Title: The Boyfriend Mess
Tagline: Valentine’s Day at SVMS has everyone seeing red!
Summary: All’s fair in love and war in part two of a special two-book Valentine’s Day miniseries.
It’s Valentine’s Day and Sweet Valley is being treated to the dance of the decade, courtesy of Young Love, the hottest dating game show on TV. But although the music is cool and the decorations are great, the couples at the dance are totally bizarre.
Jessica Wakefield and her identical twin, Elizabeth, switched identities for the dating game. Now Jessica’s trapped in a date with her sister’s sort-of-boyfriend, Todd Wilkins, who doesn’t even suspect that he’s with the wrong girl! Janet Howell is stuck with super geek Donald Zwerdling, thanks to Young Love. Maria Slater is actually psyched to be with Patrick Morris, but he only has eyes for Sophia Rizzo. Everyone’s with the wrong partner! Can they find true romance before this night to remember becomes a night to forget?
This carries over from the last book, The Boyfriend Game, which I did not much like but didn’t hate either. This story certainly didn’t need to cross two books, and since the last book moved slow, I assume this one will, too.
[Dove: But… theme park!]
[Raven: I quite liked the first book. This does not bode well for the second.]
Jessica Wakefield keeps telling herself she should be happy, but she’s having none of that optimism. Even though it’s Valentine’s Day, her favourite day of the year (except for Christmas … and New Year’s … and the first day of summer vacation — look, it’s hard out here for a girl who has many favourites) [Dove: Thank god all these days happen multiple times a year!], and she’s going to spend the day at that amusement park, Dizzy Planet, and she’ll finally get to show up her best friend Lila who went to DP (heh) the day it opened, Jessica’s not happy.
Why, you might ask if you haven’t read the previous book and if you haven’t, I don’t blame you. Thanks to that terribly written game show, Jessica’s got herself a date with Todd, her sister’s boyfriend. With Todd, her sister’s boyfriend who thinks he won a date with Elizabeth, not Jessica. Twin Magic! Hasn’t Jessica had some sort of dating mishap with Todd before? It all blurs. (I’m sure Dove will know and have a reference right to hand.) [Dove: Not really in Twins. This is more of a High plot. We just have the book where Jessica tried to convince Todd he liked her more than her sister.]
Jessica blames Elizabeth for how terribly wrong things have gone with their precious plan. Not only did their Twin Magic lead to Jessica’s date with Todd, but Jessica’s sort of boyfriend/most of the time crush, Aaron Dallas, is going with Liz’s other best friend (until someone new comes to town), Amy.
I feel like I should be putting up the SVT dating version of a murder board. (Actual murder board will wait until SVH.) [Dove: You jest, but there’s a whole miniseries where Liz is working for a newspaper and has to solve a rash of murders in High.] [Raven: Now we’re talking!]
Host Byron flirts with all the winners, and because this is Sweet Valley where Nydick runs amok, it’s not inappropriate at all for him to do so. Jessica’s finally found the silver lining to this raincloud day: Byron offers to take her off Todd’s hands if he’s too scared to take her on the Space Demon ride, so of course this means he’s got a crush on her.
Apparently Elizabeth blames Elizabeth for how terribly wrong things have gone with the precious plan, too, because of course she does. God forbid she find that spine of hers.
Even before they get in the van to go to the park, Jessica is snapping at Todd and making him sad. Elizabeth is pretty sure Todd will never want to speak to her again after his date with Jessica-as-Elizabeth.
You are all ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous, Jane, Byron’s assistant, is doing roll call to make sure all the couples are together, and she keeps mangling their names (Maria and I both suspect on purpose): Elizabeth Whackfield (fitting), Donald Nerdling (…also fitting), Janet Howl (WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY WEREWOLVES, DOVE?!), etc. Maria and I also both think that Janet Howl is pretty funny. [Dove: She’s called Jane Sylvester, and if you didn’t imagine her as Sue Sylvester, then you missed a moment of joy in this book.] [Raven: I didn’t like this crappy bullying name game thing. I mean, it’s just “make Donald feel small so everyone else laughs, then make Janet feel small so everyone else laughs,” and so on. Each mis-pronunciation is some form of diminuitive phrase, and each would likely lead to permanent and unkind nicknames in real life, so it’s a hard nope from me. It smacked of my old geography teacher at school, who’d pick on one kid to make the other kids laugh. One of my classmates had the surname Rabone, and the teacher “misread” it at our first ever registration and called him “Rubbernose”. The kid actually did have a big nose, so it stuck, and that was him fucked for five years.]
Amy and Maria bond over some of the weird pairings to come of all this (Donald and Janet, Amy and Aaron). Maria’s pretty pleased that she’s paired with Patrick. (Alliteration completely unplanned but I’m proud of it.) She thinks he’s nice, but oh god, no crush, not her, not when he’s with Sophia. Good good, I wondered if we’d lose that bit of continuity, but ghostie pulled off this one small thing.
