Title: Playing Hooky
Tagline: How far will Elizabeth go to save her sister? [Raven: Not as far as Jessica, I’m sure.]
[Wing: Not sure Jessica would go any sort of distance to save anyone else but herself.]
Summary: Kent Kellerman, soap opera star, is coming to town. One whole episode of his show is being filmed downtown and Jessica and Lila have passes to get on the set. There’s one small problem. The filming is to take place during school hours. They’d only have to skip one little class…
Now both girls must face up to their punishment. For Jessica, that means no extracurricular activities, no Booster club, and worst of all, no playing in the basketball championship playoffs. Without Jessica, the team is sure to lose and she’ll become Sweet Valley’s most unpopular girl. That is, unless her twin sister, Elizabeth, agrees to save the day – and the game!
The cover is nothing more than a Circle of Predatory Grooming. Seriously, I thought the Adult Torso was actually handing the nameless twin a condom.
[Dove: To be fair, that’s what it looks like in the thumbnail.]
It’s actually a slip of paper or some sort. Perhaps our American Correspondent can shed some light on this arcane school tradition.
[Wing: American schools are truly bastions of safe sex education. Or really, he’s giving her a detention slip or something similar.]
We start, as we seem to do each bloody week, at the mall. Jessica, aka Unicorn Prime, is shopping for sneakers. Their colour? Purple. Despite Elizabeth proclaiming them as the Devil’s Footwear, Jessica still wants them.
This is a difference in the twins. Apparently, there are many.
“Jessica longs to buy purple sneakers. Elizabeth, however, thinks sports lead to impure thoughts, and spends her money on scripture and flagellation. Jessica is a slut.”
“This little twinny likes the market. This little twinny stays at home.”
“Elizabeth likes horses. Jessica likes Unicorns, which are like horses, only hornier.”
Apparently, Jessica needs the sneakers in order to cement her place on the Sweet Valley High Sixth Grade Basketball Team. She’s their star player, and purple shoes would make her IMMORTAL on the court.
What the actual fuck? Jessica now plays BASKETBALL?!
Apparently, she was the first to sign up, and has led the team to five straight victories. The championship game is on the horizon, which is IN NO WAY A PLOT POINT DEAR ME NO.
[Dove: Well, if she can be a softball legend out of nowhere, then why not basketball too? Next book she’s captain of the netball team, after that it’s lacrosse, then karate, and, finally, curling. She’s a very prolific athlete is our Jess.
In other news, by the time we hit book 95: The Battle of the Cheerleaders, this book has disappeared, because by then the twins have LITERALLY NEVER played basketball before.]
And without hardcore spoilers, Elizabeth is also on the fucking team. Of course, she isn’t as good as her gifted evil twin, but she can still dribble and shoot with the rest of them.
Aside from the basketball revelations, we also hear that Tracy Dyer (who the fuck is Tracy Dyer?) has left the Boosters (the Unicorn-controlled sixth grade cheering squad) due to parental upheaval and abscondment to the Big Apple. With Tracy gone, and with Jessica not Boostering because it’s tough to cheer and play sports at the same time, the Boosters have dwindled in number to a critical level.
So, we’re up to two sub plots now, both of which have been roughly tackled before: Basketball Games and Booster Tryouts. Of course, with two bollocks of sub plot we need one throbbing shaft of main plot, and Lila swoops in with the meat to accompany the two veg.
Jessica knew that Lila sometimes overreacted, but this time she seemed really excited. “What is it, Lila? Is it really important?”
“Does the name Kent Kellerman mean anything to you?” Lila demanded.
Frankly, no. Who the fuck is Kent Kellerman?
Kent Kellerman is the sixteen-year-old star of the show All the World.
Sweet Valley is a hotbed of lies, people!
Kent Kellerman is set to film an episode of All the World in Sweet Valley later that week. As the filming was set for a school day, sixth grade fans of the show were bummed. But right now, there were rumours that Kent was in the mall!
“Well, everyone is running down to the other end of the mall screaming Kent’s name,” Lila said. “If we want to find out what’s going on we’d better hurry. Maybe they changed his schedule.”
As the filming is set for a schoolday, and as the book is called Playing Hooky, I’m guessing that’s a no.
As the two ninny-headed bobblekins rush off to their disappointment, Elizabeth remains to bump into Brooke Dennis, aka Bag O’ Dicks Dennis from The New Girl. As we know, there are now no dicks in Bag O’ Dicks Dennis; she is simply Bag Dennis.
