Sweet Valley Twins #21: Left Behind

Sweet Valley Twins 21: Left Behind - Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 21: Left Behind – Jamie Suzanne

Title: Left Behind by Francine Pascal

Summary: Out in the cold…

Elizabeth Wakefield’s good friend, Sarah Thomas, is miserable. [Wing: Good friend? I don’t remember hearing a damn thing about her.] Her father is spending most of his time with his fiancée, Annie – a woman Sarah doesn’t like at all. She thinks Annie is just after her father’s money, but doesn’t know how to prove it without sounding like a jealous brat.

Some of Sarah’s friends begin to notice the change in her, and when Elizabeth asks her what’s wrong, Sarah just starts to cry. She desperately wants to tell Elizabeth the truth, but Annie has made her swear never to talk to anyone about her. If Annie is really as awful as Sarah thinks, can Elizabeth help her to come forward with the truth before it’s too late?

Tagline: How can Sarah win back her father’s attention? [Wing: Based on that cover, in a terrible, illegal way.]

Initial Thoughts

There is literally nothing about this book that makes me think this is going to go well. Is Annie abusing her? Because all that talk about Annie making Sarah promise not to talk to anyone about her sort of leans that way.

[Dove: I actually love this book. So much more than the one I recapped. Also, as pointed out on Shannon’s Sweet Valley blog, what the fuck has happened to Sarah’s left arm? What is seen cannot be unseen.] [Raven: That’s some creepy Samara shit right there.[Wing: Well fuck, I hadn’t noticed it at first, but now I can’t stop looking at it. I hate you.]


Elizabeth Wakefield is leaving school and enjoying the warm, beautiful Friday afternoon, when her best friend, Amy Sutton (so, not Jessica for the purposes of this book), hurries to catch up with her, along with Sarah Thomas. Amy wants to brag about how much everyone loves the latest edition of the Sweet Valley Sixers, the newspaper she and Elizabeth started together.

Elizabeth turns talk to their history project, which is due in less than two weeks and they haven’t even picked a subject yet. Amy still convinces Elizabeth to put it off until Monday, which doesn’t really sound like the Elizabeth we’ve come to know. But she agrees because she has a lot of plans over the weekend, as if she’s Jessica or something.

Sarah, meanwhile, hates weekends. When they ask why, she flinches and doesn’t answer. Elizabeth changes the subject after she sees how unhappy the topic makes Sarah, but this is doing nothing to alleviate my earlier child abuse concerns.

Elizabeth decides they can wait to start work until Monday, but they should choose their topic now, which Amy proclaims a good idea even though she literally just convinced them to put it off until Monday. Continuity? In mere paragraphs? I’m asking for too much, I see.

Amy suggests the (USA) Civil War; Elizabeth shoots it down because at least three groups are doing that, and a bunch of the boys are doing WWII. Amy then suggests Colonial America, which Elizabeth considers, but in the end, they settle on Sarah’s idea, which is the California gold rush and therefore is practically local history. In Sweet Valley, it’s a very different kind of gold rush.

Sarah gets excited and invites them to spend the night next Friday, so they can finish putting their project together then. Which is either really late to work on it or really early to finish it, depending on what that means.

Amy invites them over right then to have brownies (apparently, her mom makes the best brownies Elizabeth has ever had), but Sarah begs off, because she’s already late. She hurries away, and Amy thinks it is strange that she leaves so quickly. Elizabeth brushes it off as Sarah having other plans, and all thoughts of Sarah have disappeared when Jessica Wakefield runs up to them.

Requisite identical but different: Cloned bodies, malfunctioning personalities; matched paper dolls, souls on fire; surface similarities, but underneath, Jessica has acid for blood and Elizabeth rubber for a spine.

Even though the author literally just told us that Jessica hates school and writing and reading and such things, she stayed late to get the newest issue of the paper — oh, because it has an article about her beloved Unicorn Club. She thinks Elizabeth did a good job, but could have talked more about how special the club is. Elizabeth teases her about that, but Jessica, of course, takes it very seriously. At least she owns her obsessions.

Jessica is extra excited because Janet Howell wants to get together with her to talk about ideas for a big Unicorn party; whether or not it is true, Jessica told her that the article in the paper was all Jessica’s idea, and now Janet is impressed with her. In fact, she’s coming over to the Wakefield house after school, which — it is after school. And in fact, it is so long after school that Elizabeth was shocked to still see Jessica there. So did you leave Janet waiting for you, Jessica? Because that’s not going to go well for you. [Dove: Ok, that’s a lot of fail in the first few pages.] [Raven: Maybe Elizabeth was simply surprised to see Jessica at school in normal school hours, what with the recent hooky debacle.[Wing: Ha! Jessica better be careful, or she’ll spiral down into a life of crime stealing VCRs.]

