Title: Cammi’s Crush
Tagline: Matchmaker, matchmaker… [Raven: I am a firestarter, twisted firestarter.] [Wing: Now I have a terrible mashup of Firestarter and Matchmaker in my head. Thanks, I hate it.]
Summary: Cammi Adams and Randy Mason are great students. Or at least they were before Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman, two of the harshest graders in middle school history, became substitute teachers at SVMS. Cammi thinks there’s only one way to get the subs to soften up: make them fall in love… with each other!
Playing matchmaker isn’t easy, so Cammi convinces Randy to put aside his books long enough to help her out. Cammi and Randy make a great team, but as their efforts start to pay off, Cammi realizes that there’s another match she wants to make. Can lightning strike between her and Randy?
Uh… so… Emma? We’re doing Emma. Or, given that it was the early 90s, this is Sweet Valley does Clueless.
I don’t know much about this one, except it was the most expensive book in the series (except for the Summer Fun Quiz Book), and I peaced out of it after about 20 pages. I can’t remember a thing about it, which means it really didn’t engage me. Let’s hope this time around it catches my attention.
[Raven: It looks like 1990 threw up on the cover.]
We open with Jessica dozing in class. She’s tired because she had to stay up late last night to get her homework done, because she used the entire weekend to have fun. Good for you, Jessica. Do that while you can.
Her dozing is interrupted by Mr Clark, the principal, announcing that two of the three nominees for Scholar of the Semester are from Sweet Valley Middle School! What is Scholar of the Semester? Well, apparently every semester the school district honours the students with the best grade point average. Every semester? Dude, we’ve had one hundred and thirty-seven Christmases and Halloweens, surely we’ve gotten through at least one semester this year? Surely Elizabeth or Todd should have won it when you think back to the Model Student nonsense? Or when Elizabeth was sent up a grade? [Raven: I like the word Semester. Like a sommelier is a wine waiter, a semester sounds like a sperm waiter.] [Dove: Smash the patriarchy. Call it an ovester instead.] [Wing: I would like a refund on this conversation, recap waiter.]
Like me, Jessica assumes one of the nominees will be her twin, but actually it’s Randy Mason and Cammi Adams. Jessica isn’t particularly interested in this news until Mr Clark says that if either Randy or Cammi win, he will give the whole middle school the day off to go to the park for games and a picnic. This resonates with Jessica, who is utterly behind on her homework, and immediately assumes that it will be a perfect day that gets her out of literally everything that’s outstanding, because, hi, have you met Jess? [Wing: That’s not even really a day off if they still have to spend all day with their classmates and teachers. Just let me stay home and only see my friends.]
She wonders if the Boosters could do an encouraging cheer for the nerds, anything to help them all get that day off. She vows to set her devious little mind to the challenge. Those nerds are gonna win, damnit.
At the next class, we find out why Saint Elizabeth is not in the running. It’s because she mouthed off to Ms Gerhart in home ec about whether brownies should be cake-like or fudge-like. Elizabeth got a B for not following the recipe. In what universe did Elizabeth go off-plan? Is she gearing up for Model Student again? [Raven: While I appreciated the dearth of Liz in this book, having the B Plot focus on her implosive jealousy as she realised that she’d been passed over would have been epic.] [Wing: We’ve skipped over the most important point here, which is, cake-like or fudge-like, people? I prefer a mix where the center is more cake-like and the top is more fudge-like.]
Elizabeth philosophically says that she hopes Cammi and/or Randy (Randi? Cammy? God this leads to terrible portmanteaus, fuck it, they’re Team Nerd now, ok? [Raven: Team Cammirand?] [Wing: Randy Cam, obviously, and Mr Nydick is excited.]) wins because they deserve it. Jessica thinks to herself that if she had been cost this wonderful title over fucking brownies, she would beat Ms Gerhart to death with a shovel and bury her in the Mercandy backyard. (Well, she’d sue. But it’s all about the subtext.)
Jessica wonders what she can do to make Team Nerd win. Elizabeth, scandalised, asks if Jessica is going to cheat. Jessica’s like, “Nah, not cheat, but if I just murder the third candidate…” (well, she uses the word “ruin”), and Elizabeth gives her the side-eye and warns her not to get involved.
Hah! As if that would work.
Jessica finds Cammi at lunch and sets about stage one of her nefarious plan. She tells Cammi that basically all finalists must be spectacular, and the only way to win is to make sure that Randy doesn’t, because Cammi deserves it more. And if Cammi doesn’t want blood on her hands, Jessica will work alone. All she needs to do is steal Randy’s homework and blow his GPA.
Cammi, understandably, is horrified. I’m pretty sure this is the standard reaction when you find yourself in Jessica’s crosshairs. I mean, surely the non-pretties talk and wonder how many people she’s killed. Caroline Pearce probably has a list that can be ordered chronologically or alphabetically by name or by murder weapon. Cammi says she wants to win by her own merits, not by sabotaging Randy.
Jessica takes a moment to think and then suggests that Cammi suck up to her teachers. Cammi tells her to strongly and absolutely fuck off.
Jessica decides to try her luck with Randy instead.