…and then Maria goes off on a tangent about how nice and popular he is and then thinks to herself about his blue eyes, curly hair, really nice smile. Good lord, I cannot take more love triangles.
(New names: Amy Shudder and Aaron Dullest. I kind of want to date Jane.) [Raven: While I want to punch her.]
Part of why Maria’s so thrilled with Patrick picking her is that he did it without knowing who she was, chose her sight unseen as she says, and that means a lot to her because she’s often worried that people only pretend to like her because she was a child actor. That’s a valid concern! I’m still not interested in love triangles, but I’m here for Maria feeling like she belongs. [Dove: While I think this is an interesting plot for Maria, it’s really is an ass-pull of one. It has been 80 books since Maria moved to Sweet Valley, which means a whole bunch of Christmases, new years, summer breaks and so forth, so probably about four years. During that time she’s joined the drama club, done some writing, been Elizabeth’s new second BFF (so long Julie Porter, we never really knew ya), and brought down a crime ring. She’s accepted! I’m glad she’s getting screen time, but this is really late in the day for her to suddenly feel that she’s not accepted, when we’ve had no indication otherwise and she’s been Liz’s backup bestie for more than half the series. And yes, I do agree that being a backup bestie isn’t really fitting in, but I stand by my point that this subplot would have made more sense at least 50 books ago.] [Raven: Yeah, this was so far out of left field it was almost Jeremy Corbyn.]
Over to Sophia and Patrick, Sophia is incredibly envious of Patrick and Maria’s date, and regrets that they tried to cheat the game so they could go together. This backfired for them much like Jessica and Elizabeth’s plan backfired. Lesson (not) learned: you’re all idiots, stop trying to have escapades!
Sophia is also still on edge, having nightmares about being arrested because they tried to cheat, being caught by the FBI or CIA or Secret Service or whoever.
Sophia, dear girl, I think you need to go talk to someone, because that’s an extreme reaction. [Dove: Her Italian heritage was very much othered by Elizabeth (which means all of Sweet Valley) and her brother had trouble with the law, and I doubt SV forgets bad behaviour, especially from the non-whites. Maybe she still has worries. Although, much like the Maria thing, they are now a co-family with the Thomases (completely unmentioned, btw, when Sophia was sneaking about making calls), a “nice” white middle-class family and he has a good job. And as evidenced in their meet cute, his whiteness seems to take the edge off a Rizzo’s misdeeds. Still, I buy Sophia’s panic much more than Maria’s worries.] [Raven: I couldn’t help think that her first-hand knowledge of Tony and his problems would have made her a little more pragmatic. I mean, I didn’t expect a hardened master criminal’s viewpoint, but she laid it on a little too thick for me. Mostly fun otherwise, though.]
As she’s freaking out over their conversation, this guy Marshall comes up to them and claims he’s Byron’s cousin. He asks about Maria because she looks familiar. Patrick offers to introduce him to their friend, emphasis especially for Sophie.
Maria thinks Marshall’s a cutie. They talk about how uncomfortable Marshall is in telling people that he’s Byron’s cousin because then people try to befriend him to get on the show or to get to meet Byron.
Maria is, of course, empathetic about that, and their talk turns to movies, which they both love. She doesn’t tell him about her acting career, though when he says his favourite movie is the remake of Bald Eagle Landing, a movie she was in, she waivers a little.
Too late, though, because he finally recognises her.
He’s pretty calm about it, in the end, and they talk about why she retired and how much she likes Sweet Valley and finding friends she can relate to, nice people, etc. They’re flirting a little, and it’s kind of sweet, and if he’s just using her for some sort of fame thing, I’m going to burn things down, ghostie. Be warned.
(New names: Maria See-ya-later and Patrick Morose.) [Dove: Patrick Morose is so on the nose. He stays in my memory as sulky beige paint with a sexy instrument sax.]
Marshall is also going to Dizzy Planet and to the dance that night, and Maria is pretty sure this will now be the best day of her entire life. Oh, sweetie, I love you, and I hope you have a fantastic day.
Janet tries to get out of going with Donald, but of course she can’t otherwise Sweet Valley loses everything. Byron shouts cowabunga as he drops in through the sunroof, because why the fuck not, this is already cheesy as fuck. [Dove: Cowabunga. They can’t reference any real movie except Gone With the Wind so it remains timeless. But Cowabunga got in there? They’ve just given up at this point, haven’t they?] [Raven: Jeez, don’t have a cow, man.]
(New name: Janet Howl-at-the-moon which is even fucking better and also WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY WEREWOLVES?!)
