Title: Pumpkin Fever
Tagline: Could Elizabeth be cooler than Jessica? [Dove: Bwahahahaha! No.]
Summary: Elizabeth loves Halloween, and this year she designs some cool jack-o’-lantern earrings just for fun. Her twin sister, Jessica, tells her the earrings are dorky. But at school, the earrings turn out to be a hit—even among Jessica’s friends in the exclusive Unicorn Club!
Jessica can’t let her friends forget that she is the twin with fashion sense. She tells everyone the pumpkin design is hers. And when she starts selling her spooky earrings to her friends and classmates, everyone is so impressed, Jessica’s certain she’ll be elected Sweet Valley Middle School Queen of Halloween. But Elizabeth knows Jessica’s pumpkin popularity is built on a lie. How will she prove she’s the real designer… and that Jessica’s a cheap imitation?
I don’t really have any initial thoughts about this. I had the ugly Geocities style cover, which inspires absolutely nothing – who on earth looked at that cover and thought, “YES! That is what I want to spend my pocket money on!”? – but thankfully, Liz (who has commented all over this blog, go to any page, you’ll find her) got in touch and gave me copies of the American covers, so you guys don’t have to be as uninspired as me. [Raven: I love that the “twins” are the same picture of one person, flipped. I mean, spring for a second picture of that one person at least!]
Even so, the damage has been done. Every single book from Cammi’s Crush onwards are mentally lumped into “no idea what that’s about because it’s got a shit and unhelpful cover.”
[Wing: HALLOWEEN! BEST TIME OF THE YEAR! Multiple Halloweens may be my favourite part of Sweet Valley Time.]
We open with snark. Lila lists off her potential choices for a Halloween costume (hula dancer, ballerina, Egyptian princess) and Jessica asks if she’s deciding what to be when she grows up.
Lila throws a hairy eyeball in her direction, and talk moves on to what Jessica is going to dress up as. Janet reminds her that anything “silly or scary or weird” is not allowed as it would reflect badly on the Unicorns.
Mary asks if Jessica is going as Tweeledum and Tweedledee, but Jessica says no. I’m sure Elizabeth will be found sobbing in her thinking seat over that one. We all know how that Elizabeth famously overreacts every single Halloween that Jessica doesn’t want an identical costume with her. [Raven: I’m sure she’s moved on from that, wasn’t her sadness at that stuff an A-Plot at some point?] [Wing: But we’re still in that same school year, so she gets to be sad every single time. Lucky us.]
Jessica decides to use her new dance leotard as a cat costume. Ah. The Mean Girls approach to Halloween costumes. [Wing: Why in the world is she worried about using something she already owns? The Wakefields are the kind of family where every kid would get a new costume every year.] Belinda Layton carries on this trope by saying she’s wearing her new swimsuit and coming as a lifeguard. The swimsuit is new and bought especially for the school trip, apparently Caroline Pearce is pushing the rumour that their trip will be to Hawaii. [Wing: And the Unicorns seem to have no recollection of their previous trip.]
Mandy brings them back down to earth saying that the fund is so empty there may not even be a trip.
They are then interrupted by Aaron who points out that Mr Clark has been trying to get their attention for at least five minutes. I guess even the principal doesn’t have the nerve to tell Janet to shut the fuck up.
Mr Clark then gets the plot rolling. Apparently the Pumpkin Growers Association (does that need an apostrophe? Everyone chip in) [Wing: No. it’s not the association owned by the growers, it’s the association of growers, similar to Future Farmers of America or various student associations.] [Dove: Thank you. This is what I needed.] is sponsoring a county-wide contest, and will award a large cash prize for the school that shows the most “pumpkin fever”. Title drop. Can I leave yet?
This cash prize will be put into the school trip fund and actually allow them to go somewhere other than Mr Nydick’s basement to show off their new swimwear.
I feel like someone *pointedly looks at Wing* will want to point out that this makes no sense. The Pumpkin Growers Association will be donating all necessary pumpkins to all schools in the county, then giving a cash prize, and what they get in return is… exposure? So, by the time their grand gesture is done, people will be aware that pumpkins exist, just after Halloween. I mean, I know pumpkin pie is allegedly a thing, but… this makes no sense. [Wing: Well, pumpkin decorations run from September through November a lot of the time, maybe even into December, but yeah, the timing and setup of this is suspect. Free pumpkins though! Yay free pumpkins!]
Who on earth asks to be paid in exposure? Especially when that exposure exposes you, just after your busy season. Wing, got anything else to add? [Raven: Maybe it’s a Long Game. “This year, we supply ther pumkins, and show people wantonly using them in their thousands for ridiculous things. Next year, we SELL them the pumkins for inflated prices!”] [Dove: A flawless plan!] [Wing: Another thing is, the Pumpkin Growers Association would be made up of many different pumpkin farmers who would themselves be donating pumpkins (and prize money, though that may come out of the fees/etc..), it’s not like the PGA itself would be a company selling pumpkins. I guess it’s possible that the PGA received government grant funding to do something with schools, but that’s not really what it sounds like here.] [Dove: My experience with farmers, being the daughter of one, is that they don’t have a whole lot of excess money and goods to randomly give to privileged children.]