It goes exactly as well as it did with Cammi. She makes all the same suggestions and Randy makes all the same objections. [Raven: I’m sorry, but Jessica’s plan seems woefully misguided. If the goal is for Sweet Valley Middle School to win the Scholar of the Semester, they sabotaging one of their two candidates in favour of the other is just hamstringing one horse in the race. Surely she should be boosting both candidates to maximise the chances of beating Jeff Random from out of state. A rising tide raises all ships. Maybe there’s something akin to the Monty Hall Problem at play here, but I can’t be arsed thinking it through.] [Wing: Raven made this point better than I was going to make it, so hard agree.]
Also, it’s just occurred to me that shouldn’t Cammi get some kind of extracurricular bonus for being Anna’s translator? For those who have slept since December 2018, Anna is the twofer minority (Asian and hearing impaired, Sweet Valley went all-out on their diversity with her) who joined us about 40 books ago, and since Cammi’s fluent in American Sign Language because of her hearing-impaired parents, she translates. I’m sure Randy doesn’t have such an impressive extracurricular.
We hop over to Cammi’s head, where she’s still offended that Jessica thought she needed to cheat to win. Then she wonders whether Randy went along with Jessica’s plan, since she saw them talking straight after Jessica left her. To be on the safe side, she locks her locker with a bike lock. I always assumed that the turny-dial was inset in the locker, but I guess they all have turny-dial locks on latches on their lockers and Cammi has traded hers for an actual padlock.
Over with Randy, he sees Cammi’s paranoia and it gets to him. He checks his locker – nothing missing – then adds an extra lock to it. Why are they both carrying extra padlocks? I guess because the plot said so. Or maybe that’s just a thing all the kids did in 90s America, carry extra padlocks? [Raven: Evolving into cable ties in the Capitol in 2021.] [Wing: The first time, he just carries his books and things everywhere because he has no extra lock. Which makes sense, because why carry around an extra lock? I’m also having a hard time believing a bike lock would be thin enough to use on a locker.]
The next morning, Cammi wakes up at 8am. This is terrible, as she’s slept in her clothes. She only meant to lie down, but now she’s running late. And her beautiful report, well, let’s quote it, shall we?
Her extra-detailed time line with twelve different printer fonts was lying crumpled underneath her pillow!
I have questions: Twelve, really? How on earth did you use twelve different fonts? Is one of them Comic Sans? Why did you use twelve, do they denote different bits of the timeline, or are you just doing that clueless thing of using too many fonts? [Raven: I liked this. Pre-teen excess done well.]
Cammi rushes downstairs and asks her parents why they didn’t wake her, and they just assumed she’d already left. Uh, so, you don’t check? You just literally don’t see your child and assume she’s at school? Ok then.
(Also, continuity is intact, the parents are deaf.)
At school, we find out that Mr Seigel is on family leave and Ms Sherman will be taking over for him. Jessica and Lila assume they can screw around because she’s a substitute – they try to get out of class giving the story that Jessica and her poor identical twin have some kind of medical issue where they pass out if they don’t eat regularly and Jessica needs to take cookies to her twin. Ms Sherman shuts this down pretty quickly.
Ms Sherman takes the register and Cammi Adams’ name is first. She’s not there. Winston comments on how strange that is, because she’s always early.
Next up, Ms Sherman sets a pop quiz, and instead of the ten minutes Mr Seigel usually gives them, she goes with five.
Cammi arrives late and Ms Sherman informs us that Mr Seigel is taking some time off for an indefinite period because his wife has just had a baby.
- At some point, the canon spelling of his surname swapped from Siegel to Seigel. I have no idea why.
- Was he married when the rumour went around that he was getting engaged to Ms Wyler?
- As if the USA lets people take time off after having babies. Especially dudes.
[Wing: Doubtful he has actual paternity leave, that is true, but some schools give numerous vacation days to teachers so he might have saved them up and used them for this.]
Ms Sherman says that she won’t mark Cammi as absent – uh, is this an American thing, because in the UK of course she wouldn’t be marked as absent, because she’s demonstrably not absent – but she will get a failing grade on the pop quiz and she can’t make it up. She asks for Cammi’s homework, which has gotten crumpled in her bag. Ms Sherman says she can’t accept that, as she doesn’t have time to iron Cammi’s homework. So that’s two failing grades. [Raven: I’ve never really understood the GPA thing. Can someone help an Englishman out?]
[Wing: Oh boy, wall of text to come.