As she has a famous scriptwriting father, who coincidentally is working on All the World this week [Dove: Those are two job descriptions that shouldn’t go together. He’s either writing movies, or he’s working on a shitty soap. Both does not imply he’s doing so well. Of course, his last effort was Car Capers (wasn’t it?) so that says it all.] [Raven: I can’t wait for the book that tackles Mr. Dennis’s inevitable descent into alcoholism due to his failed career.], Brooke has the true skinny: Kent Kellerman’s schedule remains in place, and the excitement is due to some over-eager fangirls having a ladyspaff as mall employees put up a new poster.
Talk turns to Brooke’s father being involved with the show, and Brooke reveals she’s not told anyone else about her connection to avoid being spammed with friends requests on Facebook (or whatever the Eighties equivalent would be… maybe notes in the locker?). In fact, Brooke is feeling down as her dad has reverted to old ways and has been neglecting his daughter. Perhaps there’ll be a few more dicks in old Bag Dennis before we reach the next book! [Dove: Sweet Valley Twins #6+1: The Old New Girl: Jennifer’s Revenge.]
Over a placatory ice cream (devoured in silence, without a Lois Waller reference in sight), Elizabeth tries to cheer up her friend by inviting her to write for the school paper, the Sweet Valley Sixers.
“Hey, you know what?” Elizabeth said suddenly. “I’ve been so busy since I joined the Basketball team that I haven’t had much time for the paper. How would you like to help me out? We could use another staff member.”
Brooke seems keen, and is offered a plum spot interviewing a world-famous ballerina, Kate DiNardo, who happens to be visiting.
So, this whole Kate DiNardo thing.
Apparently, she’s an ex-pupil of Madame André, who returns to Sweet Valley each year for a free outdoor performance at a nearby lake.
Like, why isn’t THIS the story? Have the twins told Ballet to fuck off or something? I mean, I personally wouldn’t blame them (Fuck Madame André), but they were pretty big on it early in the series.
And while I’m at it, this outdoor performance by a world-famous ballerina would be big news, right? But later, Jessica (or a fatuous cohort) proclaims Kent Kellerman to be the most exciting thing to have happened in Sweet Valley for ages. Wouldn’t Kate’s concert count as exciting? In fact, what about the 3pm Johnny Buck concert?
Fickle twelve-year-old asshats.
On the drive home with the Elder Wakefields, Elizabeth predictably tells her machinatious sibling all about Brooke’s connection with Kent Kellerman. THIS IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS, PEOPLE! [Dove: Elizabeth, I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re the dumbest thing that ever lived.]
Jessica, disappointed because the kerfuffle at the mall led to zero Kents and one very moist All the World poster, immediately pounces on the information like a puma atop a newborn gazelle.
“Are you kidding? Mr. Dennis knows Kent Kellerman personally?” Jessica cried. “I’ll bet he could introduce us to Kent!”
Jess blathers on and on about Kent for the entire ride home, and vows to a) both tell everyone about Brooke’s Kent-nection (ha!), and b) call Brooke herself in order to blag a contrived teen meet cute with the sixteen year old starling.
Elizabeth beseeches her to neither spill the beans nor pester Brooke. Jessica reluctantly agrees. Yeah, that’ll last.
That night, in a fitful sleep, Jessica hatches a plan. She won’t need to beg Brooke to arrange a meeting… all she need do is make Brooke want to arrange a meeting of her own accord!
Next morning, while the house sleeps, Jess calls Lila. Can open, beans everywhere. So much for a Jessica Wakefield promise. [Dove: Going by past experience, overnight is a fucking EPIC amount of time for Jessica to keep a secret. Give her some credit.]
In a breathless and satisfyingy twelve-year-old-driven conversation, Jessica reveals her dastardly plan: to offer Brooke a spot on the Booster Squad! (Tracy Wotsit has left for New York, ‘member?) By doing this, Brooke would obviously assplode with gratitude and good intentions, and would surely offer up a plate of hot Kent beefcake should the conversation turn to All the World. It’s foolproof!
Lila, gloriously being Lila, agrees with the plan’s premise with the following predictable caveat:
“She doesn’t really have to make the squad though, does she?” Lila said. “I mean, I like Brooke but I really don’t think she’s Booster material.”
“Of course not,” Jessica replied. “Just as long as she feels she has a chance.”
