Sweet Valley Twins #22: Out of Place

Sweet Valley Twins 22: Out of Place - Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 22: Out of Place – Jamie Suzanne

Title: Out of Place

Tagline: Is there room at Sweet Valley for an outsider? [Dove: No. Absolutely not. Not even if she’s white.]

Summary: Ginny Lu Culpepper had such high hopes for her life in Sweet Valley. But after just one day of being ridiculed by her new classmates, she’s beginning to wish she was back home in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Then Elizabeth Wakefield comes to her rescue. Ginny Lu realizes that being different doesn’t have to be bad. Being different makes her quite special.

Even Elizabeth’s twin sister, Jessica, is willing to help Ginny Lu – especially when it will mean getting herself out of a jam at the same time. But how can the twins convince the other kids to give the new girl a chance?

Initial Thoughts:

Don’t wanna. Don’t wanna. DON’T WANNA.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not as bad as some books (Class Trip, I’m eyeballing you right now), but it’s just not good either. In all honesty, I’d have been happier doing Left Behind. This is just stupid. The only reason I didn’t ask for a swap was because this is a horse book, and I get them (just like Wing gets adoption, and Raven gets… whatever Wing and I are actively trying to avoid). [Raven: Thanks for that.]

As an indication of how much I don’t want to do this: since opening this document, I have re-organised my “rock” folder in my music, including re-naming all of my Aerosmith songs, and finding HD cover artwork for them. While I was at it, I updated the settings of Mp3tag, so if I need to update anything else with the specific settings I used for “The Very Best of Aerosmith”, then I have them saved.

Side note: If, like me, every time you listen to Crazy by Aerosmith, you wonder just how high Steven Tyler’s range is, well, here’s a breakdown of all the best singers.

What do you mean I’m shirking? Oh, all right, let’s get on with this.

tl;dr: DON’T WANNA.


We open to a beautiful sunny morning in the swellest place in the gosh-darned universe, Sweet Valley. Jessica is bouncing off the walls in an attempt to get to school early because Janet Howell asked her to meet her there, which means she’s forgiven Jessica for the fact that Janet had an unrequited crush on the human dumpster, Steven Wakefield.

On the walk to school, the twins bump into Ellen Riteman (note: on the podcast, I say this as “reet-man”. Never not going to do that. Not even sorry), who asserts that today is the day that Mrs Waldron’s niece, Ginny Lu Culpepper, is joining Sweet Valley Middle School. Also, she’s a hillbilly, so we should round up the villagers and burn this little redneck at the stake.

Elizabeth is like, “Huh, don’t burn the hillbilly, I want to interview her for my deathly boring newspaper,” and Ellen’s like, “Have you met me? I’m a Unicorn! This bitch will be committing suicide before lunch.”

Side note: Mrs Waldron is apparently “one of Elizabeth’s favorite teachers”. Since we’ve never heard this fact before, I’m guessing Elizabeth’s favourite teachers include literally everyone except Nydick.

And we skip to Social Studies with Mrs Arnette, and I’m just going to let you drink this in.

“Yoo-hoo! Excuse me!” a loud voice twanged from just inside the doorway. Mrs. Arnette stopped in mid-sentence and spun around to glare at the intruder.

Standing at the door was a tall, thin girl, with dark brown eyes and thick, red, braids. She was wearing a puff-sleeved green dress with a full, billowing skirt. On her feet were thick green knee socks and worn brown leather shoes.

“I’m sorry to just bust in like this,” the girl said, “but I’m looking for my aunt Barbara.”

“It’s her,” Ellen Riteman announced loudly from the back of the room. “The hillbilly!”

Ignoring Ellen’s comment, Mrs. Arnette went on. “Now see here, young lady, this is a classroom!”

“Well, heck, I know that!” the girl said. “My aunt Barbara Waldron teaches science here. I’m Ginny Lu Culpepper. Y’see, Aunt Barbara was supposed to meet me at the bus depot,” Ginny Lu explained, “but we got in early, so I decided to come straight here.”

You see, she doesn’t know that knocking on the door is required, or that yelling “Yoo-hoo” into a quiet room is bad form. Because she’s from the country.