(a) Marked as absent, yes, this is a thing here, or it was at the time this was published. I bet it still is, but I can’t say for sure. Some schools have a limited number of days you can miss each quarter or semester before you lose all credit for that time period, so there would be a difference in marking her absent for that entire class period versus not when she showed up late. (Though Cammi’s late enough she should be marked absent no matter what.) Some teachers give participation points that can be decreased when a student isn’t in class, so that might be part of it, too. Being later than a certain amount of time usually means you’re counted as absent for that class period, and she’s, what, 30 minutes late? Out of what is likely a 50 minute class period, or maybe 90 if they’re on a block schedule. [Dove: In the UK, we just use the literal meanings of the words “absent” and “late”. Might be easier. #JustSayin’]
(b) GPA is — I’m going to need you to explain to me how grades work over there if there’s no sort of grade point average involved. Anyway, GPA is determined at different times, but for simplicity, we’ll look at semester and year GPAs. Classes are graded on a scale (e.g., A = 90-100%, B = 80-89%, C = 70-79%) (and different types of work can carry different weights, e.g., tests are 50% of your grade, homework 40%, class participation 10%), and that scale works out to your GPA for the class. On a 4.0 GPA scale, an A = 4.0, B = 3.5, etc. (This is very high level and vague, there are differences in determinations pretty much everywhere.) Then all your grades for the semester are added together then divided by the number of credits you took during the semester, which gives you the semester GPA. All As = 4.0, all Bs = 3.5, all Cs = 3.0, etc. GPA is used for a lot of things, including determining class rank, eligibility for scholarships, and ability to participate in extracurriculars (e.g., often athletes have to maintain at least a 2.5 or 3.0 in order to play).]
[Dove: *blinks dizzily* Wow. I’m kind of into all that maths and averaging. ALRIGHT, BITCHES, WHO WANTS TO BE GRADED BY DOVE?]
Ms Sherman appears to be loving this power trip, doesn’t she? She should settle in and get comfy. The faculty give zero fucks what their teachers do, and if the principal actually sees sexism with his own eyes and doesn’t care, he really won’t care that a sub is a little on the strict side. [Raven: I hate this fucking school.]
After class, Cammi marches over to Randy and accuses him of winding up the teacher so that she’d be cross when Cammi arrived. Randy says no, if anyone wound her up, it was Jessica. Cammi says that Jessica probably did it on his orders. She then vows that she’ll get her GPA back up. Randy says good luck, then, when the irritation at being unjustly accused gets to him, he adds that she’ll need it.
Welp, I guess now everyone suitably misunderstands each other’s motivation.
And we have another substitute teacher in Ms Arnette’s class. She has broken her ankle, so Mr Jules will be taking over.
Jessica and Winston immediately try to derail the lesson and Randy tells him where they’re up to. Mr Jules does not take Randy’s interruption well.
“You have to forgive Randy. He gets all wound up and excited about handing in his homework,” Winston said.
“Is that so?” Mr. Jules smiled faintly. “Well then. Let’s see it.” He held out his hand. “Of course, I think you should all feel that way about your homework. It should be fun and exciting. That’s why I’ll probably end up giving you more than you’re used to.”
Everyone then glares at Randy, like it’s his fault Mr Jules wants to give more homework.
When it comes to passing their homework in, Aaron, Ken and Winston delight in tearing it to bits “accidentally”, and Jessica storms over to save his homework, which ends up in it getting torn in half.
Mr Jules somehow completely missed the actual physical tug-of-war over Randy’s homework that turned it into confetti and gives Randy a zero.
Things go no better for Cammi. She is being marked down because she went above and beyond with her project. Mr Jules’ point of view is that if he asks for one thing and she gives five, she’s not done the assignment, and attempting to get extra credit isn’t fair to everyone else. Cammi gets a D.
“That’s not the way it works in my classroom. It’s not fair to everyone else. Sorry.” Mr. Jules put Cammi’s paper back on her desk. “In the future, please follow my directions. I give them to you for a reason,” he said sternly.
YOU DIDN’T GIVE THE INSTRUCTIONS, YOU FUCKING HALFWIT. MS ARNETTE DID, AND MAYBE SHE WANTED SOMEONE TO GO THE EXTRA FUCKING MILE. JUST GET IN THE FUCKING SEA.
Also, why is Cammi getting a D (letters) and Randy getting a zero (numbers)? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH MR JULES? HAS HE CREATED A BRAND NEW WAY OF GRADING WORK? [Raven: “I liked that you showed your working for the equation, even though you got the final result wrong. So I’m upgrading you from an Ocelot to a Pangolin. Good job!”] [Wing: Both are valid scoring and are often used interchangeably. A D would be maybe 60-69% of whatever points where available (often 100 points to make things easy on teachers, but not always), and a 0 grade would be an F. Though they should both get an incomplete at most, really, since Cammi is being told to rewrite it and Randy should have the opportunity to turn in work if it was destroyed by someone else.]
And finally, you know that trope of jocks being one step up from plankton when it comes to intelligence, but they get passing grades because of the prestige they bring to the school by winning? Wouldn’t having a Scholar of the Semester bring some prestige too? Everyone knows this school is fucking terrible, so why didn’t Mr Clark warn these two subs that he has two awesome students, and just keep giving them either A+ or 100% or top marks (depending on which scheme Mr Jules feels most comfortable with at any given moment) until the awards are given out?
For some reason, we’re back in Ms Sherman’s class. That never happened in my school, to have one lesson with a teacher, go elsewhere for another lesson, then come back. Is that normal? (Never mind, it clarifies at the end of the scene that it’s a few days later.) [Wing: It might be normal to see the same teacher again during a day, but it would be for a different class.]
Anyway, Randy falls asleep in the lesson and gets marked down.
At lunch, Lila and Jessica remark on how Randy and Cammi have fallen from grace.
She shook her head. She should have known she couldn’t count on someone else to get her a day in the park. If you wanted a job done right, you had to do it yourself. “Randy and Cammi are doing so badly, I probably have a shot at winning Scholar of the Semester now,” she mused.
