Title: No Escape!
Tagline: How long can they survive?
Summary: Trouble underground…
The entire sixth grade is going cave exploring—spelunking! At first, Elizabeth is thrilled to roam through the Ice Cave with her friends. The cave is beautiful—it shimmers with every beam of their flashlights, and Elizabeth even discovers and underground waterfall!
But when the guide breaks his leg, it looks like the sixth graders are in for a bigger adventure that they counted on. Will they find their way out of the twisted underground maze? And can they do it in time to save their injured guide?
1) OMG, this is it. This is the final book in the Sweet Valley Twins main series. We have a few Super Editions and two Team Sweet Valleys, and then the Unicorn Club, but this is it for the main series. It’s kind of a big deal. I might sound a bit flippant, but I actually mean it. This is a milestone. Because it was the last one, I read first then recapped, rather than recapping as I read. Just so I didn’t miss anything.
2) It’s about caving. I know it’s pretty much a meme on this site that… well, I go a bit…
But I actually like cave stories. I love The Descent and every lesser clone, I like hearing about rescue stories in caves, and if you don’t think that Ted’s Caving Story is the best creepypasta out there, then I’m afraid we’re going to have to fight. [Wing: It’s a good one, but I would not call it the best. I’m not sure I have a number one most bestest creepypasty, but Candle Cove would be toward the top for me. (It, too, has a cave, though.) I also love a couple NoSleep stories more than I love Ted’s Caving Story. The point is, that one is good, but we’re going to have to fight.] Also, if you’re not aware, there’s a movie of that story called Living Dark. It’s not the greatest horror ever, but not many creepypastas have been made into movies so far. So enjoy.
So I’m into it.
(Wanna make a word picture? Sure.)
Note: I’m British, Raven is British, and Wing is sort of accidentally acclimatising. While the book says flashlight, I’m certain I’ll say torch at least once.
[Raven: How exciting! The final book of the main series. It’s a watershed moment.]
[Wing: I need to embrace the torch option because every time I read the word “flashlight” lately I read it as “fleshlight” and that’s just not gonna work. As for the final book of the main series, it doesn’t feel real! In part because we’ve been doing this for so long (I wrote the first recap way back in January 2017!), in part because there’s still so much to do for related books (as Dove mentions above), and in part because I’ve had no sense of time since early 2020 and it all continues to be nebulous and confusing. But still! Final book of the main series! Look at us go!]
We open with Jessica and Lila – who bafflingly has dark brown hair today, instead of light – discussing the mandatory assembly regarding the upcoming spelunking trip. They are quickly joined by Aaron and Elizabeth. Aaron thinks the assembly is pointless because he knows everything there is to know about spelunking because it’s his hobby. I guess, like Jewishness, that’s just a thing that is now attached to Aaron. No mention of it before, I would say none after but this is the last book, but y’know, it exists.
Another thing that exists is Lila suddenly having a crush on Aaron and vying with Jessica for his attention. This bugs me. I’m fine with the endless do-si-do of dating, because they’re twelve, they shouldn’t be paired up forever so young; I’m less good with no Jamie remembering from book to book who dated whom, but whatevs; I’m not ok with Lila going after what is established to be her best friend’s sort-of boyfriend (flirting with him in front of Jessica and physically hip-checking Jessica away from him). These girls may not be #BFFGoals, but they’ve never done this to each other before. I mean, Jessica would totally do that to Elizabeth, but that’s the twins for you. [Raven: I too hate this “Lila likes Aaron” bullshit. It’s the last bloody book, it’s a bit late to be adding this crap now, even if it’s only for the next hundred pages.] [Wing: I’m actually kind of surprised Lila and Jessica haven’t gone for the same guy before. Really? Not once? I bow to Dove’s encyclopedic knowledge of the various relationships, but I am surprised. If they haven’t, though, it makes no sense to have them start to do it here. Even if they had done it before, I’d rather end the (main) series on a high note.]
I haven’t read much of Sweet Valley High and I do know that Jessica and Lila go for the same guy repeatedly, but I haven’t read a book where one actively goes after the other’s boyfriend. And if it happens, fine, let that shit happen in Sweet Valley High, because all romance is toxic there.
Back to the story, Elizabeth is obviously super excited about the assembly because it’s about LEARNING and SAFETY. Actually, to be fair, if I was going spelunking, I’d want to know all about the safety too. But I’m a paranoid shut-in who thinks the world will end if I’m not perfectly polite and engaging to every human I meet. Elizabeth is a twelve year old, although she doesn’t seem to realise that. When I was twelve, I assumed (rightly, it appeared) that I was invincible. Oh, and if you think that Elizabeth’s rock/mineral hobby is feeding this interest, then you haven’t been reading the same series as us. That hobby was like four books ago. TOTALLY DROPPED AND FORGOTTEN. [Raven: Missed opportunity.] [Wing: A real shame because it was glancingly referenced two books ago, i.e., outside the book in which it showed up as her brand new hobby. Ghostie, you could have had it all so easily, and yet.]
Jessica is not thrilled about the lecture, but Mr Clark appears to say that everyone must attend for their own safety. Aaron says he doesn’t want to because, “I’ve got tons of experience. Once my flashlight batteries died, and I had to make my way out of total darkness. [Wing: Do you see why constantly reading it as “fleshlight” has become a problem with this book? DO YOU?] And another time I saved a little kid from falling off a cliff into an underground crater.”
I’m thinking that’s just bragging based on Siouxie’s explanation from As Above So Below.
Get her to give the talk. She’s cute. She’s French (big points from the Unicorn Club). And she’ll scare the shit out of them.
“I think it’ll be interesting,” Elizabeth said. “Caves are really cool.”
“I think you mean cold,” Jessica corrected her with a sigh.
Remember this, because Jessica certainly won’t.
Instead of having them go to this assembly now, we have some bitty scenes.
After school, Alice finds Elizabeth reading her guide to the Cruz Caves and blearily reminisces of the time she last visited. Elizabeth piously says that some people have defaced the cave walls with their names, how terrible. Alice says, yes, “I remember the guide telling us that we shouldn’t leave anything behind—except our footprints.”
No, Alice, the full phrase is: take only photos, leave only footprints. Note how this one is much sleeker. [Raven: Take only cocaine, leave only jizz.]
Over with the more interesting twin, she is at the mall with Lila, and both are super excited that a new store called Metro is about to open. It’s apparently the new hottest thing ever. And most people are imagining either some kind of transport system or local paper, right? That is just not the name of a hot new store catering to cool tweens and teens. It’s the name of a free newspaper you read on your commute. Possibly while on the metro system. [Wing: It’s ringing a bell in the back of my mind, but I can’t quite figure out what store it reminds me of. Maybe something like DELIA*S or Limited Too? But I think the Metro name itself is pinging that sense of almost-got-it-down in me.]
