Sweet Valley Twins #117: Down With Queen Janet!

Sweet Valley Twins #117 Down with Queen Janet – Cover from Liz
Sweet Valley Twins #117: Down With Queen Janet by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #117: Down With Queen Janet by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Down With Queen Janet!

Tagline: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are about to say good-bye to sixth grade – forever! But it’s not over yet…

Summary: Janet Howell is throwing a huge end-of-school bash! Since she’s president of the Unicorn Club, a group of the most beautiful and popular girls at SVMS, her party is sure to be the biggest event of the year. Suddenly Janet has the school at her feet. But the attention is changing her from a simple pain in the neck to a nightmare on wheels! Janet’s cruel jokes and vicious remarks have gotten way out of hand – now everyone’s a target. Is anyone brave enough to stand up to the most popular girl in school?

Initial Thoughts:

My god! Is that what Janet looks like? She looks about forty, and she wants to see the manager immediately. [Wing: That’s like 90210 levels of too old for the character age. I say based on osmosis, not having actually watched a single episode of any version of 90210.]

I like the Unicorns. I like Janet. This one promises both, front and centre. I suspect there will be a fuckton of things that will reflect badly on, well, stuff.

Also, “Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are about to say good-bye to sixth grade – forever!” … Is this the first time that the upcoming conclusion of the Twins series has been explicitly referenced? End of an era! *chin wibble*

[Dove: This cover gives strong vibes of carrying a Starbucks while wanting to see the manager. Possibly with children called Braidegnh and Ayshleigh and goddamn you to hell if you spell her kids’ names wrong! And the cover is so powerful, I had literally no initial thoughts about the book itself.]

Recap:

“Thank you, thank you.” Janet Howell gave a deep bow. “I’m so glad to be here this afternoon!”

Huh. How meta. Janet gets a book in which she’s the star, and she starts proceedings by thanking the readers for this opportunity.

Not really! She’s hosting a Unicorn meeting, and practicing for her upcoming speech at the Sweet Valley Middle School assembly the following week. She’s having trouble, namely with the actual writing of the piece, and is cajoling / demanding that her purple minions pitch in and help out.

The girls suggest some light-hearted opening gambits, for fun rather than for realz. Janet shuts them down sharp, as she’s a toxic bitch and the book needs to establish it immediately. The girls, specifically Mandy Millar, back down nervously, withing in the face of barbed comments.

We learn that, in the week she has to write her speech, she’s also planning the coolest and most amazing party that the valley has ever and will ever see. It’s actually planned for the weekend before her assembly speech, ostensibly to celebrate the coming graduation of the Middle School Eighth Grade up to Sweet Valley High. Her folks are digging deep, and have uttered the three magic words… spare no expense.

I hope it goes better for Janet than it did for John Hammond. [Wing: I don’t! I want raptors!]

Janet’s order of operations is to finish preparing her speech as quickly as possible, so she can then focus on the party, as the party is on Saturday and the speech on Monday afternoon. I mean, I’d suggest that Sunday is in between these events for a fucking reason, Janet, but I guess I’d be more comfortable writing a speech than she would.

She cajoles her purple friends for ideas, as her speech absolutely must be the most awesome speech in the history of speeches. Jessica, whose head we are in for this part (and most) of the book offers the following gem.

“I don’t think it matters too much,” she mused. “I can’t remember a single speech I’ve heard at school.”

Explains a lot. [Dove: Same, Jessica. Nothing that ever happened in assembly had any bearing on my life. Just ignore everything that’s going on and peel the laminate off your hymn sheet instead.] [Wing: I’m sure we did have students give speeches, but I could not actually tell you when one happened. In fact, I’m pretty sure I gave at least once speech and yet no memory of it at all.]

Janet cries that hers has to be memorable, that people will take notes and write it in their yearbooks and carry her words in their hearts. Hah! Nothing like a little oversell, good job Ghostie. Also, yearbooks from Middle School? Is that a thing, Wing? [Wing: Yes! Elementary school, too, though none of them are as fancy as high school yearbooks tend to be. Though in Sweet Valley, maybe they are all diamond encrusted, what do I know. I actually still have one of my middle school yearbooks.]

Janet asks Jessica if she thinks Elizabeth will print a transcript of her speech in the Sixers, which is a bit weird. It’s the Sixth Grade paper… I can’t remember clearly, but I dimly recall the other grades having papers too? Didn’t Elizabeth work at one for a while? If so, why wouldn’t it be copy for the Eighth Grade paper? [Dove: Gazette 7&8 or 7&8 Gazette, I can’t remember which way round it goes. Either way, it’s a stupid name.]

Jessica, whose barbed internal commentary about Janet’s idiocy sets her in the role of Everywoman for this book (in the outset at least) does her best to derail Janet’s train of thought, with a suggestion that she print out the speech on flyers and hand them out at the assembly.

Janet loves this idea, so much so that she forcibly promotes our sociopath to the role of Janet’s PA for the duration of the book. [Wing: Hasn’t Jessica had a role like this before with Janet? And it went poorly? I can’t see this going any better. (I’m commenting long after Dove did, so she will likely not be able to come confirm or deny this, alas.)] Janet then demands that Jessica supply speech ideas immediately.

“Well, brownie points never hurt. How about if you start by thanking Mr. Clark?” Jessica suggested, naming their principal. “You could say something about how you’ve loved being at his school for the past few years.”

“I like it,” Janet said, nodding. “Go on!”

Go on? But that’s all I have, Jessica thought. Wasn’t that enough? She had a feeling she was going to end up writing Janet’s speech without any help from Janet at all!

Of course, Jessica is bang on the money. We snap-cut to the next day, in the cafeteria queue. Jessica is handing over her handwritten draft of Janet’s speech, that Jess had toiled over the previous evening.

After complaining about the handwriting (go fuck yourself, you snotty cow), Janet then decides to stand stock-still in cafeteria queue and read the speech. The people queueing behind her can go fuck themselves. One of them is Bruce Patman, so in that regard Janet has a point.

As the queue grumble, and are instructed to cut ahead by a irritable Janet, we see Sweet Valley’s singular fat person, Lois Waller. Despite her previous epiphany back in Lois Strikes Back, it seems she’s just as meek and shy and nervous about her appearance as ever. It’s the classic sitcom trope, in which we must return to the status quo at the end of each episode. So much for long-term character development.

Well, I guess we have some…?

Jessica turned to Lois Waller, who was standing right behind her in line. Lois was in the sixth grade, like Jessica, but they weren’t really friends. Lois was a bit overweight, with shaggy brown hair. Today she wore a baggy denim jumper over a large white T-shirt. Sometimes Jessica wondered if Lois was deliberately trying to look bad. If she’d only change her hairstyle and wear different clothes, she’d be pretty.

At face value, this is a jot nicer than Jessica’s opinion of Lois in the earlier books, where she dogpiled in on the pranking and the cruel words and the hate. I suppose, being an Everywoman here, she needs to temper it down a bit. Sure, the quote above is a bit hackneyed and overplayed, but her heart is in the right place. And “have a makeover to become pretty” is a little less insidious than “shed a few pounds to become pretty”, I guess.