Ginny Lu Culpepper makes a quiet and dignified entrance
Ginny Lu Culpepper makes a quiet and dignified entrance

She’s just a product of her raisin’, she says “hey y’all” and “yee-haw”. [Raven: Pardon me for being ever so English, but is this actually a thing in America? Hasn’t culture become a little more homogenised as the planet shrinks, what with the internet and all? Like, do cartoon rednecks actually exist? I see this nonsense as a Tarzan tale, or the antiquated story of an undiscovered tribe from the darkest jungle area meeting civilisation for the first time… absolute hogwash. I suppose, as “rednecks” don’t exist in their pure form over here in the UK, the only parallel might be an incredibly posh kid going to a local comprehensive school, but even THEN the differences wouldn’t be stark at all. Maybe just slightly better shoes.]

[Wing: Well, yes and no. This is obviously a terribly written stereotypical presentation from someone who likely has never met anyone from the southern USA in their life and I want to stab a pencil into their eye. However, there are still a huge number of cultural differences across the country, and definitely in pockets like Appalachia. Not a ton of homogenisation here. There are definitely rednecks, and definitely hillbillies, and definitely southerners, and sometimes those categories overlap and sometimes not, but all are often treated as pure stereotypes in media, as here. Did I mention I want to stab a pencil into the author’s eye?]

Ellen gets up, pretending to sharpen her pencil [Wing: It’s very kind of you to sharpen that for me, because I’d also like to stab it in your eye, Ellen, which is sad because you are sometimes the Unicorn I hate least.] and, keeping her back to Ginny Lu, she pulls a face which makes the class laugh. Ginny Lu says that she thinks they’re laughing because Ellen’s slip is showing. And even in the 80s, we Brits really didn’t wear slips, especially if we were twelve. Wing? Is this a cultural difference, or did the Jamie Suzanne not have a better quip to hand, and slid back thirty years to make the joke work? [Wing: I think it’s an outdated reference for sure. Maybe a slip to church, especially if you grew up in an old-fashioned cult like some of us did, but doubtful to school.]

Mrs Arnette then yells at Ginny Lu that she has no manners and sends her to the principal’s office.

After class, Elizabeth is – obviously – on the hunt for her Best Friend For a Book™ when she runs into Jessica, who’s bricking it because she gave Janet their dad’s lucky tennis racket (which the twins are not allowed to touch), and Janet destroyed it. [Raven: Of course, Jessica can touch Stephen’s racket any time she likes.] Elizabeth reasonably points out Janet should replace it, and she has, which a cheapo one. This is Jessica’s fault, because – for no reason, other than the plot needs her broke – she told Janet it was nothing special. Dad’s racket cost $50. Thankfully dad’s on a business trip, so Jessica has two weeks to replace it. And so far, our B-plot is more fun than the A-plot. Because the A-plot, yet again, is about bullying the new girl.

Next we hop into Ginny Lu’s head, where it’s all rainclouds and disasters. She is living with her aunt because her uncle died and the house is too big for just one person. And I don’t get this logic, because get a cat. They’re much better than other humans. Also, Ginny Lu’s parents are alive, so they’re just letting their kid go off and live with her aunt because she’s lonely. Also, there’s a line about Ginny Lu getting the advantages her mother and aunt never had. Ginny then gets all excited because her room is really pretty – actually, she channels Sophia, and is all “is this a dream?” which I’m sure Raven will be delighted by. [Raven: For fuck’s sake, Sweet Valley Poor Kids. Pick up a fucking magazine once and awhile.] [Wing: I’m torn here, because on the one hand, she very well may never have seen a room like this, if they didn’t have television (definitely not a guarantee in the 80s — hell, or even today in some parts of Appalachia, for example) or access to fancier magazine. On the other hand, all of this ties back to the author’s stereotypical writing of hillbilly!Ginny Lu, and I’m prepping a pencil for her other eye. The implication seems to be that back home, Ginny Lu lives in a tiny (probably squalid, if we’re going with the stereotype) house where there are so many people she doesn’t get her own room, and she’s being saved by her aunt who broke out of the cycle of poverty and has made her way as a teacher. Because teachers are the highest paid profession, you know. Now, this is a story that could be true; there is poverty like that, and sometimes kids are sent to richer relatives to have the things their parents were never able to have themselves or give to their kids. But that’s not what is actually written here, and also the author is terrible, so I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt.]