She then freaks out because she needs to run home and straighten up her bedroom because it’s a mess. She doesn’t even ask Elizabeth for help or to borrow her room. Okay, kid, who are you and what have you done with the real Jessica?

As Elizabeth and Amy head to Amy’s house, Elizabeth goes back to wondering why Sarah’s weekends are so miserable.

Hop to Jessica, who is scrambling to get inside her house and then get upstairs and then clean her room. She doesn’t want to straighten up, but she wants to impressed Janet, so she hurries through it. Janet arrives sooner than expected because she’s so excited to hear Jessica’s ideas even if she is only a sixth grader.

Jessica is relieved that they beat Steven to the oatmeal cookies their mother left for them. Janet asks whether Steven is home, which sounds like a pretty good sign as to why she’s really sucking up to Jessica right now.

They brainstorm party ideas. They’ve had plenty of pool and costume parties, and Janet wants something new. Jessica suggests a luau, because she saw a great show on TV about a traditional Hawaiian feast.


Also, that is basically a pool party + a costume party, so not really different at all.

They could wear leis and play Hawaiian music, and maybe borrow an old ukulele from Ned. Janet wants to know where they’d get leis, because flowers are expensive and it would take hours and hours to make. Jessica shrugs this off with one of the most self-aware statements we’ve yet seen in this series: Planning was her specialty not carrying out the details.

With that in mind, she suggests they form a decoration committee and get other Unicorns (Ellen, Tamara, and maybe Grace) to do the work. Pure Jessica, and I love it.

Janet thinks that’s a great idea, of course, and says that she noticed some big palm trees in their backyard. She wants to have the party at the Wakefield house, which makes Jessica thrilled by the “unexpected honor.” Oh, lord, this is going to be ridiculous.

(ALSO, Sweet Valley is fucking full of palm trees. You are not being subtle, Janet.) [Dove: She doesn’t need to be. Jessica’s not exactly brimming with awareness.]

They talk about food, and Jessica is sad that Ned won’t let them dig a hole in the yard to roast a pig, and Janet doesn’t like pork anyway. Which is actually a shame, because kālua pig is one of the greatest foods ever, but also, Sweet Valley probably wouldn’t appreciate it enough. [Raven: They could pop to L&L for some Mac Salad…?[Wing: I have such cravings now, as does Ostrich, I’m sure. And if he doesn’t, I’m going to go describe it to him until he does.]

Jessica also thinks this means that Janet will recommend her for Unicorn Club president when she graduates from middle school. Brace yourself, Jessica, that is many many many many recap years Christmases books away. [Dove: Even I don’t know if that happens. No spoilers. Spoilers are pointless in this series, everything gets ret-conned a book later anyway.]

They talk about the party until it is almost dark, and even then, Janet seems reluctant to leave. When they hear someone in the kitchen, Janet suggests it is Steven, but it turns out to be Alice, who is, of course, making dinner. God forbid Ned or Steven do shit like that.

Alice has never met Janet before, but welcomes her and invites her to stay for dinner, which will be pork chops and scalloped potatoes. Janet’s eyes light up, but Jessica saves her the embarrassment of having to say no (because that’s exactly what she’s thinking right now) and says that she can’t. Once they’re outside, Jessica reassures Janet that she remembered Janet didn’t like pork, but Janet seems put out by this and wants to know where the rest of the Wakefields are. Subtle, Janet. She’s unhappy when Jessica finally says that Steven is probably still at basketball practice, and then suggests that they meet one more time to work out the details; of course they will have to meet at the Wakefields again because Janet’s family is having their kitchen painted and her mother doesn’t want anyone in the house. She also doesn’t want to talk in Jessica’s room for privacy, because she doesn’t mind the other Wakefields around, and maybe Steven will have some good ideas.

Good lord, Janet, I thought you were supposed to be so sophisticated and cool. You are being ridiculous and completely unsubtle. [Raven: Sophisticated and cool to a twelve-year-old… Janet isn’t Audrey Hepburn.]

Jessica, of course, notices nothing, and is even feeling happy enough she doesn’t complain when Alice asks her to set the table.

Back to Elizabeth, who is shocked to see how happy Jessica is when she had to do “all the chores” by herself, which would be rich considering all she did was set the table. (To be fair, in Jessica’s mind, that would be all the chores woe is me.)

