Sweet Valley Twins #26: Taking Charge

Sweet Valley Twins 26: Taking Charge by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 26: Taking Charge by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Taking Charge

Tagline: How far should the twins go to help a friend?

Summary: Even though Jessica and Elizabeth don’t always see eye to eye, they know their problems aren’t half as bad as those of their classmate, Patrick Morris. At least the twins have one big, happy family.

Patrick’s parents seem to be the meanest people in the world. They don’t let him have more than one friend visit at a time, they refuse to let him go to the big rock concert with the gang and, worst of all, they forbid him to join the Sweet Valley band!

That’s when Patrick decides to take matters into his own hands. And, if his parents don’t listen this time, they’ll really be sorry!

Initial Thoughts:

To be honest, I don’t like this book at all. I think it’s silly and functions strongly on “because the plot says so”. I did swap with Wing to get this book, but that’s because the next book is a dog book, and Raven and I are solidly in the “cat people” camp, while Wing adores her wonderful dog. Also, there’s the vibe of bad parenting, which ties in to my background. In all honesty, I’d rather be recapping April Fool! but it really did make sense to leave that with Raven – and he’d fight me for it anyway. [Raven: Damn straight.] [Wing: Doggy! I can’t wait for the doggy book.]

The cover:

Elizabeth: If you don’t get back into that decrepit deathtrap right now, Patrick Morris, I’m going to drag you in by your ear!

Seriously, it looks like she’s trying to put him in America’s Most Deadly Time-Outs for the lulz.


We open with the Wakefields questing for food after school, and it suddenly occurs to me just how much these kids eat. School finishes at what, 3:30? So that’s three hours after they ate lunch? Seriously kids, you don’t need sandwiches and cake three hours after lunch and an hour before a full meal. Why are the Wakefields always eating? Do they have worms? And once again, how do they have the nerve to fat-shame anyone? If their metabolism slowed down just a little, they’d be significantly chubbier than Lois Waller, and perhaps it wouldn’t be so much fun to bully someone for how they look, eh, kids? [Wing: Eh, food shaming is pretty crappy too. If they’re hungry, let them eat.]

Their friend, Patrick Morris, is with them. You know Patrick, he’s been the twins’ friend FOREVER. They’ve known him since kindergarten and they think he’s just lovely. (Or, you know, since the last page in the previous book.) They offer to make Patrick a sammitch, but Patrick doesn’t really want to stay, stating his mom will be waiting. (Or maybe he knows that Roberta Manning and Sally Holcomb are buried in the back yard?) [Wing: But not the Wakefields’ backyard.] Then Patrick remembers his mum is taking his brother shopping for shoes, so he’s able to stay.

Patrick says his mother doesn’t let him have snacks after school any more – as if this is incredibly unreasonable (I honestly never had snacks after school), [Wing: Pretty much everyone I knew growing up had snacks after school, and in junior high, a ton of people liked to hang out at my house because we had frozen burritos always.] and Jessica says maybe it’s because she didn’t want Patrick to get fat. They all fall about laughing over this, because popular people don’t get fat, despite eating anything they want.

(Yes, Raven and I are on a diet. It’s depressing. I’m very bitter about the Wakefields’ spectacular metabolisms.) [Raven: On the contrary, I WAS allowed snacks after school. Could explain why I’m on a diet now.] [Wing: Yes, yes, let’s definitely all buy into the food shame fear mongering. Also, it’s not until this point that I realised Patrick probably is supposed to be popular, isn’t he? If you take his long friendship with the twins at face value, though he’s maybe not Unicorn boyfriend material or Bruce level (thank god for that), he’s likely supposed to be a part of the popular group. Huh.] [Dove: I think everyone’s supposed to be popular (except the poor, fat or ugly). Makes it hard to figure out the social heirarchy, really.[Wing: … That is a good point.]

Patrick complains that his parents have always been strict, but now they’ve really upped the ante: they’ve cut his allowance in half; he’s only allowed one visitor after school; and he can’t talk on the phone after six o’clock.

At this point, Raven texted me a screen cap from his kindle. “Dad’s lost his job, right?”

The only thing that doesn’t make sense in that assumption – from a British perspective – is the telephone calls. After 6pm, calls were cheaper over here. Is that not the case in the 80s/90s USA, Wing? [Wing: I think it has more to do with him not being distracted from his homework than cost.] [Dove: That makes sense also, I hadn’t thought of that.]