Anyway, back to the story, Jessica leaps to her feet and suggests a Halloween carnival with a pumpkin theme, including orange face paint and pumpkin costumes.
Janet coldly points out they’ve just had a school carnival. I think calling an event that happened forty-seven books ago “just” a bit of a stretch.
Everyone immediately shoots this idea down, saying it’s played out, and they need to win that money. Why? Why not just ask the Fowlers and the Patmans for half each. Separately. Imply that the other family offered willingly and watch them fight with their cheque books over who can pay the most. It’s not difficult.
“Thank goodness that lame idea got shot down,” Lila commented. She gave Jessica a sideways glance. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pumpkin costume.”
“No, orange really isn’t your color, is it, Lila?” Jessica snapped. She was annoyed that her friends weren’t being the least bit supportive of her idea. “That orange sweater you wore last week made you look like you had the flu. Actually, make that walking pneumonia.”
And the snark continues. Though I prefer it when they’re best friends, rather than rivals, but snark is good.
Winston suggests a contest to see who can bring in the biggest pumpkin, which is shot down. As is a pumpkin pie bake-off (Amy’s suggestion). Maria suggests a costume competition, which some people are interested in, but it’s not special enough to get them that prize.
Winston makes another suggestion, a jack o’lantern carving contest, which again gets a warmer reception, but isn’t very original.
Finally, Saint Elizabeth stands up, ready to deliver the most perfect suggestion.
“This should be good,” Lila muttered. “She probably wants us all to write essays on the history of the pumpkin or something.”
Lila, never change.
Elizabeth suggests they have a King and Queen of Halloween, but the way to vote is to commission a carved jack o’lantern in their likeness – she humbly credits Winston’s suggestion as inspiration for this idea. Commissioning a jack o’lantern will cost $$$ and the funds will go towards the class trip. [Raven: This fucking school. Has Bowman snorted all the budget again?] [Dove: No, they had to use it to pay off the girls who reported Nydick.]
Everyone wets their knickers over such an awesome idea. I’m just like, “Uh… do we have any artists in this school?” No, seriously, have we had a very special episode about someone who just wants to paint or draw? We haven’t, have we? So who is going to have the skill to carve a pumpkin in the likeness of the popular kids?
The soccer team, apparently. Aaron volunteers his whole team to carve. Well, Aaron recently became Jewish after 100 books with no warning, so I guess there’s no reason he can’t suddenly become an accomplished artist too. [Wing: To be fair, no one said the pumpkins had to look good or anything.]
Julie Porter says the student council will be in charge of bringing in the pumpkin, [Wing: You know, I’m now wondering if the school doesn’t have to provide their own pumpkins, not the PGA, in which case I want to know where the fuck is the pumpkin money coming from and why can’t that go toward the trip?] Amy and Elizabeth obviously suggest a special edition of the Sixers, because god knows that a newspaper can’t report on news, it has to be a special edition when something happens.
Jessica sulks. She feels certain that if Elizabeth had suggested a carnival, they’d be excitedly fighting to the death over booth assignments right now.
The Unicorns offer to source the robes for the king and queen, and immediately start bickering over who should win. Janet thinks she should because she’s president, Lila thinks she should because she’s been to European castles, and Jessica gets over her sulk in order to imagine herself as queen.
After school, Elizabeth checks in with her sister, making sure to compliment Jessica’s idea because she noticed how homicidal her twin looked after she got shot down. Elizabeth heaves a sigh of relief when she finds out that Jessica is supportive of her idea, and amused when she finds out it’s because Jessica is certain she’ll be crowned queen.
The next morning, Mr Clark sets out the rules over the PA system. Each jack o’lantern costs $2, you can commission as many as you want for however many people you want, but none of yourself. [Raven: I mean, sure, this is to stop Lila and Bruce just buying titles. Nothing to stop Lila voting for Bruce a thousand times, and vice versa. This hasn’t been thought through, as usual.] [Wing: Optimistic that Lila and Bruce would be able to work together here, but your point stands that anyone could team up and buy the votes.] And then Mr Davis gives up on keeping control of homeroom and tells the kids they can go to the cafeteria to check out the pumpkins.
The twins walk down with Aaron, and he comments that he’s ready to carve, and he’s sure that Elizabeth will get some votes because it was her idea. Jessica retorts that sure, but everyone knows who the really popular girls are, and is seemingly oblivious to how unappealing Aaron and Elizabeth find her cockiness.
Elizabeth leaves them to meet up with Maria and Amy, who fawn over her and her brilliant idea, saying they will commission a Elizabeth pumpkin as soon as they get their allowance. Elizabeth wants to commission for Winston (because he inspired her), Julie (for organising) and Todd (because he’s pretty), Aaron and Denny (because they carve ) and for her sister (because she fears for her life). That’s $12 already. Good thing Elizabeth saves her pocket money. [Raven: This is just “make the kids pay for their own school trip,” and I hate it.] [Wing: Usually the families would pay for at least the bulk of any trip, though. “School funds” don’t usually cover all of the cost, or even most, though Sweet Valley, who knows (and, of course, it varies depending on school).]