They peer through the windows and catch the attention of one of the shop assistants putting out the stock for the grand opening. She gestures to the sign saying they will be open tomorrow and mouths the same message.
Lila and Jessica, showing spectacular levels of entitlement, are offended. How could she be so rude as to not open the store a day early, when everything is not set up, when no insurance will be in place to allow the public into the shop, when the tills may not yet be online, and serve them? What a selfish rude bitch she is. They will not shop with her tomorrow. [Raven: Do US store clerks earn commission on sales? If not, why the fuck would she care if anyone shopped with her the next day?] [Wing: Depends on the store, but yes, often.]
There will be freebies on Metro’s first day of trading, and this excites the girls to the point they even consider bunking off school to shop longer. That’s when they realise that Metro’s opening conflicts precisely with the mandatory assembly and test given by the spelunker’s club. If they miss it, no trip for them.
Lila comes up with a winning plan: someone else can attend for them and take the test on their behalf.
They meet up with the Unicorns at Casey’s and pitch the idea to Kimberly and Tamara, neither of which are particularly interested in the opening of Metro, having visited the LA branch several times. Team Tamberley are cautious at first, worrying that they will get caught cheating, but the schemers assure them that it’s not a school test, it’s given by the spelunker’s club, and they’ll get them something cool from Metro if they do it. And that’s all it takes.
Oooh, it’s just like the first episode of Suits, isn’t it? [Raven: Except without the snappy dialogue.]
We cut to Elizabeth and Team Boring (Amy and Maria – but you should know this for now, Julie Porter hasn’t been seen for about one hundred books and she has never done anything interesting at all for the entire series – is Julie Porter the most pointless character in the Sweet Valley universe? Discuss below?) at the lecture/test combo. [Raven: Hmmm… Helen Bradley?] [Dove: *blinks*]
Aaron is being a complete tool, attempting to walk up the bannister instead of the stairs. He immediately falls over and is caught by Winston and Ken. Team Boring mutter darkly about what a tit he is, and Amy threatens to make Aaron eat his test if he doesn’t shut up. This is the most interesting Amy has been since Elizabeth Solves It All. Elizabeth notes she hasn’t seen Jessica, either at the place they’re at – not actually described or named – or on the bus to it. Maria says Jessica is probably going to make a grand entrance. They all agree this sounds just like Jessica.
Jessica is shopping for neon clothing with Lila. They both think it’s fabulous – and note it’s totally appropriate attire for caving (belly shirts, leggings, makeup) because the neon is hi-viz. Gotta give ‘em that. They’ve missed the point that they will be climbing around in rooms make of literal rock, and covered skin may be a bonus, but they have realised that being visible is a good thing.
Next up: free makeovers in a line called “Phosphorescent You”! These girls are having fun! [Wing: That is an amazing name for a make-up line.]
Speaking of having fun, Elizabeth is getting irritated with Amy and Maria’s whispered comments through the lecture, because they are interrupting her learning. I’d also point out that they’re not witty or insightful, and therefore pointless, but for Elizabeth it’s just about the DISTRACTION FROM LEARNING.
Let me summarise the learning for you, because I’m absolutely certain this will come in handy later:
You should bring:
- Three sources of light:
- helmet with a light (given at the caves);
- flashlight; and
- candle/waterproof matches.
- You can bring cyalume light sticks, which are apparently phosphorescent chalk sticks to mark your way (which sound awesome) – if you google them, they look like raver glowsticks.
- Garbage bags. You can wrap it around you if you get cold.
- First Aid Kit – rule being, if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else, so if there are injuries, tend to yourself first. Don’t move an injured person, keep them warm and calm.
[Raven: I mean, my eyes see “flashlight”, but my mind…] [Wing: THANK YOU.]
We cut to Jessica at home arranging her new nail polish. This is one of the few books where Jessica is not hurting for cash and managed to buy everything she wanted. Maybe she stole it from Elizabeth? [Raven: Maybe she stole it from Metro! Where’s THAT book?!] [Dove: Sweet Valley High. Or not. Maybe. Spoilers. Or is it?] Elizabeth wanders into Jessica’s room and starts blathering about the quiz. Jessica does her best to avoid by batting all questions back to what Elizabeth thinks, and wondering why Elizabeth cares, it’s a school trip, nobody’s getting hurt, and if someone does, a grownup will sort it out.
Elizabeth mentions the supplies they need to bring and Jessica basically ignores her, reasoning that she doesn’t need to bring anything if Elizabeth does.
The next day they check the list to see who passed the test and who didn’t. Lila is top of the list with Elizabeth and Aaron – meaning Tamara crushed the test. Jessica is at the bottom of the page, meaning Kimberley half-arsed it. [Raven: FUCK YOU KIMBERL-… oh wait.]
Team Tamberley approach to tell them all the salient points of the lecture, but don’t get the chance because Jessica is raging that Kimberly got a bad score, and besides, they’ll have tour guides, so skip the boring stuff and take your presents. [Raven: I hated this. Like, Lila and Jessica’s plan to skip school worked, so I’d expect them to be a little more willing to cover their tracks.]
The next day, Elizabeth wakes at 5:30am and carefully packs her bag with all of her supplies. She dresses in shorts and t-shirt and adds sweat pants and a sweatshirt to her bag for inside the cave. She then finds her sister wearing denim shorts, sneakers and a pink belly shirt. She chastises her twin for her silly outfit, then says is that Jessica’s bus outfit and she’ll change before she gets in the cave?
Jessica thinks her sister is dressed like a nerd, but grudgingly throws a sweatshirt in her backpack, even though she thinks Elizabeth is overreacting. Even though she herself noted that caves were cold in the first page. She sees a note from her mom not to forget the necessary supplies, and deliberately ignores it.
Jessica picked up each item and studied it carefully. She lifted a large box labeled First Aid. Why do I have to bring the first aid kit? she thought. It’s an organized school event. The teachers bring all that junk—and besides, it’s too heavy. Sometimes Mom can be so overprotective. Jessica set the plastic box down. She ignored the plastic bag full of candles and matches and the giant canteen. If I carry all that stuff, my back will hurt!
I’m only bringing the essentials, Jessica decided. She peered into her backpack. New nail polish, compact flash camera, gum, sunglasses—and a sweatshirt. In Jessica’s opinion, she was more than prepared.
[Raven: Again, fucking Idiot Ball behaviour from Jess. So arrogant to assume she doesn’t need the things prepared for her by people who actually attended the safety lecture.]