At this point both Cammi and Randy approach Jessica begging for her help. They start fighting and Jessica urges them to chill, they’re wasting valuable brain power attacking each other, and they need it to bring their grades back up.
Jessica. Just stopped a fight.
She says that they need her, and maybe they could tie for the win. They’re not delighted by this until she points out that it’s better than losing.
“Please, Jessica. I appreciate your superpowers as much as the next person, but what can you possibly do to help Cammi’s and Randy’s grade point averages?” Lila asked.
“Unless you make yours ten times worse, and bring the whole grade curve down for everyone?” Janet Howell suggested with a laugh.
The sass is pretty hardcore here. Also, I love how Lila’s line seems so fond of Jessica’s madcap schemes. [Raven: Love it.] [Wing: More of this, less of what’s happening with Cammi and Randy, please and thank you.]
Jessica has no ideas at the moment, but styles it out by saying they need to talk later, when they won’t be overheard. I think we’re getting #BestJess again.
After school, they meet on the steps to discuss the plans that Jessica’s worked on during her afternoon classes.
“Just get on with it,” Randy urged. “If I don’t get my average back above a C soon, I can forget about being valedictorian of Sweet Valley High.”
Oh, honey, no. Surely Elizabeth is going to be valedictorian? She’s a perfect size six Wakefield.
Jessica’s first plan is low-key terrorism. Let the air out of their tyres, make them fall over, hundreds of thumbtacks on their seats, etc., but Team Nerd are strongly opposed to anything that causes physical or psychological harm.
“Oh, well, I guess they might be a bit extreme,” Jessica said, glancing at her list. Good thing I didn’t get to the part about spooking Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman with spirits and ghosts, and pelting their houses with rotten raw eggs.
God bless you, you strange girl. How were you doing to spook them with ghosts? I love you, Jessica. Tell me more of this plan. [Raven: Jessica is the perfect jolly little sociopath in this book. Great work.]
They decide that making the teachers miserable isn’t the greatest plan, they need to make them happy instead. And it’s Cammi that latches on to the best happiness of all – they need to fall in love with each other.
Even Jessica is impressed with this genius plan. What they need is a list of suitable traits a partner should have, and then prove to each teacher that the other provides it.
[Raven: Why you didn’t draw parallels to this, Dove, I’ll never know…
] [Dove: Nobody here is strangely obsessed with tubs of jelly.]
Jessica asks Cammi what she wants in a man, and she says intelligent, funny and driven. Randy says he has those traits, so how come girls don’t crush on him. Cammi says, “Beats me,” and the conversation moves on.
(Apparently Randy has forgotten that Leslie Forsythe was madly in love with him during The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley and they ended up dating?) [Wing: Apparently most of us have forgotten.]
Next Randy says he also would like a smart partner, and someone who’s kind – the type of person who’d adopt a stray pet. Cammi says she did that once, but she had to give the cat away because her mum said she couldn’t keep it, so she found it another home. Randy says rehoming a pet counts. Also, his dream date would be hardworking, because otherwise she wouldn’t understand him.
Cammi says he’s just described her, but nobody gets crushes on her either.
Do you guys see where this is going?
Jessica thinks Team Nerd have missed the point. You need to be hot and cool.
“Spoken by someone who spent five minutes writing her last term paper,” Randy whispered to Cammi under his breath.
Cammi put a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Randy could be so funny—why hadn’t she noticed before?
Go Team Nerd, I ship you already!
Jessica says that they need a list of favourites: music, flowers, colour, etc., so they can send gifts to make the teachers fall in love. And to be fair, this plan did work on her brother and Cathy Connors (who is clearly out of Steven’s league).
Jessica tasks Team Nerd with finding out the teachers’ favourites, and once she has that, she will head an epic plan to get them their grades back.
The next day, Cammi talks her way into getting answers from Ms Sherman on her favourite colour (blue), flower (lilacs) and food (Mexican), by saying she’s doing a poll for another class to show how similar people are, even when they don’t know it. It’s actually kind of charming the way Cammi flubs her way through it, noting that on a less smart person, this would go a lot quicker. Also, Ms Sherman has a sense of humour – that’s more of a tell, don’t show, because it wasn’t that funny, but y’know, Cammi makes progress.
Over with Randy, he asks the same questions and uses the same method as Cammi. Mr Jules’ favourites are: colour: red; flowers: roses; and food: Mexican. [Raven. Everyone loves Mexican. To paraphrase Billy Connolly, Mexican food is more about the folding than the eating.]
The next morning, Cammi gets to class early to drop off some lilacs she cut from the tree outside her bedroom. There is a tag “from an admirer”, and she feigns ignorance when Ms Sherman asks if she knows anything about them. Ms Sherman wonders if they’re a bribe from Cammi, and is embarrassed when Cammi gets offended about it. Um, guys, this is why you get Jessica or Randy to drop off the flowers. You know, the person not attached to the knowledge that Ms Sherman likes lilacs. Honestly, I expected more from Jessica’s evil scheming mind.
Ok, well Jessica is positioned outside the class with some rose-scented perfume, which she accidentally sprays over Ms Sherman. She apologises profusely and Ms Sherman tells her to get to class as they’ve wasted five minutes already.