At dinner, Jessica bubbles over with excitement about the upcoming luau. No one else is as impressed as Jessica wants them to be that Janet asked her to plan the next party. Elizabeth tries to help her explain how important Janet is, even though Elizabeth doesn’t actually much like the Unicorns. The Wakefields agree to host the party, though Ned adds the stipulation that all the preparation won’t fall on Alice’s shoulders, which shows that for once, he understands how Jessica, at least, operates.

Jessica then puts her foot in it by saying she’ll do work, but no one said anything about Elizabeth being involved. Her parents shut this down immediately, which is more parenting than they usually show, and when Jessica tries to get her own way by saying that Elizabeth doesn’t even like the Unicorns (which is true), they add that Elizabeth can invite some of her own friends. Jessica is aghast at this (mere mortals breathing the same air and eating the same food as the Unicorns? THE NERVE!), but the Wakefields ignore her complaints.

Jessica is too bummed to even be happy about chocolate pudding, and instead tries to figure out a way to convince her parents that Elizabeth shouldn’t come to the party — and for that matter, how she can convince Elizabeth. So much for the twins always being best friends. [Raven: Yeah, this “not wanting Elizabeth to come” thing was pretty ridiculous, even for Jessica. And this is a series that has Liz talking to Tom fucking Sawyer.[Wing: I just laughed so hard I choked. Again. Raven is trying to kill me.]

The next morning, Jessica and Elizabeth are going to the skating rink, and they can each invite one friend. Even though Jessica had been planning to take Lila (allegedly her other best friend, and often terrible and awesome), now she’s thinking about asking Janet instead. Of course, Jessica has an excuse, because Lila said she might go shopping instead.

Elizabeth, of course, invited Amy, but not because Amy is allegedly her other best friend, but because she’s a great skater.

But then disaster struck! Or at least disaster in Sweet Valley. Amy calls and says that she can’t go skating because she has to watch the neighbor’s kid. I mean, you could have said that you already had plans, but okay, Amy. Convenient. Elizabeth then thinks about Julie, but she’s out of town, so of course she settles on Sarah, the sad little friend du jour who needs Elizabeth to save her.

Sarah says she’d love to go, but her dad is out and she doesn’t have a way to get to the rink. Saint Elizabeth promises they will pick her up and also, they’re paying for it, so there’s no problem taking Sarah.

At the rink, Jessica struggles with a knot in her laces while everyone else is ready to go. Elizabeth helps her fix it, of course, and then Jessica and Janet start skating together.

Sarah and Elizabeth talk a little, and Sarah drops the bomb that her dad has been forgetful ever since her mom died. Elizabeth had no idea. Some friends, huh? Sarah tears up when she talks about how her dad used to spend a lot of time together right after her mom died, but ever since Annie came in the picture, her dad has been spending very little time with Sarah. Annie acts nice to Sarah when her dad is around, but not when they’re alone, and Sarah is freaked out because they’re getting married in a few months.

Elizabeth suggests that she really does like Sarah but maybe doesn’t know how to show it, but Sarah says they used to have a lot of fun together, because Annie is young and pretty and likes the same music Sarah does, and they used to hang out and do makeup and have fun, but now Annie criticises everything Sarah does, from spilling popcorn to walking too slow or running too fast. That sounds absolutely miserable. [Dove: Annie deserves a kick in the sponge.]

Hop to Jessica, who is skating slowly with Janet, even though she much prefers to go fast, and Steven has taught her a lot of fancy stuff. When she mentions him, Janet, of course, lights up and wants to know if he’ll come to the rink, but Jessica points out he’s a basketball fanatic now and is at the park. Janet is disappointed and flat out says that Jessica should have told her because she thought the entire family was coming. Damn, Janet, you have zero chill.

Janet waves off Jessica’s questions and suggests they get something to drink; Jessica is disappointed because she’s hoping someone from school will see her skating with Janet, but also, Jessica fucking love skating. Still, they go get drinks, and run into Bruce Patman, Rick Hunter, and Danny Jacobson, along with a fourth boy Jessica doesn’t know. A boy Jessica hasn’t already clocked? He must not be that cute.

Oh, nope, he is good looking, she decides, even though she still hasn’t gotten his name. She thinks the boys will be impressed because she’s hanging out with Janet, but they don’t seem to care a bit, because they are too busy with the arcade games. Which are truly the best, so I don’t blame them. (Ask Dove about the time she kicked everyone’s ass knocking down blow up clowns.) [Dove: *polishes fingernails like it’s 1982 and that move is still cool*]

Jessica changes her order to match Janet, too (she wants lemonade, but gets cherry cola because Janet does; she wants popcorn, but since Janet doesn’t like it, they get nachos instead [I’m with Janet on this one]), and she decides that making Janet think she was mature and sophisticated is really hard work. Well no shit, Jessica. Just be your damn self. [Raven: Popcorn is chewy crunchy cardboard evil.]