At the Wakefield compound, Jessica asks for an advance on her allowance for “a sweater”. In a rare burst of continuity, Alice wakes from her gin-stupor long enough to remember that Jessica bought a perfect lilac sweater with a unicorn on it very recently. Denied. Jessica says she’s needs the advance as the sweater might not be there when her allowance rolls in. The adults point out that Elizabeth has been saving for her riding boots for three months now. And no.

Just no, Wakefields.

Do you know why riding boots are a thing? Because trainers (or sneakers) are flat. Do you know why that’s bad? Because if a horse is startled and it bolts, there is a chance your dumb ass will fall off. With riding boots, which have a heel, your whole foot won’t slip through the stirrup iron and get caught, potentially dragging you along until a) the horse tires; b) you die; or c) both.

And that’s why you don’t make your twelve year old pay for them themselves. We’re talking £60 in 1992, these things are not cheap (if you get leather, you may save money if you get plastic). And they are a necessity. I knew instructors who wouldn’t teach kids in trainers. [Raven: But Elizabeth is a natural horsewoman, remember? This is the soundtrack to her life.]

[Wing: To be fair, she doesn’t say she rides in sneakers, she rides in “sturdy shoes.” I was picturing a solid leather with enough of a heel that it would hold the stirrup, in part because they were very popular in the 80s and in part because I never rode in actual boots, and if I had, they would have been cowboy boots, not riding boots, so they are not a requirement.] [Dove: Wing, did you just give a SVT the benefit of the doubt? Who are you and what have you done with Wing?]

Anyway, rant aside, obviously it becomes apparent to the evil twin that the good twin has the readies, and is already imagining how she’s going to make it rain.

(Yeah, Raven and I are going to use that clip at every opportunity. If you don’t like Orphan Black, start liking it.) [Wing: Nope.]

Elizabeth staunchly holds on to her hard-earned (??) savings for a total of six sentences before crumbling like a Victoria sponge.

Over in Ginny Lu’s world, her mind is literally blown by how many mirrors are in Sweet Valley Mall, to the point where she thinks “It looks like a magical kingdom!” [Raven: Check out this video, Ginny Lu. You’ll LOSE. YOUR. SHIT.] [Wing: This is where I started considering setting the ghostwriter on fire instead of just stabbing in the eyes. This is so fucked up. And pure coastal people think “flyover country has no culture and no concept of life and … fuck, I am really angry. I’m going to go set something on fire.]

Ginny Lu is a moron. And this is not her fault, this is Francine Pascal/Jamie Suzanne’s, because they apparently think people who live in rural areas are so utterly simple that they will be captivated by the changing room of Hot Topic. Also, I’m convinced that this Jamie Suzanne wrote Against The Rules, because Ginny Lu is just as “Oh, gosh, am I dreaming?” as Sophia was. And that has unfortunate implicates for this particular Jamie, since (Italian) Sophia was so astounded by kindness and (rural, non-specified) Ginny’s mind is exploding over a “small dress shop”. Anyone who is not from Sweet Valley, anyone Other, cannot comprehend our ways, because we are complex, and fashionable, and kind, and interesting, and better.

Ginny Lu and Mrs Waldron bump into Ellen, who offers to help Ginny Lu shop for clothes that are cool and fashionable. Mrs Waldron, who clearly has never noticed what a turbo bitch Ellen is, thinks this is a lovely idea, and conveniently goes elsewhere so Ellen’s evil plan can come off. Lila shows up and the two gleefully find the most hideous outfit they can for Ginny Lu, who naturally protests at the ugly shit they’re picking, but they shrug it off.

“Don’t be silly,” Ellen said confidently. “You’re in California now. We do things differently here.”

The flaw in that logic, Ellen, is that nobody else looks like this:

Ginny Lu put on the first outfit the girls had assembled for her. Then she took a look at herself in the full-length mirror. The leopard-skin tights had blue-and-white striped knee socks pulled up over them and the orange leather miniskirt made her knees look even knobbier than usual.

“Gosh, people in Sweet Valley sure have a crazy idea of what looks good!” she remarked to her reflection. The huge green sweater they had told her to put on was at least three sizes too big but Ellen had said that everyone wore them that way. She knotted the long pink scarf around her neck and put on the earrings.