However, the first person to put his money where his mouth is is Randy Mason, who commissions one of his girlfriend, Cammi Adams. *nods approvingly* Continuity. She reciprocates, and a few minutes later Denny and Aaron have somehow carved pumpkins that look exactly like them.
Mr Clark then tells Aaron and Elizabeth to take the pumpkins outside to display them. There’s like a hundred students, but sure, pick on the carvers to run in and out with pumpkins, you tool. Then again, he’s got a new little girl. Maybe he hasn’t slept since he came back from China? [Raven: Lol.]
At lunch, Jessica stops at the bathroom to comb her hair – remember, Wakefields do not pee – and Mandy and Elizabeth are there. Jessica can’t help but grouse that nobody has voted for her yet. Elizabeth points out that she has, but Jessica says that’s not the point. Elizabeth is her twin, she has to vote for her. Elizabeth is a bit offended and asks if that’s why Jessica voted for her. Jessica actually hasn’t, but Elizabeth has two votes, and just assumes Jessica was one of them. Jessica breezes over this, saying that she needs MOAR VOTES. Mandy, who also only has one vote, says she’s going to vote for Jessica.
“Thanks, but no thanks, Mandy,” she said confidently. “I don’t need to beg my friends to vote for me. Once the boys start voting, I’ll have more than enough jack o’lanterns to win by a landslide.”
[Wing: Jessica, having your friends vote for you is the entire basis of this sort of popularity contest, goddamn.]
On an almost related note, Raven and I have been binge-watching The Circle (both the UK version and the USA one on Netflix – NO SPOILERS FOR CELEB/SEASON 3 THOUGH), and this reminds me of all the hot people who go in with the game plan of “People always think I’m sooooo pretty and make assumptions about me, so I’m going to use The Circle to make friends based on my personality.” Only to be voted out at the first opportunity when the group sees they have the personality of beige paint, and have actually been coasting by on their hotness. This is kind of the same. Jessica’s awesomeness is just an informed attribute. And I can’t help but find it a bit amusing when anyone falls back to earth.
Actually, I’ve been feeling this for the entire book run. The Unicorns are always saying they’re the prettiest and most popular, but there’s very little evidence of this. The only time some “nobody” gets a crush on them is when Mandy wants to be BFFs with Jessica, and the Unicorns are “too cool” for her. But nobody actually seems to follow them around, hoping to be friends/boy/girlfriends with them. In fact, most of the romance stuff is the girls hopelessly fawning over boys, who would much rather go roller blading with their mates or something. (Except the creepy books where high school boys want to date them. Steven and co can fuck off.)
At the Unicorner, Janet makes a decree that everyone must vote for her.
“What?” Lila demanded through a mouthful of spaghetti. “You’re out of your mind.”
This causes a moment of panicked silence at the table. Lila has to backtrack saying that is it fair for the Unicorns to vote for themselves. Yes, is the answer. Janet is president and will cut a bitch who doesn’t vote for her. They all pretend they were going to all along. [Raven: I’ve a theory that there’s one particular Ghostie that has SUCH a Plot Boner for Janet. She’s silent and pointless for thirty or forty books, then BAM! She’s integral to the Unicorns and full of character and sass for a single book.] [Dove: Even though I didn’t mention it, this Jamie has given Ellen a few cute lines too. Not quite up there with her daffiness in The Unicorns Go Hawaiian, but at least she said a few things.]
She tuned back into the conversation at the Unicorner just in time to hear Lila start bragging. “Did you see the wonderful job Denny did on my last jack o’lantern?” she asked. “It’s a much better likeness of me than the first one he did. It’s even better than the second one—though Rick Hunter carved that one, of course.”
Belinda frowned. “I didn’t think they looked anything like you,” she said. “If it weren’t for the initials carved in the back, I would have thought that last one was of Winston Egbert.”
Ah, so actually the pumpkins look nothing like the people they’re supposed to be. I did wonder. [Raven: Yeah, they had to mention this, otherwise it’d be ridiculous. Or maybe everyone in America can carve a pumpkin like a boss, as Halloween is so much more important there than it is in the UK?]
When I was a kid, my friend and I gave our pumpkins extra touches with magic markers and glitter. Maybe the soccer team should have done that. But that would probably have threatened their masculinity.
Talk turns to how many votes everyone has, and Jessica is saved from having to admit she has only one by Mr Clark announcing that Elizabeth has had another fantastic idea. She has spoken to a friend at the Sweet Valley Tribune, Sabrina Malone, and she will be visiting the school and if she likes what she sees, she’ll return several times and feature them on a spread in the weekend paper.
Mr Clark adds that they should wear Halloween costumes on the days she visits, to show their pumpkin fever. Uh… that only works if everyone’s dressing as a pumpkin.
Elizabeth’s brilliant idea goes down a storm, with them even yelling, “Hooray for Elizabeth!”