Patrick then adds that they make him do three hours of homework each night – and if he’s not assigned three hours, they make him to extra reading.

Elizabeth, the moron, says that doesn’t sound so bad, but Patrick clarifies his parents choose what he has to read, it’s not reading for fun.

Talk turns to a science project, the best of which goes to into the district science fair, and then Steven comes home, steals Elizabeth’s sandwich and talks with his mouth full. Are we supposed to like Steven? The boy is a complete tool.

Patrick gets a phone call from his mum (how did she know he was at the Wakefields? I guess we’ll never know) [Wing: Clearly because they are BFFs and he’s always over there, though we’ve never seen him before.] and runs off home. Alice comes home and Jessica asks her what she thinks of the Morrisses’ parenting skills.

Mrs. Wakefield sat down, slipped out of her high heels, and rubbed her feet. She worked part-time as an interior decorator and was often tired at the end of the day. “I’m not going to judge the way other people run their families, honey. It’s hard enough for parents to take care of their own kids.” Mrs. Wakefield yawned. “I’d like to lie down for a while before I start supper. Will you girls put the groceries away?”

Seriously, Alice, you are one lazy oik. You work part-time, there is no way you need a rest after doing less than seven hours’ work. Try being working class, where you do at least 7.5 hours a day, every day (plus commute), and then come home and cook dinner, without having a set of twins to cook for us. Also, most parents cook for their kids, not the other way around. [Raven: Playing a little Devil’s Advocate here, maybe instead of doing five short shifts, she does three full days. So she’s had a full day of work, which is something she’s not comfortable with as she doesn’t have the five-day routine to dull the edges. Ah, who am I kidding? She’s a fucking cleft.] [Wing: Also, she didn’t ask the kids to cook for her, she asked them to put away groceries so she could rest a minute before she started supper. It’s also possible that she’s exhausted not from the physical part, but from dealing with people. Particularly the kind of demanding people who use interior decorators.] [Dove: Seriously, you’re both defending Alice?]

Also, Alice and Ned are terrible parents. I wouldn’t trust them with a roll of toilet paper, much less a child. No wonder Jessica shirks every single task she’s given, with Alice as a role-model. [Wing: What exactly is she shirking here? The twins are more than old enough to put away groceries and to help out around the house. Even if she did ask them to cook dinner that night, they’re more than old enough to do that, too.] [Dove: True, they are, but every book opens with Alice dropping some domestic chore on the girls, while Steven fills his face in front of the fridge and Alice takes a nap. I’m not saying that the twins aren’t old enough for the responsibility, I’m noting that they often do in order that everyone else in this family can get some downtime. If Elizabeth ever is too busy to take up her chores, the entire Wakefield clan will die of starvation, covered in dust.]

The next day Jessica meets Lila before class and asks if she’s come up with any brilliant ideas on what to do for the science project. She hasn’t yet, but she’s on it. Then she says she might work with Ellen instead and flounces off. Lila is such a dick, and it’s lovely. Jessica seethes for a few seconds, before spotting Bruce Patman. She attempts to flirt by asking him if he’s going to see The Wild Ones, a “popular high school band”, who are playing at Secca Lake this weekend.

[Aside: The Wild Ones, originally known as The Hurt, had their name changed by their ex-con, Teddy Boy manager, Terry Clarke, who wishes they’d do some oldies, rather than their own work. The rest of the band comprise of: Glenn (drummer); Mike (bass); Wobble (rhythm guitar); Julius (tambourine/assistant manager) and Buddy (named after Buddy Holly by his dad and manager, Terry) is the singer-songwriter, who plays lead guitar or keyboards as required. Their big hit was “Nothing Serious”, but other well-liked songs were “This is Me”, “Feel So Alive”, “A Crazy World Like This”, “I’m Young” and “Secrets of the Heart”. And if any of that sounds interesting, go watch Buddy’s Song, because it means you’ll be one of about three people on the planet who have. Also, Terry is played by Roger Daltrey, if that helps encourage you. And that is why I wanted this book. To reference an old movie that nobody cares about, based on a trilogy of books by Nigel Hinton (Buddy; Buddy’s Song and Buddy’s Blues), the last of which makes me breathtakingly angry.]

[Further aside: Check out a young Nick Moran, of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame as Mike. He says that literally nobody recognises him as anything other than Eddy from Lock, Stock, but for me he is always Mike.]