Byron, of course, puts Janet on the spot by reminding everyone, including the students who are gathered to see off the winners, that if Janet backs out, she’ll ruin things for everyone, no amusement park, no dance. [Raven: I have issues with this show’s prizing model.]
That will surely reflect poorly on the Unicorns, Janet.
Todd talks some smack about Queen Janet, Jessica defends her a little (she has at least a couple good points, not great defense there, Wakefield), and one of the things Todd likes about Elizabeth is that she sees the good in everybody, even Janet.
And Elizabeth talks about the Unicorns being snobs. Good lord.
Byron sits with Jessica and Todd, and Jessica is thrilled that he flirts with her some.
Back at the gym, Sophia and a few other students help the Young Love staff decorate for the dance. Uh. Why? Surely there’s an insurance claim just waiting to happen with kids working alongside the actual show team, and they shouldn’t need the kids to help in the first place.
Okay, whatever, rolling with it.
Sophia keeps thinking that “Jessica” looks like Elizabeth even though she can’t be Elizabeth, Elizabeth is on her way to the amusement park. I’m glad that at least one of Elizabeth’s friends can tell her apart from her twin even when they’re trying to pull off Twin Magic.
Oh, nevermind, as soon as she sees the monogram on “Jessica’s” shirt, she knows it can’t possibly be Elizabeth. Good god, everyone in Sweet Valley is drinking the kool-aid.
(I’m not sure I believe Jessica would have JW monogrammed on a shirt when she could have gotten a unicorn.)
Elizabeth overhears two of the show crew talking about how they have to check to make sure the electrical system can handle the “heavy equipment,” you know, the stuff for after they catch the cheaters.
Elizabeth, of course, assumes they mean her and Jessica. Jessica must have told someone, because Elizabeth would never.
Sophia overhears this, too, and she’s freaking out because she believes she’s been caught, as she’s been worried about this entire time. They do have a pretty cute exchange over their own innocence.
“What a bummer,” Sophia said. She slid her hand along the bunting. “I c-can’t imagine who would do that. C-Can you?” Elizabeth could see Sophia’s knee trembling.
“N-No, I can’t,” Elizabeth croaked, trying to sound like her sister. She pressed her palm against her chest. “Of course, I’m innocent,” she lied, not daring to meet Sophia’s eyes.
“Oh, so am I,” Sophia said, sounding shocked that anyone would even consider accusing her. “I’m, like, a hundred percent innocent. Two hundred percent.”
There was silence. Elizabeth felt she should say something more. “Cheating!” she exclaimed. “And in a TV game show too! What is this world coming to?”
“They ought to be, um, tossed in jail for all eternity,” Sophia said with feeling, her eyes darting anxiously left and right.
Elizabeth sighed loudly, hoping she sounded just like Jessica. “They certainly should be,” she added, crossing her fingers behind her back just in case.
Sophia runs off to try to catch the van before it leaves, but it is, of course, long gone. She decides that Marshall must be a spy, and of course he would get close to Maria to try to ferret out the truth. Oh, Sophia, you poor sweet girl. [Raven: I had a different reaction to the “cheaters” line, which didn’t pan out. I thought the show, being the total dumpster fire it has show itself to be, was now going to try to “split up” the couples on their respective dates, and out them as “cheaters” when, say, Maria “cheats” on Patrick with the obvious plant Marshall. This also explains Byron’s odd flirting with “Elizabeth” aka Jessica. But no, it was nothing quite so cool. Alas.]
She decides the best thing to do is follow everyone to the amusement park and talk to Patrick there, encourage him to spend more time paying attention to Maria so it doesn’t all fall apart.
Oh, good, more love triangle and miscommunication. My favourite romantic tropes.
Meanwhile, Maria and Marshal are getting along very well, talking about movies, still, and their shared love of Gardiner Expressway, the best romantic comedy of all time per Maria. What, are they allowed to watch slightly more time-appropriate media now? Maria is so utterly charmed by him that she decides this must have been meant to be.
Elizabeth continues to freak out that she and Jessica have been caught and there will be no dance and it will be all their fault. Mostly her fault, though, because it was her idea. Oh, good, martyr Elizabeth, my favourite. You both agreed to do it, and you still think that Jessica must have been the one who was caught, so how is this mostly your fault?
In the end, Elizabeth, too, decides that she has to go to Dizzy Planet, make Jessica switch places with her again, and spend the rest of the day making the game honest.
Comedy of errors right here.
She just misses the express bus, but does manage to see Sophia in the back of it.
Todd starts to get motion sick on the drive to the amusement park which does not bode well for his ability to ride rides. Jessica gets her hopes up over that, and she’ll have time to sneak away from him, maybe go on a few rides with Janet if Janet can escape Donald.
Jessica talks to Byron about how he has another project he’s thinking about, but he won’t give her any details, just teases her with the possibility of it and the fact that “there’s more to life than Young Love.”