Once Ginny Lu is all dressed, she bursts triumphantly out of the dressing room. Her aunt is back, but Lila and Ellen are long gone. Because people in Sweet Valley are dicks, the sales lady asks Mrs Waldron if her niece is colour blind. And that’s dickery on two counts: 1) even if Ginny Lu is colour blind, she can clearly talk, as the sales lady saw; and 2) FUCKING RUDE. Also, Ginny Lu is dim, because she has to have it explained to her that Ellen and Lila pulled a trick on her.

“No, they wouldn’t!” Ginny Lu protested. “They’re my new friends!”

Lila and Ellen are howling with laughter outside the shop at this point. Mrs Waldron tells them off for being mean, but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. On the way home, Mrs Waldron apologies, thinking the Unicorns are being mean because Ginny Lu is related to a teacher, but Ginny Lu clarifies that it’s because she’s different. [Raven: To be fair, I did feel sorry for Ginny Lu here. Unicorns being Unicorns are actual pricks.]

Honestly, do I have to keep going? We all know what’s going to happen: Ginny Lu gets bullied to the point of suicide, Elizabeth will become her BFF-of-the-week, and then at some point Ginny Lu’s yee-haw-country-bumpkin-habits will be recognised as awesome, and everyone will love her so much that they all start saying “y’all”. And nobody will be punished for the bullying.

The next day at school, there’s an announcement for the Tenth Annual Arts and Crafts Fair. Ginny Lu is excited about that and wants to join in, but when she asks about it, this sets of a spate of bullying, which is loud enough to be heard by Ginny Lu and upset her, but not loud enough for the teacher to hear. This naturally culminates in Ginny Lu shouting at Ellen, and then getting told off for yelling. [Raven: I’m beginning to think that Mr Fucking Nydick is the best teacher in this dumb school. He might be a pervert, but at least he owns it. The others are a complete waste of sperm and eggs.]

At lunch, Elizabeth, Amy and Nora are excitedly planning a special edition of the newspaper for the Arts and Crafts Fair. Elizabeth spots Ginny Lu and is overcome with pity. Nora recollects what a pack of absolute harpies the Unicorns were to her when she was new – WHY IS NOBODY NOTICING THIS PATTERN? DOES A NEW GIRL HAVE TO DIE BEFORE ANYONE CARES? [Raven: Sweet Valley Super Edition #15 – Thirteen Reasons Why.] [Wing: While I’m busy raging at this book, I might as well throw this out there too: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and the trouble with dramatising suicide.]

Elizabeth naturally thinks, “OMG, I’ve known Nora for months, she’s an old BFF, I need a new BFF.” So she decides to befriend Ginny Lu, but Amy and Nora have to start their assignments. This kind of makes them look like assholes. “Oh, that girl who’s been bullied to death? Yeah, soz, got homework. Laterz, bitches.”

Before Elizabeth can actually go to invite Ginny Lu over to join her, Jessica rocks up and steals her lunch – she didn’t buy lunch in order to save money for the tennis racket. Elizabeth makes her feel like scum for asking to share her lunch, but before Jessica arrived, Elizabeth and Nora were saying that their lunch was completely inedible. So Elizabeth is being a dick.

Ginny Lu is so miserable she leaves the lunchroom to the sounds of giggles and bitchy comments. Someone throws a paper airplane at her.

Ginny Lu decided that it would be safest to hide out in the girls’ room. Why do they hate me? she asked her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She made a face at herself. Because you’re ugly, you don’t dress right, and your hair is awful. She angrily tugged at her braid, then turned away from the mirror and went into one of the stalls.

Way to fucking go, Sweet Valley. You have completely decimated a twelve year old’s self-worth in the space of two days. You utter fuckwads. If Sweet Valley had real world consequences for the amount of bullying that goes on (and I mean real bullying, not Boy Meets World-style bullies, who just steal your lunch money), at least half the girls would have at least one of the following: eating disorders / consider plastic surgery / hate everything they see in the mirror / commit suicide / self harm / need medication.

Seriously, we’re 22 books in and we’ve destroyed (in order): Nora Mercandy; Amy Sutton; Brooke Dennis; Sophia Rizzo; and Grace Oliver. That’s 23% of books utterly dedicated to making the new girl/new pledge feel like a piece of shit. You can trust me on the maths, stats are my life job life. Basically, Sweet Valley spends a quarter of its time bullying. #DreamDestination #DieEveryoneDie

Ellen and Janet come into the bathroom, and Ginny Lu ducks into a stall. They badmouth her some more and leave. Ginny Lu runs away from school.