[Final aside: Buddy’s Song is one of my favourite movies of all time. I listen to the soundtrack even now. I love it. Without irony or shame. ♫ I aaaaaaaaaaam the one and ooooooooonly ♫]

Now that I’ve got that reference out of the way, it’s all downhill from here, readers. [Raven: Much like Chesney Hawkes’s carreer after Buddy’s Song.]

So, back to this book, Jessica daydreams of how awesome it would be to watch the concert with Bruce. I’m amazed that a high school band can pack out the same venue as Johnny Buck.

Elizabeth notices that Patrick is away from school, and suggests she and Jessica get his homework assignments. The first time I read this, my little ears pricked up, and I thought, “Gosh, are we about to have a Very Special Episode about physical abuse?” The answer is no. No, we’re not. [Raven: That would have been great. The Twins rocking up to Chez Morris to find Patrick chained to the radiator in the basement, wearing nothing but a gimp mask and a feather boa.] [Wing: Or, you know, with two black eyes and he hides in the doorway, not letting them see him fully or letting them inside, which is more or less what starts to happen, minus the bruises, and why I really did think this was going to abuse parent after job loss. Though I suppose in over-the-top Sweet Valley, anything could involve a feather boa.]

In class, Lila says that she and Jessica should do their project on rainbows, but is thwarted by the random assignments of partners. Mr Siegal puts everyone’s name in a hat and goes around the class, letting people draw names. And, as someone who likes organisation, this seems like a faff. If you put everyone’s names in, you’re going to get to a point where someone either draws their own name or picks someone who’s already been assigned. This bugs me every time it happens.

Jessica pulls Winston Egbert’s name; Lila gets Ellen Riteman. Lila and Ellen do their project on rainbows, while Jessica has to go with Winston’s idea, which is to grow mould on bread. She doesn’t like the idea initially, but Winston says he’ll keep the bread at his house and they’ll probably get into the science fair with it, so she agrees.

After school, the twins walk over to Patrick’s house. He doesn’t want to let them both in because he’s only allowed one friend over at a time [Raven: Does he live in a sweet shop?]. The twins act like this is brand new information to them, despite having the exact same conversation with Patrick yesterday. The twins hand over the homework and tell him that he’s paired with Julie Porter, who Patrick mentions is a musician. I think he knows her better than Elizabeth, because I’m pretty sure Elizabeth has never mentioned Julie’s musical talent. [Wing: That’s what happens when you’re the backup backup friend.] [Dove: Julie: even less relevant than Amy Sutton. She never gets a book, but her older sister, who is in high school, does.]

Mummy Morris comes home, so Jessica has to flee, in order not to break the rules. There’s a few paragraphs of alleged tension, where both she and Elizabeth are “Elizabeth”, but they get away with it. [Wing: Twin magic almost always falls flat in these books. I hope they get better at it as they get older.]

The next day is Saturday. Jessica dresses in dirty, torn clothing because she’s meeting Winston, and doesn’t want him to think she dressed up for him [Raven: Bit weird, this. Surely Jess’s need to look good would override her ‘need’ to ensure Winston didn’t think she was making an effort just for him]. Elizabeth has got no homework, so is going to invite Amy and Julie over to swim. Ned says that she needs to check with Alice that it’s ok to swim without an adult in the house (Steven will be watching them [Raven: Sandwich in one hand, cock in the other]). Way to parent there, Ned. Surely this should be a blanket rule all the time, and not something you decide each time it comes up.

Winston comes over, compliments Jessica’s dirty t-shirt, and Elizabeth invites him to swim. Then he drops the bombshell that he can’t host the mould, Jessica will have to. They distribute the bread around the house, then go outside to swim. Patrick and Julie are there too, and they say they’re doing a musical project for science, explaining sound waves. Julie plays the flute, and Patrick has been trying to teach himself to play the saxophone when his friend lets him borrow his. I should imagine that’s slow going. He wants to join the band, but thinks his parents won’t allow him to. Julie asks him why they’d have a problem with that, but he’s saved from answering by a knock at the door.

Jessica answers it, and it’s Lila, Bruce, Ellen and Aaron Dallas. Neither Bruce nor Lila’s pool are available, so they want to swim at Jessica’s. Jessica lies, and says they can’t swim without an adult present, because she cannot deal with the humiliation of letting the cool kids know she’s had nerdy Winston over to her house. Lila makes a sharp comment about how rubbish Jessica looks and then they leave.

