makeup. Elizabeth is astounded at her gall, but Jess manages to convince her that Rebecca will have the final word, so Liz nods and sets off for the set. With fifteen minutes to go until her own time to shine, Jess slathers on the lipstick.
We cut to the set, where Stan is praising sensible Elizabeth on her work that morning. It’s time, apparently, for Jessica to take over.
In comes Jess, looking like a proper state.
“Are you ready for me?”
Elizabeth blinked. Walking toward her was a girl with blond hair teased high. She was wearing cherry red lipstick and so much blush that she looked as if she had a sunburn. Her eyelashes were so heavily coated with black mascara that she looked like a raccoon.
But as far as Elizabeth was concerned, Jessica’s clothes were the worst of it. Her sister had cut little holes in the T-shirt, and she was wearing a pink feather boa around her neck. On her feet were high heels that were too big for her, and she stepped forward, teetering.
Stan bellows “Cut!”, and Jess points out that they haven’t started filming yet, which did make me laugh out loud. He’s understandably furious, and puts Jessica firmly in her place despite her feeble protestations of “adding flavour” to a “soggy script”.
Eventually, Jessica declares that she’s An Actor (capitals intentional).
“I have to do things the way I think is best. It’s part of my artistic vision,” Jessica said.
“Wake up, Jessica! You’re a kid in a cereal commercial,” Stan told her.
Jess doesn’t like that one iota, and begins to lay down an ultimatum to the wildly protesting Elizabeth, before Stan cuts them off. [Dove: Most of the time I’m dying for someone to put Elizabeth back in her box, but it’s very satisfying in this book to see Jessica get smacked down.]
They have one more chance, he says, to act like professionals and do things properly. The following day is the last one of the shoot, and if they don’t get it right, they’re out. Done. Finished. Kaput. Fired.
Jessica struggled to pry Elizabeth’s hand off her mouth, but Elizabeth held fast. “Yes, sir. We’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll be ready,” Elizabeth told Stan. “And Jessica’s really sorry about today. She just got… carried away, that’s all.”
“Aagh!” Stan muttered, walking away. “When am I going to make it out of commercials and start filming my own movies?”
Lovely final line there. Clichéd as all fuck, but still a homer.
That night, in their shared bathroom at the Wakefield Compound, it becomes glaringly transparent that Jessica is taking zero-fuck-balls-nada-NOL responsibility for the FUBAR from the afternoon. The girls argue again, with Jessica demanding creative control without, presumably, really understanding what that actually is.
Before they come to blows, things are broken up by The Suspicious Sainted Alice, but she’s placated that nothing’s awry.
Elizabeth, knowing now that Jessica is a lost cause, plans a tiny insurrection of her own, as Jess angrily doubles down on her self-belief and reliance on the advice from Connie fucking Boyer.
Quick skip to high school the next day, and would you believe it, but Steven has actually found someone who looks and acts like him, and who’s willing to give this audition a shot. Because why not, eh? I’m sure there were plenty of people who looked exactly like you in your high school. The school I went to was overrun with fucking doppelgangers. You couldn’t shit without stumbling over them. [Dove: In primary school, I was forever being muddled up with my best friend, because we were blonde. However, I was heavier than her and walked with a limp, so I assumed that everyone was a fucking idiot. Mum sent me some photos of us in the school play… I can’t tell us apart. But we were very young then, like five or six. Any time after that, you can tell us apart.]
Right. Back to the action. It’s the makeup room, where Jessica is, again, doing her own makeup. Elizabeth plays along with the conceit, as she’s obviously got something up her sleeve. What is that grand plan, I hear you cry?
Standard stuff, to be fair.
She locks her sister in the makeup room, and looks to act both portions of the performance herself. Jessica is livid. She bangs on the door and demands egress. Elizabeth is having none of it. She’s in too deep.
“Elizabeth! You’re breaking the child performer laws!” Jessica screeched. “You could go to jail!”