She keeps on walking until she finds herself at Carson’s Stables, which is where Lila stabled her horse for all of those three seconds she was into equitation. At this point, the book finally tells us that Ginny Lu’s from Tennessee. She wanders into the stables and starts petting all the horses. Her favourite is a “pretty white mare” (yeah, white is known as grey when it comes to horses), she’s a pure-bred Arab and massively pregnant. And we know from the final page of Left Behind, this is Ellen’s new horse.

Which is just baffling. So, Ellen bought a heavily pregnant mare? I mean, it’s not utterly unfeasible (though who really wants to sell a horse so close to delivering?), but she’s a Unicorn, with a strong “I want” mentality, so I can’t see her wanting to own a horse she can’t ride. Unless you adore horses and therefore enjoy everything about them, there is no point in owning a horse you can’t ride. (There are two kinds of horse enthusiasts – the ones that like to ride, and the ones that love horses. I’m certain Ellen is in not in the latter category.)

And deep joy, Elizabeth is stopping by Carson’s Stables today, so she and Ginny Lu get talking. Elizabeth notices a carved wooden doll in Ginny Lu’s pocket and asks about it. Ginny Lu says she whittled it. Elizabeth likes it, so Ginny Lu gives it to her as a gift. She then asks who owns Snow White and just as Elizabeth is about to reply, Ellen rocks up and starts screaming at Ginny Lu to get away from her horse. The screaming upsets Snow White, and Ginny Lu has to calm her, which angers Ellen further.

Ellen is a fucking moron. First of all for screaming at a pregnant horse; and second of all for screaming louder when the horse is scared by the first scream. Ginny Lu tries to give some sensible advice, about low, calming tones, no sudden movements, etc, and Ellen’s response is to scream louder that she’ll calm her horse the way she wants to. Elizabeth stands up for Ginny Lu and Ellen stomps off.

Usually I like Ellen. She tends to come across as a bit thick, and my head-cannon is that she’s only playing dumb so that when she goes on her killing spree, nobody will ever suspect her. In this, she breaks my headcannon, and she’s just a petty cow.

“Don’t mind her,” Elizabeth said, after Ellen had rounded the corner. “She’s just upset. She loves her horse but she’s been having trouble with her ever since Snow White got pregnant.”

Wait. So Ellen bought Snow before she was pregnant? So this story happens ten to eleven months after Left Behind? I know Sweet Valley Time™ and all, but WTF? [Raven: Maybe the horse woke up with a near-term pregnancy, like Cordelia in Angel.] [Wing: You’re not even trying are you, ghostwriter?] [Dove: Maybe Raven’s on to something. If we can have six Christmases a year, then sure, a horse can get go full-term pregnancy in a few days.]

Elizabeth gets home to find Jessica raiding Elizabeth’s closet and bookshelves for stuff to sell at a garage sale. She looked in her room, but can’t find anything. Hi there, Jessica, you awful, selfish cow. Never change. (Also, Elizabeth’s room is completely trashed. Double kudos, Jess.)

After dinner, Alice notices the doll Ginny Lu whittled and is delighted by it. This gives Elizabeth the idea to get Ginny Lu to enter the Arts and Crafts show with her dolls.

The next day, Ginny Lu is hesitant for fear of getting mocked, but becomes more excited as Elizabeth talks it up, suggesting they display one of Ginny Lu’s mum’s quilts, and Ginny Lu whittle a doll during the display. After school, the pair head to the stables, where they find a new sign reading “Private Property – Keep Out” at Snow White’s stall.

Ginny Lu makes a fuss of Snow White regardless, and they move on to Thunder for Elizabeth’s riding lesson. Ginny Lu freaks out that the saddle doesn’t have a horn, having apparently never seen a European saddle before, not even on TV (seriously, has Ginny Lu never seen horse part of the Olympics? Because at her age, that was the only “sport” I watched). [Raven: If she’s confounded by a mirror, she’d surely explode if confronted with a telly.] [Wing: Like I said earlier, she very well might not have ever seen an English saddle. Watching the equestrian events in the Olympics was not a big deal here in the midwest/south during the 80s; hell, it still isn’t now. It’s nothing like how we ride, and much of it comes across as incredibly boring.] Ellen and her friends fall about laughing over this. Ginny Lu hits back saying they ride bareback where she’s from and saddles are for babies. The text continuously refers to “Ellen and her friends”, but never names them, despite the fact we’ve had 21 previous books to get used to Lila, Jessica, Janet, Mary, etc.