Jessica seethes for the rest of the day, and is still bitching about it by the time they’re getting ready for the concert. Which could be in the evening, or it could be 3pm. Who knows? [Wing: Well, since the busses leave around 6 p.m., it’s, for once, not a 3 p.m. concert. Sweet Valley is stepping it up. That or a high school band is infinitely cooler than Johnny Buck.] They have to stop by Patrick’s house on the way to the concert, because Amy got sick (between leaving their house after swimming, and now… that was quick [Raven: Maybe she accidentally swallowed some Jús De Steven after he subtly whipped a man-strand into the shallow end]) and so her ticket is free, and Patrick might want it, because the tickets have been sold out for ages. [Wing: … except at the pool party, they said the tickets were almost sold out. Continuity? Fuck that shit.]

Mrs Morris basically shoes them away. Elizabeth points out that the ticket is only $3 and the proceeds go to the library fund, but Mrs M no-sells this and won’t let them see Patrick. To be honest, I thought Amy was giving her ticket away out of the goodness of her heart, I didn’t realise she was selling it. You’re ill, you’ve paid. It’s neither here nor there whether someone goes in your place, Amy. And really, what can you do with $3, even in 1989? You can’t even buy a My Little Pony with that. [Wing: But you could buy a book. Probably even a Sweet Valley book, depending on your local bookstore.] [Dove: Not in Sweet Valley. Every time Elizabeth needs to buy a book, she always moans about how expensive they are. The poor little moron hasn’t figured out that paperbacks exist yet.]

Jessica sees Patrick in the upstairs window and he shrugs helplessly. As they walk away, Jessica wonders if Mrs M is keeping Patrick prisoner. Elizabeth tries to be the voice of reason, saying that Mrs M wasn’t that rude to them. And y’know, she didn’t chase them off her property with a shotgun, but she was pretty curt. She’d probably heard that Elizabeth was a right busybody from Mr Henkel and wanted that nosy cow away from her son.

At the concert, Jessica tries to sit next to Bruce, who is oblivious to her charms, and asks why she’s here, has she had a fight with her friends, etc, which culminates in her flouncing off to sit with the Unicorns.

On Monday, at a band meeting, Patrick is given a saxophone from the school to practice with, and Ms McDonald (of Ithig fame [Wing: And spy shenanigans fame!]) teaches everyone the Sweet Valley school song, which is very easy to play. Next Monday there will be a tryout for the band. Afterwards, Patrick doesn’t have the nerve to bring the sax home, since his parents say no to everything, they’ll probably be incensed that he’s been given a free instrument from the school. [Wing: I’m amazed they not only have lockers, but lockers big enough to fit a saxophone, tbh.]

After dinner, Patrick asks his parents if he can join the band. They say no, lessons are expensive (riding right over his explanation that they’d be free) and he wastes too much time listening to music as it is, and he needs to keep his grades up, not faff with extracurriculars. (Isn’t that bad? I’ve watched loads of TV shows set in the US, don’t colleges get well excited when they see that you have joined clubs and stuff? Wing?) [Wing: Yes, they do like extracurriculars, but good grades are important for scholarships, and unless he becomes an amazing saxophone player, he’s more likely to get a scholarship based on grades than a full scholarship based on music. Also, a lot of colleges wouldn’t care so much about what extracurriculars he was doing in the sixth grade anyway.] [Dove: Cool, I’ll let the Morrises’ have this one then.[Wing: Well, I might not go that far. I think it’s important to balance schoolwork and extracurriculars, especially music, which has been shown to increase grades and test scores. And also is amazing.]

The next day, he comes up with a plan. If his parents don’t think he can manage school and band, he’ll prove it, by joining the band, managing his time, and not falling behind with his school work. He’s going to leave the sax at the Wakefields’ and practice there. Jessica immediately agrees to this plan, and then Elizabeth reluctantly goes along with it, fearing that lying to your parents is a gateway drug to sucking off Rick Andover at Kelly’s bar for a boilermaker. (There’s a reference that’s dying on its ass with Wing and Raven.) [Raven: *blinks*]

By the end of the week, Steven is in a mood. He’s listening to Patrick learn to play the sax, and tripping over Jessica and Winston’s mouldy bread everywhere he goes. Frankly, I’m shocked he hasn’t tried to eat it already.