[Wing: I am not surprised that she ignores all of it. Thinking she knows best even though she intentionally avoided learning what to do feels like a Jessica thing to me. Not in the same way as when Elizabeth thinks she knows best; Elizabeth seems to think that more when it comes to interpersonal relationships and Jessica when it comes to physical actions.]
We cut to the school where everyone is congregating before getting on the bus. Elizabeth yet again points out an outfit – Lila this time – she’s wearing sandals and carrying a giant duffel bag. Elizabeth then joins Team Boring, leaving Jessica and Lila to discuss the contents of the bag. Lila has brought “Magazines, candy, a couple of six-packs of sodas, ten CDs, my portable CD player, extra batteries—basically everything we need.”
Good god it’s boring to recap the start of this book. When I read it, I whizzed through it, but it’s so bitty to recap and it feels like endless rehashing of the same info. Elizabeth = prepared. Jessica and Lila = NOT PREPARED (and laden down with idiotic shit). [Wing: Jessica was whinging about the weight of the first aid kit but Lila is carrying around 12 sodas?!]
The one thing Lila did bring that is halfway sensible is leggings in case it’s cold in the cave.
Aaron comes over to boast again about how boring the basic caves will be to him, and even Jessica is getting a bit bored of it. Winston joins and comments that the bus journey will be three hours of boredom, but Lila says she brought her CD player, so they can play it loudly.
Mr Seigel overhears and says no, that’s against bus policy. He gives them a nametag each. Weirdly, they’ve gone with initials and surnames, rather than full names. I’m sure this won’t cause problems later with the Wakefield twins, especially since their bags which are going to be stored in the luggage section under the bus, are going to be labelled the same and sorted by strangers.
Smash cut to them arriving at the caves, and precious page space is wasted with Lila and Jessica fixing their appearance having slept on the bus and woken with fluffy hair. Ok, we get it. They’re vapid girls who like to look nice. We get it. PUT THEM IN THE FUCKING CAVES, THAT’S WHAT WE’RE HERE FOR.
After a bit of faffing, the kids are put into groups and informed that their bags will be sorted by the staff and assigned to their groups. Which sounds like the longest way to do anything at all.
Staff member 1: I’ve got a back here, belongs to L Walker…
Staff member 2: *checks list* Walker, Walker, Walker… Nope, no Walker. *pause* Waller, maybe?
Staff member 1: *checks* Could be. Handwriting is awful.
Staff member 2: Let’s just go with Waller. That’s Group 2. *turns and calls* Staff member 3 – bag for you!
Staff member 3: *grabs bag* One down, eleven more to go!
Staff member 1: Bag for… jeez, Riggo… Rizzo, maybe? Like in Grease?
And so on.
Or you could get the kids to grab their own bags, which they can identify by sight, and then assign them to their groups, which will take significantly less time. But sure, do it the long way to ensure the plot works. [Raven: This is the first inkling that the caverns are run by idiots. It won’t be the last.]
Jessica is assigned a group with Amy, Sophia and Mandy. Their leader is Josefina and they will be touring Cave One. Now, I haven’t been to a cave system since I went with my dad, who died in 1990, but even I remember that each cave had a name, or at least a theme – I particularly liked the Witch’s Cave with the stone dog. Why have they just numbered the routes? That’s terrible marketing. Can you imagine the website? “Come and visit Cruz Caves and take in the majesty of Cave System One!”
Try harder, Jamie. I know it’s the last day of school, but fuck you for not trying at all.
Amy and Mandy both suggest that Jessica wears something warmer, and eventually Jessica is worn down enough to agree. FFS, how many times do people have to tell her this?
Todd is put in a group with Ken Matthews, Peter Burns, Olivia Davidson and Ellen Riteman. I don’t know why this was put in, since it never comes up again. Ellen says nothing during the last book. She’s not even on screen. Be sad with me.
Randy Mason, Cammi Adams, Tom McKay and Julie Porter are in the second most difficult group. Again, we hear fuck all from them too, so this is pointless. All these names are just pointing out how few people came on this trip, which makes the later bag confusion even more ridiculous. [Raven: Yep. I thought it was mandatory for the entire sixth grade? How many kids should that be? Although I suppose most of them could have failed the test after the lecture…?]
The most difficult cave system (“Experienced cavers may want to tackle our most difficult cave system, known as Our Most Difficult Cave System!”) group is led by Terry and comprises Winston, Maria, Elizabeth, Aaron and Lila.
[Wing: Let’s talk about this whole thing where inexperienced cavers are being sent into the most difficult cave system. Yes, safety is important, but (a) scoring well on a safety test immediately after studying does not automatically mean safe measures will be remembered and taken in the cave itself and (b) even if it is, knowing safety measures doesn’t mean experienced enough to take on the most difficult cave system, wtf. (Apparently I didn’t have all that much to say other than wtf.)]
Over with Elizabeth’s group, Terry tells them that he thinks they’ll like the Ice Cave he’s taking them to. It got its name from a waterfall so cold there are sometimes ice crystals in the water. You could, maybe, call this the Ice Cave system? Just a thought. Or go a bit more sensational, like “Arctic Falls” or “Glacial Cascade”. You know, oversell.
Elizabeth is still outfit-shaming Lila and is relieved that she’s changed into boots from her sandals, but notes they look brand new and uncomfortable. Just calm the fuck down, Elizabeth. Let everyone make mistakes if they must. It’s not your job to police everyone. And if it was, you should’ve done bag checks before you allowed anyone on the bus.
At this point, Elizabeth notices she’s got the wrong bag. See my above rant. FFS. Terry says it’ll be fine, since everyone brought the same supplies [Raven: Which no one at Cruz Caves bothers to check. Asshats.] [Dove: Right?!]. Hard hats with lights on them are given out. Lila doesn’t want to wear one because loads of people have worn it before. Aaron doesn’t want to wear one because he knows everything about caving and doesn’t need it.
I guess “everything” does not encompass the fact that caving means encountering rocks. And if you do it with too much force, you die. Can we just kill Aaron now? He’s such a fucking tool he might as well be Steven Wakefield. Terry tells him no hat, no cave, and Aaron sulkily agrees. [Raven: This is the first book in the series where I actually hated Aaron.]
They crawl through a 3’x2’ gap in the rocks. Thank god this isn’t an early book, otherwise Lois Waller would be tightly wedged in there, and it would be “hilarious”.
Over with Jessica on Cave System One, apparently it’s “like a garage” – thanks Amy, for that poetic description. No wonder Elizabeth gets the lead articles.