[Dove: Um, calling a hard fucking nope on Jessica’s saintly views about Lois. Here are Jessica’s views verbatim from book 1, the time period she is recalling so fucking innocently:

“Did you see Lois Waller in gym class today?” Jessica asked. “She was practically oozing out of her leotard. Fat everywhere. They shouldn’t let a tub like her take ballet.”

“She could lose some weight and she can help looking so ugly. I mean, she doesn’t have to wear those baggy dresses and let her hair hang in her face.”

“Well, she was ruining our class,” complained Jessica. “Ballet is supposed to be beautiful and graceful, and she was crashing around like a rhinoceros.”


On Lois being absent from school after that shaving foam “prank”

She was feeling a little nervous about Lois. Suppose shaving cream was poison after all? Oh, don’t be silly, she told herself. Lois’s parents probably just got tired of looking at her and sent her off to a fat farm. That was much more likely.

So, fuck Jessica’s woolly recollections of how she actually had no beef with Lois when she clearly did.] [Raven: Can’t argue with a Fact Attack.] [Wing: Jessica’s good at rewriting her own story into something she finds palatable.]

Lois asks if she’s good to go around, and Janet sneers that it’s fine. Jessica then comments on the status of the Janet / Lois relationship, coming up with some top notch continuity from Book Fucking ONE.

Janet had never liked Lois—for as long as Jessica could remember, Janet had given Lois a hard time. She’d even made Lois eat shaving cream once as part of a Unicorn pledge prank.

Erm… pretty sure you were ladyballs deep in that particular plan too, Jess.

So!

Lois goes around.

Janet gesticulates wildly.

Janet jostles Lois’s tray.

Lois’s plate of spaghetti splats itself all over Janet.

Aside:

I’m sure this exact scene has played out before? With Bruce Patman at the receiving end of Lois’s Mac n Cheese?

I guess “Fat People Spilling Food” is a multi-book and multi-joke trope. Seems weak.

End aside.

Janet is livid, of course, despite Lois’s immediate apology. She goes off, big time.

“You shouldn’t be allowed in the lunch line! I can’t believe you did that! Again!” Janet cried. “No, wait—I can. You know why?” She glowered at Lois. “Because you’re a big, fat, clumsy whale! And you spend your whole life in the lunch line. You’d knock over anything in your path.”

Okay… I guess I’d better reiterate my thoughts on fat shaming at this time.

As I’ve said previously, I see Fat Shaming working on three distinct levesl:

  • Nasty kids mocking fatties (well, just Lois) for being too damn big
  • Well-meaning but misjudged fattist commentary from the other characters
  • The ghost writer mocking fatties for comic effect

Level One, I can stomach. The kids are nasty, it’s their character traits, which I trust will be revealed as flaws in the narrative reveal. I think it’s lazy, and boring, but sure, it’s how stories are constructed. I can’t blame the writer with a monthly output for leaning on Cheap Heat to get their point across.

Level Two, I dislike. Commentary from the “good guys” is presented as the “current” way to think, at surface level at least. Having, say, Elizabeth commenting on Lois’s weight, however well meant, just gives fuel to the opinion that Fat is Other, and that Fat is pitiable. Get to fuck with that attitude.

Level Three is just the worst, and needs to be excised with hot scalpels.

So, this is Level One. It’s distasteful, but it’s fine in the narrative I (assume) that plays out. Also, I do like the word “Again” in this, there’s actually subtle continuity in this book. Approved.

Like the first time, Lois is mortified. She slinks away as Janet strikes her from the Invite List to her end-of-year Mega-Party. [Wing: I’m supposed to believe she was ever on that list? Yeah, right. Janet the Liar.] Jessica feels for her. She even expresses remorse for her previous actions regarding the shaving cream pledge. Jessica also feels for Janet, as she is covered in spaghetti sauce.

Suddenly, Elizabeth enters the fray. She jumps to her feet in Lois’s defence. Janet doubles down, labelling Lois “Wide Load” and “a waste of oxygen.” Elizabeth bites back, as other kids from Team Boring stand to protect her neck. Sophia makes the mistake of chelping in too, telling Janet to pipe the fuck down (paraphrased).

“Oh, great. Now the two saints of Sweet Valley are yelling at me.” Janet rolled her eyes. “I’m shaking. Don’t you have anything better to do, Sophia? Like maybe… take a shower? It’s probably been days since you actually bathed.”

*blinks*

Since when has Sophia been smelly? Like, at the outset she was poor, but her “poor” home was always described as well-kept and neat and clean.

Jessica, as the Everywoman, reminds us of Sophia’s character.

Sophia came from a poor family, and her older brother, Tony, had gotten into trouble with the police a while back. Sophia might not be rich, but she was always perfectly clean—and nice.

Like, sure, Sophia did come from a poor family, but I thought their situation was improved when Mrs Rizzo married Mr Thomas?

The barbs continue, with Janet picking on Sophia’s beau Patrick Morris [Dove: Now he actually is poor, and can’t afford to play sexy instruments but Janet doesn’t weigh in with that.], as well has her south-of-the-tracks brother Tony. Elizabeth shouts at Janet, demanding she take these things back, to which Janet responds by striking both Elizabeth and Sophia from the invite list.

Jessica, apparently the PA in charge of the list, internally monologues that she is loathe to do so, but Janet’s force of nature is enough to browbeat her into acquiescence. Eventually, Janet sashays out to change her spaghetti-covered clothes, a sycophantic and apologetic Jessica in tow.

Chapter Two cuts to the Waller house, with Elizabeth on the threshold. She’s come to check how Lois is doing after her lunchtime debacle. As we’re not in Elizabeth’s head, we get to reference the shaving cream prank and the bike-a-thon.

Lois opens the door, and talk immediately goes to the obvious scene. Lois tells of her embarrassment, and Elizabeth tells her she shouldn’t be embarrassed. Way to invalidate Lois’s feelings, you sanctimonious asshat.

Despite Lois’s reticence to either talk or entertain house guests, Elizabeth barges in regardless. We learn that Lois hasn’t told her mother what happened, as she doesn’t want to upset her. We also learn that Lois’s father died when Lois was young, which I’d’ve thought they might have mentioned at some point in the previous one-hundred-and-sixteen books in the fucking series. [Dove: This. This so much.] [Wing: Agreed. Also, there are far too many dead or gone parents for the kids who end up being Elizabeth’s Best Friend of the Week (aka Project of the Book).]

Elizabeth basically press-gangs Lois into reliving the lunchtime fracas, which leads to the following exchange:

Lois’s eyes brimmed with tears. “I am heavy,” she said. “Come on, Elizabeth. Admit it. I am fat, and I’m ugly—”

Elizabeth hated to see Lois so upset. “You’re not ugly,” she said.

*rolls eyes*

Fuck off, Liz. That’s just fucking awful.