“You know what, Jessica?” Elizabeth smiled. “I’ll take that risk.”
That would be a fine end to this tale, having Elizabeth being bailed out of the Sweet Valley Jail by an irate Papa Wakefield.
Elizabeth rocks her portion of the shoot, doing all that Stan asks of her and more. Eventually, it’s Jessica’s turn, which causes Stan’s face to fall. Elizabeth goes to “switch” with her sister, but instead just pops to the bathroom and returns.
“Jessica?” Stan stared at Elizabeth, looking surprised.
“So sorry I’m late. I was going over my lines again,” Elizabeth said. “And I’m truly sorry about yesterday. I just didn’t understand how serious everything was. I won’t mess it up for you today—I promise.”
Stan buys the Twin Magic, and filming resumes.
Back in then locked makeup room, Jessica is pounding on the door, yelling at the top of her lungs. Eventually, she’s released by Rebecca, and we learn she’s been held prisoner for half an hour. Losing no time, she dashes to the set with fire in her eyes and thunder in her belly.
Stan goes full Twin Magic Immersion as soon as Jessica arrives.
“Elizabeth! There you are,” Stan said as Jessica skidded onto the stage.
Jessica caught her breath. “I’m not Eli—”
“No, you’re not late,” Elizabeth cut in hastily, looking stunned. “Thank goodness!”
“You’re just in time, actually. I need you both for this next sequence.”
It appears that Elizabeth, in the thirty minutes that Jessica has been locked away, has boxed off Jessica’s part and it’s time for the next segment. Of course, Jessica isn’t ready to move on quite yet. She tattles on her sister, but is completely ignored for plot reasons.
Basically, the last thing to film is some blue-or-green-screen live action segments. Jessica butts in.
“Live action?” Jessica said. “So what does that mean? Do I knock my twin over to get some Corny O’s or something?”
“Oh, no. Nothing like that,” Stan said. “What an imagination you have, Elizabeth. That isn’t a bad idea.”
Jessica stomped her foot. “Well, it was my idea, and I’m Jessica!” Really, was the whole universe against her now?
It’s nothing so fun, apparently. The girls are to run around the set, jumping like beans, and “computer animators” will add different worldly locations in post.
Jessica asks more questions, and Stan asks why she, Elizabeth, is being so annoying. Never mind that, it’s time for the girls to run the obstacle course, leap over the fences, swing on the ropes, that sort of things. Health and Safety? That’s for other people, apparently. [Dove: Hasn’t at least one of them filled her work quota for the day?] [Raven: Yeah, it all get a bit hazy here.]
The girls, inwardly glowering, take their places. On their cue, they both set off. At first, all is well, until they somehow contrive to rope-swing into each other before crashing to the floor. Despite this being the production company’s fault for setting up the course in such a slipshod manner – surely the greenscreen would be static and the girls would be running on the spot? – the twins begin bawling at each other, then lunging for each other, then full-on scrapping.
Stan, having thoroughly lost control of the situation, throws his hands in the air.
“Oh, what’s the use! Roll film!” Stan yelled. “Maybe we can salvage something out of this fiasco—but I doubt it!”
We skip to the aftermath, which is a shame. Apparently, the pager ran for ten minutes, fifteen tops. The girls had also upended every single box of Corny-Os on the set.
Stan, back in control, grimly reminds the girls of their responsibility, and their contracts. Then he fires their punk asses, as he in entirely correct to do.
The girls try to wheedle their way back into his good graces, but it’s to no avail.
“Note. You two showed promise at the beginning. But I need to work with professionals. Now go home. You’re fired.” Stan spun on his heel and walked away.
As the girls begin blaming each other for the whole debacle, they come to realise that there’s something more pressing to consider. What the hell are they going to tell the kids at school?!
They decide to tell people nothing, to see if the whole thing just goes away. They can say that the commercial has been delayed, or that it’s bogged down in editing, or any number of other stalling statements that will hold back the tide of derision until some new scandal or intrigue comes along. It’s a long shot, but it might work.