There is literally no description at all of this cave. I mean, come on. Even if I wrote this, I would understand that while most readers are familiar with a mall or a fast food eatery, a cave is a new location and the layout may be plot relevant, so fucking describe it.
[Raven: Seems like the perfect place for this. A great way to spend five minutes of your time. Mark Gatis’s finest hour, bar none.
] [Dove: That was awesome. Favourite Mark Gatiss trivia: fans were so pissed off with the queerbaiting in Sherlock that they changed his name on wiki to Mark Straightiss.]
Josefina turns out the lights to show them just how dark a cave can be without light. They are freaked out. But then they realise that Jessica is glowing. It’s because of her phosphorescent nail polish and makeup. Everyone decides this is weird. I personally think it’s really cool. It’s a silly trend, and it’s a great time to use it. So fuck off, Team Boring.
[Wing: On the one hand, adorable. On the other hand, I’d be annoyed if the perfect darkness of that moment was ruined. I love when they turn off all the lights so you can see the real darkness of a cave. It’s suffocating and terrifying and my favourite part of cave tours.]
Josefina hurries them on, promising a gondola ride.
Back with Elizabeth, we are getting a smidge of description, maybe the Jamie decided that Jessica wouldn’t care and didn’t bother? But no, because even if a person doesn’t care about the geology of their setting, they can react emotionally, is the dark too dark, is it smelly, is it prettier than expected? Jessica would notice something.
Aaron smashes his headlamp because he’s not looking where he’s going. Elizabeth is amazed that Terry didn’t say “I told you so”. So am I. The kid was being an arse. Aaron has to move to using his flashlight.
Are there no lights in this cave? I mean, this is a kids’ tour group on a school trip. You’d have thought the caves they took the minors in at least would have a bit of external lighting. I mean, yeah, caving is a big hobby and super hardcore, but this is a tour business. I’ll admit, my entire knowledge of US caving comes from The Descent (a British movie) and Still Life With Crows (a book Wing bought me, funnily enough). [Wing: I do love a good caving horror story. This is a good moment to bring up the point that there is almost no way I would ever believe a school like SVMS would actually take a bunch of 12-year-old kids into an actual caving adventure. This would absolutely be the sort of cave where there are paths and lights, very little climbing at all and when there is climbing it involves stairs or slopes, bridges over small water streams, guardrails, etc. And it would still be a fun tour! There’s one nearby cave I love enough that I’ve done the tour multiple times. It’s cool inside, and creepy, and beautiful. But this would not involve climbing through narrow caverns or, hell, anything that would actually require a headlamp, to be honest. I’d expect something like a casual Carlsbad Caverns tour, where you can actually wear flipflops if you decide to do so, though you’ll be cold and your feet will likely get wet. Or maybe Mammoth Cave (or whatever it’s called now) in California, which at least used to offer off-path caving for younger kids but nothing that required any serious equipment or that was dangerous.] [Dove: That is kind of what I assumed they were on. Based on just the synosis, I would have assumed that this trip was one of those public tours, and because of contrived disaster, they have to go off route or something. A group comprised only of tweens is probably not what you want to take through an unlit cave.]
The group notice that Lila is glowing too, because she’s wearing the same makeup line as Jessica. Also, Lila is daubing her eyeshadow on the walls to make pictures. Elizabeth immediately tells her off. Terry hasn’t noticed because he’s ahead with the rest of the group and tells them to catch up. [Raven: Wow, this is not the Lila we know and love. I doubt she’d do anything so common as to tag the cave walls. I guess they could have made her finger-paint little Unicorns or something.] [Wing: I doubt she’d want to waste her make-up on anything so plebian. Someone might take it off the wall and put it on their face!]
Terry sends back Aaron to get them because he’s so experienced. Dude, he just walked into a fucking wall. I wouldn’t trust Aaron with a roll of toilet paper, much less human lives.
Lila makes an attempt to walk next to Aaron, but Elizabeth points out that the trail is only wide enough for one, while being pissed off that Lila as well as Jessica is making googly eyes at Aaron. You’d have thought the problem would be that someone is betraying her beloved twin, but mostly the problem is that Elizabeth doesn’t like Aaron. I mean, he is an arse, but I thought our sunshine twin saw the best in everyone. Even Brian Boyd when he was done littering just like a Nazi.
One step later, Lila develops a blister and everyone comes to a halt so that they can apply a band-aid to her foot. Aaron gives her a lecture on using new boots for the trip.
That done, they catch up to the rest of the group and ooh and ahh over a waterfall. For those interested in the cave’s dimensions, this is how it’s described.
“Wow!” Elizabeth gasped. The narrow tunnel she had been walking in had ended suddenly, and Elizabeth now found herself standing on an overhang at the edge of a wide cavern. She felt cold, misty air against her face as she gazed down a chasm filled with an icy stream about ten feet below them. Above, the roof vaulted into a high ceiling—almost like a cathedral. Ahead, there was a wooden bridge that crossed to another rock ledge. “Is that water from the spring?” she asked Terry.
He nodded. “It comes in over there.” He pointed to a waterfall to the left. “It bursts out of there and runs down to the bottom. It really gathers speed as it goes—see? Come on—follow me across this bridge!” He nearly had to yell to be heard above the rushing water below.
Elizabeth is so taken by the sight that she lags behind. She’s the last one on the bridge. And that’s when the earthquake hits.
YEAH, BITCHES! EARTHQUAKE! [Raven: At least Jessica is awake this time.]
Jessica is just getting out of the gondola when she feels the quake. It only gives a “slight jolt”, but then the lights go out. Josefina hurries the group away from the gondola and towards the walkway leading out, and that’s when the actual quake hits for this group.
Over with Elizabeth, she races across the bridge, but the swaying slows her down. She realises that the bridge is coming loose. She makes a lunge for safety as it falls, and manages to grab the ledge, but the weight of her backpack pulls her down, and she falls down to the icy water. [Wing: WHAT WEIGHT?! I thought Jessica packed basically nothing heavy enough to even be noticeable. For that matter, they both should have noticed the weight was off when they picked up their bags.]
Back to Jessica, it’s pitch black in the cave, and she rummages for her torch. Well, Elizabeth’s. And she realises that if Elizabeth is looking through Jessica’s backpack, she’s going to be disappointed by the lack of supplies.
Once the torches go on, Josefina reassures them it wasn’t a fully-fledged earthquake.
“It wasn’t a full-fledged earthquake,” Josefina said. “Just a small ground tremor. Nothing to worry about.”
“Nothing to worry about?” Amy repeated. “But we’re underground!”
“What if there are aftershocks?” Jessica asked. “Isn’t being in a cave kind of dangerous?”