Aside:

I admit I’ve been a little creative with the editing of this quote.

The actual text moves on to say “And maybe you could lose a few pounds, but who cares?”, but honestly, this is also a fucking dagger. Who cares? You care, obviously, as you mentioned it.

End aside.

As Elizabeth tries to chivvy Lois into happiness, we learn some vital yet incomprehensible backstory. Apparently, before Middle School, Janet and Lois were friends. Long story short, their families lived close to each other, and the girls did everything together despite their two-year gap in ages. Then Janet’s family moved across town, and Janet went to Middle School. When Lois reached middle school age, she expected to reunite with her friend, but Janet was a mega-bitch to her from Day Fucking One. Lois’s mother is still asking Lois to invite Janet for tea, and Lois hasn’t the heart to tell her what’s happened to their relationship. To this day, Lois does not understand why she’s fallen from grace with the Queen of the Spiky Purple Morons.

[Dove: Since this is never brought up in the book, I’m going on a rant. Why did they live on the same street? Janet is loaded, she lives on the same road as Lila Fowler and the (admittedly now-rundown) Mercandy Mansion. Lois’ house, by contrast, is described as small (from Saint Elizabeth, just fuck off), with the implication that it’s quite nice, despite them not being rich. This would be a fine plot point if, for example, Janet’s dad got a promotion and they moved up in the world and Janet then became obsessed with projecting “the right image” at all times. But no. It’s not mentioned. They just lived opposite, then Janet moved. Wasted fucking opportunity.]

[Wing: Damn, that is  wasted opportunity. Much better storytelling there from Dove. Not a surprise.]

It’s because Janet’s a fucking nightmare, Lois. Don’t sweat it.

Also, this backstory makes no sense. It’s too late in the day for this retcon bullshit. We don’t want Brand New Information in Book 117, just tell us a fucking story about the characters we love without reinventing the damn wheel.

And is it just me, or is profoundly sad that Lois’s mum is still asking after Janet? It makes me think that Lois probably doesn’t have many other friends or visitors. Poor kid. [Wing: Isn’t this their first year in Middle School? Sixth, seventh, and eighth in SVMS (at least for now), so it’s really only been this school year that her mother would have been asking about it. Still sad, but not quite as long as it feels, at least for me, what with that billion and one Christmases this year and all.]

We leave Elizabeth feeling angry and impotent at Chez Waller, and skip to Jessica. She’s back at the Wakefield Compound, rewriting Janet’s speech.

Elizabeth enters to break her train of thought. It looks like her anger and impotence didn’t stick for long.

After a few barbs about Janet from an uncharacteristically snarky Elizabeth, Liz shares the news about Lois and Janet’s revisionist history with her speechwriting twin. Jessica is unsurprisingly scandalised.

Immediately, Jess tells her sister that she totes understands her Uni-Fuhrer’s motives. Obviously, it was all down to reputation. [Wing: It would reflect poorly on the Unicorns, obvs, Elizabeth, you just don’t understand.] Elizabeth is obtuse, so us C3s and C4s reading at home can have Jessica outline the logic in bite-size form.

“Honestly, Jessica, I don’t understand. How could it possibly hurt Janet to be nice to Lois once in a while?” Elizabeth asked.

“It would hurt her image. You know as well as I do that Janet couldn’t be friendly to Lois. I mean, Lois is nice and all, but she’s not exactly popular material. And Janet only wants to hang out with cool people. Like me and the rest of the Unicorn Club.” Jessica fluffed her hair.

Elizabeth is appalled. She calls out Janet for being a horrible person who says horrible things. Jessica’s response? “That’s Janet!”

Again, Liz is unimpressed with her sister’s response. Jessica reminds her that they only have to put up with the Purple Fascist for another few weeks, after which she’ll be Sweet Valley High’s problem. Elizabeth asks Jessica how she’ll cope, putting up with Janet’s constant demands. Jessica’s internal monologue, where she questions that fact tells herself that Janet’s friendship is worth it, is interrupted by the phone. Surprise surprise… it’s Janet.

She’s calling to tell Jessica that she’s come up with a kickass title for her speech… What I’ve Learned.

I mean, that’s okay I guess. It’s hardly I Have A Dream.

Talk turns to the upcoming Mega-Party. We learn that Janet has booked the services of the hot new band in the area, Gotta Rock. I mean, what the actual fuck? If this really was a Spared No Expense event, then Johnny fucking Buck would be playing. That’d break credulity, sure, especially if he arrived in his flying limousine, but why not go with one of the many bands they’d mentioned in earlier books?

Having said that, I guess I can’t remember any band names, so why should the writer be bothered to research? [Dove: Donny Diamond (accessible, since he’s Ms Langberg’s cousin), Melody Power(s) (the S comes and goes depending on the ghostie), Darcy Campman or Coco. Now imagine me doing a DX chop to show how badass I am for reeling off those names.] [Raven: Donny Diamond is the perfect choice here. Also, *swoon*.]

The phonecall ends, and Jessica heads back to Elizabeth. She tells her saintly twin the great news about Gotta Rock, and a snippy Liz says she doesn’t give a tinker’s fig because she’s not invited. Jess vows to get her back on the list, but Liz comes over all Honey Badger. She doesn’t care about Gotta Rock, she doesn’t care about the Mega-Party, and she certainly doesn’t care about Janet fucking Howell.

Wow. Elizabeth’s really bent out of shape about this, Jessica realized. Does she plan on holding a grudge against Janet forever? Is she really going to miss the social event of the year—over Lois Waller? she wondered.

Maybe we’re more different than I ever realized.

Jessica! Have the previous one-hundred-and-sixteen books taught you nothing?! [Wing: Do you really have to ask?]

Chapter Three begins with Elizabeth tossing and turning in bed. Still seething about Janet’s appalling behaviour. She decides that someone needs to stand up to the eighth grade harridan… and in that decision, she comes up with the idea that drives the plot.

What if one day, someone did stand up to Janet? Elizabeth smiled, picturing the scene. It would be so great if for once in her life Janet was excluded from something—the same way she tried to exclude uncool people from her parties. Imagine throwing a party… and not inviting Janet. She Imagined herself turning to Jessica and yelling, “Take Janet Howell’s name off the guest list!”

Wait a second, Elizabeth thought, sitting bolt upright in bed. That’s it!

The following morning in school, Elizabeth collars Lois in maths class. She shares her idea: Lois should throw a party, at her house, the same night as Janet’s Mega-Party.

Aside:

For clarity, in this recap, Janet’s party is called the Mega-Party, while Lois’s party is called the parallel Party.

Also, this was ripped off by the excellent Cobra Kai. Which is fine, as it’s pretty basic trope.

End aside.

Lois considers it. She’s pretty sure no one would come, but Liz pledges that she and Sophia would definitely attend. Wow, sounds thrilling. We all know the best parties involve three people. [Dove: This is not Lois taking her power back from a bully. This is Lois being forced into a power play between her bully and her (pretending not to be) other bully. It’s bullshit and it annoyed me the whole way through. Fuck off Elizabeth. You want to stand up to Janet? You throw the fucking party.] [Wing: SERIOUSLY.]