Jessica glares at her twin and plots her death. How dare she “hog the limelight”. What a bitch.
Mandy is so excited, she says she’s going to vote for Elizabeth. Janet is not impressed. Mary sides with Mandy and they both leave to commission their Elizabeth pumpkins.
Jessica is furious.
The next day, there is even more exciting news. The drama club will be setting up a face-painting booth, charging a dollar to paint people to look like pumpkins. And! And the never-mentioned-before-this-book Cuisine Club will be making goodies from the pumpkin guts.
… is it just me, or is this starting to sound like a Halloween Carnival? We have competitions, costumes, booths… it’s a fucking carnival. [Wing: This is what I’ve been waiting for ever since Jessica’s idea got shot down, because of course it’s going to turn into a carnival. How could it not?] [Dove: Ok, not just me. I wondered if being a Brit would provoke one of those, “While I see your point, what we Americans would consider a carnival is…”]
Elizabeth sees her sister looking sad, and worries. Amy says Jessica probably broke a nail or something, because she’s super shallow. Only she says it respectfully, because she lives in fear of the day that Elizabeth will find a new best friend that’s even more boring than her. And believe me, that day is coming.
Elizabeth and Amy catch up to Jessica and ask about her angst. She leads them to the pumpkins.
Amy was leaning over a nearby jack o’lantern. “Hey, look at this,” she said. She pointed, and the other girls saw that the jack o’lantern had a raw carrot poking out of its forehead. “What in the world is this for?”
Jessica sighed again, more heavily this time. “That’s a Unicorn jack o’lantern,” she explained. “The carrot is supposed to be a horn, get it?”
OMG. That fucking rules. It must look ridiculous. Ok, friends, someone please make a Unicorn jack o’lantern this Halloween, ok? I don’t do pumpkins, but if you do, please try it.
The reason for Jessica’s depression is revealed: Lila has five votes, and Jessica has a measly one. How on earth can Lila be beating her?
Amy says that Lila is bribing people to vote for her, if that helps at all. Damn, Amy. She’s bringing the low-key sass.
This does not placate Jessica, who points out that even Cammi has two votes. Her life is full of WOE! [Raven: EVEN CAMMI.]
Elizabeth, predictably, vows to commission another fucking pumpkin of her sister, because she has no spine. Or she’s genuinely frightened of the killing spree Jessica might go on.
After dinner that night, Jessica was still depressed. She had spent the whole evening moping around the house trying to figure out why nobody liked her anymore. Wasn’t she still one of the prettiest girls in school? Didn’t she have the kind of personality that made everyone want to be her friend? She lay on her bed and stared into a hand mirror, trying to figure out what was wrong with her.
Oh fuck off. You’re being Sandra Ferris now. I do not care. I will get behind most of Jessica’s grand schemes, but this is not a grand scheme. This is sitting down doing fuck all and being surprised that nobody is going to vote for you simply because you exist. Get on it, Jessica. Murder some people. Kidnap your twin. I don’t know. DO SOMETHING.
She has to do an art project for school with the theme of autumn. Not fall, apparently. I love the haphazard way these books clumsily attempt to translate some words to British English, while leaving huge swaths of American English in there. Just leave it, we understand. We know that sneakers are trainers, sidewalks are pavements, and fall is autumn. The only thing we don’t understand is jumpers, but since it’s California in the 80s, on the rare occasion someone needs long sleeves, they wear a sweatshirt, so we’re all good. [Raven: We don’t understand jumpers? I’m confused.] [Dove: Oh, Raven. It’s a dress of some kind in the USA.]
Jessica has gathered supplies, acorns, leaves, etc., but is feeling completely uninspired. She faffs around for a bit, then leaves to get a snack.
Elizabeth, unable to have fun that isn’t homework, even if it’s someone else’s homework, immediately starts meddling with Jessica’s supplies. In short order she paints some acorns orange, draws a little face on them, and attaches them to earring backs. Now she has jack o’lantern earrings.
(Remember that lead-in from the last book, about how Mr Clark’s wife made her own jewellery and Elizabeth expressed an interest? Well fuck that. Elizabeth has accidentally made jewellery here.) [Raven: So weak.]
When Jessica returns, Elizabeth eagerly shows off her grand creations. Jessica, furious with pumpkin fever, tells her that they are cheap tat, a fashion disaster, and she should just fuck off and die. Elizabeth, showing a spectacular lack of spine, is grateful that Jessica just saved her from a couture faux pas. And vows to commission another pumpkin as a thank you.
This Jamie is drunk, isn’t she? That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d write after doing several of these books. I’d experiment with how much of a martyr I could make Elizabeth without getting fired.
(Actually, ghosting for Sweet Valley is my dream job. Damn, if only they’d reboot it.)
After Elizabeth leaves, still high on Jessica’s sage wisdom, Jessica appraises the earrings more closely. They’re actually adorable. But she maintains that Elizabeth still needed taking down, her ego was getting too big. (Definitely drunk Jamie.) But deep down, she knows she was unfair, and Elizabeth is just super excited at the moment.