But then Janet starts gossiping with her, and Jessica knows it is all worth it. No it’s not, Jessica. It’s really not.

Hop to Sarah’s head as she’s being dropped off back at home. She’s reluctant to go inside because she’s afraid Annie is there, and sure enough, she is. Annie is supposed to be shopping with Sarah’s dad, but he got called into work and so she is home. She’s also grumpy because all he does is work. Look, if you want to be a trophy wife, you put up with that kind of thing.

Sarah even thinks that she doesn’t like her dad working, but she sure loves spending his money (she’s wearing a large diamond and ruby ring with matching earrings and a brand new sweater from the most expensive boutique in the mall. UMM. A mall is not necessarily where you’d shop if you were super rich, but sure, this is Sweet Valley logic). [Dove: My home town only had one high street clothing store, the rest were designer boutiques. The kind that make you feel fat, ugly and poor just by gazing in their stark window display housing only a single scarf that costs more than your yearly earnings. That’s where you spend money, Annie.[Wing: Exactly. They’re close enough to LA that she should be shopping at Rodeo Drive.]

Annie left the breakfast dishes on the table, and Sarah ends up cleaning the entire kitchen, just in time for her dad to come home. Annie has quickly cleaned up the mess of nail polish and magazines that she was basking in, so Mr Thomas will never know what she was doing. He’s done with his business for the moment, but he has to leave on Monday to go to Texas to straighten some accounts. Sarah is immediately anxious about it, and even moreso when he says he’ll be away for an entire week, because she misses him a lot when he’s home, much less when he’s traveling. She wants to know if her aunt is coming to stay, but nope. He wants Annie to take care of her because she’ll be moving in soon and they need to get to know each other better. If they don’t know each other that well, why the fuck are you bringing someone new into the house? Single parents dating have to be super careful of the people they bring in to interact with their kids. Be more careful, dude. Damn. [Raven: Yet more proof of the complete uselessness of the Sweet Valley adult population.]

Annie wants to go to dinner at a sushi place she loves, but Sarah doesn’t want it. Mr Thomas says that Annie took good care of the house while Sarah was out with her friends, so of course Annie can pick dinner. Annie also wants to go to a rated R movie after dinner, and says they can just drop Sarah back at the house. Sarah hates staying there alone at night, and her dad knows it; this time he stands firm and says they can find a movie they all like.

Back to the Wakefields. Steven teases Jessica that the only reason she likes hanging out with Janet is because it gives her more guys to pick from. That’s not entirely true, but would be fitting considering why Janet wants to hang out with Jessica. Jessica responds that she can’t help it that older boys find her interesting, it’s because she’s so grown up for her age. UMM. JESSICA. This is maybe not what you want to remind your parents of when it comes to you and dating.

There’s some more bickering/bantering that I don’t care about enough to recap, and it doesn’t really add much to the story after we’ve already seen, and then we skip back to Sarah, who is watching her dad leave for the airport.

She answers the phone as she’s getting ready to leave for school; it is a man asking for Annie. She grabs the other extension and tells Sarah to hang up immediately. She then tells Sarah that only she will be answering the phone from now on, and also that her little sister’s very sick and her aunt can’t take care of her alone, so she’s going to have to go herself. [Raven: Poor Annie. I hope she’ll be okay.]

Sarah says she’s sorry about her sister and that she hopes she feels better, then asks if Annie will be home for dinner; Annie snaps that she’ll have to spend the night. Sarah is freaked out that she has to stay alone overnight, and begs to go with her, but Annie claims she doesn’t want to get her sick, too, and that she should stop worrying because nothing is going to happen to her overnight.

This sounds like child endangerment whether or not there is an age limit on when you can leave kids alone overnight in California. (Some states have that law, some states don’t.)

This is especially sketchy when Annie tells her not to tell her father that she’s gone because it will just ruin his business trip. PRETTY SURE THIS IS SOMETHING YOUR FATHER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT, GODDAMN.

Jessica has to face an angry Lila Fowler who is pissed that Jessica took someone else skating. Jessica points out that Lila said she might go shopping so she had to ask someone else, and Lila knows all about that, because Bruce told her that he saw Jessica and Janet. And Janet doesn’t even like to skate! The horror! [Raven: Gotta love Lila. You know the Ice Rink mysteriously burned down a few days later.[Wing: Randomly, a friend of mine just posted about his hockey game being paused due to a fire alarm at the ice rink, and the teams were sent to the benches because off the ice is clearly the safest place to be during a fire. Also, this is not an ice rink, even though that’s what I keep picturing, but a regular skating rink.]