Awful, awful girls. Nice work, Jamie Suzanne!
Later that morning, Jessica and Elizabeth practice their basketball in the front yard of the Wakefield Compound. Stephen Wakefield, human trash compactor and colossal bell-ferret, swoops in to bestow his wisdom on the blossoming ladyballers. Of course, he turns it into a chance to flex his widginated musclecock for an unresponsive Jessica before prancing off.
After a more sedate practice session, the girls sojorn to the dining room for some pre-troughing canapés. Before Wakefiend vs Food commences, Elizabeth remembers something… She is set to meet Brooke (and Julie) with regards to cementing her into the Sweet Valley Sixers fold and arranging her upcoming ballet-themed interview.
As Elizabeth prepares, Jess schemes with Lila. They vow to meet at the singular food emporium in Sweet Valley: the fabled Dairi Burger. I’m telling you, if someone opened a Five Guys there they’d be making drug stacks deep, yo.
Sprinting to Julie’s, Jessica intercepts Brooke just as she arrives. Casually lying about her sister’s whereabouts, she spirits Brooke away to the Dairi Burger for a free lunch with the viperous Lila.
We now cut to Elizabeth at Julie’s. The clock strikes one, and Brooke is nowhere to be seen. With a shrug, the girls decide on lunch… and head off to the Dairi Burger too!
I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!
At the Dairi Burger, mouths full of food in a non-hideous non-Lois-Waller way, Jessica and Lila lay it on thick. They bemoan the lack of decent replacements for the departing Tracy Thingumybob, and wax lyrical on the benefits of Booster membership. If you’re a Booster, you receive the following:
- Fresh donuts daily.
- Open sandwiches for three months.
- Pelican pictures delivered to your home.
- Handshake lessons.
- Enhanced colours.
- Dreams 18% more sexual.
- A large box of that thing you like.
While if you are NOT a Booster, you can look forward to the following:
- Constant sore throat.
- Your house: always moist.
- Bagpipe accompaniment to all intimate events.
- Faecal bronzing.
- A punch to each boob.
- Clown babysitting.
- Spiders in every pie.
With such incentives, Brooke quickly succumbs. She agrees to sign up for the Boosters tryouts. Even a brief bout of concern over her double-booking is quashed, thanks to a cunning double-bluff from Lila and Jess. I mean, the Boosters went to fucking Monterey last year, and are going again in a month!
Hang on, weren’t the Boosters pretty much CREATED for Choosing Sides? How in the blue fuck did they go to Monterey, or do a Fashion Show for Valley Fashions, when they’ve only been a club for a few months?
I mean, I guess Lila and Jess could just be lying to persuade the once New Girl – she arrived in Sweet Valley two books later, after all. Personally, I just think it’s sloppy continuity.
[Dove: No, no, silly boy. This is Sweet Valley Time™. Now, you just don’t understand Sweet Valley months. When a year has six Christmases in it, you’ll find that four weeks is exactly as long as you need it to be. Probably with more than four weekends in it.]
Still, Monterey. Dove, Wing, Ostrich and I went to Monterey recently. We met this little guy:
Hell, I’d try out for the Boosters if I could revisit the Aquarium.
[Wing: Hell, me too. Purple sweaters it is.]
Elizabeth and Julie arrive at the Dairi Burger. Elizabeth, annoying little Nancy Drew that she is, sniffs through the Unicorn Masterplan like an internationally famous truffle pig snuffling for a truffle the size of Texas.
Jessica, being Jessica, doubles down immediately.
“She can try out for anything she wants,” Jessica whispered angrily. “Personally, I can’t blame her for wanting to try out for the Boosters instead of writing for the paper. It’s much more exciting.”
Agreed. Pelican Pics versus Pie Spiders, people!
While Elizabeth and Brooke discuss the ballet interview – Liz will tackle DiNardo herself – Jessica and Lila deftly turn the talk to Kent Kellerman. And like the prize plum she’s proving to be, Brooke falls into their purple trap.
Jessica pouted. “I wonder if there’s anyone who could help us out (with Kent).” She looked at Brooke again. “I’ll bet if we had a couple of passes to the set we could practically touch him!”
“Actually, my father is working on the show,” Brooke said. “I’m sure he could get a couple of passes for the set.”
Jessica and Lila did their best to look surprised.
I’ll bet they did, the conniving little minxes!