Winston comes over to check the mould, and Jessica internally muses that the project isn’t so bad because Winston’s doing all the work. At this point, Winston says that it’s time for Jessica to do some work, so she’s going to have to build a display for the ten pieces of mouldy bread, and write the report on penicillin. He’s completely unflappable in the face of her excuses. #WinstonFTW [Wing: Winston really rocked up in this book. I like it.]

On Monday, the twins walk to school with Patrick, who is ready for band tryouts. Jessica is ready to display her mould. Once she arrives, Lila makes her feelings known.

Sure enough, Lila peeked into Jessica’s shopping bag as soon as she brought it into Mr. Siegal’s room. “Eww! Is that it?” she said, holding her nose.

“There isn’t enough mold for it to smell,” Jessica said frostily. It was one thing for her to think the mold was creepy, but no one else had the right to ridicule her project.

Jessica, you are adorable.

Patrick does a good audition and makes it into the band. [Raven: Nice work, Patrick. I still believe in you...]

When he gets home, he finds his dad home already, who says there wasn’t much on, so they all got to leave early. Lies. Patrick explains that he got into the band, and his studies haven’t suffered at all. His parents hit the roof, but don’t give him a reason why, [Wing: Well, to be fair, at this point they’re angry in large part because he lied to them and disobeyed them, and they do let him know that.] so Patrick storms off to his bedroom and slams the door.

Maybe he couldn’t be in the band, he thought, but he was going to make his parents sorry about their decision. Someday they were going to wish they hadn’t been so unfair.

Yeah, you show ‘em, Patrick! That’s exactly the attitude most of my family takes when they don’t get their own way.

The next day, Jessica and Winston get A’s for their project, but someone else gets to go to the science fair, but as a consolation prize, the library are having a science day on Saturday morning, so they can present their project there. Jessica is horrified at this idea – not just talking mould all day, but also that it takes place in her free time – and I’m so with her there. Fuck that shit. My time is my own, and I wouldn’t do it either. [Raven: Ah, the ol’ Science Fair trope. “Stand up, Nydick. We told you last year… that’s NOT a volcano, and real lava doesn’t smell of scampi.”]

Winston confesses to her that he doesn’t want to either, but because he’s shy, and he doesn’t want to talk to people by himself. Jessica says she’ll watch the football game that she’d planned to go to until half-time, then swing by the library to help him out. [Wing: I see no way in which this will go terribly wrong.]

When Jessica gets home, Alice says that she’s proud of Jessica, despite not making the actual science fair, and she totes would visit her at the library, but she and Ned have “tickets to a matinée” and can’t possibly cancel them. Uh-huh. Alice, you’re fooling no-one. I bet you’ll be on the phone to Ned when you go for a “lie-down” while the twins make dinner, asking him to buy tickets to ANYTHING in order to avoid Mouldy Bread: The Presentation. [Raven: Give it a try, everyone. It’ll grow on you.]

[Wing: I tried to find a clip of the mold song from the Leverage “The Fairy Godparent Job” episode, but could not. Instead, listen to this song from another part of the episode, and imagine something like it with mold. That is what Raven’s line just made me start singing.]

The next day, Patrick comes over and has a moan about how mean his parents are, then Ken and Julie show up, and Julie says she knows someone who might give private lessons. Patrick says if they said no to band, they’ll definitely say no to lessons. Elizabeth says that she doubts his parents are doing this out of pure meanness, but Patrick takes offense and asks why she’s taking their side, before running off.

Lila then calls and says that Bruce is having a pool party after the football game and the Wild Ones will be playing. For half a second, Jessica considers going to the library for Science Day, but shuts that thought down hard. She’s going to the party, and she’ll get another chance to show Bruce “how special she was.” She considers telling Winston that she’s not coming, but decides he’ll take it badly, so it’s better to just stand him up. Nice, Jessica. Classy.

So, towards the end of the game, the Unicorns leave early to walk to Bruce’s. Jessica convinces herself that she’s doing Winston a favour by forcing him to get over his shyness. This is the real Jessica, the one that was absent from Standing Out.

Naturally, the party is a bust. Bruce hasn’t made any effort, there’s no food or music, and he and his friends are just horsing around. The Unicorns decide to leave, and Jessica thinks she might as well go to the library, but one of the boys knocks her over and ruins her outfit, so she can’t go.

When she gets home, she can’t wait to vent to Elizabeth, but Elizabeth cuts her off with the information that Patrick has run away.