“Yes—and we’ll head out right away,” Josefina assured the group. “Please, don’t worry. We’ll get you out—” Josefina stopped as a set of small lights ringing the cave hummed on. “See? That’s the emergency lighting. Everything’s still working. Nothing was knocked out by the tremor.”
Josefina leads them out and everyone hopes that the other groups are as safe as them.
And we have clarified that – at the very least – Cave System One has lighting and does not rely solely on the patrons bringing their own.
Elizabeth is in the water and it’s up to her hips. It’s so cold she doesn’t find it easy to move and she’s already going numb. She calls out to the others. Torches go on and she realises that the ledge has collapsed and everyone has slid down the bank and were in front of her.
When they realise that she can’t get out of the water by herself and Terry isn’t answering their shouts, Aaron says he’ll help her while Lila and Maria look for Terry. Aaron offers to dive in, but Elizabeth says no. Instead he throws his flannel shirt and Elizabeth finds it very hard to grip the fabric, but she forces herself to and Aaron drags her out.
Once Elizabeth is out of the water, they find Terry. He’s broken his leg on the fall and he’s unconscious. Elizabeth is freezing, but nobody particularly cares about that, even Elizabeth, since she’s out of the water. Possibly this wasn’t included in the lecture, since they weren’t supposed to encounter water [Raven: Despite going to the fucking ICE CAVE, in which there’s a fucking WATERFALL.] [Dove: Exactly.]. But dude, she’s going to lose her extremities if they’re not careful.
They take stock of the situation. Here is how it is described, since you know how I am with cave layouts.
Aaron pointed his flashlight around the area. They were all standing at the bottom of a ravine, about ten feet below what was left of the overhang. The broken bridge slats dangled above them, useless and out of reach.
Down here beside the stream there was no trail leading up or away. There weren’t any ladders or steps. Elizabeth couldn’t see a way out. They were trapped—at least for now. And the raging stream of icy water was making the underground temperature close to freezing.
Over with Jessica, she and the rest of the groups are having lunch at the picnic area. Mr Seigel has cancelled the field trip, saying it’s better safe than sorry. I want you to remember this. [Wing: UMMMMMMMM. Better safe than sorry when you’re still missing that many students?]
Note: Ken Matthews thinks the trip is a rip-off since it’s been cancelled. *headtilt* What is your problem, you short fucking moron? First of all, it appears that most trails were only morning trips and were nearly done. Second of all: EARTHQUAKE, YOU FUCKING IDIOT.
Urgh, just everybody in this book, dude.
Mr Seigel comments that Jessica hasn’t eaten anything. When she says how worried she is, he attempts to placate her saying that everyone on that trail scored high on the quiz, and they have plenty of supplies and a tour guide who knows what to do. [Wing: ONCE A-FUCKING-GAIN, DOING WELL ON A SAFETY QUIZ DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE COMPETENT CAVERS AT THE BEST OF TIMES MUCH LESS AFTER A GODDAMN EARTHQUAKE.]
Jessica knows otherwise. Lila knows fuck all, and Elizabeth has a bag full of shite only useful for a day at the beach with the Unicorns.
Mr Seigel and Mandy both tell her that they’re sure Elizabeth is taking care of everyone, because she’s Saint Elizabeth Wakefield, and we all know it.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is pacing, feeling very very cold. Maria and Lila want to move Terry because he’s currently lying on a sheet of ice, and would be less likely to freeze on mud instead. Elizabeth says no, they can’t move him, but is eventually overruled by logic.
They drag him over without the help of Aaron or Winston, who the ghostie forgot about for this scene. Elizabeth helps, even though she’s freezing. Then she gets them to list the supplies.
She plans on getting changed into Jessica’s clothes, and then using the smelling salts in her first aid kit to wake up Terry. Wing, seriously, was this a thing in the late eighties/early nineties in the USA? Because even V.C. Andrews though that smelling salts were an antiquated notion, and she predates Sweet Valley by a lot. [Wing: I have no idea. Possibly still a media trope? I’ve never myself actually seen anything that could even barely be considered smelling salts but I do vaguely remember tv shows and books referencing them. (The pub date on this book is 1998 what the ever loving fuck. I always think of these books as late 80s/early 90s, but NOPE.)]
Aaron appears and offers to make some kind of stretcher and rope-lift Terry to safety. Not sure where he’s getting the stretcher or the rope, but it doesn’t matter because Elizabeth vetoes that plan.
She finds a makeup kit in Jessica’s bag and instead of continuing to look for a first aid kit, she decides to use Jessica’s nail polish as smelling salts instead. I hope Terry doesn’t have the same allergy as me. If someone puts nail polish under my nose, my skin will fall off my face. I miss nail polish.
This wakes up Terry who has nothing of use to say at all.
Elizabeth explores the backpack and finds nothing of use at all.
Winston drops two backpacks in the stream, proving he is nothing of use at all.
Elizabeth lunges for the bag, shoving Jessica’s camera in her pocket, as she does, but no, packs are gone. Also, Elizabeth’s dexterity comes and goes as required. Do we need to worry about her? Numbness. Does she need to do something? Perfect movement.
Aaron again offers to dive in the water – just let him, he’ll freeze and die and things will be better – but Terry says no, the packs will have sunk. [Raven: Why doesn’t Terry have a fucking backpack? Like, is the Cruz Cavern plan just to let the kids supply all emergency supplies on every tour? And then not even fucking CHECKING if the kids HAVE brought the supplies before they all head down into the Ice Cave? Absolute bullshit.] [Dove: That hadn’t even occurred to me. And now I’m twice as pissed off.]
Maria and Lila lose it a bit, and everyone admits they’re scared. Except Terry, he’s fallen unconscious again. Maria rolls up some sweatpants and uses them as a pillow for Terry. Instead of, for example, giving them to the freezing girl in the soaking wet outfit and using any of Jessica’s misc shite – all the magazines she and Lila bought – or their empty useless backpacks, for example, as a pillow.
Elizabeth tries to speak but her teeth are chattering and they can’t understand her. Suddenly they realise that she’s probably freezing to death. There are no clothes for her, on account of Maria using them as a pillow. Oh no. There is literally nothing else we can use as a pillow. We must use clothing. Also, what about the garbage bags they were all supposed to bring? FFS. You people are fucking stupid.
I know someone’s going to be reasonable and say, they’re twelve, they’re scared, etc., but no. You can’t give us this information in the first third of the book, and not expect a reader to be cross when even the smart ones ignore the advice. Watch The Descent. Those characters lack nothing, they have everything they need and it’s still a fucking terrifying predicament. It would have just been a shit movie if they’d failed to use their equipment properly in order to drag out the plot.