She doesn’t understand why Lila is angry, and Lila bursts out that she’s supposed to be Jessica’s best friend. WELL ACTUALLY — you know, never mind. I’m bored of point out the inconsistencies of the best friend thing.

They snip at each other a little, and then Jessica tells Lila that the whole world doesn’t revolve around her. WELL GODDAMN. That is some shit. Lila accuses her of only wanting to get closer to Janet because she’s older and president of the Unicorns. Jessica denies it, but blushes guiltily.

Unfortunately for them, Caroline Pearce is watching this fight (and wants to know if they’re going to start pulling each other’s hair; Caroline, your interest in gossip is starting to seem a little prurient), and Jessica is upset that the whole school will know now. Lila snaps that it’s her fault for being so inconsiderate and stomps away.

Jessica thinks about how selfish Lila is and then rushes off to try to find Janet before class.

Back to Sarah (you know, allegedly the A plot, but it is taking backseat to Jessica’s plot often), who spends extra time at school working on that history project with Elizabeth and Amy, but finally has to go home alone. She wishes she could spend the night somewhere else, but no one is allowed to have friends sleep over on a school night. That seems weird, considering how much other stuff everyone gets away with all the time. [Dove: And the fact that several times during the series, they’re allowed to have friends sleep over mid-week. Possibly not in the books we’ve covered yet, so I’ll give Sarah that, but later I know it does happen.]

Her dad calls to let her know he’s in Dallas (if he’s only just calling, that is one long damn flight. What’d you do, go to Dallas via Newark? [Dove: Too soon, Wing.]), and that he’ll be on the road a lot so it will be hard for him to check in with her. She thinks about what Annie said, and says that everything is fine and she misses him. When he asks to speak to Annie, she scrambles to cover for her, and settles on saying that she’s in the shower.

The phone rings again as soon as they hang up, and for a brief moment, she hopes her father heard the unhappiness in her voice and decided to come home — but nope, it is just her aunt. (After her mother died, her aunt suggested that Mr Thomas send Sarah to live with her in Denver; he refused, and Sarah is glad, because while she loves her aunt, she didn’t want to lose her father. Except that’s exactly how it feels now.) They talk a bit, and her aunt picks up on how unhappy she is, and again says she’s welcome to come visit and stay in Denver for awhile. Prooooobably not without her father’s permission, though if the aunt found out about Sarah being left home alone…

When they hang up, Sarah is feeling terrible, because lying to everyone is hard and it leaves her feeling guilty and uneasy. UGH. This poor girl. I feel so very sorry for her. She tries to go about her night (dinner, dishes, homework), but every little noise makes her jump, she checks the locks often, and she turns on lights all over the house.

The cover image is actually of Sarah clinging to her two favorite stuffed animals (an ancient teddy bear and a large gold lion) while she tries to sleep, alone and scared. She doesn’t manage to sleep at all, and doesn’t know how she’s going to get through the school day, but knows it is better than staying alone in the big house.

[Dove: This is where I love Sarah. Because I was her age when I had to stay home alone overnight too, and I did the same thing – get through the day just fine when it was light, and then panic like hell in the dark. People thought I was really “cool” for being “trusted” to be home alone overnight, but I was panicking just like Sarah.[Wing: I do like that the book never went to everyone around her thinking about how cool it is that she’s left alone, because it’s actually abusive shit.]

She has to fight falling asleep in Mr Nydick’s history class, and not for the reason Raven will think, but because even though she likes him, his low voice lulls her to sleep. [Raven: Ah, the Cosby Technique. Smooth.[Wing: And you said my comment was too soon, Dove.]

At lunch, Elizabeth is worried about her, but Sarah waves it off as a headache, which is the truth, but not the whole truth. Elizabeth suggests she go to the nurse, but Sarah realises that the school will call her dad, and she doesn’t want that to happen, so she’ll push on through.

Elizabeth talks to Jessica about how she’s worried about Sarah, but Jessica is not really listening because she’s thinking too hard about the party and how she wishes Janet had come over to help plan it. Elizabeth snaps at her for not paying attention to her concerns, Jessica accuses her of being jealous of her friendship with Janet, just like Lila, and Elizabeth calls her boring, then tells her she’ll be sorry if she drops all her other friends. This is going well.