Lois is not convinced, so Liz promises that more kids will come, as there are plenty of other schoolkids who are sick to the back teeth of Janet’s crap. Everyone would be invited except for Janet Howell.

Despite Liz’s cajoling, Lois stays firm, for the moment at least. It’s no go. There’s by no party at Chez Waller that coming Saturday. Elizabeth, unwilling to let it drop, makes Lois promise that she’ll at least think about it.

Forty minutes later, we see Liz, Amy and Lois leaving maths class. As they walk the halls and reminisce about their maths problems, they come across a gaggle of Unicorns. There’s Jessica, Lila, Many, Tamara – FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE – and, of course, Janet.

As is the custom, Janet is belittling her friends. Particularly, Tamara, who she’s accusing of being… too thin. She compares her to a stick, and a stork, and says she’s just far too tall. She also mocks Tamara’s overalls.

Aside:

This is more body shaming, from the other side of the coin. Not cool, but still Level One from a demonstrable monster.

However, with the Unicorns so completely besotted with fashion, and glamour, and so on, I don’t for ONE minute believe they’d mock Tamara for having a classic supermodel physique: very tall, very skinny.

I dunno, maybe supermodels were more curvaceous in the early Nineties. Was Heroin Chic only a thing in the Noughties and beyond? [Dove: Nope. Kate Moss was a really big fucking deal in the 90s, and she was very very slender with no curves. A similarly slender friend developed a very unhealthy relationship with food because her boobs wouldn’t allow her that “desirable” waif look. Thin was in.]

End aside.

Jess, Lila and Mandy giggle at Janet’s words, which is massively out of character for our friend Mandy. Don’t become one of them, girl!

Liz and her cronies watch, aghast. They question how these girls can function as a friendly unit while Janet denigrates them so openly. Elizabeth suggests that Janet only gets away with it because the other girls let her. She also says that it’s behaviour like this which proves that Lois needs to hold her parallel Party.

Amy asks what the blue fuck Elizabeth is on about, and is filled in. Surprisingly, the lank-haired spunkwaffle doesn’t believe the plan has viable legs, and she says so quite clearly. Eventually, even through the veil of Amy’s reticence, Lois agrees to host the Party, and Janet can go fuck herself.

Next stop: THE PARTY STORE.

Aside:

A few years ago, our local supermarket cordoned off one section for apparent renovations. As a constant shopper there, I was intrigued what they were building.

“Maybe it’s a section for an expanded clothing range,” I mused. “Or maybe they’re making their alcohol aisle into a separate entity. Or a media section, with games and blurays! Or maybe an expanded Deli, that’d be popular.”

After what seemed like a year of mystery, the new section was unveiled…

The Party Store.

A whole section of the supermarket dedicated to party supplies. Cups, paper plates, wrapping paper, balloons, greetings cards. With its own bespoke till and cashier.

In my visits to the shop since, at least twice a week for three or four years (barring a pause for the pandemic), I’ve never ONCE seen anyone buy anything rom there. The cashier always looks bored out of their skull.

Thing is, there’s a dedicated card-and-party shop literally two doors down from the supermarket. And the supermarket itself has its own non-bespoke card-and-wrapping-paper aisle.

I really hope whoever came up with this fucking asinine idea got fired. But I bet it was a dictat from Corporate, which resulted in a fat bonus.

End aside.

Liz and Lois shop for invitations at the Party Store. They eschew a set of black-and-silver invites that simply say “YOU’RE INVITED”, which I think would be amazing, eventually choosing blank cards that can be decorated by hand. For some reason, that makes me think of this:

While Lois goes to pay, the shop is descended upon by Janet and her cronies, also shopping for goods for the Mega-Party. On seeing Liz, Janet begins the browbeating once again. She asks Elizabeth why she’s there, and then suggests that Liz is not cool enough to attend parties, which is a but weird considering all the parties they have both attended in the previous one-hundred-and-sixteen books.

“I go to parties,” Elizabeth protested.

“Oh, sure—parties for nerds,” Janet replied. She turned to the other Unicorn members. “Elizabeth likes to go crazy at the monthly chess club party.”

“Yeah, it’s really exciting. They crown a new pawn every month,” Mandy added with a laugh.

“It’s the Pawn-of-the-Month Club,” Mary said.

…What the fuck, Mandy? And Mary too, I guess, but Mandy is the killer blow here. Mandy would never pull his shit, this sparkly Crabbe-and-Goyle act. [Dove: I have never hated Mandy before. It’s a brand new experience. Plenty of ghosties don’t get her, but before now, she’s never being toxic.] [Wing: …on the other hand, Elizabeth does often have a new pawn of the month (or the book at least).]

Continuing, Janet lays into Lois, who, to her credit, doesn’t completely wither in the face of more whale-and-ocean-based fat shaming.

Janet suggests Lois is buying balloons that say Save The Whales. Lois tells her that no, she’s actually holding a party. Janet suggests it’s being held at the aquarium / Sea World, and that she’s serving plankton. She asks Lois when the party is, and Elizabeth steps in to help.

“Lois is having her party Saturday night. The same night as yours,” she told Janet boldly.

Janet burst out laughing. “What? The same night?”

“Yes. Saturday night,” Elizabeth said. “And people can decide which party they’d rather go to. Yours or Lois’s.”

Janet laughs, and mocks Lois and Liz directly. She eventually comes out with the following:

“You know, Lois.” Janet turned to look at her. “I knew you were fat, but I didn’t know you were crazy too.”

You wanna take this one, Wing? [Dove: *crawls under desk and braces*]

[BOOM GOES HERE]

[Wing: Y’all, I don’t even have anything for this. No boom. It’s terrible, it’s bullshit, it’s classic Janet in this book (I first typed Lila, oh my god, Wing, get it together, don’t drag our girl down too), it’s the kind of casual ableism I’ve been running into a lot at work lately, I’m tired. So fuck Janet, fuck the Unicorns, but no boom, just exhausted annoyance. I feel like I’m letting you all down.]

This proves the final straw for Lois, and she flees the store in embarrassment. Elizabeth follows, and does her best to console her friend-for-this-book. Lois is still unsure of how successful her party will be, but Elizabeth is determined that She Will Not Fail.

FOUR! The Unicorns have split up to cover more Party Store ground. We’re now with Jessica and Janet at Bessie’s Best Bar-B-Q. Jess is weighted down with supplies already, and is being badgered by Janet to do quick BBQ maths involving ribs, chicken, mash and more.

Thankfully for Jessica, Janet becomes distracted by her multi-book beau, Denny.

“Denny!” Janet dropped her purse onto the white plastic table. “I didn’t know you liked barbecue.”

“It’s my favorite,” Denny said, brushing his blond hair out of his eyes as he locked up at her and smiled. “Well, besides crumb cake.”

Bless! Some more good continuity, this time from the excellent Jessica’s No Angel.