Back at the Wakefield Compound, Steven is eating multiple bowls of Wake Up and Win Flakes in preparation for his audition. The girls return home, jobless and distraught. Steven is worried that their antics may hinder his opportunity on Monday.
For the final chapter we have…
POINT ONE! Steven and Pseudo-Steven auditioning for Stan. When the shell-shocked Stan hears the name Wakefield, he sends them both packing without so much as a by-your-leave. The poor guy has vowed never to work with Wakefields again. Steven tries styling it out, claiming he’s a Winkley, but that doesn’t work. And when he confesses that the pair aren’t even twins, it’s all over.
POINT TWO! Lila lauds it over the Unicorner with one-hundred copies of California Girl and her excellent article. Everyone loves it, apart from a jealous Jessica. For some reason, there’s a sidebar advertisement in Lila’s feature that mentions an upcoming commercial for Corny-O’s which mentions the performances of two new California Girls, coming soon! So much for the twins’ plan to downplay the whole affair. Also, now Lila’s article is old news, it seems everyone thinks that the Corny-O’s commercial is much cooler than they originally thought. Bloody flighty kids, man… pathetic. It’s either cool or it’s not, stop this wishy-washy dalliance. Lila suggests they have a viewing party for its grand airing, but Jessica manages to put her off.
POINT THREE! The Wakefields gather to watch the commercial’s premiere, fully expecting it to show newly-cast people. Before they watch, however, they apologies to each other in the most hilariously lacklustre way imaginable, which elicited a good laugh from me. In particular:
“I got carried away with the whole acting thing. Thanks to stupid Connie Boyer and her stupid advice,” Jessica grumbled. Then she folded her arms and looked at Elizabeth through narrowed eyes. “But I don’t think it was all my fault. Shouldn’t you be apologizing to me too?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “OK, you’re right. I’m sorry I locked you in the makeup room. And threw cereal at you. And called you names. And—”
“Look, Elizabeth, we don’t have much time,” Jessica interrupted her. “If you apologize for every single thing you did wrong, we won’t get to see the commercial.”
Elizabeth raised one eyebrow. “I think I was pretty much done.”
See, that’s the Jessica I love. The personification of sassy comebacks.
They settle to watch as a family… and lo, they are in the starring role after all! But this time, It’s been rewritten to include actual twins fighting over the cereal box, spilling the contents everywhere. The girls look amazing, and all is right with the world.
POINT FOUR! The phone rings off the hook. Everyone loves the commercial. Stan calls to say the cheque is in the mail, and to say he’s just finished filming a Wake Up and Win commercial with twin boys called Manny and Danny, which made me laugh. And finally, as a hook for the next book, an LA talent scout calls to offer them a part in a movie, so there’s your hook for the next book. To be honest, although that’s far-fetched, at least it feels like an organic progression.
And that’s that! Marvellous.
I enjoyed this one. It had sass for miles. The Unicorns were fun, the situations were great, and even Steven wasn’t too obnoxious. Both Elizabeth and Jessica had their shining moments, and it served well to set up what sounds like an exciting follow-up in Hollywood.
But I did hate Jessica for huge swathes of it. She was such an idiot. A shame, as without that fly in the fondant I reckon this could have been Top 5 material for sure.
[Dove: I kind of love/hate this one. The sass was on point – I don’t know what’s happened here, but they’ve got either one Jamie who works like a demon, or multiple Jamies who have the same sass level, but for a good run, we’ve had great dialogue. On the other hand, I wanted to throttle Jessica and after awhile it stopped being in a fun way. And, as Raven pointed out, there was so much build-up before the commercial shoot, so even though it was a fun read, it felt like a lot of treading water. Again, I honestly don’t know if the older books didn’t do that, or whether I just don’t notice because of childhood nostalgia.]