Jessica storms out and heads for Janet’s house, but Janet is not terribly pleased to see Jessica. Jessica asks if the painters are done, because she can’t smell any fresh paint, and Janet says they had to measure the dining room, even though previously she said the kitchen was being painted. Janet waves off that stumble when Jessica catches it, and says she still can’t have guests over. Jessica says she just wants to talk about the party, and Janet immediately offers to come over to the Wakefield house. Of course she does.

Janet keeps asking whether Steven will be home and when he’ll be home, while Jessica talks about the party plans. Steven is home when they get there, and he’s eaten all the cookies. Of course he has. Janet immediately starts flirting with him, trying to catch his attention, and Jessica keeps shooting her down because her compliments are just going to give him an even bigger head. Jessica: World’s Greatest Cock Block.

AND THEN. Janet invites Steven to the party, but before she can even tell him the date, he says he’s busy and makes his excuses to leave. She’s upset, and says that there’s no point to having the party of Steven won’t come (dirty), and Jessica FINALLY figures out that Janet wasn’t interested in Jessica or her ideas at all, but has a crush on Steven. She claims that is a sneaky trick, which is both hilarious and hypocritical coming from JESSICA SNEAKY WAKEFIELD. [Dove: No way, I’m with Jess here. Jessica can do what she likes, but we all know she’ll cut a bitch for pulling the same thing. And that’s how the universe operates.] [Raven: Yup. Alongside a physical double, our Jess has double standards too!]

Janet snaps at that, and says Jessica should feel honored because it’s not every day she listens to the childish ideas of a sixth grader. WELP. This has fallen apart. Jessica threatens to take her great ideas away from the Unicorns, Janet says they’ll get along fine without her, and Jessica threatens to resign from the Unicorns because she doesn’t need such a sneaky bunch anyway. While this is a totally understandable reaction, it is also so fucking hypocritical that it makes me laugh.

Skip back to Sarah, who is for once excited that Annie will be home, but she waits until 11 p.m. before she gives up. Again, she spends the night terrified and unable to sleep. On Wednesday, she doesn’t even get cleaned up before going to school, and walks through her day in a fog.

At lunch, Elizabeth again starts worrying about Sarah, because she’s not listening to their ideas about the history project at all (aren’t they supposed to be nearly done at this point?), but before she can follow up on that, Jessica comes to sit with her, because she doesn’t want to sit with the Unicorns now that she may really have to resign from the club. Lila’s still angry at her, and Janet’s not talking to her either. Jessica whines to them awhile (with good reason), Elizabeth and Amy focus on her, and Sarah is forgotten. Poor dear girl.

That afternoon, she falls asleep in Ms Wyler’s math class. When she won’t admit that she feels bad, Ms Wyler decides that she’s just playing jokes, and gets angry at her. Elizabeth checks on her, but she says there’s nothing going on, because she doesn’t dare tell Elizabeth the truth.

After school, the house is still empty, and Sarah can’t remember whether she’s supposed to meet Elizabeth and Amy that day or some other day. She falls asleep, and when she’s woken by the phone, she gasps out for Annie as she answers; it is Aunt Lillian, who again is concerned there is something wrong.

Sarah’s too tired to eat, too tired to work on her homework. Finally, Annie calls, and is annoyed when Sarah asks when she’s coming home and says that she’s been worried about her. Annie is still not coming home, and in fact is going to stay “with her sister” until Saturday. Jesus, woman. Sarah sobs and sobs, even when Annie is nasty to her. Annie shames her, and says at her age, she stayed all alone and took care of her younger brothers and sisters after her parents died.

After the call, Sarah is feeling worse than ever. She also realises that she’d better tell Elizabeth and Amy they can’t sleep over on Friday night like planned, because she can’t let anyone know she’s alone, because Annie has convinced her not to tell her father. He doesn’t need to be worried. Oh, Sarah, darling, you poor girl.

She has to leave a message for Amy, but Elizabeth is sympathetic and, in fact, says they can spend the night at the Wakefield house on Friday instead. This makes Sarah feel a little better, because she just has to spend two more nights alone, and then she will be with Elizabeth.

On Friday, Jessica is still freaking out because she and Lila haven’t made up and there’s a Unicorn meeting after school. She’s terrified that she will actually have to resign, and she can’t imagine not being a Unicorn. Even though Elizabeth doesn’t understand what is so important about being in the club, she knows it is very important to Jessica, and so she tries to comfort her, which is actually a decent move.

All well and good until this happens:

Elizabeth shook her head. It was obvious nothing was going to make Jessica feel any better right now. “I hope it turns out OK, Jess. But you know you’re still my best friend, whatever happens.”

“That won’t help if I can’t be a Unicorn anymore,” Jessica said.