Even with the passes, Lila and Jess ponder the possibility of actually seeing Kent. His schedule, after all, has all filming happen during the school day. Brooke disabuses them of such a notion, claiming that, in her experience, filming often goes long and Kent will likely be trapped in Sweet Valley most of the evening and night too.
Jessica and Lila are delighted. Jessica’s plan has worked a treat. Despite the stink-eye from an eavesdropping Liz, Brooke and the Unicorns go practice some cheers.
At school on Monday, Brooke has the passes she promised. After class – a class in which we meet and mock Billie Layton, a tomboy super-athlete new to Sweet Valley Middle School sixth grade and probably key to the basketball game (Sub Plot 1) [Dove: Nope, foreshadowing for book #25, which, incidentally, you are recapping. It’s about being a girl.] [Raven: Joy.] – Brooke spills the sad news: the passes are legit, but Kent’s schedule is sent for him to depart at 2pm sharp that afternoon. There will be no delay in filming, and therefore no chance for the school-attending fans of the Kellernator catching his rippling acting chops before he disappears in a puff of pubescent testosterone.
Filming is between eleven and one-thirty. That’s lunch, and most of gym class. It’s fucked, however you slice it.
Lila, the glorious Lila, goes Full Bitch. No Kent for her? No Booster Squad for Brooke.
Jessica, the glorious Jessica, goes Full Scheme Ahead. Something as trivial as logistics would not stop her from getting close to Kent Kellerman, dear me no.
Later that day, Elizabeth tries to console her sister, who is still without a plan of action. That soon changes, as Caroline Peirce – Sweet Valley Middle School’s resident gossip – throws the Bad Twin a lifeline. After trying to impress the gathered throng with hot news about a “new girl in school” that is set to “star on the basketball, softball and cross-country teams”, she throws out another spot of gossip in a fit of pre-teen pique:
“Well, I’ll bet you didn’t hear about Ms. Langberg!” … Caroline smiled and paused dramatically. “She got picked for jury duty. She’ll be out all this week!”
Ms. Langberg, the class Gym Teacher would not be in class that day! This creates options…
Jessica and Lila retire to machinate. Their eventual plan is as follows:
- Leave school at lunchtime and head for the All the World.
- Skip Gym Class as it would be taken by an idiotic substitute teacher.
- For extra evil credit, press-gang other students into shouting “here” at the appropriate time during registration / attendance, to cover for their absenteeism.
Seriously. NOTHING CAN GO WRONG HERE.
They plan to leave school at eleven thirty sharp. [Dove: As someone who starts work at 11am, I find lunch starting at 11:30am incredibly confusing.]
Jessica then tells her sister of the plan, asking her if she’d like to come with them to see Kent.
Elizabeth tells her to fuck off, and reams her out about playing hooky.
Why the hell does Jessica think that Liz would be up for skipping school?!
I mean, I realise that Liz needs to know in order to progress the plot, but there should still be some internal logic to Jessica’s actions.
I like to believe that Jessica has a well-developed subliminal internal switch that stops her from going completely over-the-top in her schemes. Her sense of self-preservation is strong. So her attempt to embroil Liz into her plan is a veiled attempt to cover her ass should things go the inevitable arse-over-tit.
Smart work, Jessica. Nicely done, Jamie Suzanne.
At lunch, Amy and Elizabeth discuss stuff. The topic of Caroline Pierce pops up. And – SHOCK HORROR – it appears that Sweet Valley’s Gossip Queen is losing her touch: Ms. Langberg is not on jury duty after all! Apparently, she was dismissed from jury duty early, probably because she couldn’t be an impartial member of any jury chosen to prosecute Mr. Nydick.
The penny drops. Elizabeth dashes from the room. There’s thirty minutes left before classes start… can Elizabeth rescue her twin?
Downtown, Jessica and Lila are living the high life. Once through the barriers, thanks to their awesome set passes from the discarded trinket that is Brooke Dennis, they place themselves at Oglepoint Prime.
Happily for the Evil Duo, their tenacity pays off. Once Kent has finished snorting coke in his luxury trailer, he sashays past and looks the girls squarely in the eye. Both geek out in a predictable fashion before settling down to watch the filming.
Liz arrives at the scene, but cannot get through the security barrier as she has no set pass. She spots Lila and Jess, and waves frantically to attract their attention. Like the mesmerised, bumbling fools they are, they grin like hyenas and wave back.