She also gets a little motion sickness, but ignores that in favour of trying to make Todd worse. She asks him to look up a few things in the Dizzy Planet brochure because if reading makes her own carsickness worse, it has to do the same for him. I’m sure it will, too.
Byron and Todd then argue a little over who can answer her questions; Byron has an entire book of facts.
(Question: How big is the park?
Answer: “One tenth the size of the state of Rhode Island,” Byron announced cheerfully. “Half again as big as, um, O’Hare International Airport. In Chicago. You ever been there? That’s some airport. You could practically walk through the terminal for three days and never get to the other end.” He whistled appreciatively. “Hey! And listen to this! There are more miles of moving sidewalk at Dizzy Planet than in New York City Houston, and Minneapolis combined!”
Wing: Oh boy. Also, O’Hare is a terrible airport. Avoid it at all costs. (Not as terrible as Newark has been for Dove and Raven, but still pretty bad.)
Todd stretches out to take a nap, Byron keeps regaling Jessica with facts until he, too, gets struck with motion sickness and has to lie down, and Jessica is left grumpy.
Does everyone get motion sick? Despite my vertigo, I don’t get motion sickness, thank fuck. I love to read in moving vehicles. My siblings cannot do that.
They finally arrive at the park, and Maria and Patrick talk Marshall into hanging out with them even though they’re supposed to be on a date. Aww, Patrick’s a sweetheart here.
Byron remains ill in the van while Todd recovers much faster and wants to go to the game room. Uh, arcade is the word you want, I believe. Apparently the DP one has more high-tech games so instead of popping balloons with darts they’ll use laser beams or something, or at least that’s Todd’s theory.
(Dove is fierce in arcades, just so you know, especially when it comes to throwing things at clowns.) [Dove: Most people throw things hard at clowns. It’s a perfectly normal reaction. I was defending my people. Even Ostrich. On the subject of fierce, Wing and Raven are no longer allowed to play air hockey because they nearly knocked each other’s teeth out. Ostrich, the one bastion of good behaviour, will be laden down with reams of winning tickets, which he will give to the nearest child (after politely asking the parents/guardians if that’s ok). And that’s us in arcades. Join us.] [Raven: If you’re not yanking the puck out of the drywall, you’re doing Air Hockey wrong.]
Aaron, Todd, Amy, and Jessica annoy each other into a competitive spirit for the arcade, Janet insults Donald until he, too, turns things into a competition, and away we go. (Donald also calls Janet a chicken, a coward, which is A+ insulting toward her. The only thing worse would be to tell her she reflects poorly on the Unicorns. Love it.) [Dove: I kind of loved Donald and Janet. It had echoes of Melissa and Lila – I do love a nerd who shows no fear in the face of rich spoilt brats and wins their admiration for it.]
Even though it took the van forever to get the park, Sophia on the bus rocks up a short time later (or at least it feels that way with no time marker in the text and some weird pacing in the overall story). She finally realises she doesn’t have enough money to buy tickets. That can’t stop her, though, she has to get in to protect Patrick. Somehow. Any how.
Marshall and Maria both love the ferris wheel next. Elizabeth really shouldn’t be into that after her ghostly encounter, but I guess that’s been awhile ago, now, so maybe she’s forgotten that time a ghost nearly killed her and her sister.
Patrick, meanwhile, wants to go to the arcade. [Raven: Different to the game room, I guess, although I’m surprised they are seperate.]
Marshall invites Maria to ride on the ferris wheel with him, something she finds incredibly romantic, and I love to see this. Ghostie, I swear, if you fuck them up in this book in any way, big or small, I’m coming for you.
Sophia decides that she’s already in so much trouble she surely can’t get into worse trouble if she joins a large group headed into the park and sneaks in without paying. Oh god.
At least for now, her trick works and she gets into the park with a group of teenagers taking care of toddlers, basically. [Dove: The toddler talks in baby-talk – the “adorable” lisp is written into the text. Sophia inexplicably picks up this way of speaking and it comes across as very patronising because she couldn’t give a shit about this kid who was looking forward to a nice day in the park.] [Raven: Yeah, that’s so irresponsible. I felt for the kid who wanted to go on the swings here. Also, isn’t this park meant to be Uber New and Totally Exclusive, with waiting lists for tickets and shit? Or can you just rock up and pay to get in now?]
Maria and Marshall also both love roller coasters and merry-go-rounds and teacup things that spin. Maria is utterly enthralled by how many things they both like. I am charmed by her joy and worried about where Ghostie’s going with this.
Patrick takes off for the arcade, which means they have officially split away from each other and the dance that night should be a no go.
Over at the arcade, Todd fails at the miniature bowling game, still trying to win a teddy bear for Jessica. Miniature bowling sounds boring as fuck. If you want to roll a ball down a ramp in an arcade, go play skeeball!