Ellen responds to this by saddling Midnight, a wild mustang who belongs to her dad, who’s too hardcore for anyone but Ted to ride. [Wing: How the fuck does Ellen even get close enough to him to saddle him? ALSO, why the fuck does this super English riding stable have a wild fucking mustang? GHOSTWRITER, I HATE YOU.] Ginny Lu takes the bet, and tries to soothe the horse, but Ellen and her friends’ jeering unsettles him every time. Finally Ginny Lu tries to hop on, but Ellen deliberately left the girth loose, so the saddle slides sideways. Midnight rears and bolts, and for some reason Ginny Lu decides the best thing to do is throw her arms around his neck and just let herself be dragged around. Midnight stops, thanks to Ted’s intervention (Elizabeth ran off to get him when the bet was started), and Ginny Lu falls to the ground. She’s fine but embarrassed.

Ted threatens to tell Ellen’s father about this and Ellen bricks it.

Also, note from the future: Ellen’s father is a boring, nerdy, podgy, middle-management type. Not the type that Sweet Valley would generally decide swoon-worthy enough to sit atop a wild mustang. Further sidenote: it really annoys me when non-horse writers think that giving someone a wild horse makes them a good rider. It doesn’t, it just means they bought a horse from a shit trainer, and they haven’t managed to improve matters, which means they’re not actually that good, and would be better with a bomb-proof hack. [Raven: Actually, I like the fact that Ellen’s dad is a “boring, nerdy, podgy, middle-management type.” The mustang is obviously his mid-life crisis purchase, and he will shatter his pelvis when tumbling from it the very first time he tries to ride it.] [Dove: Spoilers: Mr Riteman’s pelvis, as of book #107, is unshattered.]

Elizabeth uses this moment to force Ginny Lu to agree to enter the Arts and Crafts fair, which is odd, because I don’t think Ginny Lu actually said no to it, but Elizabeth goes full throttle and finally gets an absolute yes.

Back on B-plot Jessica trades doing Steven’s chores (STOP THE PRESSES: STEVEN HAS CHORES! They are manly things, like cleaning the garage – and wtf, Wakefield parents, that’s a bespoke job, not a weekly chore, surely?) for half of his pocket money. Steven insists that they don’t tell the parents that he’s paying her. This later backfires, as the parents reward Jessica financially for being so helpful.

That evening, Ginny Lu brings over all of her whittled dolls to the Wakefields’ to get an idea from interior design expert Alice on how to display them. Alice notes that hand-carved art is very rare, and the dolls could sell for $25 apiece. Naturally Jessica overhears this and her “mind started clicking away like an adding machine.” So she tells Steven and his chores to fuck off.

The next day is the Arts and Crafts fair, and to be honest, Ginny Lu’s booth sounds cute – handmade quilt, home-made preserves, etc, and Ginny Lu is dressed in a gingham dress with a handmade apron.

Charlie Cashman and Jerry McAllister, two well-documented asshats, show interest and enthusiasm for Ginny Lu’s work as she makes a little spinning-top thing, which bolsters Ginny Lu’s confidence. Naturally Elizabeth is proud that she’s made the Sweet Valley cock-wombles see the side of Ginny Lu that only Saint Elizabeth saw previously.

As the judges move around the entries, Ginny Lu starts reciting a poem, each verse ends on “and the coonhounds bayed and bayed”. Everyone’s getting really into it, and clapping along with the rhythm of her words, until Ellen and her friends recite the line with her, and then the audience repeats the line.

For some reason, this is now bullying. I’m not dismissing Ellen’s intent – I’m pointing out that the rest of the audience was really into Ginny Lu’s presentation, so possibly most of them just thought they were joining in with something that everyone was enjoying. [Wing: Well, there was a bunch of laughter, so I don’t blame her for taking this as bullying.]