She tries to get back into her project with no success, then realises that Elizabeth’s earrings are the perfect fall project piece for art. So, she puts her initials on the back of the earrings and puts them in her pocket for school tomorrow.
In art class, Mr Sweeny thinks the earrings are terrific. Conveniently, she does not have art class with her sister. Even though she did back in The New Girl, when Brooke spilled blue paint all over Jessica’s Nancy Drew picture.
Actually, everyone in her class thinks they’re terrific. [Raven: Pretty sure most of the twelve year old boys wouldn’t give a pimply shit, but there you go.]
After school, the Unicorns gather in the bathroom to bitch at each other. Has anyone told the author that these girls are actually friends?
Janet has twelve votes and thinks she’s the bees’ knees. When Mandy walks in, she brings Janet back down to earth, Elizabeth has fourteen votes.
Jessica has to leave for fear of stabbing her friends. She still can’t believe her sister is so popular. She bumps into Denny, who has been carving pumpkins, and he shows her that he’s carrying one for her. Jessica’s surprise is mistaken for modesty, which Denny finds charming. She asks who voted for her, and he says it might be a secret admirer. It actually came in yesterday, but they’ve had a backlog.
Just take them out of classes and get them carving full time. They’re white and wealthy, they’ll be fine. [Raven: I’m pretty sure that’s what they actually DID. In the text. This fucking school.]
Denny asks her about the “really cool” earrings she made in art class. His mom would love a pair. That makes sense. Sweet Valley is exactly the kind of place where tacky novelty earrings would flourish. I bet Ned owns one of those “hilarious” aprons that have a girl’s bikini-clad body on them, and it’s totes funny because he’s a man.
At this point, Janet arrives, flanked by the Unicorns, and she barges into the conversation, because Denny is her man and he’s not allowed to talk to any other girl. She asks about the earrings, and Denny tells her all about them. This prompts the Unicorns to ask her to make them for all of them. In fact, Janet takes it a step further, and suggests they sell them. [Raven: PLOT BONER FOR JANET.]
Jessica is a bit alarmed at this, but is quickly won over by how everyone is being nice to her now. Having fans is definitely more important than her sister’s feelings. She quickly dispatches the Unicorns to gather supplies and they agree to meet up for a crafting session.
She goes out on to the school field to collect acorns, and is accosted by her sister, who is worried that Jessica is depressed. She asks what Jessica is doing with a bag full of acorns, and Jessica comes up with a story about an orphaned baby squirrel whose mom was hit by a car.
Elizabeth is charmed, and not at all suspicious. [Wing: I mean, Jessica is such an animal lover publicly, right? She’s never shouted and hated fuzzy little things.] She asks if she can help feed him, but Jessica says no, he’s sleeping.
Elizabeth is happy to leave because she’s just found the lead story for the Sixers!
I guess she learned fucking nothing after that entire book about checking her sources. Which, incidentally, was kicked off by her sister hanging around trees and getting interested in the animals that dwell in them. [Raven: BURN!]
Also, Elizabeth is going to vote for her sister again. Because wow, man, squirrels. [Raven: I honestly can’t see why the kids are willing to paper-cut their allowances away to nothing by spending two fucking dollars a time to vote for someone, in multiples, in the form of a fucking pumpkin. What about the kids who have no cash? This is democracy, right? Fucking bullshit.] [Wing: …pretty much exactly what elections in the USA are like, to be fair. Train the kids up young, popularity and money. Mostly money. That’s what you need to win.]
On Monday, Elizabeth is brimming with excitement. She can’t wait for Jessica to see her article on her kind-hearted squirrel-saving antics. (I swear in the last book, the paper came out on a Thursday.)
Elizabeth spots Lila wearing pumpkin earrings and her first thought is not FUCKING JESSICA! but instead, “Gosh, if Lila’s wearing something similar, my earrings must be cool, I should tell Jessica.”
She speaks to Lila who reveals that the Unicorns have spent all weekend making the earrings, based on Jessica’s original design. She points out that they’ve set up their own stall selling them.
It’s slow going but Elizabeth eventually pieces together that Jessica was lying when questioned about collecting acorns and she has stolen Elizabeth’s design. Elizabeth wonders if perhaps the baby squirrel might not even exist.
Elizabeth is not too pure for this sinful world. She’s too stupid.
The school is swept by earring fever, and everyone is commissioning Jessica pumpkins now.
Elizabeth decides she needs to talk to her twin. Jessica attempts to dodge the conversation by saying she has customers, knowing that Elizabeth doesn’t have the spine to beat her to death like she deserves. Elizabeth waits patiently and then asks Jessica what the hell is going on.
Jessica defence is that Elizabeth was going to throw her earrings away (because Jessica told her they were dorky), and she can’t help having “a terrific mind for marketing”. The latter is actually true. We say it all the time here. Jessica is the queen of spin.
Elizabeth couldn’t believe her ears. This whole situation was completely outrageous, even for Jessica. Elizabeth was so furious she could hardly speak. “So that’s where you were all weekend,” she sputtered finally. “You weren’t at the mall at all. You and the rest of the Snob Squad were busy ripping off my idea!”