Sophia finds Patrick in the arcade, causing him to lose his game. He’s angry at first and then confused. She babbles at him until he understands that Marshall is not Byron’s cousin, he’s a spy, he’s trying to prove that they cheated, and if Patrick doesn’t do something soon, everything will be ruined for everyone. [Dove: So, Sophia just ditched a toddler in the park? That was my takeaway. She is written like an asshole in this book.] [Raven: All they needed was a sentence saying she handed the kid off to a real chaperone, but no.]
Elizabeth finally turns up at the park and she, too, doesn’t have any fucking money for the ticket. These ridiculous preteens plan nothing.
She doesn’t even have to sneak in, though, Byron sees her and thinks she’s Jessica-as-Elizabeth and not the real Elizabeth, and he’s more than happy to get her back into the park and off to her dream date.
Maria and Marshal on the ferris wheel. (Ferris wheels are great! Such a fun view.) Maria talks about how much she likes the view across the park, and Marshall says it’s fun to look at other things.
Is this … is this the Sweet Valley version of one person saying the view is beautiful and the other person agreeing while they look at the first person? Super overdone and yet super adorable at the same time. [Raven: He was pointing to his penis at the time.]
They’re just talking about how nice and private it is (in a charming, shy way) when Patrick rushes up to join them. He sits in the middle and puts an arm around each of them. Get it, Patrick.
Todd continues to fail at bowling and refuses to ride any rides with Jessica until he wins her a bear. She’s bored bored bored.
Well, for now.
Jessica made a face. This was worse than boring. This was positively deadly. And if you think this is bad, just wait until tonight! she thought. Jessica could just imagine it—Todd would be grinning at her while she looked at Aaron, who would be in a fight with Amy, while Janet was quietly trying to murder Donald by the punch bowl.
She sees another game where Todd might be able to win her a bear: throw a space shuttle through a small hole in the top of a barrel. Jessica convinces him to try that by promising they’ll have some nice privacy on Monster Splash after.
She’s thrilled that things are finally moving forward — until someone’s hand closes over her mouth.
Well that’s a needlessly dramatic cliffhanger, shades of R. L. Stine.
The ferris wheel ride was fine, but Marshall is disappointed and Maria sad that he is. Patrick is being weird and acting like he has a crush on Maria, which is ridiculous, she thinks, because everyone knows he likes Sophia.
Marshall asks if Maria wants to ride the flying saucers next, and Maria is delighted, but Patrick again puts himself between them and calls Marshall Marsh, a nickname Marshall understandably doesn’t like. Maria worries that he looks so hurt, but she doesn’t know what to do about it.
Aww, you precious darlings.
Elizabeth is, of course, the one who grabbed Jessica and she quickly warns her sister about the cheating thing. Jessica refuses to go home when Elizabeth tells her to so they don’t get busted, unsurprisingly, and then Elizabeth gives in and says she can stay as long as she stays out of the way while Elizabeth and Todd spend the rest of the date together.
Todd has won a teddy bear at the other game and even though he knows Elizabeth has been acting weird, now that he has the real Elizabeth (not that he’s noticed that they are switching), he’s glad to see her out of the weird mood she was in.
Sophia buys a too expensive hot dog ($2.50, an amusement park food price that is ridiculously low even compared to food in the mid-2000s, at least at Disney World. And some of the Six Flags locations. Probably all of them, but I haven’t been to all of them. I imagine the price is even worse now), but doesn’t get to eat it because she sees a security guard look at her like maybe he recognises her and she takes off into the crowd. [Raven: There was some good sass here, when Sophia complains to the vendor about the hot dog prices, only for the vendor to list a metric fuckton of other things at the park that are arrogantly overcosted.]
Patrick continues to be attentive to Maria and stammers through explanations such that Maria thinks he likes her and has been playing it low key because of Sophia but when he saw Maria with Marshall, Patrick got jealous and now he’s going to act like this. Oh boy.
Byron finds Jessica in line for the Space Demon roller coaster, he teases her about running away from him earlier, and she hopes he will ride the roller coaster with her, but his stomach still can’t handle that so instead he invites her to go on Monster Splash with him. [Dove: All of a sudden this guy that was bitingly mean about her in the last book is now obsessed with her? WTF?] [Raven: See? He’s trying to split her date with Todd up, as per my Cheaters theory. It makes sense! #wastedopportunity]
I sense more SHENANIGANS coming on.
Todd keeps asking Elizabeth what she wants to do next, trying to hint at what Jessica said earlier about it giving them time alone together. He’s apparently incredibly nervous over this, but I wish he’d just come out and ask if she still wants to go on the ride.
This is pretty adorable though.
Going on the Monster Splash with Todd—well! They’d get into a little boat, just the two of them, and go slowly up through the long, dark tunnel that ran up the hill, where they’d have a chance to talk and be together… and then scream and yell and grab each other in terror when the boat went rushing down the slide and landed right in the middle of the lake. She’d have to remember to thank Jessica for making the suggestion the next time she saw her.