Denny is with Bruce Patman, Rick Hunter, Aaron Dallas and Ken Matthews, all shooting the breeze and eating barbecue. Talk immediately turns to the Mega-Party, at which point Janet casually drops the fact that Lois is holding a parallel Party too. The boys (well, Bruce) are uncomplimentary.

Suddenly, the wind messes Janet’s hair, and Aaron gently teases her for it. This, of course, wakes the dormant kraken. Janet switches on her usual “charm offensive”, which is light on the charm and heavy on the offensive.

She mocks Aaron for wearing a baseball cap, and having hat hair. She even steals his cap and refuses to return it. Aaron threatens to boycott her party unless she hands it back.

Janet scoffs, and tells the gathered boys that they couldn’t miss her party, as Gotta Rock are playing. Both Bruce and Ken are awed. With a serene smile, Janet tosses Aaron’s cap back to him before sauntering off with Jessica in tow.

Jessica tries to caution Janet on the road she’s taking, suggesting that if she continues insulting everyone then maybe people won’t come to her party, but Janet hand-waves it away.

Next, we’re back in school Janet is, once again, denigrating her friend. This time, she’s lambasting Mandy’s fashion sense. Usually, I’d be massively anti-Janet at this time, but Mandy’s out-of-character snideness from early has rubbed me wrong.

The scene continues with more Unicorn-baiting, and it becomes evident that much of this book is just going to be Janet wading in on people with little or no provocation. Once she’s binned Jessica’s “old lady” lipgloss, she turns her attention to Cammi and Randy, two of the smartest kids in school, simply because they asked the time when passing by.

Janet leaps on this opportunity to widen her net of abuse. She mocks Cammi and Randy for being clever and, well, nerdy. [Dove: Huh. So, no recollection of becoming BFF with Donald Zwerdling?] [Raven: Such a shame. I ship it.] [Wing: They were such a delight! And a surprise.] They become immediately uncomfortable, and try backing away, to no avail.

Jessica, as everywoman, tries to help.

Jessica shifted nervously from one foot to the other. She glanced at her watch. “Actually, Cammi, it’s five after—”

“Your bedtime,” Janet interrupted. “Don’t nerds need to get lots of extra sleep? After all, you guys are the nerd couple of the year. Wait—that’s not good enough to describe you.” Janet rubbed her chin, staring up at the ceiling while she mulled it over. “Aha! The nerdiest couple of the millennium.”

Randy stared at the floor. Cammi looked away from Janet at the wall. “Excuse us,” she said quietly. “We have to go.”

As they try to depart, Mary begins her redemption. She makes to follow the retreating couple, doing her best to leave the scene with grace and dignity. Janet turns her focus to Mary and demands she stay, going so far as to suggest that Mary is only leaving as she’d rather be with Cammi and Randy than with Janet and the Unicorns.

Fiinally, Cammi and Randy leave. Mary actually calls Janet out on her cruelty, before taking the ire of Janet at Full Beam, straight in the face. She weathers it, heroically, and quits the scene with a middle finder raised and a grand old Fuck You. Nice job, Mary, glad that previous scene was a mere blip. If only this book’s version of Mandy had your spine.

Jessica now tries to pour soothing emollient on Janet’s Dragon Flames of Scorn. She timidly and tactfully suggests that Janet needs to cool het fucking jets lest she alienate everyone and end up with nobody at her Mega-Party.

Aside:

SPOILERS!

End aside.

At first, Janet laughs it off, before strangely seeming to take Jessica’s advice at face value. She magnanimously advises Jessica to re-add Sophia Rizzo to the guest list, even displaying a little nervousness in her voice as she does so. As Jessica jogs over to give Sophia and Patrick the “good news”, she wonders if Janet’s face turn is due to a realisation that she needs to be nicer to people, or due to her burgeoning desire to spite Lois Waller.

My money is with the latter.

Next day, kitchen, after school. I’m getting lost with the calendar here. When is it Saturday?

Jessica is checking her mail for the day. Two envelopes. The first? A monogrammed invite to the Mega-Party, from the table of Janet Howell. The second? An invite to the parallel Party at Lois’s house, on a blank card decorated with balloons and streamers in Magic Marker. Not gonna lie, that’s some cute-ass shit right there.

Jessica, naturally, does not share my sentiments. She is sure that Lois doesn’t stand a chance. She doesn’t have a band performing, and she just isn’t Janet Howell.

Elizabeth enters, and asks her point blank: Which party will she be attending? Without skipping a beat, Jessica has her answer… Janet’s Mega-Party. [Wing: Seriously, Elizabeth, you should have seen that coming.]

There’s a little back-and-forth between the twins, some Party vs Mega-Party schtick. Jessica suggests that the only guest at Lois’s party will be Elizabeth, but Elizabeth retorts that Sophia will be there too.

Jessica bit her lip. “I don’t know how to break this to you, Elizabeth. But yesterday Janet invited Sophia to the party again. So she’ll be at Janet’s along with everyone else on Saturday night.”

The chapter ends with the girls at loggerheads, and with Jessica feeling sorry for her deluded sister.

Chapter Five, School, Bruce and Rick. Both are mocking Lois’s “scrawled invitation,” and no-sirring her party within Elizabeth’s earshot. In fact, as Liz walks the school halls, all she can hear is cruel comments regarding Lois’s upcoming shindig. There’s a lot of fat jokes by the faceless masses too, which is disappointing. [Wing: Elizabeth you absolute bag of dicks, you threw her under the fucking bus.]

Ellen questions Elizabeth about the veracity Lois’s intentions, going so far as to mock the cute invitations. Elizabeth tells Ellen not to be so negative, and asks her to consider attending, but Ellen simply mocks Lois’s “uncool” clothes. Don’t be a hater, Ellen!

Elizabeth dashes to Lois by the lockers, but Lois is accosted by Janet before Liz gets there. Janet is flanked by Lila and Mandy. They immediately lay into Lois, this time claiming that she’s lost her mind. So disappointing. [Wing: Damn, guess I could have dragged Lila’s name through the mud earlier after all.]

Aside:

I hate that my two favourite Unicorns, Lila and Mandy, have been reduced to cackling sidekicks in this book.

There are plenty of other names they could have used for this. Kimberley Haver, for instance. Ellen and Tamara. Yes we like our version of Ellen, but Ellen has canonically been callously bitchy in previous books.

Such a slap in the face.

End aside.

As Elizabeth decides to step in and save Lois, she’s accosted by Cammi and Randy. They ask Elizabeth to help them decide on which party they should attend. Janet’s Mega-Party sounds, well, Mega, and Lois’s parallel Party has a nice invitation and sounds fun. Janet has insulted the fuck out of them both, but they are also acutely aware that the would be social pariahs if the Mega-Party lived up to its billing and they were the idiots who missed it.

Elizabeth sets out the stall for Lois’s part, claiming the choice isn’t particularly close. Cammi appears slightly convinced, but Randy is still on the fence.