Suddenly: confab at the Wakefield Compound. The Wakefield parents are asking questions. Winston turns up to tell Jessica off, but gets pulled into the drama instead. The kids are sent to the phone to make calls (the Wakefields have two phone lines. Funny, this is never mentioned before or after [Wing: I’m surprised the girls don’t have their own phone line(s).]). And then after several hours, Alice notes that they should tell the Morrises. Wait, what? So, you’re running an operation to find a kid, and you didn’t once speak to his parents? What. the. actual. fuck?

As Jessica shows Winston to the door, he gives her a piece of his mind. She gives him the line that it was for his own good, but he’s annoyed with her.

That evening, a police car pulls up. The police, along with Mr and Mrs Morris, want to question the Wakefields. Probably because Roberta Manning and Sally Holcomb have been buried on their property, and CPS is still trying to figure out why George Henkel has reconnected with his child-hating father.

Jessica immediately says that Patrick was upset that he wasn’t allowed to join the band. Once again, the Morrises stand firm that they have reasons. Elizabeth adds that Patrick wanted to go to the concert. Jessica mentions the cut allowance and extra homework. Elizabeth tops it off with the assertion that Patrick found them unreasonable. And Jessica, for the win, says he thinks they don’t love him.

Jeez, Morrises, you’ve just been served by the Wakefields. I don’t think there’s any coming back from that. [Raven: “I saw Goody Proctor with the Devil!”] CPS will be taking your son away. As soon as we find him.

Ned wants to know if the police are searching for him.

“Technically, we can’t start searching until he’s been missing for twenty-four hours,” Officer Kirkland said regretfully. “But I want to get information gathered so that when that time is up, we can get right on it.”

This? So much bollocks. The first 24 hours are absolutely crucial in a missing child case, and often if a child isn’t found within the first 24 hours, they’re not found at all. Where on earth does this idea of having to wait a day come from? Who originated it? I know it was massively prevalent in the 80s/90s, but I have no idea where it came from first. [Raven: Yep, simply untrue.] [Wing: I don’t know where that originated in pop culture, but it looks like the actual requirement not to have a waiting period for any child or missing person was codified as federal law in the USA in late 1990. Obviously, it could have been in effect in various states before that date.]

Steven suggests an unofficial search and the policeman asks what that would entail. Honestly, has every adult in this town been lobotomised? Once it’s been explained to the barely functioning police official, he suggests they put it off until morning. After all, it’s just a twelve year old, no point in looking now. They’re not vulnerable at all, are they? Sweet Valley’s a suburb of L.A., you say? Well, that’s fine, it’s not as if a city as big as L.A. is a dangerous place for vulnerable children, is it? [Wing: Definitely not defending this, just have a question: has it officially been deemed a suburb by this book? I know it is eventually, but I’ve had that knowledge for so long from talking to you and Raven that I’m not sure when it becomes official in the books.] [Dove: To be fair, no. It was retconned in Sweet Valley Confidential (2011), but still, it is close enough to go to L.A. to see concerts or plays or whatever, because the Wakefield parents sometimes cite that as a reason why they’re not around.]

That night, Elizabeth can’t sleep and asks Jessica to stay with her. She can’t shake the idea of Patrick sleeping in a doorway, all alone. Or taking a ride from a stranger and never coming back. And for all that I hate Elizabeth, I think that’s actually sweet that she’s so worried. I think it’s especially good, since the police were so utterly indifferent to the situation.

The next morning, the Wakefield parents are running the search, because this is all about THEM. Elizabeth isn’t allowed to go with the adults or Steven because rules. She gets herself some breakfast, and notices a note at their back door that reads:

She wakes up Jessica for moral support before they take the note to Alice. She then calls the police – is anyone going to involve Patrick’s family…? – and Officer Doofus returns. He asserts that the note is a fake because they didn’t ask for a ransom. He doesn’t come right out and say it’s a prank (which is odd, because someone this thick would be spectacular in Point Horror), but Alice takes it there. Officer Doofus merely states that he doesn’t think it was penned by professional kidnappers. [Wing: He probably shouldn’t come right out and say it is a prank, on the off chance it isn’t and everyone believes it is because an officer said it was.]

The twins then set about searching the local area for Patrick. They see Winston out walking, and Jessica assumes he’s going to blast her about the library thing, but instead he says he knows where Patrick is. He stayed overnight in his basement [Raven: Thus proving to everyone that Patrick is more acceptable than mouldy bread]. Winston actually delivered the note this morning, to get people to stop searching – Patrick made him, threatening to run away and never be seen again. Elizabeth is aghast at his actions, but Jessica stands up for Winston, saying that agreeing to Patrick’s demands bought some time to talk some sense into him.