- Wasn’t Ms Sherman already inside the classroom with Cammi?
- Why doesn’t Jessica get a zero for wasting class time?
She sits down with Lila who asks why she’s switched from Intensity to rose perfume. This is great BFF showing not telling. Lila is barely in this book, but the ghostie is showing that they’re close friends. It’s just bloody lovely.
Over in Mr Jules’ class, Randy gets there early to engineer a conversation about a new Mexican restaurant opening. There’s a coupon in the local paper, which Randy offers to Mr Jules. Mr Jules appreciates that and offers to let Randy make up his timeline homework. [Wing: Uh, that’s bribery. Fuck you, Mr Jules.]
At lunch, Team Nerd manage to herd their teachers into the lunch line at the same time, where they complain that they’re sick of meat loaf and wouldn’t it be terrific to have a Mexican food day? The teachers obviously support that. [Raven: TACO TUESDAY.]
Randy mentions the new Mexican restaurant to Cammi and drags the teachers into the conversation, this culminates with Mr Jules saying that since he has a coupon for it, why don’t they go and try out the food. He also notices the rose perfume she’s wearing and says it’s nice.
Randy and Cammi are astounded at how easy that was. Then they have a cute little exchange about how Jessica can be over the top, but since it’s working, she can go for it. Though Randy would rather not be doused in perfume.
That evening, Team Nerd and Jessica stalk their teachers on their date. Thankfully for our baby stalkers, they get an outside table. [Raven: Eating outside is literally the worst. Even in a lovely climate. Nothing feels controlled, there’s likely fumes from passing cars, and the draft wobbles the lettuce which is really fucking irritating. Indoor window seat at best, end of discussion.] [Wing: Hard disagree here. I prefer back patio seating to cut down on noise from the sidewalk/street, but outdoor eating is the best, especially when you can eat overlooking the water.] [Dove: If I ever planned on going outside again, I’m lobbying hard for outside too. Espeically by a river/canal. With those creepy lock gates. And the terrifying suction they generate. And maybe the ghosts of people who fell in.]
The stalkers are happy that the teachers are now holding hands. Jessica goes off into a little fantasy where everyone is so grateful to her for her machinations, but when she says something, she gets no response. Team Nerd are staring at each other.
We head hop to get the nerd points of view. Cammi has never noticed how cute Randy is. He could do with smaller glasses that show off his eyes better, and his clothes could do with some work, but then again, so do hers. And the really important thing is that he’s a great person, smart, funny and driven.
Over with Randy, he can’t work out why Cammi is staring at him, and tries to fix his glasses and hair, before realising that he’s trying to impress her. Because she’s pretty awesome too.
The next day, Ms Sherman is full of the joys of spring. The students try to talk her into teaching outside, and nearly win, but Winston ruins it by grossing out the girls.
After the lesson, Cammi approaches and asks to clarify a low mark based on her handwriting. Ms Sherman stands by one of her appraisals, but agrees that she was overly harsh in some other parts of the quiz. This results in a changed grade to 92, which changes a C grade to an A-. [Wing: That’s a massive change, goddamn.]
Over with Mr Jules, it’s much the same with him. He gushes about a lovely evening he had with “a friend” last night, and everyone very much appreciates the change in mood – especially when he credits Randy with his good mood. They’re about to have a pop quiz when Lila asks do they really need to on such a wonderful day? Mr Jules says actually no, and rips the test in half. [Raven: this fucking school. Isn’t anyone fucking professional in this series?]
The Unicorns discuss this happy turn of events.
“Hey, that’s nothing. What about when Mr. Jules canceled our pop quiz?” Ellen said excitedly. “Which was a good thing, because I didn’t even know we were going to have one.”
Mandy raised an eyebrow. “That’s why they call them pop quizzes. They’re supposed to be a surprise.”
“Oh.” Ellen shrugged. “Whatever. We didn’t have one!”
I love you, Ellen. And on behalf of Europe, thank you. We didn’t know that either. [Raven: My pop quiz is 10:30am every weekday on BBC Radio 2.]
Janet ends the fun. She asks what happens if the subs break up. Badly. Horribly. Apocalyptically.
Cammi is having lunch with Randy, and she is now dealing with the fact that she has a crush. Because she’s a scientist, she tries to apply an already proven tactic. She asks Randy about his favourite colour. Randy gets defensive, thinking that she’s trying to get extra credit by doing the project they lied about.
She asks about food, and he likes sushi, which she’s not into, so she asks what he thinks of tacos. He leaves.
Cammi approaches Jessica for advice. It takes awhile because Jessica cannot comprehend liking Randy in a romantic way.
Jessica didn’t mean to be judgmental. There was no accounting for taste—even Teen Scene said so. Celebrities were always falling in love with people that you’d never suspect. And even she’d had a few crushes she couldn’t quite believe now. Crushes she’d never even told anyone about, they were so embarrassing.
This Jessica is a little out of character. She’s super judgemental, but on the other hand, I am equally sure that she has momentarily crushed on someone who wasn’t cool – can anyone remember this, or am I remembering a Sweet Valley High plot? [Raven: Did she crush on anyone in Jessica the Nerd?] [Dove: No, that was just her enjoying school for a bit. I’m sure she has crushed on someone who thankfully glowed up to her standards. Might be a SVH book.]