Elizabeth didn’t know whether to be angry or amused. It was just like Jessica not to consider her feelings. But she could never stay annoyed at her twin for long.

Why such a damn doormat, Elizabeth?

But then Jessica goes and gives Lila an actually good apology, and they make up, which is great. I love their friendship (when the ghost writer remembers to make them friends).

Elizabeth and Amy are super worried about Sarah, who has dark circles under her eyes, uncombed hair, and a messy outfit. (Which includes “slightly wrinkled” jeans. UMM. That is not actually messy, that is normal.)

Jessica is shocked as they head to the Unicorn meeting, because Janet has told them Jessica’s ideas for the luau, and they all love it, and think it will be the best Unicorn party ever. And then Janet even apologises to Jessica. Good grief, things are wrapping up quickly with this side plot. (Janet does also suggest Jessica tell Steven he’s still invited, and Jessica agrees to it, even though she’s trying not to laugh.) [Raven: Thank fuck the B Plot is going away, it’s so much nonsense. And Jessica is only laughing at Janet’s crush because she knows that Steven is all hers.[Wing: … good point. #alwayswiththeincest]

Sarah goes home, is too nervous to eat or relax, so instead she packs her bag and hides in her room until it is time for Elizabeth to pick her up. Except then she hears a loud noise from the bottom floor, and she freaks out, goes to see what it is, and falls down the stairs. She hits her head hard and lands heavily on her right foot.

Turns out, her textbooks fell off the table, and that’s what made the noise. In another situation, she would have found it funny, but she’s in too much pain, she can’t stand up, and she gets dizzy when she moves her head. All she can do is lie there and cry.

Elizabeth and Ned pick up Amy first and then head to Sarah’s, but of course no one answers. Elizabeth knows something is wrong, and peeks through a window. She’s terrified when she sees Sarah at the bottom of the stairs. Again, a reasonable response.

The front door is locked, of course, so Ned breaks the glass with a rock, but he can’t climb in through the window he breaks because he’s too big. He doesn’t want Elizabeth to get hurt by the broken glass, but she convinces him to let her climb through. Instead of unlocking the door first, she checks on Sarah to make sure she’s breathing, which is understandable if not exactly logical.

Ned calls an ambulance, and then tries to figure out where Mr Thomas works. Elizabeth doesn’t know, but Ned conveniently finds a plaque on the wall in the foyer, an award for fifteen years at Trim Fit Clothes given to Robert Howard Thomas. Ned calls the clothing company, but can only get the security guard by the time the ambulance arrives.

The medics need a consent form signed from a parent before they can treat her, which seems unlikely in the event of an emergency like this, but okay. Ned now knows that Mr Thomas is in Texas. Ned wants to drop Elizabeth and Amy at the house before he goes to the hospital, but they want to come with him, because they’re so worried about Sarah.

Turns out the biggest issue is the concussion, which Dove should be pleased about, considering how much she hates characters just walking off a concussion, but she also has cuts and bruises and two broken bones in her foot. [Dove: Also, this would have killed Sarah if she hadn’t been found. It doesn’t say that in this book, but it does mention it in a later book. So yes, the concussion has been respected. Even slightly over-sold. Dove is pleased.]

Again Ned wants to take Elizabeth and Amy home, but Elizabeth begs to stay so there will be a friendly face around if Amy wakes up. Not sure you’d actually be given updates when you’re not family or allowed to stay overnight, but whatever, again, letting it go because I don’t have time to research what the laws were at the time.

Elizabeth wakes the next morning to Mr Thomas demanding to see her daughter. Ned talks to him for awhile, and then they have an update. Sarah is still unconscious, and Mr Thomas is struggling to understand how she was hurt and why Annie hasn’t been there with them in the hospital. He assumes someone must have broken in and that Annie is hurt somewhere, too. Oh, Mr Thomas. You are terrible. [Dove: Mr Thomas is a fucking moron.] [Raven: I honestly think that once a Sweet Valley Resident reaches the age of eighteen, they are forced to submit to an internment camp on the edge of town for “Idiocy Retraining”, which likely involves repetitive pain coupled with video coverage of clown pratfalls.]

Sarah conveniently wakes up then, and cries to her dad about how scared she was to be all alone; when he asks about Annie, she says she can’t tell because she promised. He reassures her she can tell him anything, and she finally breaks down and says that Annie had to go because her little sister was sick, and that she’s been gone since Monday. [Raven: Good on ya, girl.]

Mr Thomas is confused and alarmed. Really, he should be flipping his shit right now.