After way too long, they give Elizabeth Lila’s leggings and Winston finally remembers the garbage bags, so they decide to line the leggings with them. [Wing: NO THAT’S NOT HOW YOU USE THEM. You just need one, tear it so you can get your legs through the holes. At most two, one on each leg. Garbage bags hold heat very well. No need to waste them all stuffing them into the leggings.] The boys agree to look for other escape routes while the girls help Elizabeth get changed, because now she can’t move her fingers.
Lila takes charge and orders her to lie down and they’ll dress her. I’m sure Wing has an inappropriate comment here. [Wing: I blew my load (heh) on “fleshlight” to be honest.]
Elizabeth starts to feel better already, saying she can feel her toes again. Also, she’s wearing a bag on her head to help conserve heat. [Wing: That sounds like a good way for her to end up suffocated.]
When the boys return, they note that the water is starting to rise, saying that the quake might have cut off the water’s exit. Basically, if they don’t freeze to death now, they’ll either freeze to death in the water or drown. [Raven: How’s THAT for Bleak Valley!] [Wing: In 10 years when we make it here on the podcast, I hope we remember to thank ghostie for doing the work for us.]
Elizabeth suggests they mark the water level with Jessica’s nail polish so they can see how fast the water is rising. Since she’s already garbage bagged, it’s best she does it. If she falls in, she’s waterproof, not them. So they rig up belts to hold her safe while she does it.
Once that’s done, Aaron points out they’ve been down here for forty-five minutes, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s coming to get them out. She he’s had a genius plan of lashing their belts together to make a rope and climbing up them. Again I say, let the moron do what he thinks and die. Just get him off screen. [Raven: In this book, the part of Steven Wakefield will be played by Aaron Dallas.]
Terry calls out to them and Elizabeth goes over to him. She gives him a candy bar to make him feel better. He offers to share it, but she says no, he’s injured.
Uh, didn’t Lila bring soda and sweets to the trip? Guys, have that. The sugar might make you feel better.
Then Terry asks what the fuck Aaron is doing.
Aaron loops the belts around a rock, gives it a yank and manages to drag a fucking boulder down on himself. Killing him instantly for his own stupidity. Of course he didn’t. It was a near miss. But don’t I wish the former were true?
Now comes the discussion of what to do to get out, and suddenly I’m having flashbacks of The Bully, because I cannot understand this cave.
“OK. How about if we get on each other’s shoulders,” Lila said. “Like in cheerleading! We’ll make it on this side of the stream bank. And then the person on top can jump across the stream to the walkway up there—”
Here is what I understand – behold my beautiful artwork cobbled together in the space of two minutes using clipart.
Now, if anyone got anything else from reading it, then I’m fine with that, but that’s how I understand it because everyone crossed the bridge but Elizabeth (coming from the entrance to the path that leads out), the bridge collapsed during the quake, as did the cliff on the side everyone else was standing on, leading them to being on a muddy/icy area below, with the stream/bottom of the waterfall around them.
So why is Lila talking about jumping across a stream? Even if I’m wrong about what side they’re on, the can just go out the way they came in, right?
Anyway, it’s academic because Elizabeth says no. It’s dangerous. Then she snaps at everyone asking if she was the only person who listened at the lecture. As it turns out, no. Maria listened. So why the good scores? Lila got someone to take the test for her; Winston copied Elizabeth’s answers; Aaron copied Winston. Winston and Aaron were playing hangman during the lecture so neither listened, and Aaron knows everything anyway. [Raven: In a way, isn’t this mostly Elizabeth’s fault? Like, if she hadn’t nailed the test, then the cheaters wouldn’t have made up 2/3rds of the Voyage to the Ice Cave of Death. Tamara takes some of the blame, too… FUCK YOU, TAMARA CHASE. I feel sorry for Maria.] [Dove: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even I draw the line at blaming Elizabeth for Aaron and Winston being here.]
Back with Jessica, she’s going through Elizabeth’s bag and finding all the useful stuff. And panic hits her. She confesses to Todd and Amy that she packed a load of useless crap that won’t be of any use to Elizabeth. And she knows Lila packed rubbish and she’s really worried.
Amy decides they need to ask what’s going on, so the three of them corner Mr Seigel, who still couldn’t give a pimply shit about the missing students. There has been no word, but he’s sure it’s fine. Kids go missing in caves all the time. And nobody has ever died in a cave before. Ever.
Todd points out that if that team could get out, they’d be out by now. Fuck me we’re in trouble if Todd is the voice of reason. And behold the most Sweet Valley sentence ever uttered by any fucking adult in the history of fucking middle school. I’m not kidding you, this utterly flattens Madame André’s bullshit teaching methods, the failed Nazi experiment, every stupid teaching moment we’ve winced at, they are all lesser twatwaffle.
KING GOD OF STUPID FUCKING ADULTS HAS BEEN CROWNED AND WILL NEVER BE UNSEATED.
ARE YOU READY FOR THIS FUCKING SHIT?
“The staff here has a three-hour-wait policy. After that we’ll see,” Mr. Seigel replied in a calm tone.
“We’ll see”? So, people have to be missing in a cave following an earthquake for three hours and only after that will anyone even consider doing something about it?
FUCK YOU ALL TO DEATH.
I don’t even like any of the kids involved and I’m cheering on Ned Wakefield spearheading the Wakefield, Slater, Fowler, Egbert and Dallas vs Cruz Caves and Sweet Valley Middle School. Get Erin Brockovich involved. Crush these feckless motherfuckers.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????????????
This is literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, how is this going to play on the news? “Sadly the children drowned in the rising waters, however, Cruz Caves were right to follow their three-hour wait policy. We have a statement from Cruz Caves, who say, ‘In cases such as this, we find it’s easier to let the visitors die, and the water wash the bodies out naturally. It saves our time. We are obviously saddened by these totally unavoidable deaths, but y’know, them’s the rules.’”
Fucking stupid plot point and it makes everyone seem monstrous.
[Raven: I mean, I can’t even. Everything Dove says. I suppose they could have this ridiculous three-hour-wait policy for normal days and the like, but that shit should be IMMEDIATELY abandoned in the case of fires, floods and earthquakes. And Mr Seigel’s cold and callous demeanour is frankly disturbing.]
[Wing: Dove Went Boom and it was amazing.]
Ms Wyler appears suddenly and adds that the kids won’t starve to death in three hours. Yes, because that’s the worrying thing. When you are INSIDE THE EARTH and it VIOLENTLY SHAKES, HUNGER is the worry. Not being BURIED ALIVE. For fuck’s sake, you two are meant to be the smart teachers. Just die.