Before Elizabeth can seal the deal, Janet enters the conversation, spouting bullshit about how Lois’s party will involve playing “pin the tail on the whale”, and how that Cammi and Randy should avoid the parallel party if they ever wanted to be cool, and that they should be fucking grateful that Janet has stooped enough to invite such nerds to the Mega-Party, and so on.

Aside:

When did Janet be come THIS MUCH of a cunt?

Like, I guess she’s nervous about going from Big Fish in middle school to Tadpole in high school… but still, this is being applied trowel thick. I expected this recap have me making a variety of “this will reflect badly on the Unicorns” gags, but instead we get Mega-Toxic Janet and there’s little place for whimsy.

Ah well. At least it’s only Janet, and not anyone important.

End aside.

Eventually, Janet departs, and Lis tries to get Randy and Cammi to commit to their attendance at Lois’s parallel Party. Despite the dressing down that Janet has just administered, neither Randy nor Cammi are able to sign their metaphorical names in blood. How spineless! [Dove: And here begins the utterly exhausting part of this book. Even in the face of complete mockery and spite, most people, even those written to have more self-respect, are like, “But Janet’s throwing a cool-kid party!”] [Wing: I’d say it’s a critique of herd mentality, but I’m not sure at this point anyone involved with the books cares enough to make that sort of statement, even one as heavy handed as this.]

At lunch, with Sophia, Elizabeth tries to press-gang a reticent Sophia to commit to Team Lois. Like the eggheads, Sophia won’t get off the fence. At first she suggests that she and Patrick would be attending neither party, before returning to being noncommittal on either.

Elizabeth is dumbfounded. How on earth could anyone be considering attending the Mega-Party in the company of such a heinous beast as Janet Howell? To be honest, I agree with Elizabeth’s opinions here, although I do know that the book would be a lot less dramatic if everyone involved simply went “yeah, I’ll come to Lois’s Party, and Janet can go fuck herself.” Why does no one have a spine in this book apart from the canonically spineless Elizabeth? Is it Opposites Day?

Eventually, this constant badgering drives Sophia away, so Liz tries her luck with Maria and Amy. She starts strongly.

“I don’t know how she can even consider it,” Elizabeth said as she slid into a chair. “Anyone who goes to Janet’s house is a fool, after the way she’s treated us all lately.” She snapped open a napkin and put it in her lap. “I can’t wait to see how many people go to Lois’s instead. Besides you guys, I mean.”

Of course, this declaration is met with utter silence. Neither Amy nor Maria are willing to commit to Lois’s parallel Party either. Is this the storied end of Team Boring?!

This seeming betrayal drives Elizabeth to tears. She dashes from the table in distress.

We cut to Jessica, seeing the same scene from another point of view. She sees her twin leave her friends with tears in her eyes. We also learn that it’s Thursday. Two days until Partygeddon!

As Jessica shows ha selfish concern for her fleeing twin, Janet continues to chelp about the Mega-Party preparations. [Wing: I finally had to look up chelp to confirm I understood it from context. Basically to chatter or speak up out of turn, the internet tells me. Learned a new word, yay.] Eventually, Jessica mentions her concerns about Elizabeth, adding that Liz could really use an invitation to the Mega-Party.

Janet is reluctant to rescind Elizabeth’s party banishment, as she believes that Liz will want Lois to come too, but Jessica manages to convince her that won’t be an issue. Magnanimously, Janet allows Elizabeth back on the list. I’m sure she’ll be over the fucking moon.

Chapter Six! Is that all?! Fucking hell, this recap is taking ages.

We’re at the Wakefield Compound that evening, and Jessica is “breaking” the good news about Elizabeth’s Mega-Party invite. With a stony resolve, Elizabeth tells her sister that she doesn’t want to be back on the Invite List. Jessica is concerned how things will look if they attended separate parties, and accuses her of lying to Lois.

“I am not!” Elizabeth leaped out of her chair, her face red with emotion.

“You are,” Jessica said, and she could tell she’d hit a nerve. She didn’t want to hurt her sister’s feelings, but she felt she had no choice. “You’re setting Lois up for the worst night of her entire life. And all you have to do to help her now is tell her to cancel her party.”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Why should I ask her to do that?”

“So she won’t make a fool of herself! If you really cared about her like you say you do, you’d save her the embarrassment,” Jessica said. “And in the meantime you’d be able to have a great time at Janet’s party with me.”

I mean, as gambits go, it’s relatively strong. Elizabeth, however, thinks it’s buttering no parsnips. In a rare display of courage, she refuses to back down and let Jessica’s will override her own. She stands up for Lois, for the parallel Party, for everything. And she demands that Jessica commit herself to attending the parallel Party too.

Look at the big brass balls on Liz! Nice work, you sponge, it’s about fucking time. [Dove: Unfortunately, she grew a spine about someone else’s fight. And Jessica’s right. Elizabeth is forcing Lois to throw a party to prove Elizabeth’s point, not to empower herself.] [Wing: Hard agree with Dove here. Jessica may be spineless toward Janet in this book, but she’s not wrong about the bullshit Elizabeth is pulling. She’s absolutely setting Lois up for even more mockery and pain. That’s already happening, even.]

Taking a leaf from Jessica’s playbook, she lays on the emotional blackmail thick and fast.

“I expect you to stand up for Lois with me. I’m counting on you. This is really important to me, and I need your support. If you choose Janet over me… I guess I won’t feel like I can count on you anymore. In fact, if you make that choice… I’m not sure if I even know you anymore.”

The scene ends with Jessica storming out, but it’s nice to see Elizabeth getting the upper hand for a change.

Eventually, we his Saturday, time for The Great Not-British Party-Off. Elizabeth is at Lois’s door for a morning prep visit, and the argument with Jessica is haunting her a full two days after the event. She even thinks Jessica made some good points, and is considering suggesting that Lois cancel. Yeah, there’s the crippling overthinker we all know and love.

Lois answers the door, eyes full of tears. She reveals that not one person has RSVP’d to her invitation, or has even mentioned the party to her in passing while at school. She is ready to cancel the whole thing.

For some reason, Lois’s reticence only strengthens Liz’s resolve. She tries to convince Lois that the parallel Party must go ahead. She offers rebuttal to all of Lois’s issues, and begins decorating the room with streamers and balloons without the host’s consent.

Eventually, Lois acquiesces to Elizabeth’s demands, full of a fatalistic resolve. But even as she nervously agrees to keep the parallel Party on track, Elizabeth is beginning to have doubts of her own.

Chapter Seven starts with a mirror scene at the Mega-Party, as Jessica is ordered and re-ordered to decorate the Howell Residence with fancy lights until everything is just so. Alongside the constant commands, Janet is also pouring scorn of Jessica’s outfit. Jess is getting angry, but does her best to rise above it.

As she climbs a ladder, Jessica is grabbed from behind by Joe Howell, Janet’s brother, in an act of unabashed prankmanship. In a short but cute exchange, we learn that Joe and his friends from Sweet Valley High will also be attending the Mega-Party that evening, It seems the lure of Bar-B-Q and Gotta Rock is too much to bear for anyone. [Dove: I hope nobody tells Alice and Ned that high school kids will be there. They might make Jessica’s decision for her.] [Wing: Aww, Joe, I’ve become rather fond of you. Somehow. Considering you mostly show up around Steven.]