Liz is in a quandary. As usual, she opts for the path of least resistance, and hunkers down to remain anonymous until the scene has stopped filming. Again, I think if the boot was on the other foot and Jessica was here to rescue Elizabeth, she would have stormed the set and held a purple penknife to Kent Kellerman’s throat until the film crew acquiesced to her demands.
At a convenient break in the proceedings, Lila and Jessica make their way to Elizabeth’s position. Liz wastes no time.
“Ms. Langberg is back at school,” Elizabeth said impatiently. “Caroline was wrong!”
To their credit, both Lila and Jess do not argue with this. The three girls begin the race back to school. At this stage, they are unable make it back in time for Gym, but that can’t be helped.
Unfortunately for all involved, Elizabeth spots a familiar, yet unfriendly face in the crowd: Mrs. Knight, the school secretary, staring right back at her! Lila is spotted too, although Jessica – catching up with the others – is not spotted at this time.
Will this be relevant? Who knows?
(That’s who knows.)
Back at school, in time for Maths, they learn that they weren’t missed at all from Gym. Ms. Langberg was probably drunk again. I tell you, the staff at this FUCKING school are atrocious.
Of course, in the same way the dicks are out of Bag Dennis, the cat is out of the bag regarding skipping classes. Sure enough, Mr. Clark the principal soon arrives, summoning the naughty girls to his office for a Mr. Nydick style punishment.
The naughty girls… Jessica and Lila.
Elizabeth escapes scot-free.
I can believe this.
The whole escapade seems slightly clunky, especially with Jessica “falling behind” so only one twin is spotted. And having Jessica in trouble when Elizabeth is spotted with Lila makes logical sense.
Y’know what I’d have preferred? Having Elizabeth spotted on her own. And having Jessica getting punished.
That would have made more of Jessica’s reputation getting her into trouble, and Elizabeth’s holiness sparing her the rod.
There’s a twin out of school. Gotta be Jess, amirite?
(Sadly though, I see why this couldn’t happen. For starters, Elizabeth would have immediately confessed. And Jessica would have been quick to point the finger either way. Still, an interesting idea, I hope you agree).
Jessica realised quickly that Elizabeth has evaded detection thanks to Jessica’s reputation and Lila’s proximity to the scene. Mr. Clark, of course, throws the book at them. As well as detention after school for an entire week, washing blackboards as a physical punishment, Jessica and Lila are banned from all extracurricular activities for a fortnight.
“That means no dance club, Booster Club, or” – he looked at Jessica – “basketball.”
Haha, NOW we’re cooking!
The main plot (hooky-ing) is coming together with Sub Plot 1 (basketballing). It appears that Sub Plot 2 (Booster tryouts) have faded from view.
Either way, MUCH EXCITE.
Jessica is stunned that she can’t play in the championship game. The student body is angry, and they take it out on her in a host of petty and boring ways. Ken Matthews is particularly aggrieved.
“Thanks a lot, Jessica!” Ken snapped at her. “Thanks to you, the team just lost its only chance to win the championship.”
Way to be gracious, you poisonous mollusc. The Wakefields literally taught you how to play basketball, and this is the thanks they get?!
[Wing: Since when do they have a coed basketball team?]
After school that evening, while washing blackboards, Lila – being the glorious Lila she is – threatens to tell on Elizabeth. She was playing hooky too, after all.
Jessica – being the glorious Jessica she can be – has greater plans for her sainted sister. She needs her for a notorious scheme that might just save the day, and the basketball championship.
Back at the compound, after the Elder Wakefields promise to punish Jessica’s indiscretions in a manner of their choosing (Death or Mau Mau?), Jessica tells Elizabeth of her glorious idea:
The twins could work their Twin Magic and swap places for the big game! Jessica could play in Elizabeth’s place!
At first, Elizabeth is reticent. It’s naughty! They could get into trouble! But of course, for the purposes of the plot, she soon crumbles like a desiccated turd under a high-powered hose. Because, as we all know, Elizabeth cannot say no to whatever her sister demands. All it takes is a litte cajoling and a batch of fake tears to seal the deal.
“Oh Lizzie, you’re the greatest sister in the whole wide world!” (Jessica) cried. “Thanks to you, the sixth grade is going to win that game on Friday!”
You know, I rather think they will!
The next day, Jessica – being the glorious Jessica that she is – starts milking the situation. Not content with taking Liz’s place in the approaching game, she demands to take Liz’s place in the after-school practice sessions too! Naturally, this means Elizabeth is scheduled to take Jessica’s place in the Blackboard Washing Detention Sessions with Lila.