Also, since everything is working perfectly, a normal Jessica would be distancing herself from Team Nerd, not wanting them to think they were friends or anything.
Jessica asks Cammi what the plan is, but Cammi says that’s why she’s asking Jessica. She has no plan.
“You could ask him,” Jessica said. “Though personally, I wouldn’t recommend the direct approach. It can be very painful.”
She remembered asking Aaron Dallas once if he liked her. “Sure I like you,” he’d said. “The same way I like all my buddies—Ken, Winston, Bruce—” But these things were best not dwelled on.
Damn. No wonder this girl always needs a scheme.
Jessica suggests a makeover, and probably internally marks out a new plot in the Mercandy backyard if Cammi turns into Sandra Ferris after said makeover. Also, Cammi says that if she had a clue about clothes, she’d have made herself over years ago. I guess nobody has noticed that she’s supposed to be best friends with Anna Reynolds, who is super cool in spite of her hearing impairment? Ok, just checking. [Raven: I’m surprised that Anna’s not even mentioned in this book. And by “surprised,” I mean not at all fucking suprised.]
Jessica makes sure that if Cammi gets beautiful, she won’t forget her grades. Jessica needs that day off.
The next day, Cammi is glammed up. She’s wearing Jessica’s clothes, a mini-skirt and a fuzzy sweater that highlights her green eyes. Her hair is loose and she has lip gloss on.
She heads over to Randy’s locker to try out her new look. He does not even seem to notice it, much less comment on it. He drops some books and grabs for them before Cammi can help him. Then he rushes off.
Bit of a fail.
Although Cammi seems frustrated that he keeps leaving their conversations, rather than devastated he’s not into her. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Ordinarily, I hate the push-me-pull-me of new romance, where both have crushes and the minute one says something that isn’t perfect, the other goes into a self-hating depression because they’re too ugly to deserve a partner. On the other hand, I don’t think consent has reached Sweet Valley yet, so her chasing him hard is both charming, but indicative of an Sweet Valley problem.
Over with Randy, he’s having the self-hating depression. He can’t stop running away from her because she’s so cute – even more so now she’s had a makeover – and she’s surely too good for him. Her new look is probably to impress someone else, so the best thing he can do is stay out of her way.
Cammi complains to Jessica that the makeover didn’t work. Jessica hushes her immediately. She has a reputation as a fabulous fashion expert, and she’s gonna keep it. Cammi says that it seems like Randy is mad at her, and he keeps running off. Jessica tells her to talk to him about it before rejecting the makeover. This is actually sound advice. It’s like our little sociopath is a decent human being today.
“If you’re done with your little makeover project, Jessica, I wanted to talk to everyone about our next Unicorns meeting,” Janet said as Jessica took a seat in the Unicorner with her lunch.
“Really? When is it?” Jessica asked, ignoring the superior tone in Janet’s voice. Who was Janet to make fun of Cammi anyway? Cammi was a very nice person. She just didn’t happen to be a Unicorn, that was all.
WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REAL JESSICA WAKEFIELD? NICE IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN COOL, AND WE ALL KNOW IT.
ELIZABETH, IS THAT YOU?
By the way, I’m not skipping the Elizabeth bits of this book, there simply are none. And I’m loving it. But Jessica is acting like a combo of the best parts of both twins.
Oooh, does that mean there’s a murderous little vampire out there, feeding on the anguish of students with problems? Someone write this for me? I reckon we could make it happen with a magic mirror or something. Like that Buffy episode where there’s two Xanders. (Although we all hate Joss.) [Raven: Janet Howell being a vampire would reflect VERY badly on the Unicorns. Try the veal, folks, I’m here all week.] [Wing: NOOOOOOOPE. (That was great.]
It turns out that nobody knows when the next Unicorn meeting should be. Jessica took notes at the last meeting, and she now doesn’t know where the notebook is because she lent it to Cammi. She got it back but god only knows where it is now. Instead of scheduling a meeting any time they’re all free, they MUST meet when they agreed at the last meeting. Jessica vows to find the notebook.
The next day, Cammi goes back to her old look and gets to school early so that Randy can’t dodge her. She finds him in a lab and they’re just about to have a conversation when they overhear Ms Sherman shouting at Mr Jules in a nearby office. She’s angry that someone has written down all the things she likes. There are heated words as both Ms Sherman and Mr Jules shout at each other that they didn’t make lists about each other’s likes, and Ms Sherman storms out.
I’m not sure why they don’t assume that it belongs to a student, such as either of the ones that asked them for their likes. I can only assume that the rest of the notebook is filled with things like “I ♥ Johnny Buck” and “Jessica Wakefield + Johnny Buck = LURVE” and drawings of Unicorns and cute clothes.
Ms Sherman’s class is brutal. She assigns forty pages of reading and they will be tested on every chapter. Also, she marked their quizzes today, which means she’s been rather unkind in her grading.
Randy gets a C-. He knew the material, but his writing was messy. Cammi gets a C, no reason on why.
After class, Randy yells at Jessica, since she caused this.