Amusement parks are excellent date ideas if you can afford them and can do the rides.
Patrick tells Maria terrible jokes, Marshall’s mood keeps dropping until he flat out snaps at Patrick for calling him Marsh again (understandably! He asked you to stop using it, Patrick!), and Maria is struggling because she doesn’t like Patrick as a boyfriend and she does like Marshall.
She decides to go on the Martian Canals ride alone with Patrick so she can let him down easy, and she asks Marshall to wait for her at the end of the ride. She’s certain that nothing will go wrong and then they can go to the roller coaster and the arcade and Monster Splash which is, of course, right next to Martian Canals…
When Jessica and Byron arrive at Monster Splash, they find it closed for repairs. Oh, that sucks. Luckily Martian Canals is right there, a tunnel ride with aliens and such. Excellent for making out in the dark, perhaps.
So we have:
- Maria and Patrick at the Canals, Maria getting ready to let him down gently and hook up with Marshall;
- Marshal at the end of the Canals, we hope, waiting on Maria;
- Jessica-as-Elizabeth and Byron at the Canals, Jessica ready to have privacy with Byron;
- Elizabeth-as-Elizabeth and Elizabeth-as-Jessica and Todd at the Canals, Todd ready to have privacy with Elizabeth;
- Sophia running toward the exit for fear of being locked away forever and having to hide when she sees Patrick, Maria, and Marshall walking toward her where she’s near the Canals, and then Byron and Elizabeth, and so she ducks into the Canals;
- and a partridge in a pear tree. Not in the Canals.
Todd tells Elizabeth that he’s been thinking about how nice it is to spend a day with her at the amusement park, not for the rides but for the romance. I’m not really a Todd fan, but that’s adorable.
And now we have:
Jessica-as-Elizabeth and Byron in a boat;
Elizabeth-as-Jessica and Elizabeth-as-Elizabeth and Todd in a boat two boats back from Jessica and Byron’s boat;
[Raven: Get your towels ready…
(MOTHER FUCKING GIANT SPIDER FLIES DOWN INTO JESSICA’S FACE. A part of the ride, yes, but WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT SPIDERS? She uses it as a good excuse to keep Byron from turning to look behind them where he will see Elizabeth. BUT STILL WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?!) [Dove: Raven and I both desperately want Wing to join us on Animal Crossing. But tarantulas. Fucking spiders.]
Todd and Elizabeth fight because she’s been weird almost all day and now she’s ignoring him (distracted by Jessica and Byron ahead of them). I don’t blame Todd here at all for feeling hurt by how Elizabeth is treating him, but I do blame him for not being able to tell his girlfriend and her sister apart.
Jessica ends up tumbling into the river while trying to distract Byron from seeing Elizabeth, and I’m certain that won’t cause any chaos and bring Elizabeth to his attention at all.
Sophia, meanwhile, is hiding at the back of the loading area and watching people come through. She saw both Jessica and Elizabeth get on boats but decides maybe her eyes are playing tricks on her.
YOUR DEAR FRIEND IS AN IDENTICAL TWIN AND YOU JUMP STRAIGHT TO YOUR EYES ARE PLAYING TRICKS ON YOU?! Come the fuck on, Sophia, you’re smarter than this. [Dove: Nope. Not in this book.]
Patrick and Maria come in and of course Sophia hears Patrick being all sweet to Maria. She forces her way forward and gets onto the boat behind Maria and Patrick, deciding it’s time to do some spying of her own.
Despite the love triangles and stupid miscommunications and second-hand embarrassment, this book isn’t terrible. It’s had some cute moments for sure.
I am tired of the love triangles and the stupid miscommunications and second-hand embarrassment, though, don’t get me wrong.
Jessica takes Byron to the ferris wheel next, because apparently there’s been no issue with her falling into the water.
Maria tries to tell Patrick that she likes him only as a friend, but he stops her and talks loudly about how much he likes her, but before he can explain why, they hear Sophia crying behind them and then standing up in her boat, angry. Get it, Sophia!
(Even though you’re the one who told him to act like he cared for Maria.)
Maria decides that he knew Sophia was behind them and he said those things just to try to make her jealous, so she stands up, furious at Patrick. He tries to tell her that Marshall isn’t Byron’s cousin but a spy trying to catch Sophia and Patrick cheating, Maria is hurt because he chose her by mistake, not because she was finally fitting in, and he’s hurt Sophia, too. Marshall’s worried about her, but when he tries to check on her, she calls them both creeps, bursts into tears, and runs off.
Elizabeth runs for the park entrance in tears. Sophia runs for the park entrance in tears.