Elizabeth agrees, if only to stop her sister moaning about the mistreatment she’s receiving at the hands of sixth grade haters. In order to break her out of her funk, Elizabeth shepherds her sister towards two stalwart Unigibbons: Ellen Riteman and Tamara Chase. Sure enough, the topic is changed to the Booster Tryouts (Sub Plot 2 returns!).
They glance over the list of applicants, and it makes threadbare reading indeed. And to cap it all, Brooke Dennis hasn’t even signed up!
Elizabeth, ever the meddler, decides to seek out Bag Dennis to see exactly why she’s put a single dick back into herself.
Outside Mr. Nydick’s history class, Brooke admits to Elizabeth and a passing Amy that she can’t be bothered signing up. Lila, her chant teacher, hasn’t seemed particularly engaged in helping (big fucking surprise there), and Brooke has finally cottoned on to Jessica’s nefarious schemage.
“I think the only reason they even asked me to try out for the squad was so I would get them those passes to see Kent.”
Welcome to the book, Brooke. Glad you’re up to speed.
Both Elizabeth and Amy are not down with such bullshit. They convince Brooke to give it a go, suggesting Amy could help with the cheers and that if Brooke was the best on show they’d have no choice but to pick her.
Brooke finally agrees. Yay to Sub Plot 2!
After school, in a calamitous dash, Jessica and Elizabeth exchange outfits. Jess darts off to basketball practice, and Liz makes her way to detention… when suddenly she remembers! Today’s the day she should interview the world famous ballerina Kate DiNardo! Whatever will she do?!
She resolves to find Jessica and declare the swap plan null and void for the day. Unfortunately for all involved, the principal Mr. Clark chooses THIS EXACT MOMENT to be a teacher that’s actually present in his students’ lives. He springs up from behind a locker or something, and drags “Jessica” to her punishment.
In an exemplary lesson of pacing and drama, action switches to the basketball practice. Jessica is watching the uberjock Billie Layton sink basket after basket with ease. Sarah Thomas is aglow with praise for Billie’s talents, and pretty damn hard on Jessica’s indiscretions.
“I know she’s your sister and all,” Sarah (said), “but I think it was pretty selfish of Jessica to play hooky. She should be thankful that Billie came along when she did. Now at least we still have a chance at winning.”
I thought basketball was a team game? Why the hell is Jessica viewed as the holy fucking grail of basketball players, without whom the rest of the team hasn’t got a hope in hell. I mean, she’s not fucking Teen Wolf.
Back at Blackboard Washers Anonymous, Lila – not realising that Jessica is actually Elizabeth (years before Harry, Ron, Crabbe, Goyle and Polyjuice Potion) – bemoans the punishment. Elizabeth isn’t listening, as she’s too concerned about the DiNardo interview at Madame André’s dance studio (Fuck Madame André).
Suddenly, a wild Mr. Bowman appears! He’s not very effective!
Apparently, having learnt that no one has shown up for the DiNardo interview, he has concerns for Elizabeth’s safety. After all, it’s not like her to be irresponsible and shirk her commitments. He asks “Jessica” if she knows the whereabouts of her better half.
“Jessica” informs Mr. Bowman that “Elizabeth” is at basketball practice. Mr. Bowman dashes off to investigate, leaving “Jessica” to hope “Elizabeth” can muster a good explanation for her actions.
This is IN NO WAY confusing. [Dove: This is nothing. Just you wait until this twins start dating boy twins, who perform a twin switch, which our twins don’t like, so they twin switch too, so Jess-as-Elizabeth is dating Jessica’s boyfriend who is pretending to be Elizabeth’s boyfriend (which is exactly the same as Jessica dating her own boyfriend).] [Raven. Oh, I DO so hope I get to recap that gem.]
Back at basketball, Mr. Bowman questions “Elizabeth” about her inability to interview the world famous ballet dancer Kate DiNardo at Madame André’s ballet studio that afternoon. After overcoming her initial confusion, she apologises for neglecting her duties and asks if the interview can be rescheduled. Apparently, in brief flash of forward planning, Mr. Bowman has already rescheduled for later that afternoon. However, this means “Elizabeth” needs to leave practice a little early in order to meet DiNardo in her hotel room at 4pm.