“Cammi and I overheard a little argument Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman were having today,” Randy said.
“That is so interesting Randy,” Jessica said. “Please tell me what they were arguing about before I go insane from curiosity.”
That is written as if it’s sarcastic, but Jessica thrives on gossip. If teachers were fighting, even without them being in a relationship, that’s interesting, right? Everyone should be interested in that. Or is it just me? (Just checked with JC, she says she’d be mildly interested. Everyone else chip in.) [Wing: I am not and was not interested.]
Jessica’s takeaway is “Yay, my notebook!” but Randy and Cammi think she needs to take responsibility. Jessica realises that with the subs in terrible moods, the grades will suck, which means Team Nerd won’t win, which means no day off.
And then Team Nerd say that they will delight in telling people it’s all her fault. So she needs to fix it. And not leave a trail of evidence this time.
At home, Jessica tries to come up with plans to get the subs back together.
Her first plan is to lock them in a room together until they’re in love again. This is not the first time her plan has been to lock people up. I kind of love that about her. She rejects it not because it’s illegal and wrong, but because it will take too long. I also love that about her.
Her next plans are the same as her original plan, except this time it’s movie tickets or ice cream sundae coupons, instead of Mexican food. Except she’s not rich, so she isn’t sure she can cover the cost. She goes into her dad’s office to look for a notepad and calculator to figure out how much money she needs.
She finds a file labelled “Sherman vs Jules”, which is a divorce file.
Hi, sorry, pedantic asshat here, but that’s not how it would be labelled. It’s not a case of litigation so it shouldn’t be “vs” anyone. The label should read the name of the client, presumably Sherman, since she is listed first. So basically, the label should read “SHERMAN, Sarah (Ms) – Divorce” with the syntax being “CLIENT – Matter” and not “Claimant vs Defendant”. Or at least, that’s how we’d do it in the UK. Perhaps the USA does it differently, but over here Claimant vs Defendant is the order the names go in in all correspondence/legal docs, so that’s why you don’t label things with the case name, you want a structure where the first name is your client. What if Jules was Ned’s client, would this file labelled “Sherman vs Jules” be filed under J for the client name or S for the case name? GET IT TOGETHER, ASSHATS. [Wing: I had to use [client # here] – [case # here] – [short name for project here], and each file for the client would go into a larger file under the client’s name. We mostly had big business as clients, but if we had an individual, it would be Sherman, Sarah [client #] for the larger file. Now that I work for one client only, I use a different filing system mostly based around categories of projects (e.g., warranties, real estate, IT contracts) and then organised by project name.]
Thus endeth Dove’s lesson in labelling files in a way that is both neat and well-structured. [Raven: I love you.]
Anyway, Jessica has a quick read and learns only that they’re getting a divorce, before Ned comes in and shouts at her for going through his confidential files. Hey Ned, if they’re fucking confidential, lock them away. It is not the responsibility of other people to assume something is confidential. [Wing: Hard disagree here. He has his confidential files in his office where he’s been working. She should know better than to go in there. If it were me, I would lock my home office, and we can argue that it should be automatic for him considering what we know about Jessica Wakefield, but it’s possible he (stupidly) still trusts her with things at home. But it absolutely is her responsibility to assume she’s not to look at paperwork in her father’s home office.] [Dove: We have had super intense training about privacy over here when the GDPR laws came in, and my firm accepts no wobble. Computers get locked if you’re away from the desk, even alone in the house, files need to stay in locked cabinets unless they’re being worked on, they don’t get taken home, etc. It’s soooo intense. And if you think lockdown helped the older lawyers learn to be more careful with files, bwahahahaha.]
And with that said, Ned quickly spills the tea. He’s met both people several times and he doesn’t think they should be getting divorced. They could work it out but they’re super competitive, and their last argument was over a bowling match.
Hi, Ned, you’re a fucking idiot and wouldn’t know a healthy relationship if it bit you on the nose. If these asshats have reached a point where a bowling game results in one of them screaming I WANT A FUCKING DIVORCE then let them get divorced. Seriously, when you argue to that point over something so irrelevant, it’s over.
You could argue that they never learned to communicate, but at some point you have to allocate blame. If it’s not occurred to them to get therapy on how to communicate at this point, maybe they just don’t want to.
Anyway, Ned tells Jessica not to tell anyone because it’s super secret, and Jessica immediately decides to tell Team Nerd.
I want her to discuss it with the subs and watch Ned get struck off for being utterly careless with private information he had no right to discuss with his daughter, especially when she told him that his client is her teacher. There is so much wrong with this decision on so many fucking levels. So yeah, I really want him struck off for this. And also because he labels files wrong.
The next morning, Jessica meets Team Nerd and brings them up to speed about the divorce. She says the teachers are very competitive and seem to be vying for the title of “biggest douche”, so we need to create a competition for the nicest teacher. Jessica has a very simple plan. Tell each sub the other one is the nicest teacher they’ve ever had.
Jessica’s ability to manipulate is both terrifying and awesome.
They’re all agreeing that this is a simple but brilliant plan when Sherman and Jules make themselves known.
Brace yourselves, bitches.
No, fucking seriously, everyone brace yourselves.