Maria stops running at the arcade and stops crying, too, anger and humiliation taking over the tears. She refuses to ride the van back with those two jackasses, so she has to figure out something else.
Amy and Aaron finally make another appearance. They’ve been in the arcade this entire time, laughing and joking around, and they have a bunch of stuffed animals and other prizes. Aaron even invites Amy to play basketball with him sometime. If their date has turned into a surprise fun time, are Janet and Donald having a great time, too? That’ll be wild.
OH MY GOD THEY ARE.
They’ve been playing games and having a lot of fun and even becoming friends, dear god this is amazing. [Dove: I’m kind of bored of the love stuff. It would have been nice to see these couples just learning to get along, or that their competitiveness matched and was fun for them.] [Raven: I came out of this book wishing we’d seen more of Aaron and Amy and Donald and Janet.]
It breaks poor Maria’s heart, though, because if even they can have a good time, there must be something wrong with her because no one wants to be with her unless they are spies or made a mistake.
Maria, darling girl, you are wonderful and deserve so much better than Sweet Valley.
Heartbroken and lonely and certain she will never fit in, Maria decides to skip the van and take the city bus back instead.
Probably a good thing considering the situation on the van: Marshall annoyed by Sweet Valley kids, Todd sulking, Jessica trying not to let on that the real Elizabeth has been around, Patrick all gloomy, Maria missing.
HOLY SHIT, WHEN DONALD AND JANET ARRIVE AT THE VAN, THEY’RE MAKING PLANS TO MEET UP AT JANET’S HOUSE.
Jessica is surprisingly chill about this, considering what extreme Unicorn gossip this is. [Dove: I think Janet keeps forgetting that she’s Queen Unicorn. If she says it’s cool, it’s cool. She should really lean into that more.]
When Maria doesn’t show up, the dance is going to be off, but Donald talks her into waiting another 10 minutes just in case she lost track of time. Uh, you should probably worry less about her losing track of time and more about a tv show losing a minor and being about ten seconds from driving off without her completely, not even checking with park security. [Dove: I’m so broken by Sweet Valley that that never even occurred to me.]
On the city bus, Elizabeth and Sophia run into each other and start sharing their stories. They both feel better after, and talk about how they can make it up to their friends and sort-of boyfriends.
Maria misses the bus that Elizabeth and Sophia are on, giving Amy time to find her. Amy thought she’d probably be waiting for the bus, because she knows Maria is upset about something with Marshall. Amy reassures her that he’s upset, too. Amy admits that she was scared to get to know Maria at first because everyone assumed Maria was a stuck-up actor, but she’s not like that at all and Amy is glad she was brave and became friends with Maria.
This is actually sweet. [Dove: But also completely not shown in any previous book.] [Raven: Also, why is Amy so perspicacious in this book? For a hundred others she’s a lank-haired spunkwaffle, yet for this she’s the Oracle at fucking Delphi.]
Through their talk, Maria figures out she’s being kind of selfish when it comes to ruining the dance for everyone and since she wants to fit in and have real friends, she needs to not be selfish and mean.
Back on the bus, Jessica tries to get Byron to do something to keep the dance going even if Amy and Maria don’t return in time. He tricks her, instead, saying he can help if she tries one thing with him:
Byron patted down his hair. “Well, actually, there is something we could try,” he said, smiling brightly at Jessica. “Repeat after me, OK?” He held his right hand up in the air.
“OK,” Jessica agreed, holding up her own hand, though for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what this would do.
“Under penalty of public humiliation,” Byron droned.
“Under penalty of public humiliation,” Jessica repeated as quickly as she could.
“I, state your name,” Byron continued.
“I, state your—” Jessica broke off. No, you idiot, she told herself sternly. He means I should say my name. “I, Jessica Wakefield,” she corrected.
There was a sudden silence.
“Go on,” Jessica urged, leaning forward. “What else, Byron?”
Byron grinned widely. “Tell me, Elizabeth—what did you just say your name was?”
I love it.
Byron says they won’t cancel the dance over it because she came with Todd that morning and is leaving with him now (sort of, though she’s sure as hell sitting with Byron himself), that’s all they want for the show, only Amy and Maria being missing could end the dance. [Raven: So fucking random.]
And they rock up with less than 10 seconds to go.
We skip over to the dance in progress, and though it’s been in progress for awhile, Byron is only just announcing the couples. He brings them all on stage for a surprise: he’s been working on a new show and they have a sneak preview.
They’ve been on the pilot episode of Dating: It’s the Pits! for where dates go very very wrong. Bogus, even, to use his word.
We get a video recap of the book we just read and it is boring boring boring. And not funny, despite how much everyone seems to be laughing. [Raven: I hate this fucking show. It’s basically everything that Elizabeth had been worried about it the earlier book, a load of mean-spirited jibes at the kids’ expense. Also, I’m sure that SVMS signed up for Young Love, not to be the guinea pigs in Byron’s newest and cruelest venture. I smell a lawsuit. Although the school are bellends, so who the fuck knows what they signed the kids away to?]