Jessica is aghast at such an idea. She can’t miss practice, after all. Of course, she wouldn’t be Jessica without coming up with a solution… she dashes to Brooke Dennis, who is in line waiting to go into her Booster Tryout with Janet Howell and the rest of the Unicorns.
Jessica, in the guise of Elizabeth, beseeches Brooke to drop the tryouts in order to interview world-famous ballerina Kate DiNardo later that afternoon. The Unicorns aren’t happy, and tell Brooke in no uncertain terms that if she abandons her tryout she won’t be given a second chance.
“Hmmm… world famous ballerina interview, or Booster tryouts with a bunch of fucking idiots,” Brooke mused. “Whatever shall I choose?” She dropped a metaphorical mic with a flourish, flipping the bird to the gathered Unicorns. “Y’all can kiss my purple ass, you vacuous meddlesome slappers. Bag Dennis out!”
This might not be a direct quote.
Dashing to the exit, Brooke quizzes “Elizabeth” on proper interview etiquette and technique, Jessica, bless her dark heart, is trying her best to help.
“Um, well, bring a notebook and a pencil,” Jessica began. “And remember, Ms. DiNardo is a star, so ask her about the other famous people she’s met. Celebrities like to talk about that kind of thing.”
That’s wonderful. Nice work, Jamie Suzanne.
Brooke is happy to be part of the Sweet Valley Sixers. She invites Elizabeth to her house for dinner that Thursday, and she tells “Elizabeth” she’d much rather be a reporter than a Booster.
Jessica has done well, it seems. DiNardo will be placated, and the interview will be covered. The interview which is set to take place, as we all know, in DiNardo’s hotel room at 4pm sharp.
“Where do I go?” asked Brooke.
“Madame André’s dance studio,” answered Jessica.
You blew it, Jess.
(which, incidentally, sounds like a title of a Sweet Valley After Dark book.)
Later that evening, Jessica and Elizabeth make their separate way to the Wakefield Compound. Both are tired from exertion: Jessica from basketball, and Elizabeth from washing blackboards. Even though they are tired, they share the stories of the evening, and Elizabeth is impressed at how well Jessica handled the DiNardo situation. I doubt that will last. [Dove: And then I doubt her ensuing rage will last either. After all “Elizabeth could never stay mad at her twin.”]
Brooke meets Elizabeth outside school the following day, and tells her what happened. Even though she arrived in good time for the interview, Brooke discovered that Madame André’s dance studio was empty.
Predictably, once Brooke realised she was at the wrong venue for the interview, she called the Wakefield Compound to check on the details. Nobody was home. She even dashed back to the school, but everyone was gone. So she went to a restaurant with her father.
Dejected, the pair trudge to Mr Bowman’s office to clear things up. Mr. Bowman is livid, in a rather lacklustre Mr. Bowman way. He informs the girls the interview should have happened at world famous ballerina Kate DiNardo’s hotel room, and as she’d since left for San Diego there was no option of a do-over. And he is very clear on the consequences of this.
“Today is Wednesday. You have until Friday to have another article for me in place of the interview.”
Whatever would they do?
I’m all for setting goals and utilizing pressure, but I feel this deadline is a little ambitious.
And I’m surprised someone as organised as Elizabeth hasn’t a handful of non-time-sensitive articles stashed away for such an occasion.
Bad planning all round.
[Dove: Also, it’s not The Telegraph or anything. It’s a few pages specific to the sixth grade — it’s doesn’t even cover the whole middle school. Actually, on that note, why wasn’t Gazette 7&8 covering this ballet chick too, if she’s such a big deal?]
And who the fuck actively chooses to go to San Diego?
[Wing: I do. Regularly. Because I love it.]
After tearing Jessica a new asshole over her mistake, Elizabeth and Brooke brainstorm ideas for the emergency interview. They suggest:
- An interview with new girl and absolute weapon Billie Layton.
- An interview with Julie Porter’s dad, a once-famous conductor.
- An interview with Marvellous Marvin.
- An interview with Amy Sutton’s mother, a reporter for KSV-TV.
- Billie Layton is being interviewed by Amy already.
- Porter is working out of town.
- Marvellous Marvin is too ill to interview.
- Sutton is also working out of town.