This reduces Jessica to tears, and as they walk away, Todd decides that the teachers can wait if they want, but he’s doing something about it. Amy and Jessica quickly say they’re in.
Back with Elizabeth, things are looking bleak. Their only plan appears to be hope the rescue team arrives before they drown or freeze to death, and that’s literally how the book phrases it.
Terry wakes up and informs them of the ridiculous wait policy, noting that it might be unsafe given the earthquake. Yeah, because the emergency services are hailed as heroes because their jobs are totally safe. That’s why people admire their bravery. Because their job is to wait until it’s safe to save people. I HATE YOU, JAMIE SUZANNE.
Seriously. I’m pissed off. This is the last book in the series, and I shouldn’t be this angry. I should be bored or charmed or something. But I’m just angry that the whole plot hinges on a completely unbelievable reality in which five tweens would be left with no support for three hours because that’s just how things are.
The boys arrive to report that the water is rising. The banks are waterlogged and their mark can’t even be seen any more.
At this point, Terry says there’s a way out, but it’s very tiny, halfway up the wall, Josefina is the only tour guide who can fit into it. Out of the group, only Elizabeth can fit – ha! Looks like that perfect figure of yours is a bind, not a boon! [Wing: Excuse me, Lila can’t be that much bigger than Elizabeth if she is at all. Fuck you, ghostie, you read nothing in the Sweet Valley Bible, did you.] They’re going to have to lift her up to it, cheerleader-style.
And again I say, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
First of all, Elizabeth is never noted as smaller than anyone else. Yes, Maria was described as tall but wouldn’t Lila be the same size? Maybe Terry’s just choosing the one that fits and is most likely to not fuck it up. And just because she’s small, doesn’t mean she won’t panic and get lodged, or get lost. Anything could happen. Also, if Josefina is the only person who can fit in that passage, then why doesn’t she lead this tour just in case? [Raven: SO MUCH THIS.] And finally, if you refer to my expertly crafted drawing above, why can’t they use the same cheerleading pyramid to shove Elizabeth up to the actual exit above them (which is presumably lit), rather than the teeny unlit one that might lead to her death?
Basically, everything here sucks, and I feel sorry for Elizabeth being surrounded by assholes on every side. Except Maria. Yes, I really do feel sorry for Elizabeth here. I hate myself right now.
Nobody has the glowstick chalk to mark the way, but Lila says to use Jessica’s eyeshadow. After pooling resources, Elizabeth has a helmet, a flashlight, a candle and some matches, along with Jessica’s eyeshadow. Maybe Lila should hand hers over too? That’s not mentioned.
The kids lift Elizabeth up to the hole and while she’s wiggling in, she loses her helmet, so concussion here we come! She can’t go back to it because the passage is so tight.
When she gets to a place where she can sit up, she looks around using the candle. There are multiple openings. She calls back to Terry and gets no answers. She decides to go straight, reasoning that right would lead her back to the stream, and left is… um, not straight on.
Right. So good-guy Terry just put her in a hole with no instructions? Well, I hope he dies of internal injuries. Fuck every adult in Sweet Valley. [Raven: Terry is a prime cleft.]
As we’re approaching the end of the story, we get confirmation that there are no lights in the Ice Cave trail as Team Heroes (I have to root for someone, ok? And right now it’s Elizabeth and her friends) enter the cave after five minutes of wiggling through the entrance.
They see Lila’s eyeshadow marks and Todd and Amy agree that Lila should be banned for life for her actions – and I’m pretty sure that after today, Lila will be grateful for that – but who’s laughing now, they have a trail to follow. The moral of this story is GRAFFITI: IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE. [Raven: I found the “if Jessica hadn’t packed these ridiculous items, everyone whould have died” to be particularly galling, if I’m honest.] [Wing: SAME. Jess and Lila should not be rewarded for that kind of bullshit.]
And finally we get a tiny piece of cute dialogue and I’m here for it because this is a fury-inducing book.
“Well, OK, sure,” Todd grumbled. “I guess the fact that Lila’s selfish, spoiled, and thoughtless could come in handy now and then.”
“Like when she goes around writing on cave walls,” Amy said, leaning closer to the mark. “I’m surprised she didn’t put her initials on here.”
“Or Lila loves Aaron,” Jessica muttered under her breath.
“She does?” both Amy and Todd asked at once.
Jessica clapped her hand over her mouth. “Did I say that out loud? Anyway, we’d better get going. We’ve been standing here too long.”
“Aaron and Lila?” Todd said. “Yeah, right.”
Amy shook her head. “In what universe?”
Jessica smiled. “Have I ever told you how much I enjoy spending time with you guys?”
[Wing: That is fucking adorable. And no, Jessica, I’m pretty sure you have never said that to these two people in your life.]
The eyeshadow trail comes to an end, so they just continue on.
Over with Elizabeth, she’s just run out of eyeshadow and thinks that Metro is a rip-off. From here on in, Elizabeth is starting to panic, and I’m not sure if it’s well-written, or I’m just totally on her side because everyone else sucks, but she goes back and forth with her thoughts, trying to squash the panic. For example, she thinks that nobody will be able to follow her now she’s no longer leaving marks, but chastises herself because she’s the one getting people to help them.
She drops the flashlight while trying to put the eyeshadow away and it smashes. Where are you buying your flashlights, people? They should not be breaking that easily, even in the 80s/90s. I had a 99p penlight from Woolworths that fell down the stairs twice and still worked. [Raven: And why the hell is everyone’s helmet falling off? Cruz Cavern likely bought a skipload from a dodgy bloke down the pub, the bellends.] [Wing: Fleshlights and bellends. FLESHLIGHTS AND BELLENDS. I’m not going to survive this recap.]
This means that Elizabeth is already down to one light source, her candle.
Team Hero arrive at the broken bridge and hear people below. Lila and Winston quickly update her on the situation, and Todd says he and Amy will go back for help, and Jessica should stay with them to keep them calm.
Once Jessica updates them, they tell her that Elizabeth has gone for help. Jessica is not happy.
“She went into that little passageway. Terry said it led to the outside, but it’s complicated. It might take her a while,” Aaron explained.
“A while? How long is a while? Aaron—how could you let her go?” Jessica cried.
“She wanted to! She had to! Nobody came in, so we decided we had to send somebody out,” Lila explained.
I think saying that Elizabeth wanted to is a fucking stretch, people. She was told she was the only person capable of it. No pressure or anything. If she dies, it’s on Terry and his hopeless lack of advice. He didn’t even bother to tell her to see if she could feel air coming in and follow that – I’ve seen that in movies, and even in Ted’s Caving Story.