And then Byron gets serious.
“We all try to rig the game of love,” he said smoothly, as though thinking aloud. “Everybody does it—you, me, all of us. A few people up here on the stage tried to, um, rig things a little more than most.” Even from a distance, Elizabeth could see Jessica and Patrick blush. The audience began to laugh.
“But,” Byron said, holding up a finger, “it can’t be done. And I think we’ve seen that here tonight. Love’s like a river, folks. We can build dams to try to control it, but the river always does what it wants in the end. And love is the same way.”
Well okay then. [Raven: Get in the sea and take your Jerry Springer Final Thoughts with you, you colossal shitgibbon.]
Byron calls up Elizabeth and Sophia because they couldn’t fake the chemistry they have with Todd and Patrick and so the two couples lead everyone in a dance.
All is well for Elizabeth and Todd and Sophia and Patrick, but Maria is still miserable and angry and hurt. Byron tells them that they’re right, Marshall was awkward whenever he called himself Byron’s cousin, but not because he’s a spy. He’s Byron’s nephew even though he’s only a couple years younger than Byron because Byron’s sister is 20 years older than Byron. As someone with that sort of scenario, it is kind of weird to have that sort of age breakdown, but I didn’t go around lying about it. Weird. [Dove: It’s a weird lie. I’m on the other side of that, my cousins were adults with babies when I was a kid. But that’s how aging works. Utterly pointless.] [Raven: So Marshall just what, tagged along to this school’s trip to Dizzy Planet and macked on one of the contestants? That’s so fucking creepy. This show is a shitstorm.]
Maria goes looking for Marshall and finds him still in the van. She apologises to him and asks him to come in and dance with her. She explains a little about what happened and how she’s been feeling sorry for herself and how awkward it was when she first came to Sweet Valley, etc. [Dove: I really hated Marshall here. He was fine all day but here he started incel-ranting about how everyone sucks and he’s glad he didn’t go to that school because of mean bitches. And then he was dead to me.]
And he’s fucking thrilled that she thought he was a spy. He’s always wanted to be “mysterious and cloak-and-daggery” but people just think he’s weird. Fuck you two are adorable.
Jessica dances with Byron, the special effects team puts out pink fog and white streamers, pink balloons, and red paper hearts to make it a Valentine snowstorm, and everyone is delighted.
Jessica is thrilled on Monday morning, worrying her entire family because she hates Mondays; she’s excited because now that Lila isn’t the only Unicorn who’s been to Dizzy Planet, she’ll have to stop bragging and now that she has to stop bragging, life will be wonderful.
Gee, I wonder if that’s setting up a new storyline. Smooooooth, ghostie.
The second half of this dragged for me as a recapper, though I’m not sure it would if I had simply been reading it. It took far longer to recap the second half than expected, and I think that deeply impacted how it felt.
Still, I found this one mostly charming. Despite the love triangles and forced miscommunications, there are adorable moments, and I really did like Maria and Marshall, Aaron and Amy getting along, Amy and Maria having a friendship moment, the weirdness of Janet and Donald, and the pretty image of the dance at the end. Unusually, I liked the book I recapped more than the connected book that came before it, which I only read.
[Dove: This would have been a much better book if it had split the focus on the other couples – the ones that had a great (platonic) time to balance out the stupid childish drama. Sophia was a low point for me – I don’t like kids, but abandoning a toddler in a theme park crosses a line – and then she seemed more obsessed with being “rejected” by Patrick than the “cheating”, which made me stop caring about her motives. And Marshall and Maria were sweet, up until his sulk at the end of the day. Also, zero fucks given for the twins and the dudes they were hanging with. I wanted to see Amy and Aaron and Janet and Donald having fun. I was bored. Also, Byron’s complete personality transplant was weird. He’d been a mean conniving asshat in the previous book, now he’s just a nice dude? Whut?]
[Raven: I think this book was a lot worse than the one I was writing in my head.
Like its predecessor, it was okay. Stuff happened, and it did feel like a connected sequel to The Boyfriend Game, with the characters largely obeying the tropes and flaws they set up in that to good effect in this. There was some nice sass in places; I espeically liked the sass about the park, with its bored employees at the entrance and the oft-repeated “would you like to buy a video of your experience” lines. On the other hand, the twins seemed to have completley forgotten how to pull off even the most basic Twin Magic deceptions, Sophia was far too dramatic, Marshall was entirely inexplicable, and while Maria was sweet and cute there was a sour dollop of character retcon to get her there. Oh, and the show itself was a clusterfuck of lawsuits waiting to happen.
It had no Lila, but it had no Steven, so I guess it’s a wash from me.]