“Don’t think of it as ripping off, Lizzie,” Jessica pleaded, looking a little worried at her twin’s outburst. “Think of it as, um, using your idea for inspiration. You know, like you used Winston’s pumpkin-carving idea as inspiration for your contest.”
Elizabeth just stared at her twin for a moment, speechless. “Does this mean,” she asked at last, her voice cold and measured, “that you were lying about the baby squirrel?”
Jessica’s cheeks turned pink, and Elizabeth guessed that her sister had forgotten all about the squirrel story “Um, don’t think of it as lying, Lizzie…,” Jessica began.
But Elizabeth didn’t wait to hear the rest. She spun on her heel and raced off down the hall toward the Sixers office.
Elizabeth races off to stop the presses, but it’s too late, the story is out there. [Raven: I did enjoy the “don’t think of it as lying” line.] [Wing: ME TOO. So fucking perfect.]
Jessica spends the morning being adored by everyone. Denny tells her that she’s pulling ahead in the votes, there were about ten votes this morning alone.
At lunch, Jessica is counting her pumpkin votes with Aaron, and he confides that he’d been turned off by her cockiness earlier, so hadn’t voted for her, and ensured the guys he knew didn’t vote for her earlier. But now he knows that she’s super, he’s sorry.
She is angry at first, but she’s winning at life, so lets it go. Also, reporters are here, so she moves on. Sabrina, the reporter, says that JW must be super popular. Janet barrels over and tries to take credit for Jessica’s stolen idea about the earrings. [Raven: PLOT BONER FOR JANET].
Elizabeth hears about this, and she, Amy and Maria head out in time to see the photographer taking a picture of the Unicorns. Maria tells Elizabeth that she really liked her article, and had no idea that Jessica was such a kind squirrel-rescuing soul. Dude, I know she nearly killed a dog, but she also rescued a homeless dog, a baby seal, and attempted to save birds in the trees. I’m not saying she’s great with animals, but I’m saying she has a track record of getting involved. And surely oil-spilled baby seal trumps squirrel for cute/news value? [Wing: She is good at rescuing animals, though still pretty outspoken about how much she hates them, so I guess I can see why people don’t necessarily think of her as an animal rescuer. (And on a meta level, we’ll never know how many of those things actually happened at any given time in the story. Maybe Jessica has never saved an animal in her life. Oh, for regular continuity.)] [Dove: #SweetValleyTime]
One of the reporters has found a copy of the Sixers, and is now interested in the baby squirrel too. Jessica lays it on thick about how could she live with herself if she didn’t help the squirrel, and Elizabeth silently fumes. Amy comments that usually Jessica sucks, but today she really deserves the attention.
That was all Elizabeth could take. That stupid article had even Amy believing that Jessica was some kind of saint. Elizabeth had to put a stop to this before it went any further. And she knew the perfect way to do it. “I have an idea, Sabrina,” she said loudly, stepping forward and touching the reporter on the arm. She saw Jessica suddenly give her a wary glance, and she smiled innocently. “Why don’t you get a few pictures of Jessica with her furry little friend?”
“That’s a great idea,” the photographer exclaimed. “Why didn’t we think of that?”
It is. Why didn’t you? You’re grownups who write for an actual paper. Are you just going to cite a kids free school paper as your source?
Elizabeth revels in Jessica’s panic. There is now way out for her now. Elizabeth is practically rubbing her hands together in glee.
“Um…” Jessica hesitated for a long moment, and Elizabeth held her breath, waiting for the confession that would surely follow.
Instead, to her surprise, her twin burst into tears. “I—I tried to save him,” she wailed. “I did everything I could.”
“What do you mean?” the reporter asked.
“I did my best,” Jessica said through her tears, her lower lip trembling. “But the poor little guy didn’t make it. When I went to check on him this morning, his little body was already cold. I—I didn’t want to tell anybody because it was so s-s-sad…”
Goddamn. Jessica just killed an imaginary squirrel to further her narrative. Well, I did ask for scheming, didn’t I? There’s the little sociopath we all know and love. [Raven: Yep. Full-on mic drop. Can’t fault it, even though I do feel for the imaginary squrrel.] [Wing: JESSICA FUCKING WAKEFIELD, EVERYONE. JESSICA. FUCKING.WAKEFIELD. I have hearts and stars in my eyes.]
Elizabeth is now furious.
The next morning Jessica receives praise from both parents and Steven, saying they are so proud of her. She thinks she hears Elizabeth snort but ignores it. She has adoring fans.
At school, the adoration continues. Caroline wants to have a memorial for the poor dead squirrel, but Jessica claims her grief is just too raw right now. The Unicorns, Janet in particular, are delighted with how often they’re mentioned in the Tribune article… huh, I thought that was coming out at the end of the contest, but why not.
They are now out of earrings, so need more supplies to make more. Mandy asks if Jessica can collect more acorns during her study period, but Jessica says no, it’s someone else’s turn. The truth is that she doesn’t want to “spend that much time away from her adoring fans”. Urgh, Jessica, you are ridiculous.