Joe leaves, and Janet gushes about the upcoming influx of High School Boys. Then she has a panic attack, as it’ll be the first time she’ll be seeing these people before she decamps there later that year. Which is weird, as I’m sure she’s held joint parties with her brother and his friends before, but I guess I’m fine with it as a character point. I suppose she’s nervous about her school move, which will be leading her down some diabolical decision paths.

Janet then decides she needs a new outfit, despite the two she’s already bought. She demands she and Jess head to the mall forthwith. She promises an ice cream treat, on her, Jess staggers along, beleaguered and browbeaten, but full of bluff and bluster on the inside.

Next, we’re at the post-shop Casey’s Place, and Janet is holding court with a handful of Unicorns. The place is packed, with pretty much everyone from Sweet Valley Middle School in attendance. I mean, how convenient, for what will obviously be a Nuclear Level Meltdown from Janet to alienate everyone she knows.

Sure enough, full of piss and vinegar, Janet calls the collected throng to order.

Janet cleared her throat. “Now, as you all know, I’m throwing the most important party of the year tonight at seven. I hope you can all come. I found out today that some high-school kids might be there, so I kind of wanted to warn you. It’s really important that none of you guys embarrass me tonight.”

Winston cracks a joke while she does, and the games begin.

“Now, you see, Winston… that’s exactly the kind of thing I don’t want you to say tonight,” Janet told him. “No stupid jokes. Please.”

As she finishes this proclamation, Elizabeth and Lois arrive. They hear the ensuing speech.

During an incredulous five-minute scene, Janet manages to piss off every fucker in Casey’s Place. She decrees that, alongside no stupid jokes, her party will include no “running around with a football”, no dancing, no decent music, no ugly people, no terrible fashion, no awful haircuts… nothing that makes a party fun at all. [Wing: NO DANCING. WHAT IS THIS, FOOTLOOSE? Absolutely fucking unbelievable, too. There is no way the Unicorns aren’t gnashing their teeth at the opportunity to dance with high school boys. No way would Janet shut that down.]

No one, it seems, is standing up to this tyrannical display. No one, that is, except… Lois.

“You know what, you guys? You don’t have to take this,” Lois said timidly, stepping forward. “None of you have to take this from her!”

Janet is caught off guard, but she rallies quickly, with a snappy marine-based comeback. Lois carries on, regardless, telling the crowd that it doesn’t have to be this way, that there’s an alternate way to live, and a parallel Party to attend. Head held high despite a plethora of whale jibes, she leaves Casey’s Place with her dignity intact. [Dove: Now that was Lois taking her power back.] [Raven: Agreed.]

With the show now over, Janet demands that she and Jessica leave immediately. The Mega-Party won’t plan itself.

Cut to the Waller Residence, pre-parallel-Party. Lois is having the jitters, believing that she’s looks awful in every outfit she owns. As Liz helps out, the Waller Doorbell rings. It’s Jessica, trying a last-ditch play to convince Lois and Liz to cancel everything. Lois and Liz are adamant, even when Jessica suggests that Lois can crash Janet’s party as Janet will be too busy copping off with Denny to notice an interloper. Way to make a guest feel valued, Jess.

Eventually, Jessica’s cajoling gets to Elizabeth. Fearing her sister’s message of doom and gloom may have merit, she offers Lois a get out clause. Does Lois want to call it all off at the eleventh hour?

Of course not. Which is a good job, because that would be an appalling ending to the book.

The chapter ends with both Liz and Jess at the Wakefield Compound, eating dinner before their respective parties. There’s a little insipid talk about the parties with Steven and the Fam, and we’re out.

Chapter Eight. Lois’s parallel Party. Three minutes past seven (so three minutes past the stated arrival time). Number of guests: One (Elizabeth).

Lois is fretting that no one will come. Because they are late already, see? Elizabeth does her best to calm poor Lois down. Who the fuck arrives at a party on time? There’s such a thing as “fashionably late”. [Wing: I’m pretty sure Dove would arrive at a party early, honestly. So would Ostrich, for that matter. I would, uh, not. My fashionably late is … late. Let’s leave it at that. Luckily most of the people with whom I used to party were the same, and I do try to be on time for people who care about that sort of thing.]

The doorbell rings! Let’s get this party started!

The girls dash to greet the new arrivals with wide grins. Sadly for Lois, no one is there. It appears someone is pulling a prank, and this tips Lois over the edge. She bursts into tears, declares that she hates every fucker at Sweet Valley Middle School, and stomps off to her bedroom to cry into her pillow.

As Elizabeth muses about the doorbell prank and the possible pranksters behind it, we learn that it was, in fact, Jessica, who’s now hiding behind a bush. For reasons that are arcane and unfathomable, she’s actually decided to go to Lois’s party, albeit riddled with self-doubt every step of the way there. In fact, once she rang the doorbell, she changed her mind and ran away.

Okay, so it wasn’t a prank. It was a honest change of heart. [Dove: That genuinely surprised me.] [Wing: Same! I did not see that coming.]

Skipping to Janet’s abode, we can see that the Mega-Party isn’t going well either. No one has arrived, except the caterers, who were early. The Bar-B-Q is drying out, the decorations are falling from the walls, there are no guests as yet, and Gotta Rock have called to say they’ll be unexpectedly late.

So, it seems Gotta Rock haven’t Gotta Clock.

Aside:

Damn, that’s a good joke. Well done, me. [Wing: I laughed.]

End aside.

Janet’s mother pops out, enquiring why there’s no one at her party at seven-forty when the invites said seven. Janet tries to bluff her embarrassment away, and her mother is very kind to ignore it.

Back at the parallel Party, and Lois is still in her room. Elizabeth is about to pack it all in, when the doorbell rings for real.

It’s…

A naked Mr Nydick!

Sorry, it’s actually Sophia and Patrick, who have made the in-universe correct decision and chosen to shun the party being held by the Force For Evil In This Book. Elizabeth beams, as the party can now begin!

Sure enough, the floodgates open, and by the time Lois is enticed from her room by the sounds of merriment, her house is packed to the rafters.

“Hey, Elizabeth—where’s Lois?” Aaron asked, walking into the house.

“I’m—I’m right here,” Lois announced nervously from the top of the stairs.

“Lois!” everyone called at once.

Lois blushed, nearly jumping from surprise. She’d never felt so popular in her entire life. “Hi, everyone!” she called back.

“What are you doing upstairs? Get down here and party with us!” Winston yelled.

Bless Lois! This is super cute. Totally unbelievable, of course, but fuck it, it’s probably Christmas.

As Lois’s party kicks into overdrive, we discover that the Mega-Party is completely devoid of guests. Janet, it appears, has fucked everything up. However, she’s still in denial about the whole thing, trying to convince herself it’ll all be fine once her guests and friends arrive.