Elizabeth suggests they interview Brooke’s dad, the famous screenwriter, neglecting the obvious expose they could write about Mr. Porter and Mrs. Sutton’s affair (“both working out of town”…? Yeah, right). Sadly, Mr. Dennis is ALSO out of town, which would make the whole Porter / Sutton affair a Porter / Sutton / Dennis sandwich, until you remember that Daddy Dennis is off filming with Kent Kellerman and won’t be back until Thursday night for dinner.
Thursday passes in a daze, with no new article topic in sight. In her frazzled state, Elizabeth decides to cancel on Brooke’s invitation to dinner, and calls the Dennis residence… to discover there will be a special dinner guest that evening who is perfect as an interview subject:
KENT FUCKING KELLERMAN!
Happily, Elizabeth dashes off to the dinner, leaving a very jealous Jessica in her dust. Jess, always looking for an angle, asks if she can come too, but the Elder Wakefields shut that shit down GOOD. She’s grounded for the Playing Hooky incident, after all.
The real Jessica Wakefield wouldn’t have taken no for an answer here.
I’m surprised she didn’t shimmy down the drainpipe, hot-foot it to the Dennis household, and flash Kent her padded bra through the dining-room window.
The following morning, Elizabeth gushes to her twin about Kent’s interview. Jessica pretends not to care, but is placated by a personalised signed photo of Kent Kellerman himself. Unfortunately for Jessica, he hasn’t got his cock out.
Elizabeth and Brooke deposit the interview, penned by Bag Dennis herself, with a gushing Mr. Bowman (Fuck Madame André, and Fuck Kate DiNardo too). In more good news for Brooke, Janet Howell has offered her another tryout for the Boosters, which shows they must be desperate if they are prepared to swallow that humble pie and invite her back.
It seems everything is coming up Milhouse. All that remains is the championship game…
In typical sporting fashion, the tension at the game is built and destroyed and built again. Jessica is masquerading as Elizabeth, and so starts on the reserves bench wile new girl Billie Layton shines. The scores go back and forth, with the opposing team getting the upper hand early.
Jessica, desperate to get into the action, finally gets on the court near the end of the second quarter. And things start going from bad to worse. The deficit is so bad that folk start leaving the building, including that good-for-nothing idiot Ken Matthews. I’ve gone off you, Ken. You used to be cool, but now you’re a bellend. [Dove: He gets worse.]
Naturally, this wouldn’t be a Sweet Valley twins book if everything didn’t come good in the final chapter. And lo, the incredible basketball sensation that is Jessica Wakefield, in the guise of Elizabeth Wakefield, manages to dominate the court and win the game for the greater glory of Sweet Valley Middle School’s sixth grade class!
Why weren’t the Elder Wakefields there to watch their progeny win a trophy?
I mean, they spunk over Steven’s achievements every goddamn week.
Is it because, if they were there with their foam hands and face-paint, they’d recognise Jessica on the team rather than Elizabeth, which would lead to some embarrassing questions all round?
Yay Plot Hole!
[Wing: They certainly didn’t care about twin magic during the ballet book, though.] [Raven: Fair point.]
All that’s left is the usual wrap-up.
- “Elizabeth” is named MVP, receives a trophy, and eventually bonds with super-jock Billie Layton.
- The REAL Elizabeth confesses to her parents and the Sweet Valley staff that she too played Hooky, and receives a week of Blackboard Washing duties with a clear conscience (she palms them off on Jessica, as well she should).
- And finally, there’s some insipid foreshadowing about Sarah, a classmate who hates weekends or something. Whatevs.
So, overall, plots that merged to form a super-plot, and plucky sports teams doing good. Plus miscellaneous hatred for ballerinas.
Decent, but nothing special.
This wasn’t too offensive, I feel. The whole Playing Hooky didn’t really feel like the focus of the book, and the various plots muddied things. I did enjoy the sports descriptions, but at the same time the actual “hookying” left me cold.
One particular gripe I had with this book was it seemed flabby, A lot of the sentences used five words when one would do, and a decent editor could’ve trimmed a chuck of change from this. Then again, it’s a mere pamphlet as it is, so I guess trimming more would make it a napkin.
Here’s hoping next month’s book is more engaging, for good or ill.
[Dove: Yep. This book never stays in my memory at all. I’m not sure if it’s because I skipped it on any read-throughs I did, finding it dull on the first reading, or if it’s so dull that it just won’t sink into my brain in any meaningful way. I honestly didn’t care much about it. It felt like filler. Except it was a book. Not as bad as ithig, but still, not much of a book. However, I adore the next book we’re doing.]
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.