Mandy and Mary end up volunteering instead. Jessica is bored of this conversation, she wants to know how many votes she has. But before she can count, the school secretary approaches her saying there’s an urgent call for her.
It’s the owner of La Presumida, an exclusive boutique – you can tell it’s fancy because it’s not called Sweet Valley Boutique – and she wants two dozen pairs of earrings (that’s 48 earrings!) by five o’clock this afternoon. She will be donating the proceeds to Sweet Valley Nature Habitat. [Raven: How is this actually presented as real? I was sure this was Elizabeth enacting her revenge.] [Wing: This is complete and utter bullshit.]
Jessica doesn’t really care where the money goes, and is vaguely aware that it’s a tight deadline, but agrees nonetheless because she loves being adored.
She manages to tell the Unicorns before lunch, so that’s something, but she also can’t stop bragging about how many votes she has – she stopped to count on her way back to them – and that Denny is in the lead for King. This makes Janet start planning her own murderous spree. The other Unicorns are not delighted about how many earrings they’ll have to make, but Jessica doesn’t care. She’s popular.
This is kind of turning out like the Vampire Trilogy over on Point Horror.
Julie interviews Jessica for the Sixers. She hasn’t asked Elizabeth yet, but she’s sure Elizabeth will be just fine with it. Jessica answers Julie’s questions, then heads over to meet her friends. They are not happy she’s late, since they’re hard at work making the earrings. Also, Jessica doesn’t help them make them, she just brags about how hard it is being famous, and eats her lunch. She vaguely notes their unhappiness, but instead of acknowledging their issues, she just sighs and thinks to herself that it’s really hard being the most popular girl in school.
Over with Elizabeth, she just can’t take it anymore. Amy, Julie and Maria are fangirling hard over Jessica. And you know it’s serious because they’ve brought Julie Porter out of retirement and made Team Boring a foursome. She breaks like a twig in a hurricane and tells them everything that’s going on.
Team Boring are on the warpath, although Elizabeth can’t help but defend her twin, saying she doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. Oh, Elizabeth, I’d love to know how you’d feel to find out one of her motivations was to deflate your oversized ego.
As a side note, they are one article short for the Sixers.
But back to vengeance, Elizabeth finds some water balloons and she and Team Boring set out to balance the scales. On their way to the bathroom to fill them, they get updates on gossip: California Girl is going to feature Jessica’s earrings in their Fall Fashion Faves (ah, so it can be called fall!) section; and the Unicorns have more earrings to sell. [Wing: It is way too late in the year for them to be putting out a Fall Fashion Faves spread. It’s holiday party clothing time, people! It’s nearly the end of October! Fall Fashion Faves would have been done back in, oh, May.]
They fill the balloons while muttering darkly about Jessica’s upcoming demise.
They are all ready to fire when Elizabeth backs out. She’s had a better idea. [Raven: I’m so glad. Water Balloon Revenge is so shit.] [Wing: Petrol Balloon + Matches Revenge.] [Dove: So, um, let’s not piss Wing off then.]
The next day (Wednesday), the new Sixers it out. Even though it came out on a Monday last week, and a Thursday in other books, but ok, sure. Jessica is bored in Ms Arnette’s class and reads a story Elizabeth has written called The Telltale Jack o’lantern.
Short version: Twins, one good, one bad. Good twin grows an amazing pumpkin for a contest. Evil twin buries the pumpkin so that hers can win. From then on, she hears a scraping sound of the pumpkin trying to break free. Eventually she decides to dig up the pumpkin as she can’t take that sound any more, but finds a big hole instead. She falls into the hole and is never seen again. But sometimes you can still hear the scraping.
Well, damn, Elizabeth didn’t just kill her fictional twin, she buried her alive, which is far more hardcore than killing an imaginary squirrel. Do not fuck with these twins, ok? [Wing: Uh, and yet Elizabeth sees no problem with blatantly ripping off Poe while raging about Jessica blatantly ripping her off first.] [Dove: … wow. mind = blown.]
Nobody really mentions the story, which I find weird. Given Jessica’s history of bullshit and Elizabeth penning that story, if I was a student, I would certainly speculate that there was an element of reality there. Jessica doesn’t have this thought though, she’s just spooked.
That night while lying in bed, she hears scraping. Unnerved, she fetches Elizabeth and asks her if she can hear anything. Elizabeth says no and can she go back to her book now? I am loving Elizabeth right now. I wish this Elizabeth was more visible. I loved snarky Elizabeth from BIG for Christmas, and I love icily vengeful Elizabeth. It’s just annoying that 99% of the time we have overbearingly “nice” Elizabeth.
Jessica has nightmares all night of shovels digging.
The next morning she is tired, and Elizabeth takes pity on her and offers to make her some toast (where are the pancakes, the donuts, the other sugary breakfasts these kids are always enjoying?). Jessica hears a scraping noise and at first thinks it’s Elizabeth scraping the burnt bits off the toast, but it’s not. Her siblings can’t hear it.