Then again, having actually been bullied in this way, I suppose Ginny Lu’s feeling fragile whenever Ellen’s being catty and anything is magnified. [Raven: I fucking HATED this part. Her stall was great, her dolls were lovely, and she ruins it all by reciting / singing some godawful dirge about “coonhounds”, whatever the fuck they are. Apparently that was Elizabeth’s idea? If so, Elizabeth’s an idiot. As if the Unicorns WOULDN’T undermine any performance piece from Ginny Lu at the Arts and Crafts fair. And what exactly did the song / poem add to proceedings? It’s a craft fair, not bloody X-Factor.]

[Wing: Only one of the most adorable dogs to ever dog:

black and tan coonhound

Also, if you want to have your heart broken by an amazing story about coonhounds, read Where the Red Fern Grows.]

Anyway, Ginny Lu runs away again.

Elizabeth tries to follow her and bumps into Jessica, who is delighted that she’s sold Ginny Lu’s dolls (in principle) for $25 each. As far as I know, she hasn’t even pitched this idea to Ginny Lu yet, much less asked for permission to sell them, but you do you, Jess. Since Jessica’s financial future rests on Ginny Lu not killing herself, Jessica says that once Elizabeth finds her, Jessica is going to tell Ellen to be nice to her “or else”. I would not fuck with Jessica if she threatened me like that.

Ginny Lu writes a note to Mrs Waldron saying she’s going home. The note has some passive-aggressive sentences about how she came last in the Arts and Crafts show (even though she knows no such thing) and it’s embarrassing for Mrs Waldron. [Raven: Yawn. Done before. Dylan was convinced he’d lost the essay competition. This whole trope pisses me off.]

Then she stops by the stables to see Snow White before she leaves. She finds that Snow White has given birth a couple of weeks early and Ted doesn’t know what to do. The vet is conveniently unavailable, so it’s down to a twelve year old and fourteen year old to save the day. The foal should have been on his feet by now, but he’s not. Ginny Lu is in the stall and just try to help when Ellen announces her presence by letting out “an earsplitting shriek”. Ellen is a fucking moron.

Naturally she has to be a dick about this, and is torn between pettily letting the foal die just to keep Ginny Lu away from her horse, or doing the right thing. It goes on way too long, before obviously Ginny Lu is allowed to help. As a reward, because Ellen is suddenly over her vendetta, she allows Ginny Lu to name the foal. And I bet she fucking regrets it.

“And I know just the perfect name for him – Sooner. Because he decided he’d rather get here sooner than later. And now that he’s here, he’s decided he’d sooner stay.”

Now everything gets tied up with a bow: Ginny Lu won first place; Jessica sells the dolls and takes 10% commission; everyone loves each other and sings kumbaya. [Wing: Allegedly, Jessica even pays back the money she borrowed from Elizabeth.] [Dove: NOOOO! Jessica, I specifically said “never change” to you. You go and steal that money off your twin right now.]

The next chapter is setup for the next book. Oooh, some kind of celebration that the school’s 25 years old. It’s a time capsule, which will be opened in another 25 years. The Unicorns want their pictures in there because it would be like being “famous”. The Unicorns are morons. But that’s Raven’s problem, not mine. [Raven: Let joy be unconfined.]

Final Thoughts:

Whenever I’m not reading this book, my general feeling is that I hate it. I hate the way Ginny Lu’s written as a gobshite in her first scene, a hillbilly who’s never seen a dress shop in her second, and then a bullied kid as the rest. But then when I read it, I remember that I don’t hate it. I do think it’s a re-tread of The Haunted House, and once again the message is:

Bullying: It gets better*

*providing you have a celebrity in your family or a really cool money-making talent

It’s the opposite of The Bully, which I always remember as being good, but when I read it, it’s a nonsensical piece of crap.

[Raven: Bizarrely, I had the opposite reaction. When I read it, I remember quite liking it, apart from that LUDICROUS coonhounds song at the Arts and Crafts fair. But as I commented on this recap, I realised the entire book boiled my piss something chronic. Fuck you, Jamie Suzanne. Fuck you, Wakefield twins. And FUCK YOU, APPLEJACK.]

[Wing: I don’t hate the book the way I hate some of the books for their ableism and fat shaming. I do hate this author for being so goddamn lazy about their writing that they relied on stereotypes in a way that is terrible even for Sweet Valley, which is built on stereotypes. I know I am extra bitter about this because I am from the south, and still deal with bullshit attitudes about the people here, but fuck. This is shit.]