Over with Elizabeth, her candle goes out thanks to a water drip from above [Raven: I have a story about a drip, and a flame, and a peanut. I’ll save it for the podcast. In 2033.]. She only has two more matches and won’t allow herself to think what might happen after that.
The rescuers arrive to the Ice Cave, and confirm that they’re going to haul everyone out and two people are going after Elizabeth. I hope that someone mercy kills Terry for doing this. [Wing: I hope they kill him slowly.]
Elizabeth, by now, is on less than half a candle with no more matches and the cave is very drippy. She’s starting to get very upset now, furious that nobody told her how wet it would be in the cave, it wasn’t in the brochure and Terry didn’t mention it, and yeah, you go on with your rage, kid. Your feelings are not just valid but absolutely correct. I hope your parents sue the pants off this whole operation. You’ll be richer than Lila and Bruce combined.
As she panics, she reminds herself that she has to save everyone. This causes her to lunge forward, cutting her hand open on the rock wall and dropping the candle into a puddle.
Elizabeth is now lost, injured and without light and any food or drink. If this wasn’t Sweet Valley, she would be very very dead.
Back with Jessica, the rescuers are lifting everyone to safety, and Jessica comes down the ravine to see where Elizabeth went. She asks if she can go with the two going after Elizabeth, but they say no, which surprised me. I was honestly expecting they’d see how much it meant to her or how plucky she was and be swayed by twin magic or whatever.
This is the only safe decision that has been made by an adult in this book so far.
Jessica reluctantly joins her friends and this happens.
“Wow. I can’t believe you guys had to save us,” Lila commented as they all waited for Aaron.
When he got to the top, they started making their way up the trail and out of the cave. “I mean, what kind of cave is this? I’m going to see if Daddy can sue them.”
“Lila… you can’t sue a ground tremor,” Winston told her with a laugh. “For one thing, they don’t have any money.”
“I don’t care,” Lila said. “Someone should pay!”
Don’t worry, Lila. I’m pretty sure any lawyer you employ would happily find a way to sue someone – I’m going with Cruz Caves – for this situation. [Wing: The cave company! The school! Terry individually separate from the cave company! The people who did the safety exam for not ensuring an actual testing environment with no cheating. I don’t say this lightly, but SUE THOSE FUCKERS SUE THE HELL OUT OF THEM.] [Dove: For those who don’t know, Wing is actually a lawyer. Admittedly, litigation/personal injury isn’t her primary area, but I’d love to see her go nuclear on everyone involved.]
Jessica, on the other hand, just continues to worry.
Over with Elizabeth, despair is setting in. She’s sat in the cave, worrying. There’s something in her pocket that’s uncomfortable, but her main thought is that she wishes Jessica was here. She recalls a time when they were kids and got lost in the zoo and while Elizabeth cried, Jessica took them to the information booth to page their parents.
Jessica might have cheated on the quiz, but she’s resourceful and Elizabeth just wishes she were there. [Raven: This is quite sweet.]
At this point, Elizabeth hears voices calling to her. She calls back but they can’t hear her.
She’s annoyed by the thing in her pocket again, and realises that it’s Jessica’s camera. She uses the flash as a light, moving forward carefully calling out to the rescue team. They meet up and reassure Elizabeth that everyone is fine. They also tell her that she was nearly out. [Raven: Although she WASN’T out. I like that they didn’t have Elizabeth actually rescue everyone. She would have legitimately died, which is a bold move for the Ghostie.]
Over with Jessica, while she waits, Lila approaches and says that she has learned through this whole experience that friendship is magic and she’s really sorry for trying to go after Aaron. Also, he was kind of an asshole the whole time they were stuck.
At this point, Elizabeth appears and the whole class is delighted with Winston even yelling “Hurray for Elizabeth!” which is kind of sickening.
After much hugging, Jessica has to come clean about what happened today with the cheating on the test and so forth. Elizabeth gives her the dead-eye for a moment before saying she already knew.
Elizabeth forgives her, even though cheating is wrong.
Jessica says that if she hadn’t cheated, they might be stuck in the caves together still! How very Jessica.
Everything ends with a hug and there is one picture left on Jessica’s film, so she asks Aaron to take a pic of her and Elizabeth.
And that’s it. Sweet Valley Twins is over. The main series is complete. Let’s all have a group hug and yell “Hurray for Elizabeth!”
Or not, since we’ve got a few special editions and the entire Unicorn Club to go!
Well, that was a thing that happened. First of all, I think the final book in the main series should have said something about it. It should have acknowledged it was the last – yes, I know Goodbye Middle School exists, but that’s a special edition. They could write that book at any time. I’m talking about the main series here.
This didn’t feel like the last book the main series, it felt like a very every-day special edition.
Add to that all the points I raged about above, and ultimately I’m left with a very unsatisfactory experience.
This could have been a much better book in the hands of a better Jamie, and I think it sucks that they gave it to someone who writes so lazily. Maybe this Jamie has done dozens and is sick of it, but you would hope the last one would have been an attempt at something special, rather than just a class trip organised by morons at a caving company run by heartless assholes and guided by vague idiots.
Still, I’ve read the entire main series. That’s something.
[Raven: I enjoed reading this. Then, when I came to comment, I realised I DIDN’T enjoy reading this. It was actually pretty shit.
There was far too much plot-pummelling, jamming square pegs into round holes, papering over the cracks, ignoring the man behind the curtain. The characterisation was off, especially with Lila and Aaron, and the whole thing had a dialled-in quality that left a sour taste in my mouth at the end of the series. At one point – the start of chapter seven – Elizabeth suddenly had a flashlight for no logical reason. In fact, the only real continuity was that the adults of Sweet Valley, as per usual, were completely useless pricks.
I was hoping for a bigger, brassier finish to the main series. Here’s hoping the Goodbye Middle School special editions provide that, because No Escape did not deliver.]
[Wing: I wonder if the series was cancelled unexpectedly and that’s why there’s no real main series culmination book. It reads as if they expected the main series to continue after, and it is weird to me that there’s no actual main series transition book.
WORSE THOUGH IS HOW MUCH THIS SUCKED. It’s a cave story! With some horror aspects to it! I should have loved it! BUT NO EVERYTHING WAS CONTRIVED AND COULD ONLY WORK IF NOTHING WAS AS IT ACTUALLY WOULD BE. I know I won’t get actual realism from Sweet Valley, BUT COME THE FUCK ON THIS WAS COMPLETELY UNBELIEVABLE.
Fuck you, ghostie, and fuck this book.
(That being said: *ahem* FLESHLIGHT. BELLEND. Let’s get one final main series dirty. /dead Wing)]