Ned tries to herd Elizabeth and Amy out of the hospital, but not before they hear him talking to someone about Annie. Turns out, she doesn’t even have a younger sister and she hasn’t been home at all. [Raven: I AM SHOCKED. SHOCKED, I TELL YOU.]

Elizabeth slowly puts on her jacket, blatantly eavesdropping and hoping he will tell them what’s going on. I can’t even blame her for this. I’d be damn curious, too. As this is happening, Annie rushes in, because she found the note Ned left at the house. She immediately says it wasn’t her fault, because that’s the first thing she should worry about if she’s really trying to pretend she cares about Sarah.

She gives him the same sob story, but he’s having none of it. He talked to her older sister, Annie hasn’t been there in weeks AND she’s actually the youngest child. He’s also furious that she hasn’t bothered to ask how Sarah is doing.

Elizabeth thinks that Annie sounds just like Jessica having a tantrum.

There’s more fighting, though Mr Thomas isn’t nearly as furious with her as I think he should be, especially considering he flat out says that Sarah could have died. Which is true, and he’s way too chill for it. [Dove: Oh, ok, it does mention it in this book – sort of. He said “could”, the other book confirms “would”.[Wing: I am just amazed that there is not only continuity later, but also it continues to treat concussions as they big deal they actually are.]

And then Aunt Lillian turns up, because Sarah’s been sounding terrible. She demands to know whether Mr Thomas left her all alone, and he has to tell the story about how he trusted Annie to be there with her. Aunt Lillian snaps that he doesn’t deserve Sarah and if he can’t take proper care of her, she’d be better off living with her aunt. Elizabeth and Amy are worried about what will happen to Sarah now, but I wouldn’t worry. Very unlikely the aunt will get her taken away.

Sarah’s at home recovering when Elizabeth comes to visit her. She’s tired of being stuck in bed, but she’s glad that she made up with her dad. Still worried, though, because Aunt Lillian is furious with Mr Thomas (as she should be!), and Sarah doesn’t want to go live with her. Of course, Sarah hasn’t actually told her that, because she doesn’t want to hurt her aunt’s feelings. Have you learned nothing about speaking up, Sarah?

Elizabeth convinced the Unicorns to make Sarah the guest of honor at the luau, and when she leaves Sarah alone, she’s feeling very pleased with herself and happy that things have turned out so well for Sarah. (And sure enough, Sarah gets to stay.)

Jessica gives Elizabeth all the gossip, which I’m sure is setting up a future book or two:

Lila was telling me all the latest gossip, Lizzie. Did you know Ellen Riteman just got a new horse?” she said. “A beautiful Arabian named Snow White. And did you hear that Mrs. Waldron is having her niece, Ginny Lu, come and stay with her? She comes from Tennessee. She probably lives on some mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. Boy, will she be impressed with Sweet Valley. I bet she’s never even seen a television!

Sure enough, the teaser for the next book immediately sets up Ginny Lu: Will Ginny Lu be accepted by her classmates? Find out in Sweet Valley Twins 22 Out of Place. Goody. So looking forward to that snobby west coast city dwellers dealing with the country bumpkin they assume anyone from “flyover country” must be.

Final Thoughts

I spent a great deal of time feeling sorry for Sarah, but not understanding why Annie, whom she doesn’t even like, convinced her not to tell her father anything. Or Aunt Lillian. Or her friends. She’s alone and terrified! How did she not talk to anyone about it? The side plot with Jessica and Janet and the party was also fairly boring, mostly because it is way too clear as the reader what is happening, and Jessica takes forever to figure it out. In short, not the greatest book, not the worst. Fairly boring overall, really.

[Dove: I really like this book, but then again, I like Sarah, and identify with her being alone. The b-plot was, as Wing says, really obvious, and it made me crave a ham and pineapple pizza. I’m sure at some point we get a book where the Unicorns are not total assholes.  But not the next book. Absolutely not the next book.]

[Raven: I too enjoyed this book. I felt real empathy for Sarah, who got the shitty end of what came across as a very believable stick. Annie can fuck right off. And I actually enjoyed that Sarah DIDN’T immediately cave, and did her best to keep Annie’s secret. To me, this made her much more sympathetic, becuase she was keeping a promise made evein if it was to a complete nozzle. Annie’s comeuppance was a satisfying payoff, and it was nice to have an actual Baddie to boo and hiss at. Decent!]

[Wing: Yeah, it was fine to read, even the boring b plot, but it won’t stick with me much (beyond the shock of how they treated concussions!), and I clearly didn’t love it as much as the others. I did like Sarah quite a bit, which is par for the course for me. I always like the side characters significantly better than the Wakefields.]