The doorbell rings! Janet smiles. She dashes to welcome in her guests, and it’s…

A naked Mr Nydick!

Actually, it’s Steven Wakefield, and this is the one time where I think I’d have preferred a naked Mr Nydick.

Janet is confused, but rallies quickly. A guest is a guest. She offers Steven some Bar-B-Q and a soda. Sadly for Janet, he’s not here for a good time. He’s here to pick up Joe.

Janet is doubly confused. Joe was staying in, attending the Mega-Party… wasn’t he? Grimly, she tries forcing food onto Steven, who comes out with the biggest lie I’ve seen in the entire fucking series:

“I’m not hungry,” Steven said.

Pfft, yeah, right. Steven Wakefield, not hungry? A likely story.

Soon, though, he’s eating chicken like a good little minion, waiting for Joe to arrive. And when Joe does arrive, the boys make to leave… as they’re going to Lois’s party.

Janet is triply confused. The boys tell her that Lois’s party is cramped, but she can’t get her Unihead around it.

“What do you mean, everyone’s going to her house? Gotta… Gotta… Rock is playing here,” Janet stammered. “They’re going to be here any minute. Once they start singing—”

“Sorry, Janet, but Gotta Rock is kind of lame,” Steven told her. “I mean, we’re a little old for that band.”

Setting the ableist language aside, what the hell kind of band is Gotta Rock, if they’re too juvenile for a bunch of fourteen-year-olds? Are they the fucking Wiggles or something? [Wing: Weren’t they just excited about the band about thirty seconds ago?]

Janet is now done. Not only is her Mega-Party and unattended washout, but Lois fucking Waller is holding a parallel Party to die for… and Janet doesn’t have an invite. Oh cruel fates!

We next cut to Jessica, who has been dithering between the two party venues. She finally makes up her mind, and decides that she has to back up her sister and go to Lois’s party. But instead of simply ditching Janet’s party, she decides to do the mature thing and let Janet know face to face.

Of course, when she gets there, intending to tell Janet that she can’t attend her mega Mega-Party, she finds and disconsolate Janet in an empty venue. With an attempt to put a brave spin on things, and to console her domineering friend, Jessica suggests that maybe everyone is late. Man, even I’m not buying that stinky fish, Jess.

“They’re not late. They’re missing!” Janet complained, her voice choking up. Then she stood up straighter, seeming to compose herself. “Fine. If you don’t want to be here either, then good night. Have a great time at Lois’s, OK? Have a really great time. You and all the other losers!” She slammed the door in Jessica’s face.

Back at Lois’s house, the party is an unmitigated success. Her house is heaving with kids, ones she knows and ones she doesn’t. The fashion goddess Mandy complements Lois on her outfit, and even Lila Fowler tells her she looks cute. Lois is on Cloud Nine.

But as she overhears her guests talking about how much of a blowout Janet’s party must be, with not a single guest other than Jessica, Lois doesn’t feel elated. All she wanted, she reasoned, was to be accepted as a friend without being judged. She didn’t want Janet to feel like shit about it.

Next thing you know, Jessica arrives! She fills in the crowd about the no-show at Janet’s Mega-Party. To her credit, Lois doesn’t want to see her old friend unhappy. With a determined resolve, she slips out of her own party, on a quest to fetch Janet and bring her back into the light.

Chapter Ten! We’re approaching the end, and it’s all done bar the shouting, so it’s time to turn up the heat on this recap and get the fuck out of Dodge.

First, Lois rocks up to Janet’s house. Janet is utterly dejected, and expects Lois to be a massive Gloaty Gus. Lois, on the other hand, is ready to offer the olive branch, but before she does she needs to get to the bottom of Janet’s recent heel turn on ALL her friends at school.

After a frank and forthright discussion, we learn that Janet has been acting so badly because she is afraid to go to High School. Or at least, I think that’s the takeaway, because if I’m honest the final denouement isn’t particularly satisfying. Janet moans and mopes and declaims against the sky, but she doesn’t really atone or apologise, and she certainly doesn’t explain why she’s been making her old friend Lois’s life a misery for the last couple of years. Lois, being the nicer person, doesn’t press on any of the issues particularly firmly, and eventually she convinces Janet that yes, she should ditch her own Mega-Party and come rock out at Chez Waller. [Dove: Yeah, this was the most half-arsed ending I’ve read so far. It should have clarified things, instead I don’t think even Janet knows why she’s so mean. It was just scribble. And as I mentioned above, they could have used Janet moving as a bigger plot device.] [Wing: Janet being afraid to go to high school would be a lot of fun if it was clearly set out in the story; an overdone story, but it rings true for people and is popular for a reason. This is not that.]

As the girls both leave, who should arrive but the not-even-fashionably late band Not Gotta Clock. Lois and Janet direct them to Chez Waller, along with the cooling Bar-B-Q.

The final chapter sees Lois’s parallel Party becoming a rousing success, Janet acing the school assembly speech after ditching her Jessica-written version to speak from the heart instead, and some nonsense foreshadowing about spelunking for the next book (I must save all my prime spelunking jokes for my comments on the next recap).

And we’re done!

Almost.

Final Thoughts:

This was… a book, I guess. No great shakes.

I like Lois, and I liked her involvement and development here. Janet was pleasingly monstrous, I suppose, and the fat shaming jokes were cohesive and well written, if unpleasant. The continuity was great, but the characterisation of some of the peripherals was terrible. I definitely enjoyed Jessica calling out her sister for lying to Lois in order to promote her own agenda, and I appreciated that Elizabeth had moments of doubt herself.

Overall, though, I don’t think I cared enough. And there was a little too much last-minute-knowledge in this book to sit well on my stomach.

I now have exactly one more recap in the series before we hit The Unicorn Club. Exciting!

[Dove: As with the previous Lois book, I wish it was better. And I’m kind of sick of Elizabeth having to teach Lois she has worth, becuase Elizabeth is basically a horrible person who uses others for her own agenda. It’s like a tween version of The Fat Girl, which shows much the same relationship, except it’s painted as an unhealthy thing. I wish Lois stood up for herself more. I wish that she’d had the idea, and Liz had been her tagalong support. And I really wish they’d done more with the “Janet and Lois used to be friends” aspect of things. Basically, this book was a big disappointment.]

[Wing: There was so much potential in this book, but it did not pull it off at all. Elizabeth is, as always, terrible in her own way, Janet was at ridiculous levels of terrible, some of our favourite Unicorns went down that Janet-well (…did not mean that to be quite as dirty as it sounds now that it’s in writing), and it’s all just a mess of fail. I can’t believe Raven only has one more recap, though! (Though there is another recap for him in there before the Unicorn Club, it’s just one of the Next Stop Jr. High special editions.) I also have two left. Dove has three. WE’RE SO CLOSE. ETA: Actually, Raven might only have one more book! The list I looked at hadn’t been updated with a Raven and Dove switch. God, we’re so so so close.]

Looking back at things I've enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.