We’re about to experience something we’ve never experienced before in Sweet Valley Middle School.
“We let our personal problems get in the way of our teaching,” Ms. Sherman admitted. “We were going through a rough time, and we ended up taking it out on you, Randy, and Cammi. That’s not only unprofessional, it’s just plain wrong.”
“We were too wrapped up in our own lives,” Mr. Jules said. “Then when you set us up on that date, we thought everything was going to work out between us…”
These two adults just took responsibility for letting their personal strife affect their teaching. In Sweet Valley Middle School. Remember when Mr Davis was totally sexist in front of the principal and got away with it by choking out the words “i’m sorry” as quickly and grudgingly as possible? Others may have forgotten, Davis, but I have not. [Raven: Definitely surprising.]
Jessica clarifies the notebook is hers. Mr Jules says he figured that out by the handwriting, the endless mentions of Johnny Buck and the Unicorn doodles. I FUCKING CALLED IT, PEOPLE. I know it’s a tiny win, but everyone just worship me for a second, ok? [Raven: <3] [Wing: Nah, that’s a huge win compared to what most paid ghosties work out, so go you!]
The subs say that they were trying to help Team Nerd by not giving them an easy time, but they over-corrected, especially when they heard how hard their spouse was pushing them. Basically, a lot of things snowballed here.
Also, they’re seeing a therapist to help them communicate more healthily.
Basically, there are apologies all round, and Jessica is assigned an essay about meddling with other people’s lives. I would say that Team Nerd kind of deserves this punishment too, but it’s only Jessica.
There are two quick POVs from Team Nerd showing each is working hard on extra credit projects to bring their grades back up.
THE RETURN OF ELIZABETH! She shows up as Jessica is desperately working on her epic essay for the subs. She offers to help until she finds out the topic. At this point, she says she has no experience in inferring in other people’s lives (LIES! There’s a reason we have a tag for Elizabeth’s book-long BFF) and maybe she should ask for Lila’s help.
On Monday there are a few announcements over the PA system. For one, the corned beef and cabbage stew has been replaced with tacos, *nods approvingly* good callback to an earlier joke; and the winner of Scholar of the Semester is George Smith from Pinecrest Middle School in Big Mesa.
So we get to use our Big Mesa SUCKS tag.
Also, if you didn’t see this coming, you should have paid more attention. But it won’t matter because the teachers are in love and Team Nerd will get together, I’m sure. [Raven: Yes, it was predictable, but it was also highly refreshing. Maybe this is the reason the Wakefields weren’t front-and-centre in the competition, because Wakefields Always Win.]
Everyone dogpiles Jessica for making a promise she couldn’t keep. There is much bitching until Mr Clark announces that they’re getting the day off anyway because Team Nerd tied for second place. [Raven: Or, as it’d be described in the real world, Dead Last.]
At the park, Team Sherman-Jules are competitive over volleyball but instead of hating each other, they laugh it off.
Cammi sets out to find Randy. He gives her a new notebook in her favourite colour, showing that he was listening when she tried to flirt. He manages to blurt out that he likes her a lot, and she blurts back at him, and then they agree to play croquet and use their geometry skills to win, which is fucking adorable.
Mr Clark gives a speech recognising Team Nerd and Jessica wants to know why she doesn’t get a mention. She keeps waiting for one of the nerds to say it’s all thanks to Jessica, but it doesn’t happen.
But later Team Nerd give her a “Certificate of Excellence” they made for her.
“In recognition of her all-around excellence,” Jessica read out loud. “But also for her special skills as a wonderful troublemaker, matchmaker, and know-it-all.” She looked up at Cammi and Randy. “What do you mean, know-it-all?”
Go on, Team Nerd, you sassy little geeks! [Wing: They are fucking adorable.]
Then we have the lead-in to the next book, which is Mr Clark telling Jessica that he needs a break from school, so he’s going to take a vacation. This will lead to the twins house-sitting for him, right after we do a special edition.
I have no idea why I dropped out of this when I was re-reading. Maybe it was an OD on Sweet Valley?
This was a really good Sweet Valley book. It was sweet, sassy and fun – and the adults (aside from Ned, but the Wakefield parents are lost causes) were surprisingly grown up at times.
I loved this one, it was super cute. The only thing it really lacks is a scene or two between Cammi and Randy starting to get along before their crush hits. Like the one between Sarah and Sophia when they’re breaking up their parents, and they accidentally fall in like because they’re scheming together. But overall, if that’s my only complaint, this is a big win.
[Raven: I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as Dove, but it was certainly one of the better books. There was sass, and humour, and structure, and a refreshing absence of Elizabeth. But I felt the teachers were ridiculously strict, and ridiculously easy to manipulate, as I guess you’d expect from anyone employed to serve in that shitschow school. Even their admittedly surprising apology didn’t do enough to redeem them fully. But books where the Nerds operate alongside the Coolios are always prime value, so it gets the Raven seal of approval.]
[Wing: I can see why you dropped it that time, maybe; but for needing to comment on this recap, I was ready to stop reading only a couple chapters in, the teachers annoyed me so damn much. It came back from that frustration, more or less, but I still didn’t enjoy it the way Dove did, though her recap made me like it a lot more than just reading it did.]
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.