In this book, I kind of ship Jessica/Winston. I think she needs someone like him, someone who isn’t scared of her, or impressed by how pretty and popular she is, and someone who earns her respect, instead of having it handed over because they’re hot (like Bruce). But then, I love Winston. [Wing: I’m shipping it, too, actually.]

The three of them walk back to Winston’s house and try to talk to Patrick. He’s delighted about how upset his parents are.

“Oh, Pat, you should have seen them last night,” Elizabeth said. “They were so worried.”

“Good!” Patrick said, his voice firm.

Elizabeth was appalled. Was this the same sweet Patrick Morris she knew so well?

Oh, shut up, Elizabeth. The one time your parents said no to you was when you asked for a horse, but you still get to ride one whenever you like, so I don’t think you’re best placed to feel Patrick’s pain.

“I think Patrick’s parents deserve to be punished,” Jessica said.

… and another unhealthy reaction from Team Wakefield.

[Wing: How could I resist this reference? Though even a movie that gets so much right can have a shitty voodoo stereotype.] [Dove: This video and the Buddy’s Song reference are the only good things about this book.]

Jessica suggests that his parents need to agree to compromise with him before he comes home, but Patrick has $20 dollars (or, Winston does, and he’s going to “lend” it to Patrick), so Patrick’s just fine with running away. Jessica then says he should just go to the mall or library, or wherever kids hang out all day, and then come back to Winston’s basement or the Wakefield’s shed to sleep.

Elizabeth is so not on board with that idea. Me personally? I don’t know whether Jessica is being sociopathic and just not caring about Patrick and his parents’ welfare, or being a genius by keeping him from properly running away, but she’s on the right track regardless. This will keep him safe, and easy to find until he calms down and realises that being homeless isn’t fun.

Patrick says he’s not making a decision, but if Elizabeth tells his parents where he is, he’ll never speak to her again.

The twins go home, and the Morrises are there, looking sad and tired. And why aren’t they at their own home? If I was them, I’d be sitting between the phone and the front door, anxiously waiting for news, rather than having tea with the Wakefields. [Raven: But at the Wakefields they can sit by two phones.] Would it kill Alice and Ned to show up to the Morrises’ house, maybe rocking a casserole (then again, the twins have been out all day, who would cook it?) and some sympathetic support?

The Morrises make a couple of sad comments, and that’s all it takes for Elizabeth to blurt out the truth. And to be honest, in this particular story, totally the right play. But if Patrick had left home for any other reason and she betrayed his trust, I would be furious. So much for Elizabeth being trustworthy.

Mr and Mrs Morris want to go to Winston’s to pick him up and the Wakefield parents are like, “I’m coming with, because THIS IS ALL ABOUT US!” Seriously, Wakefields, calm the fuck down. This is not your kid and it’s not your fucking business. And literally, the entire family goes: Ned, Alice, Steven and the twins. On the drive to Winston’s, they mildly scold the girls for lying.

When they arrive, Winston comes running out, saying that Patrick has run away again. He knew Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut (heh, at least Patrick’s genre savvy here), so he took off before the parents and police arrived. Thankfully, Winston followed him and saw him go into the abandoned church on Somerset Street.

Mr Morris, who works construction, immediately notes its condemned and not safe for anyone. Ned tells Winston to call the police and the fire department, and once again the convoy drives off to the next plot-relevant location.

The parents call up to Patrick to stay where he is because the floor’s not safe and he could plummet to his death at any moment. Patrick says he’s never coming out because they’re mean. This is the first time the Morrises have been on the same page for the entire book. [Raven: Apart from the argument they had regarding joining the band…?] [Dove: No, Raven. I don’t mean that literally, I mean that figuratively. Parents say “stay where you are” and Patrick calls back “too fucking right”. It’s literally the one time they’ve agreed so far this book.] [Wing: I think you’ll find that you do mean it literally. Merriam-Webster’s definition of “literally” includes “in effect; virtually” as the second part of the definition.] [Wing: TROLL! TROLL IN THE RECAP!] [Dove: Get off my website. Anyone using “literally” in its new form is banned. Even if they’re an admin. I will fetch my flamethrower over this.[Wing: I think you’ll find, especially if you read the link, that this is not a new form, and does, in fact, date back to at least the 1800s.]