Jessica hears the noise throughout the day, and is kind of zoned out. After school, Lila wants to show off the robes she has sourced for the king and queen. Jessica isn’t into it, but Mandy talks her round. Mandy and Lila come over to the Wakefield Compound and show off the purple (obv) robes.
She’s just daydreaming about wearing the robe while standing next to Denny when she hears the scraping again. She yells, “Not again!” and asks if the other two can hear the noise. They cannot. Lila curtly informs her that if she keeps acting weird, it’s going to make the Unicorns look weird by proxy. [Wing: I’m shocked that Janet isn’t the one saying this.]
Jessica sees three jack o’lanterns peering through the window at her. She screams and points, but by the time her friends look over, the pumpkins are gone.
That evening, Elizabeth checks in on Jessica, saying she can hear her pacing around. Jessica says she will be ok. She knows what she has to do.
The next day during social studies, they see the reporters and photographers from The Tribune arrive, and Ms Arnette actually lets them leave class early to see what’s going on. I know that’s quite a boring sentence, but I like to give Raven a lead in for his rants about the faculty.
Before lunch, they have an assembly on the front lawn to announce the King and Queen of Halloween. Mr Clark stands on the front steps and says that first of all, he has two helpers, Aaron and Elizabeth, who have helped facilitate this whole nonsense. Next he announces that the winners are Denny and Jessica.
Denny immediately moves over to the steps, but Jessica is still kind of dazed.
Denny gets to make his speech first, and it’s incredibly gushing about how Jessica is just the bestest pumpkin thing in the world. Aaron gives her a strange smile which she chalks up to him wanting to be king.
Then Jessica steps forward and comes clean, saying that she doesn’t deserve all this praise. She lied about everything and Elizabeth decorated the earrings.
It is met with a silence. Not a stunned silence, just an amused one.
And that’s when Aaron throws a handful of pumpkin guts at her. And then it’s an all-out goop war. Which sounds fucking minging. The twins are all good again, after Elizabeth throws a handful of goop at her, and then, just so that someone is always in the wrong, Lila gets gooped just as a photographer takes a picture of her. Because she’s the one who’s in the wrong here. The girl in the nice costume who didn’t want to be coated in pumpkin guts.
We cut to the next day, and Jessica is still crowing that Lila’s unflattering picture made the front page of the paper. Really? Literally nothing else happened that day? And even if it didn’t, you couldn’t go with the uplifting story of a nice white middle class school getting funding to have a nice holiday, instead of “twelve year old looks ugly, point and laugh at her”? Ok, you do you, Sweet Valley, you toxic mess.
Then we get an explanation. Elizabeth set everything up and was playing recordings of a scraping, and making sure everyone present knew to pretend they didn’t hear it. These twins, dude. One is clearly going to be the most prolific serial killer of her era, the other is going to be an emotionally abusing gaslighter. Alice will be so proud every time the Crime and Investigation channel airs the Wakefield Twins Special.
[Raven: Loving the recap for shit like this. But the whole “riff off The Tell-tale Heart” and get Jessica to confess is such bullshit. Like, so she’s hearing weird scraping? Fine. She’d blank that out of her mind without a second thought. She’s well versed at silencing the murderous voices in her head, after all.] [Wing: “Silencing” them or “listening to and acting on” them?]
The phone rings and Jessica takes the call. It’s California Girl magazine, they want her to write her story for their “Was my face purple or what?” column. There’s an annoying bit where Jessica wheedles and pleads with Elizabeth to help, and Elizabeth is amazed at her nerve, before Jessica admits that actually, she was planning on sharing the authorship with her.
Then we have the lead-in for the next book, Thanksgiving is coming [Wing: Wait, an actually believable timeline? Didn’t expect that!] and Alice has something big planned?
What do you think, guys? Going sober or violent blood orgy?
Probably the latter, right?
This was one that I read first then recapped, because I realised that recapping as I go was making me really hate the books. And yeah, it makes a major difference. I enjoyed reading this book – it was your standard Wakefield farce – but recapping it wasn’t much fun.
I found the ending a bit too twee. Why did there have to be a goop fight? Can we have a mini-series where Jessica goes too far in her selfish bullshit and actually loses her friends and has to win them back by learning her lesson, rather than just getting pelted with stuff and moving on. Remember when she stole Elizabeth’s baby-sitting job in order to get out of running the water-balloon toss booth? That was also resolved by her getting stuff thrown at her.
Could she please fucking learn her lesson?
[Raven: I too enjoyed reading this more than actually commenting on it, although the recap is pure gas. I found myself reacting badly to the recapped events, more so that to the initial read. I was actually totally Team Elizabeth on this one, as Jess was a nightmare. An entertaining nightmare, but a nightmare nontheless. The logistics of the entire thing were simply ludicrous, the end was completely ridiculous, and the whole school needs to get in the fucking sea.]
[Wing: As much as I love Halloween and enjoyed some of the snark in this, it felt really flat to me, probably because of that weak ending. There’s so little thought behind the actually timing of how things would work that I couldn’t settle in for a silly story, and Janet was fucking everywhere for no reason. And I’m never down with throwing pumpkin guts at people. Gross.]
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.