The fire brigade rock up and establish that Patrick has fallen through a rotted floor and is trapped, and they can’t do anything because they’re waiting for extra equipment. Which again sounds bollocks. If any profession has a strong disregard for their own health and safety when a life on the line, it’s the fire brigade. For example, I don’t seem to remember any documentaries about 9/11 where the emergency services stood around waiting for someone to shore up the building before running in.

Still, the Sweet Valley Professional Ineptitude™ enables Mr Morris to go charging into the building to save his son. There’s a fireman on a ladder, cheerfully gazing through the window when Mr Morris gets up there. Fireman says leave it, wait for the equipment, but Mr Morris asks him to throw some rope. Seriously, this fireman had rope and didn’t throw it to Patrick to help him hold on? This is just insulting to the emergency services. [Wing: He probably should have tried to get it to Patrick, but I’m not sure that it would be a good idea for Patrick to try to let go of the furniture he’s clinging to in order to try to grab a rope without falling.]

Once Mr Morris reaches Patrick, the fire department finally start organising some kind of net to catch the child that they’ve been cheerfully ignoring, just in case daddy can’t save him.

Seriously, this has pissed me off. I used to work with the fire department, and every single one I knew was a lovely, brave, helpful human being, who was paid a pittance, and had to have a second job – at the funeral director where I worked – to supplement their income. This is just cheerfully pissing in their faces. I’m not happy. [Wing: Seriously, fire department people are generally amazing.]

So, Patrick is saved, the fire department are a bunch of lazy jokes, and all is fucking well.

I hope this Jamie Suzanne is in a house fire and a Sweet Valley fireman is tasked with saving her. [Raven: Hopefully she’ll burn in the same fire that takes out Madame André’s Ballet Studio.] [Wing: I love how long you’ve fanned the flames of this hate.]

So, to wrap up: Dad lost his job, and that’s why they were so strict. They focused on studies so Patrick could go to college and get a proper education so he’ll be more secure, and they couldn’t afford a saxophone – hey, Morrises, doesn’t matter how poor you are, you don’t need money to be able to let your son finish a sentence and explain that the sax is free. Blah, blah, blah, big misunderstanding, everything’s fine now. Especially since Mr Morris has got another job.

Back with the Wakefields, the twins don’t get punished, because FUCKING WAKEFIELDS. But the parents ask Jessica to apologise for leaving Winston alone at the library all day.

At school, Jessica does apologise, and right after, Bruce and Jerry start giving Jessica a hard time because she fell over when they slammed into her at the party. Winston tells them to sod off and recalls that Bruce was known as “Four Feet” a few years ago when he was clumsier. [Raven: Bruce should have turned to Jessica with a wink and said “Four Feet, nine inches,” before high-fiving Jerry and strutting away.]

Jessica could hardly believe it. She had always thought Winston was a real nerd, but in the last couple of weeks she had almost grown to like him. She looked around to make sure none of the Unicorns were nearby. “You know, Winston, you’re all right,” she whispered.

“I am?”

Jessica smiled. “But don’t tell anyone I told you so.”

I ship it. #NotEvenSorry

And finally, foreshadowing for the next book, Jessica is bored and wants to organise an overnight trip with their friends, but Elizabeth says the parents will never go for it. And, um, that’s not really what the next book is about, but honestly, this Jamie Suzanne sucks, so I’m past caring.

Final Thoughts:

That was an utter waste of time. I hate the main plot. It’s stupid, it’s insulting, it’s feeble, and it utterly relies upon “because the plot says so”. The b-plot is charming, and I really love Winston and Jessica. If this book had been about them, I’d have been more interested. But really, the only thing I cared about was making a reference to Buddy’s Song, which I have now done.

*takes a bow*

[Raven: Yep. This was fucking terrible. As usual, every single adult in Sweet Valley was a colossal spam-flute. The kids should rise up and take over, running the whole town a la Bugsy Malone.]

[Wing: Why can’t one of those apocalypses that kills all the adults happen in Sweet Valley? I would love some Lord of the Flies shit in there. They’re mostly privileged little shits. It would be fitting.]

[Dove: OMG, I want Michael Grant’s Gone series done in Sweet Valley. #ApocalypseLois will return!]

[Wing: #ApocalypseLois needs to be an additional section of the podcast.]